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Friday Fun Thread for March 22, 2024

Be advised: this thread is not for serious in-depth discussion of weighty topics (we have a link for that), this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

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So I've recently rediscovered Processing, a programming environment that bills itself as a "programming sketchbook". Which I think is pretty apt, it's basically a Java environment that lets you skip over the boring boilerplate bits and get right to the interesting bits of drawing shapes and graphics on screen, fast. And I mean fast, the shortcut bar has two buttons, play (run your sketch) and stop the running sketch. There's stepping controls if you're in debug mode, but I haven't really bothered with debugging - I've just been doing rapid iterations on generating and displaying a grid-based map based on RuneScape's dungeoneering dungeons.

God I love it. I've actually been doing hobby programming regularly, I thought my job had burned me out of wanting to develop on my own time. Turns out I needed more creative expression than "make thing go work" script modding and tools, apparently.

At the moment I have one niggling annoyance with it: the IDE's theming options are terrible. The default theme is a perfectly acceptable light mode, but all of the other themes are either garish multicolor gradients, look like poop, or have terrible contrast - particularly the themes intended to have a dark mode look and feel. And the process for creating custom themes is poorly documented and there were breaking changes in theming between Processing 3 and Processing 4 and the only decent Monokai theme I can find was made for 3 and nobody seems to have a straightforward method to convert themes to the newer version.

Maybe the annoyance is more than just a niggle. Anyway. It's been a good few weeks for my hobbies.

Watching Dune and rereading the Dune Encyclopedia (see screenshot) has me thinking - how could a private citizen start accumulating / creating a stock of family atomics? Would it even be possible with Bezos level wealth in the modern day, considering the problems of sourcing the materials/expertise without facing legal sanction?

I've read estimates that North Korea spent in the ballpark of 1.5-2 billion USD to develop its nuclear capacity in the last 50 years, I wonder if it would be possible for someone without the state capacity of a nation to do it privately. At the risk of being put on a list somewhere, I'd have to say it would be pretty awesome to have some 'family atomics'. Like having a big ass gun to deter criminals/home invaders, except this gun can be pointed against nation-states.


Your best bet is attempting to buy out part of a stockpile of a failing nuclear state.

Best bet would be either Pakistan or NK.

Good luck beating the Saudis to the punch in the former, and for both cases, expect very angry DEVGRU to show up at one point. Someone is going to be pissed if you try.

If you have that much money, you can probably acquire fissile materials and even own a reactor legally, and you could hire all the nuclear physicists and engineers you like. It's the enrichment process and building the nukes in a safe manner that would be extremely difficult to pull off, unless you managed to pay some seriously hefty bribes, and convincing most countries to let you amass a nuclear arsenal is one of the few things that you can't buy with money, much like US can't just hand Xi Jinping $100 billion to fuck off.

It's probably easier just to coup an existing country that has them, or co-opt a non-nuclear power with a degree of sovereignty that is miraculously respected after your antics.

Estimating what North Korea 'spends' is very hard. It's an actual planned economy for the most part. You do your work at a state enterprise and you get rations. You're not buying a house, it gets allotted to you. A lot of economic activity happens outside the market and exchange rates are a bit of a joke. Just because a farmer isn't paid $1000 for a $1000 worth of wheat, it doesn't mean the wheat is worth less. If you look at a list of countries by GDP, North Korea is lower than Palestine or Niger, I think that's nonsense.

North Korea's nuclear capabilities cost way more than $1-2 billion. Maybe $10 billion? A reactor alone would cost about a billion.

To get a credible nuclear capability you need a reactor for plutonium and you need the precision engineering for the explosive lens (which isn't too hard honestly). You'll need land you can stage a test on to prove your capability.

Reactors are easy to find (massive heat source), so maybe you go down the ultracentrifuge path for uranium. Uranium enrichment is easier to hide but needs rather specialist, monitored tools. Either you buy your ultracentrifuges somehow evading sanctions or you have quite good engineering skills.

The hardest part is credible delivery. You need fairly advanced rocketry. Solid fuel rockets for a quick launch, preferably road-mobile so you can hide them and play shell games with them. You need powerful early warning radar and preferably a satellite or two for over-the-horizon view. These rockets need to be tested as well. The warheads need to be miniaturized to fit on them, then there's guidance (you're not gonna be using GPS) so either you have your own satellite constellation or you relearn the arcane art of inertial guidance or celestial navigation. It's a pretty big R&D project.

The only person who could do this is Elon, Bezos's Blue Origin is a complete joke. The man can't even make civilian rockets properly, he can't make military weapons.

If you look at a list of countries by GDP, North Korea is lower than Palestine or Niger, I think that's nonsense.

North Korea has a substantially worse quality of life than Palestine (West Bank or even Gaza when not being invaded), less food, fewer consumer goods, higher rate of famine etc. Niger is indeed still poorer. As you say estimating things like median income in NK is kind of dumb, but quality of life does provide an indicator and extensive, regular bouts of starvation since the 1990s suggest an extraordinarily inefficient economy and impoverished society, especially outside Pyongyang.

That said, I agree completely that you can’t really translate these costs in a communist economy, this was also the mistake Western economists made when they underestimated by a huge amount just how poor the USSR was.

The Soviet Union wasn't that poor all things considered, it just allocated a very high proportion of resources to military development. 10-15% of GDP was tied up in armaments, 10-15% of the labour force IIRC. North Korea is similarly focused on military power at the expense of civilian goods. But military goods are still valuable.

North Korea has a life expectancy of 72, Palestine was apparently at 74, so I'd agree that Palestine has a higher quality of life. Having access to the internet is also a good thing! Yet North Korea is an advanced economy, it's not like most African countries where the government runs off mining rent, totally bereft of industry. The total GDP of North Korea, not merely per capita, can't possibly be lower than Palestine as the official statistics say. The economy isn't a complete shambles - they had a lot of hunger recently due to COVID and shutting the border with China but that's really an external factor.

The only person who could do this is Elon, Bezos's Blue Origin is a complete joke. The man can't even make civilian rockets properly, he can't make military weapons.

One of these days I'll have to bite the bullet and do a deep dive on the absolute state of the space industry, because it feels like the commentary on it is as polarized as Drag Queen Story Hour. What's supposed to be so improper about Blue Origin's rockets?

Well they started 2 years before SpaceX, they have no shortage of cash and they still haven't reached orbit!

First of all, they're going to Mars this year, from what I understand. But even that aside, how does that make them a joke? A sub-orbital rocket is a perfectly fine delivery mechanism for a nuke, and Blue Origin's seem to be working just fine.

You'd have to start by building your own financial system. Nobody actually has $1bn, they have various contractual legal agreements that entitle them to $1bn that is actually in the possession of various other entities (most of which only possess them in a complex web of transactions going back to the US Federal reserve). It would be comically easy to prevent an individual like Bezos from accessing his wealth once it were found out that he was engaged in building a nuke.

It might be possible to purchase the first one, and from there become a state. But that's a different animal altogether.

100% agree, but get more creative?

How much money would you need to avoid that failure state (prevention of access to your capital)? If that requires something other than money, how much money does it take to acquire that something? Etc.

North Korea did it operating largely using nascent cryptocurrency tech to fund and hide its transactions, but is that really feasible currently with tighter KYCs?

North Korea’s program predates crypto, they just dealt with the Pakistanis. The Pakistani ISI is probably better surveilled by the US today, though, and would probably sell out an American anyway.

Some degree of sovereignty is needed, in which case you are no longer Mr Money, Private Citizen.

I hate calcium metabolism.

I hate calcium metabolism.

I hate calcium metabolism.

If what you're doing requires you to diagnose a disease called, no joke, Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism, please reconsider.

I can't possibly upvote this enough. :(

Liar. Where's @Throwaway06 and onwards? We can't ban you fast enough /s

(Thanks! I was thinking about pinging you, but I assumed you had more important things to do. It is good to know, in the schadenfreude sense, that I'm not the only one suffering and that it never ends.)

Does anyone have thoughts on the Halo show? I know the fans are outraged, but I've been enjoying it.

I generally enjoy serials, space ships, space marines, and bad aliens being shot. So it's a pretty easy sell.

The writing could be better. They kind of botched the flood reveal.

The budget limits show. The first five episodes were shot in Ontario, they switched to Budapest for covid reasons for the rest of S1. You can definitely tell that they were shooting some outdoor combat scenes in stone and gravel quarries.

But they made practical spartan suits and warthogs, which is fun.

It seems fans were expecting Band of Brothers meets Lord of the Rings in space. Which was never going to happen.

It seems fans were expecting Band of Brothers meets Lord of the Rings in space. Which was never going to happen.

It's not that fans were expecting Band of Brothers with LoTR. It's more that fans were expecting Halo. The show has very little in common with the games. And while the show is about a "Spartan" named "Master Chief" who fights the "Covenant", it's just not Halo. The story has almost nothing to do with the story of Halo. The characters are not the same as the ones from the game. This makes sense as when S1 released, the writers specially stated that they didn't play any of the games.

So for the fans of the games, the Halo show is just another example of slapping a well known name on a show to sell it. In the eyes of the fans, all they had to do was to make 3 seasons based on each of the 3 games, and they couldn't even do that.

The hypothesis I've heard from my friend who watched it is that the showrunners wanted to make a Mass Effect show, but failed to get the licence, so they retooled as little as possible to (barely) fit Halo lore.

From what I've read, it has very little in common with the source material. Like, it sounds like it was written by someone who actively hates Halo and wants to mock it. I would've been mildly interested in an actual Halo show, but have no interest in watching TV writers disrespect yet another source material. So I haven't watched. But from everything I've heard, it's really bad.

Did you guys know that Honey Boo Boo is still on television? I know everyone loves to hate this show, but it's still darn impressive that everyone's thoughts 12 years ago, "what on Earth are these people going to be like when they grow up?" are now being answered in the same shitty reality tv format. A nation truly in decline wouldn't be able to satisfy consumer demand like this.

Somebody better tell Werner Herzog!

Yes. We TV runs ads excessively for their excellent original programming during reruns of Law & Order. The show you linked to isn't new, and was immediately preceded by Mama June: From Not to Hot, which chronicled her getting a makeover and losing weight. Then when she got arrested and it was revealed she had a drug problem, they had to retool. We TV has also aired incredibly high quality programming such as Growing Up Hip-Hop, The Braxtons, Bridezillas, Marriage Boot Camp, and Love After Lock Up.

I know everyone loves to hate this show

That's largely the intended reaction.

Always remember: if you're watching it, you are the target audience. Even if you're only watching it "ironically".

The recent attack on Moscow has me thinking: the best anti-terrorism measures against Islamic terrorism is to do everything possible to make the terrorist an apostate, and then to record him stating his apostasy without duress. This is the only thing that would fully counteract the motivation to commit terrorism; the terrorist is motivated by a reward from god, but apostasy is an inexcusable sin. This, more than any physical retaliation or sentence, would make a Muslim terrorist afraid to commit terrorism in your country.

This wouldn’t be a real disincentive since he and his guys would know he was being coerced or tortured into it, in which case the punishment from God presumably wouldn’t apply.


without duress

Plenty of ways to genuinely convert an unintelligent terrorist.

True, but his buddies back home are going to think he was tortured into the video of him hosting Dancing with the Stars even if he did so voluntarily.

I've often thought part of it is staying up all night getting wound up on tea and tobacco while being sexually frustrated. If we were able to flood their countries with alcohol, downers, weed and junk food I think it would stop most of it. Add in a better f2m sex ratio and you got yourself a stew going.

So you need to capture him, addict him to drugs and then coerce him via withdrawal into eating pork, renouncing Islam and so on - and then kill him?

Don't know if that would work, you'd probably get fatwa'd and bring down more lethal attacks, perhaps with an emphasis on suicide-bombing. I favour the Polish/Japanese solution of not having Muslims in your country.

(CW tangent, but too low effort for the main thread)

Just had an epiphany. Reddit's /r/politics must be what it's like to live in an authoritarian state with total state capture of the media and institutions. For the past two months, all the headlines I scroll past cast continuous doom for the GOP. From how the House keeps on losing members, to how law experts keep on finding Trump doomed, to how Biden is ahead in key polls.

On the one hand, I don't doubt there is plenty of factual basis to many of these headlines, but a Straussian (what is it called when you have to read between the lines, but not because the author intends?) interpretation is that the "state" feels vulnerable, and like a strongman, it lashes out when it feels insecure. It reminds me of the "tired of winning" meme--if the left is constantly winning on every front, then surely there will be no more news to report? People often criticize China for faking its stats. That seems plausible, but it also seems like its GDP figures must not be too off, because if you boast 10% YoY for twenty years and it's actually 7%, at some point the gap in reality becomes too large even for true believers.

Now, if Dems sweep Congress and the Presidency in November, then all this is justified. But right now GOP winning the presidency is a coin toss and the Senate 75% per prediction markets, which makes the resolute true belief of the community seem unhealthy. I guess I can reconcile it from the lens of religion--if all you require is faith, then perhaps the community sleeps more soundly the more one-sided headlines they see day-in-day-out. And if rapture/apocalypse doesn't come, just move the date forward another four years.

This is not too low effort, and please do not put culture war stuff in the friday fun thread.

It’s because Reddit (and all similar communities) have a fundamental design flaw for actual issue discussion in that upvotes serve as both ‘retweets’ (in that they make the content more visible) and ‘likes’ (in that they express ‘approval’ with a comment, link, image, news story or happening). Traditional forums are another example of where this doesn’t happen, because post prominence is just tied to comment recency and ‘likes’ are usually a separate way to say thanks for a comment with an emoji or some forum currency or whatever. The Reddit model is much better for viral content, memes, cat gifs, but less so for politics and current affairs.

I don’t think it’s that Libs are unwilling to discuss ‘bad news’ (for them), you see plenty of it in online news comments sections on left-leaning opinion and news sites, for example, or on their Facebook pages. But to upvote a ‘Democrats are doing terribly’ post triggers some tribal instinct. It’s the same reason Russian footage of the Ukraine War is never going to be upvoted on /r/combatfootage, the sub is partisan and even if it isn’t actually ‘anti-Ukrainian’ to discuss Russian footage, the very act of upvoting the enemy’s victories feels dirty and humiliating.

Please don't respond to culture war stuff in the friday fun thread.

Reddit group think has been a thing in all election cycles for a decade. The people who take the time to post about politics on reddit are not a representative slice of americana.

If you really want to see the terminal state of such communities. I highly recommend It is full of batshit bonkers people that are stuck in an imaginary worldwide pandemic that will certainly kill them and their family if they step outside without a mask. If you dare to click anyone's profile you'll see a laundry list of co-occurring mental health disorders that play right into this kind of extreme behavior.

Their stories of self imposed isolation over the last 4 years are so sad and pathetic that all you can really do is laugh so you don't cry. All posts must be supportive of whatever kind of insane shit they are posting about, so there is never any pushback or challange, just positive reinforcement of life altering bad decision making.

Please don't respond to culture war stuff in the friday fun thread.


For people interested in indie games with weird physics: 4d golf just came out. I've played it for a bit over an hour now and I'm really enjoying it. From seeing footage in devlogs which the dev posted before on his youtube channel, I was kind of skeptical as to how well it would work. However, despite still not feeling like I completely understand what's going on all the time with 4d space, surprisingly I got a bit of an intuition for it pretty quickly. Only in one very long course in an extra challenge level did I end up getting completely disoriented and having no clue where I was and where I should go.

It's by the same dev as Hyperbolica, an adventure game in non-Euclidean space (mostly hyperbolic space). I enjoyed Hyperbolica as well, but that felt more like a boring adventure game with a fun gimmick which I happened to like a lot. I just had fun walking around in a hyperbolic world and some simple mini games and puzzles became fun because they required you navigating through hyperbolic (and in one case spherical) space. However 4d golf actually feels like a fun game. Obviously mini-golf isn't a revolutionary idea, but because we only have the fun bit where you have to navigate through 4d space without it being dressed up as a mediocre adventure game, it feels less gimmicky to me.

If you are interested in how a first person game in a 4d world works, or in non-Euclidean worlds for that matter, the dev has a bunch of devlogs on his youtube channel trying to explain the concepts behind it and explaining some of the issues in developing the game.

For people interested in indie games

Everyone's playing Balatro.

Wait, how does hyperbolica compare to HyperRogue? I wasn’t driven to get very far through the latter, but hey, it’s a cool concept.

I’ll have to try golf.

I think Hyperbolica does a much better job at getting you to experience hyperbolic space, because you actually walk around 1st person in a Hyperbolic world, whereas HyperRogue uses a top down perspective and tessellation to represent hyperbolic space.

One big difference is also that HyperRogue is much more challenging. I've never really played other roguelikes, but I think they are supposed to be very challenging and HyperRogue sure was for me, which also meant I did not get very far. Hyperbolica being a pretty straightforward simple adventure game almost feels like the opposite, where it was pretty short and easy and for me it almost felt more like a showcase for the concept of a 3d first person hyperbolic game, than a fully fleshed out game in its own right. That was not a problem for me by the way, because I think the concept is so cool that I am more than happy to pay some money for a good showcase of a hyperbolic world in which I can walk around 1st person, but it's good to have realistic expectations going into it. For reference, looking at my steam library, I have 3,5 hours in Hyperbolica and completed the game, whereas I have 11 hours in HyperRogue and I feel like I achieved almost nothing in it.

In some sense HyperRogue is probably a much better game, at least if you are into roguelikes. As an experience of hyperbolic space however, I much prefer Hyperbolica.

Looks like AI Music is having its ChatGPT moment:

Lyrics, long (2-minute) songs, different languages, quite high quality. If you're too lazy to write your own lyrics ChatGPT will do it for you, which gives it the whiff of terminal genericness. My personal favourites:

Bean Soup:


You could take this and just slap it in a game I reckon - not the greatest video game OST of all time but perfectly decent:

Per their terms of use, you fully own anything you make if you made it while you have their 10 dollar subscription. I think a lot of people lose work over this.

Much better than I anticipated!

I've figured that Lord Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" could work as a Sabaton song, and it's indeed not bad.

(Also in Motown form, or 80's synth)

Fascinating stuff. Suno doesn't seem to have caught on in relevant circles yet but I don't think it'll take too long, and while the songs sound somewhat generic they're perfectly coherent (even the lyrics!) and do capture the "vibes", for lack of a better word, pretty well. The usual suspects are already getting some cringe hilarious mileage out of it.

Myself, I tried to get it to generate Touhou-style instrumental music but so far I wasn't very successful. I feel like Suno cockteases me because it seems to know what Theme of Eastern Story is and does actually incorporate a similar progression (albeit a few notes short) when I mention it directly, but it refuses to do the ZUN-style piano/trumpets and constantly tries to do orchestral music for some reason. It must be a skill issue on the part of my prompt (maybe I should try the PC-98 era soundfont?) or just plain placebo, but I'm a philistine with no grasp of musical theory so I suppose it's back to text adventures for me.

I don't think video game composers are on suicide watch just yet, but I'm still amazed at how stuff like this is now a prompt away.

I'm surprised it took so long tbh. Music has lots of regularity in the design space, exactly the kind of thing AI is good a figuring out. Beethoven was able to write this without ever hearing the notes.

People were such optimists. One of Egan's quaint stories (Silver Fire) set in US flyover country, in which rednecks after losing their religion went pagan instead of socjus took place in 2022, and had car radios that could compose music on the fly..

Holy shit. In some sense, it was inevitable that this moment would come fast, but it still caught me off-guard listening to sample songs and hearing just how coherent they all are. All the previous AI-generated music I remember hearing was permeated the stench of AI: weird sonic artifacts that were vestiges of some unnatural process taking place in the frequency domain (similar to the artifacts that you hear when you watch a video on 2x speed), the equivalent of image generation models’ screwed-up hands.

But from the few songs I’ve listened to here, none of that whatsoever is present. It actually sounds like distinct instruments are playing distinct notes. I’m floored. Just from a technical perspective, gotta wonder how they made such an improvement. The same company apparently released an open text-to-speech model almost a year ago, so I would imagine that the overall architecture and pipeline is probably similar, but who knows.

One minor flaw that I noticed is that sometimes, the model “loses the plot” and forgets about longer-term structure. Here’s some random song I found on the “Explore” page. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that there’s this neat descending bass thing going on in the intro: BbM7, A7 (with a half a bar of the tritone sub Eb7), Am, Dm. The progression continues for four more bars and then repeats, so it still remembers the structure at this point, nice. But then, after the intro ends, the model forgets this initial complexity in the chord progression, and instead switches to a more pedestrian “royal road progression” (as I’ve heard it called): BbM7 C Am Dm. Goodbye, borrowed chord A7, goodbye tritone sub, goodbye subtle jazzy touches! Looks like human composers will still live another day!…

…Nah, no way. This thing is insane.

EDIT: Listening to some more songs, there’s gotta be more to the architecture/pipeline than the company’s previous TTS model. Take the the clarity of the vocals: it seems that there’s a separate model that generates the vocal track, which is then mixed in with other tracks. Or maybe not? Maybe you don’t need this inductive bias to generate such clear vocals, and one model can do it all?

I am having way too much fun with this.

So close to making a part two of the Mechanicus OST, dangerous levels of based at this point.

Even with my limited prompt-fu, I'm impressed at how this turned out

From the moment I understood the weakness of my flesh, it disgusted me. I claimed the strength and certainty of steel. I aspired to the purity of the blessed machine. Your kind claim to your flesh as if it will not decay and fail you. One day the cooled biomass that you called a temple will wither and you'll beg my kind to save you. But I am already saved. For the machine is immortal. Even in death i serve the Omnissiah

Part 2: It's way too easy for how fucking sick this sounds

The song's not harmonious. It's way the singing is way cruder sounding than the many AI dubs that have been all over youtube.

Can it a clear sounding song ?

There are dozens of songs on the trending page. I'd say most sound pretty good, even if a little compressed in comparison to "real" music.

These were attempts made by me idly over the course of a few minutes. I didn't set the lyrics up properly, from what I can tell you can individually rhyme or match them and set up the chorus, and I didn't bother.

Wow. I thought I was following the pace of AI audio gen but suno definitely exceeds my expectations.

We're so fucking close to having fully AI generated media be competitive and viable, including multimedia. You'd think that would concern me more as a writer, but it turns out I read a great deal more than I write so I can live with it.

On an unrelated note, Claude 3 Opus is good at fiction. In most tasks, I would rate it as pretty much on par with the other SOTA models, but it writes fiction on the level of an above average fan fiction writer, at a point I could genuinely read it without griping too much. Shame I'm not going to pay $24 just for that use case, and all the free endpoints have stupid moderation restrictions when it comes to graphic violence.

Re Claude 3 Opus, is its fiction tainted with ultra-generic? I briefly subscribed to GPT-4 and had it do some fiction but it was always too predictable in tone. I blame the RLHF.

No, it isn't. I've tested a lot of LLMs on their ability to write fiction, and Claude Opus is notably superior. It can copy styles well and doesn't devolve into the generic LLM voice. From what I can tell without having access to super long conversations with it, it also handles narrative better.

Out of curiosity, what styles did you try to emulate? Some of my fellow scholars have tried to compile info on genres and authors that can verifiably influence LLMs' outputs, but more additions to my grimoire are always welcome. The list on that rentry was written for Claude 2 so it's a bit outdated, but I expect Opus is at the very least not worse with those, and in most cases should be substantially better, the new anti-copyright prefill notwithstanding.

First and foremost, myself, with at least the longest prompt I could fit into the research oriented access points (I don't pay for Opus). Previous LLMs have done a 5/10 job, Claude Opus was noticeably better, to put arbitrary numbers on it, 7.5 or an 8. If a human writer had taken the same length of excerpt and figured out as much from context, I'd be impressed by them.

I also tried a combination of Peter Watts and Richard Morgan in a mil-SF setting, and yeah, it was something I would expect from someone well described as a combination of the two. This was zero-shot, since unlike my case, I except it to be familiar with their writings.

That's about as far as I got before I was pissed off about excessive moderation in the research platform (not Claude itself), or the limitations of shady discord bots. I tempted enough to consider spending the $24 it would cost, on top of the existing enormous utility I get for free from Bing, just for that purpose alone, but then I remembered I'm poor and the money is better spent on takeout, heh. No other LLM has made me feel that way about fiction.

I'm poor and the money is better spent on takeout, heh

Really? $24 doesn't seem like a lot for how much creative exercise you can get out of it over a month, especially seeing as (as I take it) you live in America and get paid in dollarydoos. If I'd been able to pay for access directly without relying on shady proxies I'd do it in a heartbeat, even while not being a first world citizen so the price and the payment hoops sting more.

Sorry for such naked shilling but Opus has for the most part legitimately replaced vidya and r34 for me, I used to sensibly chuckle at desperate goslings but when my shady source inevitably dries up I fear I may actually become one, a blackened husk wandering the interwebs in search of validation. There's no going back to AI Dungeon, and its ilk from this.

seeing as (as I take it) you live in America and get paid in dollarydoos

Hahahahahahahahahahaha.. (Dissolves into a puddle while sobbing)

I'm not American, as much as I would love to be. I'm Indian, in India, even if I hold a GMC registration, I'm refraining from working in the UK until I smash my residency exams and get a job with actual career progression there.

As of last month, my monthly salary was about $800 and change. After my old post was made redundant, it may or may not drop 30%, depending on how keen HR is on noticing the discrepancy in payroll.

So $24, while a sum I can afford, is far from nothing either. For practical use cases, I can get more value than Claude out of Bing with GPT-4 (personal use suggests parity on almost all tasks, but benchmarks show that the latest version of GPT-4 beats it by a meaningful threshold, though God knows what fork Bing is using). This is the one domain where the former is clearly superior, and given that I've been too lazy to make a Patreon, I don't make any money from writing either. I do it mainly because I enjoy it.

So, like you, I can technically afford it, given that I have no meaningful expenses barring ordering in food. I still don't see it as justified quite yet, though I am/was sorely tempted. The main reason is that for everything else, Bing is free and just as good.

Right, I goofed, I remember you weren't American but I thought you did actually work there for some reason. Must've mixed up with someone, sorry for the emotional crit.

As of last month, my monthly salary was about $800 and change.

Man, I make basically that as a low-rung not-particularly-skilled keyboard monkey but then again I'm a path of least resistance pleb who, as a wise hand fetishist once said, just wants a quiet life. Props to you for dedication.

The main reason is that for everything else, Bing is free and just as good.

True, I used it before a number of times and it's good (if not usable for non-kosher purposes), I'm actually surprised it's completely free but I suppose Microsoft can afford to provide free shit, especially since things are gonna be rough for search engines very soon and they're probably looking to get their foot in the door to try and overtake Google. I'm not sure I welcome these particular AI overlords, but I suppose it wouldn't be the first time I had strange bedfellows.

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This is going to do to musicians what Steve Aoki did to DJs.

DJs are still out there no ?

DJs are out there but the way to make it big as a dj has nothing to do with turntabalism, selection, technique, or anything else that DJs were associated with thirty years ago. Now, you just press play on the cdjs, Jesus pose, and throw cake at partiers.

This isn't new, though, and has nothing to do with AI. I remember an Aphex Twin interview from about 20 years ago where he admitted that when he was behind his laptop at live shows he was just playing solitaire.

Obviously it has nothing to do with AI. That's why I (jokingly) attributed it to Steve Aoki.

The question of whether and where composers lose their jobs is more about status than cost or automation. As with, say, pilots and running an air route, their labor cost is a relatively minimal part of the product. Already, developers often spend much more on music than they have to, eg. hiring symphony orchestras to record their soundtrack on Abbey Road when the gap between that recording and a well-produced synthetic track with modern tech will be extremely minimal and won’t matter to pretty much any players.

It reminds me of the discussion we were having last week where it turns out that most businesses aren’t actually run in the interests of shareholders, something as true for a local mom-and-pop store as it is for Google and Citigroup. Shareholder influence often rarely even asserts itself, these are places that exist primarily to support their own internal hierarchy, their employees who actually operate the machine.

Its also a bit funny that there seems to be some sort of inverse relationship with how much some studio spends on their soundtrack and how good it is, at least in the west, with "indies" and small studios consistently having (much) better soundtracks and sound design than AAA productions.

Intentional? Result of friendship corruption? Something else?

Already, developers often spend much more on music than they have to, eg. hiring symphony orchestras to record their soundtrack on Abbey Road

Who does this?

Nintendo does full orchestra stuff, and I’d agree there’s some luxury-good signaling involved. Still, I don’t think they’re renting out famous studios and getting star musicians involved? I’d expect it to have a pretty streamlined production process, one driven by the composer’s preferred workflow.

I think it’s a lot more common for AA/AAA projects to use the small-team approach with experienced composers. The only ones who go even cheaper are smaller, indie productions, culminating in the “developer winging it” school of soundtrack design. And not everyone can be Daisuke Amaya.

Sadly, I think the artists lose this one.

Businesses like Google with huge moats can be run as private fiefdoms. But businesses that are disrupted end up having to compete on cost. Look what's happened to newspapers.

Most older consumers still get their music from Spotify or the radio. I think incumbents will continue to do well here. Probably AI music will get locked out of the market.

But my understanding is that younger consumers get most of their music from TikTok. When human artists have to compete with AI in an algorithmic feed, they will lose. Human artists can only produce so much. AI can throw infinite spaghetti at the wall to find what sticks. The best earworms will get amplified by the algorithm.

At some point, these earworms will be attached to a real-life human group (like a KPop group today), and the real-life humans will tour, dance, and sing the AI song. Some groups will get really big. People will pay thousands of dollars to watch them live, holding their device aloft to capture the moment for posterity.

There will still be a small market for real human artists. It will be similar to how there are still horse-drawn carriages today, a quaint relic of a simpler time.

There will still be a small market for real human artists. It will be similar to how there are still horse-drawn carriages today, a quaint relic of a simpler time.

Probably bigger than that. Music is already a "winner take all" kind of market, with most of the money going to those on top, many of whom already don't write and produce their own work. Replacing the "back office" with an AI changes little.

In the rest of the market, people are more likely to care that there's a human making the music rather than just that it sounds good. Can't wait for the scandals that reveal a particular musician has actually been ai generating his tracks though.

Look what's happened to newspapers.

Newspapers are interesting because they had layoffs for fundamental economic reasons, they literally didn’t have the cash flow to pay reporters. But if you look at the newspapers that survived, whether they found a successful business model like the NYT or a billionaire to bankroll them like the Bezos Post, they still employ hundreds of pointless reporters. The NYT has 2000 journalists and the majority of them are working on completely pointless news that nobody wants to read, they still have like 10 people in Albany to report on the minutiae of New York State lawmaking. It’s clear they don’t really exist to make a profit, just to employ the maximum number of journalists they can.

So the question tends to be whether the entire business collapses, in which case yes people are getting fired, or whether the mere ‘need’ for the job is eliminated, in which case they might not be.

Part of the problem, though, is that the NYT only continues to exist because it continues to employ over 2000 journalists covering everything from politics in Belarus to a DIY column that runs articles like "All You Need to Know about Fixings and Fastenings". No, each individual article probably doesn't drive sales enough on its own to justify the cost spent on it, but I'm buying the NYT because I expect to get All the News Fit to Print. I went through a similar divorce with my own local paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. When I first started subscribing in college it covered all the national stories, local news, sports, etc. to the extent you'd expect from the major newspaper in a mid-size city. They were always accused of having a liberal bias, which led to the establishment of the Tribune Review in 1993 following the demise of the Pittsburgh Press (which was on-par with if not better than the PG). I wasn't a fan of the Trib, not because of the conservative views (which were limited to the editorial page), but because it was clearly a bush-league paper. It had existed in Greensburg for years prior, and, while the Pittsburgh edition got better over the years, it still always felt like a small town paper a little over its skis, relying more on being the conservative choice than having better coverage.

But as time went on, the PG became less and less worth reading. They dumped the DC bureau, and most of the national coverage was wire stories from the AP and bigger newspapers. More of the op-eds were nationally syndicated columnists (and not ones like George Will whom you include because they're big names with national followings). The sports department stopped sending reporters to out of town events that didn't involve local teams. It started to read more like the Trib, but I kept subscribing anyway because it was at least something that came to my door that I could read every morning and get a good idea what was going on in the world. Then they limited print editions to a few times a week and that was the last straw. My dad still gets the pdf edition but it isn't the same; I can't browse a pdf like I can a broadsheet. I probably didn't read half the stories when I got it, but I liked being able to browse it. Most people jumped ship before I did. To use a trendy term, it became enshittified, even if it still did a decent job of providing information about the big stories.

Good point. NYT exists on a sort of patronage model. There are lots of people who have subscriptions who never or rarely read it, but they want to support the cause.

Music could end up being similar. It already is in many ways.

So, what are you playing? What are you reading?

I've been playing Civilization 5 over the last week. I finished a game on the second highest difficulty. :) Science victory. I let my embittered rival have some nukes to his population centers before we left this planet. I'll probably leave the game installed and play another campaign in a month or two. I've never tried a faith-first route. Might play Ethiopia or the Maya.

I'm reading five books these days. Usually I stick to one of them for a few days and then mix it up. Three books on finance, one on memory (Charan Ranganath's very recent book), and a Dostoevsky. Enjoying them all.

Not reading, but listening to Shogun. Definitely going to watch the show later as well. In case you haven't yet, absolutely read Shogun. It's a masterpiece.

I've been playing Salt 2, which seems like a single player Sea of Thieves. Relaxing and pretty, but there isn't much crunch.

I've got to get back to finish Pacific Drive (I'm about 70% through the campaign), but I've kind of lost interest.

I did a replay of Dredge, which seems to have had a few tweaks since I last played; basically making resources you need to upgrade your ship much easier to find (I'm not sure how I feel about this). I still think its overpriced with only 10-12 hours worth of content.

I've also had a fun time following the Dragon's Dogma 2 controversy. AAA game with performance issues and surprise microtransactions (mtx) that were revealed only at release due to a review embargo, leading to review bombing. I'm kind of really against micro-transactions after major streamers CohhCarnage and Asmongold verbalised how it enshittifies games. The short version is mtx incentivises Devs deliberately making the game's Quality of Life worse so that the mtx can provide QoL relief. In other words, making a problem on purpose and then selling a solution.

Have to wonder whether their short sighted attempts at money grabbing pay off or if they are just plain bad decisions. Why not delay the game for a month to improve performance? Why not refrain from pissing people off with a mtx? Review bombing is probably not enough to tank sales completely, when most people are aware that review bombing as such as happened. I think Steam puts up a disclaimer about review bombings. But it probably puts a noticable dent in sales anyway.

Been playing Backpack Battles, the most overtly shape-rotator game since Tetris.

You buy items and backpack slots, fit together your swords and items so the right things are touching for synergy and watch as your character battles it out with other players online. It's an autobattler where all the gameplay is inventory management.

I'm currently hate-reading Drama Is Her Middle Name, by Wendy Williams and her ghostwriter. I'm only one sentence in so far, and it's already so bad that I can't believe she needed a ghostwriter. Here's to hoping the sequel, Is the Bitch Dead or What?, is better.

I've started a new game of factorio, this time with the mod overhaul Industrial Revolution 3, which is more focused on distinct tech levels, and the difficulty of the game comes more from building the factory itself than building tons of science packs that needs to be burned up.

I'm reading Heretical Fishing. Its a cozy/silly isekai story.

What are the finance books? Anything interesting you’d recommend?

Statman's Finance for Normal People. Klarman's Margin of Safety. Pysh's Warren Buffett's 3 Favorite Books.

They're all pretty good. The first one gives insights into various wants, errors, and biases. The differences between the mythical rational person, and the actual human being. The second one is a guide to becoming a value investor. The third one I haven't got very far into, but it gives some idiot proof explanations into what business, shares, etc actually are, and goes from there. As I read a few chapters in it I remember thinking that this is stuff kids with rich parents probably learn growing up, but lots of people don't.

I made a separate top level comment before reading this, but I am currently playing some 4D Golf.

Finally got rolling with Baldur's Gate 3. I had started it up when it came out and I just didn't really enjoy the mechanics, largely because I don't play anything tabletop and was thinking of it as a tactics game more in line with something like XCOM with spells. That's not how the game works at all! When I restarted, I settled on just building a barbarian to limit my options with regard to incompetence, enjoyed it decently, learned the systems better, and now find that I like it pretty well (at the start of Act 3).

That's not how the game works at all!

How does it work?

It's a slightly gamified version of D&D 5e. An accurate representation of the roleplaying game, but it diminishes how fun it is. (The lack of simulataneous turns is the real killer.)

A bunch of Helldivers 2. Great game, the content just can't come out fast enough. The players failed an overall campaign goal and have thus been banned from sex (this makes perfect sense in context, trust me).

Sadly I've been hit with a double whammy of both Rimworld and Total War Warhammer 3 receiving massive updates, which consequentially has broken anywhere between the 500-600 mods I can't live without. Play vanilla? I'd rather die.

I saw someone here refer to The Present Crisis recently, portions of which were featured in Unsong, and which I since found and enjoyed.

Is there any poetry any of you particularly like? Since I find I don't like most poetry, but find some a lot of fun.

I always highly recommend Chesterton's Ballad of the White Horse.

If the size is too daunting, you can dip your toe in with Chesterton's Lepanto. If you like Lepanto, you'll like Ballad of the White Horse.

As with all good poetry, reading it aloud is a must.

Thanks! I've heard portions recited, but I've never read through the first of those.

Lepanto's fun.

I just read Dryden's Aenied and I love it. I kept taking screenshots and texting them to people. I also highly recommend Milton if you've never read him. And Bob Dylan's early lyrics.

Does Eugene Onegin count?

Personal fact: during the marathon from my username, I listened to the audiobook, almost all the way through.

How about Cargoes, by John Masefield?

It has, I think, two interpretations. The first one is fairly boring – taking it "seriously" as a romantic look back at history, where he is describing two past ages filled with fanciful wonders and contrasting it with the dreary modern world

The Straussian reading is IMO vastly superior. Take the first verse, describing a ship in antiquity filled with "ivory, and apes and peacocks, sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine". It's all luxury goods; pure consumption, skimming from the top without improving anything in the long run. It represents a society unwilling (or worse, unable) to reinvest its surplus wealth into growth, to actually improve itself, instead opting to spend it on awful signalling games among the elites that will lead nowhere.

The second verse is similar, but about a cargo of gemstones during the ~17th century. The same critique applies to it – it's all still signalling, with no real productivity involved.

When we get to the third verse about the modern world there is an abrupt change in mood, now ostensibly negative. What are the items the ship is carrying however? "Tyne coal, road-rails, pig-lead, firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays". No more useless bullshit, this is goods from a society that is actually getting its shit together. It symbolizes reinvestment, growth, and actual strength, the kind of strength that will save billions from crippling poverty, eliminate famine, cure diseases plaguing humanity for millennia and bring education to everyone.

The third verse is so overwhelmingly good that it completely destroys the veneer of negative sentiment that it's described with. Consider if the poem instead was about people and not societies: The first describing an extremely rich man hosting an opulent party, and the third about a poor boy studying and working hard to improve his life. Wouldn't it then be completely obvious who you were supposed to think was better, even if the boy was described as dirty and hungry?

What's more is that the Industrial Revolution was real. How many boats in antiquity actually carried things like "apes and peacocks"? It's certainly not representative, and the places mentioned doesn't even make sense (Nineveh wasn't coastal, a Quinquereme is Hellenistic and from the wrong period, and even so you're going to have a hard time rowing it from Iraq to Palestine!). The second verse is more "real" in that there really were treasure galleons, but again not very representative. If you want an actual cargo you'd have to describe tobacco, sugar, or, you know, slaves.

In contrast, in the third verse there really were tons of ships carrying coal and road-rail! Not only is it enormously better, it actually happened.

I used to have Poe's "The Conqueror Worm" memorized. I'll also second Gaashk in recommending T. S. Eliot, particularly Prufrock (which I find ever more meaningful and haunting the older I get) and "The Hollow Men."

I like TS Elliot, especially read out loud. If you haven't, try The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.

Unfortunately, while it's definitely good at a producing the intended effect and capturing something of human experience, it's not an effect I particularly care to voluntarily immerse myself in.

The link doesn't work for me?

It works on my machine. (It's a PDF file with an attached XHTML file.)

Huh, it works now.

I saw someone link to Meditations on Moloch in the college football subreddit a couple of days ago, to explain why conference realignment is happening and get a lot of upvotes. Was shocked to see Scott referenced in a normie subreddit like that

On a related note, I have a feeling that unless drastic action is taken the entire college football edifice is going to collapse some time in the next decade. NIL deals combined with the transfer portal have turned the entire enterprise into the worst sort of professional sports league. How would the NFL look if there were no salary cap and no contracts, making every player a free agent every year? Since NIL is here to stay, and I don't see the transfer portal going away any time soon, if I were an NIL sponsor I'd make my deal contingent on the player staying at the school all four years, unless I grant him a release. I don't care if it's for the fucking NFL; if I'm committing money to a guy I want to get the max value out of him. I'd also include some kind of liquidated damages clause or prepay the entire 4 (or 5) years so that if he leaves he has to pay the money back. I might not be able to collect all of it depending what the court does, but he'll have to pay something, and he knows he's getting sued either way.

The pipe dream is to come up with some kind of draft system to ensure parity. The NHL from 1995 to 2004 is a prime example of what happens when you can't ensure parity, and even they had more protections in place than college football. No leagues had salary caps before 1993, but no leagues, aside from baseball, had any meaningful free agency before then, either. You'd draft a team and you could trade guys but you could also keep the team together if you wanted to. Some leagues, like the NHL, technically had free agency, but it was restricted enough that building a team through free agency was nearly impossible, as the Scott Stevens fiasco with the Blues demonstrated. As soon as unrestricted free agency was granted, salaries skyrocketed, and even good teams couldn't stay competitive without breaking the bank. The Penguins at the time were going through bankruptcy as a perennial playoff contender with good attendance. 3 teams moved. Ratings plummeted. It took losing a whole season to a lockout to put the league back on the path to stability, and now it's in better shape than ever.

So I propose a draft. I don't know it would work, exactly, but the conferences only stand to make more money if teams like Maryland and Syracuse are competitive every once in a while. If it means Kent State wins a national championship at some point, fine. I never hear any arguments about how the Chiefs don't deserve all of their recent success because they're in a small market with no real national following (yes, they have a national following now, because they're winning, but they aren't like the Steelers or Cowboys who have national followings even when they suck). Because that argument is ridiculous. And will Clemson and Florida State go ahead and lose their fucking lawsuits already?

College Football is absolutely screaming for a Promotion-Relegation system.

A draft would destroy college football immediately. How many teams participate in the draft? It requires permanently cutting off the majority of Division 1 teams, whoever falls below that line, they'll never get a draft pick. It means completely destroying the student-athlete illusion, already very much an illusion, with a talented kid who wants to play in college forced to end up at whatever college picks him, not at his family alma mater or his state school. There would be no sense in which the players are still students.

Pro-Rel, on the other hand, would create a long-term scramble for the top. Colleges have built in fanbases, whether they are good or bad, so they don't face the limitations that pro franchises face. A pyramid system would simply make the existing layers of competitiveness explicit. It would create long term hope for every Div1 program to slowly over decades work its way up, in the same way that March Madness can build a small basketball program over time. A program could work its way up over time, getting better recruits as it works its way up to the top tier. Every team in Div1 would still be able to hold its head up and say it has a chance, one day, to play in the big time, if anything the bottom tier teams would have a theoretical path forward in a way they don't right now.

I used to think this as well, but as time goes on I am less enamored by it. It sounds good in a vacuum, but the way college football is structured makes it a nonstarter. Imagine Michigan State get relegated one year and Bowling Green promoted. The first thing that's going to happen is half of Michigan State's team is going to enter the transfer portal, and recruiting is going to dry up. Actually, recruiting is going to be more difficult for any team that finds itself in danger of relegation. Some of the players may transfer to Bowling Green. Next, Michigan State finds itself making MAC money instead of Big Ten money; their payout would go from around 60 million to around 20 million. With this money funding a bunch of non-revenue sports, first priority would be making it so these were at least able to operate. Except they're still playing in the Big Ten, which means they're still flying the women's softball team to Rutgers and USC rather than just busing them to Ypsilanti, and with these teams using their football revenue to add a ton of these sports, that expense adds up quick. Then you have the bloated athletic department and coaching salaries, which are all going to have to take a haircut (MAC teams don't pay coaches 6 million a year plus bonuses). Now they're actually at a long-term disadvantage even compared to other MAC teams, because those teams don't have unfunded liabilities from when they made more money. Relegation would essentially mean condemning the team to a death spiral, from which it would be very difficult to recover.

And it isn't like it's just going to be Michigan State. It would have to be at least one team from each division, or two per conference, that are getting relegated each year, and it wouldn't always be the same teams swapping places. It may give mid-major schools some hope that they can theoretically compete in a major conference, but it would create a similar divide within the major conferences. Some teams are always going to be good enough that they're never in danger of being relegated, and as such they'll be able to attract recruits and transfers that would otherwise have gone to lesser teams. They may not get the playing time, but recruiters can use the possibility of relegation as a bargaining chip — yeah, kid, you may get more playing time at Indiana, but you also might spend most of your career in the MAC. On the others side of the coin, the network deals are based on having certain schools drive viewership. Fox isn't going to be happy when they can't air Michigan State games anymore because now they're on ESPN's extended MAC coverage (on select local stations). It works in soccer because the clubs are independent entities without any kind of revenue sharing. Once you leagueify the whole situation to the fucked up extend college football has done, it isn't really possible.

As for the draft, I said it would be complicated, but I think it's doable. If you limited it to Power 5 schools (though that's changing) and 7 rounds like the NFL draft, you'd scoop up all the 5 and 4 star recruits and the higher end of the 3 stars. In other words, you'd only be drafting kids who aren't going to play for mid-majors anyway. Everyone else is a free agent and can go to whatever team they want. The goal isn't to distribute all the players, it's to end the current practice which is like if the team that won the Super Bowl also got the top pick in the draft. At least give the lesser schools a chance at top recruits instead of forcing them to play a power conference schedule with a roster full of 3 star guys. As far as killing the illusion of student athletes, I don't really give a fuck. We can add the student-athlete illusion to the fiction that NIL money is reasonable compensation for licensing and promotional services. I'm sure that the foundation that's paying the Texas O-line $200k each is really getting a huge return on that investment. When Jordan Addision leaves Pitt after 3 years because USC is willing to pay him more, and no one in Pittsburgh cares because you can't blame the kid for turning down that kind of money, the system is already destroyed. When Clemson is actively trying to destroy the conference it helped found and has been a member of for over 70 years because it will make more money as a member of a different conference that hasn't even extended an invitation yet, they system is already destroyed. There may have been a time when I was willing to pretend otherwise, but the past couple years have destroyed that illusion. I don't know what you're trying to hang on to at this point.

Yes you could not do this with other sports, it would have to be limited to football (maybe basketball). The other sports would continue to remain in their current conferences.

Interesting. I think we have different visions of how it would be set up.

I think the conference system should pretty much be abolished. As you pointed out, it's already dead. Realignment is getting increasingly dumb, the numbers don't mean anything. They're profit engines. Have a top league of 15-40 national schools, and then layers below that through 200 odd division 1 schools.

Would teams lose out when relegated? Yes. But they would also win out when promoted. Literally every country does this with soccer, we can look at how it works there: teams bounce between all the time. Demotion can make life difficult, can put a team's business world in jeopardy, but that's survival of the fittest. It would give so many schools so much more to play for, week in and week out.

What is promotion-relegation system?

Wikipedia page

In sports leagues, promotion and relegation is a process where teams can move up and down between multiple divisions arranged in a hierarchical structure, based on their performance over a season. Leagues that use promotion and relegation systems are often called open leagues. In a system of promotion and relegation, the best-ranked team(s) in a lower division are promoted to a higher division for the next season, and the worst-ranked team(s) in the higher division are relegated to the lower division for the next season. During the season, teams that are high enough in the league table that they would qualify for promotion are sometimes said to be in the promotion zone, and those at the bottom are in the relegation zone (colloquially the drop zone or facing the drop).

An alternate system of league organization, used primarily in Australia, Canada, Singapore, and the United States, is a closed model based on licensing or franchises. This maintains the same teams from year to year, with occasional admission of expansion teams and relocation of existing teams, and with no team movement between the major league and minor leagues.

This is the way.

Relegation would also help to reinvigorate old rivalries that have been demolished because of TV contract led conference realignment.

Link for the curious.

What do you think of Internet outrage of companies raising their prices, chiefly companies like Netflix and fast food restaurants? I think morally, it seems pretty iffy- it's a free market, and if they raise their prices, you can just stop buying what they offer. If the government got involved to set any sort of price ceiling, I think that'd definitely be a bad idea that'd lead to a shortage of some sort.

But if the outrage lets customers act as a pseudo-monopsony which gives them more power, I also don't really mind if they're able to use it to demand cheaper prices, even if I think the accusations of corporations being evil are vastly overblown. Especially when it comes to keeping the price of something like Netflix low, where much of their value comes from having exclusive rights to stream old shows and movies instead of all revenue to them going towards making new stuff or improving technology. If consumer outrage keeps the Netflix price $5 cheaper than it otherwise would be, is anything hurt besides shareholder bank accounts?

I find it tiresome, particularly the way people complain about free content having advertisements with it, but immoral? That feels a little heavy.

On the other hand, I have finally forced my wife to get to the point of rotating streaming services on a monthly basis. I've no doubt they will make month to month subscriptions impossible soon, so might as well take advantage of it while we can.

In general, fast food economics don't work anymore. Only the existing infrastructure and mindshare keep them open. Taco Bell is barely cheaper than our local burrito joint if you're putting together a decent order. We're seeing a definite shift in my area away from McDonald's and towards Sheetz/Wawa/Royal Farms, the food at the latter has improved while the prices are as low or lower.

but immoral? That feels a little heavy.

Immoral in the sense that they're lying about how much money the corporations are making.

I find it tiresome, particularly the way people complain about free content having advertisements with it

I agree. But if it actually works at getting platforms to have fewer ads... then is it actually a bad thing?

It doesn't.

The falsehoods are easily dismissed, because if the company is healthy and making more money than they let on, then why isn't the advice to the public to just buy shares (at least, of those that are public)? After all, they're just being greedy, so why aren't they encouraging everyone to put themselves on the other side of that equation? And if they're voting shares they also get a say in C-suite remuneration! Wouldn't that be exactly what people who complain about greed be doing? After all, they seem to know so much about running a business and how pricing should work, I'm sure they'd do a great job as investors! /s

Media companies and fast food companies are pretty dissimilar, and it seems like different things are going on.

I feel fairly hostile toward media companies in general right now, and am sort of rooting for Netflix's price hikes and making households smaller and nearer to result in mass loss of subscriptions, even if it destroys the company and they cease to exist. But then I haven't paid for Netflix (or Disney+, despite having daughters who love Disney shows) for years. But that doesn't mean that it's a moral issue, exactly.

Fast food companies do seem to be genuinely struggling with high price and low quality labor costs, especially, and things are what they are for them. Which doesn't mean I'll keep buying their food, of course. At some point I'll pack my own sandwiches for road trips, though that point is not quite reached. Today we were on a short road trip, deciding between fast food and a local Asian buffet. We went with the buffet, partly because we wanted it more, but partly because it was only about $5 - $10 more for four people than the fast food. It's not wrong for Sonic to cost as much as a good buffet. I'm not outraged. I just don't really eat there anymore. I'm not in the least worried that America will run out of reasonably convenient places to eat, so it's not really a problem if a bunch of fast food chains end up going out of business. There's nothing special, wonderful, and irreplaceable about Wendy's, even if it's slightly less convenient to have to plan a trip to a grocery store for food ahead of time.

Current fast food prices would be a great opportunity for the prepared food industry and convenience stores to swoop in and replicate the east asian model of selling relatively high quality food for cheap. I don't know if that has changed in the US but in Canada convenience food/gas station food is still dire, but when I check out videos of the stuff you get in convenience stores in Japan and Korea, I get jealous. Cold, hot or microwavable meals that seem to compare favorably with most prepared meals from supermarkets here, and cost little because there's little need for staff except the one cashier. It would easily replace the "I don't care, I just want something convenient and decent tasting" instances of fast food eating.

Truck stops often have mini supermarkets with microwaveable meals at halfway reasonable rates, plus some combination of hot pizzas, pizza rolls, burritos, hot dogs, cinnamon rolls, fresh cookies, etc.

I've heard good things about gas station food in the American South.

When I was in Minnesota, the best fried chicken was from the gas stations, it was actually better, cheaper, and in more convenient locations than established chains like KFC. Actually, we did largely buy trip food from gas stations there, both fried chicken, and things like burgers and breakfast sandwiches.

In the Southwest, there are gas stations serving Mexican and Pueblo food as well, I have bought some excellent breakfast burritos at a casino gas station. I don't end up buying it as much lately, probably related to the location of the good ones, and the age of my children -- they're of an age to know what a Happy Meal is, know what the Disney toy they're currently selling is, and be genuinely excited about that. They were genuinely excited about a six piece double sided puzzle in a happy meal the other day, and that it came in a metal box.

Do you think there's anything immoral or counterproductive about the act of consumers raging against corporations for raising prices instead of just quietly changing their spending habits? Or is it a good idea, even if part of the momentum of the rage is driven by falsehoods about corporate greed instead of inflation?

It's probably a waste of time and emotional energy? If all the consumers rage and Netflix lowers the price a bit or lets geographically separated family members share accounts again, that's fine, I suppose. If there are that many people invested in using Netflix specifically, they can go ahead and wrangle over it. If viewers are very firm about not wanting to spend money on, for instance, a $120 million live action remake of Avatar the Last Airbender, then maybe they will comply. If people want that, I can't really tell. Maybe someday a YouTuber complaining about how lame Disney's new streaming show is will get more views than the actual show, and they will take action to make less lame shows (or at least not raise prices to fund the lame shows). I'm not betting on it, though. But the interaction is legitimate enough.

The Wendy's happy hours/surge pricing thing seems a bit silly, but if consumers would really prefer a small price hike all day long to a larger one at specific times, it might be worth letting the company know. And complaining on the internet and to reporters is one way to let them know, likely more effective than complaining to the workers at their local store, anyway. It's probably basically useless to complain about fast food price increases in general, since any given restaurant is pretty low margin and probably unable to lower costs.

I think a relevant factor - socially if not economically - is the fact that Netflix (and to a lesser extent its competitors) basically used loss-leading prices and venture funding to kill off or hugely hobble cable television, independent studios for TV shows and animation, and other competitors to it's model.

Then once all the other sources of this type of media are dead in large part due to not being able to compete with Netflix's pricing model, Netflix raises the prices, and customers have no surviving good options to turn to.

This is not an unusual tactic - loss leading prices are common, tech firms cornering the market while losing huge amounts of money and then turning around to hike prices and degrade services to turn a profit are common. But it does in a very real way hurt the consumer by crafting a market that is hostile to their interests and is low on competition, where following their short-term interests harms their long-term interests in a way that's frustrating and hard to navigate.

Customers have every right to be mad about that, and honestly I think even non-customers have a right to be mad about what it does the media and the culture more broadly.

The "predatory pricing" idea is very bad business. If anyone reading this is the CEO of a company I'd highly advise against it.

I tried to go and find my post about it. I might have written it in response to you. Instead I just read all my top posts from the last year. I gotta say, I really like my writing. Need to feed it to a text generator and get more of it or something.

I agree with /u/freemcflurry that there's still lots of competition- Netflix has not led to much infrastructure degradation, and people can switch back to the old model or a modern competitor without much difficulty. Plus there are still lots of alternatives to television- people can still see movies in theatres, buy blu-rays, read books, watch youtube and tiktok, hell even pirate shows and movies.

Netflix has not meaningfully "cornered" the market. No more than Blockbuster did anyway, and we all know how rapidly they fell.