Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Specialist Creators with Small Audiences

There are two basic ways that creators with small audiences get a larger audience that supports their work and provides significant value in return.

  1. They make stuff that appeals to a lot of people.
  2. They make stuff that super-appeals to a small audience.

For (2) to work, the audience has to care a lot more than for (1). They have to be happy that their niche is being served at all even though it isn’t very popular. It has to mean enough for them to take tangible actions and ignore minor negatives (e.g. typos, less professional audio quality, worse art, smaller community, the articles/videos impress their friends less, and worse marketing). Worse marketing means the audience has to do more work to see the value in stuff themselves instead of being told the value in words that are really easy for them to understand.

Fans in a small niche have to do stuff at much higher rates like:

  • share, promote
  • comment, discuss, engage
  • praise
  • pay money, donate
  • advocate for the creator
  • help with stuff (e.g. volunteer moderators, helping newbies, making a subreddit, making transcripts, making art)
  • ask questions
  • respond to polls, prompts or questions
  • click buttons such as like, favorite, subscribe, thumbs up, upvote
  • finish reading/watching articles/videos instead of stopping in the middle
  • read/watch older content instead of only paying attention to new releases
  • become invested in the creator and/or community
  • feel inspired and motivated without music, art, slogans or facecam

If they don’t do these things at higher rates, then the niche creator never gets a good deal (from other people, from the external world). He isn’t rewarded for serving that niche. He can’t get value from as many people, and he’s also not getting extra value per person. That means the people in that niche didn’t care all that much, even if they said they do.

For all creators, but especially niche creators, these positive behaviors are especially needed from early adopters. Getting started with little audience is hard and is helped by superfans who care a lot. As Ayn Rand put it in The Fountainhead:

Don’t despise the middleman. He’s necessary. Someone had to tell them. It takes two to make every great career: the man who is great, and the man—almost rarer—who is great enough to see greatness and say so.

If the early adopters for a creator serving a small niche don’t care much and don’t take action, then it doesn’t work. The niche can’t be profitably served, or it wants to be served in a different way. When people really highly value something that is not mass-produced and not readily available, then they act like it. If they don’t seem to care much, then they probably don’t really see much difference between the specialized content and some other more mainstream content, and they wouldn’t mind very much if they didn’t have the specialized content at all. Or they just don’t think this content is especially good. People often lie about how much they care because they like having the specialized content for free or very cheap, and they value it more than nothing. If they mislead a creator into thinking he’s more valued and appreciated than he is, so he expects rewards that don’t materialize, it can provide them with more opportunity to be leeches.

To be clear, lurkers are harmless; people who only care a little aren’t a problem; it’s people who lie that they care more than they do, and then take actions in conflict with their words, who are problematic.

As small, early audiences should have high rates of positive behaviors, they should also have have unusually low rates of negative behaviors. Negative behaviors include saying things that make the creator or his fans lose social status, being adversarial/hostile with the creator or with other fans, breaking rules, being toxic, being passive-aggressive, pushing discussion topics away from the creator’s niche, quitting/leaving, and breaking promises (e.g. implying you’ll follow up on a discussion topic, but then not doing it).

Some people don’t understand that content is specialized for a small niche audience, and what that means. Sometimes when they say they really love it, they mean they like it for an unspecialized thing, but they don’t actually like it much by the higher standards of a specialized thing. If you see it as slightly outcompeting mainstream content, that isn’t good enough – you aren’t a super fan or helpful early adopter. Creators for small niches cannot survive off being liked slightly more; that doesn’t make up for the downside of serving a small niche.

If an article or video gets 100k views, then if 99% of people do nothing that’s fine. 1% of people commenting or donating is 1k people. However, if it gets 100 views, it needs an engagement rate far above 1% or else the creator is simply being charitable. Small early-adopter audiences for specialist creators have to do things like share, donate, discuss, praise, help, etc., at much higher rates than audiences of popular creators do. If they don’t, they are signaling there’s no viable niche there, and that they shouldn’t be served.

It’s like how successful email newsletters have high rates of being opened and read early on (e.g. when they have 1k subscribers), and that goes down when they get to 100k subs. If you view a new, specialist creator as offering 10% higher value than a popular mainstream creator, then to a very rough approximation you will be 10% more likely to share links, post comments, etc., and 10% less likely to do negative behaviors. That isn’t even close to good enough. A new creator with a relatively small target audience needs positive behavior rates way above 1%. Getting 1.1% (from the average person liking it 10% more) won’t work – instead of 1.1% it needs to be more like 20%. Even a new creator with a huge target audience needs to start out with high positive behavior rates, e.g. 5%.

Good YouTube click through rates (CTR) provide another example:

  • Views below 1000 can have a CTR between 25% and 35%
  • Views between 10,000 to 20,000 can have a CTR between 18% and 25%
  • Views between 100,000 to 200,000 can have a CTR between 10% and 15%
  • Views above one Million can have a CTR between 2% and 5%

In other words, according to this article, videos below 1k views need roughly a 30% positive behavior rate to stand out and be successful. The drops to 22% by 15k views and 12% by 150k views. Past a million views, 2% can be mean things are working well. Those are good numbers that indicate success; average or typical numbers are lower.

These are loose numbers but the point is small/initial audiences should on average be significantly more positive than big audiences, and audiences for specialists should be significantly more positive, and with both at once (small audience and specialist content) there should be a lot more positivity. A fair amount of fans need to see a qualitative difference instead of just an incremental improvement. There need to be super fans and high rates of positive things in the broader audience too (excluding the super fans). If positivity rates are low early, there’s a big problem, because they are only going to get lower as the audience expands (early adopters are the best fit there’s going to be; growing the audience requires expanding to people whose preferences don’t fit the content as well).

Some audience members make excuses to themselves. One excuse is that they are busy – that almost always just means they are prioritizing other things, and don’t care all that much. If they don’t follow any other creators, don’t use social media, don’t play video games, and don’t read the news, maybe they really are busy. That’s rare. Broadly, everyone is pretty busy (even if they are busy watching YouTube rather than doing obligations), and creators have to compete for the attention of busy people. Every creator has audience members who are busy but choose to spend time on his stuff anyway.

Another excuse is people think they don’t know how to help with anything or they aren’t in a position to do anything. That’s not true. Anyone who appreciates stuff could leave positive comments regularly. They could also share stuff (basically everyone has friends and/or could figure out how join some relevant online communities that enable sharing like on Reddit, Facebook or Discord).

People also make excuses about barriers to entry. But if you highly value specialized stuff, then you would find ways to overcome barriers – happily, on your own initiative. If you don’t have initiative for anything then you just aren’t capable of highly valuing things. (Many people who are generally low-initiative suddenly do have some initiative when it’s actually very important to them – e.g. trying to get a spouse or job, or trying to fix some problem in their life that they regard as urgent.)

Another thing people do is: The creator makes X and Y. Some people say they like X a lot but act more like they like Y (e.g. they upvote it more). Often X is a more specialized thing (e.g. epistemology) and Y has broader appeal (e.g. political commentary) and is available elsewhere.

If an initial small audience has a bunch of excuses and isn’t engaged, then a larger audience in the future, if it ever happened, would be less engaged. But engagement wouldn’t have enough room to decline a normal amount with audience growth, and still exist. So basically a larger audience is impossible because if some growth somehow happens (e.g. using paid advertising) engagement would go down to near-zero and be too low for e.g. stuff to get shared enough. The bigger the audience you find, the less good the fit will be with them, and the more engagement and appreciation will drop.


Talking about these issues is unusual. It’s often counter-productive. People interpret it as desperation, as an admission of weakness and failure. And it leads to increased lying from moochers who are willing to pay with a few lies to try to get more “free” ice cream (usually this is done without conscious understanding of what they are doing or why, and without conscious knowledge that they have lied).

Some people exaggerate to try to flatter the creator in order to appease him, but don’t consider that dishonest.

Some people feel pressured and respond negatively (or short term superficially positively) – they don’t think they signed up to be asked to actually do anything so they resent it. But asking a public readership in general for something isn’t pressuring (e.g. if someone makes a GoFundMe, they aren’t pressuring you), and explaining a situation isn’t even asking.

Other people feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of trying to act like they value stuff (many people are bad at valuing anything and are unsuited to being early adopters or active members of a specialized community, but don’t admit that to themselves).

In general, if people highly value stuff, they will act that way naturally, without being asked/prompted. If you’re trying to explain to people what leaving positive comments on articles and videos is, and why to do it, then they just aren’t that into you (but those same people somtimes won’t admit to not being that into you). Having to ask (or bring it up without asking) is a bad sign and asking mostly doesn’t increase how much people genuinely value stuff.

Even though I’m a philosopher and writing about an issue like this is on-topic for me (unlike for most creators) – it’s the kind of thing I might write about even if it had zero relevance to my community – it still will be interpreted by some people (including some who deny it in their own minds) as low status, even though it’s an explanation not an ask (and a brief flurry of activity that dies off without explanation is not something I actually want anyone to do – I’m not asking for that; please don’t). Also a lot of rationalist people are like “I don’t care about status. Why are you even talking about status? Do you care about status? That is a you-problem.” But they do care a lot about status without realizing it, and it determines a lot of their behavior like whether they share links, buy stuff, spend time on stuff, etc.


Regarding my own community, I think a major problem is that most people (even of the relatively small group interested in rational philosophy) don’t actually want to put effort into improving themselves. The more I’ve moved to explaining pathways for progress – actions people can take to improve – the more I’ve seen people are mostly unwilling to actually do the work, practice stuff, and keep at it over time. And I think clarity about that drives people away, because some people liked to pretend to do that stuff, and it’s harder to pretend now.

I also started outclassing people at debate too much and they don’t actually value losing debates in clear, conclusive ways (that’s something I value highly but have nowhere to get).

I’ve also put long term effort into suppressing tribalist political posting and other tribalist behaviors, but lots of people want ingroups and outgroups to be biased about. There are various reasons for this like wanting to feel accepted/sanctioned (whereas I suggest they should actually put effort into learning stuff instead of expecting immediate praise just for joining the group). And having an outgroup gives people a way to write safe comments that won’t be wrong/refuted/unpopular (if they do get attacked, they’re likely to be defended by others, since they’re saying what most of the group thinks). One of the reasons people don’t post much at my forums is they don’t know what they can say without a risk of receiving criticism.

They also are unwilling to say they don’t want criticism and thereby appear irrational. Some people want me to sacrifice my integrity for them – pretend to do unbounded criticism while actually holding back most criticism, so they can appear highly rational. That’s a common mutual arrangement among “intellectuals”, but it’s bad, and I actually want to receive more criticism not less, so both parts of the arrangement are bad for me.

Anyway, a lot of people treat philosophy as entertainment or as a source of clever things to say (usually without giving adequate credit for where they got it), but they don’t really want to examine their life and put work into improving much. Also they see a lot of life in terms of social status without realizing it.

One solution to a bad early audience is to give up and make something else. Serve a niche that there’s more demand for. Another option is to find a different source of initial audience members to use (e.g. go recruit Goldratt fans). Another is to change how the content is presented and communicated (there could be misunderstandings). It’s possible with a small sample size that having a bad audience is bad luck, and things will improve by themselves over time as some new members join, but that’s uncommon.

Another option is just to ignore the audience – get money in a different way and create stuff as a (charitable) hobby (I’ve done a lot of this). Another option is to keep creating the same stuff but don’t share it publicly – just send it to friends or keep it for just yourself (I’ve done a lot of this too, e.g. I wrote a few books worth of material privately before I started posting regularly to the CF website).

I think my basic problem is that people don’t want rationality. There isn’t demand for it. But I’d rather do it anyway than change niches. I don’t think better marketing could fix this. It could bring in more people who claim to want rationality, but I think that would just lead to problems. The more I put effort into communicating clearly and offering practical, accessible actions people could take, the more I’d be in conflict with my own audience that wants to posture about rationality, and gain rationality-related social status, but doesn’t actually want rationality. I think I’m serving a niche that lacks demand but which people are particularly dishonest about.

Is that plausible? Consider the lack of any other creators or communities that are very rational. There’s no one else who has an audience I want if only I could somehow get their attention. No one else is having success at this (though a few pretend to). There’s no forum I can join to interact with other people with interests and values similar to mine. As usual, of course, these claims are open to debate and criticism – but note the non-existence of any website with high quality rational debates happening. While that is a thing many people say they want, there is no company or creator which has been able to serve that niche successfully.

See also Demand For Intellectual Discussion and the lack of productive discussion of Popper, Rand or Goldratt online. Or search the web for terms like debate online – none of the results appear to be both very rational and very successful (usually neither). And I’ve been asking people for leads on this kind of thing for years in case someone else had found something good, and none of my fans (or the groups or non-fans who I’ve asked) have ever shared anything good. It’s uncommon that anyone has even claimed to know of something good except sometimes the venue I’m asking at (e.g. at Less Wrong a lot of people think Less Wrong is good (including associated stuff like EA or SSC) but think everything else online is bad – and Less Wrong is actually bad). When people do claim to know of something good, it’s usually something I’m already familiar with and they (or any other advocate of it) don’t want to discuss or debate the flaws I identified with it.


I think community dynamics is an interesting topic and that these concepts are worth understanding like small early adopter audiences, rates of positive behaviors, and specialized niche content. It’s unintuitive to some people that specialized content require more demand (higher prices and other more positive reactions) to be viable. It doesn’t have to exist and be available at all (if it does exist, either some people value it highly and treat it as special, or its existence is charity). It’s similar to custom, hand-crafted physical products, which people often want at mass-production prices (they don’t seem to understand that that’s impossible – they have to be willing to pay a lot extra or they aren’t actually a viable customer base). The sellers often don’t understand this either, have the prices of mass-produced products anchored in their minds, and set prices too low (and often go out of business). To justify the existence of custom products that can’t be mass-produced and mass-marketed, there has to be enough demand for them at much higher prices than the typical mass-produced, mass-marketed products which people are familiar with. People who (economically) demand custom niche products at mass-market or slightly higher prices, but not at way higher prices, are not actually fans of those products, and are not the sort of customers who can keep the seller in business, though they sometimes don’t know this.

For a simple hypothetical example, if you’d be willing to buy my book for $10 (a normal mass-market price) but not $100 (a perfectly reasonable premium for a niche product) then you aren’t really my fan – you are not providing customer demand for my stuff at relevant price points. You don’t value my stuff enough for it to exist. A good fan would be not just willing but very happy to buy a book from me for $100 – the value to him is much higher than that and he’d be thrilled that the book exists at all.

I find it helpful to think about how I treat people I’m a fan of, and then compare behaviors of my fans to that. I was a superfan of David Deutsch and, at that time, I would have viewed a new book by him (or video courses or other format of his choice) as pretty much priceless. I also shared and promoted his work a huge amount, and gave a huge amount of feedback/replies.

Recently, I’ve promoted much more mainstream and popular creators than myself (like Stark, Stoller, Pueyo, Yglesias and various YouTubers) much more than any of my fans promote me. They aren’t perfect but they make some things that I think are good enough to share. And they do a somewhat reasonable job of not pretending to be something they aren’t; flaws are much more tolerable when they aren’t denied or lied about. Another example: there are plenty of people who know more about politics and economics than Asmongold does, but Asmongold is more tolerable to listen to than many more knowledgeable people because he’s more humble – he’s pretty reasonable and open, instead of dishonest, about his limited knowledge.

I know I’m particularly willing and able to take actions at all. Partly I share more because I’m much more energetic than the average person. Directly comparing myself to fans isn’t perfect. But I’m a person with pretty non-mainstream tastes, and I’m really happy when I find things somewhat suitable to my tastes (despite major imperfections, e.g. I’d prefer philosophy over politics but I read some politics anyway due to the severe shortage of readable/watchable philosophy content). There’s a comparison there to fans who don’t really act very excited to have me. If it’s actually because they do value me but they’re passive in their whole life … that’s not that different than not really liking me … it doesn’t particularly matter. The outcome is the same.

Most people aren’t very good good at valuing things and taking actions. Perhaps that’s an even bigger bottleneck than people wanting specialist content. Popular mainstream stuff has the social status, community frameworks and other resources to get regular, passive people to take some positive actions – whereas a tiny niche community can’t offer all that social/community/institutional support to help address people’s passivity for them.

It’s similar to how a lot of people need school classes because they’re too passive to just go online and learn, even though the internet has better content at lower prices in more convenient formats. “Passive” isn’t the exact issue btw, it’s just an approximation.

To summarize/conclude, you can be pretty passive when you’re a fan of mass-market stuff and it’s fine. But when you’re a fan of a new/unpopular creator serving a small/specialized niche, you need to do more positive behaviors (and fewer negative behaviors) or else you’re relying on other fans to do that and/or relying on the creator’s charity.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Harassment Campaign Update for May 2022

I’m going to share four incidents that occurred after my last update on David Deutsch’s harassment campaign. This is with my blog comments disabled and my forum paywalled; otherwise it’d be much worse. And, again, none of these people have taken any steps to improve the situation, reduce harassment or negotiate a solution.


I received information about a CritRat leader. They:

  • Privately trash talked me.
  • Tried to turn a CF community member against me.
  • Encouraged doing things to me that the CritRat believed would trigger me.
  • Encouraged knowingly, intentionally doing things that I regard as seriously mistreating me.
  • Encouraged adopting a mindset of blaming things on me and viewing me as malicious.
  • Suggested that if you have any negative emotions related to Elliot, you should trust them and act on them.
  • Pushed the idea that if Elliot could maybe be in the wrong, you should assume he is, reject all alternatives, and stop thinking about it. They said basically that it’s bad to even consider Elliot’s side of the story because he’s a bad faith actor. (They apparently don’t understand fallibilism or rationality.)

The overall message was that praise, acceptance, friendship and rewards are available to people who join the harassment campaign.

And the CritRat leader said this to someone who they were suspicious of! They must say much worse to people who they trust not to tell me anything. It seems that trying to cause harassment is such a habit that they can’t fully turn it off even when trying to be on good behavior.

The CritRats do this stuff routinely. They want to continue and escalate their harassment campaign, and they are putting ongoing effort into that goal. I usually don’t find much out, besides the downstream consequences (the harassment itself), because they work in the shadows and punish people who provide me with any information.


A long time DD/TCS fan paid $20 on a credit card in order to make an account on my paywalled forum in order to harass me there. They’ve been banned from all my stuff for years but are unwilling to leave me alone.

This harassment is linked to the CritRat community. The harasser and her close associate have been tweeting with multiple CritRats and trying to get their attention. (I don’t know how much success they’ve had because the CritRats have a lot of private conversations, plus I just skimmed through a couple things without really investigating.) They both believe that attacking me is a way to get friendliness and social acceptance from CritRats. A CritRat leader publicly tweeted back to the harasser a week before this harassment incident. This harasser is a person the CritRat leader is highly familiar with from past events, and has reason to fear, so their public encouragement of the harasser was knowing and intentional (and stupid).


A CritRat leader brought me up and then his conversation partner, another CritRat, harassed me on Twitter using an anonymous account.


A CritRat contacted me repeatedly without disclosing he was a CritRat and he exploited a misconfigured forum setting in order to post and violate my forum’s terms of service. When I found out he was a CritRat and confronted him, he refused to say that he thinks harassment is bad, even in principle or in general. He claims the harassment issue is too boring to look into. He claimed to be neutral, but if you’re going to hang out with the CritRats and refuse to address the harassment issue, do not contact me. If you’re a CritRat and won’t leave me alone, you are violating my consent and harassing me.

Here’s some text I wrote to try to explain the problem to him:

Please condemn the harassment and the people who refuse to say they are opposed to harassment. Alternatively, push for people to participate in conflict resolution and condemn those who refuse. If you won’t, and you continue to have friendly interactions with them, then you’re encouraging them to think their harassment (plus refusal of all conflict resolution) is OK, in which case you wouldn’t be welcome to contact me.

After I told him personally “do not contact me again”, he said “Ok”, but then a few weeks later sent me a very nasty email to harass me. He purposefully violated the no contact request and my consent. In that email, he communicated that when he said he was neutral earlier he was lying, and he actually hates me and thinks I’m badly wrong about the harassment issues that he supposedly finds too boring to read about. He claims I should have somehow already known that he despises me, even though it’s different than everything he said to me before when he was pretending to be neutral because he wanted free philosophy help from me. He also claimed that I was coercing him by ordering him to stop emailing me, which I guess is his justification for violating my no contact request (he’s fighting my coercion that consists of the no contact request itself). The reason he thinks reading my explanations about the harassment would be boring is because he has a predetermined conclusion that I’m wrong, so the only things he could learn are how badly I’m wrong and in what ways I’m wrong (he communicated that). He also purposefully used something else that he believed would trigger me in order to falsely attack me – he chose that unconventional, atypical attack specifically because he thinks it’s something I care about and could be triggered by. He purposefully broke a no contact request to try to hurt me.

I suspect he was aware of my generic no contact request to all CritRats like him, which is on my blog, before he contacted me several times while hiding being a CritRat. I suspect he was already purposefully violating a no contact request at the time I individually, personally asked him not to contact me (which he agreed to before breaking his word). But it’s hard to know.

They won’t leave me alone and they’ve never been willing to discuss any conflict resolution. I don’t do anything like this to them.

Conclusion

Do you think they’re doing something bad? Tell them, particularly their leader, David Deutsch. Demand that he answer for what he’s doing. Bring it up and ask challenging questions. Expose him. Please help. Besides defaming me, he has too many loyal fans willing to attack people he signals should be harassed. It’s a nightmare. Supporting messages to me are also appreciated.

After Deutsch turned against me, I left him alone and didn’t complain about him (like my posts about his harassment campaign) for over 5 years but he grew more hateful over time not less. I tried ignoring the problem for over 5 years and that didn’t work; he seems to have a lifelong obsession with me; there’s no option for me where I could simply be left alone going forward. (I think he’s scared that I could critique and refute anything he publishes about philosophy, and he uses that as an excuse for not writing much, so year after year, in his mind, he blames me for his lack of productivity. Using me as a scapegoat is my best understanding of why he won’t move on. In other words, he feels like I never leave him alone because whenever he considers publishing philosophy he remembers that I could potentially write a rebuttal. I got this idea from Lulie Tanett, who told me about it based on her personal conversations with Deutsch, and it makes sense to me.)

Similarly, part of why the CritRats won’t just forget about me is that a bunch of them think I’m a great intellectual, so they keep reading my stuff and trying to learn from me (and sometimes plagiarizing me). It’s partly a love/hate relationship they have with me, not just a hate relationship. I wish they’d stop reading my stuff, stop watching my videos, and stop remembering that I exist, but I have no way to get rid of them while sharing ideas with the public. The combination of trying to get value from me, while being so nasty to me, is really screwed up.

If people stand up to Deutsch, he’s likely to back off. He’s only able to harass me so much due to the lack of attention it gets and the lack of pushback. If thousands of people were watching and judging him, I’m pretty sure he’d mostly stop. He cares deeply about his reputation and what people think of him. Please try to raise awareness and to show him that people actually care and disapprove of his actions.

I want to be able to reopen my blog comments and also have philosophy discussions on other websites without them being disrupted; is that too much to ask?


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Educational Product Price Reductions

I lowered the prices of most of my digital educational products. Check out my updated store.

List of changes:

  • Critical Fallibilism Course: 880 -> 400
  • Videos: Grammar and Analyzing Text: 250 -> 150
  • Fallible Ideas Bundle: 100 -> 75
  • Eli Goldratt Screencasts: 250 -> 100
  • Educational Videos: Reading George Reisman’s book on Marxism and Socialism: 150 -> 50
  • Videos: Objective Knowledge, by Karl Popper, Chapter 1: 100 -> 50

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Understanding Food

We can divide our food into plant, animal, other living and non-living. Plants get energy from the sun; animal energy comes from plants (directly by eating them, or indirectly by eating other animals). Humans, as animals, don’t get energy from the sun. We mostly eat parts of (formerly) living things, plus water and salt.

Other food from living sources, besides plants or animals, includes yeast, fungi (mushrooms) and mold (blue cheese). We also ingest a lot of bacteria when eating other foods, including fermented foods. The bacteria inside us affects our health even if we aren’t getting calories from it.

Non-living foods include water (all our drinks, including milk and juice, are mostly water) and minerals (salt). Water and minerals have no calories (no fat, protein or carbohydrates) and don’t necessarily count as “food”.

For animals, we can eat their meat, milk, eggs and sometimes other animal products (honey). Milk works because it’s evolutionarily designed to be food. Eggs work because they contain nutrients for reproducing a new animal. Honey works because it’s a food source (for bees, but they’re sufficiently evolutionary related to us).

For plants, what we eat most are seeds. We also eat a lot of fruits and can eat many other parts of plants. Examples:

leaves (lettuce), stem (celery), roots (carrot), tubers (potato), bulbs (onion) and flowers (broccoli). [source]

We can also get sap from plants, which we use in maple syrup.

Seeds have useful nutrients to enable reproduction; they’re like plant eggs. Fruits are also involved in reproduction. They’re often edible so that that animals will move seeds around. Fruits ripen but seeds don’t. Fruits contain seeds but not vice versa. Fruits have more water than seeds. Details: https://www.difference.wiki/fruit-vs-seed/ and https://pediaa.com/difference-between-fruit-and-seed/

“Vegetable” is a vague word, whereas words like fruit, seed, stem, leaf, root and flower have clearer meanings. Many “vegetables” are fruits (all the ones with seeds in them). We tend to count fruits as vegetables when they aren’t sweet. When we eat a part of a plant that isn’t a fruit or seed, we tend to call that a vegetable too. Apparently “vegetable” originally meant any edible part of a plant, but we later started excluding seeds and sweet fruits (and including mushrooms), which made the term somewhat arbitrary.

Grains are grass seeds, nuts are tree seeds, and beans are legume seeds. Legumes are seeds that come in pods like green beans, and include beans, peas and lentils (we often dry these foods out). There are also other uncategorized seeds like sunflower or pumpkin. Pits in fruits are protection around seeds to prevent the seeds from being eaten.

Above-ground plant stalks, stems and trunks need rigidity to stand up in the air. Underground doesn’t need as much rigidity because the earth supports it. We don’t eat a lot of really rigid parts of plants, besides seeds (which we often cook and may grind into flour). We also can’t eat a lot of tree leaves or grass stalks even though they aren’t rigid, but other animals often do eat those. Cows have multiple stomachs because it takes a lot of work to digest those foods. Not many animals eat extremely rigid plant parts like wood.

Many parts of plants, other than fruit, have defenses to discourage eating them. Defenses can include thorns, bitter flavor, poison, being underground, being high in the air, or hard layers (including bark, pits or shells).

A Grassy Trend in Human Ancestors' Diets says humans may have eaten food from grasses a million years before eating meat.

This isn’t exact but gives a rough idea of what kinds of food exist and why. It gives some broad conceptual categories to fit foods into. Corrections are welcome but I’m not very interested in terminological details like nuts vs. drupes or grasses vs. rushes vs. sedges.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Ayn Rand's Honesty

Leonard Peikoff in My Thirty Years With Ayn Rand: An Intellectual Memoir (epilogue of The Voice of Reason), talking (after her death) about conversations he had with Ayn Rand:

“You are suffering the fate of a genius trapped in a rotten culture,” I would begin. “My distinctive attribute,” she would retort, “is not genius, but intellectual honesty.” “That is part of it,” I would concede, “but after all I am intellectually honest, too, and it doesn’t make me the kind of epochal mind who can write Atlas Shrugged or discover Objectivism.”

I think the answer to this is simple: Peikoff should not assume that he's intellectually honest. He should take seriously that maybe Ayn Rand is right and that superior honesty sets her apart. It was dishonest of Peikoff not to consider that he might be dishonest compared to Rand. He might not even be aware of some of the ways she's honest that he isn't. He might not know about some types of honesty and how to judge whether he has them. He also might not know about some types of bias or dishonesty, and how to accurately judge whether he has them (it's common to be dishonest when evaluating your own honesty).

Soon after, Peikoff writes something relevant:

In order to be fully clear at this point, I want to make one more comment about Ayn Rand’s anger. Many times, as I have explained, it was thoroughly justified. But sometimes it was not justified. For instance, Ayn Rand not infrequently became angry at me over some philosophical statement I made that seemed for the moment to ally me with one of the intellectual movements she was fighting. On many such occasions, of course, she remained calm because she understood the cause of my statement : that I still had a great deal to learn. But other times she did not; she did not grasp fully the gulf that separates the historic master, to whom the truth is obvious, from the merely intelligent student. Since her mind immediately integrated a remark to the fundamentals it presupposes, she would project at once, almost automatically, the full, horrendous meaning of what I had uttered, and then she would be shocked at me. Once I explained that I had not understood the issue at all, her anger melted and she became intent on clarifying the truth for me. The anger she felt on such occasions was mistaken, but it was not irrational. Its root was her failure to appreciate her own intellectual uniqueness.

I don't think this account is fully honest. Peikoff isn't very self-aware. He should have taken more seriously that Rand's intuitions could be correct. Maybe she was getting angry for a reason. In other words, maybe Peikoff was doing something wrong. He could have considered that more. There are signs in both of these passages that he wasn't actually very deferential or respectful to Rand's judgment. He'd disagree with her and expect to be right, even though he won zero or near-zero debates with her.

Here's what I think Peikoff was doing wrong: he (on multiple occasions) made horrendous statements without knowing what he was talking about. That's not just an unavoidable accident. He could have asked questions or made more tentative or conditional statements. He could have spoken within the limits of his knowledge instead of trying to make claims about issues he didn't understand at all.

I actually talked about that in my essay on lying. See e.g. the section "If You Don’t Know, Say So" or in the section "Reasonable Expectations" where I wrote:

Communicating that you know more than you actually know is lying. If you speak confidently when you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re being dishonest. An honest person makes his words and tone match his thinking.

I don't think getting angry was the ideal reaction from Rand. (I'm not confident that Peikoff understood Rand's emotional states accurately, so I don't know if she really was angry.) But Peikoff was no innocent. Based on his own story, she was reacting negatively to him doing something wrong. And he still doesn't know what he did. And he doesn't respect Rand enough to assume that if she was angry then he did something bad that he shouldn't recount to the public (I don't think he wants to share his flaws, look bad, and tell Objectivists specifically about how his flaws and mistreatment of Rand drove her to anger).


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Mediocre Followers

Most Objectivists aren’t very good at Objectivism. Most Popperians aren’t very good at Popper. Same with Goldratt and everything else, or at least everything where the leader is really smart, deep, etc. Stuff where there is a ton of knowledge is hard to learn well.

If I could meet someone who was actually really good at one thing, I’d want an Objectivist. I think that’s the most important.

If I could meet someone who was mediocre at it, maybe an Oist, CRist or TOCist are all about equal. I don’t have a clear preference. Maybe I should prefer one but idk.

When I say most Oists, CRists, etc., are mediocre, what do I mean? What standard of judgment am I using?

I can’t mean that most of them are below average. That wouldn’t make sense. I need a point of comparison besides other people in the community.

I think the right comparison is to Rand or Popper themselves – or to their writing and talks.

Most CRists are less than 10% as good as Popper. I read Popper books, like them, then talk to Popperians and it’s not very similar. They are way worse. It’s not like talking to Popper. They don’t know what Popper knew. They haven’t caught up to Popper’s knowledge. They aren’t standing on the shoulders of giants. They aren’t in a position to develop CR further. They have failed to catch up to it.

This is the general state of the world. Most people are bad at catching up to existing knowledge. They do a bad job of it. They still benefit from this. They’re much better off than if that knowledge just didn’t exist or they didn’t try to learn it. But only a few people make significant contributions to human knowledge. Only a few giants stand on the shoulders of other giants. Most people cling to a giant’s shoes and try not to fall off. A few make it up to the belt and hang on there.

There are some things that are misleading. It’s easy to overestimate Popperians, Oists, etc. Why? Because superficially they sound a lot more than 10% like Popper. They echo some of his phrases. They repeat some of his arguments. If you don’t poke and prod them, they seem a lot like Popper because they’re echoing him. They can answer some questions about CR.

But they’re fragile. If they have to debate someone challenging, or deal with anything that Popper didn’t cover in his books, they fall apart. If you grill them effectively, they fall apart. They don’t actually understand it well.

Popper himself was different. His knowledge was much more robust. What he wrote in his books wasn’t all he knew. It was the tip of the iceberg. It was the stuff he thought would be good to share. (I share more, due to the internet enabling sharing way more, but it’s still limited compared to what’s actually in my head.) But Popper had a whole rich knowledge structure surrounding what he wrote. You could ask him about anything he wrote about and he’d have more to say that isn’t in his books. And you could ask a question he hadn’t thought of, or give a criticism he wasn’t familiar with, and usually within a few minutes he’d have some kind of response. He’d be able to come up with some thoughts about it. Whereas Popperians mostly can’t come up with worthwhile thoughts of their own.

Many authors don’t understand what they write very well. Authors can be fragile. But the best ones, who actually wrote important new stuff, didn’t just get lucky. They knew a lot of things and could think on their feet some too.

It’s not just debate and intellectual activities where Popperians are unlike Popper. They also fail to integrate CR into their lives. They use it for armchair philosophy but not on a daily basis. Debate and intellectual activities, like philosophy discussions, are actually where they are most like Popper. That’s their strong suit!

Popper’s ideas were integrated into his own life, but most of his fans only use the ideas when they put on their thinking cap and go into intellectual mode. It’s disconnected from the rest of their life. It kinda has to be because they have a whole conventional way of thinking already and can’t replace it with CR because they don’t have nearly enough CR knowledge for it to be a functional replacement for how they do most of their thinking.

People need to learn a lot to use CF much, too. I’ve encouraged them to practice. I’ve given them reasonably specific things they could practice like using IGC charts or organizing writing or knowledge into trees. Popper didn’t do that kind of encouraging. He didn’t tell his fans what it takes to learn his stuff. He mostly stuck to pretty abstract stuff, whereas I do a mix. There’s no CR equivalent of the book “Understanding Objectivism”. Mises has no book like that either but studying economics is more of an established tradition, and people actually seem to learn Austrian economics better than they learn CR or Oism. TOC doesn’t tell people how to learn it but does a lot to make it easier to learn. TOC has particularly accessible books that take less study to understand. TOC is easier to benefit from than Popper, Rand or Mises. However, even the “TOC experts” are not much like Goldratt himself. My general impression is they don’t have his creative insight and originality. They can help companies with the solutions Goldratt figured out, but Goldratt could go to a new industry and figure out new solutions, while his followers largely can’t do that.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Analysis of David Deutsch’s The Final Prejudice

The Final Prejudice by David Deutsch (DD) was first published in the Taking Children Seriously Journal issue #18, in 1995. It criticizes society’s ageism (bias against children) using a 1992 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode (Rascals, season 6, episode 7) as an extended example. (Bias against the elderly is also ageism, and is a serious issue, but isn’t discussed here.) Having now watched the episode, I disagree with the article.

As context: I reread the article as part of my review of my past history with DD. I’ve been trying to understand why he’s now lying about me and encouraging years of severe harassment from his fans, how he changed, whether I misunderstood him in the past, whether I did anything wrong, etc. Previously, I thought DD must have gotten worse at logic and argument in order to write his smear of Ayn Rand. But I now see that, before I even met him, he was already capable of those errors. He could write good stuff sometimes, but writing some bad stuff isn’t a change. A pattern I’ve identified is that DD’s thinking quality drops when he’s biased. He has a strong bias to see children as especially mistreated.


In the Star Trek (sci-fi) TV episode, Captain Picard and three others are in a transporter accident. It somehow changes their physical bodies to around what they were at age 12. DD argues that the scenario with adults minds in child bodies shows how prejudiced people are against children.

I’ll go through DD’s article and comment on many points.

The Ship's Doctor, Beverly Crusher, runs some tests and determines that the bodies of the Captain and the others are the bodies of twelve-year-olds, but their minds are entirely unaffected. She explains the results of her tests to the First Officer, Commander William Riker. The striking thing about this scene is that the Captain is right there, next to her, but she is not reporting to him. She is talking about him, but over him, as though he were not present at all. This sort of casual discourtesy towards children is familiar enough. But this is not a child. It is the Captain of the Enterprise. Her commanding officer.

Riker was the highest ranking officer who wasn’t in a new body. He was acting as Captain at the time. Crusher should report to him about what happened to Picard and say whether or not the entity in front of them is the Picard or not. Riker should (and I’d guess legally does) command the ship until either he sees the Captain as usual or he receives information about special circumstances. So I disagree with DD’s allegation of ageism.

Also, in Star Trek, changes of who is in command are often (though not consistently) stated out loud instead of being assumed, which seems reasonable. That’s a little like Japanese train operators using a point-and-call system – communicating more reduces errors.

In every other Star Trek episode that deals with shape changes, or with unusually-shaped sentient beings, the overriding consideration is: it's the mind that counts.

But it’s the mind that counts in this episode. After the ship and all the regular adults are captured by Ferengi slavers, Picard and the other shape-changed people use their minds to successfully save the ship and crew. They’re able to do problem solving just as effectively as in other episodes. And they even get some effective help from the ship’s actual children. The show depicts the shape-changed people as mentally competent and as largely unhindered by their weaker, smaller bodies. They’re effective like regular adults.

A person is a mind, not a body. That is the attitude we have come to expect from those good people of the 24th century, to whom racism and all similar prejudices are incomprehensible historical aberrations.

No, they run into prejudices all the time, which are a major cause of their military conflicts with other species like the Klingons or Romulans. A fan wiki describes the Romulan’s “Relationships with other species” like this:

In keeping with their xenophobic attitudes, the Romulans tend to conquer species rather than form alliances with them, and individual Romulans tend to treat other species with varying degrees of disdain.

So, no, that sort of prejudice would not be incomprehensible to the Enterprise crew. It’s not a historical aberration to them.

The Captain gives Riker an order. When Riker replies, we immediately see that there is something embarrassed and tentative about his manner. He hesitates before adding the word “sir”.

The hesitation is tiny and Riker’s manner may be explained by something other than ageism. He was asked about what happened to the shuttle and was talking about how it was destroyed and his Captain nearly died. He personally cares about his Captain and turned down being Captain of his own ship in order to keep working with Picard, so Picard’s near-death would be emotional for Riker.

Riker may also have hesitated because it’s an unusual situation and he’s not used to it yet. If Picard was in the body of a Ferengi or a lower ranking adult, Riker might also have hesitated. As the second highest ranking officer on the ship, he isn’t used to saying “sir” to most people.

What is going on here? The Captain of a Starship is not being taken seriously by his own subordinates.

Riker does take him seriously: reports to him, follows his orders, etc. Also later, when Picard pretends that Riker is his father and hugs him (to fool their captors), Riker finds that awkward because he does remember that it’s his captain, not a child.

Yet when it becomes clear that Captain Picard intends to get on with his job of running the Enterprise, Dr Crusher immediately tries to stop him, on the pretext of needing to conduct further tests. He tells her that she can continue testing the other three, and leaves the Sick Bay, whereupon Dr Crusher and Counsellor Deanna Troi exchange glances, like worried parents.

The glances they exchange could be more about the captain's typical stubbornness than anything parental. As context, Picard irritated Dr. Crusher in five episodes by trying to avoid his annual physical (medical examination).

And I don’t think wanting to run more tests or being concerned is a pretext. They don’t know what’s going on yet at that point in the episode.

When the Captain reaches the Bridge and issues orders, Lieutenant Worf and the others can barely bring themselves to comply. The Captain reminds them that he is still the Captain. Still they hesitate, until Riker's nod of confirmation pushes them into uneasy obedience. The crew know that the Captain's mind is unaffected, but they are simply unable to take him seriously in a child's body.

That’s not what happened. No ship-wide announcement was made. There is no indication that Worf or others are aware that this is their Captain or that his mind is unaffected. So they properly look to the most senior recognizable person and follow his lead.

You should not follow the orders of an entity you aren’t confident is your superior officer just on its own say-so that it’s not an imposter, body snatcher, or anything else bad. And Picard, (reasonably) failing to fully adjust to the situation immediately, didn’t explain it to them very well. He kinda assumed they would follow his orders instead of recognizing that he’d need to give a brief speech first to cover the key points of what happened. So instead of explaining things clearly, he starts giving orders then starts explaining in a disorganized, incomplete way. So hesitant reactions from the crew make sense.

Dr Crusher arrives on the bridge and asks, in a worried voice, to see the Captain privately in his ready-room. […] Dr Crusher, looking every bit the concerned parent […]

Crusher and Picard are close friends (there are hints of romantic interest). In other episodes, she often calls him “Jean-Luc” and they’ve eaten breakfast together. She could be worried about him as a friend. It doesn’t have to be an ageism issue.

Outrageously, [Crusher] wants to persuade [Picard] to relinquish command. She cobbles together the excuse that his condition could possibly at some time in the future affect his mind.

It’s an extraordinary medical event that no one has any familiarity with. They’ve had only a few hours to figure out what’s going on. It’s reasonable not to be confident about what will happen over time. At the time she says this, they don’t yet know know what caused it, whether he’ll age normally or be frozen in this body, or whether there is anything unusual still going on. Further tests and caution make sense instead of putting 100% confidence in their initial medical findings regarding his current but not future state.

And I think the Captain should relinquish command temporarily even if his mind is completely reliable. Why? Because he’s in a body he’s unfamiliar with. His inexperience using his smaller muscles, shorter height, etc., could be a matter of life and death in a combat situation or when handling dangerous materials. He needs some retraining before he’s ready for field work. (He could do desk work in the new body just fine, but his Captain’s job sometimes involves combat and physical stress without warning.)

Also, the crew would have to adjust to taking orders from a different body and voice. They might react slower than usual, which could be dangerous. Is that a transition that’s normally done mid-mission? I’m not sure what the standard policies are, but it could be reasonable if switching officers was normally only done at home base between missions. If you can’t have your regular captain, there are clear advantages to switching to a new leader who everyone is already familiar with instead of to an unfamiliar leader.

Further, Dr. Crusher has the power to order the Captain to go to bed instead of commanding the starship. She gave that order in Angel One (season 1, episode 13) when Picard had a virus causing a respiratory ailment. He obeys and gives command to Lieutenant Geordi La Forge. When Picard is in a child’s body, she chooses not to order him to step down. Instead, they have this conversation:

Picard: You are asking me to step down?
Dr Crusher: You are still Jean-Luc Picard. What do you think you should do?

She knows he can still think effectively and appeals to his reasoning. Then he voluntarily gives Riker command.

they accept aliens, such as Vulcans, as Starship Captains … there is one shape - one shape only - that disqualifies a person from receiving the respect of his fellow human beings. And that is the shape of a human child.

DD is making a thinking error. There isn’t one shape only. The shape of a Vulcan child is another shape that they’d be biased against. Shapes like a bed, a poop, a cartoon character, a spider, a snake, a turd sandwich or a giant douche could be others.

Also, Ensign Ro isn’t human, and wasn’t transformed into the shape of a human child. She’s Bajoran.

And DD is simply factually wrong about what the Star Trek show is like. People are routinely biased based on species. Bias about gender also comes up.

A fan wiki summarizes some of the species-based wars (note: it calls other species “races” – and actually Humans, Klingons, Vulcans and Romulans can inter-breed, though that doesn’t make sense to me):

At the start of the 24th century, the Federation began an unprecedented period of peaceful exploration of the galaxy, free of major conflicts, as its main adversary of the previous century, the Klingon Empire, was now at peace with it. However, relations with the Romulans remained hostile, albeit at a low, "cold war" level. During the 24th century, there were a series series [sic] of conflicts as the Federation came into contact with other races, such as the Cardassians, the Talarians, the Tholians, and the Tzenkethi.

In other words, conflict between species is one of the main themes in Star Trek. And species are viewed as groups (so a conflict with “the Cardassians” is possible because that species is viewed primarily as one group). And that’s just a sample from one time period. It’s hard to imagine that, given all the wars between species, people would have no prejudice about species (“shape”) as DD claims.

Prejudice within the Federation is actually common. Each starship has a crew of primarily one species, not a representative mix of all species in the Federation. With traits people aren’t biased about, a starship crew should be roughly a random sample from the population in the Federation (which includes multiple species). But the species in Star Trek tend to associate primarily with their own kind and to crew ships with primarily one species. Overall, I think in the Star Trek world, the species mix less than humans historically did. In other words, they’re more prejudiced about species than past humans were about race, ethnicity, nationality or religion.

And the show has repeatedly depicted specific prejudices. For example, Worf is a Klingon who was adopted by humans and raised on Earth. In Family (season 4, episode 2), he says:

I do not believe any human can truly understand my dishonor.

Thinking humans can’t understand some Klingon ideas is prejudiced. And later he attributes lateness to the human species:

My mother is never on time. It is so… human of her.

O’Brien replies:

Well, you know women.

That’s a human character making a blatantly sexist remark. Examples of prejudice are easy to find throughout the show.

Worf actually shows mixed loyalties – between the Enterprise and his species – in Heart of Glory (season 1, episode 19). In that episode, Worf also says that Klingons don’t take hostages (because hostage-taking is cowardly). So he attributes personality characteristics and moral values to a species.

Overall, the show writers view the biological traits of species as affecting personality, ideas, and most of life. The writers make differences and conflicts between species a major focus of the whole show. DD’s claims about everyone in Star Trek fully respecting everyone else, except children, are ridiculous.

Captain Picard himself was once kidnapped by the Borg, who transformed him into one of themselves (which involved surgically altering one side of his head) and assimilated his mind into their collective consciousness. He began to collaborate with them in their plan to conquer the galaxy. He ceased to be Captain Picard and became Locutus of Borg. Yet there again, it was his mind that counted. It was not his shape-change but his robotic mouthing of Borg slogans that told the crew, and the audience, that he was no longer the Captain. Later in the same episode, Lieutenant Commander Data managed to weaken the link between Picard and the Borg collective. Picard only needed to say one word ("sleep") in what was clearly his old character, for him to be accepted as himself again. He still looked like a Borg.

That’s not what happened. Picard says sleep multiple times and never fully sounds like himself. But Data is mind linked to Picard and also Deanna Troi, an empath, says the Captain is back. And even though they don’t think he’s a Borg anymore, they don’t put him back in charge of the ship. Plus:

Even after over thirty years since his assimilation, Picard would tell Seven of Nine that he didn't feel as if he had regained all of his humanity since his liberation from the Collective.

So Picard spent decades not viewing himself as fully human, and thinking that what species he belongs to matters.

Also, DD is mistaken about “in the same episode”. The Borg storyline is split over two episodes in separate seasons (it was used as a cliffhanger).

Meanwhile the superhuman Guinan, who runs 10-Forward, the ship's bar, relaxation area, and alternative counselling service, is taking her rejuvenation in her stride. She too has been relieved of her duties. (Why, by the way? Is she now too young to be allowed in the bar?)

She ought to be careful with bars and alcohol. Her smaller body is now more vulnerable to alcohol (she’ll get drunker while drinking less than normal) in ways that aren’t intuitive to her. And working in a bar sometimes involves asking people to leave, commanding respect to break up fights, refusing to give people more alcohol, and other things she might struggle with in a new, unfamiliar and smaller body and with different voice tones than before.

Keiko O'Brien is another of the changed crew members. In their quarters, her husband Chief Miles O'Brien is having great difficulty coming to terms with her shape. When she tries to be close to him physically, an expression of revulsion crosses his face. When she brings him some coffee, he nervously tells her “Careful! That's hot!”

The coffee comment didn’t strike me as nervous and it chronologically came first (I think it was an exaggerated depiction of his habitual behavior towards children, not nerves). Plus, he offered her coffee first, which isn’t how one normally treats a child. Plus, he reminds her about how he likes his coffee, which seems to be about his difficulty remembering who she is, not her age.

In the scene, he’s uncomfortable before she touches him. He does get up and move away when she hugs his arm.

She questions him about whether their marriage is over and pressures him to accept her as his wife, immediately, in full, because she might not get her old body back. He says he’s uncomfortable with her being a little girl. He tries to avoid making any long term decisions right away. He hopes the scientists and doctors will soon fix it. I think he was being more reasonable than she was, but DD sees it the other way around.

It’s not a bad thing for adults to have negative reactions about having spouse-type physical contact with what appears to be a child. That’s not an ageist prejudice that people need to change. It’s an attitude which too many people ought to find harder to override, not easier.

And wouldn’t spouses be uncomfortable with touching after many shape changes, not just a shape change into the form of a child? What if his wife was in a male body? Should he be accused of homophobia for not adjusting immediately? What about if she had an alien body? Should he already be mentally prepared, in advance, to continue his marriage in all aspects with pretty much any alien body? Or what if his wife was in the body of another adult, human woman? That’d be problematic too.

DD is basically accusing a father of ageism for seeing pre-pubescent bodies as revolting to sexualize.

Meanwhile, DD’s TCS co-founder (SFC) was writing criticism of age of consent laws in the same journal and time period, which DD did not criticize, disagree with or object to. Actually, he expressed substantial agreement with it in his TCS emails. Plus, DD was often the brains behind SFC’s articles.

SFC even talked about meeting leading NAMBLA members and spending many hours posting on alt.sex.intergen (a usenet group for discussing intergenerational sex, often positively). SFC wrote:

I have in the past had lengthy correspondences with several leading NAMBLA people and have even met some of them in person. It seems they became interested in TCS after I wrote the article, "Thoughts on the Legal Status of Children", in which I argued against age-based laws. […] In all the many hours I spent discussing children and children's rights and adult-child sexual relationships, on alt.sex.intergen and privately and in person even […]

SFC’s main complaint about NAMBLA is that they seemed like they might be good and pro-child – she thought she found a good lead on people who’d agree with her about TCS – but it turned out they were just as disrespectful towards children and “coercive” as other people. (SFC’s idea of being disrespectful towards children includes things like making them go to school, making them go to bed, making them brush their teeth, controlling their diet, having the “agenda” that your child learn to read, or otherwise not helping children get whatever they want.) She doesn’t see NAMBLA as being particularly awful (but they are awful!), just as failing to live up to her TCS ideals.

Under SFC’s and DD’s leadership, the TCS community was surprisingly hostile to ideas with partial overlap with TCS. There was hostility to homeschoolers, unschoolers, Sudbury Valley Schools, Summerhill, Montessori, Nonviolent Communication, Gatto, Holt, Parent Effectiveness Training, and much more. Why, then, did SFC spend so much time on NAMBLA and alt.sex.intergen? Why was she having relatively friendly discussions with people who prey on children? Meanwhile she got herself kicked off more mainstream parenting forums for calling the participants child abusers (because they’d e.g. make their kids go to school, go to bed, or brush their teeth).

I think this NAMBLA stuff is really bad. As someone who has written TCS articles (about other topics, not age of consent) and thinks TCS had some good ideas (and some bad ideas), I want to say that I disown, disavow and repudiate these ideas about age of consent laws and what SFC called “adult-child sexual relationships” (a.k.a. sexual abuse). Note: DD and SFC haven’t retracted these ideas and I don’t think they’ve changed their minds.

We call the same behaviour “pouting” when it is done by a twelve-year-old, and “contemplating one's situation” when it is done by an adult. Shame on us!

It’s not the same behavior. Contemplating means thinking deeply and productively about something. Pouting means being upset and moody without doing problem solving.

Adults do get accused of pouting, too. The biggest determiner is not age but demeanor. People look at behavior (including speech) for clues about what mental processes are going on inside someone’s head (like pouting, contemplating, plotting revenge, or something else).

Adults are accused of pouting less because they’ve learned to avoid some external behaviors that people interpret as pouting. They also have less reason to pout because they have more control over their lives, so they have more opportunities to act on solutions they think of.

I think children actually do pout more. Partly that’s because they have less knowledge about dealing with their emotions. Plus, children more often have to put up with a problem while being prevented from taking the actions they think would solve it. Contemplation is less useful when you lack the power to use the good ideas that you come up with. It can be really frustrating to think of solutions that other people arbitrarily disallow, so it’s understandable that most people don’t like doing that.

Guinan accuses her of “pouting”

What Guinan said was “What are you going to do? Go back to your room and pout?” That’s not an accusation that pouting is currently happening.

Later, the Doctor is discussing the Captain's medical condition. But again, not with the Captain: with the First Officer, in loco parentis! It seems that even in the 24th century, children still have no right to elementary privacy, and a doctor's primary duty is still not to the patient, but to the patient's parent (or in this case, ‘guardian’).

In other episodes, Dr. Crusher gives medical information to Picard or others without regard for the (adult) patient’s privacy. Whether that’s good or bad, it’s not a matter of ageism.

At the end, the four transformed individuals are “cured”. It is taken for granted that no one in their right mind would choose to be in a child's body – in our culture, anyway. And who can argue with that?

This isn’t true. One of the characters stays a child until after the episode ends. She says it’s not so bad and another character encourages her not to rush to turn back into being an adult, saying the transporter (cure) will still be available later.

This illustrates that DD gets basic facts wrong when he’s biased. That’s a serious flaw which requires readers be careful with anything DD says. It also helps explain his lying about me.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (2)