Penny Arcade! – I Hope You Like Text

Don’t say another goddamn word. Up until now, I’ve been polite. If you say anything else- word one– I will kill myself. And when my tainted spirit finds its destination, I will topple the master of that dark place. From my black throne, I will lash together a machine of bone and blood, and fuelled by my hatred for you this fear engine will bore a hole between this world and that one.

When it begins, you will hear the sound of children screaming- as though from a great distance. A smoking orb of nothing will grow above your bed, and from it will emerge a thousand starving crows. As I slip through the widening maw in my new form, you will catch only a glimpse of my radiance before you are incinerated. Then, as tears of bubbling pitch stream down my face, my dark work will begin.

I will open one of my six mouths, and I will sing the Song that ends the Earth.

For people who are as good with words as Gabe and Tycho, it’s amazing how far they have managed to dig themselves into a hole with this dickwolves thing. (A lot less amazing is how almost masturbatorily self-indulgent comments on Shakesville et al seem to be, but then I’ve rarely seen different from there.) It was a funny strip! It was a funny response strip, too, although I can see how that one comes off as insulting. Where they really screwed up, of course, is the t-shirt and the subsequent doubling down, where they unleashed (implicitly, I suppose, but until recently it sounded like they were encouraging it) all the worst that the internet has to offer against the shrill but perhaps less outrageous feminist blogosphere. At least they let off in the end- Tycho’s post certainly strikes an apologetic note.

PS: I find myself quite unable to talk about rape culture without talking about the rather troubling popularity of “rape” as a metaphor for “dominate” in “insti lingo” here in IIT Madras, and that’s going to be a rather long post, so I’ll just leave that for now, except to say that some responses some people here have to the actual occurence of rape serves as a disgusting testimony to the existence of such a thing as “rape culture”.

Where to Get your Freak On

Not too many surprises here, right?

Sociosexuality vs National Sex Ratio

Sociosexuality is a concept in social psychology that refers to how favorable people are to sex outside of commitment.  It can be measured by answers to questions such as “I can imagine myself being comfortable and enjoying “casual” sex with different partners” (agree strongly to disagree strongly) or “Sex without love is ok,” as well as with objective measures such as the number of sexual partners a person has had.  A low score indicates subjects who favor monogamous, long-term, high-investment relationships.  A high score indicates subjects more favorable to sex for pleasure’s sake alone. with less regard to commitment.  On average, males have higher sociosexuality scores than females but sociosexuality scores for females vary widely across countries.

(Via MR.)

A Guide to the Next Ten Years

Via Marginal Revolution, the list is pretty depressing, but then the author does call himself a radical pessimist.

Those of you who couldn’t come up with something for your BCG applications, take heart:

28) It will become harder to view your life as “a story”

The way we define our sense of self will continue to morph via new ways of socializing. The notion of your life needing to be a story will seem slightly corny and dated. Your life becomes however many friends you have online.

I don’t buy these, but it’s an interesting point of view:

16) “You” will be turning into a cloud of data that circles the planet like a thin gauze

the bottom of the world

Image by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via Flickr

While it’s already hard enough to tell how others perceive us physically, your global, phantom, information-self will prove equally vexing to you: your shopping trends, blog residues, CCTV appearances – it all works in tandem to create a virtual being that you may neither like nor recognize.

17) You may well burn out on the effort of being an individual

You’ve become a notch in the Internet’s belt. Don’t try to delude yourself that you’re a romantic lone individual. To the new order, you’re just a node. There is no escape.

This one is kind of obvious:

6) The middle class is over. It’s not coming back

Remember travel agents? Remember how they just kind of vanished one day?

That’s where all the other jobs that once made us middle-class are going – to that same, magical, class-killing, job-sucking wormhole into which travel-agency jobs vanished, never to return. However, this won’t stop people from self-identifying as middle-class, and as the years pass we’ll be entering a replay of the antebellum South, when people defined themselves by the social status of their ancestors three generations back. Enjoy the new monoclass!

On the bright side:

23) Everyone will be feeling the same way as you

37) People will stop caring how they appear to others

The number of tribal categories one can belong to will become infinite. To use a high-school analogy, 40 years ago you had jocks and nerds. Nowadays, there are Goths, emos, punks, metal-heads, geeks and so forth.

More Stats from okcupid

These people are awesome…I don’t think I’ve linked to their previous few posts on the blog before, although I have shared their results before on Google Reader and/or Twitter. This is the latest, the real stuff white people like, on Gizmodo. Obviously even though this is for a bunch of races this is all (or almost all) Americans of those races. The writers have commented on the results for white, black, Latinos and Asians (which does not include Indians), so I’ll leave that alone, but here are some random points I thought were interesting:

  • Indian women, for some reason, refer to their passports and couches a lot more often than anyone else.
  • Asians, Middle Eastern people and Indians all seem to think “I’m a simple guy/girl” is a major selling point. This I will confess to being mystified by. The statement is basically signaling that they’re low maintenance, right? Or have low expectations? Are none of these groups “in demand” or at least “at par” on the dating market? Crap. Thankfully, it comes up a lot less for Indian men than for Asian/Middle Eastern men, and it’s not even on the list for Indian/Middle Eastern women.
  • Indian men like cricket and Indian women like bhangra. Also most of the men are software engineers or traders. I guess that’s not really surprising, but it’s always interesting to see stereotypes borne out.
  • Middle Eastern women have “different cultures” as their single most favourite thing. I feel there’s a joke to be made somewhere here, but… 🙂 . They are also far more likely to describe themselves as petite. They also like Darjeeling I guess they’re referring to the tea – which doesn’t come up for any other group, not even the Indians.
  • Pacific Islanders seem like pretty cool people 🙂 .

But of course, the real reason I’m linking is just so I have some excuse to share this:

Sidenote: reading level

Since we were parsing all this text anyway, we thought it would be cool to do some basic reading-level analysis on what people had written about themselves. We used the Coleman-Liau Index, and when we partitioned the essays by the race of the writers, we found this:

The Real 'Stuff White People Like’

Before anyone gets too charged-up about this, we also ran reading level by religion and found this:

The Real 'Stuff White People Like’

Is there a Comic Sans version of the Bible? There really should be. We subdivided this chart further, by how serious each person was about their beliefs:

The Real 'Stuff White People Like’

It’s interesting to note that for each of the faith-based belief systems I’ve listed, the people who are the least serious about them write at the highest level. On the other hand, the people who are most serious about not having faith (i.e. the “very serious” agnostics and atheists) score higher than any religious groups.

Interesting, right? Although it must be said that a higher grade level is not necessarily a good thing. It isn’t on most blogs, for instance. However, assuming you want to signal intelligence, a higher grade level for your profile is probably desirable. So if nothing else this at least signifies that more religious people don’t want to signal intelligence as much, which is also interesting

Mike Rowe, Dirty Jobs and Following Your Passion

My friend Varun Torka pointed this out to me after I wrote that other post about “creative professionals”. This is one of the most awesome TED talks I’ve ever seen. You really, really have to watch the video to get a sense of what he’s talking about: this extract, while relevant, doesn’t come close to doing it justice. I would embed it, but WordPress doesn’t let you use Flash or upload videos other than from some sites without a video upgrade.

So I started to wonder what would happen if we challenged some of these sacred cows. Follow your passion — we’ve been talking about it here for the last 36 hours. Follow your passion — what could possibly be wrong with that? Probably the worst advice I ever got. (Laughter) You know, follow your dreams and go broke, right? I mean, that’s all I heard growing up. I didn’t know what to do with my life, but I was told if you follow your passion, it’s going to work out.

I can give you 30 examples, right now — Bob Combs, the pig farmer in Las Vegas who collects the uneaten scraps of food from the casinos and feeds them them to his swine. Why? Because there’s so much protein in the stuff we don’t eat his pigs grow at twice the normal speed, and he is one rich pig farmer, and he is good for the environment, and he spends his days doing this incredible service, and he smells like hell, but God bless him. He’s making a great living. You ask him, “Did you follow your passion here?” and he’d laugh at you. The guy’s worth — he just got offered like 60 million dollars for his farm and turned it down, outside of Vegas. He didn’t follow his passion. He stepped back and he watched where everybody was going and he went the other way. And I hear that story over and over.

Matt Froind, a dairy farmer in New Canaan, Connecticut, who woke up one day and realized the crap from his cows was worth more than their milk, if he could use it to make these biodegradable flower pots. Now, he’s selling them to Walmart. Follow his passion — the guy’s — come on.

…we’ve declared war on work, as a society, all of us. It’s a civil war.  It’s a cold war, really. We didn’t set out to do it  and we didn’t twist our mustache in some Machiavellian way,  but we’ve done it.  And we’ve waged this war on at least four fronts, certainly in Hollywood. The way we portray working people on TV,  it’s laughable. If there’s a plumber, he’s 300 pounds and he’s got a giant buttcrack, admit it.  You see him all the time.  That’s what plumbers look like, right? We turn them into heroes, or we turn them into punchlines.  That’s what TV does…

Really, just watch. There’s a lot in there. I am SO going to start watching his show.

Basically, The Matrix Question

Alonzo Fyfe on Desire Utilitarianism

Here is a little thought experiment that should completely refute any residual notion that people are basically selfish, while it illustrates the case that desire fulfillment is what human action aims towards.

You, and somebody you care a great deal about (e.g., your child) have been captured by an evil extra-terrestrial mad scientist who is interested in conducting all sorts of experiments on humans. It offers you the following two options:

Option 1: “I will take this other person to another ship and perform all sorts of medical experiments on him. We have become well versed in the art of vivisection, I assure you, and the process will be painful and unending. However, you will be made to believe that your child has been set free and allowed to live a safe and happy life.”

Option 2: “I will let your child free with enough gold to live a healthy and happy life. However, you will be made to believe that I have taken your child to another ship and that I am performing all sorts of medical experiments on him. You will be made to believe that we have become well versed in the art of vivisection, and that the process will be painful and unending.”

Of course, I will also cause you to forget about this choice.

Which option do you choose?

The view that says that everyone is only after their own happiness would have to argue that everybody would select option 1. This is, after all, the option that provides the agent with the most happiness. However, this is contrary to fact. Most people go with option 2 — they sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of the child.

We have no actual experiments to point to that involve locking people in a cell and asking them to make this choice. So, maybe, they would all choose Option 1. But, most people at least report that they would not, and no reason can be provided to doubt them. The selfishness theory needs to at least explain why so few people think (incorrectly) that they would choose Option 2.

The widespread choice of Option 2 is easily explained if we hold that desires are dispositions to make or keep the proposition that is the object of the desire true. The parent with a desire that their child is healthy and happy is disposed to make or keep the proposition “my child is healthy and happy” true. Option 2 is the option in this case that makes or keeps the proposition true. It is desire fulfillment that we are after in life, not pleasure, nor happiness.

Interesting, right? I have no commentary to offer, except to say that if the experiment is to prove that “humans are basically unselfish”, as he claims, then it is most definitely incomplete.

I find this to be very true

The article itself is interesting but no great…what’s the appropriate term there? It’s about a psychologist who wrote a “scientifically rigorous” self-help book. It’s more interesting that it sounds, though.
The Self-Help Psychologist Is In – Freakonomics Blog –

Q.What’s your take on the debate over the strength of social networking connections, and their ability to have a real impact on our lives?
A.The number of close friends hasn’t gone up over the years. I think what’s changed is the geography of those friends. You may have close friends who aren’t physically that close to you. It is the case that people have extended networks of more shallow networks, but I guess I find it more interesting in the dissemination of information, just how quickly information spreads among those sub-groups, and gets them to come to events, where so many people are meeting up face to face in ways they weren’t several years ago. So my hope would be groups would be getting together more, at some point, which leads to more interaction.

(emphasis mine)
and also,

Q.As a psychologist, what makes the Internet interesting to you?
A.It’s bringing together groups of people who I think would have had trouble finding each other in the past. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s not so good, but I find it fascinating. In terms of things like Facebook—I’m a big fan of self-presentation theory, Erving Goffman’s idea that we have a private, backstage self, and a public, front-stage self, and of course Twitter and Facebook and blogs are all an extension of that front-stage presentation. And what I find funny is how many people are just so bad at hiding what they actually think of themselves. You know, on Facebook, some people can’t stop posting self-taken photos of themselves looking beautiful, as if that’s going to impress anyone.

Treacherous Evidence

Paul Krugman pushes out a post assuring his loyal readership that the Republicans will not, in fact, storm back to power in 2010. Which seems likely, because the party is if anything getting even more reactionary, on average. But I find it strange that he would use this graph to argue for his position:

If we look at Obama’s personal position, it seems to have stabilized — and as the Pew people point out, he’s in relatively good shape:


By which I mean, look at Bush! More precisely, this was a man who was so roundly hated all over that you could get a Nobel Peace prize just for displacing him, and his numbers at the start of his term are so close to Obama’s numbers now.

America is a strange place.


From , via Greg Mankiw.

Degrees Degrees
Annual pay for Bachelors graduates without higher degrees. Typical starting graduates have 2 years of experience; mid-career have 15 years. See full methodology for more.

I mean, yes, that Aero charts highest is a surprise, but even so. Divide by 5 for median IITian salaries, I guess (and then multiply by something if you want PPP values, so it might not be that bad), and divide by another 1.5 for salaries from most engineering colleges. I find it surprising that Finance is 16th or so (click on the link for the full list), although that might be a classification thing, given that “Economics” is just below Elec.

Online Discourse Part 2: Pareto Ideologies.

Julian Sanchez comes to the same conclusions that I came to, in an interesting post:

Given that my current idée fixe seems to be the depressing rarity with which people actually understand the views of people with different ideologies, I was pleased to see Tyler Cowen’s attempt at a sympathetic summary of what he sees as an intelligent progressive’s credo—one that at least some progressives apparently recognize as a fair depiction of their beliefs. Matt Yglesias responded to Cowen’s invitation to progressives to do the same for libertarianism, if not entirely in good faith, then at any rate with interesting results: Instead of outlining something a self-described libertarian might accept as a sympathetic portrayal, he outlines the sort of case for a libertarian agenda that a (fairly cynical) progressive with Yglesias’ priors might find somewhat appealing. Disappointingly, if not especially surprisingly, Yglesias’ commenters seem incapable of carrying the thought experiment even this far, since they all understand that libertarianism is not so much a belief system as an adolescent emotional disorder.

His larger point, however, is that true understanding both of the other people and of yourself (or your respective ideologies, rather) comes from seeing people both as they see themselves and as the best way that you can see them, which are not necessarily the same thing.

The goal would be to formulate a thumbnail sketch of an alien ideology that would be recognized and accepted by someone who holds that ideology—if not as an exact description of their beliefs, then at least as a summary of a view that counts as broadly libertarian/progressive/conservative/whatever view. At the same time, you’d try to present such a view in what you regard as its most compelling form—the version of the doctrine that you could most easily imagine yourself embracing. I can pretty easily construct the shortest path (consisting of the fewest significant belief-change “moves”) from my own worldview to [the other’s]….

[…]But the more intriguing possibility is that a smart progressive’s good-faith reformulation of libertarianism might be something that the libertarian, too, could recognize as an improvement—and vice versa. […..]Insofar as ideological modeling trends toward treating the most significant values and causal mechanisms as the only ones worth bothering about, a second pass from an outsider perspective may help find the spots where the framework can be enhanced by adding what was omitted back in. In those cases,the process would generate what I’m calling Pareto-ideologies: Versions of each worldview that both adherents and opponents can agree are stronger or more adequate.

Easier said than done, of course, but that’s no reason not to try. The entire post is worth a read.