February 2015 Media Thread

post by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-01T11:03:15.134Z · score: 3 (4 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 139 comments

This is the monthly thread for posting media of various types that you've found that you enjoy. Post what you're reading, listening to, watching, and your opinion of it. Post recommendations to blogs. Post whatever media you feel like discussing! To see previous recommendations, check out the older threads.

Rules:

139 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-01T11:04:02.912Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Short Online Texts Thread

comment by gwern · 2015-02-01T17:55:52.783Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Everything is heritable:

Politics/religion:

Statistics/AI/meta-science:

Psychology/biology:

Technology:

Economics:

Philosophy:

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-02-06T19:26:30.335Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Eternal Youth for All! by Ronald Bailey:

http://reason.com/archives/2015/02/06/eternal-youth-for-all

I found this disappointing because it seems like I read similar articles about imminent breakthroughs in anti-aging back in the 1990's, only the names of the elixirs have changed. Remember the hype about melatonin a few years ago?

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-02-08T21:57:46.814Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You have indeed read similar articles. It's never that simple.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-02-04T19:02:46.188Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

MIT"s Leonard Guarente has gone to market with:

The Anti-Aging Pill Facing a long wait for evidence, a longevity researcher takes an unusual path to market.

http://www.technologyreview.com/news/534636/the-anti-aging-pill/

Guarente's website: http://www.elysiumhealth.com/

At least Guarente understands that it takes a baseline of many decades to see if these experiments make a difference. He doesn't go for this "immortality in 30 years" nonsense that plagues folk transhumanism.

Dr. Bruce Ames did something like this several years ago to promote the use of the combination of acetyl-l-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid as an experiment to decelerate aging in human mitochondria:

http://www.juvenon.com/

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-02-01T14:31:11.684Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What Can Supporters Do for Transhumanism? by Zoltan Istvan:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zoltan-istvan/what-can-supporters-do-fo_b_6564536.html

Zoltan suggests changing careers, assuming that you can find ones which allow for feasible transhumanist-sounding projects to work on.

But I would add the fallback one of just figuring out how to make and save a lot more money to give you the resources to do some of these things.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-01T15:14:03.203Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ishtvan's entire approach is so ethically disturbing and PR-toxic, it really doesn't help the transhumanist movement to promote him. The first and second of his "Transhumanist Laws" basically amount to just screaming "I defect!" repeatedly. This is unfortunate because he's a decent writer and he also does on occasion make interesting points that I haven't seen elsewhere.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-02-02T01:15:42.924Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Istvan's constant self-promotion bothers me. I never heard of this guy until two years ago, when he published The Transhumanist Wager. I read that and reviewed in Cryonics magazine because it involves cryonics as a subplot.

Then I started to see his writings in several places. And last summer he got on one of John Stossel's specials on the Fox network, where both he and Stossel represented him as a leader in the cryonics community.

Again, I signed up with Alcor a quarter century ago, and I never heard of Istvan until early in 2013. Who made him a "leader" in the cryonics movement, and based on what criteria?

Now he has started a "Transhumanist Party" and he wants to insert himself into American national politics. We could see him in one of those debates with the other off-brand Presidential candidates from the Green Party, the Libertarian Party and other fringe groups.

Now, I approve of the fact that he wants to draw attention to some ideas for technological progress that we should push on a lot harder than we have so far. But what has he really offered us other than telling us about his action-hero life on the sailboat, how he doesn't want to die, please read his novel (he often discounts his Kindle version, or even offers it for free), and vote for him for President?

comment by RedErin · 2015-02-02T20:24:40.774Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Leadership?

It's a rare quality. I didn't like his book, but I did like him in interviews he's done. People have a tendency to rally behind anyone who leads.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-02-05T00:14:00.244Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Istvan claims he was born in L.A., grew up there and then went to Columbia University. But something about his accent doesn't sound right to me. I lived in Southern California during the years 1991-2004, so I've had plenty of exposure to how people in the Southland talk.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-02T02:24:57.901Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I think it is pretty clear that he's a shameless self-promoter. Maybe he'd argue that it is consistent with his Second Law of Transhumanism?

comment by knb · 2015-02-04T00:08:48.163Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think "Transhumanism" is a political non-starter as it just has too many weird/negative mental associations. A serious attempt at a pro-science/pro-technology political party should start by shedding the term "transhumanism" and some of its associated themes, like cyborgs and strange/unnecessary human modification.

There is a huge amount of enthusiasm for technology and science among the Millennials and even some Gen Xers, but most of it is just frittered away on worthless projects like Solar Freakin Roadways and enthusiasm for consumer electronics.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-04T01:23:23.575Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There is a huge amount of enthusiasm for technology and science among the Millennials and even some Gen Xers, but most of it is just frittered away on worthless projects like Solar Freakin Roadways and enthusiasm for consumer electronics.

I think there is a huge amount of enthusiasm for consumer electronics which is misinterpreted as enthusiasm for technology and science.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-02-04T18:55:57.386Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Radical Muslims have embraced social media, for example. And I've gathered that the snuff film of the Jordanian prisoner shows good production values, though I don't care to watch that because I'll just hear the Middle English song "Sumer is icumen in" in my head.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-02-05T00:09:07.529Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A Humanist Approach To Environmental Issues, by an Objectivist named Alex Epstein:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexepstein/2015/01/29/a-humanist-approach-to-environmental-issues/

comment by ike · 2015-02-02T18:57:54.286Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Science’s Biggest Fail

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-01T11:03:59.253Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Online Videos Thread

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-02-11T17:37:57.306Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

http://franklinmethod.com/latest-news/why-you-shouldnt-grip-your-core-part-2

Explains why pulling your navel towards your back and/or raising your pelvic floor while inhaling makes moving more difficult. Actually, the pelvic floor should increase tone while lengthening during inhalation (this is an eccentric contraction).

For what it's worth, I felt better following the instructions, and I suspect that gripping one's core muscles may be a result of emotional habits as well as a result of following bad advice.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-02-06T19:22:17.125Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

More of Zoltan Istvan, on Reason TV:

What If You Could Live for 10,000 years? Q&A with Transhumanist Zoltan Istvan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Pi52PNL_c0&feature=youtu.be

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-02-01T14:14:18.113Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Michael Shermer plugs his new book, The Moral Arc [Reactor?]:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIw25wzbGtU

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/watch/the-moral-arc-author-gets-in-the-hot-seat-386643011696

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JB6T5heBylE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVpZKh2Atro

comment by Dallas · 2015-02-01T20:20:59.887Z · score: -3 (15 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Keep in mind the fact that he is a serial rapist, which kind of undermines his thesis.

comment by bramflakes · 2015-02-02T00:16:47.169Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Allegedly.

comment by Dallas · 2015-02-02T03:28:42.067Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Allegedly.

I don't really feel the need to write that when I am aware of it from personal experience.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-02-02T00:18:53.586Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Kudos for the relevant response rather than what's going on below.

comment by alienist · 2015-02-01T22:34:35.078Z · score: 0 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Looking at your link, it appears that rather he is being accused of doing things that only qualify as "rape" due to the current anti-rape hysteria/witch hunt. Furthermore, given the nature of the accusations, and how a number of similar recent incidents have turned out to be groundless upon investigation, I'm not even convinced that the incidents described took place at all.

Certainly snark (and highly inaccurate) assides like:

especially considering the evidence is mounting that we effectively have the equivalent of a Catholic preacher in our midst.

don't do much for Jason's credibility.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-01T23:44:27.745Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Looking at your link, it appears that rather he is being accused of doing things that only qualify as "rape" due to the current anti-rape hysteria/witch hunt.

From the link:

At The Amazing Meeting, Alison Smith, then-JREF employee through August 2010, and founder of the now defunct Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society (down) (cached copy), alleges that Michael Shermer plied her with alcohol to the point of losing time and memory, then brought her to his hotel room and had non-consensual sex with her.

Is that really only considered rape due to "anti-rape hysteria/witch hunt"?

comment by alienist · 2015-02-01T23:59:33.432Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What does "plied her with alcohol" mean? Does it mean that Shermer spiked her drink or force fed her alcohol? Most likely she was drinking with him had a little too much to drink when up to his hotel room, had sex with him, in the morning regretted it and decided to declare it non-consensual.

Calling an encounter like the above "rape" is precisely what I'm objecting too.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-02-02T05:54:51.013Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Maybe it's as you describe, and maybe he was ignoring her saying no repeatedly. Why privilege only the hypothesis that makes Shermer innocent?

Also, the other accusations, while short of rape, are of bad behavior. Would you trust an ethicist who went around hitting people?

comment by RowanE · 2015-02-03T18:00:14.785Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Don't we have a cultural tradition of privileging the hypothesis that makes someone innocent? I mean, I see people say "innocent until proven guilty" is just for the courtroom, but that strikes me as the same sort of thing as "it's only censorship if the government does it".

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-02T00:01:06.179Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, this is a problem. It is possible that such a situation is only retroactively declared to be non-consensual, but that's not what he's being accused of. He's being accused of it actually being non-consensual. Do you agree that non-consensual sex with a severely inebriated individual is rape? Because that's the central accusation here.

comment by advancedatheist · 2015-02-02T01:42:22.039Z · score: -12 (14 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Shermer writes that he got married a few months back. I wonder what the new Mrs. Shermer makes of these allegations: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/anomalous-events-that-can-shake-one-s-skepticism-to-the-core/

The whole sexual harassment thing at atheist conventions seems ironic, considering that for generations both christian authority figures and many atheists themselves have maintained that nonbelief in god can lead to a swinging sex life. I've read biographies of several well known atheists - Denis Diderot, Percy Shelley, Bertrand Russell, off the top of my head - and they all articulated some kind of ideological message linking their atheism with sexual freedom. Even female atheists like Emma Goldman, Ayn Rand and Madalyn Murray O'Hair have said things along those lines.

So what has actually happened? When you gather a bunch of atheists together for a conference, do you have a sexual utopia going on in the hotel rooms upstairs? Apparently not. But then people made other bad predictions about atheists' behavior before we had enough atheists around to supply empirical evidence. Godless women still reject non-alpha males, just like other women.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-02T08:52:11.937Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

How is this relevant? I have never seen Mr. Shermer, so I have no idea whether he is an "alpha" or not, but regardless...

  • being an atheist does not imply a desire for a swinging sexual life
  • a swinging sexual life does not imply consent to sex with a specific person

So speculations about whether atheism can lead to sexual utopia in general are irrelevant for whether a specific person have raped another specific person.

Sexual freedom does not mean people must have sex with everyone. It means that if two (or more) people agree on having sex together, they can have it.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-02-02T09:34:27.315Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Godless women still reject non-alpha males, just like other women.

Regardless of her fiction, in real life Rand seemed to prefer men she could dominate.

What do you mean by a sexual utopia?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-02T11:15:12.662Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nothing in that article says something about sexual harassment.

Also don't confuse disbelief in God with atheists activism. One doesn't go to a convention about atheism because one doesn't believe. On goes because one cares enough about one's own beliefs to spread them. I wouldn't expect high openness to experience scores with that crowd.

The bigger LW events that I experienced for example do have a lot more physical intimacy, both male-male and male-female than "normal society" and what I would expect to be the norms at an atheist convention.

Despite that conventions with a high percentage of guys are in general not likely to lead to a lot of sexual activity.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-02-02T18:22:16.448Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sexual harassment mentioned in this article. The bits I quoted include links, but I think it's more trouble than it's worth for me to reformat them for LW, so go back to the freethoughblog timeline if you want details.:

ChristianKl, which article were you referring to?

September, 2008

Gay has recounted in several places, without naming names, a story that while being introduced to Michael Shermer at Dragon*Con in 2008, he made a drunken lunge at her breasts instead of shaking her hand. DJ Grothe has related this story a number of times to a number of people, indicating that he had intervened to stop the public groping from happening.

May 2010

Ashley Miller At a dinner event she attended featuring PZ Myers, Ashley encounters Michael Shermer, who allegedly spoke with her for several minutes while massaging his genitals through his jeans. She describes the incident here.Pamela Gay

May 23rd, 2012

pseudonymous commenter Miriamne A comment left at Friendly Atheist names Michael Shermer as allegedly having harassed her, and “trying to sleep with a new young woman every TAM”.

August 7th, 2013

Unnamed victims via Brian Thompson Brian Thompson, former employee of JREF, claims to personally know a number of women who have been harassed by Shermer, via Twitter. He specifies two instances of ‘being creeped at’, one of ‘being groped’ (by Shermer and/or another alleged creeper, Ben Radford). This could certainly refer to him being present for Shermer’s lunge at Pamela Gay.

Elyse Anders Elyse describes some unwelcome salacious comments from Shermer after she drops a chicken tender at the TAM9 reception buffet.

August 7th, 2013

Unnamed victims via Brian Thompson Brian Thompson, former employee of JREF, claims to personally know a number of women who have been harassed by Shermer, via Twitter. He specifies two instances of ‘being creeped at’, one of ‘being groped’ (by Shermer and/or another alleged creeper, Ben Radford). This could certainly refer to him being present for Shermer’s lunge at Pamela Gay.

Elyse Anders Elyse describes some unwelcome salacious comments from Shermer after she drops a chicken tender at the TAM9 reception buffet.

August 9th, 2013

Unnamed victim through delphi_ote A participant at the JREF forums corroborates the existence of allegations against Michael Shermer by unnamed alleged victims.

August 8th, 2013

Unnamed victims via PZ Myers — Alison Smith PZ Myers posts accounts by sources he trusts regarding allegations of Michael Shermer’s witnessed and experienced predatory tactics and alleged sexual assault of women he coerced into a position where they could not legally consent.

naomibaker naomibaker relates her story about how she was contacted ostensibly by Michael Shermer’s wife asking if the story she told about a cheating husband without names was talking about Michael. She listed names that Shermer had apparently had affairs with, several of the names being recognizeable.

The timeline continues with legal actions and arguments about what happened, but has no additional allegations.

comment by Dallas · 2015-02-02T20:12:40.285Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The timeline continues with legal actions and arguments about what happened, but has no additional allegations.

You forgot me.

August 13th, 2013

Dallas J. Haugh

Dallas posts a suicide note which includes allegations of rape against Shermer. It is taken down by a relative when he is secured and taken to a hospital; after he’s released, he reposts it.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-01T11:03:55.719Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fanfiction Thread

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-02T23:42:56.451Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

VERY NSFW: Ship of the Line: Forever After Earth which just completed, is a very very smutty 24-chapter crossover between Buffy, Stargate: SG-1, and the author's own original transhumanist fiction. (And in later chapters, characters from other fictional universes like Nanoha and Madoka also contribute).

I'm linking it here, partly because the author is very clearly familiar with the LessWrong community, though I don't know whether he posts here under some different name. Whether I recommend it or not... I recommend it for those who would read R-rated stories, but the plot personally lost me towards the end when characters from more fictional universes started appearing -- perhaps because I wasn't as familiar with those characters, but also I think they just weren't necessary: I think the story would have actually likely been better if it had omitted them altogether and just finished with gur gevb'f zhygv-qrcnegher gb fcernq vzzbegnyvgl npebff gur cynargf bs gur tnynkl.

On my part I enjoyed the depiction of a culture whose members seems almost entirely without any fear of physical harm or physical intimacy either.

TRIGGER WARNINGS for a few depictions of rape. Also that the post-humans in question can't be physically or emotionally harmed by such, causes them to view rapes against them as merely "rude".

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-01T11:03:52.221Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nonfiction Books Thread

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-02-01T23:47:27.005Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Moondust: In Search of the Men who Fell to Earth

Not a technical book about the Apollo program by any means. The author goes around finding and interviewing all the surviving moonwalkers as of the time he was writing it (9) about the effect the event had on their lives. Some report massive changes in perspective about the Earth. Some feel massively betrayed by NASA, having taken part in something they felt was the first step in a direction and which was then not followed up on (be the reasons for that good or bad). There's pretty much as many reactions as there are moonwalkers.

But then, most fascinating to me was the difference between living the history and watching the history. Armstrong and Aldrin on Apollo 11 didn't really appreciate how much importance was projected on their mission and how much mythologization of the event was going on back home, with half a billion people watching them live (and indeed it was the first huge live media event of this type). They were just doing their jobs - and then the president gets on the line with them on the surface of the moon and they scramble to not make asses of themselves talking extemporaneously while lugging around hundreds of kg of equipment on their backs. And when they get back and are in isolation (as all the first moonwalkers were in case of living microbes on the moon) and are dealing with a constant parade of dignitaries outside their little window, eventually they gather the gravitas that the event had for the world at large. Aldrin turns to Armstrong and says "Neil, we missed it!"

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-01T15:21:13.213Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Currently reading Christopher Clark's "The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914" so far the book has two upshots: nationalism makes people really irrational. No, you think you already know that, but you don't realize how far it can go. No, more irrational than that. Second, it is really easy for things to spiral out of control. Reading it has made me strongly update to the probability that there will be a large-scale war in the next few years, and in general that war might be a major aspect of the Great Filter. A relevant, somewhat critical review of the book is here.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-01T15:30:58.173Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reading it has made me strongly update to the probability that there will be a large-scale war in the next few years

Studying WWI has done the same for me.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-02-01T15:45:38.713Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Could you two go into some specifics of what you're expecting and why?

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-01T15:51:53.485Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Essentially that large-scale, complicated alliances can result in small scale wars unexpectedly spiraling out of control. In the case of WWI there were multiple small conflagrations in the Balkans before WWI but it then took just the right one to set it off. In a similar vein, one wouldn't be surprised if one the similar small conflagrations around Russia like are currently happening leads to a Russia v. NATO war with little warning. Similarly, one could expect a similar situation in the Pacific given the many border conflicts there.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-01T17:42:57.107Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think Putin wants to rebuild the Soviet Empire and is going to keep taking more territory until he encounters serious resistance, and this resistance could easily turn into a war in which nuclear weapons are used. Putin might rationally calculate that if he tried to conquer Finland (which used to be part of the Czarist Empire) there is only a 10% chance that the U.S. would put up serious resistance, and this was a gamble he would be willing to take. But if the U.S. did decide to fight it would easily beat back Russia if the war stayed conventional, and this might cause Putin to use atomic weapons.

Putin probably calculates that Obama is much less likely to use military force against him than the next U.S. President will be, so we might be entering a period of great danger.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2015-02-01T18:18:17.816Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The rationale for claiming the parts of Ukraine was much stronger than for Finland. Russians account for 17% of the population of Ukraine, while Russians account for 1.1% of residents of Finland. The Finns won independence from Russia via war and have not been in the same country as Russia for almost a century, while Ukraine's territory gained from Russia was by the stroke of Kruschev's pen as a bureacratic transfer of low significance as long as both Russia and Ukraine were parts of the Soviet Union. Also, Ukraine is culturally very close to Russia, even having a common language-base, which Finland does not. Russia has only been not in the same country as Crimea since the fall of the Soviet Union. So, the general causes are much weaker.

Ukraine was extremely unstable before Russia moved in, with a strong geographical split between areas with protests in favor of closer ties to the west and Russia. This seems unlikely to recur in FInland. Without the underlying weakness, the proximate excuse is gone.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-01T22:02:35.918Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You are right in terms of moral rationale, but what I think will matter to Putin are the costs and benefits to him of an invasion. Finding a proximate excuse will be easy, especially for a former KGB agent.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2015-02-01T23:16:28.195Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The costs will be higher and the benefits lower based on the (lack of) rationale. Forcing the Finns into Russia will be very bad for everyone involved even if successful, and failure is obviously worse for him.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-02T10:51:56.880Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ukraine was extremely unstable before Russia moved in

???

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2015-02-02T14:35:58.758Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Moved in with troops, yes. Russia had done political maneuvering so as to destabilize it, I grant.

They have much less traction to pull the same sorts of political maneuvers in Finland.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-02T14:43:08.702Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am just trying to understand what timeline you had in mind. Did you mean before Yanukovich scuttled EU integration?

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2015-02-03T00:25:42.451Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

After. Before then, well, it wasn't rock solid, but it wasn't, so far as I know, abnormally unstable. Yes, Putin brought that about.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-03T19:22:45.517Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Before it was an ordinary (somewhat poor) country. 17% of an ethnicity does not a casus belli make. Similar culture does not a casus belli make. This is kind of crazy reasoning, imagine applying it to Western Europe.


Do any you have any evidence for your claim regarding a strong geographical split between areas and protests in favor in closer ties with Russia (that are independent of Russian special forces operating on Ukranian soil)? Where have you read this? There is an ongoing information war, please be very careful about sources.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-03T19:33:30.422Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This seems to be relevant evidence...

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2015-02-03T21:33:12.328Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Also, the protests in favor of sticking with Europeanization were in the west and the counter-protests were in the east. Russia definitely had a political ground game going, but it's no accident that they could only get it going in certain provinces. If they could have gotten it going in the capital, they would have.

ALSO also, I wasn't saying that Russian actions were actually legitimate.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-03-07T20:41:50.198Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Agreeing with your main point, i'll just point out that there were incipient protests in favor of the EU in the East, but 1) it's really easy to quench a local action unsupported by the body of the protest, after which sane people would either shut up or join the main force, 2) the capital, built upon the Dnieper River, is hardly in the west, 3) there were anti-EU protests in Kyiv, which is partly why there was street-fighting (I mean, beside the Berkut).

And polarization had been present before December '14, but it skyrocketed after.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-06T13:06:35.795Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

So, where have you read about these protests?

comment by Sarunas · 2015-02-06T18:06:28.172Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You should note that while having more territory usually does help a country to be more powerful, it is not the only way to be a powerful country. While trying to conquer as much land as possible made sense when agriculture was the primary source of wealth, nowadays it is somewhat more complicated because industry and service sector of annexed territory are often destroyed by the war and has to be rebuilt so why not build in the territory you already own. That leaves natural resources such as oil and coal, but it is sometimes possible to profit from them even without having direct control over them, for example, by owning (directly or indirectly) companies that extract those resources from the ground and having enough influence over the government of that country to prevent them from meddling with those companies. Having higher population seems to be useful in some cases, but wars tend to create a lot refugees and creating an economic union that you dominate is perhaps a good enough substitute. Therefore, it sometimes might not make sense to try to conquer as much territory as possible, especially when that territory does not have a lot of natural resources. I don't think that NATO and EU are the only things that stop Russia from trying to conquer Baltic States or Finland, they also lack the necessity to do so. Because military force is not the only way to gain a lot of influence over the country's actions.

In my country (and I would guess in Finland as well), what many people fear is not Russian tanks, it is Russia gaining a lot of influence by making backroom deals, promoting and financially supporting certain political parties and individual politicians whose ideas are useful to them, buying up shares in energy companies, either directly or by proxy individuals (who do not have to be Russians themselves, there are a lot of people who got rich due to having the right connections and they often want to preserve those connections) and gaining cultural influence. Finlandization is often a good enough substitute for the actual conquest. I am not an expert in geopolitics or international relations, but it is my impression that while Crimea does have strategic importance to Russia due its warm deepwater ports, it is harder to make such case for Donbas/Donbass or South Ossetia (or Abkhazia, or Transistria). It is my impression that in these cases it is not necessarily just the territory itself that is important to Russia, but the fact that having disputed territories may make it significantly more difficult for those countries to join NATO and EU, and, that by waging these small scale wars Russia demonstrates ability and willingness to protect their interests, thus sending a signal to many people that Russia is a powerful country and therefore siding with their interests in a domestic politics of their respective countries and trying to establish connections with them is potentially useful. For example, by negotiating with each country individually, Russia is able to extract higher prices for its natural gas than they would be able if EU countries coordinated with each other and negotiated as one bloc. In addition to that, because of these large profit margins, Russia is able to selectively make discounts for some countries in exchange for various things that they want, for example, naval facilities. Thus it is in Russia's interest to try to weaken the EU, therefore they support various anti-EU parties, politicians (both right wing and (probably) left wing) and people who are influential in politics without themselves being politicians in various ways. However, I predict that it would be much more difficult to attract such allies if Russia would give in to Western demands and remove their troops from regions such as Donbas, because it would be interpreted as a sign of weakness, therefore Russia would not be thought of as worth siding with. Even though these anti-EU parties would probably still be anti-EU, they would no longer necessarily be against, e.g. sanctions against Russia. Perhaps even more importantly, there are a lot of influential people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia who find it useful to join whichever side is more powerful and a sign of Russia's weakness would make the option of seeking closer relations with the West more attractive, thus reducing Russia's influence even further.

To sum up, in my layman's view, I do not think that Russia is hungry for more territory, but it is probably hungry for more power and influence over decision making in other countries (because it is a useful thing to have), which can be acquired by other means than conquest. I conjecture that the present situation in Donbas is probably not because Russia desires to annex the Donets Basin, but perhaps because giving in would send a signal that Russia is not strong enough and/or not willing to protect its own interests (let alone interests of their allies), therefore not worth siding with.

comment by knb · 2015-02-02T19:18:24.520Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is just neocon blather. I'll bet you $2000 Russia does not invade Finland by the end of the Obama presidency.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-02T20:22:24.626Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree the odds are well under 50%. If you provide your real identity, I would bet $20 based on a 20% chance that Russia will invade a country (other than the Ukraine) by the end of the Obama presidency, so you would have to give me $100 if Russia did invade. I will bet more if your real identity causes me to assign a high probability of you paying if you lose. This is me.

comment by knb · 2015-02-02T21:07:45.681Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

So you claim a 20% chance that Russia will invade a country other than Ukraine by January 20, 2017? That is not really specific to your prediction that Putin is likely to try to steal territory by the end of the Obama administration. For example, the US has invaded many countries in the last 15 years but hasn't been trying to take territory. In addition, the Russian invasion would have to be aggressive (i.e. the other country did not attack first.) Something like the 2008 Georgia war would not count.

Edit: If you can agree to those terms, I will accept the 20:100 odds you offer.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-03-07T20:15:58.974Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's Ukraine, not the Ukraine, since the latter version already implies, through history of language, that the territory is a (border) part of Russia (okraina).

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-02-02T20:41:17.746Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm concerned about what happens after the end of the Obama presidency as well as before.

comment by Epictetus · 2015-02-07T19:02:01.601Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The EU far outdoes Russia in population, military spending, wealth, and technology. They don't need the United States to win a conventional war against Russia. The Russian advantage lies in unity and a European aversion to force. It may be advantageous for Putin to assert dominance over some of the former Soviet states. But an outright invasion of the EU? If anything would create a united front against Russia, that would be it. I don't know if Putin as after territory so much as maintaining a buffer zone against Western influence (and scoring the occasional political victory over the US).

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-02T10:18:42.308Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Putin might rationally calculate that if he tried to conquer Finland (which used to be part of the Czarist Empire) there is only a 10% chance that the U.S. would put up serious resistance, and this was a gamble he would be willing to take.

Finland is an EU country. Even if the US doesn't care about defending EU territory the EU does.

comment by Aleksander · 2015-02-06T05:41:34.530Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Military power of EU was not enough to stop or seriously inconvenience Milosevic.

comment by lmm · 2015-02-07T18:28:43.391Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What? Did he invade an EU country?

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-02T16:17:25.010Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But would the EU do anything, especially if the Greeks decide to veto everything if they are not given a bailout?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-02T17:36:29.097Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Military is not commanded via the EU commission but by individual member states. There nothing to veto. Finish citizens have free movement via the EU. That means average people know more Finish people than Ukranians and actually care about defending Finland.

Ukraine is for political purposes like a third world country. People far away that nobody deeply cares about.

It's worth looking at innerpolitical issures. I don't think German or France politicians would get away in their own countries with not defending Finland. On the other hand Germans who already don't want to pay for the Greece bailout, don't want to bailout the Ukraine and have substantial resources spent over there.

From Putins perspective the Ukraine conflict made him popular at home, I don't think starting an additional conflict in Finland would help Putin inside of Russian politics.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-02T18:24:04.824Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Russia invades Finland. Germany announces it's going to send lots of troops to Finland to fight against the Russians. Putin announces that if Germany does this he will drop an atomic bomb on Berlin. Germany then backs down.

Since Germany doesn't have atomic weapons, it can't credibly threaten Russia absent Russia invading Germany.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-02T20:01:27.757Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Russia doesn't even invade the East-Ukraine as far as Russian media is concerned. It's done by plausible deniable locals supported by Russian citizens on vacation.

Military action can be done without announcing it and a tanks that move into NATO or EU territory will likely produce an immediate military response within less than an hour.

NATO doesn't send tanks to clear cities in East Ukraine that are under the control of separatists, but

Since Germany doesn't have atomic weapons, it can't credibly threaten Russia absent Russia invading Germany.

Germany doesn't but France does. The UK does as well.

US innerpolitics even forces the US president to increase North Korea sanctions after the recent cyberattack when he knows that the thing that actually good to do is to increase interaction between North Korea and the outside world. Ignoring threads of nuclear attack is likely not very popular in the US.

Putin announces that if Germany does this he will drop an atomic bomb on Berlin.

That's a very risky thing to do. It might trigger nuclear first strike protocols on the US side.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-02T20:30:09.453Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It might trigger nuclear first strike protocols on the US side.

I doubt it. The U.S. didn't initiate a first strike against North Korea when it threatened us with nuclear weapons, and unlike with Russia, the U.S. almost certainly could eliminate all North Korean nuclear weapons without any significant U.S. losses.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-02-02T23:06:36.396Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

North Korea didn't threaten in a way that the US military considered to be highly probable to start a war. It's more seen as posturing. It would need a plausible thread to achieve military objectives.

North Korea can complete destroy most of Seoul. It's in artillery range.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-02T20:20:06.273Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Russia invades Finland. Germany announces it's going to send lots of troops to Finland to fight against the Russians. Putin announces that if Germany does this he will drop an atomic bomb on Berlin. Germany then backs down.

I think the scenario will be a wee bit different:

Russia invades Finland. Germany announces it's going to send lots of troops to Finland to fight against the Russians. Putin announces that if Germany does this he will drop an atomic bomb on Berlin. Terrified Russian elites remove Putin from power.

Even in Russia I don't think there is any political faction which thinks that a nuclear exchange is a good idea.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-03T00:02:28.748Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Even in Russia I don't think there is any political faction which thinks that a nuclear exchange is a good idea.

Unfortunately, the idea of limited nuclear exchanges or making credible or close to credible threats of such exchanges is is depressingly popular in Russian military and political discussion. See e.g. here. More generally, this is actually an old idea that of the "tactical nuclear exchange" with a few nukes being perhaps exchanged in Eastern Europe without a full-scale war. During much of the Cold War this was actually more common as a NATO idea whereas the USSR accepted that limiting nuclear exchanges was not viable and that there was no clear line between tactical and strategic exchange of nuclear weapons.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-03T17:50:40.646Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

More generally, this is actually an old idea that of the "tactical nuclear exchange" with a few nukes being perhaps exchanged in Eastern Europe without a full-scale war.

Yes, and I seen nothing particularly wrong about this idea -- it's a possibility. However I don't think the current Russian elite (with bank accounts in Switzerland, houses in the Cyprus, sending their kids to English private schools, etc. etc.) would be willing to contemplate high risk of even a limited nuclear exchange.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-03T19:12:22.014Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

More generally, this is actually an old idea that of the "tactical nuclear exchange" with a few nukes being perhaps exchanged in Eastern Europe without a full-scale war.

Yes, and I seen nothing particularly wrong about this idea -- it's a possibility.

The wrong aspect about this is that it seems very unlikely to actually stay that restricted. And it may not at all be easy for a country to tell that another launched only a few nukes and isn't intending to use more. The standard way this sort of thing goes wrong is where the exchanges get pushed farther East and West until they are close to Moscow and Paris and then all hell more or less breaks loose.

However I don't think the current Russian elite (with bank accounts in Switzerland, houses in the Cyprus, sending their kids to English private schools, etc. etc.) would be willing to contemplate high risk of even a limited nuclear exchange.

That seems likely to be true, but how much influence do they have? And note that even with Putin's repeated mentions of nukes they haven't taken any steps to curtail the situation. A nuclear exchange if it started could start well before they had a chance to do much about it.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-03T19:30:58.962Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

it seems very unlikely to actually stay that restricted

I don't know -- my level of uncertainty about what's going to be "likely" or "unlikely" in the event of a limited nuclear exchange is very high :-/

how much influence do they have?

The question at this point will be not "influence" but "capability" -- will they be able to remove Putin and those personally loyal to him at any cost from power? I think it's "likely" but see the previous paragraph :-)

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-02T20:26:15.866Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Title of a Daily Beast article "Putin Threatens Nuclear War Over Ukraine"

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-02T20:34:35.711Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Headlines are written to attract eyeballs and clicks. Would you like to know one weird trick which will enhance and supercharge your understanding of European politics? X-D

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-02T18:38:09.461Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Putin might rationally calculate that if he tried to conquer Finland (which used to be part of the Czarist Empire) there is only a 10% chance that the U.S. would put up serious resistance

Well, first the Finns are likely to put up serious resistance. There a reason why Finland was an independent country post-WW2 and not the 16th Soviet republic.

The "logical" next targets for Putin are the Baltics.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-02T18:46:02.611Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The "logical" next targets for Putin are the Baltics.

But the Baltic states are in NATO, and so the U.S. is more likely to defend them than it would Finland.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-02T19:02:29.960Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Whether US and Europe are more likely to go to war with Russia over Finland or over the Baltics is an interesting question, but there doesn't appear to be any way of deciding it :-)

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-02T19:12:38.325Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

NATO is a point in favor of the U.S. being more likely to fight over the Baltics than Finland. Are there any factors going the other way?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-02T19:15:19.680Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes. The Baltics belonged to Russia much more recently than Finland and have a much larger Russian minority population.

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-02T19:18:28.583Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good point.

comment by bramflakes · 2015-02-02T00:20:30.056Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And NATO pushing up to the borders of Russia isn't considered an aggressive move on the part of the USA, because ... ?

I'm not trying to defend his annexation of the Crimea but "trying to rebuild the Soviet Empire" isn't what I think his motivations are when I can look at a map like this, and recall the Georgian conflict was itself sparked in part by aspirations of that country to join NATO. Americans would feel threatened if say, Mexico joined the Warsaw Pact, no?

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-02T05:05:52.960Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And NATO pushing up to the borders of Russia isn't considered an aggressive move on the part of the USA, because ... ?

Because it wasn't NATO that "pushed up to the borders of Russia" it was the Eastern European countries that fled from Russia into NATO. Not a single NATO tank had to streamroll into those Eastern European countries for them to join . You'll note that none of those nations that joined NATO needed to be invaded and military occupied by NATO -- unlike what Russia is doing now, and unlike what Warsaw Pact did in the past.

Because if any of those countries ask to leave NATO, NATO will leave. However Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova are asking Russia to leave, and Russia isn't leaving.

Because the sovereign and independent Eastern European nations wanted to become part of NATO, and NATO tanks didn't need to force itself on a single nation, it was invited( a single country, nor change the borders, unlike Russia's military occupation of portions of Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine.

Because a NATO country like Poland isn't the one attempting to annex the western portions of Ukraine or Belarus or Russia.

Because when Greece has been recently openly allying itself with Russia, I don't see NATO troops from Italy or Albania or Bulgaria attempting to break apart portions of Greece.

Yay, for simple answers to simple questions.

Americans would feel threatened if say, Mexico joined the Warsaw Pact, no?

Yes, America also often used military imperialism in its attempt to stop Latin American countries from allying themselves with the Soviet Union, (e.g. the invasion at the Bay of Pigs).

So?

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-02T16:24:26.507Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You are looking at this from a moral viewpoint. The fact that many of Russia's neighbors would rather militarily associate with the U.S. than Russia is a cause of great insecurity for Russia and probably a big part of the reason Putin would like to gain military control of more territory. Putin would have less to worry about if the eastern European nations in NATO joined because they were forced to because then these countries would be weaker U.S. allies.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-02-02T17:26:25.826Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You are looking at this from a moral viewpoint.

Clearly Aris has moral sentiments about the matter (who would not?), but he is presenting observable facts, such as who is sending men and materiel and who is not.

Putin would have less to worry about if the eastern European nations in NATO joined because they were forced to because then these countries would be weaker U.S. allies.

If they were forced to, that would imply a US more able and willing to force them, which cancels that out.

Putin clearly intends to exert all the pressure and take all the opportunities that he can to expand Russia's sphere of influence indefinitely, as did the former USSR. All else is tactics. As you said:

I think Putin wants to rebuild the Soviet Empire and is going to keep taking more territory until he encounters serious resistance

comment by bramflakes · 2015-02-02T06:51:07.191Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Because the sovereign and independent Eastern European nations wanted to become part of NATO, and NATO tanks didn't need to force itself on a single nation, it was invited( a single country, nor change the borders, unlike Russia's military occupation of portions of Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine.

I'm not sure your average Serb would agree ...

Because when Greece has been recently openly allying itself with Russia, I don't see NATO troops from Italy or Albania or Bulgaria attempting to break apart portions of Greece.

No, they just get the Troika to do it by proxy.

I'll restate what I said before - I'm not defending Putin's regime as such. It's tyrannical and corrupt and no sane person would die defending that hill. Just that Russia's actions are perfectly understandable as defensive and reactive in nature. Yes, the Eastern Euro countries (mostly) joined NATO of their own free will (more accurately, they had little alternative either way with Russia being dead in the water through the 90s). What of it? The fact remains there's an explicitly anti-Russian coalition on Russia's doorstep, and allied groups like the EU pushing into historically-Russian territories. They're understandably afraid of the Germans pushing east of the Vistula - after all, it didn't end well the last two times.

"Rebuilding the Soviet Empire" is exactly the kind of propagandistic slogan that contributes to crises in the first place - viewing your enemy as some kind of inscrutable, uncompromisingly aggressive monster rather than a country concerned for its survival and who possesses few natural defenses.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-02T09:09:31.925Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure your average Serb would agree .

I opposed NATO's action in Kosovo as an imperialist action in support of Albanian imperialism -- but this has nothing to do with NATO's expansion eastwards any more than its intervention against Afghanistan does. NATO's expansion eastwards was an action of the Eastern European countries fleeing westwards, being rightfully afraid of Russian imperialism.

Italy or Albania or Bulgaria attempting to break apart portions of Greece.

No, they just get the Troika to do it by proxy

Know what? I can't remain civil in this discussion, if you're comparing Greece being loaned money with extremely low interests as being the same thing as Ukraine being militarily conquered by Russia and many thousands of its people getting killed.

So I'm tapping out. Enjoy your "understanding" of the so called defensive attitude of Russia as one by one it conquers nations that never once threatened anyone. On my part I'll keep denouncing Russia neoHitleric imperialism, and its vile policies.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2015-02-02T09:34:09.137Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

One of the reasons to join NATO was that Russia (Soviet Union) had a history of reverting political changes in Eastern Europe; see Prague Spring. Given this history, a political change from communism to democracy seemed half-assed without also joining NATO, because it seemed like a question of time until someone in Russia decides "okay guys, your political regime will now change to this" and send tanks to enforce the decision.

It felt like without NATO, the future of Eastern Europe would be decided in two steps. 1) Russia will decide what political regime it wants, which may take a few years, but when the decision is made, then 2) the tanks will come and enforce the same regime in other countries. So, unless you agree that this is how the political regime in your country should be decided, the only safe alternative is to join NATO.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-02-02T09:31:11.001Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just that Russia's actions are perfectly understandable as defensive and reactive in nature.

Everyone's actions are perfectly understandable as defensive and reactive in nature. Perfectly, universally, and therefore uselessly.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-02-02T18:47:24.907Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure your average Serb would agree ...

An average Serb or an average Yugoslav..? :-P

I don't think the desire to maintain a little Balkan empire counts here.

Just that Russia's actions are perfectly understandable as defensive and reactive in nature.

I don't think so. Do tell, what Russia is defending against? And is the threat to Russia or to Mr.Putin's thoroughly corrupt state?

an explicitly anti-Russian coalition on Russia's doorstep

Show me that coalition and show me how is it "anti-Russian".

a country concerned for its survival and who possesses few natural defenses

I am sorry, this passed into the realm of unadulterated bullshit. So, right now, in the XXI century Russia is "concerned for its survival"? A country of "few natural defenses" that was last conquered by Genghis Khan?

comment by James_Miller · 2015-02-02T00:51:40.599Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Part of the reason Putin wants a bigger empire is undoubtedly to gain some protection against future aggression. I totally agree with you that the U.S. has acted to weaken Russia.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-01T11:03:48.522Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fiction Books Thread

comment by shminux · 2015-02-02T04:20:32.891Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Listening to the third book in The First Law trilogy. I really like the characters and their internal narrative, as well as the writing style. The pace is pretty slow, but I never found it boring, happy to follow the characters' thoughts and actions. Inquisitor Glokta is probably my favorite, because of his dry wit and cynicism, with just a pinch of humanity.

comment by gwern · 2015-02-01T17:55:20.218Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)
comment by shminux · 2015-02-02T04:11:58.883Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I tried listening to The Quantum Thief, but gave up after an hour or so. I found it bland and somewhat annoying.

comment by gwern · 2015-02-02T16:39:23.445Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know why you would listen to a SF novel... I enjoyed The Quantum Thief a lot - the start in the Dilemma Prison was interesting, and I loved the worldbuilding of the Oubliette.

comment by edanm · 2015-02-04T16:57:27.404Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you listen to Audiobooks at all? Are you only specifically against SF as an Audiobook?

I ask because I'm a huge fan of Audiobooks, but I've long believed that SF (and fantasy) are both particularly hard to like in Audiobook format. Non-fiction is by far better.

(I do still listen to some SF/Fantasy on Audiobooks, but it's usually authors I already know, or in worlds I already know).

comment by gwern · 2015-02-04T22:43:40.208Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you listen to Audiobooks at all? Are you only specifically against SF as an Audiobook?

I am against audiobooks in general for myself due to my particular circumstances so my direct experience is limited, but it seems to me that SF/fantasy may not work for most people as audiobooks since they trade so heavily on immersive flavor and world-building (particularly The Quantum Thief, which is in the 'explain nothing and make readers figure everything out from context' school of hard SF), which would be impeded by the slowness of audio and the intrusion of someone's voice.

comment by edanm · 2015-02-14T17:57:08.132Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

FYI, you're mostly right, at least based on my experience. I tend to have a much harder time listening to Audiobooks of SF/fantasy, and a harder time listening to any fiction vs. non-fiction.

I also have a much easier time listening to SF/Fantasy when it's in a setting I already know (e.g. sequels, books I've read before, etc). Also easier to listen to books from authors I read a lot (but that may be true in general, come to think of it).

I still highly recommend anyone who can to listen to Audiobooks, at least of non-fiction, as one of the best and easiest hacks around.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-01T17:41:26.731Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just read Brandon Sanderson's "Firefight" which is the sequel to Steelheart. Sanderson is as amazing as usual. The books are a very novel take on the idea of superpowers.

comment by edanm · 2015-02-14T18:01:39.927Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Tl;dr of my post: If you liked Steelheart, I heavily recommend reading Worm.

Long version: So, Sanderson is in my top 5 favorite authors, I think almost every book of his is amazing, and I loved Steelheart.

But shortly after reading it, I started reading the (now finished) online web serial Worm (from Yudkowsky's recommendation on HPMOR). It has a very similar premise to Steelheart, at least initially.

And let's just say, Worm makes Steelheart look terrible in comparison. Worm is just so much better.

Again, I'm a huge fan of Sanderson, and I still like the Steelheart series, but I now read it and think to myself that it's just not even close to realistic, Worm is how people with powers would actually behave.

Seriously, read Worm. And if you happen to read this comment and not have read Sanderson, read his books too (I would start with the Mistborn trilogy, possibly the best trilogy of all time).

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-14T18:48:37.793Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Have you read Firefight? It does a good job of pointing out why people with powers in Steelheart act how they do. (I haven't read Worm but it is on my reading list.)

comment by edanm · 2015-02-16T09:13:40.504Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's less the "why do they act that way", more "if you had this superpower, what kind of really weird but powerful stuff could you do with it".

Worm is full of people using superpowers in really inventive ways, in a way that Steelheart/Firefight aren't.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-01T17:40:28.126Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Read Christopher Nuttall's "Schooled in Magic" series. I'd describe it as HPMoR but with a main character who is a) slightly more mature and b) not nearly as smart or educated. Overall, while I've had a mixed view of a lot of Nuttall's other works I have a high opinion of this one.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-01T17:40:23.727Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Currently reading Annie Bellet's "The 20-Sided Sorceress" series which is an urban fantasy setting where the main character grew up thinking of magic in terms of Dungeons and Dragons and uses a D20 talisman to focus her magic. Not too surprisingly it is full of geek-culture references. Overall, amusing.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-01T11:03:44.989Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

TV and Movies (Animation) Thread

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-02T14:40:22.312Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Started watching Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit.

Set during an AU feudal Japan (and if we ever tire of AU feudal Japan, you'll know that the upload you have of paper machine is not genuine), Moribito tells the story of the epic-level bodyguard Balsa and her quest to save the life of the Emperor's second son, Chagum, who has been possessed by the egg of a water spirit.

So far, Balsa is an exceptional strategist with a wide utilitarian streak. She's slightly reminiscent of Mokoto Kusanagi (and is animated by Production I.G). Chagum is slightly whiny but is growing on me. We often moan about the lack of strong female leads in anime, but hopefully Moribito continues to break the mould.

There's also some underlying Mononoke-esque humans vs. nature going on, so if you like that, you'll probably like this too.

comment by gwern · 2015-02-01T17:54:37.920Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Anime:

comment by lmm · 2015-02-08T15:45:10.556Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Quarterly groupwatched anime batch:

  • Rage of Bahamut Genesis: Much better than it had any right to be; a lot of fun, plenty of flashy visual effects (perhaps too flashy in the last couple of episodes, but even so). Not something with any real depth or ambition; nothing the genre hasn't seen before (though it's been a while since I saw a protagonist with this particular level of... not exactly evil, but cowardice and shadiness - and the snarky zombie sorcerer is very fun). But I enjoyed it from start to finish - last month ISTR someone was unhappy with the gods and demons at the end, but that's de rigeur for the genre and the cast needed new factors IMO.

  • Psycho-Pass 2: Nowhere near the quality of the original; very inconsistent pacing, too little characterization, too heavy-handed with the ultraviolence, gaping plot holes. I still enjoyed it, but on a Guilty Crown level where I sat back and let the craziness play out.

  • Nobunaga Concerto: managed to keep a simple premise interesting throughout its run, along with plenty of basic comedy staples and a surprisingly good ending theme. Not one for the ages, but diverting enough if you can put up with the very basic animation.

  • Mushishi (first series): very much a work of art, very understated, with real moral ambiguity at times. But I grew frustrated with the way the world made no sense (or rather, followed storytelling logic rather than any internal logic of its own) and the very strictly episodic nature of the show; nothing ever changes or matters to characters we care about. I don't think I'll be watching any more.

  • Amagi Brilliant Park: plenty of good parts (and KyoAni production values), but never manages to fit them together into a decent whole. The comedy works well, but the dramatic plot manages to be both horribly forced and borderline-irrelevant. The overarching plot makes very little sense, and virtually disappears for the middle of the series. Even with all its flaws I can't call it a bad show, because it was still fun to watch, but it could have been so much better.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-01T11:03:41.183Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

TV and Movies (Live Action) Thread

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2015-02-02T11:41:24.523Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you are reading this, Ex Machina is almost certainly a film you would be interested in watching.

ETA: some elaboration - this is a film about artificial intelligence. It's quite smartly done, and is probably the most intelligent cinematic treatment of LW-flavoured AI concepts released to date. It won't blow your mind, and it's not a cinematic masterpiece, but it might just set the tone for future popular discussion on the subject.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-02-01T16:08:16.938Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I recently watched the first season of the show Homeland and really liked it. The drama and action were good, but what I liked in particular is that the situations had some moral depth to them, and it isn't perfectly clear who to like/what to root for. I don't want to give anything away, but basically the story line revolves around a recently rescued POW who may have been "turned". If you've seen the show and want to talk about it, message me!

comment by Aleksander · 2015-02-06T05:44:13.023Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you enjoyed Breaking Bad, try Fargo. The two are best TV shows I watched in years and in my mind have a certain common flavor.

comment by adamzerner · 2015-02-06T06:05:27.249Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I actually watched a few episodes of Breaking Bad and didn't love it. I didn't find it that exciting and couldn't help but be skeptical that the storyline could last so many seasons, so I stopped watching. I know that everyone loves Breaking Bad though; this is just my one data point. I'm trying not to get caught up in too much TV, but I'll keep Fargo in mind.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2015-02-06T08:32:14.066Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's not allowed to not like Breaking Bad.

comment by Aleksander · 2015-02-06T19:07:34.740Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I know quite a lot of people who didn't, all I'm saying if you do, chances are you might like Fargo as well.

(If on the other hand you preferred The Wire, then you should try True Detective.)

comment by Salemicus · 2015-02-16T11:30:46.299Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I highly recommend Wolf Hall, both as entertainment and as rationality material. Like any adaptation, it loses something from the books, but it is extremely well written and acted, which makes up for some of that.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-01T11:03:36.914Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Music Thread

comment by Plasmon · 2015-02-01T13:27:27.180Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

To life!

comment by [deleted] · 2015-02-02T20:36:58.590Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Stuff I've been listening to lately

comment by gwern · 2015-02-01T17:54:20.670Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Misc:

Touhou:

Doujin:

Kantai Collection:

Vocaloid:

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-01T11:03:33.053Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Podcasts Thread

comment by moreati · 2015-02-24T21:39:26.908Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

BBC Inside Health: Drug Driving; End of Life Care; Smart Drugs, also available as mp3. The smart drugs piece starts at 16m 58s.

Mostly I mention it as mainstream(ish) coverage of the topic, which I though note worthy.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-01T11:03:27.169Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Other Media Thread

comment by ike · 2015-02-01T21:11:07.109Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Raccoon Princess and the Fox Prince: A Bayesian Parable

Looks pretty good, and perhaps they can team up with whoever was developing the Bayes game here.

However, there's an unsupported assumption here: we don't know that raccoons and fox have the same crime rate. Without data, I'd say that the larger animals probably have a larger rate, so it shifts more in that direction.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-01T11:03:22.644Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Meta Thread

comment by JoshuaZ · 2015-02-01T17:43:01.079Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Question: Does it make sense to post in these threads "I read X, don't bother for the following reasons" or should we only restrict to recommendations of what to read/listen/watch?

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2015-02-02T22:59:15.744Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

IMO counterrecommendations have their value too, especially if the reasons for such are explained. So, where I'm concerned, go right ahead

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-02-01T18:04:19.677Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Warnings would make sense to me if the work is marketed or recommended in ways which would make rationalists likely to pick it up.

comment by Stefan_Schubert · 2015-02-01T19:09:34.388Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Virtual Reality, The Empathy Machine

Virtual reality represents a giant leap forward in mankind’s propensity for compassion. You don’t just walk in someone’s shoes, but see the world through their eyes. In essence, a virtual reality headset is an empathy machine.

comment by Dorikka · 2015-02-02T14:08:23.056Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for your contribution. However, it would be great if you could posr under the appropriate top level comment in the future so that people can more easily determine which type of media you're recommending.

comment by Stefan_Schubert · 2015-02-02T18:14:11.475Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure. Sorry about that.