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Small-Scale Question Sunday for November 5, 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.

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Hi, first time poster, long time lurker, so apologies in advance if I break any rules.

I was watching a recent debate between Destiny and Actual Justice Warrior (AJW) and around 1 hour 24 minutes Destiny fact checks a claim from AJW on the federal budget/spending in Kentucky.

Here is the fact check from Destiny on federal spending in Kentucky:

Destiny: Department of Defense was number 3 at 8.3 billion 2 is the social security administration at 19 billion at and 1 is the department health and human services at a 116 billion dollars.

I'm not going into the argument between Destiny and AJW since my question is more on Kentucky federal spending data and fact checking. I believe the data Destiny mentioned comes from usaspending.gov which by all accounts is a reputable and reliable source, that provides information and transparency on federal spending in the United States. But where I start running into issues with this data is that this numbers here don't necessarily match up with numbers I see in other sources:

Usafacts.org says Kentucky received $3576.43 per capita in federal assistances in 2020, their source is the US Census Bureau.

According to the urban institute, which seems to be a pretty reputable nonpartisan thinktank:

According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), Kentucky’s total expenditures in fiscal year (FY) 2022 were $45.4 billion, including general funds, other state funds, bonds, and federal funds.

Per the US Census Bureau, Kentucky’s combined state and local direct general expenditures were $46.0 billion in FY 2021 (the most recent year census data were available), or $10,203 per capita. (Census data exclude “business-like” activities such as utilities and transfers between state and local governments.) National per capita direct general expenditures were $11,087.

If you take 32.20% (the percentage of state revenue that is federal funds of Kentucky in 2020) and multiply that against the $10,203 per capita number from 2021 (yes I know 2021 and 2020 is not the same but there shouldn't be that large of a gap between the two years) you get $3570.014 per capita, which closely matches up. Other articles on Kentucky state funding seems to match this value much more than the value that you see on usaspending.gov.

So I looked more at the data from usaspending.gov and I start to see data that seems to bring up more questions. The data suggests that per capita, Kentucky people receive $34,552 YEARLY in federal assistance. This is an absurdly high value! Most of that amount comes from the Department of Health and Human Services. I looked at other state's data that rank high in terms of federal assistance:

State Total Amount Per Capita
Kentucky $153.9 Billion $34,552
West Virginia $21.2 Billion $11,661
New Mexico $35.7 Billion $17,090
Mississippi $33.8 Billion $11,343
Alaska $14.7 Billion $19,820
Vermont $7.4 Billion $11,907
Montana $12.3 Billion $11,736
Arizona $102.5 Billion $14,614
Montana $12.3 Billion $11,736
Maine $18.7 Billion $13,966
Alabama $58.0 Billion $11,892

I only looked at the top 10 states based on their dependency on the federal government and Kentucky is a clear outlier. On the dependency ranking Kentucky ranks 5th, which is pretty high, but based on the numbers here I'd imagine it should be even higher.

As I examined Kentucky's data, I start to see other things that seem off. Jefferson county received $110.40B, or 71.73% of the entire state's funding. The next highest was Fayette county, at $2.61B. Jefferson county has a population of around 770,000, while Fayette has around 320,000. So I should expect to see a roughly 2:1 ratio, but here we see a 42:1 ratio instead. That means people in Jefferson county are getting roughly $152,857 per capita. The occum's razor answer would be that there is missing data, somehow the award counts got misattributed 100% to Jefferson county rather than being allocated properly, but in light of the extremely high $34,552 value I'm wondering if the data is correct at all. I did a quick spot check on the other states and their county percentage to population ratios seemed to match up.

So what am I missing exactly? Why are the numbers in USASpending.gov so high compared to other numbers that I've seen? Why is Kentucky's numbers so high? There must be something obvious I'm missing but I don't know what that something is. Is the US Government really spending that much money on Kentucky, and specifically Jefferson county?

This leads into my second question on knowledge and fact-checking in general:

How do you decide that the information that you know or take for granted is in fact, correct?

I like to think I'm a somewhat intelligent guy, but this exercise has shown just how untrained I am in information gathering and fact checking. I supposed to the next step is to call or contact experts or at least the authors of these articles but honestly I feel like that is a lot of work for something that at the end of the day is just a result of me wanting to find the source of a fact mentioned in a random two hour debate from the internet. I suppose for informal discussions this level of research is more than can be reasonably expected, and if you were trying to write a book or video or anything that you want to share to the public, you should do your due diligence to make sure you aren't spreading misinformation.

But in every speech and conversation, we are constantly referencing a bank of information we have accumulated in our life times. And we shouldn't have to walk around having to fact check every little thing we come across, because knowledge is near limitless. I think Destiny is one of the more reasonable twitch streamers when it comes to political content, and for him a 30 second google search was enough to decide on the facts for a point in a debate, while I spent 15 minutes looking into the data only to come up with more questions than answers. I'd rather not have to go through this exercise every time I'm questioning what someone is saying, and perhaps the answer is stop listening to that person, but at the same time I'd also rather not disengage in conversation just because I'm being lazy.

And furthermore, there is so much wrong information online now. Whether it's a genuine error or deliberate attempt at misinformation, it's becoming more and more difficult to find the truth. A recent example comes to mind with the photo of the burnt baby in the Israeli/Palestine conflict. The website flagged that picture as AI generated, but other users used the same website and posted pictures of the website saying it wasn't. Well someone took it a step further and replaced the burnt baby with a picture of a puppy. To me the puppy picture seems extremely fake and it originates from 4chan of all places, but I saw people in twitter threads using the 4chan picture as proof that the burnt baby picture was fake. And let's not forget the fake Mr. Beast deep fake video that went viral a while back. I know the topic has been discussed at length here already but we have reached the point where AI generated pictures and videos is good enough to fool a good number of people, and that technology is only going to keep improving and improving.

Perhaps I'm better equipped to deal with comparing these realistic videos/photos to my previously accumulated bank of knowledge, but as I pointed out earlier even this bank of knowledge is unreliable. And as future generations grow up spending more and more time on the internet, where there seems to be more and more misinformation easier to generated, what defenses do we have against truth seeking versus falling victim to lies and falsehoods? I'd like to be a father one day, and there is a very high possibility that my future kid will grow up in a world where at a click of a button someone can create a video of someone they never met will be able to make that person say/do whatever they want. I don't want to be someone that completely shuts my kid off the internet, but at the same time I worry about how someone that will grow up with access to the internet will formulate their knowledge base on the world. Perhaps the best answer is spend time with your kid, take them out to real world events, make sure they have in real life friends, but I think you'd need a high trust society for that, and personally I feel like in the United States we are shifting more and more towards a low trust society. I lived in Los Angeles up until 9 years ago and spent half a year in San Francisco around 2017, but for many reasons I don't want to go back to either city despite friends and families in the area. So I guess this leads to a third question: If you had a job that was 100% remote, which US state/city in your opinion would be a good place to try to start a family?

I realize this is low effort, but I’m a bit freaked out and could use some perspective. I just watched this video:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=s0K0sI5XiP4?si=01DQ1uWFpMr_UmtM

My own experiences, knowledge, and my gut tell me this is largely correct, if not 100% accurate. What do you all think?

Dude is pure crackpipe. Could be smart, could just talk real gud; but is unable to support anything he says when pressed.

Certainly found his content niche.

This kid is very committed to Peter Turchin’s Secular Cycles idea which predicts some kind of large-scale societal dysfunction every 120 years (including now), but I’ve never seen him acknowledge just how paradigm-shifting the last century has been. Genuine Malthusian constraints are increasingly less relevant. Human-imposed Malthusian constraints like the horrible land policy most of the world has are a limiting factor to continued development, but even then lots of trends could be offset (in either direction) by AGI, or a planet-killing pandemic, or nuclear war.

I will say his Understanding _______ Civilization series is solid though.

I do not like Whatifalthist. I listened to a few of his early videos and became convinced he knows less about the world than I do.

I took a few breaths, checked out a he more videos, and now I agree with you. He is smart, for sure, but he also seems to be sort of full of himself.

Is there a tldr?

He’s basically saying that there is a huge mental health crisis (I agree) and it will lead to deaths at a scale comparable to the Black Death. This also ties in with his other theories that the West is basically in for a reckoning in the next few decades in line with the fall of Rome and that life is going to be hard. Honestly, after I watched, I took a few breaths and started to realize that he’s probably a bit over dramatic. He’s very smart, and he knows it, and he likes it, too. I like some of his stuff but I think he’s a bit overdoing it.

I don't think there's any reason to think that 60% of the population of the West is going to kill themselves. It's so absurd I don't even know where to begin arguing against it.

I'm trying to hang up a mirror in my apartment. The landlord says I can't hang up anything that will permanently mark the wall, so screws, nails and glue are out. For some of the pictures I've hung up in the apartment, command strips have done the trick, but I tried doing that with this mirror and it fell off and broke the frame. (The mirror now in my possession is the same model as the one that broke.) The mirror is about 5kg or so (and Command strips are ostensibly meant to hold 7.2kg, so I'm annoyed that the first mirror fell). Any suggestions for how to hang it up without marking the wall?

UPDATE: tried using 6 command strips instead of 4, mirror fell down but I was able to catch it before it hit the floor. Hammered some nails into the top of the wardrobe where they can't be seen, drove screws into the top of the mirror, knotted a length of rope around the screws, then hung the rope from the nails.

It's easy to fill small holes in the wall. I would hang it in a stud and sleep easy.

I've used Command Strips to hold art that's about 10 lbs (about 5Kg) heavy (the frame was metal and pretty heavy duty). I think the general rule of thumb is to use at least 2x as much weight capacity as the object itself, so IIRC I used 3 command strips each rated for like 8 lbs, using a wire to hook onto all 3. Have you tried something like that?

I would use something like a painter's easel.

Thanks for the suggestion. The mirror already has legs, but we're tight enough on floor space as it is and I'm worried one of us will knock it over, hence why I'd rather fix it to the wall if possible.

Did the pregnant man emoji quietly disappear for anyone else?

I am running a factory Pixel 7. When I look at options for the pregnant emoji, it's all women.

I searched for an old text message where the pregnant man emoji was used, and it's still a man. But I can't re-produce it now without copy-pasting from that old text.

It's defined as emoji codepoint U+1FAC3 as of Unicode 14.0, shows up on search for an (admittedly old-model) iPhone for me.

He died during childbirth. The baby couldn’t fit through his urethra.

Is there a good essay or post that summarizes the anti race realist position?

A good one? No. But here's the standard line from one of the putative top experts. It's at least coherent, even if I don't buy it.

Thanks.

I've never been a particular fan of the term "race realist" nor the people who apply this label to themselves, but this is pretty weak. There are always infinite possible groupings depending on how fine-grained you want to be, but both groupings by genetics as well as biological attributes generally replicate black/asian/white as the most basic categories just fine.

You're not getting my point (also, I'm european, so no, this isn't about america for me). As humans have a rather high inter-individual variance, you can do this game on any level. If I say mediterranean is a good group, you can point out well-known differences between, say, north and south italy. If I say fine, then surely south italian is a good category? Then you can point out differences between more local groups, then between families and finally, individuals. And you will always get more precise this way, despite ending up with a nonsensical "grouping" of one each.

So the imo correct way is to see this as a precision-practicality tradeoff. In any given population, the largest ~2-5 groups that have consistent differences between them are the most practical while still retaining a comparatively good precision (this is incidentally the way people instinctively group other people everywhere in the world). So if you're looking worldwide, that is black vs white vs asian. If you're in africa, it's something like bantu/bantoid vs hausa/hamitic/semitic vs others. If you're specifically in India, it's Indo-Aryan vs Dravidian vs Tibeto-Burman (btw, looking this up it's very unfortunate how consistently wikipedia is trying to reduce everything to culture/language and steadfastly ignores the biological dimension of ethnicities, but that's the general modern biases at work).

who counts for these categories

Self-identification, genetics and identification by an unrelated observer generally have very high concordance, so any of those will do fine. One of the biggest issue is when dark-skinned asians and indians are thrown/put themselves into the same bin as african blacks, but the majority of them correctly infer that the term "blacks" actually implicitly means "african black".

and what attributes do they share within their category that distinguish it from the other two?

You know you can google this, right? I'm a postdoc studying the genomics of diseases, primarily cancer, so I can tell you that even just the basic caucasian-black-white classification has a huge predictive value on almost any disease. The most trivial example is sickle cell anemia, which is extremely common for blacks and relatively rare for other groups, and based entirely on genetic adaption. Plenty of cancers vary greatly in rarity between the races as well. For a somewhat recent overview on cancer and race: https://www.cell.com/trends/cancer/fulltext/S2405-8033(17)30040-7?sf66683340=1&code=cell-site

But there's plenty of other examples; one of my favorite recent papers is Tobler et al: https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2213061120

They analysed ancient eurasian genomes and found a number of hard sweeps in the population that is the ancestor of almost all non-africans, and in particular showed that the loci they found are almost entirely absent in contemporary africa. These loci are associated with a large range of basic attributes. In a first category are cilia formation, skin structure and obviously skin color, all of which are most probably directly related to cold adaption. In a second category are neurological adaption, the result of which is, let's say controversial, but possibly also simply related to cold adaption. At last there are metabolic differences, relating especially to fat formation (also mentioned in the paper on cancer & race). And to repeat, all of these are purely genetic differences, that are present in almost all non-african populations, and almost entirely absent in african populations.

Between asians and caucasian, there's primarily the denisovan and neandertal admixture, respectively, but also some other differences. I won't expand on them since frankly I think there is already a pretty large effort difference in this discussion. You can trivially look them up however.

No, I am no expert on africa but I'm pretty sure that hausa are closer to other west african groups than they are to ethiopians, just going off by appearance.

Depends on whether you look at east hausa (for example in chad and sudan) or western hausa (for example in nigeria). Sudanese Hausa are almost half haplotype R1b, which are atypical for other subsaharan africans, but not unusual for the afroasiatic groups (and actually primarily associated with europeans). Nigerian Hausa have more typical subsaharan E1b1a as the modal haplotype, though still a significant R1b minority. But I'm also no african expert, and we're really getting off-point here.

Which brings me to the point that alot of these race realists like to talk about races in parts of the world that they don't understand at all with a false confidence that exemplifies the dunning kruger effect.

I think the interested reader may decide for themselves here who is exemplifying the dunning kruger effect.

Interesting question: how many people actually live in Gaza Strip?

I mean yes, I know how to use Wikipedia. Or Google. Or CNN or whatever. But all these numbers ultimately rely on either UN or Gaza government (read: Hamas) numbers. UN obviously has budgets relying on the number of "refugees" etc. so it is interested in inflating and overcounting the numbers. Hamas are serial fabulists and also are interested in inflating the numbers since they rely heavily on outside financing, and more people means more financing - moreover, while help for real people must be at least partially shared, since those need to eat, 100% of "help" for fake people goes directly into Hamas coffers. Israel has had opposite motivations, so the numbers between UN and Israel likely could be closer to correct, but since 2005 Israel does not have any capacity to count populations in Gaza. Last estimate I heard was around 700-800k (back then, not now). Now, due to the continuing genocide and ethnic cleansing, it's claimed to be almost triple that. Are there any other sources or estimates that are not hopelessly contaminated about how many people are actually living in Gaza Strip?

Gaza is city with some gardens and some fishing on the coast, but it needs to import overwhelming majority of its food to eat every day.

You need to dig up statistics of food imports into Gaza, if there are any on the open internet. Since Israel controls everything that comes in and out (excepting limited smuggling though tunnels) they should have roughly accurate picture.

since 2005 Israel does not have any capacity to count populations in Gaza.

It remains wild to me how Israel has built strong belief in their intelligence capacity while not actually seeming to know much of anything about the place that you think they'd be pretty invested in knowing things about. Mossad seems much better at fucking with governments thousands of miles away than figuring out what's going on with the enemy next door.

while not actually seeming to know much of anything about the place

I think you are seeing it in too black and white. Israel knows a lot about the place. But counting million-sized populations which have a hostile government with a little interest in the welfare of the citizens, and people living in semi-legal arrangements best described as "middle ages with iphones" does not really make the task easy. It's not an on-off switch - either you know all, or you know nothing. It's you may know a lot, but there's even more of it that you don't know. If anything, the amount of knowledge served Israel intelligence very badly - they knew so much they severely overestimated just how much they know, and thought they know exactly how the enemy thinks. That led to a chain of decisions - in the hindsight proven to be spectacularly bad - that enabled the current catastrophe. It wasn't the problem of knowing nothing, it was a problem of becoming arrogant and complacent.

I was under the impression that Mossad didn't deal with Gaza and that that falls under the jurisdiction of Shin Bet or some other organisation.

Off-the-grid preppers have got nothing on desperate third-worlders living ten to a hovel. At least foreign governments try to make things legible for you.

It’s easier to find a good critique than a good solution, and to his credit, 0HP has at least one pointed in the vague direction of a real solution in the form of his Christo-Nietzchean synthesis. The Neo-Nietzchean fake-and-gay critiques I suspect are correct, though the crassness is not quite my cup of tea. My most substantial disagreement is with his hope in high-drama politics to guide reform; I think the next election cycle or three is doomed, and the more technocratic arguments of Hanania will have to win out.

I've seen plenty of claims that Hanania is a troll, but I unironically espouse most of the controversial things he says that might be dubbed inflammatory.

Technology solves our problems faster than it creates new ones, and barring the threat from an unaligned AGI (a big one, even if my p(doom) is only around 30% these days), I look forward to us dragging ourselves up to the stars by our bootstraps.

I’d quibble with the ‘we’ part, and add the risk of a secular demographic collapse before going interstellar but probably agree with you on most of the details.

The above passage is IMO a very clever way of framing Jews and Jewish racial traits as foundational to not only sexual liberalism and communist worldviews but to those of the trad-cons and the alt-right itself. It’s as pro-Semitic as a race-realist speaking to an audience of Hitlerite memers could probably get without getting cancelled.

The offensiveness arguably serves to stop the process of dilution and appropriation as depicted in Geeks, MOPs, and sociopaths. You can’t take the homophobic slurs into the mainstream, so arguably you get to keep your ghetto free of grifters and maintain the spirit of contrarianism necessary for original thought.

Does Nietzsche have any specific policy platform? This is a distinct culture separate from neoliberal wonkery and it doesn’t express itself in that language, in the same way utils don’t make sense outside of a consequentialist framework. Their political goal is a new regime, with the specifics TBD, because their framework boils down to good leaders with real power -> good country. Again, naive IMO, but I appreciate that they are trying to build something.

There’s a subtle variant of racism 0HP advocates for that I’m coming to agree with but doubt I can communicate clearly. Too much of an inferential gap. I can give it a shot if you’re curious, but if you don’t agree with basic race-realist stuff it probably won’t get us anywhere.

There isn’t any evidence that any of what he says about ‘Jewish women’ is true. It’s esoteric word salad, it doesn’t even have a basis in HBD, it’s pure feels over reals, personally blaming Jewish women for the destruction of western civilization is even less evidence-based than blaming Jewish men for it. Psychoanalysis would presumably prove his point, but it’s hard not to see this as just a grudge. Of course, he doesn’t actually believe this, but then, that’s not really a point in his favor.

It’s not really a silver lining if you deeply dislike much of liberal modernity

I don’t know that I’m a libertarian at heart. I think ideologically I’m probably something like an old-school high tory, with variably some idiosyncratic influence from Milton Friedman neoliberalism, radical feminism and neoreaction. I don’t think the dissident right can really articulate a vision of the future, certainly not a coherent one. In as much as they hate me (us?) for being Jewish, I suppose I wouldn’t want to see them ‘win’, sure. And I have said many times that I think modernity and modern institutions are much more resilient than radicals of all kinds believe. But I don’t think that this is the best way to run a society.

To me, there are things that are more important than individual liberty. The maintenance of order (or maybe better the avoidance of anarcho-tyranny), the promotion of beauty, a respect for propriety, for manners, self respect, So much is ugly now, ugly people, ugly buildings, ugly clothes, ugly rules, the raising of the low over the high (in culture, in people, in everything). I want to live in a world where people get dressed for dinner, where they keep fit, where buildings are built according to traditional standards of symmetric beauty that have existed for millennia, where the streets are clean and well kept, where children are well-behaved (where possible), where antisocial people are dealt with, where people respect The Rules. I think we were headed in that direction for a long time, now I’m not sure.

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There’s a subtle variant of racism 0HP advocates for that I’m coming to agree with but doubt I can communicate clearly.

I would be interested in reading this.

As would I. Ping me if you post it please

To give 0HP exactly the level of respect he deserves: he has little or no interest in the truth, quite happily demonstrates it often when writing, and to the extent there's ever any deeper point under the first level of bullshit it's often misaimed Bulverism. The man's a right-wing version of Darwin; I don't get the appeal, and it's more frustrating for the extent he often undermines legitimate criticisms on the occasion he stumbles past one.

The only good things from 0HP are his longer form fiction writings. He really should just stick to them.

Is Darwin infamous for something I don't know?

Our Darwin, not the Origin of Species one.

And Darwin’s Origin of Species, not our DaystarEld’s one.

I think the post was a reference to Darwin2500 (I think that was the number?), someone who used to frequent the Motte back when it was on Reddit (as well as the SlateStarCodex blog and subreddit before the Motte subreddit was created). He was firmly in the progressive/liberal/left camp and was notorious for constantly making bad-faith arguments where the twisted logic and wordplay manipulated to land at the desired conclusion was so transparent that his constant claims of ignorance at what he did wrong were mostly agreed upon to be feigning ignorance. He was tolerated for a long time due to being one of the few outspoken left-leaning voices in the space, but as someone who's probably far closer to him in political beliefs than to the median Motte user, I thought he was nothing but a shameful display whose presence was strictly worse for the success of leftism/progressivism than the counterfactual.

A very prolific poster back during the reddit days, with a lot of very obnoxious habbits.

Pretty far from it, I might agree with the descriptions of certain facts, but I'm a billion lightyears away on the implications of said facts or my reaction to them. I mostly follow him because he writes interesting fiction and political commentary, which is fun to read if nothing else, even if it can be bitingly insightful.

While I might agree with things like HBD, I'm still a classical liberal with libertarian sympathies, not a reactionary, even if returning politics to what I consider ideal would be a "reaction" in some aspects.

The spirit of ‘16 is the realization that feminism, colorblind anti-racism, and the entire LGBTQ bbq are all one thing, they’re a package deal, and the moment you judge people “not by the color of their skin,” that’s the same moment that a woman starts to need a man like a fish needs a bicycle, and that’s the same moment that love is love, even when that purported love is constituted by piss orgies, anal prolapses, and deliberate self-infection with HIV.

While in our modern cultural milieu, all of the above are almost universally interlinked, my bugbear with any of them is that they're taken too far, rather than me denying women equal rights or considering alternate sexualities sinful. I'm certainly not colorblind anymore.

As for whether gay men having piss orgies or fucking till their assholes big enough to drive through, why should I give a fuck? If they're not raping me, I have no reason to care.

I respect the right of anyone to self-infect with anything, as long as it's not contagious by normal means, and in the case of HIV, as long as they disclose to potential partners or refrain from donating blood and the like. Is it deeply stupid? Of course. I don't think that's grounds for it to be illegal by itself, until it infringes on my safety or freedom. Since the piss orgy relates to the nothing-burger of monkeypox, which didn't spread significantly outside the gay community, it doesn't reach that level of concern.

The spirit of ‘16 knows that the vast majority of homosexuals, male and female, were sexually abused as children, because homosexuals are vampires who “reproduce” through sexual molestation. This is only the tip of the iceberg, (or the icestein, or the icenthal, if you prefer.)

I am strongly sceptical of this claim, and even before I read it, I ran into a research paper on Twitter that claims otherwise.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0145213415003828

Proportionally few boys were the subject of official notifications for sexual abuse (14.8% of maltreated boys, and 1.4% of the birth population); proportionally very few of these sexually abused boys (3%) went on to become sexual offenders; and, contrary to findings typically reported in retrospective clinical studies, proportionally few sexual offenders (4%) had a confirmed history of sexual abuse. Poly-victimization (exposure to multiple types of maltreatment) was significantly associated with sexual offending, violent offending, and general (nonsexual, nonviolent) offending. We found no specific association between sexual abuse and sexual offending, and nor did we find any association between sexual abuse and sexual offending specifically within the poly-victimized group. The total number of sexual abuse notifications did make a small unique contribution to the variance in sexual offending compared to other offending. Implications concerning maltreated boys and male sexual offenders are discussed.

While in our modern cultural milieu, all of the above are almost universally interlinked, my bugbear with any of them is that they're taken too far, rather than me denying women equal rights or considering alternate sexualities sinful. I'm certainly not colorblind anymore.

As for whether gay men having piss orgies or fucking till their assholes big enough to drive through, why should I give a fuck? If they're not raping me, I have no reason to care.

I respect the right of anyone to self-infect with anything, as long as it's not contagious by normal means, and in the case of HIV, as long as they disclose to potential partners or refrain from donating blood and the like. Is it deeply stupid? Of course. I don't think that's grounds for it to be illegal by itself, until it infringes on my safety or freedom. Since the piss orgy relates to the nothing-burger of monkeypox, which didn't spread significantly outside the gay community, it doesn't reach that level of concern.

People with the behavior that you describe strike me as some kind of experiment in the development of new infectious agents. In other words biolabs, or biological warfare laboratories. They should be banned according to the Biological Weapons Convention.

I understand that you could have a professional bias toward keeping as many customers coming back again and again, but for us regular folks, these behaviors pose a significant threat.

I find this argument poor in everything except rhetoric.

Plenty of human behaviors, such as urbanization, farming livestock or just plain old existing, even just using antibiotics to treat illness, all serve as incubators for disease and potential for future pandemics.

I reserve that argument for actual bioweapon labs, or "legitimate" labs that engage in gain-of-function research.

Besides, I'm aiming to be a shrink, and while I can't deny I'll get customers because of people grappling with non-standard sexualities, I'd likely get more of them if it was cracked down upon and their desires repressed.

I respect the right of anyone to self-infect with anything, as long as it's not contagious by normal means, and in the case of HIV

80's medicine wasn't so cautious about people blood as they do now, and HIV infections to medicine interventions were common enough.

I'm well aware of that (it would exceptionally awkward professionally if I wasn't).

The reason we are so cautious these days is because of the epidemic of bloodborne disease that lax monitoring of donations or other sources of contamination engendered.

I suspect that blood contamination was the most likely way for a non-gay person to get AIDS at the time, but I haven't looked at the actual data, it's more of a historical curiosity now.

As for whether gay men have piss orgies or fuck their assholes big enough to drive through, why should I give a fuck? If they're not raping me, I have no reason to care.

I respect the right of anyone to self-infect with anything, as long as it's not contagious by normal means, and in the case of HIV, as long as they disclose to potential partners or refrain from donating blood and the like. Is it deeply stupid? Of course. I don't think that's grounds for it to be illegal by itself, until it infringes on my safety or freedom.

If a society that sees sex as something more than just pure hedonism is not something you value, I don't think I can convince you otherwise, but I think it's important to point out you not caring in not a valid argument for others to not care.

The other issue is that I don't know how sustainable "live and let live" even is. No one talks about the AIDS epidemic as "haha, who cares, they've made their choices!" the very people that demand I live and let live because it doesn't affect me personally, also demand that I see AIDS response as a giant moral failing of society.

but I think it's important to point out you not caring in not a valid argument for others to not care.

My argument is that when people do things you consider viscerally disgusting yet do little to no tangible harm to you, you shouldn't complain, or feel free to complain, but don't legislate against it.

Now, there are plenty of arguments about the secondary effects from the disintegration of the social fabric, changes in the dating scene and politics and so on, but once again, that's not something suitable for legislative solutions.

I prefer people who vehemently disagree with me yet agree to live and let die, versus those who concur with me so far yet are utterly inflexible in that regard, if they're not a literal mental clone of me, we're going to part ways sooner or later, and possible even if that's the case.

In turn, you or anyone else finding sodomy offputting isn't a particularly valid argument for me caring (to the extent that any argument can be called valid)

The other issue is that I don't know how sustainable "live and let live" even is. No one talks about the AIDS epidemic as "haha, who cares, they've made their choices!" the very people that demand I live and let live because it doesn't affect me personally, also demand that I see AIDS response as a giant moral failing of society.

I wasn't around at the height of the AIDS epidemic, or at least I was only a toddler. So I can only speak for myself. As far as I'm aware the (potentially justified) stigma against AIDS caused a lot of unnecessary human suffering and even death, especially since it made people unwilling to get checked.

These days, HIV infections are manageable, more of a nuisance rather than the life sentence they once were, and on medication you can live an entirely normal life. We're likely on track for a complete cure soon enough, and there have been sporadic success stories.

I'm not against measures like barring MSMs from blood donation and the like if they're at an excessive risk of spreading the disease, but that falls under an imminent threat to public health, not a minor inconvenience. As for anyone who catches it these days by fucking without a condom, my sympathy, while not non-existent, is slim nonetheless.

Now, there are plenty of arguments about the secondary effects from the disintegration of the social fabric, changes in the dating scene and politics and so on, but once again, that's not something suitable for legislative solutions.

And if it's not suitable for legislative solutions, that's all the more reason to push back against the idea that I shouldn't care about things that affect me directly and personally, wouldn't you say?

I prefer people who vehemently disagree with me yet agree to live and let die, versus those who concur with me so far yet are utterly inflexible in that regard, if they're not a literal mental clone of me, we're going to part ways sooner or later, and possible even if that's the case.

I don't want anyone to be my mental clone, but there are certain things I value, and I prefer to be around people who aren't going to spit on, and walk all over them.

In turn, you or anyone else finding sodomy offputting

What do you mean by "sodomy"? Homosexual sex? I don't find that offputting, and I find it quite telling that any criticism of gay culture is routinely conflated with criticism of homosexuality.

isn't a particularly valid argument for me caring (to the extent that any argument can be called valid)

I never used that argument on you, you're the one that used the "it doesn't affect you, why do you care" argument.

I wasn't around at the height of the AIDS epidemic, or at least I was only a toddler. So I can only speak for myself. As far as I'm aware the (potentially justified) stigma against AIDS caused a lot of unnecessary human suffering and even death, especially since it made people unwilling to get checked.

We used to have a guy here that used to point out how untested straight men are about as likely to have HIV as gay men that tested negative (hey look - his blog is still up). I find it extremely hard to believe you can get these sort of numbers only through stigma, and unwillingness to get checked. I'm happy to provide compassion for people who got infected or died, but if you're asking me for compassion, you have no right to throw the "why should I give a fuck" argument at me.

I'm happy AIDS is not much of an issue nowadays, and even happier that we're close to having a cure, but the fact that I'm being told the response to that epidemic was some sort of moral societal failure shows that "live and let live" is a lie.

What do you mean by "sodomy"? Homosexual sex? I don't find that offputting, and I find it quite telling that any criticism of gay culture is routinely conflated with criticism of homosexuality.

Sure, I retract the insinuation that your opposition to homosexuality was based off a disgust response to their sexual activities, even if that's common enough in practise.

I find it extremely hard to believe you can get these sort of numbers only through stigma, and unwillingness to get checked.

I make no such claim, after all I pointed out that disbarring gay men from blood donation might be a sensible decision, at least after a proper cost benefit analysis.

I'm happy to provide compassion for people who got infected or died, but if you're asking me for compassion, you have no right to throw the "why should I give a fuck" argument at me.

I'm not asking for compassion, merely tolerance or live and let live. While compassion can be helpful for that purpose, it's not strictly necessary.

I don't think I'm the average Mottizen, but in my case, very, very far.

This article is huge and longwinded, and the design of the page (at least as my browser shows it) is really hostile to reading long texts. Can someone TLDR what views it is expressing? Doesn't need to fit into a tweet, but maybe more of a short story than Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace?

Massive open ai update just dropped. Gpt 4 is 1/3 the cost now with 128k context. And many more.

Anyone working on any LLM projects, startups or just using it in production in any way?

And if you are, how did you get an API key? I’ve been on the waitlist for 6 months.

My employer uses it in production and the devs just use the org key lol.

I've been talking about using it to build a MUD or branching CYOA game for a while, but no time to put my money where my mouth is yet.

Super excited to find time soon though, hopefully before others get around to it.

You mean something similar to gwern's idea?

Yep exactly. I'm shamelessly stealing it unless someone else does first

I just saw this video by Tom Scott on linguistic determinism, or the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.

"Does the language you speak change how you think?" This is the title of the video. And my answer is: Yes! Of course! Obviously! It's a concept I was aware of before, but always took it as a given. I didn't even think that it's a controversial position. But Tom calls it 'not serious' and "easily disprovable."

Usually I will find some snarky blog post or a racist Substack defending a widely rejected theory, but I have not been able to find anything using my usual search terms, eg. "In defense of..." etc.

What are the best essays, papers, and books in defense of linguistic determinism?

I remember reading from a book a while back on how Japanese businessmen were able to conduct business more easily in English than Japanese due to the cultural norms in the Japanese language that made it difficult to disagree and argue which can be a key part of negotiation. Unfortunately I'm unable to recall exactly which book it was. I'll update this post if I can recall where exactly I read this, I will point it the book was probably not related to linguistic determinism itself but probably from a business book.

I did try looking online for examples but most articles talked more about the benefits of having English from a globalization perspective rather than from a language perspective. I did find this article from the CEO of Rakuten, who in 2010 decided to make English the official and required language for as its business language.

There is another benefit to using English in business: The language has few power markers. Its use can therefore help to break down the hierarchical, bureaucratic barriers that are entrenched in Japanese society and reflected in Japanese conversation, which could boost efficiency.

From the article, Mikatani points out how the hierarchical nature of the Japanese language is more easily avoided when speaking in English. I can imagine a scenario where a lower rank employee is unable to point out an issue in Japanese due to having to phrase everything politely, but is able to communicate the issue directly in English (possibly due to that employee focusing his mental energy in trying to speak in English and thus not focusing on politeness).

However, as a non-Japanese speaker who is not familiar with Japanese business culture and norms, it's hard for me to identify how much of this is due to the language itself versus the culture of Japan itself.

Are there any Japanese speakers or people who have worked in Japanese businesses that can qualify or deny the veracity of this claim?

I did find one thesis that discusses the use of English in Japanese corporations.

There is a tight connection between language and culture, and it is argued that they both play a major role in cross-cultural negotiation (Salacuse 1999). Hall (1976:57) goes even further with the connection between language and culture presenting the idea that culture is communication. Even if people are able to communicate in a foreign language, they tend to interpret meanings depending on their own culture and language (Peltokorpi 2007).

As Japan is considered a collectivistic culture, the welfare and harmony of a group is considered more meaningful than individuals’ opinions (Kowner 2002). In Japan, groups aim for long-term and consistent solutions, and therefore personal motivation is not so important (idib.). Listening and being able to adjust to others’ opinions is traditionally valued, and expressing one’s own opinion is not so much encouraged (Yoshida et al. 2013). Even if Japanese people have important information, it is not necessary to express it verbally (Hall 1981:67). Japanese people do not necessarily have to express their personal opinions in business situations, whereas western managers might be expecting Japanese people to tell their opinions (Yoshida et al. 2013). This often causes stress for Japanese people when communicating with western people (idib.). Furthermore, expressing unpleasant issues verbally is avoided by using indirect ways of communication (Eto 2006:91, Hara 2001).

Like many Asians, Japanese people pay a lot of attention to status differences (Peltokorpi 2007, Gudygunst 2013:62). According to Kowner (2002) this also affects business situations in which English is used. Japanese grammar and the way of speaking are different depending on people’s status (Peltokorpi 2007). In Japanese language, there are several levels of politeness. Different forms are used depending on the situation and relationships between people. According to Kowner (2002), Japanese people sometimes feel that their status is violated when speaking with foreigners, since foreigners’ communication style is often more direct and similar to high-status Japanese communication even though foreigners were on same level or lower in status.

It's hard to determine how much of this is due to the culture versus language itself, which the thesis points out:

It is argued that as language is part of culture, it is hard to distinguish the effects of language from the effects of cultural factors (Welch et al. 2005). Both language and culture play major roles in cross-cultural negotiation (Salacuse 1999). However, to understand the role of language, Welch et al. (2005) argue that it is necessary to study language as its own factor.

I tried to read further into the thesis to find more relevant examples, since the primary focus on this thesis is not the effect of the language itself.

The interviewee says that Japanese culture has an influence on the communication style also when speaking English. As Japan is a high-context culture, not everything is spoken. Moreover, it is hard for Japanese people to say ‘no’. The interviewee tells that foreigners face difficulties because they do not understand when Japanese people are saying ‘no’ indirectly. As an example, a phrase ‘I will think about it’, meaning ‘Good idea, but impossible’ is mentioned. Even if the interviewee understands the words, the meaning might be hard to understand.

Again, this seems to point more towards the culture having an impact rather than the language itself. I'm pretty sure it's possible to say "no" directly in Japanese, but seems to be a cultural limitation as opposed to a languistic one.

The sources/studies referenced in the thesis might be worth checking out.

Perhaps a better question is can culture be completely separated from language, and I wonder if Tom's point would have changed if he considered the dominant culture of the language or considered a language like Japanese.

Just Look At the Germans. The way these minds are shackled by man-made categories was really obvious to me, as a foreigner from Spain:

  • In a charity I was volunteering, they made emphasis in having processes, structures, sub-groups responsible for categories of work. Sadly, despite this, not much got done.
  • Their morality is base on some concept of what is MORALLY CORRECT that doesn't leave much place for uncertainty. Sure, let's shut down nuclear plants and crippling the economy and industrial base, because it is MORALLY CORRECT. Let's vote for the Greens, because they are the MORALLY CORRECT party.
  • You wouldn't cross an empty street when the traffic light is red, even if you can see that there aren't any cars coming, because it wouldn't be MORALLY CORRECT
  • Look at the way Switzerland's nuclear weapons programme went: they established a subcomittee to study the possibility, and when that didn't work, they established a second subcomittee, which produced a report, which... you get the idea.
  • The way you learn math is by understanding a finite list of concepts and methods, going subject by subject
    • Rather than by having a problem and looking for an algorithm/tooling/approach which solves it.
  • To understand language and communication, you differentiate between sense and meaning; you seek to understand language by presenting categories for it.
  • Consider Javert from Les Miserables. He is hunting the sympathetic protagonist because he is A CRIMINAL, and criminals are DANGEROUS TO SOCIETY and must be BROUGHT TO JUSTICE.

In a stylized way, there is a common way of being amongst Germans which is something like, implicit Aristotelianism? There are categories, which are so robust that they need not be questioned, and which can be a source of comfort and security in this uncertain world. This is why we should choose a subcomittee to address the subcategory of Strategic Dialogue, which is different from Cooperative Dialogue (of which a different committe is responsible).

To be clear, though, I admire some parts of it, like the work ethic, the strong economy (particularly compared to my more chill Spain), the part of their moral structure that ends up helping other people. Also, do note that this is just one subculture in the geographical Germany.

So, throughout, what alternatives could my stylized German be missing?

  • Deep understanding (vs shallow understanding based on classification)
  • Employing categories as shortcuts (vs as pillars, as fundaments)
  • Rules as constraints that can sometimes be bent (vs as MORALLY CORRECT commandments)
  • Finding approximate solutions through brute force and simulations (vs analytic solutions through applying a finite list of manipulations)
  • Moral relativism (as opposed to moral realism)
  • The Israeli nuclear weapons programme (as opposed to the Swiss)
  • Not having a stick up your own ass (as opposed to having a stick up your own ass)

Now, there is a question, which part of this is language, and which part of this is culture? Yeah, I mean, you can definitely have a chill German, but the tradition, the language games, the way language is used in practice by the richer social strata, the utterances that people make in practice and that they grow up with, do contain and transmit these blindspots.

You've provided a list of almost entirely negative German stereotypes (and the example of a fictional Frenchman from a 19th century novel written in French, for some reason), but no analysis whatsoever on how this is connected to the German language. What is it about German grammar that makes them both morally relativistic and aggressive categorizors/rules followers in your eyes?

German grammar

I am not talking about grammar, I am talking about speech as practiced.

almost entirely negative German stereotypes

based on experience about a specific caste/subgroup of Germans. I contend this is valid, in the same way that, e.g., talking about Puritan ethics or values or attributes is valid. I could go on about the positive aspects, but the negatives are more salient, since we are talking about the limitations of language, rather than, e.g., the benefits of discipline.

and the example of a fictional Frenchman from a 19th century novel

also a 1892 book, in case you find that more persuasive. You might find the Google translation of the title a bit interesting. But I think that the Javert example captures the core intuition. If you are a Javert kid, surrounded by Javert parents and Javert peers which utter Javert phrases, it's pretty intuitive to me how you will grow to mimick those utterances.

German grammar

Actually, now that I think about it, German has the feature that in composite phrases (i.e., most phrases saying anything complicated), the verb is at the end. This makes sentences messier. It's possible that having strong categories could be a crutch to make such long sentences understandable.

Not sure to what extent that is a just-so story, though.

I always thought hard S-W has been long recognized as bunk, while soft S-W is kinda wishy-washy area depending on definitions of "influencing" and "changing". Sure, framing is a thing. Pretty big thing actually, even if you discount non-reproducible studies. But it's not an ironclad barrier, it's just a hue in the big palette of things.

A while ago I read this: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18579574-the-language-hoax which is very anti-SW. I liked it. I'm not sure I am qualified to judge whether the arguments expressed there are the scientific truth (actually I am pretty sure I am not) but it's surely was illuminating for me.

What is the working definition of hard vs. soft here? My sense was that the popular rejection of S-W was almost entirely motivated by aesthetics rather than hard data, and "linguists think" is a weak argument because linguists are (based on my impression from taking some graduate courses in their department during grad school) not very good at entangling their reasoning with reality. As a matter of fact, with the right framing adjacent academic communities are still quite open to S-W.

My sense was that the popular rejection of S-W was almost entirely motivated by aesthetics rather than hard data

The popular rejection is based on the strong version being basically voodoo that defies laws of physics, and is at times backed by outright fraud. There are "reputable sources" out there claiming language can cause you to not be able to perceive the color blue (a claim made about ancient Greeks), or that you can pick a shade of green from a lineup, that is off by 2 bits on the RGB scale from the others, if your language has more names for the color green.

I think i buy SW in conceptual spaces. There are lots of abstract topics that are pretty difficult if not impossible to discuss without the proper vocabulary. Could you really explain something complex like artificial intelligence to someone from the year 1500 that doesn’t have the language necessary to understand computers, algorithms, or machine learning?

Most languages lacked the vocabulary for that up until a few decades ago, but they adapted rather quickly. It seems obvious to me that if you'd take people from medieval times and confront them with this knowledge, they'd also struggle for a while, but develop the necessary vocabulary and then not really do worse (all else being equal, so not accounting for developmental stunting due to malnutrition etc.).

At that point it would no longer be a medieval language. This would be the case of material conditions creating a need for abstract language, to which the medivial man would in turn adapt by changing his language.

Is it a question of language, or is it a question of them never seeing any of f those things before? If they had a language with those words, would they have a clue what they mean?

I can buy that language affects how you see things, but not what you see.

Hard is that your linguistics fully determines your thought processes, and if in your language "tomorrow" and "yesterday" are the same word, you view time in a fundamentally different way than somebody who grew up with different words. The best book exploring hard S-W that I read is "Babel-17" by Delany. Softer versions are that linguistics may not be the ultimate determinant, but has certain influence - obviously, the strength of influence determines the "softness" of a particular position.

As I said, framing is real (or at least appears so) and confirmed by reproducible studies, and widely used in marketing industry, for example. So that part I think still alive. But something like "people that have same word for wavelengths X and Y actually perceive them differently than those that have different words" is already rather suspect, and even harder claims that go deeper into thought patterns become even more unlikely.

and if in your language "tomorrow" and "yesterday" are the same word, you view time in a fundamentally different way than somebody who grew up with different words

In case you didn't see my own comment, I come from a native language family where this is the case, and we certainly don't think that way.

I did, and that's why I used this example - because there are multiple examples like this which, especially when combined from different languages, kind of make "strong S-W" seem utterly ridiculous.

The word "tomorrow" does not begin at the letter t an does not end at the w. Conceiving it in this arbitrary manner is a strawman.

Specific words give us only a glimpse of what frameworks, processes, non-verbal categories, etc. might exist in a language.

But those words have to be situated in the context of the language as a whole. As you say, your language does distinguish between yesterday and tomorrow, but "words" for those are stretched over the lenght of a sentence and are defined contextually, as opposed to being visibly delineated on a page by a cluster of letters flanked by spaces, and generally existing as definite categories not signified by proper words (which would still be only contextual).

This is why we have to consider the entire linguistic landscape and structure when discussing the depth and limits of a language. Illiterate Uzbeks, lacking abstract language, could not thus correctly employ abstract categorization in a similarity exercise with pictures of a hammer, saw, log, and hatchet. This kind of thought is unexpressible in their language.

The trivial version's pretty easy to steelman: whether people are raised with a language that distinguishes between two colours are able to identify them better/faster, classically with blue/green. This is still controversial, and there's a whole debate in linguistics about whether every language 'really' has the names for the same colours or not. But you can sit people down in front of a testing center and check this pretty quickly. The effect size isn't huge and I'm pretty skeptical about the evidence just because I'm skeptical of every study at this point, but it's not obviously false under its own premises. (Caveat: you'll have to specifically look for cross-cultural studies; there's a lot of attempts to check by brain hemisphere that are testing something more specific and kinda confused.)

While there's less academic efforts on the process, if you work with artists for long at all, you'll often find that they have a staggering array of terms for everything from color to layout to elemental design (cw: some artist nudes in the Greek sense) that isn't present among casual observers, and as you learn it you'll often find yourself noticing parts to art that you wouldn't have seen otherwise or before.

But that's not very interesting. Conversely, neither is Scott's version -- can we separate a language being changed by its culture from a culture being changed by its language -- particularly interesting to Sapir or Whorf. To some extent the strongest version, of whether removing words from common use a la The Giver would change minds is a fun question, but not a practical one. Most people are interested more in ... basically wordcelism, and whether Word Games can do anything.

Which is a lot harder to test.

Well, that's not entirely true. It's really easy to sit down a bunch of native speakers of a few different languages, especially in the MTurk days. And there's a ton of efforts that have done that. But that's also a space where the replication crisis has hit hardest.

whether people are raised with a language that distinguishes between two colours are able to identify them better/faster, classically with blue/green

Yeah, it's the ultraweak sapir-whorf hypothesis (language influences some things a little bit), you have more practice distinguishing between colors with words for them so you do it faster. But you could, with practice, distinguish colors with words you currently know or non-verbal color classes just as well (and presumably artists or designers would). It doesn't support what people imagine sapir-whorf means, like, there are categories built into your mind that language creates that deeply restrict or guide the way you think. Which is mostly false imo, you can perfectly well learn things you don't have words for, the restriction is more knowledge and experience generally, which is significantly less faux-profound.

I'm going to do the opposite and argue against the SWH, since I consider it to be false in terms of sweeping conclusions, and at most true in largely inconsequential ways.

Why? Well, for starters, I speak two very different languages fluently and am conversational in a third, I'd hope that engenders some insight, even if I'm not a linguist.

My English vocabulary probably outweighs my Bengali one by at least one OOM, so occasionally I find myself trying to translate from one to the other, and till date, I haven't found a single word that is utterly untranslatable, in the sense that even if there's no single word for it, you can't get the meaning across through analogy or chaining concepts together.

For example, neither Bengali nor Hindi (and many other related languages) has a (common) word for yesterday or tomorrow like English does. There might be one, I'm no linguist, but at least it doesn't come up in normal speech. Instead we use the same word "kal" for it, and grasp from context whether it's upcoming or referring to yesterday. Does this mean Indians as a whole are broadly incapable of understanding the distinction between yesterday and tomorrow? Of course not, it's contextual as I just said.

I expect that for any language with major adoption, it's almost always possible to translate between them and there are almost no thoughts or concepts that a speaker of one can hold that the other can't.*

*Here come caveats. Notice I said major, and not some dying tongue spoken by some 95 yo last of the Mohicans ass mf or an uncontacted Amazonian tribe. Speakers of such a tongue might suffer from outright paucity or poverty of concepts, to the extent that for an adult speaker, it might be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to translate from a more full-featured language. Or perhaps you want to consider someone who is non-lingual or wasn't successfully socialized at all like a feral child. But my argument is that for most languages and for almost all purposes, you can build up a common framework and use it.

I recall one example of the SWH being some flavor of Australian aborigine that didn't use left or right, instead always orienting themselves according to the cardinal directions of the compass, including a very accurate ability to keep track of that while indoors or otherwise unable to just track the sun or stars in the sky. Big deal, that isn't so much as an utter inability on the part of the rest of us as much as a skill we hardly have reason to develop, even if it comes more naturally to some. Imagine taking a tribe of the former, blindfolding and spinning them around in circles till they're utterly disoriented, and then letting them loose in an enclosed structure. I expect that they'd end up arbitrarily choosing a direction as "north" and orienting around that, and make the environment rapidly update fast enough, and they'd likely develop self-referential notions of left and right.

Overall, I don't think the hypothesis is particularly impactful, especially when people use it to explain sweeping cultural claims. At most, the weak form of the SWH is true, and that only says that cognition can be guided by language, not necessarily limited or restricted by it.

For example, neither Bengali nor Hindi (and many other related languages) has a (common) word for yesterday or tomorrow like English does. There might be one, I'm no linguist, but at least it doesn't come up in normal speech. Instead we use the same word "kal" for it, and grasp from context whether it's upcoming or referring to yesterday. Does this mean Indians as a whole are broadly incapable of understanding the distinction between yesterday and tomorrow? Of course not, it's contextual as I just said.

The existence of homophones- best argument against the Sapir-whorf hypothesis.

Quoth Betteridge…

Anyway, this article links to some defenses from as late as 2002. I’m left with the impression that it’s a hit piece, but I can’t be sure that it’s targeting the universalists.

It looks as if, by the time one starts publishing serious academic work on relativism, one must have crawled quite far up one’s own ass. If true, this could have dire consequences for the availability of actual experiments.

Thanks!

Going through my old bookmarks and posts on various forums, I noticed that the term "linguistic determinism" is rarely used, though it is still sometimes implied or at the very least can be shoe-horned in. Linguistic relativism is easily defensible. Anyone who disagrees is dumb and wrong. For example, I found this post on Language Log, which I often reference. It's about Lev Vygotsky and Alexander Luria in 1930s Uzbekistan and Kirghizia and their relevance to our current discussion about language, IQ, and cognitive differences.

This is what Luria writes in the first chapter of Cognitive Development:

The way in which the historically established forms of human mental life correlate with reality has come to depend more and more on complex social practices. The tools that human beings in society use to manipulate that environment, as well as the products of previous generations which help shape the mind of the growing child, also affect these mental forms. In his development, the child's first social relations and his first exposure to a linguistic system (of special significance) determine the forms of his mental activity. All these environmental factors are decisive for the sociohistorical development of consciousness. New motives for action appear under extremely complex patterns of social practice. Thus are created new problems, new modes of behavior, new methods of taking in information, and new systems of reflecting reality.

Here, in line with the Soviet school of psychology, emphasis is put on the importance of material and historical-cultural environmental conditions in shaping language and conscious existence.

It has become a basic principle of materialistic psychology that mental processes depend on active life forms in an appropriate environment. Such a psychology also assumes that human action changes the environment so that human mental life is a product of continually new activities manifest in social practice

In 1930s Luria traveled to Uzbekistan and Kirghizia. There he found that "illiterate (oral) subjects identified geometrical figures by assigning them the names of objects, never abstractly as circles, squares, etc. A circle would be called a plate, sieve, bucket, watch, or moon; a square would be called a mirror, door, house, apricot, drying-board." They didn't perceive these figures as abstract shapes but rather as representations of tangible things they knew. While, on the other hand "teachers' school students... identified geometrical figures by categorical geometric names: circles, squares, triangles, and so on."

This is obvious. They didn't yet find a need for abstract geometrical categories and definitions, and it still could be said that the illiterate Uzbeks understood and were able to express the concept of roundness, but unlike us, they understood and expressed it concretely.

However, the following finding is much more interesting. If linguistic determinism is false, then a person's illiteracy should not affect their ability to categorize things into groups based on set criteria. But, it seems like thought that requires abstract categorization is unexpressible in the illiterate and oral language of the studied subjects:

Subjects were presented with drawings of four objects, three belonging to one category and the fourth to another, and were asked to group together those that were similar or could be placed in one group or designated by one word. One series consisted of drawings of the objects hammer, saw, log, hatchet. Illiterate subjects consistently thought of the group not in categorical terms (three tools, the log not a tool) but in terms of practical situations — 'situational thinking' — without adverting at all to the classification 'tool' as applying to all but the log. If you are a workman with tools and see a log, you think of applying the tool to it, not of keeping the tool away from what it was made for — in some weird intellectual game. A 25-year-old illiterate peasant: 'They're all alike. The saw will saw the log and the hatchet will chop it into small pieces, If one of these has to go, I'd throw out the hatchet. It doesn't do as a god a job as a saw'

So, in a culture and language that is stagnant due to a lack of material pressure to develop abstract language, there can not possibly be a way to "correctly" categorize a hammer, saw, log, and hatchet. It's a thought that is unexpressible under those conditions. While those peoples' potential can be assumed to be the same as ours, they are limited by their language.

Is this linguistic determinism? Yes? It satisfies the cop-out definition widely given online: "Linguistic determinism is the theory that a language determines the way you think of the world." But for linguistic determinism to be controversial and more than something everyone should take as a given, I could have expected it to claim that language determines not only "the way you think of the world" but also the world itself, its material conditions. But as it stands now, it's boring. Back to the dialectic we go.

And in general, is this not the point of Flynn? That it is the twentieth century’s cognitive revolution, "in which we learned to sort experience according to a new set of abstract categories," that made the IQs go up? That this doesn't strictly measure smartness, but reflects the increasing cognitive demand of the times? And, finally, that the undemanding life of 1930's illiterate Uzbeks didn't yet have a place for abstract similarities, used as measures of literacy and "intelligence," and that their thought was determined by this limitation?

Tom Scott is a cuck.

Also I did manage to find in my bookmarks a racist blog post, but I still have yet to read it.

How do income taxes work in the US? Let's say I am offered a salary of $100k, what's the rule of thumb to estimate my take-home pay?

For comparison, here's how it's done in Russia. Let's say I am offered 9M rubles per year. This amount includes my income tax that will be deducted by the employer and excludes my social security contributions that will be paid by the employer on top of 10M. There are just two tax brackets: 13% on the first 5M, 15% on the rest. So my take-home pay is 50.87+40.85=7.75M rubles annually.

From what I know about various EU countries, it's more or less the same, except the number of tax brackets is higher and there are additional concerns like having a (non-)working partner and/or underage children that affect the tax rate, but your income taxes are done by the employer.

US tax code is huge, byzantine and confusing. It's on purpose, because taxation is used as political football, and taxing or de-taxing various things (depending on whether enemies or friends do the things in question) is a favorite pastime among Congressmen.

Employer does usually deduct your taxes, but it's not where it ends, unless you are either rather poor or live very simple life. At the end of the year, you are supposed to check how much you owe, either by reading IRS instructions purposefully made as confusing as possible without rendering them in ancient Egyptian, or pay somebody to do it for you (most people choose the latter). Then you include various additions (e.g. if you own savings account, stock, had side income, etc.) and deductions (charity donations, secondary taxes - property, state, etc., and the football stuff). Then you send them a special form to the IRS, and if you owe the man, you must pay, if the man owes you, they'll eventually send you the money. Not submitting the taxes is a crime, especially if you owe the man (I am not sure they'd aggressively go after you if they owe you).

The whole system has some nice ideas in it (e.g. charity deductions make the US citizens one of the most prolific charity givers in the world) but, as a lot of other systems in the US, with time it grew into unholy monstrosity, and since so many political interests are baked into it, nobody can do any reasonable change, but only add more and more monstrous tentacles to it.

Russia has a lucky chance to reset its system pretty recently, and as far as I remember, banking/taxation were one of very small number of areas in Russia taken over by professionals who were listened to by the Powers That Be. I am genuinely surprised they ended up with the system that actually makes sense.

Let's say I am offered a salary of $100k, what's the rule of thumb to estimate my take-home pay?

There are multiple calculators online, but: a) take home pay doesn't mean you don't owe more on the tax day b) it depends on your state of residence (US is a federal republic, remeber?) and sometimes also city c) it also depends on whether you are married and how much your spouse makes, and how many kids you've got d) it also depends on crapton of other things. So the online calculators will only give you the ballpark figure, if you want something better, you pay an accountant or learn IRS's version of ancient Egyptian.

I am genuinely surprised they ended up with the system that actually makes sense.

There are a few major problems with it:

  • Income tax is a federal tax (actually, only property and land use taxes aren't), so regions are dependent on federal financial support
  • Social security payments are strongly regressive and are paid by the employer

But otherwise it's not remotely as byzantine as the US tax code.

so regions are dependent on federal financial support

That's a feature for The Vertical of Power, I am sure.

Social security payments are strongly regressive and are paid by the employer

The same is true for the US on the regressive part, but "paid by the employer" I feel is mostly a trick since it all figures in total cost per employee, and I'm pretty sure business owners can do that calculation (which is also true for the US, of course). Still, it is not exactly a "problem" as I see - it doesn't make anything different, it just looks different.

The trick means employees don't really feel these payments. Tye government is free to adjust the rates up or down without any reaction from the public.

Of course, it's old and true trick, which the US system uses much more extensively than Russia. I' just saying on the whole, it still makes Russian system look much less broken - which in general would be a weird thing for me to say, but I must admit the truth when I see it.

and the football stuff

And the football stuff?

The stuff that I previously described as subject to political football - all kinds of deductions or special taxes meant to subsidize or hurt certain categories of people, for political reasons. Taxes in the US is very actively used in politics.

A couple of fairly high profile examples- Trump reducing the deduction amount for state taxes incentivized moving to red states. The inflation reduction act contained lots of special deductions for green stuff of various kinds.

Federal tax brackets are here. It works more or less like what you say about the EU. The exceptions come from deductions, which effectively lower your income. That’ll usually be the “standard deduction,” so your average American can slide those brackets up by $13,850.

Thus, federal taxes on 100K USD, which is on par with those 9M rubles, would be about 14%.

Things get weird depending on state taxes, but I live in Texas, so I don’t really think about them much.

In the US, unlike almost every other developed country, taxes aren’t (edit: universally) deducted by employers. Instead, employees are responsible for filing and paying their taxes. In a way, I don’t think this is a bad thing, it’s probably responsible for moderately more conservative American views on taxation (even if these aren’t reflected in policy).

In addition to federal income taxes (which range from 10% to 37%), there are also state and even municipal income taxes. Some states like Texas prefer to tax property or sales/goods instead of income. Some tax both property and income, or property, income and sales to varying amounts. At various times there have been both state and federal deductions for taxes paid to other jurisdictions. There was a big fight in the last (and start of this) administration about whether and to what extent state and local taxes could be deducted from federal taxes, which benefits high tax (blue) states at the expense of low tax (often red) ones.

What this means is that in some parts of the US - most notably NYC - high earners deal with tax rates that are actually very comparable to and sometimes even exceed those of most Western European ‘social democracies’ (approx 50% marginal rates). The US isn’t a ‘low tax’ society; in ‘lower tax’ states property taxes are often extremely high by global standards for example. It’s just a very rich society, even compared to Western Europe.

EDIT: Also, the US taxes globally. These taxes are deducted from local taxes where the US has a tax treaty (almost everywhere), so in the UK I don’t pay any American income taxes, but if I moved to, say, Dubai or Hong Kong I’d be liable for the full federal rate minus whatever income tax I paid locally. Anyone who makes more than $100,000 a year has to file, and even those who make less have to declare that they do so, provide their bank accounts and so on (of course the US government/IRS already has them, they force all global banks to report the financial data of any US citizen (which makes opening accounts abroad extremely painful), they just want to try to catch you out).

In the US, unlike almost every other developed country, taxes aren’t (edit: universally) deducted by employers.

That's not accurate - most employers certainly deduct taxes, and at least some legally obligated to do so. Well, at least each one I have been employed with did. But, if they under-deduct or over-deduct, it's not their or taxman's problem - it's yours.

Also, the US taxes globally. These taxes are deducted from local taxes where the US has a tax treaty (almost everywhere), so in the UK I don’t pay any American income taxes, but if I moved to, say, Dubai or Hong Kong I’d be liable for the full federal rate minus whatever income tax I paid locally.

This is the biggest shit ever and is basically the sole reason I do not want to move long term to the US to get a green card/citizenship.

Really, even considering all the benefits? Wouldn't you income be higher anyway?

In the US, unlike almost every other developed country, taxes aren’t (edit: universally) deducted by employers.

Every W2 employee has tax withholding which is usually pretty close to their actual owed taxes. The only way to avoid this is to be a contractor, in which case you will need to file payments of your estimated taxes as the year goes by.

You do engage with the income tax system annually, but that is to calculate your final actual taxes owed for the year. If that is less than you paid in via withholding, then you get a refund (this is the normal case), and if it is more, then you have to write a check for the remainder. If it is ever or routinely substantially more, perhaps due to side business activities or investments, then you may be required to make periodic payments of your estimated annual taxes before the end of the year. The IRS very much wants to be giving people a small but positive refund every year, and many people even consider it to be a "bonus" and plan around it.

Withholding is most definitely mandatory, and the IRS will be very unhappy with you if you try to dodge it or intentionally have less withheld than your expected taxes. I'm not sure where you got the idea that it isn't, but it's not true.

Universal Federal withholding was established in the US back in WWII, as a "temporary" measure to get the Feds money needed for the war effort sooner, and never removed. Some fiscal conservatives have advocated for removing it to actually force most Americans to write large checks every year, and thus save for them and make it more painfully obvious exactly how much they are paying. This is most likely a non-starter given how bad most people are at saving for such a high-magnitude future expense and how much effort would be needed to chase down everybody who accidentally or intentionally failed to save enough or otherwise dragged their feet. It's a pretty extreme position that nobody anywhere near actual power is prepared to touch. Pretty much everyone has since gotten in on the act of getting other entities than individuals to actually write the checks for tax payments, as it's much easier to coerce businesses than individuals.

In the US, unlike almost every other developed country, taxes aren’t deducted by employers.

Most W-2 filers do indeed have their taxes withheld by employers.

Sure but it’s not universal in the way it is elsewhere. Here, every single employee has taxes deducted automatically and the government even takes an extreme line against anyone ‘self employed’ who, say, has only one customer to try to pressure people into becoming ‘PAYE’ staff.

Almost every employed American engages with the tax system every year. Many employed Brits I know don’t regularly engage with the tax system at all except when the local council sends the (very small) property tax bill, which they calculate and you just pay (and you typically set it up for debit so that you’d only engage with them if you moved house).

How does it work in practice, though?

Since I'm a sole proprietor, I have to pay my own taxes, but it's a relatively simple deal - at the start of the year my accountant asks me what I assume my next year's income will be and after I make an estimate (typically estimating that it's somewhat more than in the past year), she sends me bills to pay the next year's presumed tax sum in six batches, ie. a batch every two months. Then the estimate gets specified throughout the year on the basis of my actual work, changes to taxation and, say, what deductions I'm getting, so this year I've had to pay a lot of taxes towads the end of the year. Then, when the tax office finalizes the previous year's taxation, if I've paid more than the actual final sum calculated on the basis of the year's actual income and deductions I get a rebate and if I've paid less I'll pay back taxes.

Simple enough, and the whole process means just a few added extra hours the accountant bills me per year, in addition to the usual processing of bills and invoices. In addition to national taxes there are local taxes, but those are all handled as a part of the same process, ie. the local tax rate (along with the assorted deductions) is just slapped on top of the national tax rate and the tax office processes all of it as a part of the same process.

However, every time the American taxation system is discussed, I get the feeling that even a normal worker has to do something infinitely more comples than this. Is it the state/local taxes and their effects? (Of course a normie worker won't need an accountant, but my understanding is that it would be possible for me to do it all myself without that much extra work if I was intent on saving money.)

The process for independent contractors in the US is essentially the same, except payments are made quarterly.

However, every time the American taxation system is discussed, I get the feeling that even a normal worker has to do something infinitely more comples than this.

Not really. The process is annoying, but it isn't actually anywhere near as difficult for typical filers as Americans make it out to be. For someone that has only typical employment income, they'll fill out a couple forms at their employer that allow the employer to withhold taxes based on their salary and marital status. Those taxes are withheld from paychecks. At the end of the fiscal year, the employee receives a W-2 form, which lays out what they earned and what they paid; this is information sent to the Internal Revenue Service. Using cheapie tax software (I used FreeTaxUSA this year), they can punch some info in to figure out whether itemized deductions make sense, but for someone with standard deductions, they can knock this out in about a half hour. The software will spit out whether the government owes you or you owe the government, then you file electronically and link your bank account to either withdraw or receive a deposit.

State and local taxes are typically similar.

Property taxes are typically billed by the locale and paid as a lump sum for the year, or quarterly payments.

Situations that become horribly complex and require a professional are typically involving business and investment considerations, which really do get comically complex with things like depreciation schedules. For someone that just makes $100K/year at their very normal job, buys a very normal house, and puts a bunch of money into index funds, I genuinely have no idea why they think taxes are hard.

For someone that just makes $100K/year at their very normal job, buys a very normal house, and puts a bunch of money into index funds, I genuinely have no idea why they think taxes are hard.

This isn’t hard, but depending on things like family structure and what state you live in, it can turn into a game of ‘how do I get the biggest refund from the government’, because A) the government likes to try to change middle class consumption patterns with subsidies paid out as tax refunds and B) most workers overpay from their payroll deductions anyways.

The one caveat I'll give is that filing taxes as a sole proprietor or self-employed worker can be fucked, even at fairly low incomes. In theory it's not the sort of thing that the IRS makes that much hay over unless you do something incredibly wacky, but there are some obnoxious penalties that can come up for stupid reasons.

For someone that just makes $100K/year at their very normal job, buys a very normal house, and puts a bunch of money into index funds, I genuinely have no idea why they think taxes are hard.

It's not hard, it's just tedious and needlessly stressful because you are manually copying data from form to form and a typo can (but often doesn't) result in a lot financial and/or legal pain.

The normal US worker will do very little.

Their employer will give them a small half sheet of paper called a W2. If this is their only income, they can file a 1040EZ which takes 15 minutes or so. If they have investment income, they will typically use software like TurboTax to file a 1040. This might add a couple hours depending on the complexity of the return

In most states, they will also have to file with the state, so add 50% to the time.

If you own a business, it's a nightmare. This is no different in Europe I assume.

Again, as a sole proprietor, my taxes and general business bureaucracy are quite simple. I pay my accountant on average maybe 100 € / month, a trifle compared to other costs.

... depends on how precise of an estimate you want.

The roughest value is to take your gross income, subtract the standard deduction, and then pass the value through marginal tax rates, for federal taxes. State (and sometimes county/city) taxes follow a similar process, albeit usually with much smaller marginal tax rates. There's also Social Security (6.2% up to 112k) and Medi* (1.45%) employee portions; while employers pay the same amount, this isn't reflected in income.

So for an unmarried US employee with no dependents (mostly means 'no kids') getting 100k USD, you'd take the single standardized deduction of 13,850 USD to give 86,150 USD of adjusted-gross income. The first 11k USD would be taxed at 10% (1,100 USD), the next 33,725 USD at 12% (4,047 USD), and the next 41,425 USD at 22% (9,113.5 USD), for a total of 14,260.5 USD in federal income taxes. SSI/Medi* doesn't use the normal deductions and applicable deductions for them are complex and rare (they're technically payroll taxes, not income taxes, but they're taxes based on income so fuck the IRS), so around 7560 USD for them.

State and county taxes vary a lot. A quick rule-of-thumb for 5% is wrong but not useless, and gives about 5k USD.

So an estimated post-tax-withholding income of around 73,089.5 USD. In practice, probably a little bit more than that due to other withholdings or lower state income taxes, but about that realm.

This presumes that you're taking the standardized deduction: for a lot of people this makes sense, especially at lower income ranges, but there are itemized deductions that can if you do a lot of charity donations, recently purchased your first property, so on. One that used to be more relevant was the state-and-local-tax (SALT) deduction, which let you deduct lots of state taxes from your federal income tax; it's since been capped at the same time that the standardized deduction was increased, so it's less likely to be a sole cause to itemize. There are also some tax credits that sometimes reduce this number (or even turn it negative for lower-incomes). I... honestly don't know off the top of my head whether income automatically directed to social security withholdings are part of your income for tax purposes or not, though the employer side definitely isn't considered part of your income for tax purposes (or even advertised to employees).

Note that this is specifically income taxes; the US does a lot with property and sales taxes, too. You will also probably have some other items taken out of your paycheck (health insurance usually being the big one), and your employer may have certain retirement plans you can choose to go with that are usually good deals but aren't liquid without some cost penalty.

Rule of thumbs: 20% at 50k; 25-30% from 75-100k; 30-35% from 100k to 250k; 35-40% from 250k to 500k.

It works pretty similarly, but states are entirely separate for purposes of taxation and some tax income and others do not tax income but instead have higher property or sales taxes, e.g., Florida has no income tax, but high property taxes and Tennessee has no income tax, but higher sales tax. For a typical employee of a company ("W-2 employee" referring to the IRS form you file for this type of employment), your taxes are broken down in a similar manner. There are payroll taxes and income taxes at the local, state, and federal level. Payroll taxes are split equally between the employee (7.65% of income capped at first 100k income) and the employer and cover programs like social security and health insurance for the poor/old. There are more marginal tax brackets than your example. On 100k, after the standard deduction from gross salary ($13,850), you are in the third marginal tax bracket at the federal level. It's similar at the state level.

On 100k for a single person with no kids in a State like New York:

Payroll:

7.65% on 100k = $7,650 (your employer also pays this amount on your behalf to the government for a total of $15,300 on a "$100k" salary for both of you, but you're only responsible for half)

Income Tax:

NY: Income is $92,000 after 8,000 standard deduction. 1st Bracket: 4% for 0-8,500 = 340. 4.5% for 8501-11,700= 143. 5.25% for 11,701-13,900=115. 5.85% for 13,901-80,650=3,904. 6.25% for 80,651-215,400=709. Sum: $5,213.75

Federal: Income is $86,150 after standard deduction. 1st Bracket: 10% for 0-11,000 = 1,100. 12% for 11,001-44,725 = 4,046. 22% for 44,726-95,375 = 86,150-44,725*.22 = $9,113. Sum: $14,260.

So on a 100k salary, you pay $27,124.25 in income taxes (incl. your payroll) and your take-home pay is $72,875 in the state of NY.

These numbers change with a jointly filing partner or children as your deductions go up for dependents (children) and bracket shift upwards.

Income taxes are not done by your employer in the US. Your employer automatically pays their part and your part for payroll taxes. They also withhold a certain amount of your salary (there are conditions you can get out of this) and send it to the government per paycheck, but employees are still required to file a tax return at least 1x a year in order to account for their income and potentially get a return from the amount already sent to the government by your employer because of withholding or a bill. The same is true on the state level. Most local income taxes are done by the state so it's just an extra section if you live in certain localities on your state return.

Good to see that the brazen fiction of a "paid by employer" part to hide your true tax burden is in some form alive everywhere. I realize it is too diffuse a problem to meaningfully lobby against, but it is fascinating to me that both the original post's 9M rubles and your 100k are abstractions inbetween the sum you cost the employer and the sum you receive.

There are payroll taxes and income taxes at the local, state, and federal level. Payroll taxes are split equally between the employee (7.65% of income capped at first 100k income) and the employer and cover programs like social security and health insurance for the poor/old.

This is a very important point for people who aren't already familiar with the US income tax system. As someone who recently moved to the US and assumed that my income taxes were my fucking income taxes (imagine that!), I was furious when I saw that payroll taxes were this whole other thing that isn't even on the fucking IRS tax transcript (seriously!!) and was literally greater than my supposed "income tax".

Watching boyfriend replay Grand Theft Auto IV, and it’s kind of crazy how GOOD the dialogue is. Not highbrow, of course, but it’s funny, it’s snappy, even minor characters have complex motivations, hint at backstories. This is from 2008, and yet I can think of only a handful of games with better dialogue. Interestingly I’m replaying Cyberpunk 2077 slowly at the same time, which is generally considered a game with Good Writing™️, and Rockstar is still leagues ahead (even in GTA, which has worse writing than RDR on the whole). The motion capture is a joy, all these exaggerated theater movements, cinematography that the developers have actually thought about etc. I replayed Vice City a few years ago (on iPad lol) and was similarly surprised that, despite the blocky fingerless hands and PS2 graphics, the motion capture mean cutscene animation was better than a lot of modern games released in the last few years.

Niko is a great character, although I wish they’d hired a Serbian actor, not because his actor is bad but because for ‘realism’s’ sake I think more dialogue should have been in Serbian especially between Niko and Roman. It’s also wild that the game implies he participated (or was at least present, which as Serb I guess suggests he likely participated) in the Srebrenica massacre. I love the weirdness and wackiness of the cast. Despite popular criticism (even at the time), many of the women characters have much more developed backstories and motivations than the women do in pretty much any other Rockstar game, including GTA5 and the Red Dead games (other than maybe Abigail in RDR2).

That's funny you should bring this up. I just happened to randomly watch this last week: https://youtube.com/watch?v=z4GYo1N5knA

It's a bit funny to me that the general decrease in quality of writing in video games has somehow happened at the same time as a greatly increased focus on narrative and dialogue.

It will be interesting to see how GTAVI will do without Houser and in a much more high-strung social environment.