What-if 0008: "Everybody Jump"

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J Thomas
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Re: apocalyptic anarchic violence?

Postby J Thomas » Fri Aug 31, 2012 5:02 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
eran_rathan wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:If a cop shoots somebody in the line of duty and oh shit that wasn't actually a bad guy and he didn't need to be shot, it should be absolutely no difference from if you or I or any random Joe did that.


I have to disagree with you on this one. In my opinion, it is worse that one who is entrusted by the public with the authorization to use deadly force in protection of same misuses that trust, than if a random person uses deadly force mistakenly. ....


So you're disagreeing in the direction I was pushing toward anyway. But I could maybe agree with your point if it were generalized: people who can reasonably be expected to know better (or have more options at their disposal) should be held to a higher standard than people who don't. .... That general principle applied to police action gets the effect you want, without singling out police with special responsibilities, which then opens up the door for giving them special rights to compensate for their special responsibilities and ruins the point that the police are ordinary people like anyone else just doing a job with no more powers or privileges than anyone who might volunteer to do it would get.


There have been times and places -- the big majority of times, as I understand it -- when there were no big organized police forces. Individual criminals faced the wrath of ordinary citizens, and a man who captured or killed a known armed robber got a lot of prestige for it.

In that context it doesn't take a whole lot of special training in de-escalation. You tell somebody "Have you heard? You got accused of a serious crime. Want to come talk to the judge about it, and see about clearing your name?" If it's a good citizen who wants to clear his name, he won't commit violence at that point. And you certainly don't need to jump on him and wrestle him to the ground if he agrees to come. If he refuses, you still don't need to attack him just then, unless you feel particularly frisky. Let him go, and tell everybody that he refused to come in willingly. That makes him a known criminal. Everybody will know to watch out for him. The more stuff he does and gets away with, the more clear it is that there is no miscarriage of justice to stop him.

If he's known to be a very dangerous criminal, who has killed someone or seriously injured people who tried to stop him, then there's no particular discredit in shooting him in the back or taking him when he's asleep.

But when you turn law enforcement into a profession, done by professionals, then you have to trust the professionals. They're putting their lives on the line for you, they have the training, and they know what they're doing. If you accept the word of random civilians over their word, what kind of morale will they have? But then they have power. They can frame people if they want to, and you can't stop them. Individual policemen can get away with murder. Whole police departments can emphatically get away with murder, if they are agreed. In the USA, so *many* reports about men who go crazy and kill their wives and children, and then kill themselves often with a police barricade around them. The police do whatever they can to keep those men from getting any message out....

They can get away with murder, but they can't get away with scandal. A policeman can murder his ex-girlfriend, or murder his girlfriend's ex-husband, and probably nobody will say anything. If somebody takes a photo of a scantily-dressed woman posing on the hood of his patrol car wearing his handcuffs, he will probably be fired. If he supports the force he can do lots of secret stuff and they won't mind. But if he makes his police department look bad they will turn on him instantly.

Do you need a professional police force? You do if you have a society where lots of people interact with lots of strangers.

Take a simple example. A man meets a woman he's never seen before. She has sex with him. She then tells him to give her $500 or she will report that he raped her. He refuses, and she does report that. Without a professional police force, it generates an endless he-said/she-said controversy. Different with trained professionals. They can collect evidence. Are some of his pubic hairs mixed with hers? Did he leave his DNA with her? Etc etc. They can determine that those two individuals did have sex, and they can render a professional judgement. Many women will be outraged that they didn't simply take the woman's word for everything. But the community as a whole will tend to accept their conclusions because they are trained professionals, and there is no social mechanism for people who disagree to do anything about it.

So to do without police, it's better to have fairly small communities of no more than say 30,000 people, who don't very often interact face-to-face with strangers.
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Re: apocalyptic anarchic violence?

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Aug 31, 2012 5:19 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:But when you turn law enforcement into a profession, done by professionals, then you have to trust the professionals.

Why? This is the entire point I'm arguing against -- I'm saying having an organized, paid body of people keeping the peace doesn't require that you give them any special privileged status.

They're putting their lives on the line for you, they have the training, and they know what they're doing.

And that's why they're getting paid for it. Lots of other people get paid -- often times pretty shit wages for that matter -- to do difficult and life-threatening tasks. Miners, oil riggers, Alaskan fisherman (at least if TV is to be believed). We have no trouble filling those jobs. The only thing giving cops special powers accomplishes is luring in people who crave power to the last place we want them. We want people who are, at worst, just there because we paid them to be, who are only going to stick their necks out as much as required to keep drawing a paycheck (which is exactly as much as we tell them to); or at best, people who do it because it's a job (protecting the innocent) they really care about, who are going to to the best they can for the sake of doing it right.

If you accept the word of random civilians over their word, what kind of morale will they have?

The same kind everyone else has. And note that I'm not saying to automatically distrust them either; I'm just saying not to automatically trust them over anyone else. If I see someone about to murder someone and I shoot him in the other person's defense, and there is any doubt about that matter, then it all goes to trial, and if it really was in defense and there was no other way to save the victim's life, and the laws are structured sanely such that that is a viable legal defense, then I get off scott free, and may well be lauded as a hero, as I should be. If a cop shoots someone in the line of duty, the exact same thing should happen; if it's not clear that it was the right thing to do, there's a trial, and if the cop fucked up, he gets the same punishment I would, but if he did right, he's a free man and a hero.

Do you need a professional police force? You do if you have a society where lots of people interact with lots of strangers.

And I'm saying that you can have one, without giving them special powers and privileges to abuse.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby J Thomas » Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:02 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:If there are too many of us it too small an area, and most of us don't have any languages in common with the people nearby, and anyone in the general vicinity has a social anxiety issue or claustrophobia and starts freaking out, or anyone realizes that we're all completely fucked unless we can get to the edge of the mass of people, then there's a very good chance for sheer blind panic.


What happens if people are instead placed in Rhode Island in same-language groups? Since we're talking about magic it has to be left completely unclear how the magic works, but it isn't implausible that it might put people collected from similar places into similar places.

If you have cohesive groups instead of people scattered randomly, then the big trouble comes at the edges between groups.

And if the people who were already in Rhode Island didn't get moved but stayed where they were, then you have a chance for the water works etc to keep working for a good long time.

If it's winter then you get a lot of death by exposure, though with so many people many could survive a while just by huddling together. Rivers which are no particular trouble to cross in summer would turn chancy in cold that didn't freeze them enough to safely cross on ice. All of Rhode Island's fresh-water rivers would become drinking water sources. A big part of RI is urban, and it would be easy to provide canteens to hundreds of times the RI population. Anybody who can get from one water source to the next can survive for awhile in summer. And an empty plastic canteen (2 liter coke bottle etc) is a fine flotation device.

So if the americans and canadians could get organized enough, they could try to move essential persons back where they came from quick enough that refugees would find waterworks and power plants working when they arrive. That would allow a week or two to set up food distribution for refugees who didn't move so far. Given a collection of favorable circumstances, a significant fraction of the world population might be kept alive.

However, it's possible the americans and canadians would decide that the most essential personnel were the military forces required to stay on top. They might get enough flamethrowers and machine gun ammo etc to dramatically reduce the movement of refugees from other places. But under the assumption that people would be placed in RI according to where they were in the world, a big fraction of US soldiers would be stuck in little enclaves amidst foreign populations and probably unavailable. And they would have no prepositioned munitions and no prior plan. Fighting the entire unarmed population of the rest of the world, it isn't implausible that they would lose, leaving a rather chaotic situation behind them.
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Re: apocalyptic anarchic violence?

Postby J Thomas » Fri Aug 31, 2012 7:04 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:But when you turn law enforcement into a profession, done by professionals, then you have to trust the professionals.

Why? This is the entire point I'm arguing against -- I'm saying having an organized, paid body of people keeping the peace doesn't require that you give them any special privileged status.


It would be interesting if you find a way to make that work. I'd be fascinated.

They're putting their lives on the line for you, they have the training, and they know what they're doing.

And that's why they're getting paid for it. Lots of other people get paid -- often times pretty shit wages for that matter -- to do difficult and life-threatening tasks. Miners, oil riggers, Alaskan fisherman (at least if TV is to be believed). We have no trouble filling those jobs. The only thing giving cops special powers accomplishes is luring in people who crave power to the last place we want them. We want people who are, at worst, just there because we paid them to be, who are only going to stick their necks out as much as required to keep drawing a paycheck (which is exactly as much as we tell them to); or at best, people who do it because it's a job (protecting the innocent) they really care about, who are going to to the best they can for the sake of doing it right.


I agree with everything you say. However, I think the patterns of professionalism will tend to result in it working more the way we do see it work. You'd have to find a way to overcome that.

I know a little about coal miners. They get pretty good pay, and they feel like professionals. They have their own special ethos -- they know they're special and they're better than the men who give them their orders. They know the job is dangerous and they accept that. They don't worry about living to be 100, so they don't care about air filters etc. They can get the work done better without that. The mine operators work hard to keep the miners from organizing. They have unions that try to get them more money, which is not so bad. But they get moved around from place to place, and frequently laid off, to keep them from bonding too much in particular groups. They accept that they have to follow orders, and that they can't depend on having a job.

But police are bossed by police chiefs, who are themselves police. They stand up for each other -- they're professionals together. They will lie for each other if necessary, provided they are being attacked by outsiders and they haven't done something stupid that makes the force look bad. In the crunch they must depend on each other for their lives. How can you expect them to stand up for random crappy civilians against each other?

If you accept the word of random civilians over their word, what kind of morale will they have?

The same kind everyone else has. And note that I'm not saying to automatically distrust them either; I'm just saying not to automatically trust them over anyone else. If I see someone about to murder someone and I shoot him in the other person's defense, and there is any doubt about that matter, then it all goes to trial, and if it really was in defense and there was no other way to save the victim's life, and the laws are structured sanely such that that is a viable legal defense, then I get off scott free, and may well be lauded as a hero, as I should be. If a cop shoots someone in the line of duty, the exact same thing should happen; if it's not clear that it was the right thing to do, there's a trial, and if the cop fucked up, he gets the same punishment I would, but if he did right, he's a free man and a hero.


Sure. But look how it works if you have a professional police hierarchy. Like soldiers and other professionals in hierarchies, they themselves believe that they should be reprimanded by their superior officers only. Praise for achievement in public in front of their team, assreaming for fuckups in private. If the chief doesn't believe there was anything wrong, why have a civilian trial? If he's already dealt out a punishment, why have a civilian trial? If you have created such a scandal that a civilian trial is inevitable, then it's your job to stick to a story that does not make the rest of the force look bad. If you tattle on them ... well, say you're going to prison. You'll share a cell with criminals who know you were police. The guards will know you're a cop who made cops look bad. Don't expect a long life.

So OK, you can have public trials if you want to. But you'd better expect that the usual result is that the police produce lots of evidence that there was no wrongdoing. They've already had their private trial. They have no respect for yours. If you push them too hard, they'll push back. You've perhaps heard stories about the Mafia intimidating witnesses? So we have a witness protection program to give people new identities so the Mafia won't find them afterward? We don't have anything like that for witnesses who testify against the police. Maybe you're a DA who wants to put a policeman on trial when the police force doesn't think you ought to? You heavily depend on them, you can't do your job without them. You depend on them to neutralize people who want to kill you, before you are dead.

We start out with the idea that police bring criminals to trial, and provide the evidence against those criminals to present at trials. If the police choose not to follow up on a crime, usually nobody gets to tell them they're wrong not to. Unless it's a scandalous crime, most people won't find out about it at all. And even then they can probably dig up five suspects. They can prosecute one and the other four might then owe them favors. It isn't a question of "The only thing giving cops special powers accomplishes". We give them special powers when we give them the right to bring people to trial and we give them special resources to track people down.

So if a policeman wants to get you convicted of a crime, he can call on a vast national network of crimestoppers to help him. The ones that are closest to him will lie for him if they think they ought to. Others might, but will have to be convinced. Still it's vast resources available, and he's getting paid while he does it. If you want to get him convicted of a crime then you can do all your own work, on your own time, and that vast network will tend to act against you.

Do you have an idea how to make that work better? My first thought is that at a minimum it would require disbanding all the existing police organizations, fire all the existing police, and start over with a new profession that old-style police will not be eligible for, that must be trained fresh by professionals who were not connected with the old police.

Do you need a professional police force? You do if you have a society where lots of people interact with lots of strangers.

And I'm saying that you can have one, without giving them special powers and privileges to abuse.


Fascinating! Ah, what would you do with the old police? If they're unemployed, and they know a whole lot about how to do crimes, and your new-style police isn't ready yet.... They might easily turn into a more efficient Mafia than the existing Mafias.
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Re: apocalyptic anarchic violence?

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:36 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:
They're putting their lives on the line for you, they have the training, and they know what they're doing.

And that's why they're getting paid for it. Lots of other people get paid -- often times pretty shit wages for that matter -- to do difficult and life-threatening tasks. Miners, oil riggers, Alaskan fisherman (at least if TV is to be believed). We have no trouble filling those jobs. The only thing giving cops special powers accomplishes is luring in people who crave power to the last place we want them. We want people who are, at worst, just there because we paid them to be, who are only going to stick their necks out as much as required to keep drawing a paycheck (which is exactly as much as we tell them to); or at best, people who do it because it's a job (protecting the innocent) they really care about, who are going to to the best they can for the sake of doing it right.


I agree with everything you say. However, I think the patterns of professionalism will tend to result in it working more the way we do see it work. You'd have to find a way to overcome that.

I agree that there will be a tendency for it to drift that way, and I don't think there is an easy solution to that problem; I'm just acknowledging that it is a problem, it is not the normal or necessary state of things, it is a flaw. But some flaws are really hard to fix. I think the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and the only way we'll ever have truly free societies is if enough people insist on it and don't stand for it being slowly eroded. But so long as people are stupid, lazy, selfish, etc, they will tend to delegate their power to people who will tend to abuse it until the abuses get bad enough that it's worth getting up from the TV and doing something about it, and by then it's usually too late to salvage anything, and we end up starting over from scratch.

The solution then is obvious to a philosophical anarchist like myself, though not easy. Since there are no such things are states, only groups of people, the only way to improve states is to improve people. An enlightened and empowered populace is the only way to true peace. And that is a long uphill battle. But so is peace.

And since the only way to solve the problem is to have enough people not stand for it, getting people to acknowledge that it is a problem and that we don't have to stand for it is the first step. Which starts with exactly what I'm doing now: arguing that it is a problem, and that we don't have to stand for it. There is a better way, if only we will follow it.

But police are bossed by police chiefs, who are themselves police. They stand up for each other -- they're professionals together. They will lie for each other if necessary, provided they are being attacked by outsiders and they haven't done something stupid that makes the force look bad. In the crunch they must depend on each other for their lives. How can you expect them to stand up for random crappy civilians against each other?

Police ultimately answer to someone else; the courts, the city, the people somehow (however circuitously). What I am suggesting in essence is that they, whoever the police work for, do not afford them special privileges and power, and stand up for other civilians when the police get out of line -- "other" being a key word here, because the police are civilians in this system. Everyone is. They are just paid to do a job, a job which anyone else is free to do if they like -- and maybe even take the police's job from them.

If you accept the word of random civilians over their word, what kind of morale will they have?

Sure. But look how it works if you have a professional police hierarchy. Like soldiers and other professionals in hierarchies, they themselves believe that they should be reprimanded by their superior officers only. Praise for achievement in public in front of their team, assreaming for fuckups in private. If the chief doesn't believe there was anything wrong, why have a civilian trial? If he's already dealt out a punishment, why have a civilian trial?

You are presuming that we give them the option not to, when my entire point is that we don't give them that option. Likewise most of the rest of your post seems to assume that the police already have some position of power and privilege which they can abuse to get away with their crimes. What I am suggesting is thus exactly the solution to those problems you pose as weaknesses of my suggestion.

Of course, as above, my suggestion may be very hard to implement, and I don't pretend otherwise. In order to hold the cops' feet to the fire, there has to be enough support in the rest of society, in the people the cops work for, that the cops can't just get away with it.

Thinking about it now, the employment analogy (like with your miners) works really well. Society is a company, the sovereign people are the bosses, cops and politicians and the like are our employees -- there's a reason they're called public servants -- and if we're lazy hands-off bosses, our employees will goof off and screw up and our company, society, will go under. If we make a point of managing our employees well, like firing the bad ones and only hiring the good ones, then our company, society, might do well. Like any company, it depends on the people at the top building and managing a good team of people at every level. Incompetent management will kill any company. And since the people are the management of society, the only hope for society is making the people competent to manage it.
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Re: apocalyptic anarchic violence?

Postby eran_rathan » Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:35 pm UTC

FranciscoMarconi wrote:I think you don´t get my point. In our case of study the wave of crowd could smash and kill a lot of people, but this is a result of involuntary forces. And I think even in a catastrophe like this, the humanitarian sense of people would prevail. I'm speaking of moral actions, good or bad behavior towards my brothers.


Hobbes would definitely disagree with you (and I don't mean the tiger).
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby Whizbang » Fri Aug 31, 2012 1:23 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote: All of Rhode Island's fresh-water rivers would become drinking water sources.


Really? With 7 billion people pissing and shitting where they stand (no room to get anywhere else)? All rivers and lakes would quickly become undrinkable, especially after the first rain comes and drains a lot of the standing sewage downhill into said rivers and lakes.

Also, the rivers and lakes might be viewed as a quick escape from the mass, so many, many people will dive right in, hoping to swim to freedom. Millions and millions of people will literally clog the rivers and lakes, soiling it with their waste, vomit, blood (from fighting to get ahead or not be drowned by the mass of people). Dead bodies would soon be floating along with the current.

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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Aug 31, 2012 1:39 pm UTC

As would pretty much anyone who's actually studied human behavior, instead of wishing really hard that we were all better people.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby rmsgrey » Fri Aug 31, 2012 2:00 pm UTC

Policemen are people too. Yes, there will be people who abuse their power, and people who cover for their friends, but there will also be people who care about doing the right thing. While you may get a corrupt police-force covering for each other, you also get police-forces where the mere suspicion of wrong-doing lands someone in hot water. Friends don't let friends cross the line...

As Terry Pratchett puts it, the answer to "Waaaaaaaaaah" is "they watch each other" - it's only when the corruption becomes institutionalised that the system breaks down and you need a reform.

In the time before the system breaks down, you've had the benefits of organised policing for, in some cases, centuries. Just because the system breaks down eventually, it doesn't mean that it's not better than the alternative over its lifetime (including the recovery period in the aftermath).

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Closer to the original topic, if it were logistically possible to get food and water for seven billion people delivered into Rhode Island, then I'd give good odds on at least a 50% survival rate. Since I don't think it is, my gut says less than 0.1% survival rate.

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Re: apocalyptic anarchic violence?

Postby J Thomas » Fri Aug 31, 2012 2:17 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
They're putting their lives on the line for you, they have the training, and they know what they're doing.

And that's why they're getting paid for it. Lots of other people get paid -- often times pretty shit wages for that matter -- to do difficult and life-threatening tasks. Miners, oil riggers, Alaskan fisherman (at least if TV is to be believed). We have no trouble filling those jobs. The only thing giving cops special powers accomplishes is luring in people who crave power to the last place we want them. We want people who are, at worst, just there because we paid them to be, who are only going to stick their necks out as much as required to keep drawing a paycheck (which is exactly as much as we tell them to); or at best, people who do it because it's a job (protecting the innocent) they really care about, who are going to to the best they can for the sake of doing it right.


I agree with everything you say. However, I think the patterns of professionalism will tend to result in it working more the way we do see it work. You'd have to find a way to overcome that.

I agree that there will be a tendency for it to drift that way, and I don't think there is an easy solution to that problem; I'm just acknowledging that it is a problem, it is not the normal or necessary state of things, it is a flaw. But some flaws are really hard to fix.


I agree with you, and I see no hint of a solution. It's precisely the things that can help police department be effective at doing good, that give it great power to do bad. I don't see how you can get the benefits of having police without giving them the opportunity to be corrupt.

I think the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and the only way we'll ever have truly free societies is if enough people insist on it and don't stand for it being slowly eroded. But so long as people are stupid, lazy, selfish, etc, they will tend to delegate their power to people who will tend to abuse it until the abuses get bad enough that it's worth getting up from the TV and doing something about it, and by then it's usually too late to salvage anything, and we end up starting over from scratch.

The solution then is obvious to a philosophical anarchist like myself, though not easy. Since there are no such things are states, only groups of people, the only way to improve states is to improve people. An enlightened and empowered populace is the only way to true peace. And that is a long uphill battle. But so is peace.


On the one hand we have a motivated, loyal police force who keep secrets well and who can punish their own dissidents with anything up to death. On the other hand we have a public which knows a whole lot but doesn't at all know the same things. Some of us know all about astrology while others know a lot about palmistry, etc. You want the massive fragmented group which has extremely poor communications, to track the conspiracy and crack their secrets. You definitely have an uphill battle. It isn't going to stop being uphill.

You need some better method.

And since the only way to solve the problem is to have enough people not stand for it, getting people to acknowledge that it is a problem and that we don't have to stand for it is the first step. Which starts with exactly what I'm doing now: arguing that it is a problem, and that we don't have to stand for it. There is a better way, if only we will follow it.


What is the better way? Release police records to civilians? That causes all sorts of problems. It requires the police to do extra paperwork -- they must create public documents for everything they do, and then keep their private documents in some hidden form. And it makes their work very hard, because any time they forget and do something that looks bad on camera, they create dissention.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7oenshcwPk
http://www.uticaod.com/news/x1819707736 ... f-responds
http://www.elpasotimes.com/ci_21192468/ ... -postponed
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN4ge1ovJPM

As you can see from these examples (the first few from a Google search, a small random sample from a lot of videos purported to show police corruption), videos which do not actually prove that police did anything wrong still make them look bad.

But police are bossed by police chiefs, who are themselves police. They stand up for each other -- they're professionals together. They will lie for each other if necessary, provided they are being attacked by outsiders and they haven't done something stupid that makes the force look bad. In the crunch they must depend on each other for their lives. How can you expect them to stand up for random crappy civilians against each other?

Police ultimately answer to someone else; the courts, the city, the people somehow (however circuitously).


Sure, and armies answer to war crimes tribunals after they lose wars. What war would the police lose, that would get them disbanded and their records searched by outsiders and stringent interrogation to get them to confess and to implicate others? Not likely!

What I am suggesting in essence is that they, whoever the police work for, do not afford them special privileges and power, and stand up for other civilians when the police get out of line -- "other" being a key word here, because the police are civilians in this system. Everyone is. They are just paid to do a job, a job which anyone else is free to do if they like -- and maybe even take the police's job from them.


I must not have said it clearly enough. We give police the right to search for evidence of crimes when they have reason for suspicion. We give them the right to use lots of professional tools to build a legal case against a suspected criminal, and then deliver their evidence to the justice system. We give them the right to hold suspected criminals in custody. We can perhaps have a bunch of civilians with no particular competence who try to collect information after-the-fact to second-guess what the police should have done in particular cases. We can get a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking. What good can that do?

Since the police have the legal right and obligation to do their jobs, that gives them tremendous power -- which they can righteously choose not to use. So if you lead an effort to handcuff the police -- to keep them from getting their jobs done -- is it at all unlikely that you might be arrested on drug charges? You have a computer so they can easily get you on child porn. If they're willing to go to the trouble they can make a case against you for child sexual abuse. If they're willing to make a deal with the IRS they can get you on tax fraud. If your taxes are the least big complicated they will include gray areas the IRS can choose to prosecute. If you have a daughter they can get *her* on drug charges and keep her in a holding pen with a bunch of prostitutes etc for awhile. They have tremendous power because we gave them the power to do their jobs. Take that away and they aren't police any more.

If you accept the word of random civilians over their word, what kind of morale will they have?

Sure. But look how it works if you have a professional police hierarchy. Like soldiers and other professionals in hierarchies, they themselves believe that they should be reprimanded by their superior officers only. Praise for achievement in public in front of their team, assreaming for fuckups in private. If the chief doesn't believe there was anything wrong, why have a civilian trial? If he's already dealt out a punishment, why have a civilian trial?

You are presuming that we give them the option not to, when my entire point is that we don't give them that option.


If you put a policeman on trial, where does the evidence against him come from? Individual civilians can give their testimony. (They can also of course suffer consequences for testifying against a policeman, and they will certainly find out about that before the trial. Any witness who is willing to testify anyway and take the consequences, is likely to look biased and fanatical in court.) In the normal course of events, most of the evidence will come from the police. And if the police don't agree that the trial should take place, or that it should result in a conviction, why would they present unfalsified evidence?

You can have a mockery of a show trial intended to absolve policemen accused of wrongdoing. You can maybe force a trial. But if the police force doesn't want a conviction, why should they let the evidence get to court?

Likewise most of the rest of your post seems to assume that the police already have some position of power and privilege which they can abuse to get away with their crimes. What I am suggesting is thus exactly the solution to those problems you pose as weaknesses of my suggestion.


What is the solution you propose? I haven't heard any sort of solution proposed yet. Except that random civilians should pay attention to the police and make sure they do their jobs correctly. But isn't that an obvious way to get arrested?

Of course, as above, my suggestion may be very hard to implement, and I don't pretend otherwise. In order to hold the cops' feet to the fire, there has to be enough support in the rest of society, in the people the cops work for, that the cops can't just get away with it.


In general, when part of the society is afraid of another part of the society, they will not hold the cops' feet to the fire for putting some controls on the people they are afraid of. The people who are most likely to be abused are the ones that influential people are most likely to be afraid of. Poor people. Black people. People who try to disrupt the status quo. You are suggesting that a whole lot of people should try to put themselves into the third group. Directly against their own self-interest. If enough people did it at the same time, they could probably get away with it for awhile.

Thinking about it now, the employment analogy (like with your miners) works really well. Society is a company, the sovereign people are the bosses, cops and politicians and the like are our employees -- there's a reason they're called public servants -- and if we're lazy hands-off bosses, our employees will goof off and screw up and our company, society, will go under. If we make a point of managing our employees well, like firing the bad ones and only hiring the good ones, then our company, society, might do well. Like any company, it depends on the people at the top building and managing a good team of people at every level. Incompetent management will kill any company. And since the people are the management of society, the only hope for society is making the people competent to manage it.


You don't depend on a company's stockholders to do anything useful. Occasionally at an annual meeting they might pay attention and do something random.

On the other side, miners can be mostly prevented from organizing. MDs organize some but they can't do that much to each other. If one of them helps out a malpractice suit then others can help make malpractice suits against him, but that's nothing like getting him killed in prison. Lawyers organize some but they compete directly for business. They can't cooperate that much. But police departments are paramilitary organizations. Outsiders trying to regulate them is like outsiders trying to regulate the military.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Aug 31, 2012 2:23 pm UTC

I'm pretty sure there are threads specifically for discussing police conduct and misbehavior and such, and that this really isn't one of them...
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby eran_rathan » Fri Aug 31, 2012 2:56 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:Policemen are people too. Yes, there will be people who abuse their power, and people who cover for their friends, but there will also be people who care about doing the right thing. While you may get a corrupt police-force covering for each other, you also get police-forces where the mere suspicion of wrong-doing lands someone in hot water. Friends don't let friends cross the line...

As Terry Pratchett puts it, the answer to "Waaaaaaaaaah" is "they watch each other" - it's only when the corruption becomes institutionalised that the system breaks down and you need a reform.

In the time before the system breaks down, you've had the benefits of organised policing for, in some cases, centuries. Just because the system breaks down eventually, it doesn't mean that it's not better than the alternative over its lifetime (including the recovery period in the aftermath).


Exactly - this is what Internal Affairs is for.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby rmsgrey » Fri Aug 31, 2012 3:02 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:As Terry Pratchett puts it, the answer to "Waaaaaaaaaah" is "they watch each other" - it's only when the corruption becomes institutionalised that the system breaks down and you need a reform.


Huh, apparently my Latin was disapproved of somehow - the "Waaaaaaaaaah" was the Latin tag often translated as "Who watches the Watchmen?" (more literally, "who guards those who guard?")

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Re: apocalyptic anarchic violence?

Postby eran_rathan » Fri Aug 31, 2012 3:06 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:Sure, and armies answer to war crimes tribunals after they lose wars. What war would the police lose, that would get them disbanded and their records searched by outsiders and stringent interrogation to get them to confess and to implicate others? Not likely!


This is part of the fallacy that (most) anarchists reject: that 'the police' can be treated as an individual, when in reality it is a collection of individuals, each of whom is morally responsible for their own actions.

And police officers certainly do inform on each other, though, as you say, when their abuses of power become great enough that the actions offend the moral sense of the informant. As I said, that is why there is IA.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby J Thomas » Fri Aug 31, 2012 3:57 pm UTC

Whizbang wrote:
J Thomas wrote: All of Rhode Island's fresh-water rivers would become drinking water sources.


Really? With 7 billion people pissing and shitting where they stand (no room to get anywhere else)? All rivers and lakes would quickly become undrinkable, especially after the first rain comes and drains a lot of the standing sewage downhill into said rivers and lakes.


Well see, you are looking at how to make it as bad as possible. I'm looking at what it would take to get some survival. Say it happens in late spring, and people are arranged in RI by their previous location. Then you get a whole lot of people with common languages together and they get a chance to organize.

Somebody else was saying you'd get almost everybody dead in 3 days for lack of water. But a lot of RI is urban, and if the people who live there don't get transported, their water works etc would still function. That's drinking water for a lot of people, for awhile. If it doesn't rain, the solid sewage is not such an immediate problem. if it does rain, there's the opportunity for organized people to collect some rain water. There is a lot of surface water in RI, and a whole lot of it is not saline. The freshwater rivers are almost entirely non-navigable, and the one I found a width for was 80 feet. A lot of people could cross those. People would need canteens. If the people who line the rivers and springs etc just stay there, it's no water for the rest. If people can carry water then they can get to water, take some, and leave. RI has about a million people, so there could be as many as 100 million plastic soda bottles in easy reach -- not nearly enough, and too hard to distribute them. So that's kind of an unsolved problem that people might find solutions to that I can't think of ahead of time.

Most of RI is about 15 miles across. If a lot of people can move 8 miles the first day, west and north and northeast, the area they cover nearly doubles. If they can make 15 miles in a day unfed, they more than triple their area.

Write off the old people and babies. Write off half or more of the young children. Write off most of the people who are stuck on actual islands. How many of the remainder could survive? It depends. If the Americans could organize enough to get engineers, technicians, maintenance workers etc out to where they're needed and keep a lot of urban function going in deserted cities, they might manage to bring in food enough to feed 10% of the world population for awhile. And if they can do it for awhile, then they have breathing room to arrange to do it longer. Of course, they might not make that choice.

Also, the rivers and lakes might be viewed as a quick escape from the mass, so many, many people will dive right in, hoping to swim to freedom. Millions and millions of people will literally clog the rivers and lakes, soiling it with their waste, vomit, blood (from fighting to get ahead or not be drowned by the mass of people).


Sure. But so what? Even with cholera, more than half the people who drink contaminated water get no symptoms. If it's a choice between drinking contaminated water and take your chances, versus die of thirst, which do you do? We might easily get 50% survival from that. On the other hand we have no experience exposing people to every single human disease at once, which is slightly overstated for what you get when you put the entire world population together at 6 million people per square mile. It may be that to get more than 0.1% of the population to survive we'd need the magic that brought them there to cure all their diseases.
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Re: apocalyptic anarchic violence?

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:23 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
And since the only way to solve the problem is to have enough people not stand for it, getting people to acknowledge that it is a problem and that we don't have to stand for it is the first step. Which starts with exactly what I'm doing now: arguing that it is a problem, and that we don't have to stand for it. There is a better way, if only we will follow it.

What is the better way?

Don't let anybody get away with anything that you wouldn't let anybody get away with. Hold everybody to the same standard.

I feel like the whole concept I am pushing is just getting missed. You're still talking like there is some special police class of people who we allow to do things that we don't allow other people. I'm saying: to start, ignore who will be performing an action, just figure out what kind of actions it is OK for people -- any people -- to perform. In order to have a workable society, that's going to have to include allowing some kind of intervention against people doing things that it's not OK for them to do. Whether those interventions are legitimate or not depends not on who is doing them, but on whether the correct procedure is followed in doing them -- and we'd want the same stringent procedures we require of professional police here, even before we have them, otherwise we've just got reckless vigilantes.

In a small group, we can rely on the general populace to carry out such interventions part-time, and I think you agree on that too. And I agree that having the general populace act as a volunteer police force breaks down in large groups of strangers, and you need some people specifically dedicated to that job instead. Now where I think you depart from me is this: in paying a group of people specifically to carry out those interventions, you haven't changed anything about who has what powers or privileges from the aforementioned state of affairs with small groups. Your paid police force are still just a group of civilians with the same powers everybody had in the small group that policed itself, and the general populace still has all those same powers too. You've just paid a set of people specifically to do something that you had to rely on volunteers for before. But you haven't granted them any special powers in the process, and the general populace still have the same powers and if necessary can use them to keep the paid police force in check. If necessary we can hire another, different police force if the first one goes rogue and starts doing criminal acts themselves. The legitimacy of their actions as "police actions" depends entirely on whether they carry them out according to the proper procedure, not on them being members of a designated organization.

Release police records to civilians? That causes all sorts of problems. It requires the police to do extra paperwork -- they must create public documents for everything they do, and then keep their private documents in some hidden form. And it makes their work very hard, because any time they forget and do something that looks bad on camera, they create dissention.

I'm not seeing your point here. This sounds like "your suggestion would annoy the police, so it's not a good idea". Freeing the slaves annoyed a lot of plantation owners too, that didn't make it a bad idea.

Sure, and armies answer to war crimes tribunals after they lose wars. What war would the police lose, that would get them disbanded and their records searched by outsiders and stringent interrogation to get them to confess and to implicate others? Not likely!

I don't mean "answer to" in the sense of armies before a war crimes tribunal. I mean that the police force literally works for someone -- someone writes their paychecks, and someone writes that person's paychecks, and so on, and it ultimately traces back to the people. Sidestepping the issue of how the people fund their government for now, lets look at the most immediate step: the local PD is paid by the municipal government. If we can get our municipal government to demand the right things of their employees, up to and including firing the whole police force and hiring another one if the corruption is that far spread, then we can keep the police in check. The problem is that a lot of people want to give police special powers to be "tough on crime" with a naive ends-justifies-the-means justification of sacrificing liberty for security, so they direct their governments to do that. That doesn't have to be the case, but it will be the case until enough people realize that sacrificing liberty for security is a bad idea, and that you can have reasonable security without sacrificing your (and everyone else's) liberty.


If you put a policeman on trial, where does the evidence against him come from? Individual civilians can give their testimony. (They can also of course suffer consequences for testifying against a policeman, and they will certainly find out about that before the trial. Any witness who is willing to testify anyway and take the consequences, is likely to look biased and fanatical in court.)

And if we have a populace who doesn't blindly trust the police, then anything bad happening to someone looking to testify against the police will look extremely suspicious and be bad for the police's case. Likewise, if we have a populace who doesn't blindly trust the police, someone testifying against them isn't going to look biased and fanatical. It all comes down to having the people treat the police like they would treat anybody else, and not as some special Designated Good Guys who can do no wrong. Which is precisely what I am advocating. Not necessarily advocating any one person in present contexts physically do anything about it, but that people at least look at police as just ordinary people. When that outlook has sufficient mindshare, then maybe it would be safe for people to start actually doing something to stand up against abuse of power, knowing that the rest of society has their back and won't call them a dangerous lunatic for challenging the Designated Good Guys. But spreading that outlook is the first step, and that's all I'm trying to do here.

In the normal course of events, most of the evidence will come from the police. And if the police don't agree that the trial should take place, or that it should result in a conviction, why would they present unfalsified evidence?

You could hire another police force (say from the next city over, if we're assuming natural monopolies on paid police forces) to conduct the investigation into your city's police force.

But if the police force doesn't want a conviction, why should they let the evidence get to court?

You're still assuming that we give them that option, that a specific police force are the only ones with the necessary powers to gather evidence of crimes, rather than just some people we've paid to do that job even though anybody has the powers to do it (so long as they do it right).

police departments are paramilitary organizations. Outsiders trying to regulate them is like outsiders trying to regulate the military.

That would also be a good idea and is part and parcel with the whole "everybody is just a civilian, some of us just have important jobs" idea.

gmalivuk wrote:I'm pretty sure there are threads specifically for discussing police conduct and misbehavior and such, and that this really isn't one of them...

Is this an official admin "take it outside"?
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Aug 31, 2012 10:20 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:As Terry Pratchett puts it, the answer to "Waaaaaaaaaah" is "they watch each other" - it's only when the corruption becomes institutionalised that the system breaks down and you need a reform.


Huh, apparently my Latin was disapproved of somehow - the "Waaaaaaaaaah" was the Latin tag often translated as "Who watches the Watchmen?" (more literally, "who guards those who guard?")
Yeah, that particular phrase got filtered last (or the previous?) Mod Madness because some people were whining about our abuses of power or somesuch.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby J Thomas » Sat Sep 01, 2012 5:06 am UTC

rmsgrey wrote:Policemen are people too. Yes, there will be people who abuse their power, and people who cover for their friends, but there will also be people who care about doing the right thing. While you may get a corrupt police-force covering for each other, you also get police-forces where the mere suspicion of wrong-doing lands someone in hot water. Friends don't let friends cross the line...

As Terry Pratchett puts it, the answer to "Waaaaaaaaaah" is "they watch each other" - it's only when the corruption becomes institutionalised that the system breaks down and you need a reform.


Sure. How do you as an outsider know whether you have an honest police force, or one that is fundamentally corrupt but does its best to look good? Mostly, when you are the victim then you find out it's corrupt, and if it's actually honest you never find out that it is.

In the time before the system breaks down, you've had the benefits of organised policing for, in some cases, centuries. Just because the system breaks down eventually, it doesn't mean that it's not better than the alternative over its lifetime (including the recovery period in the aftermath).


This is also the argument for monarchy, for authoritarian government with no oversight by the public. It might be right in both cases, or in one or the other, or in neither. I don't see how to measure it.

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Closer to the original topic, if it were logistically possible to get food and water for seven billion people delivered into Rhode Island, then I'd give good odds on at least a 50% survival rate. Since I don't think it is, my gut says less than 0.1% survival rate.


The USA normally produces around 450 million metric tons of combined corn, soybeans, and wheat, and production is regulated to try not to make too much. Could 10 people live for a year on 1 ton of food? no, but it's within shouting distance. If production could stay high, and if the food could be distributed to where the people are and vice versa, food wouldn't have to be the limiting factor.

There is the issue of creating shelter for billions of people before winter.

If people actually tried to organize to survive together, it would be a race. On the one hand the capabilities would keep rising as people who knew how to do things found resources to do things with. On the other hand, the number of people who needed resources would keep dropping. I don't know where those trends would cross.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Sep 01, 2012 8:12 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:There is the issue of creating shelter for billions of people before winter.

There are large portions of the United States where there is no such thing as winter.

On the other hand, many of those places alternate between summer and furnace, so maybe that's not much better, and would explain why they're not already overpopulated...
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby J Thomas » Sat Sep 01, 2012 1:16 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:There is the issue of creating shelter for billions of people before winter.

There are large portions of the United States where there is no such thing as winter.

On the other hand, many of those places alternate between summer and furnace, so maybe that's not much better, and would explain why they're not already overpopulated...


I'm going to assume that the people who were already in RI didn't get moved at all. They would be in position to maintain some technology apart from the problem of suddenly having 7 million people per square mile dumped on them. Randall talked about the transportation problem, that railroads etc could only transport tiny numbers of people. OK, if you can quickly find people who can maintain technology and ship them out, maybe they can maintain a lot of things in nearby states before the walking hordes arrive. As you get organized, start shipping in food etc and shipping out people. Everybody who's outside the radius of destruction is potentially part of the solution. Outside you have crops in the fields and a food distribution system etc, a whole bunch of stuff available to use that's starting to fall apart because nobody's maintaining it. Get enough people working to bring food to eastern New York -- it might not take that many -- and you have a start.

Currently less than 1% of the US population produces 500 million tons of grain. More than half of it is wasted. 25% of it is fermented to alcohol. A lot is fed to cattle, etc. We have a complex system of commodity options marketing designed to keep us from producing too much without involving any actual planning except by a bunch of people who hope to make a giant profit by beating the market. If we had a lot of disruption the waste would go up, and we wouldn't necessarily know how to increase production on short notice. Then there's the transport system. You need to move a lot of stuff with minimal labor. That means railroads. You need people who know how to run a railroad and there aren't very many of them. Unless you can find them, you're going to be stuck with people who're low on the learning curve.

Imagine that you and a bunch of your buddies find yourselves in Westerly, RI. You hike west into an empty town, and find a motorcycle shop. You take the best motorcycles and gas them up and head west. You might run into some traffic jams -- so what? Soon you're on I95 and you can go wherever you want. So long as you outrun the competition, you have everything new and free. You can burn it down as you leave, there's plenty more ahead of you. Would people act that way? A few who did could have a giant effect. To stop that we might need a bunch of military guys. Run drones, and send out helicopter gunships, and blow up the bad guys. As the maintenance starts to go bad on hi-tech weapons we might need to send out special forces on motorcycles, and then we would need very careful communications, since from the air it might not be easy to tell the difference between the bad guys who blow things up for the hell of it and the good guys who blow things up to kill bad guys.

A race to find people who can do essential jobs before those people die and before the infrastructure decays to the point it's too late to try to maintain it. If you can get the refugee situation organized enough then you can send food south as fast as refugees walk south. They'll still need shelter for a Georgia winter. Ideally you would be sending them to places where they could do something useful. Lots of trade-offs. As they spread out the population density goes down, which is good. But it gets harder to feed and organize them, which is bad. Saving 3 billion people is maybe optimistic. Very likely we could do better than 70 million, which is 1%.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby Max™ » Sat Sep 01, 2012 6:11 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:As Terry Pratchett puts it, the answer to "Waaaaaaaaaah" is "they watch each other" - it's only when the corruption becomes institutionalised that the system breaks down and you need a reform.


Huh, apparently my Latin was disapproved of somehow - the "Waaaaaaaaaah" was the Latin tag often translated as "Who watches the Watchmen?" (more literally, "who guards those who guard?")
Yeah, that particular phrase got filtered last (or the previous?) Mod Madness because some people were whining about our abuses of power or somesuch.

That.... is... fantastic.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby J Thomas » Sat Sep 01, 2012 9:43 pm UTC

Max™ wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:As Terry Pratchett puts it, the answer to "Waaaaaaaaaah" is "they watch each other" - it's only when the corruption becomes institutionalised that the system breaks down and you need a reform.


Huh, apparently my Latin was disapproved of somehow - the "Waaaaaaaaaah" was the Latin tag often translated as "Who watches the Watchmen?" (more literally, "who guards those who guard?")
Yeah, that particular phrase got filtered last (or the previous?) Mod Madness because some people were whining about our abuses of power or somesuch.

That.... is... fantastic.


Isn't it though? Some people were concerned that this group of moderators had too much power. So they called those people whiners and censored what they said. That showed them!

But here it's all in good fun, not like the real world where censorship etc is real and they try to stomp out every alternative.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Sep 01, 2012 10:15 pm UTC

Yes, we will censor you here. We are not the government, and this is not a public space. I'm sure you would make people leave your house if they were being dicks to you or to your other guests, right? If so, well that's basically what we do. If not, well then you're a pretty shitty host and I doubt many people come to your parties.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby J Thomas » Sun Sep 02, 2012 4:06 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Yes, we will censor you here. We are not the government, and this is not a public space. I'm sure you would make people leave your house if they were being dicks to you or to your other guests, right? If so, well that's basically what we do. If not, well then you're a pretty shitty host and I doubt many people come to your parties.


Yes, well, like I said, all in good fun. There are public spaces where people mostly won't get censored, and lots of alternatives to posting here. Not like it's important.

You have to admit it's funny, right?

"Hey,does this group of moderators have too much power? What if they censor the wrong things? What if they can't take a joke?"

"You're a bunch of whiners and we're going to censor you!" End of discussion.

Classic humor.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby Max™ » Mon Sep 03, 2012 2:57 am UTC

Yeah, I gotta side with the "it's funny as hell, get over it, you agreed to certain terms and conditions upon signing up for these forums" position here.

Mod power abuse for humor is great, I only mind when it's done to enforce a particular moderators personal views, which I've had happen, and since banned that forum and the products sold by the company running them from my computer and home.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Sep 12, 2012 5:32 pm UTC

This thread keeps showing up on the index as having a latest post by LoucyjF7q on Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:38 pm UTC, but when I view it the latest post appears to still be by Max™ on Sun Sep 02, 2012 6:57 pm UTC, and when I return to the index it still shows as unread. Is there some kind of weird bug creating an unreadable new post in here? I wonder if me posting will mark it unread for me... Edit: Yep, that fixed it.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby Geekoid » Wed Sep 19, 2012 4:06 pm UTC

" Any two people who meet are unlikely to have a language in common"
AS an American, I would have slightly worse then 1 in 7 chance of finding someone who spoke English.
Someone who Speaks Mandarin Chinese would have a slightly greater the 1 in 7 chance of finding someone who they can speak with.

Is one in seven 'Unlikely'?

How much would the world wobble if the weight of 7 billion people where shifted into on location.
Interesting to note that the survival in the aftermath would greatly depend on location. What if everyone was Shifted to Hawaii? we would be lucky if anyone was alive 2 months later.

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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby Geekoid » Wed Sep 19, 2012 4:09 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Yes, we will censor you here. We are not the government, and this is not a public space. I'm sure you would make people leave your house if they were being dicks to you or to your other guests, right? If so, well that's basically what we do. If not, well then you're a pretty shitty host and I doubt many people come to your parties.


My house isn't a public forum. So that comparison, like almost every other home/computer analogy, is fail... and stupid.
Next up: Why WiFi ins't like a home.

Not that you're point is wrong, just that there are different conditions and expectation depending on a variety of factors.

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Re: apocalyptic anarchic violence?

Postby Geekoid » Wed Sep 19, 2012 4:17 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:There have been times and places -- the big majority of times, as I understand it -- when there were no big organized police forces.


Not really. There has always been people in authority. We are just having a time where the police have to answer to the people, and they are expected to work withing specific guidelines and not just cast you out or beat you up. If the citizens liked what someone was doing, but the strongest jerk, even a minority of the populace, didn't like it, they would cast them out or kill them. Everyone one else would be afraid to speak up.

History is full of examples where the few in power did what they want and the majority did nothing about it, even though the didn't agree.

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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Sep 19, 2012 4:18 pm UTC

Geekoid wrote:" Any two people who meet are unlikely to have a language in common"
AS an American, I would have slightly worse then 1 in 7 chance of finding someone who spoke English.
Someone who Speaks Mandarin Chinese would have a slightly greater the 1 in 7 chance of finding someone who they can speak with.

Is one in seven 'Unlikely'?
No, but it's also not the likelihood that "any two people who meet" share a language. There's a bit less than a 1/49 chance that two randomly chosen people both speak English, and a bit more than a 1/49 chance that two randomly chosen people both speak Mandarin. And 2% is indeed "unlikely".

How much would the world wobble if the weight of 7 billion people where shifted into on location.
Not at all significantly. That was what the first bit of the what-if was about: the actual question isn't interesting, because people weigh such a negligible amount compared to the rest of the planet.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby J Thomas » Wed Sep 19, 2012 4:36 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Geekoid wrote:" Any two people who meet are unlikely to have a language in common"
AS an American, I would have slightly worse then 1 in 7 chance of finding someone who spoke English.
Someone who Speaks Mandarin Chinese would have a slightly greater the 1 in 7 chance of finding someone who they can speak with.

Is one in seven 'Unlikely'?
No, but it's also not the likelihood that "any two people who meet" share a language. There's a bit less than a 1/49 chance that two randomly chosen people both speak English, and a bit more than a 1/49 chance that two randomly chosen people both speak Mandarin. And 2% is indeed "unlikely".


Sure, but the chance that somebody I meet speaks english is around 1/7. Of course, estimates of how many people know english as a second language vary quite widely, so that could be anywhere from about 1/15 to 2/7. Let's call it 1/7. Then the chance that one of the 6 closest people to me speaks english is about 60%.

Geekoid wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Yes, we will censor you here. We are not the government, and this is not a public space. I'm sure you would make people leave your house if they were being dicks to you or to your other guests, right? If so, well that's basically what we do. If not, well then you're a pretty shitty host and I doubt many people come to your parties.


My house isn't a public forum. So that comparison, like almost every other home/computer analogy, is fail... and stupid.
Next up: Why WiFi ins't like a home.

Not that you're point is wrong, just that there are different conditions and expectation depending on a variety of factors.


The important point here is that it does not matter what you think. Monitors can choose to provide a justification as a sort of courtesy, but if their justification is fail or stupid it does not matter whatsoever. Collectively they control write-access to these forums. If you want to interact here with other people who post here, you must accept that they will censor you if they choose to. If it isn't worth it to accept that possibility, then go somewhere else. It's only these forums they control. The more people they drive away that you would have wanted to interact with, the less valuable the forums become and the less it matters if they drive away more. So if it became a serious problem it would self-correct to some extent.

I have not noticed a problem in practice. If somebody bothers me and is not banned, I can block messages from him and not see them. I've seen other forums where the moderators maintain an attitude that they are doing an important public service which takes way too much of their time, that they have every reason to be grumpy and irritable and anybody who gives them insufficient respect deserves an immediate ban. In each case there was a thriving alternative message board. Here there aren't many threats, and I haven't run into much trouble myself. Very occasionally I see evidence that something has been removed and I wonder what it might have been, that I didn't get to see. Very likely if I had seen it I would have preferred not to, but there's no way for me to know. Yes, they will censor you if they choose to and there is nothing you can do about that.
Last edited by J Thomas on Wed Sep 19, 2012 5:04 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Sep 19, 2012 4:43 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Geekoid wrote:" Any two people who meet are unlikely to have a language in common"
AS an American, I would have slightly worse then 1 in 7 chance of finding someone who spoke English.
Someone who Speaks Mandarin Chinese would have a slightly greater the 1 in 7 chance of finding someone who they can speak with.

Is one in seven 'Unlikely'?
No, but it's also not the likelihood that "any two people who meet" share a language. There's a bit less than a 1/49 chance that two randomly chosen people both speak English, and a bit more than a 1/49 chance that two randomly chosen people both speak Mandarin. And 2% is indeed "unlikely".


With just those two languages (assume the other 5 billion people each speak only their unique private language) you have a ~4% chance of any two random people sharing a language. 4% is still pretty unlikely, but that's still over a quarter-billion people able to talk to the first person they try. If you assume close packing in a hexagonal lattice, each person has six neighbours, which brings it up to around 1/4 people able to talk to one of their neighbours in one of those two languages. If you account for other major languages (French and Hindi come to mind as likely candidates) then the total will rise a bit. Using a more accurate figure for English of 1.8bn speakers gives a better than 1/4 chance that a random person speaks it, or around 6% of a random pair of people both speaking it; Mandarin at 1.3bn speakers is over 1/6 - call it a 3% chance of a random pair. French, Spanish and Hindi-Urdu each add around 0.5% so we're over 10% for a random pair; over 50% for one neighbour...

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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Sep 19, 2012 5:29 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:There's a bit less than a 1/49 chance that two randomly chosen people both speak English, and a bit more than a 1/49 chance that two randomly chosen people both speak Mandarin. And 2% is indeed "unlikely".
With just those two languages (assume the other 5 billion people each speak only their unique private language) you have a ~4% chance of any two random people sharing a language. 4% is still pretty unlikely, but that's still over a quarter-billion people able to talk to the first person they try. If you assume close packing in a hexagonal lattice, each person has six neighbours, which brings it up to around 1/4 people able to talk to one of their neighbours in one of those two languages. If you account for other major languages (French and Hindi come to mind as likely candidates) then the total will rise a bit. Using a more accurate figure for English of 1.8bn speakers gives a better than 1/4 chance that a random person speaks it, or around 6% of a random pair of people both speaking it; Mandarin at 1.3bn speakers is over 1/6 - call it a 3% chance of a random pair. French, Spanish and Hindi-Urdu each add around 0.5% so we're over 10% for a random pair; over 50% for one neighbour...
The 50% for at least one neighbor, though, is irrelevant to the claim that it's unlikely for any two people to share a language. Colloquially, I'd say that it's fine to call anything under 20% or so "unlikely".
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Re: apocalyptic anarchic violence?

Postby J Thomas » Wed Sep 19, 2012 5:42 pm UTC

Geekoid wrote:
J Thomas wrote:There have been times and places -- the big majority of times, as I understand it -- when there were no big organized police forces.


Not really. There has always been people in authority.


Most times and places, the "people in authority" did not hire large police forces.

We are just having a time where the police have to answer to the people, and they are expected to work withing specific guidelines and not just cast you out or beat you up.


Except in Iraq pre-invasion, where the police were expected to work within specific guidelines that included torture of suspects, and did not have to answer to the people. Or pre-revolt Hungary. USSR. China. North and south Korea. (South Korea has gotten more democratic in practice in the last couple of decades, I haven't heard how much that's filtered down to the police.) Chile under Pinochet. Cuba under Batista and Castro.

We have a time where many nations can afford to hire large professional police forces that can exert more control than before.

If the citizens liked what someone was doing, but the strongest jerk, even a minority of the populace, didn't like it, they would cast them out or kill them. Everyone one else would be afraid to speak up.


In the old days, most places, the strongest jerk had a palace guard. He could do what he liked but he couldn't collect all that much in taxes because there wasn't all that much to take. So he couldn't afford a really *big* palace guard. Other rich people could hire private armies if they wanted to, if they could afford it. If they looked like a problem he could have them killed. If one of them killed him instead, like as not they became the new tax-collector with a palace guard, and nothing much changed except those particular names and bodies.

For examples, see first and second Samuel and first and second Kings. The king tries to establish a census. A census will help him collect taxes, because he will actually have a list of taxpayers. Right after the census there is a plague that officially kills lots and lots of people, making the census obsolete. The king gets chided for his census which caused the plague. This is the sort of organizational problem they were failing to solve.

History is full of examples where the few in power did what they want and the majority did nothing about it, even though the didn't agree.


Sure. But the point is, being "in power" meant they could do what they wanted. It did not mean they had the resources to track what their subjects were doing and make them do what those in power wanted. With no polling, without even a census, it was hard to tell what the majority wanted. From Kings note the importance of rumor and scandal. Those kings got repeatedly confronted with scandals that made them look bad, and they tried hard to come up with believable explanations. It didn't matter whether the scandal was true -- there was no reliable independent investigation. Often the best thing was to build on the scandal and try to deflect it. So David accepted the claim his adultery resulted in him intentionally killing one of his own army officers, and spread the word that he had wanted to build a temple and God was punishing him by choosing his son to build it instead.

Kings repeatedly survived scandals, but they often sank successors to the throne. Each time one of David's sons or one of Solomon's sons got ahead of the pack, that gave a lot of temptation for backstabbing. One son lost his chance when he was accused of raping his sister. Another had enough bodyguards to keep him from getting assassinated, so there was a rumor he was building a private army. Then his supporters got word to stage a revolt before they were ready....
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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby goofy » Mon Mar 11, 2013 6:36 pm UTC

linQuant wrote:Being a longtime xkcd lurker and native Hindi speaker, I had to register after seeing the Hindi text.

The text reads "hawai adde kahan hain" (nasal N's at the end of the last two words) and means "Where are the airports?" Why Randall chose to have the man say that as opposed to "Where is the airport? (hawai adda kahan hai)", I am not sure. Maybe the man is thinking of heading away from the nearest airport in the hope of avoiding the tendency of crowds to head to the nearest exit?


हवाई अड्डे कहाँ हैं?
havāī aḍḍe kahāṃ haiṃ
Where are the airports?

The second word is written अडडे - it should be अड्डे where the 2 consonants are conjoined.

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Re: What-if 0008: Everybody Jump

Postby irino » Mon Jul 22, 2013 11:20 pm UTC

This analysis was linked to by APoD's July 22nd image. It is the second link in the description, "Every human." Pretty cool.


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