Male Competence and Mansplaining

Male behavior is not purely, primarily or even significantly a social construct

Males and females process information in different ways.  Male mental processes tend to be centered around competence. Mansplaining is, in essence, an outgrowth of the male need to  comunicate competence. As it happens this both a hierarchical and a survival trait. As a hierarchical trait, there is pressure to promote based on competence because having the most competent people in charge, from an evolutionary perspective, gave groups the highest chance to survive and thrive. One important evolutionary change in homo sapiens is that we adapted to deal with multiple hierarchies.  This allows humans to accept multiple people as having complex hierarchical standings in multiple areas. Our ability to segregate and arrange hierarchies based on complex rules is orders of magnitude higher than any other creature.

The theory of sexual-biological equivalence or the notion that social constructs are the primary drivers of socio-sexual behavior doesn’t agree with the empirical data. The majority of data in both human and non-human studies indicates that drives to behavior are, to a great extent, driven by biology. Social constructs exist, not to create drives and behaviors, but rather because of them.

Mansplaining and social conflict

Conflicts arise in situations where persons of one gender apply behavior expectations of their own gender on to persons of the other gender. As it happens, the primary social driver for females in human society is to provide social cohesion. There is far less demand, from a biological perspective, to adhere to a competence hierarchy. There is a much greater tendency to view social interactions from a social acceptance point of view.

In many interactions, the male is attempting to ascertain where in the competence hierarchy both you and he reside. In the same conversation, a female is evaluating social cohesion levels and determining if the other party is providing good social reinforcement. One of the great misunderstandings is the assumption that the male wishes to dominate and is demeaning the competence of the other party in order to do so. This is generally not the case.

From an evolutionary perspective, male competence is biological imperative. In a hunter/gatherer society, male incompetence is deadly. Failure to hunt properly will lead to malnutrition and eventually death. The same is true for defense,  shelter, and community survival strategies. All of these are socio-biologically primarily male domains. At the same time, female-dominated activities tend to be much less survival critical. This being the case, instruction in female groups is taken at a leisurely pace. The interaction during these activities is a socially bonding one.

Finding your place

Intuitively other males understand this as a social cue to demonstrate their competence. Males, to a great extent, auto-subordinate and very quickly enter mentorship roles.  For males demonstrating competence results in a release of serotonin. Failure to demonstrate competence or demonstrating incompetence produces strong negative feelings and intense social pressure. These two mechanisms cause males to very quickly adapt to a place in the hierarchy. This structure has a lot of very positive value for men in it.

This can be seen as a male being biologically rewarded for making sure that he has communicated information that will ensure the continued survival of the tribe and that you will not screw up and get everyone killed.

Mansplaining and human sexuality

Females are sexually attracted to men who demonstrate competence.  Empirical evidence has consistently demonstrated this.  They will favor competence over appearance when choosing a mate. From a biological perspective, this makes a good deal of sense. A healthy but incompetent mate would be less likely to ensure the survival of you and your offspring than a perhaps somewhat less healthy but more competent mate. From a male perspective, it is the opposite, the physical health of the mother is of primary importance as she must survive childbirth and then raise those children. Males are encouraged to display male prowess by demonstrating competence to females.

So, you’ve been mansplained to

If a man is explaining in excited fashion how to operate your cell phone, don’t assume he is talking to you like you are stupid to demean you. He, likely, finds you attractive and wants to make sure you don’t get eaten by a bear.

 

What is truly scary about flat Earth belivers?

 Flat Earth people
Yeah, you can mock them and think they are dumb, but…

What is truly scary about flat Earth believers? The scary thing is that they are not crazy or even particularly abnormal.

There are those wheels, in your head, turning and telling you ‘This can’t be true’. But it is that very disbelief that creates the problem. Just about everyone has beliefs to which they are emotionally attached. Including your belief that you are fundamentally different from a flat-earther. It is the emotional attachment that creates bias. Things in your environment, in particular things to which you attach self-esteem, cause people to have attachments to ideas.

You might ask, ‘How can a person possibly associate a thing that so opens them up to ridicule with self-esteem?’. The answer is quite simple. People who feel they know the truth feel superior to those who do not. In fact, the more persecuted a person feels for knowing the truth that others do not and the more others are incapable of seeing the truth the more special they become. Every flat-earther believes they are smarter and wiser than you because only they have seen through the vast conspiracy to cover up the “truth”. You, on the other hand, are too stupid and gullible to have caught on.

But my beliefs are not like that

You are biased the moment you look at another person and feel you are superior to them because you know the truth and they do not. The truth that we see is filtered. Truth is filtered on many levels. The pipelines through which our information comes to us is generally biased. When people disseminate information they do so for gain. This is a basic principle of human action. All actions are purposeful. Even if one does not understand the purpose for their action they still have one.

When I speak of “gain” it’s important to understand what that means. In personal terms, one is driven by a desire to move toward greater comfort. Again, “comfort” in this context needs to be defined. Comfort is a psychological state. Virtually, no one feels everything is perfect all the time. In fact, this state would be highly unfavorable from an evolutionary viewpoint. Creatures that exist in a state of comfort for any prolonged period get eaten. Creatures that are constantly working to maximize their conditions for safety and security for themselves and those around them do better. This is reinforced at the lowest level of the brain by the biochemicals that make us feel good and/or bad. By that same notion, being trapped in a situation where we are unable to improve things will make us very unhappy.

This all being said, most of the information we receive comes to us filtered. It is filtered by the people who deliver it to us, who have many different motivations. Information is filtered by the consumers (you and me). People tend to disregard information that doesn’t fulfill a need. A weight of importance is given to any information consumed. You might, for instance, read “Okra is high in vitamin C” and disregard it because you don’t like okra. We take in so much information that filtering it is essential, so we can focus on what is important (to us).

Conclusion

Finally, nearly everyone you know has a set of beliefs and values in which they take comfort. The truth of those beliefs and values feels objective but is in reality subjective. Political beliefs are chief among these. If you grew up in rural Wyoming you would almost certainly be a Trump supporter and if you grew up in urban Massachusetts you would most likely be a Hilary supporter. There is very little reason to assume that there is any real biological difference between these two sets of people in general intelligence or anything else. However, the personal experiences and environments are significantly different. This causes each to come to radically different views. Each also concludes the other is too stupid to see the truth. Basically, both sides believe the other side to be like the flat-earthers; unable to see what they know to be the objective truth.

Mandatory Therapy

Existing Federal Law

Isn’t it strange that the FDA will not even allow medications that have gone through rigorous testing to ensure they are reasonably safe and effective? However, courts are allowed to order mandatory therapy. Therapy that often fails to show any credible, scientific, evidence for being safe and effective?

Fix this?

This should not be allowed. In no case should a defendant be forced to chose between their liberty and a treatment that is shown to be both safe and effective. Furthermore, anyone who is offered the option of therapy should be allowed to choose one that is the most ‘safe and effective’ as evaluated by the preponderance of the credible scientific evidence. Should more than one therapy show to be equally safe and effective the defendant should be given the option of the least objectionable one. In no case should a person be forced to continue a treatment shown not to be safe and effective unless it is evaluated to be the best option by a competent medical professional.

The workings of social prejudice

Let me tell all these people you are a bad person. That will make me a hero.

Recently on FaceBook I post a quip to a thread talking about how if someone posts “All men are trash” they may have their post removed and asked “Does the same apply if you state “all women are trash?” “.  To this, I replied “ALL Humans are trash” Almost immediately the user Sean O’Nym posted a reply saying “Obligatory reminder that Jay Hova is a blackface-wearing jackass.”

Background

This comment by Sean was in reference to a photo I posted on Facebook a number of years ago. The photo was of myself on a certain Halloween in the early 2000s. Prior to this particular Halloween, I had talked to my friend Buddha. Buddha is a large black man who used to run a coffee shop named Cafe Avinio. Buddha shared my perverse sense of humor. We agreed to each go as a person of the other’s ethnicity. This meant, of course, that I would go as a black man and he as a white man. The day came and I had spent a good while preparing. As it happened Buddha had tried to bleach his mustache and failed so he gave up on the idea and simply dressed in khakis, a Polo, and topsiders. The ironic thing is this “preppy” outfit was in fact pretty normal for him. In any case, I had purchased a set of clothes that would be atypical for a person of my ethnicity including plum colored Levis. I was already completely made-up and dressed when I found out Buddha would not be participating.

How this came about

It was a number of years later that I stumbled across a webcam photo of myself when I got home. After I posted the photo the metaphorical shit hit the fan. It’s important to understand the why of the situation. Others have described my actions as deliberately transgressive. Of course, this is true. However, my main goal was to provoke a response to demonstrate how our social order operates. There is a set of white people that seem to internalize guilt about social bigotry to the point that they feel they must act on this guilt to correct the wrongness of the world. In order to deal with these feelings, they compensate by correcting the behavior of their own perceived race over whom they feel they have jurisdiction. I have very often seen this happen. The problem with this is that the people doing it are fueled by emotional fervor. They do not act in a thoughtful way. Because of this, they will assume guilt and shame accordingly. The irony of this is that these same people will shame others for shaming.

I think you might have stepped in something

Years ago, my actions would have been called a practical joke; making a point or teaching a lesson. I will call it simply a prank. I created a situation and others reacted to it. To me, the funny part was how all of the people who reacted as though I was doing something wrong were universally white folks. White people are very uptight. In large part, I was demonstrating that these people, passing judgment, would all, without exception, do so never questioning if they might not have all the facts. In the case of the Facebook photo, each would look at the photo, assume they understood all they needed to in order to make a judgment and then proceed to shame me for my wrongdoing.

Before you shame someone else for being wrong, maybe you should not just assume you are right.

This demonstrates a fundamental principle of human behavior; when you know you are right, you never question if you might be wrong.

 

An Argument for Libertarianism

The problem of power

One of the great problems of the world is the power to do evil. This seems obvious. What may not be so obvious is that power is power. This means that the power to do evil is precisely equal to the power to do good and vice versa. Power is sometimes given. More correctly, it is purchased on a quid pro quo basis i.e. ‘if you grant me power, I will do ‘X’ for you’. ‘X’ can take all sorts of forms: raise your status, vanquish your enemies, create a political utopia, unite our people, etc. Sometimes power is seized, but never by one person alone. There are always those who feel they will benefit when another has power.

Almost universally, this works out for the benefit of some to the detriment of others. The results are also never as good as promised. People are always required to work harder to support the bureaucracy necessary to manage utopia. Of course, there always seems to be a need for just a little more effort to get this utopia just right and always just a few people whose dangerous ideas are in the way. If only we can get those people out of the way and get the right thinking people into positions where they can fix the problems then everything will be all right.

Harm

If we look at the worst people, who have done the most harm in the world, they have all been granted the power to make the things worse by people who have given them this power to make things better for themselves.  Sometimes this is democratic. When enough people want something, that they will unite to get it, they do. Sometimes, it is by revolution; an uprising by people who want something enough to kill for it and keep killing to hold onto it. Sometimes it is by conquest (see previous), the power to make war having been granted by those who feel they have something to gain.

Government, here to help

Rarely is ruin brought about by those minding their own business. When ruin comes about, it’s most often through the instruments of force or fraud. Often the perceived evils of business are, in fact, businesses with the ability to influence policymakers. These businesses make arguments for laws that seems at first glance seem a good idea. More importantly, these laws always benefit the business spending money to get them passed.

Very often, laws, that seem good, have unintended consequences. An example of this would be the minimum wage laws. These laws do exactly as they were initially designed to do. They segregate the workforce to exclude those with the necessary skills to enter at the minimum wage level. That is to say, if the minimum wage is $7 and you have the skills to do a $5 job then you are excluded from the workforce until someone is forced to hire you at a wage higher than your skillset. In all likelihood, you will be the first to be fired when a person whose skills match the job comes along. The real issue with this is that the law requires that you, by necessity, must eliminate all $5 jobs.

Force

When I use the word force people often misunderstand the meaning. Government is a body that creates and enforces laws. All laws are ultimately backed by force or they are merely suggestions. For instance, the federal government forces tobacco companies to place a warning on cigarettes. However, the warning is itself a suggestion not to smoke. However, the ban on smoking in public places is enforced against places who are compelled to comply.

Fraud

When talking about fraud it’s important to put it into perspective. There is a term “puffery” which is the exaggeration of claims not to be taken seriously. An example of this might be “Dr. Schols air cushioned insoles will make you feel like you are walking on clouds” No one expects you to think you will actually feel that way.

However, someone really is trying to make you think your lunch is free. You are supposed to believe that the services the government will provide you will be better than the services you could buy for yourself. When you insure a loan with default swaps that is insurance. If you are selling insurance without the money to ensure that a default can’t happen you are committing fraud. The fact that the regulators were allowing the selling these insurance schemes without the rules required by insurance schemes means they were complicit in the fraud.

Free

A free market is free from two things, force and fraud. A certain amount of regulation is necessary to set rules that everyone must abide by. However, government should not be in the business of creating artificial monopolies and using its power to force out competition. Free enterprise to some extent means free to fail. Programs to protect business do so to the detriment of competing businesses.

The monopolies the government breaks up are rarely anti-consumer. This is to say if you plan to drive all your competitors out of business out of business by producing a cheaper product then good for you. If on the other hand, you plan to use your position in the market to prevent competitors from entering the market then that’s bad and anti-competitive. If you promote a product as safe and it isn’t that’s fraud. However, if I want to smoke that is not the government’s business.

Jobs

Virtually none of the actions of government have made more jobs available to more people. You might think ‘hey wait but the government builds roads and bridges and other things, those employ people’. All that is true, but where did the money to employ those people come from? Taxes. It came right out of the economy. If you had had that money to spend you would have likely spent it on goods and services that benefited you. Other people would have been employed to provide those goods and services.  Perhaps those roads and bridges, etc. will allow for more commerce and hence pay for themselves in some fashion but most are not a net gain.

Grease is the word

In any case, no matter what government does, it does the most to satisfy the squeaky minority at the expense of the majority. An example of this is the building of equipment the armed forces do not need or want. The parts for said equipment are built in a great number of states. Each manufacturer of those parts contributes to the campaign of the politician who pushes for the equipment to be built. Thus the politician is purchasing the election at the expense of the taxpayer who must foot the bill for this equipment. This is sold to the local electorate as a jobs program. After all, they will need those jobs to pay for the other equipment build elsewhere that they must also pay for.

The second law of thermodynamics

Taxation can’t be used to produce a perpetual motion machine. You cannot take money from people and spend that money in a way that will make the lives of those people better than if they spend the money themselves. This is the false vision of the utopianist. The best you can do is provide a framework for people to be protected from force and fraud and ensure that systems of commerce are built and maintained. The money taken out of the economy in the form of taxes is subject to the law of diminishing returns.

All interest is self-interest

People act in their own self-interest. Always. Even when they seem not to. How can someone have another interest other than their own? Clearly, I would like you, the reader, to take an interest in what I am saying. If you do take an interest, that is your choice and it could be said that you had an interest in taking an interest in my point of view. If you try to help others you are acting out of your own interest to help other people. Perhaps you are doing this to feel better about yourself or to make others look at you in a better light or because you have determined that you wish to be the kind of person who does the ‘right thing’. Whatever you choose to do it’s your choice, and so you are acting in your own self-interest not out of altruism.

The dangers of altruism

Altruism is an illusion. The desire to be altruistic is a desire and as such must be a desire of self; a selfish desire to feel like a good, altruistic, person. One cannot become unselfish because one can never become an un-self. In no scenario can you become unselfish. For instance, if you decide to go to Africa and dig wells for people who need water and your mother calls and tells you that she is dying and needs you to care for her in her last days, what is the altruistic thing to do? Let your mother die without you or finish the well? What is most likely is that you will do what matters most to you. In fact, this is a certainty.

When we talk about altruism We should be clear on what it is. Urging someone to be altruistic is a way to get them to comply with your notion of right; a means of influencing the actions of others. In essence, it’s a way of applying social pressure to compel individuals to do things for others rather than themselves. When does this become a problem? It becomes a problem when fraud becomes involved. Let’s take the above scenario and assume that Johnny goes to Africa to do the ‘right thing’, contracts Ebola and dies. Oops. Now let’s just say that Dudley played down the risks of going to Africa and told Johnny he’d be “perfectly safe”. Now he’s dead. This is an extreme example but clearly illustrates the problem of puffery. No socialist state, brought about by revolution, is the workers paradise that it was advertised to be.

Anarchy and its drawbacks

Anarco-capitalists envision a world of absolute freedom. This, however, is not a natural state. It is the natural inclination of some to judge that others are incapable of running their own lives and will, therefore, chose to ‘help’ them by running their lives for them. How very selfless of them.

It is very difficult to exist with no government. The reason being, that someone always wants to do something that intrudes on another’s liberties. If I want to dam a river to run my plant that might be great for me, but what about others access to the water? What if I want to dump my waste products into the water or air etc.? Clearly there must be a means of governing this and allowing all people the reasonable enjoyment of their property and lives. A government should exist to protect the liberties of everyone. But also to be limited in scope beyond this function.

The benefits of individual initiative

With a few exceptions, the greatest boons to mankind have been created by those who acted in their own interest. In cases where a government created a boon to mankind, it is often private interests that then exploited those boons to the betterment of mankind. In order for these things to occur people need to be free to explore the possibilities of invention without impediments. The dotcom revolution sprang out of individual initiative and that initiative has changed our world. The companies that are creating self-driving cars and artificial intelligence are companies that started from just a couple of guys.

There is a great temptation to milk this prosperity and redistribute the wealth. The great problem with that is that the possibility of striking it rich is a tremendous incentive. For every Bill Gates or Jobs & Wozniak, there are hundreds or thousands that risked money and then lost. This is because there is no guarantee that any idea is worth anything. Many others simply made a moderate living with some idea that was good but not groundbreaking. It’s these people we need to encourage and not discourage. People are over-taxed, over-regulated and in general, disincentivized to keep trying.

Arguments against capitalism

When we look at the arguments against capitalism they are rarely against free market capitalism. The arguments, more often than not, are against cronyism. This is where a company or individual gives money to someone in power to have the laws adjusted to favor himself or his company. An example of this might be companies like Uber or Lyfte. These companies use technology to break the government assisted taxi monopolies. The taxi monopolies are a great example of government taking the free out of free enterprise. With taxies, government creates (at the behest of the taxi companies themselves) barriers to entry into the taxi market such as licenses and medallions. The cost of a medallion in New York can be hundreds of thousands of dollars but when ride-sharing services broke the monopoly people who bought into the monopoly started to go bankrupt.

When we look at a system like the taxi monopoly it is very clearly not a system designed to provide the consumer with the best product at the lowest cost but rather the opposite. It creates a system of a few who buy into it for protection from competition.  If you are an Uber or Lyfte driver the taxi lobby is trying to put you out of business or raise the cost of your business to make it easier for them to compete with you.

Government’s role in a free enterprise system

“The business of America is business”. This was said a few years before the Federal Reserve in tinkering with the money supply caused the great depression. Any system that allows for the tinkering with things as vital to the economy as the money supply is a bad idea. Believe it or not, the idea of inflation was thought to be a good one to promote the spending of money over the saving of money. This sort of government tinkering with the economy has proven to be ill-advised. Now we are stuck with it.

The role of government in a free enterprise system is to ensure that it remains free. That is to say that no enterprise should impose on others a cost or burden. This means that industries must not produce undue pollution into the air and water shared by others. This is one of the things overlooked by anarcho-capitalists. Government itself should not place a burden on those who wish to be free to enterprise. This includes artificially ‘leveling’ the playing field. Government has no obligation to protect business but has an obligation to protect the consumer. It is the concern of business to provide the best product or service at the best price. A business unable to do this should not receive special considerations to allow it to better compete.

 

OKCupid

OKstupid

If OKCupid was a party, you would walk up to a girl you thought was interesting, she would start talking to you…

  • say “just a second”, 
  • look at her phone, 
  • scowl, 
  • scroll, scroll, scroll,
  • put her phone away,
  • then walk off like you no longer existed.

What used to be a very cool free dating site

What is there to say about this?

I’ve had an account for a very long time. It used to be that you could get points for having people who knew you give you awards and let others know that you weren’t a fake account.

This is me.
You must be signed in to see this.

Stop relying on your feelings to tell you what’s right

Reason and Feelings

People rely on feelings to guide their actions. In the world in which man evolved, this was necessary for survival. In fact, before we evolved higher brain functions, feelings were all we had. Here’s the bad news, relying on your feelings will not, in general, make your life or anyone else’s life better. The only thing that will likely make things better is evidence-based reasoning.

In the book Against Empathy, Paul Bloom discusses how feelings lead us to incorrect conclusions. Very often, people will do things not to make things better. Rather, they do things to feel they are making things better. It is this feeling that people seek. If confronted with facts that show that they may have done no good and likely have caused harm, individuals will often go to great lengths to invalidate facts that run contrary to things they feel are true.

Humans act to obtain perceived value. Often, this value is increased comfort. However, quite frequently, the value is that they are giving up comfort to achieve a noble goal. It’s important to understand what I mean by increased comfort and value. Paul Bloom speaks about value in The Origins of Pleasure TED Talk.

Just because something is obvious does not make it true

Plato believed that anything could be puzzled out through pure reasoning. The problem with this notion is that it is based on the idea that you have a reliable premise and data to start with. As it happens this is often not the case.

Aristotle stated that the speed at which a thing would fall would be proportional to its mass. This assertion was not questioned until Galileo refuted it in the 1500s. We don’t know if he actually dropped two balls off the Leaning Tower of Pisa we do, however, know he was right. The point being, it was so very obvious to everyone that what Aristotle said was true that no one bothered to even question it let alone test it. Unfortunately for Galileo, people really dislike having ideas they know are true, questioned. As a result, he was imprisoned.

Still, to this day, people continue to assert their deeply held beliefs are true. This despite thousands of years of evidence that often deeply held beliefs are not. People will cite the flimsiest of evidence and ignore more concrete evidence if contrary to their notions. The need for individuals to feel right creates a sort of cognitive dissonance with evidence to the contrary. Given the choice between two mutually exclusive notions, people will often choose the one that presents them with the most positive feelings rather than the one that makes the most rational sense.

Examine the evidence

People make all sorts of assertions without evidence. Policy and lawmaking are near the top. People make all sorts of assumptions about policies that are ineffective and often harmful. Most law and policy-making is based on feelings and very little is based on the scientific method. To be clear, the scientific method is performed using a series of steps:

  1. Form a hypothesis
    A supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.
  2. Form a theory
    a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
  3. Test your theory in order to determine its validity
    Tests are implemented, controlled groups are implemented, peer-reviewed, are the results published

This is where people really fall down. There is in fact very little incentive to do things in an effective way.


About the featured image:
Galileo Galilei gazing at the wall of his prison cell
Portrait, attributed to Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, of Galileo Galilei gazing at the wall of his prison cell, on which are scratched the words “E pur si muove” (not legible in this image).

Trusting the media to report a story accurately is just stupid

Media,
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing

Once upon a time, there were relatively few, large, news organizations that served the public at large. The majority of these organizations traded on appealing to a broad audience and eliciting trust in their audience. Now we live in a world where the primary job of a news organization is to sensationalize stories in order to make them more sellable. There is a natural inclination on people’s part not to feel this is the case because it is uncomfortable to believe that you are drinking from a poison well when the water tastes so good.

How?

When we look at the media and observe how they manipulate the truth to elicit an emotional response from their audience, we see they consistently use certain tactics to mislead them. Tactics such as outright lies may constitute libel or slander when used to malign a person or set of people. Lies can be used. However, more typically in circumstances where the victim isn’t in a position to prosecute a case against the offending agency. Other tactics that avoid outright lies are manifold:

  • Lack of proper context
    People assume reasonable context. However, one can report a thing, removed from context, whose meaning is entirely different or totally opposite from the meaning in context. e.g. “I never said ‘Mr. Smith is a mind control robot from the planet Mars.'”. It could then be reported as Mr. Jones said quote “… Mr. Smith is a mind control robot from the planet Mars.”.
  • Reporting on reporting
    There is zero need to quote credible sources when using this tactic. This creates the illusion of credible reporting. When consuming news, listen for the special words used to remove all need for accuracy. Typically phrases like ‘Witness report…’ or simply ‘Sources have reported…’
    e.g. Sources have reported that Mr. Smith is a mind control robot from the planet Mars.
  • Cherry picking
    This is the tactic of selectively reporting only those facts that support the narrative you wish to present and can be used in a number of different ways. The simplest way is just to tell a one-sided story. The more insidious is use cherry picking to give a totally false impression.
    e.g. A public figure acts like a jackass. He does this numerous times. This behavior is then reported when engaging a minority. Suddenly this person is a ____ist who picks on ____s. Nope. Still, just a jackass who is a jackass to everyone.
  • Manipulative descriptions
    This is the art of describing things in a way that leaves a specific impression that is typically unbalanced and manipulates the reader into a mental image divorced from the facts. Select, descriptive, terms give a particular impression in order to bias the audience.
  • Selective profiling
    This is when stories are only reported when specific groups are involved in specific ways. Stories emphasize that group’s involvement. Stories become big news. These would be virtually ignored were the gender, ethnicity, orientation, etc. of the parties involved different.
    e.g. Extremists repeatedly attack schools giving a western style education each time they murder the boys and let the girls go. The story gains traction when the extremists kidnap the girls. Murdered Boyare described as “students”; Kidnapped girls as “girls”.

Why?

Newsworthiness

The interesting thing about newsworthiness is the property that makes any story newsworthy. In short, what makes a story newsworthy is its ability to make the reporting agency money. This is the whole long and short of it.

Adjectives used to describe the ability of a story to make money are things like compelling, exciting, horrifying, tragic, frightening, outrageous, riveting, etc. These words all have one thing in common, they describe eliciting intense human emotion. Terms not used to describe newsworthy stories: thoughtful, informative, balanced, even-handed, fair, well researched, competent, etc. The reason is those things don’t create an emotional need to consume more.

Self-righteous bias

People love to feel they are doing God’s work. Whatever that god may be. Often it’s the god of moral righteousness. Forever there are people who feel they need to show the evils of the world and reveal them for all to see. The only real way to do that is to make the news more exciting. All the while they feel they are doing the right thing. Sure maybe the story they are reporting will mislead people, but in the end, it will be a good thing. This is because they, the good-hearted reporter, have raised awareness. Is it important that they have distorted the facts to do this? No. After all, facts only get in the way of the greater truth that will bring about a better world.

Only we, the virtuous, may judge others correctly

Here, let me cast the first stone

The days of live and let live are dead. We occupy an era of in-groups and out-groups. People elevate themselves by espousing those things they see as virtues and condemning those who do not share those virtues. Each and every virtue filled person is their own Templar on a crusade to rid their own personal Holyland of the heathen unbeliever, polluting its purity. Isn’t it too bad that you are a Saracen dog only fit for the sword?

Self-esteem here I come

No matter how crazy one’s ideas, somewhere there is a group to tell them ‘you are right and everyone else is wrong’. Isn’t it great that if you believe an evil government conspiracy framed some gay/infidel/feminism loving Muslims as having hijacked chemtrail spreading planes, running them into the twin towers which were all set up to be collapsed by explosives set on every floor by invisible government agents able to walk through walls on this flat Earth whose true shape is hidden from us by a vast NASA conspiracy, that somewhere there is a support group to tell you that you are a genius for having figured all that out?

Be all you can…
Be whatever your peer group says is cool!

You don’t need to feel compelled to accomplish anything. Go scream at people you don’t like and call them evil. Shout them down, make them afraid, throw paint on them, pepper spray them, censor them, lie about them, belittle them, call them names. Remember, your moral superiority makes all this okay when you do it, in exactly the same way it made others evil when they do it. The ends justify the means because your cause is just and right. What’s really important is that you feel good at the end of the day. Dress up in your colors and join the others. Feel the rush as do what you do. Shout the party slogans. Join the crowd, Take action. Make your contribution, shouting, throwing, intimidating. You are brave. More importantly, everyone saw you.

Making the world a worse place,
one tantrum at a time

People are constantly telling themselves that if they pick out some group, make them their political enemy, shout them down, and call them names, that they are making the world a better place. As it happens this is not the case. What is really happening is those people are creating artificial conflict, a conflict they can win. They win because they write the rules for the conflict and set the conditions for winning. The real horror show here is that even when someone is hurt or killed it’s a win.

Finally, if the past 20 years has taught us anything it’s that conflict radicalizes fringe groups and makes them more popular for disaffected youth. There is a fine line between fighting a bully and being a bully telling yourself you are fighting a bully.

 

Elder Scrolls Daggerfall & Morrowind revisited (Pt2)

Our story so far

In Elder Scrolls Daggerfall & Morrowind revisited (Part 1) I talked about some of the problems with The Elder Scrolls (TES) games. Just to be clear, I am a huge fan of TES. If I am critical of the series it’s only because I want it to be better. I also wish to bring back aspects of the games removed to make them more marketable to the general public.

Much of my motivation to publish articles on the subject of TES series have come from Youtube videos. In particular, The Elder Scrolls: The Dumbing Down and Zaric Zhakaron’s series “What if ____ was good?” Both of these talk about how Bethesda has made sacrifices in order to produce games for a wider audience. After Daggerfall, TES games were made more limited in scope and easier to manage. In addition, Bethesda has increasingly adapted games to be more multi-platform friendly. This meant that it was necessary to remove elements that did not lend themselves to simplistic controls and limited processing power. In effect, newer TES games were limited to the lowest common denominator, the console.

The reason I bring these things up is to make it clear how amazing it was when Bethsoft created Daggerfall. Daggerfall was one of the most highly anticipated CRPGs ever produced. Daggerfall did what no other CRPG before or since has ever done. Developers of the game made a real effort to create a simulation of a full sized, immersive world. This attempt was far from perfect. As I have said before, the computing power and technology to do what they were trying to do simply did not exist at the time.

Morrowind, the good, the bad, and the ugly

Morrowind was the next step in the evolution of the series. This game sought to correct the problems in Daggerfall by handcrafting all aspects of the game. While this produced a visually appealing game, the drawback was a severe reduction in emersion and realism. As stated in part 1, the world was drastically reduced in size. This was a disappointment to fans of the series who had hoped to see a large world with improved generation of locations, terrain, NPCs, etc. Instead, we got the Disneyland version of Morrowind’s island of Vvardenfel; a country-sized island shrunk down to an easily walkable size with some rides to make it feel like you were really getting that Morrowind experience.

Rarely considered, is how much of the “handcrafting” of impassable terrain and obscuring flora as well as the addition of game mechanics like the silt striders, teleporting, boats, etc. are less about making a better, more immersive world than you might think. Rather, these things help conceal the true size of the game space while at the same time steering the player in the direction the game designers wish them to go.

How can this be fixed?

As it happens, most TES fans did not start out playing the early games in the series. Consequently, they have little sense of loss when the large, 1:1 world of Daggerfall went away never to return. It’s much the same with the RPG aspects of TES games. When skills, stats, and magic got watered down in later games, few players felt that anything had been taken away. The same goes for the open world. Many see no need for areas in the game that do not directly impact gameplay. For me, the ability to just wander about is a wonderful part of the game.

Blow it up

Okay, first, the play space needs to be enlarged by a couple of orders of magnitude. The tiny islands surrounding Vvardenfel need to be islands, not rocks. Cities on Vvardenfel need to be cities and not just a collection of houses. Take the city of Vivec. Where do people live? There are places for the craftspeople etc. but virtually no one else. If such a city existed, there would need to be houses and farms and people to support such a city. Vivec is mostly a temple complex. There would need to be a town of people nearby to call it a city. The same is true for the other cities on the map. These need to be true cities. None of the cities in the game have anything resembling an infrastructure, making daily life possible.

Many areas on the map exist merely to separate other areas with terrain features, etc. This can be fixed by stretching the map like the skin of a balloon. Give cities room to expand. Provide large areas of farmland to feed a realistically sized populous. Of course, some areas should be left much as they are. The Caldera mines should remain near Caldera but should not be just as close to Balmora.

Petting zoo for n’wahs

Next, remove static respawning monsters. Seeing the same monsters over and over in the same area, again and again, is tedious. OpenMW with its greatly increased view distance and ability to see statics far away makes this flaw very obvious with dozens of cliff racers hanging motionless in the sky or flying in simplistic patterns. Of course, once you make the game space large enough there is no longer a need to have static spawns. Instead, it’s possible to have a percentage chance based on environment type that particular creature will spawn. A spawned creature may come from a burrow, nest or some similar place and possibly be part of a pair, pack or family group. Creatures should not necessarily be automatically aggressive unless defending an area, nest, young, etc.

All creatures should be limited by ranges, food sources, competition, and predation. An aggressive creature that ranges near a settlement would likely be hunted down. Hunting will cause wildlife to diminished around population centers and thoroughfares. For players, hunting creatures should be a challenge as wildlife learns to avoid people. An ecosystem should be self-balancing and feel that way.

Bringing sexy fast travel back

In the real world travel between cities takes a long time. In the land of Tamriel, this can be many days or weeks. Travel in Daggerfall consisted of both land and water travel. A number of factors determined travel time. Would you be sleeping in inns? Did you own a horse? Would you be traveling by ship? All of these factors affected your speed and the amount of money it would take to travel. In Daggerfall, you were able to purchase a ship. This allowed you forgo the expense of paying passage. Morrowind travel is by foot, silt strider, boat, ship, teleportation. Often, getting to a location will involve a combination of these.

Bring back the open world

Give the player the option to use fast travel to move to anywhere on the map. Fast travel in the Baldur’s Gate series was had a good mechanic. As the player fast travels down a particular road an encounter happens specific to that location. You might exit fast travel as you: are waylaid by bandits, meet a strange traveler, are handed a mysterious note, etc. Of course, there is no reason that a triggering event needs to be a particular location. Perhaps you have a bounty and someone spots you. It could be a particular time or any of a number of things.

Your ability to travel in certain ways could expand as you discover perhaps secret means of teleportation requiring a special item or become a member of the mages guild, etc.

Why is this a good time to talk about this?

The OpenMW project has produced a game engine without the map size, view distance and other limitations of the original game. As a consequence, it now possible to address the issue of the cramped game space. The technology to produce realistic terrain via procedural generation has advanced. This technology can produce virtual land, rivers, roads, mountains, farms, towns, etc.  All without giving up the hand-crafted aspects of TES series.


About the featured image:

Balmora. Aerial view
by AlexeyRudikov
An artist’s re-envisioning of the city of Balmora on the island of Vvardenfel