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Culture War Roundup for the week of February 19, 2024

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Hal Finney as Satoshi. Interesting twitter thread and Marginal Revolution link.

https://twitter.com/adamscochran/status/1761111031928033749?s=46&t=aQ6ajj220jubjU7-o3SuWQ

I guess on an Occam’s Razor type analysis I have always thought Hal Finney was the creator. Key reasons:

  1. He was involved in early bitcoin transactions and the community
  2. He has the requisite education and background to create Bitcoin. CalTech just feels right.
  3. The ALS explains why he disappeared.
  4. A neighbor a few blocks away had the Satoshi name

The Occam’s Razor bit is it seems tough to believe there is some other guy out there who fits all these characteristics but chose to disappear and is now sitting on wealth that likely makes him the richest man in the world or close to it. Even true nerds at some point get bored and want the yacht and yacht girls.

This community specifically always had a few connections to the bitcoin community with SBF from the rationalist but less known George Mason and their bloggers were some of the first promoters of bitcoin outside of the small developer group. Hal Finney was a blogger with George Mason Economist Robin Hanson on Overcoming Bias. The SlateStar community seems to have had two feeding grounds either from fans of the George Mason blogging mafia or the rationalist community.

Here is a Hal Finney blogpost:

https://www.overcomingbias.com/p/overcoming-disahtml

Personally I knew about bitcoin from the George Mason guys back when you could mine coins for sub-pennies. I always liked the crypto punk guys who started bitcoin but dislike what it became as a gambling asset. Out of laziness I never mined it but I’m fairly certain I would have sold it for a nice profit at $50-100 if I had.

The one use case for crypto has always been the Argentina problem. My trad neoliberalism led me to want to fix Argentina with a little Milton Friedman got in the way of me being an early adopter and billionaire. Missed my shot like many others.

I am not sure I see a broader culture war angle but within Bitcoin there seems to be a dislike of Hal as Satoshi by the maxi community but I do not know most of that story. It’s also somewhat interesting of Bitcoin being Cal Tech built but most of the big promoters were East Coast Ivy/Finance.

I'm more persuaded to believe it was Len Sassaman. The background, experience, personal values, evident time zone... it's all there.

it seems tough to believe there is some other guy out there who fits all these characteristics but chose to disappear and is now sitting on wealth that likely makes him the richest man in the world or close to it.

Burning one's private key while Bitcoin was still in relative infancy is a pretty solid way to avoid temptation to spend it.

Or, perhaps, time-locking the key in such a way that the funds are only available if Bitcoin is still around in 20 years.

The guy came up with a technical solution to like half a dozen incentive problems all at once, having a technical solution to his own incentives seems trivial in comparison.

Not mentioned, but more evidence for Finney.

  • The first Bitcoin white paper PDF had metadata suggesting the Western US time zone was set on the PC that produced it. Probably a US native: the British spellings of words that Satoshi used (inconsistently) appear to be an attempt to obscure.
  • Satoshi's commit history suggests he was working during US waking hours
  • Satoshi wrote the first release in C++ with Visual Studio on Windows. Finney would certainly have experience with this platform as the ghost writer of PGP

Re

He was involved in early bitcoin transactions and the community

This includes committing code to it. Probably someone inclined could look at Finney's commits to see if they were a stylistic match for Satoshi's.

Ideally one could also see if he has other published work in C++ to compare to.

Western US, US waking hours, and experience with Visual Studio and C++ don't really narrow it down. Get all the tech workers from Seattle, the Bay Area, and LA together in a stadium or two and you can't throw a stone without hitting multiple people who meet those criteria.

Even true nerds at some point get bored and want the yacht and yacht girls.

This is unpersuasive because a real living Satoshi wouldn’t reveal himself by living large, he could just be ‘another very early adopter from the cryptographic community who made a lot of money’. Death isn’t necessary for anonymity, all the viable candidates were well known in the niche digital cryptography / privacy world and so could plausibly have made a fortune on Bitcoin over the years; many of their peers did.

My guess is that Adam Back knows who it is.

The blockchain keeps track of who owns coins and Satoshi's coins have never moved. The original creator has never sold any.

(Although the original creator could have created other wallets with smaller amounts that have been spent).

My pet conspiracy theory is that aliens dropped the white paper and mined the original blocks.

I don't really know much about finance, but why couldn't Satoshi use his bitcoins as collateral to borrow money, just as super wealthy people whose money is tied up in stocks do?

It seems much easier for Satoshi to simply also have a second (or third fourth and fifth etc) wallet with enough millions in it that there's no need to touch the original for most values of living large.

Would have to disclose/prove to the people involved that he is indeed Satoshi, which is hard to do. Also Satoshi actually moving his Bitcoins would cause massive reverberations throughout the Crypto economy so it isn't really just a matter of 'I am Satoshi, here is proof, I have 2 million Bitcoins give me a loan'.

It's like if you were in a gold-based economy and half of the Gold had been used to create the tomb of King Satoshi II, and there would be a Jihad upon anybody who actually touched said gold. Yes, King Satoshi II's heir would be wealthy in the sense of owning that gold, but actually moving it would be impractical.

Would have to disclose/prove to the people involved that he is indeed Satoshi, which is hard to do.

On the contrary, Bitcoin makes proving ownership trivial: Satoshi only needs to disclose his public key (which can be verified using public information in the blockchain) and then sign a random challenge string provided by the lenders to prove that he has the corresponding private key. This proves that he has the ability to spend those coins.

(Technically, this doesn't prove he is Satoshi, original author of the Bitcoin whitepaper, per se, but rather that he has the cryptographic keys needed to spend millions worth of Bitcoin, but the latter is what the lender really cares about anyway.)

Yeah, but the act of spending those coins would cause severe reverberations throughout the Crypto economy which is what makes it tricky.

Then again a sufficiently large Crypto entity could lend him money so he doesn't move the Bitcoins.

There really is an interesting Catch-22 that is based off a meta-question:

Do people investing in Bitcoin believe that Satoshi's coins will EVER move, or that they're effectively 'burned?'

I have no doubt that the price would move down heavily if the Satoshi wallet showed any activity, but to what extent is that possibility already 'priced in.'

And indeed, to what extent is the fact that Satoshi would know moving the coins would disrupt the markets a sufficient reason to not try to move them?

Realistically, the ultimate win condition for Satoshi is for Bitcoin to become a universally accepted currency so integrated into the global economy that he can start purchasing whatever he wants with his bitcoin directly, rather than having to convert.

The more integrated BTC is into the global economy the bigger a deal the Satoshi coins moving would be, though. It does feel unlikely that a hypothetically alive and healthy Satoshi's participation in Crypto is exclusively limited to those coins, though, so he's likely not struggling for money.

I agree with all of this. And yet, Elon Musk borrows silly money off the strength of his Tesla stock, even though it could not be easy for him to move it.

It would of course, be hard to verify that you were Satoshi, but Satoshi is a talented cryptographer. He would be able to do it if anyone is.

My guess is banking regulations would prevent loaning billions to an anonymous person. You could do it outside the US but even the the long arm of American financial regulations goes to a lot of places.

Like maybe Russia would lend to an anonymous US person backed by bitcoin. But then you also become public enemy to the deep state.

It would of course, be hard to verify that you were Satosh

Completely trivial actually. You only need to sign a message with the same keys used to generate any of his known wallets. This is such a common thing that we're developed a protocol for exchanges to do it called "proof of reserves". Satoshi could prove he is himself with total certainty in a matter of seconds.

This is what makes the claims of impersonators like Wright so ridiculous and funny, because any story of someone that want to claim to be Satoshi has to start with "I lost access to all the information Satoshi would know to store extremely carefully, but it is really me I swear".

The hard part would be to provide a proof and keep that a secret. Since Satoshi's identity is such a notorious secret.

Hal has been floated as a candidate for years and the evidence never bears out. Why would Satoshi create a Hal persona? Whoever Satoshi is, he took meticulous steps to not be found , and probably never will. If I had to guess he is a non-native person living in England. It's probably not Nick Szabo or Lens either.

again, to the media, it's evident they are different people

https://coingeek.com/the-running-bitcoin-challenge-in-hal-finney-memory-is-on-again/

“When Satoshi announced the first release of the software, I grabbed it right away,” he wrote. “I think I was the first person besides Satoshi to run bitcoin. I mined block 70-something, and I was the recipient of the first bitcoin transaction when Satoshi sent ten coins to me as a test. I carried on an email conversation with Satoshi over the next few days, mostly me reporting bugs and him fixing them.”

Hal has been floated as a candidate for years and the evidence never bears out. Why would Satoshi create a Hal persona?

I think you are confusing consequent and antecedent, if you instead ask "why would Hal create a Satoshi persona?" the answer becomes obvious. If the goal is to remain hidden it will always be more difficult to find something that does not exist than something that does.

There have been other possible candidates, but Finney or a Finney led cabal was always the most plausible. And these new documents only strengthen that theory. Satoshi being dead or having his keys destroyed (which is the same thing) makes the most sense, I doubt even the most principled libertarian would be able to resist spending tens of billions of dollars forever.

Of course this is the boring rational theory. What is the most fun outlandish one that's still remotely plausible?

I think my favorite one is that it actually is Craig Wright and that he's just trying to convince us all he had nothing to do with it with his antics, after all who do you suspect least?

I doubt even the most principled libertarian would be able to resist spending tens of billions of dollars forever.

Some of the most principled libertarians worked in academia or were writers, the opposite of or private enterprise or cutthroat corporate capitalism. So it does not seem implausible the most principled libertarians would not spend the money.

I'm not saying this to impugn on the morality of principled libertarians rather than the weakness of men in general. Anyone with a button they could press to instantly become a multi-billionaire is subject to temptation. If Satoshi is smart he threw away the keys long ago to secure himself from his own temptation. But death is certainly the most final way of doing so.

What is the most fun outlandish one that's still remotely plausible?

Hal Finley is the Bruce Kent to Satoshi's Masculine Mongoose. He's the subject of (and a willing participant in) an elaborate frame-job that links him to Satoshi, which provides investigators a convenient excuse to stop looking.

I don’t think Masculine Mongoose fully works. If I’m understanding it correct Masculine Mongoose and Bruce Kent really are different people.

This would fail with Hal because the naming of Satoshi seems to have come from a neighbor of Hal. Which implies he was involved before Satoshi was even created and in fact named Satoshi. Which gets to a point where it sounds like a small group had someone created the final code, someone ran the code and do first mining, and then worked together to create a mythological founder most likely so no one would take the heat if used for criminal purposes or so no one person would be the creator of the money.

I feel like this train of thought only moves Hal from sole creator to a co-creator. I think it’s tough to deny he had some role in creating the Satoshi character. The real code creator would have had to been talking to Hal, had Hal review the code and say this is it, then together work on creating the founding story.

I'm suddenly reminded of scenario in the Moon is a Harsh Mistress where the alleged founder and public-face of the lunar Independence movement is actually an AI-generated amalgam of multiple people.

"Adam Selene" does ring a lot like "Satoshi Nakamoto" as an obvious archetypal pseudonym.

The Bourbaki option is tempting, but if you read through Satoshi's correspondence he maintains a style and demeanor that I think precludes the possibility of there being multiple people behind his online presence. Multiple people behind the work is a possibility, but there was a Satoshi.

Though it strikes me that with the advent of LLMs, it would be a lot easier now to make a synthetic person.

I came across this long form article on genetics and race in TIME from 2014.

I’m impressed it was published at all and that it’s still online. Written by a former NYT editor no less, taken from his book.

https://time.com/91081/what-science-says-about-race-and-genetics/

It was denounced, of course.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Troublesome_Inheritance

Still, I can’t imagine any mainstream publication coming within a mile of “race” correlating to “genetics” today.

Geneticists have to be the biggest deniers of anything associated with race because they fear the backlash. Hell of a situation to be in. Good thing there’s only strong and increasing genetic evidence regarding populations, which have no overlap or correlation with race whatsoever.

A current example, drama over a genetics chart perhaps showing racial categories:

https://old.reddit.com/r/biology/comments/1ay54u4/all_of_us_genetics_chart_stirs_unease_over/

https://old.reddit.com/r/genetics/comments/1ay42d3/comment/krsjl7c/

This could be used to teach a class on propaganda and doublethink:

https://old.reddit.com/r/genetics/comments/14rgx56/how_can_race_and_iq_possibly_be_genetically/

Freedom of speech matters, it seems.

That post, and especially OP's interactions in the comments, is setting off my troll alarm. I think there were plenty of bait-takers, but my hunch is that OP's goal was to a) see how ludicrous of a statement he could get the sub to agree with and b) possibly trick a few people into learning some undesirable facts in the gaps that his arguments led right up to.

Very possibly.

But a great effort if so.

Isn’t the fact that race doesn’t exist genetically enough to largely settle the debate regarding race and IQ?

Makes we want to scream. Of course it's genetic! Even if we had zero knowledge of genetics, even if we were in 1000 BC we understood that race was hereditarian, that if you had a big Gaul breed with a small Malayan you'd probably get an in-between sized, half-Gaul, half-Malayan with South-Asian and European facial features.

I was taught in university that of course race doesn't exist and in the next few sentences the teacher was talking about how some populations were more or less vulnerable to sickle-cell anemia or their bone marrow was different. Hmm... What does she think race means, what is the use of the word? Is it really impossible for them to see through these word games, or are they knowingly lying?

Saying that race isn't genetic today, when we can look at haplogroups... it's like denying the colour blue just because you can't justify the exact nanometer blue turns to green. Or we could look at breeds of dog with remarkably different sizes and behaviours, aligning with heredity (and thus genetics)!

They use a tactic that's common to leftist thought. Set up an 'essentialist' strawman of a concept that is 100% discrete and definitive and then after knocking down this strawman declare any more nuanced approach just as essentialist and false as the strawman. It doesn't matter if the 'essentialist' idea of race or sex works 99% of the time, you already defeated any notion that discrete races or sexes exist, so any attempt to categorize people by race or sex must be just as false as the strawman(and motivated by racism and sexism).

Going to second Mushroom here. Foot-in-the-door strategy is not unusual.

I don't think it's only common to leftist thought. Lots of people do this to lots of things. You notice it more from them because:

  1. they have the biggest megaphones at the moment,
  2. you are opposing them on this issue and thus spot it more easily.

That's true, but postmodernist leftist philosophers and critical theorists use this kind of thing as a basis for their whole ideology. It isn't just a debate tactic it's something they really believe is true in their heart of hearts.

Yeah it’s incredible to watch biologists deny even simple biological reality when it clashes with progressive orthodoxy. They have to play word games with “population” and “spectrum” to convince themselves they’re not giving aid and comfort to their ideological enemies.

There’s biology and then there’s human biology. It’s as if humans had their own physics.

So it’s refreshing to this commenter just applying basic logic, as if the progressive worldview is coherent.

I think it’s a combo of motivated reasoning, self-delusion, and indoctrination. Rarely is it intentional lying. Plenty of ideologies and religions will cause people to exhibit this kind of behavior to overcome contact with inconvenient facts.

Malcolm Gladwell is not highly regarded by hipster intellectuals. This is, no doubt, because hipsters often hear their "midwit" friends riff on Gladwell and thus form an antigen to such palatable fare. But while these hipsters go off to read Foucault or Nietzsche, trying to glean meaning from a fever dream, I think Gladwell actually has a lot of valuable stuff to say.

One of his ideas was the difference between a "mystery" and a "puzzle". Forget the choice of words, they don't matter. Gladwell defines them like this (paraphrased):

A puzzle is something for which you just need more information to get the answer. For example: The files are in the safe. You need the combination to the safe.

A mystery is something for which all the required information is present, but difficult to process. Examples: The prevention of scurvy, which was learned and lost several times.

One conceit that many people enjoy is the idea that a large conspiracy is impossible, because if even one person spills the beans, the jig is up. For example, keeping the AACS encryption key secret was impossible. One person spilled the beans and it was over.

But large conspiracies are not impossible. Many conspiracies continue to exist even when all or most information is publicly available. For example, there was a large scale effort to convince the public that Covid had a zoonotic origin. Perhaps it did, perhaps it didn't. But evidence in support of a lab leak was deliberately denigrated by nearly all authority figures. There was no need to maintain a secret channel of communication. Once consensus was established, peopled picked up the signals to stay on side, and ones who didn't were punished. The best evidence in favor of a lab leak (that the pandemic started near a lab doing gain-of-function research on coronaviruses) was never secret. It was just not spoken of.

I'm taking a long time to get to the point but I recently discovered this remarkable Reddit thread. It's simply amazing that this is buried in a random AskReddit thread.

For context, /u/yishan is Yishan Wong, former CEO of Reddit. /u/samaltman is Sam Altman. At the time, he was still using capital letters and, in addition to his duties as head of Y Combinator, posting on /r/buttcoin.

In the thread, Yishan explains how Sam Altman used a series of leadership crises to essentially steal control of Reddit from its parent company Conde Nast. Sam Altman chimes in to admit that, yes, this is what happened and also to taunt Yishan.

Sound familiar?

Amazing that this information was never revealed or discussed in the recent takeover of OpenAI. Or maybe it was. But no one cared. It's revealing that Sam never even bothered to delete the thread. Information is only damaging when you have a competent media and one that wants to attack you. When they're on you're side, or they don't care, there is no need to hide anything. The OpenAI board was probably right about Sam, but the focus quickly became the behavior of the board. Slow clap.

For example, there was a large scale effort to convince the public that Covid had a zoonotic origin.

Given that a zoonotic respiratory coronavirus epidemic had already emerged in China before, and that high-level scientists involved in public policy are going to be biased toward believing that they and their colleagues are competent and trustworthy and didn't accidentally unleash a pandemic that would go on to kill millions, it's more likely that they were giving an account of events that they believed themselves -- perhaps wishfully -- rather than trying to mislead the public.

Wasn't there news that came out saying that the authors of the big paper supporting it originally were actually much more uncertain about the origins in their private correspondence?

My sense is that they were willing to twist the truth to fit what they thought was politically necessary.

Sure, but it is still incredible that they pulled it off. According to this, there are around 40 thousand wet markets in China. What is the chance that the novel coronavirus will naturally emerge in the Huanan wet market that is just 10 miles from the only lab in China that is studying bat coronaviruses? This fact alone means that lab leak theory can never be considered a "conspiracy theory", especially among journalists who must be skeptical about this level of coincidence. If there is let's say a situation where a politician randomly wins in a lottery shortly after suspicious contract decision or that people working in nuclear power plant suffer radiation poisoning from source supposedly unrelated to the reactor they work on - journalists should immediately mark this as potentially very juicy story worth putting some effort into.

The prior is just too strong, which is exactly opposite to usual conspiracy theories which start with weak prior and try to conjure evidence to boost the likelihood of some unlikely event by presenting chain of circumstantial evidence boosting the prior into plausible posterior. Lab-leak is exactly the opposite situation, even in presence of strong counterevidence it can at best be marked as a paradox - something that seems obvious but is in fact completely different. And even in the case of zoonotic origin, I would for instance find it very likely that some corrupt lab employee or a janitor sold dead infected bats from lab on the wet market instead of incinerating them. It is at least as plausible as the alternative, that a bat not native to the region travelled hundreds of miles into Wuhan with some additional not observed complications like some undetected pangolin in the whole chain. So in the end, it could still plausibly be a leak due to insufficient security procedures in the Lab and thus definitely not conspiracy theory.

In fact this whole story has completely different effect on me by virtue of lowering my trust in the system - how many supposedly zoonotic origin novel diseases we know about from our past - that may in fact be result of careless or otherwise dangerous bioresearch? Whole COVID origin can be part of some other conspiracy theory as an indirect evidence, that blatant things like this happen and that we cannot trust governments or WHO etc.

According to this, there are around 40 thousand wet markets in China. What is the chance that the novel coronavirus will naturally emerge in a wet market that is just 10 miles from the only lab in China that is studying bat coronaviruses?

Bayesian arguments like that fall to other Bayesian arguments put out by the mainstream; you can get any result you want depending on the priors you choose and the updates you choose to include. There was just a determination that zoonotic origin is overwhelmingly more likely than a lab leak. The mainstream institutions can put out as many of these sorts of things as they care to, and they'll all be backed up by Top Men with Serious Degrees. As I said below, it takes a huge amount of intellectual arrogance for an educated person to believe all these people are wrong, which means they can keep the lab leak theory low-status almost regardless of evidence.

Sure, but it is still incredible that they pulled it off.

I'm not sure they pulled anything off, given that they completely failed to dissuade the public from suspecting a lab leak. It also doesn't take extraordinary coordination for the "we virologists didn't fuck up, please don't cut our funding" faction to emerge victorious from internal deliberations. The PR of any large institution will reliably follow such a self-interested trajectory, available facts permitting.

This fact alone means that lab-leak theory can never be considered a "conspiracy theory"

I consider it more of an "incompetence theory", which should always be at least somewhat plausible to anyone familiar with how often even experts screw up. The real conspiracy theories were in the vein of purposeful release scenarios, engineered bioweapons, etc.

I consider it more of an "incompetence theory", which should always be at least somewhat plausible to anyone familiar with how often even experts screw up. The real conspiracy theories were in the vein of purposeful release scenarios, engineered bioweapons, etc.

This was the weakman that media put forward as the representation of range of lab leak theories to tar them all as wild insane conspiracies, so that all the "sane" people should accept zoonotic origin as the only truth. Accepting any potential lab leak - even "innocent" one - would torpedo the whole "believe the science" shtick. Careers of scientists were damaged, social media accounts were banned and people were canceled just for mentioning "lab leak", there was no space for nuance. So let's not pretend that we had anything approaching to reasonable debate on the matter. This is what I mean that "they pulled it off".

Funny you should say that:

Given the shitshow that would happen if anyone serious accused the Chinese of even accidental release, my feeling is we should say that given there is no evidence of a specifically engineered virus, we cannot possibly distinguish between natural evolution and escape so we are content with ascribing to natural processes

This sounds like more than mere wishful thinking to me.

It was absolutely wishful thinking: on the part of virologists Ron Fouchier and Christian Drosten, proponents of gain-of-function research who were a major force pushing for the zoonotic origin theory. Kristian Andersen said as much in the leaked Slack conversation, calling them "much too conflicted to think about the issue straight - to them, the hypothesis of accidental lab escape is so unlikely and not something they want to consider".

The wishful thinkers carried the day, no doubt aided by the fact that accusing China of imperiling all of humanity through incompetence, without ironclad evidence, at a point in the pandemic where virologists and public health bodies desperately wanted their cooperation, was never going to fly. All communication with the public by large institutions is like this: multiple factions disagree internally but unite around a common message, a process in which politics and cognitive biases inevitably intervene. If one is naive about this reality, I suppose it might seem like a conspiracy. But a definition of "conspiracy" that encompasses something so pedestrian seems like a motte and bailey: on the one hand we have the unremarkable PR practice of selectively presenting only the most agreeable facts, and on the other we have the director of the NIH covering up Chinese bioweapon projects. Your priors for these two types of "conspiracy" should be radically different.

It was absolutely wishful thinking

No, wishful thinking would be something like "I'm sure the Chinese are competent enough to implement safeguards making a leak extremely unlikely", not "Given the shitshow that would happen if...". If you combine that with "given there is no evidence of a specifically engineered virus" it also clearly shows that conflating the "lab leak" theory with "engineered bioweapon" theory was deliberate.

But a definition of "conspiracy" that encompasses something so pedestrian seems like a motte and bailey

And that motte and bailey is carried out entirely by the anti-conspiracy side. If you don't want people to call such pedestrian behavior a conspiracy, stop calling them "conspiracy theorists" for suggesting such behavior might have taken place. Bonus points if you don't censor their theories from the Internet.

No, wishful thinking would be something like

If you're not going to engage with my direct quote from a leaked Slack conversation imputing motivated reasoning on the part of the virologists pushing the zoonotic origin hypothesis, I'm not sure what to say. I've met my burden, take it or leave it.

And that motte and bailey is carried out entirely by the anti-conspiracy side.

The comment heading this thread is explicitly advocating for this broad notion of conspiracy, i.e. one where all facts are publicly known and consensus among "conspirators" is informally established through open communication channels.

If you're not going to engage with my direct quote from a leaked Slack conversation imputing motivated reasoning on the part of the virologists pushing the zoonotic origin hypothesis, I'm not sure what to say. I've met my burden, take it or leave it.

You haven't. The existence of people who may have engaged in wishful thinking does not make other people, who are very deliberately engaging in spin manufacturing, disappear from the face of reality.

The comment heading this thread is explicitly advocating for this broad notion of conspiracy, i.e. one where all facts are publicly known and consensus among "conspirators" is informally established through open communication channels.

Yes, this is exactly what happened in the discussed example, and it is exactly what was called a conspiracy theory by mainstream media, and it is exactly what social media used as justification for banning said theories.

But large conspiracies are not impossible. Many conspiracies continue to exist even when all or most information is publicly available. For example, there was a large scale effort to convince the public that Covid had a zoonotic origin. Perhaps it did, perhaps it didn't. But evidence in support of a lab leak was deliberately denigrated by nearly all authority figures. There was no need to maintain a secret channel of communication. Once consensus was established, peopled picked up the signals to stay on side, and ones who didn't were punished. The best evidence in favor of a lab leak (that the pandemic started near a lab doing gain-of-function research on coronaviruses) was never secret. It was just not spoken of.

Yup a notable example of a large scale conspiracy are the trading strategies used by Renaissance Technologies, which after many decades and hundreds of employees and considerable speculation online are still a secret. Not a single one of those employees spilled the beans to the public, thanks to NDAs and financial incentives to stay quiet. It is indeed possible for large groups of people to keep secrets for a long time.

Yup a notable example of a large scale conspiracy are the trading strategies used by Renaissance Technologies, which after many decades and hundreds of employees and considerable speculation online are still a secret.

By that logic, the original recipe for Coca Cola or KFC's secret spice blend is also a conspiracy.

I think any definition that encompasses undiscovered trade secrets is way too capacious.

It's more like answer to the argument that a conspiracy is not possible because it would require too many people to keep a secret, and the example of hedge funds is evidence otherwise of the ability of a lot of people to keep secrets.

Conspiracies differ in significant ways from trade secrets.

The fact that controversial and/or illegal activity is involved changes motivations and incentives for someone to defect, for example.

I think a distinction needs to be made between conspiracies where the mere knowledge of the conspiracies existence is secret, versus ones where specific details are secret. Everyone knows that Coca Cola and KFC exist, and have spice blends, and that those spice blends are secret. The existence of the spices have not been successfully hidden, and in fact many (most?) of the individual spices are known, but their exact combination and proportions are unknown, which means competitors can sort of imitate them, but not perfectly. We know the who, what, and why, just not the how.

Meanwhile, if you had a similar level of secrecy for something like political assassination, it would be over. If it leaked that X, Y, Z people were in a secret assassination club that killed people for political gain, but the exact details of who they had killed were secret, you could arrest and interrogate X,Y and Z, and then find out the details (and even if you never found out the details, you could still punish them for what you did know). Criminal conspiracies require not only that specific details remain secret, but that the existence of the conspiracy itself remains secret. Which is a lot harder to pull off.

Meanwhile, if you had a similar level of secrecy for something like political assassination, it would be over. If it leaked that X, Y, Z people were in a secret assassination club that killed people for political gain, but the exact details of who they had killed were secret, you could arrest and interrogate X,Y and Z, and then find out the details

Citation needed. Hop on over to to last week's transnational thread, and you'll see plenty of people engaging in conspiracy theories about Navalny's death. Here you have a secret assassination club, knowledge of who they killed, but the lack of ability to interrogate suspects, resulting in no hard evidence. This is the usual pattern with suspected conspiracies. For an example closer to home you can take Epstein's death, or the imprisonment of Assange.

These conspiracies may be a lot harder to pull off, but by no means impossible. I will say this "someone would have squealed" argument makes sense in some conspiracies - I think I originally heard it with regards to the moon landing, where you'd have to not only buy the silence of highly trained and disciplined specialists, but grunt technicians and janitors, and also hide it from hostile intelligence like the KGB (then again it's not like secret military bases don't exist), but through repetition and progressing laziness it got applied to all conspiracies. Now the idea that conspiracies are impossible has become an article of faith among people who pride themselves on their rationality and skepticism (though even that is rather selectively applied, again see: Navalny).

I would love to know what the Medallion Fund strategies are, although I have a feeling that (like a magician's tricks) the strategies would seem remarkably dumb once they are revealed.

I do wonder whether they are using their publicly available funds (which have mediocre performance) to generate alpha for the Medallion Fund.

As someone who works at a prop shop I half guarantee you the strategies would look remarkably dumb if you were told what they were. It's surprising how simple the strategies we use to generate a ton of money are, like so surprising you'd expect any good mathematics undergraduate to be able to come up with them if you pointed them in the right direction and gave them two weeks to work on them. Regardless, they are extrmely effective, to the point where it's like picking up free money off the ground.

The difficulty is not in finding the strategies, it's in setting up the whole high speed structure and the relationships with exchanges/brokers/clearers etc. so that you have access to the markets in the first place.

That's basically my understanding of it as a layman outsider.

Financial Markets are so large and complex and useful information is so dispersed that one trader can notice e.g. an arbitrage opportunity between the price of tea in China vs. Australia that allows them to front-run the market. Or perhaps they catch some more esoteric correlation like how when the tea shipments to a particular Chinese province are delayed, productivity drops by 15% or some such.

And the problem then is how do you bring enough capital to bear quickly enough to seize the opportunity without alerting other actors, and, ideally, turn it into a repeatable (algorithmic) bet to pump money out of the system.

I do wonder whether they are using their publicly available funds (which have mediocre performance) to generate alpha for the Medallion Fund.

That would be illegal, right? Seems hard to imagine that nobody would blow the whistle.

The fact that they’ve remained a secret and haven’t been poached by any former employee allows us to narrow down what they are and why their scope may be limited. Renaissance’s big advantage is just the weight of history; Simons attracts the best, he can pay the most, the best strategies are used on the employees’ / medallion fund to maximize retention, extreme risk control is better than at big historic places that have gone bust. More of the best people paid more, better engineers and better data to run strategies against historical data, then careful control of them. Renaissance is unlikely the same way Berkshire is, but in a real sense they’re unsurprising: run a casino for long enough and eventually someone is going to pick the right number four times in a row on the roulette table.

For example, there was a large scale effort to convince the public that Covid had a zoonotic origin. Perhaps it did, perhaps it didn't. But evidence in support of a lab leak was deliberately denigrated by nearly all authority figures. There was no need to maintain a secret channel of communication. Once consensus was established, peopled picked up the signals to stay on side, and ones who didn't were punished. The best evidence in favor of a lab leak (that the pandemic started near a lab doing gain-of-function research on coronaviruses) was never secret. It was just not spoken of.

Daszak et al's conspiracy to minimize belief in a lab leak was incredibly unsuccessful at preventing the spread of the lab leak hypothesis despite never being exposed in polite society. Americans overwhelmingly believe covid leaked from a lab. On the other hand, this hasn't turned into even a moderate policy response to this (such as restrictions on biolabs), let alone specifically going after the perpetrators of the conspiracy, so perhaps it was a success as far as virologists who's paychecks depend on the steady flow of grant money are concerned.

As with any right-wing associated belief, believing in the lab leak theory as an educated person requires an incredible amount of intellectual arrogance. You know what all the experts are saying, you know about all the studies and polls of experts and all that sort of thing, and you have to say "No, based on my own knowledge and research, I know better than all those educated and intelligent people". So while the majority of Americans may believe the lab leak theory, those with power and influence largely do not.

That’s a little rich. There are several versions of the theory, and I don’t think most of them would put a person in a crazy conspiracy position.

The version in which China deliberately created the virus and deliberately leaked it, I would agree is crazy. There’s no reason for them to do that and little evidence that they did so.

But the version in which a lab in China known for protocol violations accidentally releases a bat virus and covers it up to avoid embarrassment, I don’t see that as crazy. The incentive to cover up after the fact would be there. Both the government and the lab want to avoid looking stupid. And it doesn’t really require that anyone wanted to make it happen or did anything unusual to cause it to happen. Someone drops a vial that’s improperly stored in the wrong level of biohazard and gets a snoot full of COVID. It’s not that hard to see that happening accidentally.

Facebook initially banned any claims that COVID was man-made, which would include variations on serial passage or direct gain of function genetic modification hypotheses.

When the story that's supposed to become mainstream is so obviously void of common sense, it does not require any arrogance at all to look for an alternative explanation. Lab leak was not a "right-wing" associated belief as far as I was concerned. It should never have been, in anyone's mind.

Since the Department of Energy's partial defection, the mainstream has been turning out study after study "demonstrating" that the lab leak hypothesis is very much less likely than zoonotic origin. You have to disbelieve all of those too.

But it is considered a right-wing belief. It's 2024. But people who even consider the lab leak possibility, like Nate Silver, are constantly attacked from the left for this belief.

It's actually a really good tactic to get what you want. Establish a position and then establish the opposite position as right-wing.

I'm still waiting for Pepsi to try to steal market share by labeling Coke as a "right-wing cola".

I'm not going to dwell of the rest of the stuff but I just need to point out.

One conceit that many people enjoy is the idea that a large conspiracy is impossible, because if even one person spills the beans, the jig is up. For example, keeping the AACS encryption key secret was impossible. One person spilled the beans and it was over.

It wasn't a person working with the organizations that spilled the beans. The timeline is clear in the article it was the keys were lifted from software players. It was just a matter of shipping decryption keys to the end user and ignoring Kerckhoffs's principle. So your example of a conspiracies fail is a little flawed since it was "exposed" by an outsider.

One of the funniest things is that Sony is always somehow involved in these fails. And the funniest is that back in the day people could run Linux on PS3 and that feature was actually a moat against competence and patience. When would have thought that nerds that enjoy getting running Linux are competent and patient enough to find your errors in cryptography. To Sony's credit they managed to patch it but reportedly the last bastion of firmware fixes fell in 2012.

That information was revealed and discussed. It's more that no one cared, I think.

Zvi: OpenAI: The Battle of the Board (Nov. 22, 2023)

Sam Altman then attempted to use this (potentially manufactured) drama to get Toner removed from the board. He used a similar tactic at Reddit, a manufactured crisis to force others to give up power. Once Toner was gone, presumably Altman would have moved to reshape the rest of the board.

He used a similar tactic at Reddit

Not according to that link. That link is a user speculation (labelled with a sarcastic JUST KIDDING, which doesn't mean that he's kidding, but does mean that it's something he thinks happened, not something he has evidence for.)

Important context: /u/yishan is the former ceo of reddit, and that is sam altman replying to him.

Many conspiracies continue to exist even when all or most information is publicly available. For example, there was a large scale effort to convince the public that Covid had a zoonotic origin.

I think this is confusing terminology. "Things that a lot of people coordinate to do" or "large scale effort" is not sufficient to describe the normal connotation of the word conspiracy.

The normal meaning of the word requires not only that it be a coordinated plan, but that the plan be for ends that are in some way illegitimate or unlawful. Otherwise, everything that any group does would be a conspiracy -- I don't think anyone would accurately say Catholicism is a conspiracy to teach people the trinity or that elementary schools are in conspiracy to teach children the heliocentric model of the solar system.

So that's why you've got a pretty classic motte & bailey right there -- the first sentence is about conspiracy and the second is about "large scale efforts" and you elide that those are not at all the same referent.

Good point. I suppose a conspiracy would be a group of unpowerful actors trying to maintain a secret. Whereas suppressing the lab leak theory (or the Catholic church suppressing heliocentrism) doesn't require a conspiracy. The powerful can just outright demand compliance, they don't have to keep it a secret.

So the lab leak theory is not a "debunked conspiracy theory". It's not a conspiracy theory at all, since there is no conspiracy. No one is denying that the existence, funding, or research areas of the Wuhan lab. They are just demanding that people not talk about it.

I don't think "the existing, funding or research areas of the lab" are the same as the claim that the specific variant of COVID was not zoonotic in origin.

The lab leak theory (which, btw, I'm probably aligned with you on the object level should not have been discounted as totally-wacky) requires a whole lot more.

That wasn't Gladwell's idea, the very beginning of his essay attributes it to Gregory Trevorton. As someone who identifies strongly with your caricature of a midwit, I have to say this is what annoys me most about Gladwell fans, that they think he came up with anything original.

I think there’s a place in the world for popularizers like Neil DeGauss Tyson, Bill Nye, or Gladwell. They aren’t breaking new ground, but they aren’t trying to do that. Their role is to digest research and high level publications and to break it down to about a 7-8th grade level where the median American can read it and get something out of it. And the value is in generating interest in the subject, and to help people understand how science affects their lives.

Now if you’re basing everything you know about a subject on a popularizer’s body of work, I think that leads to blind spots because people have biases that color how they simplify a subject. It also tends to give a false sense of how much of a subject you actually know and allows pseudo scientific and pseudo intellectual ideas to slip through the cracks by sounding enough like the popular ideas to make sense to the lay public. They’re generally a good starting point, but not good enough that they create a good feel for what is and isn’t reasonable in a subject. This is why I tend to find the IFLS types so annoying. They like science, but they don’t understand it at all. It’s just consumed for entertainment.

I can’t see the thread so I am guessing it is now deleted/blocked but would be interesting to hear the story.

It's still up for me.

Screenshot: https://imgur.com/ffldCo1

I can still see it. But I'll paste it here:

Yishan:

In 2006, reddit was sold to Conde Nast. It was soon obvious to many that the sale had been premature, the site was unmanaged and under-resourced under the old-media giant who simply didn't understand it and could never realize its full potential, so the founders and their allies in Y-Combinator (where reddit had been born) hatched an audacious plan to re-extract reddit from the clutches of the 100-year-old media conglomerate.

Together with Sam Altman, they recruited a young up-and-coming technology manager with social media credentials. Alexis, who was on the interview panel for the new reddit CEO, would reject all other candidates except this one. The manager was to insist as a condition of taking the job that Conde Nast would have to give up significant ownership of the company, first to employees by justifying the need for equity to be able to hire top talent, bringing in Silicon Valley insiders to help run the company. After continuing to grow the company, he would then further dilute Conde Nast's ownership by raising money from a syndicate of Silicon Valley investors led by Sam Altman, now the President of Y-Combinator itself, who in the process would take a seat on the board.

Once this was done, he and his team would manufacture a series of otherwise-improbable leadership crises, forcing the new board to scramble to find a new CEO, allowing Altman to use his position on the board to advocate for the re-introduction of the old founders, installing them on the board and as CEO, thus returning the company to their control and relegating Conde Nast to a position as minority shareholder.

JUST KIDDING. There's no way that could happen.

Sam Altman:

Cool story bro.

Except I could never have predicted the part where you resigned on the spot :)

Other than that, child's play for me.

Thanks for the help. I mean, thanks for your service as CEO.

Not sure why it’s not working for me.

Anyway I had to look up Yishan Wong on Wikipedia and this paragraph I find hilarious

“In 2012, when asked about various controversial Reddit communities, Wong said that the site should offer a platform for objectionable content: "We will not ban legal content even if we find it odious or if we personally condemn it."[10] In 2013, he hired Ellen Pao as the Vice President of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships and later recommended her as CEO.[11]”

Maybe Ellen Pao wasn’t quit the censorship type back then but the paragraph reads to me “We strongly support our Jewish community in X,Y,Z country we have therefore appointed our Secretary of State to be Adolf Hitler.” Either he truly believed what he said and just made an awful hirer or cultures of all involved in Reddit changed over time.

2012 - 2016 is when the SF tech industry switched from "free speech and neutrality are critical for our growth" to "kicking around our political enemies is a whole lot of fun". I think Obama's re-election campaign was the turning point.

Ellen Pao was probably always more comfortable with censoring and control. But in her actions she was just following the prevailing winds in SF.

I think Obama's re-election campaign was the turning point.

No, it was pretty clearly the Trump campaign. That was the empirical proof (in their minds) that free speech cannot suffice to ensure the triumph of good over evil. They kept expecting that the negative coverage, universal condemnations, and yes, polite conversations with Trump supporters would work. They didn't.

No, it was pretty clearly the Trump campaign.

No, it was not. It was 2014 at the latest. By the time Trump came around, the "freeze peach" people were in full control. See also, "Gamergate".

It wasn't the turning point (indeed, Trumpism was a reaction to SJ turning stifling), but They did escalate, a lot, when Trump showed up.

It wasn’t just gamergate. I think it roughly coincided with the end of a major growth phase in social media— around 2010 to 2015 it became clear that nearly everyone in the country was on some form of social media. The social media platforms no longer needed to attract users, they needed to attract advertisers. And advertisers want to have some control over what kinds of things appear on the same page as their ads, and don’t want to be guilty by association of unsavory content or opinions. A post that is racist in some way next to an ad for Coke gives the impression that Coke sponsors that racism.

I think it roughly coincided with the end of a major growth phase in social media

I think this is right, but...

The social media platforms no longer needed to attract users, they needed to attract advertisers.

...this is mostly wrong.

I think there are a couple of trends, one slow and one fast, which are relevant here and which coincided by apparent coincidence.

  1. (Fast) The normies showed up on the Internet, because smartphones. The political opinions of nerds are systematically different from the mainstream and tend toward liberalism (in the old, real sense, not the modern US perversion of the word); as such, when the Internet became less nerdy, this naturally encouraged a loss of liberalism. But also, the kinds of bullies and social climbers who make a hobby of shunning people suddenly got a tool for "instant outrage mob, just add spark"; this turned out to be a powerful weapon to cow people and send society in general into a less-liberal mode.
  2. (Slow) SJers were increasing in numbers. SJ is, in large part, what happens when you feed counterculture liberalism to a conservative-by-temperament. As such, this was a time bomb planted in the 60s and sprouted in the 90s, but it took until the 2010s for them to grow into politically-active teenagers.

I think that in the counterfactual that the counterculture did not exist, you'd have still seen a crackdown due to #1, but it'd have been with opposite political valence.

No, it wasn't just advertisers, though they were indeed captured and used what you said as an excuse (@ArjinFerman points out the evidence it is just an excuse below). They censored not just reddit but 4chan, which certainly never cared about advertisers.

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And advertisers want to have some control over what kinds of things appear on the same page as their ads, and don’t want to be guilty by association of unsavory content or opinions.

What's important to remember here, is that what they want is the control over expressed opinions, rather than ensuring there will be no negative impact on their bottom line. None of the guilt by association with "nazis" resulted in anyone's sales dropping, but resulted in massive restrictions on speech. Conversely the one advertising controversy that did cause a massive drop in sales - Dylan Mulvaney - resulted in no restrictions on speech.

Not sure why it’s not working for me.

Try it while logged out (or in a private window). Reddit's blocking functionality is a bit strange.

He really does sound like the most annoying kid at your high school.

My question with Sam has always been whether he fucked Thiel to get what he has, or whether Thiel gave it to him for ‘free’ and saw him merely as a kindred spirit.

If you were a guy, you'd know.

Explain as best you can.

Men are far more promiscuous than women for very obvious reasons.

And Altman seems somewhat psychopathic to me based on his past exploits so he'd do it if it was needed.

Also Thiel is an impressive guy, and is probably way out of Sam's league.

I can't really tell with men who is good looking and who isn't instinctively, but Altman has a weird face and bit bulging eyes. Thiel looks fit and way more near median male face.

I agree wet Altman's appearance but given that he also married a dude out of his league he clearly has something going for him.

something going for him

He's smart and he's rich? His husband has a cloyingly sweet face, though. If that's Sam's type, then I doubt he would be enamored with Thiel's "spy thriller villain" looks.

I’m sure Altman would do it if necessary. Altman is kind of weird looking but he has a big-headed appearance that a lot of gay guys ime seem to like. Thiel is a bottom so it probably depends on Altman’s proclivity. Always interesting to speculate about.

Thiel is a bottom? How do we know, I wonder..

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This is not interesting to speculate about at all. I did not consent to imagining Altman and Thiel fucking.

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Thiel is a bottom

Kinda curious how you know this.

I'm surprised that someone as driven as Thiel is a bottom, but I guess these things are not as correlated as I thought.

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Always interesting to speculate about.

No it isn't. I have to go watch cat videos after reading this thread.

I think the model of conspiracies is that for every n people in the know, you need n^2 people willing to cover it up. So a conspiracy of 3 people only needs 9 friends and family willing to turn a blind eye to anything suspicious and give the occasional alibi.

So a small conspiracy can exist. A large conspiracy can exist in something like the military where there are secret projects everyone in a large org agrees to hush up.

But a medium sized conspiracy where like 50 people need to know has problems, because it 2500 supporters is a lot.

In the case of the lab leak, if true then humanizing and enhancing respiratory viruses is clearly too dangerous. It should be banned completely. That implicates and damages a whole lot of people in universities, governments, and medical companies.

So a conspiracy of 3 people only needs 9 friends and family willing to turn a blind eye to anything suspicious and give the occasional alibi.

This assumes that the people who are part of the conspiracy tell their friends and family, but there are many possible reasons why they would not. For example, some organizations that deal a lot with secret things have a shared culture of not telling even their life partners about it. Another example is that the conspiracy can be very damning to the people involved, so they have a strong incentive to hush it up to everyone. Like a conspiracy that involves 'disappearing' a dead body or one where well-meaning researchers caused immense suffering and damage.

The takeover where the board fired him, he left, the workers rebelled, and the board begged him to come back? I don't really see the connection with this other story.

A plausible conspiracy theory here is that he had already arranged the exit plan with Microsoft (remember how they had office space ready next Monday down the street from OAI offices -- not usually something you can do in the weekend even if you're Satya) and then instigated the crisis where the board fired him.

Which, if true, means the most important thing is not to take the bait.

I don't believe Sam is that Machiavellian.

People are bizarrely promoting the idea that OpenAI would be different if the board had not taken action. This makes no sense to me.

The board saw themselves slowly losing control, and decided to take action while they still had power. Too bad for them, it was already too late. The point of no return had already been reached. Sam didn't win because the board took action. He had already won, it just wasn't obvious yet.

Was Sam working to undermine the board and establish his own control the whole time? Yes. You'd have to be incredibly naive not to believe that, especially in light of the Reddit story.

The board's only mistake was not getting rid of Sam when they still had enough power to actually do it.

OK, I don't necessarily believe it either. I said it was one plausible story.

Sam didn't win because the board took action. He had already won, it just wasn't obvious yet.

I agree with this.

You mean Microsoft got the board to shoot themselves in the foot?

I don't remember the office space situation. Is this what you are talking about? www.businessinsider.com/microsoft-prepared-san-francisco-offices-for-openai-employees-2023-11

Looks like ms was repurposing office space they already owned, which is not very surprising. It was also intended for openai employees jumping ship which never happened, which kind of puts a damper on the theory.

What does taking the bait look like?

Repurposing space they already owned happened awfully fast on a weekend. Maybe they were nimble and saw the opportunity to scoop up sam and the defecting employees. I've worked at large firms, repurposing some space like that doesn't typically happen on a single Saturday.

It was also intended for openai employees jumping ship which never happened

I think you don't get the point -- having sam join MS and all those employees follow him was the threat that got him hired back on and the board reconstituted. Having that space made the thread of this happening very real. It never happened because the board surrendered.

What does taking the bait look like?

The board knew or should have known that sam had all the chips. Maybe they had no choice but to react as allowing his dishonesty/manipulation would have been equivalent to surrendering power anyway. Or maybe sam would have continued escalating until they had to respond. Who knows.

Repurposing space they already owned happened awfully fast on a weekend. Maybe they were nimble and saw the opportunity to scoop up sam and the defecting employees. I've worked at large firms, repurposing some space like that doesn't typically happen on a single Saturday.

I've also worked at large firms, with a good 20% of seats being unused. If the CEO himself turned his attention to it, "making room" might be as simple as updating some cells in a spreadsheet depending on what they are working with. Potentially hiring sam Altman also doesn't typically happen on a Saturday.

I think you don't get the point -- having sam join MS and all those employees follow him was the threat that got him hired back on and the board reconstituted. Having that space made the thread of this happening very real. It never happened because the board surrendered.

I am aware, but it's not clear what Microsoft gains from this conspiracy, unless your claim is that Altman crossed them too and just used them for leverage with the board.

Microsoft would be happy with Altman and team in-house or happy with him at the helm of OAI.

What they could not countenance is setting their $1BN investment on fire.

Create crisis. Consolidate power.

It's exactly what happened at Reddit and then at OpenAI.

Note that the OpenAI board didn't just randomly fire Altman. They fired him because he was being dishonest and subverting their authority. The crisis was precipitated by Sam.

Believe it or not, OpenAI was founded as a non-profit to democratize access to AI, and not as a way to get rich and funnel AI discoveries to a megacorp.

They fired him because he was being dishonest and subverting their authority.

And they begged him to come back because he promised to stop? Or because they had no power to begin with?

The crisis was precipitated by Sam.

Seems like conjecture.

Believe it or not, OpenAI was founded as a non-profit to democratize access to AI, and not as a way to get rich and funnel AI discoveries to a megacorp.

They switched to a for profit model five years ago. Far from being put-upon idealists, the board was perfectly happy to ride the wave.

So Reddit story doesn’t move the needle for you at all?

Yesterday, I heard a woman casually, as though it were self-evident, explain an undesirable outcome in her life with "because I'm a woman." I have heard this used by many women to explain: -Why they are not managers -Why their students cannot read -Why they follow pointless workplace rules that no one ever enforces and most employees don't follow -Why they live in fear of the disapproval of superiors -Why a waiter was rude to them -Why a waitress was rude to them -Why they must conform to community norms

Though the explanation sounds like a confession ( "I can't be a manager, I'm just a girl!"), in all cases it is an accusation, intended to imply that the patriarchy is manipulating things behind the scenes, or that "everyone knows" men never get punished/demoted/frowned upon, so only women have to actually worry about their behavior/reputations/whatever. I have been shocked both by how readily this explanation is confirmed/affirmed by other women present when it is offered, and also the wild confirmation bias on display. The women are not managers, but they never applied for the job, and their bosses are women. They have never been reprimanded at work, but neither has anyone else. The male students can't read, but neither can the female ones. None of this is considered. It boggles the mind.

Nevertheless, it is a fact about how a certain class of Western woman explains the world to herself. If people so privileged are so certain of how the deck is stacked against them, what hope is there for people with stronger evidence for that belief about themselves? How does a standard right-thinking (from "to right-think") respectable Westerner expect anyone else to transcend their culture or overcome oppression or break the cycle when their default, axiomatic explanation for why they only make 100k and three trips to Mexico per year is "society cheated me." What is a black kid supposed to think? Or a kid on a reservation? "I'll give it my best shot"? I have heard black dissidents make this argument against the idea of systemic racism- that even if it is real, thinking about it stops black people from trying things. But how can self-exculpatory models of the world be eradicated in people with somewhat credible claims to oppression when they are so popular even among the most privileged members of society? How do the "it's the culture" people expect the culture to change if the winning culture tells itself the same story as the losing one?

Not that anyone is obligated to play along, but I'm not getting many answers to my question. There's lots of "no, women don't do that" and lots of "preach, king!" but the question stands. How does a run-of-the-mill progressive expect people with much more credible claims to oppression than middle-class women to talk themselves into striving when the highly privileged are so consistently talking themselves out of it? Anyone?

How does a run-of-the-mill progressive expect people with much more credible claims to oppression than middle-class women to talk themselves into striving when the highly privileged are so consistently talking themselves out of it? Anyone?

We do it by politically organizing our communities to vote our candidates into power, who will then abolish systemic structures and usher forth a better world, everybody knows this you dummy. We stand on the right side of history, oppression will be defeated and all the people liberated. In the meantime using critical thinking and calling out centers of power who benefit from their unjust privilege and who perpetuate injustice is us doing the work. Remember, the question is not: Did racism sexism take place? but rather How did racism sexism manifest in that situation?

You see, the issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution.

Whether or not the OP is begging for it, assembling a strawman is still against the rules. Honestly, there’s less credible ones in this very thread, so you’d probably be in the clear if it wasn’t for the facetious framing device. Speak plainly, and try to avoid putting words in others’ mouths.

What exactly is the strawman in my argument? That progressives in general believe that there is a thing called privilege, that it manifests itself not necessarily in any particular situation or person (e.g. that somebody is sexist) but that it manifests itself in systemic ways? So yes, the fact the somebody has more privilege - e.g. they are white woman as opposed to black woman - it does not mean that no sexism or racism takes place. Maybe the thing about the revolution is a little bit too on the nose, but in the end it is closer to the truth: the fact that there are women in managerial position in our company is not the issue, the systemic sexism (AKA patriarchy) is the issue.

Or let me put it this way: do you think it is strawman to think, that "run of the mill progressive" believes that there is such a thing like systemic racism or systemic sexism (AKA white supremacy and patriarchy) respectively and that it is present and can be detected in mundane situations like workplace interactions? Does run of the mill progressive believe in privilege in context of gender or race? If not, what does run of the mill progressive believe in this area?

Talking about privilege or oppression is not a strawman. The problem is adding all the snide, self-righteous bits. They make any position a lot more punchable. It’s occupying the bailey.

You shouldn’t be setting up the most annoying, least defensible version. You especially shouldn’t do so by pretending to hold that position.

I also took that question as rhetorical.

How does a run-of-the-mill progressive expect people with much more credible claims to oppression than middle-class women to talk themselves into striving when the highly privileged are so consistently talking themselves out of it?

Do they?

Do you get the impression the women in question are really into "grit" and "growth mindset" and all that? That seems like a conservative thing, along with lots of emphasis on math and trades and Economically Important Skills. I would have expected them to be more into dispensing with mandatory algebra courses in favor of more Indigenous Education or rapping as Literature or other such things. There was a fairly charming class at one school where the teens got an English credit for beading while someone read a book out loud. The assumption was that they just needed to graduate and get on with their lives of catching fish, ricing, beading, and probably working at the casino or something. That seemed... plausibly realistic? Like another high school with very strong Cosmetology and Culinary Arts programs -- if communism isn't forthcoming, might as well work in a restaurant or a hair salon, since that's what Society is setting you up for.

Not that anyone is obligated to play along, but I'm not getting many answers to my question. There's lots of "no, women don't do that" and lots of "preach, king!" but the question stands. How does a run-of-the-mill progressive expect people with much more credible claims to oppression than middle-class women to talk themselves into striving when the highly privileged are so consistently talking themselves out of it? Anyone?

To be honest, I took the question as rhetorical garnish to the meat of dunking on groups of people and ideas you disapprove of.

The run-of-the-mill progressive does not consider striving and can-do attitudes an important part of success, but an ex post facto justification of privilege, so they wouldn't see your concerns as a problem. 'We don't need to convince Blacks to try hard, Blacks are already trying just as hard as anyone; we just need to dismantle the systems of oppression to unleash their human capital' would be their framing.

The run-of-the-mill progressive does not consider striving and can-do attitudes an important part of success

Yeah, it's this. The median progressive thinks that "a pull yourself up by your bootstraps mentality" is a bad-faith rhetorical device drempt up by right-wingers as an excuse to cut welfare. The progressive solution to black and/or female underachievement is affirmative action and redistribution, not inculcating a culture of grit and determination. Self-reliance is suspicious, not laudable, to them: believing yourself to be master of your own fate is heterodoxy to the left's no-man-is-an-island axiom.

Possible answers: Because the interaction between middle class white women (blue tribe) and say working class urban black people is close to zero, they don't hold the same opinions and while they might be on the same "side" when reduced to left/right they are not homogenous. A white middle class woman not striving has basically no impact on why a black teen in the projects might not strive. Entirely separate living conditions and ecosystems.

In addition, it would pretty easy for oppressed black people to feel that white women complaining is co-opting the arguments of the oppressed for their own advantage. See "Karen" as a meme. This can either be used to fuel you to strive more, or as an excuse to strive less dependent on each individuals locus of control. They are not a single united group.

Your question is predicated that what middle class white women do has a sizable impact on the mind set of what others might do. But you first y