20 Jun 18:09

A Lead

20 Jun 05:05

Comic for June 20, 2018

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20 Jun 07:34

Contra Caplan On Arbitrary Deploring

by Scott Alexander

Last year, Bryan Caplan wrote about what he called The Unbearable Arbitrariness Of Deploring:

Let’s start with the latest scandal. People all over the country – indeed, the world – have recently discovered that many celebrities are habitual sexual harassers. Each new expose leads to public outrage and professional ostracism. Why does this confuse me? Because many celebrities do many comparably bad things other than sexual harassment, and virtually no one cares.

Suppose, for example, that a major celebrity is extremely emotionally abusive to all his subordinates. He screams at them all the time. He calls them the cruelest names he can devise. He habitually makes impossible demands. He threatens to fire them out of sheer sadistic pleasure. But the abuse is never sexual (or ethnic); the celebrity limits himself to attacking subordinates’ intelligence, character, pride, and hope for the future. I daresay the average employee would far prefer to work for a boss who occasionally pressured them for a date. But if the tabloids ran a negative profile on the Asexual Boss from Hell, the public wouldn’t get very mad and Hollywood almost certainly wouldn’t ostracize the offender […]

Or to take a far more gruesome case: When the Syrian government last used poison gas, killing roughly a hundred people, the U.S. angrily deployed retaliatory bombers, to bipartisan acclaim. But when the Syrian government murdered vastly more with conventional weapons, the U.S. government and its citizenry barely peeped. The unbearable arbitrariness of deploring!

In the past, I’ve made similar observations about Jim Crow versus immigration laws, and My Lai versus Hiroshima. In each case, I can understand why people would have strong negative feelings about both evils. I can understand why people would have strong negative feelings about neither. I can understand why people would have strong negative feelings about the greater evil, but not the lesser evil. But I can’t understand why people would have strong negative feelings about the lesser evil, but care little about the greater evil. Or why they would have strong negative feelings about one evil, but yawn in the face of a comparable evil.

He concludes people are just biased by dramatic stories and like jumping on bandwagons. Everyone else is getting upset about the chemical weapon attack, and people are sheep, so they join in.

I have a different theory: people get upset over the violation of already-settled bright-line norms, because this is the correct action if you want to use limited enforcement resources efficiently.

Imagine a town with ten police officers, who can each solve one crime per day. Left to their own devices, the town’s criminals would commit thirty muggings and thirty burglaries per day (for the purposes of this hypothetical, both crimes are equally bad). They also require different skills; burglars can’t become muggers or vice versa without a lot of retraining. Criminals will commit their crime only if the odds are against them getting caught – but since there are 60 crimes a day and the police can only solve ten, the odds are in their favor.

Now imagine that the police get extra resources for a month, and they use them to crack down on mugging. For a month, every mugging in town gets solved instantly. Muggers realize this is going to happen and give up.

At the end of the month, the police lose their extra resources. But the police chief publicly commits that from now on, he’s going to prioritize solving muggings over solving burglaries, even if the burglaries are equally bad or worse. He’ll put an absurd amount of effort into solving even the smallest mugging; this is the hill he’s going to die on.

Suppose you’re a mugger, deciding whether or not to commit the first new mugging in town. If you’re the first guy to violate the no-mugging taboo, every police officer in town is going to be on your case; you’re nearly certain to get caught. You give up and do honest work. Every other mugger in town faces the same choice and makes the same decision. In theory a well-coordinated group of muggers could all start mugging on the same day and break the system, but muggers aren’t really that well-coordinated.

The police chief’s public commitment solves mugging without devoting a single officer’s time to the problem, allowing all officers to concentrate on burglaries. A worst-crime-first enforcement regime has 60 crimes per day and solves 10; a mugging-first regime has 30 crimes per day and solves 10.

But this only works if the police chief keeps his commitment. If someone tests the limits and commits a mugging, the police need to crack down with what looks like a disproportionate amount of effort – the more disproportionate, the better. Fail, and muggers realize the commitment was fake, and then you’re back to having 60 crimes a day.

This looks to me like what’s happening with chemical weapons. The relevant difference between chemical weapons and conventional weapons is that the international community made a credible commitment to punish chemical weapons use, and so far it’s mostly worked. People with chemical weapons expect to be punished for using them, so they rarely get used. If there are some forms of atrocity that are easier with chemical weapons than with conventional ones – ie a dictator with a limited arms budget can kill more people with a choice between chemical and conventional weapons than they can when restricted to conventional weapons alone – then the taboo against chemical weapons saves lives. And so when a dictator tests the limits by trying a chemical weapon, it’s worth responding to that more forcefully than if they used conventional weapons to commit the same massacre. You’re not just preventing the one attack, you’re also acting to enforce the taboo.

The sexual harassment situation seems like the same dynamic. We can’t credibly demand our elites are never jerks to their subordinates – jerkishness is too vague a concept, there’s too much of it around, and it’s just not really an enforceable norm. But we have sort of credibly demanded our elites don’t sexually harass their subordinates, and it seems like we might be getting enough of a coalition together to enforce this in a lot of cases. If we can solidify this into an actual social norm, such that the average elite expects to be punished for sexual harassment, then elites will stop sexually harassing their subordinates and we won’t have to keep calling the whole coalition together all the time to enforce the punishment. A fixed amount of public outrage per news cycle is the same kind of “limited enforcement resource” as only having ten police officers; commit to using it to disproportionately enforce existing taboos, and you’ll have more of it left over later on.

This is my long-winded answer to a question several people asked on the last links post – why should we prioritize responding to China’s mass incarceration of the Uighurs? Aren’t there other equally bad things going on elsewhere in the world, like malaria?

Yes. But I had optimistically thought we had mostly established a strong norm around “don’t put minorities in concentration camps”. Resources devoted to enforcing that norm won’t just solve the immediate problem in China, they’ll also help maintain a credible taboo against this kind of thing so it’s less likely to happen the next time.

20 Jun 15:34

Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram

The Hertzsprung-Russell diagram is located in its own lower right corner, unless you're viewing it on an unusually big screen.
20 Jun 16:50

Comic: IDK

by Tycho@penny-arcade.com (Tycho)
New Comic: IDK
22 Jun 13:28

Traveling Light the Finnish way

by Scandinavia and the World
Traveling Light the Finnish way

Traveling Light the Finnish way

View Comic!




20 Jun 07:33

Chapter 67: Page 21

Some problems in that sector.
20 Jun 05:20

Amb

by David M Willis
21 Jun 10:55

Side‐Chain Impact on Molecular Orientation of Organic Semiconductor Acceptors: High Performance Nonfullerene Polymer Solar Cells with Thick Active Layer over 400 nm

by Zhenghui Luo , Chenkai Sun , Shanshan Chen , Zhi‐Guo Zhang , Kailong Wu , Beibei Qiu , Changduk Yang , Yongfang Li , Chuluo Yang
Advanced Energy Materials, EarlyView.
20 Jun 08:35

Girl Genius for Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Girl Genius comic for Wednesday, June 20, 2018 has been posted.
21 Jun 15:52

linguine and clams

by deb

It’s only the first day of summer and I’m already weeks deep into our unofficial dish of it, linguine alle vongole, preferably hastily prepared about 10 to 15 minutes before we dive in, eaten outside with a current favorite rosé, caprese salad and a massive bowl of kale caesar (from SKED). It’s infinitely summery. It’s pasta, but I don’t feel like I need a nap after I eat it. And hey, there’s even a t-shirt to go with it (hat tip).

dried pasta is ideal here
a good heap of parsley

You do not need one fancy thing to make it, save the freshest clams you can find. You can pick them up on the way home from the beach or sprinkler park or wherever you’re going to spend your summer day now that cooking will be the easiest part of it. I prefer manila clams, as they’re smaller and, I’m convinced, sweeter, but littleneck or cherrystone are fine as well. From there, a glug of oil, red pepper flakes, a lot of garlic, a cup of wine, a bag of dried pasta, a lump of butter, a squeeze of lemon, and a pile of chopped parsley, and boom, so easy let’s do it again every week.

Read more »

20 Jun 05:05

Comic for June 20, 2018

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20 Jun 18:06

Comic for 2018.06.20

New Cyanide and Happiness Comic
22 Jun 07:20

Chapter 67: Page 22

Who knows ------------ Hey! If you happen to be in Santa Monica, CA this coming Sunday, the 24th of June, I'm having a reader meet up in Ye Olde King's Head at 7pm for a little while! I think you should come by and join in.
21 Jun 10:55

Improvement of Photovoltaic Performance of Polymer Solar Cells by Rational Molecular Optimization of Organic Molecule Acceptors

by Xiaojun Li , Jia Yao , Indunil Angunawela , Chenkai Sun , Lingwei Xue , Alexander Liebman‐Pelaez , Chenhui Zhu , Chunhe Yang , Zhi‐Guo Zhang , Harald Ade , Yongfang Li
Advanced Energy Materials, EarlyView.
22 Jun 05:34

Girl Genius for Friday, June 22, 2018

The Girl Genius comic for Friday, June 22, 2018 has been posted.
21 Jun 20:30

[ASAP] Two-Dimensional Metal Nanomaterials: Synthesis, Properties, and Applications

by Ye Chen, Zhanxi Fan, Zhicheng Zhang, Wenxin Niu, Cuiling Li, Nailiang Yang, Bo Chen, Hua Zhang

TOC Graphic

Chemical Reviews
DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.7b00727
20 Jun 17:07

Comic: IDK

by Tycho@penny-arcade.com (Tycho)
New Comic: IDK
21 Jun 16:53

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Ark

by tech@thehiveworks.com


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
Later, Steve just buys 14,000 inflatable life rafts on Amazon.


Today's News:
21 Jun 16:36

Hierarchical Nickel-Carbon Structure Templated by Metal-Organic Frameworks for Efficient Overall Water Splitting

Energy Environ. Sci., 2018, Accepted Manuscript
DOI: 10.1039/C8EE00934A, Communication
Hao Sun, Yuebin Lian, Cheng Yang, Likun Xiong, Pengwei Qi, Qiaoqiao Mu, Xiaohui Zhao, Jun Guo, Zhao Deng, Yang Peng
The development of high-performance and cost-effective catalysts for hydrogen and oxygen evolution reactions is key for efficient electrocatalysis of water, which offers a promising solution to convert and store those...
The content of this RSS Feed (c) The Royal Society of Chemistry
20 Jun 17:43

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Discourse

by tech@thehiveworks.com


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
Later, that evening's sex is completely ruined by the ease of puns pertaining to parking and spots thereof.


Today's News:
22 Jun 05:17

Comic for 2018.06.22

New Cyanide and Happiness Comic
21 Jun 05:05

Comic for June 21, 2018

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21 Jun 18:31

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Ark

by tech@thehiveworks.com


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
Later, Steve just buys 14,000 inflatable life rafts on Amazon.


Today's News:
22 Jun 05:02

Comic for June 22, 2018

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