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Too Clever by Half (epsilontheory.com)
704 points by moat on May 17, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 244 comments

I really enjoyed this article.


Coyotes are too clever because they know that people shaking jars full of coins can’t hurt them. Thus the animal control patrol has to get called and when they don’t shoo, the animal control person who loves animals has to shoot the coyote.

Coyotes are winning the mini-game of each human interaction, but they are losing the meta-game of what society will do if coyotes aren’t scared.

Personal Connection

This reminds me of a turning point that I had in high school. When I was young, I would get in trouble and try to get around the rules each time I got in trouble. /“Well, technically…”/

But at some point I realized that most of the time you aren’t getting in trouble because you are breaking the rules. You are getting in trouble because you are making the rule makers unhappy. Once I had that realization I was able to focus on relationships with the rule makers and figure out what they actually cared about. This allowed me to break the rules just as much but without getting in trouble.

> But at some point I realized that most of the time you aren’t getting in trouble because you are breaking the rules. You are getting in trouble because you are making the rule makers unhappy.

i had a similar realization in late high-school / early college, but worded a little differently. the rules themselves were never designed to be reasonable; they were designed to solve problems that the rule makers encountered in the past and afford them a "legitimate" means of recourse. no one ever intended to apply them consistently. this is why you can generally break as many rules as you want, so long as you don't actually cause a problem for someone. on the flip side, if you create a problem, they damn sure have an applicable rule on the books.

The issue with all of this is most people are rule abiding citizens, that's why it's so easy to game the system and get away with it.

(Thinking about businesses & politicians)

I think you're missing the point of what GP is saying.

My interpretation was that rules are only an approximation for what the rulemakers actually care about, and if you understand that, optimizing for what they want and not what they say will be a lot better for you than doing what they say but not what they want.

I think you're missing his point here.

Yes, those of us that question and break rules can optimize for what is actually desired vs what is 'proscribed' and have better outcomes.

But many/most people rather just follow the rules/directions in the first place rather than break the rules or attempt to find optimal ways around them.

Riiiight, which is why many/most people drive the speed limit.


Not sure where you're from, but a good 30-50% of people drive the speed limit.

Well, that's not a great example because people drive the speed that everyone else drives at, so the "rules" are implied because we're all doing it.

All this other stuff is about people looking for specific optimizations or ways to game the system that most people don't do.

You define "rule" differently than the people you are conversing with.

The problem is that the rule makers in high schools are sometimes (often?) incredibly petty people with a very poor understanding of human psychology and communication, not tremendously much empathy for the students, and very little personal consequence when they make a mistake even if that has drastic consequences for the student (and as a result little time spent introspecting about their mistakes). I never got in particularly much trouble, but many of my friends were screwed by minor miscommunication which incompetent adults escalated beyond any reason.

And yes, under the circumstances (assuming the goal is to avoid problems, instead of to aggravate the staff, perform ad-hoc psychology experiments, or the like), any high school student should avoid contradicting the staff in public, start by acquiescing to any request that doesn’t pose an immediate injury risk, disengage quickly and completely and then marshal their parents’ help if there has been any kind of mistake that will affect them academically.

Few teenagers have figured this out though. To any high school rule makers out there, please read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, https://amzn.com/1451663889/ and in general, please try to treat the students with basic respect.

It's not just kids, is it? This is pretty much the canonical and most self-preserving way of interacting with anyone who has power over you and is in a clear and present situation to apply it: school officials, police officers, appeal adjudicators at companies who you try to turn to if you think there's been some bureaucratic mistake, military personnel of a foreign power in your country for reasons beyond your control, and even an abusive spouse -- much to the dismay of advocates everywhere.

Yes, I think you are right. In this sense, high school prepares children/teens for the real life really well. :-(


What does race have to do with this? Your average white male in the US is not a rule maker and suffers under the same arbitrary and often downright unfair consequences as anyone else.

I just watched a white male friend get punished for academic dishonesty because another student cheated off him, despite being able to prove conclusively with logs and other evidence that he had no part in it.

I also just watched another white male friend be discriminated against because of his race in receiving mental healthcare services. This made it necessary for him to change employers and move to another city so he’d have access to the mental healthcare services that up to this point had helped prevent his suicide.

Both decisions were unfair, unkind, and unnecessary, but were arbitrarily decided by a rules maker who had no oversight (a professor and a bureaucrat). In neither case did being white or male help my friends, and in the latter case he was denied limited services specifically because the bureaucracy prioritizes those services for racial minorities.

Seriously stop turning every damn thing into a racial issue with your empirically bullshit identity politics.

The person you're replying to didn't claim that only non-whites or non-males experienced these things. They claimed that white males experience them less frequently.

Your anecdotes are not substantial data, and the data do (empirically!) bear out the claim they were making, at least in many areas.

You're also right, of course, that this has to do with the power structures in place rather than being purely about race or sex. And in that respect, both you and the person you responded to are probably on the same team: you both think the power structures are unfair and ought to be challenged. Maybe focus on that possibility instead of reacting so critically?

In other words, if you're tired of "bullshit identity politics" focus on constructively guiding the conversation towards problematic power dynamics, rather than stomping off just because someone points out that those power dynamics are applied in a way that's disproportionate.

Correct, I was only stating that this same meta-game exists. It’s not about identity politics, it’s that white men have made the rules for a very long time. So from the perspective of a white man, it’s an attack on traditional values.

From the perspective of a black woman, it’s trying to claw out the same degree of freedom that the rule makers have while not pissing them off enough to get rebuked (or arrested, or whatever).

I feel the world would generally be a better place if we all understood each other’s point of view better. Sadly, most rulemakers have no interest in this.

Thank you for proving my point.

Having been both a teacher and a student who chafed under the rules, I'd suggest that it's not quite that stark. The rule makers are people trying to maintain a learning environment that works for everybody under their care to make progress. You have to make split-second decisions to keep the dynamic productive, and there's not a lot of margin for error. In a perfect world, you'd have time to negotiate solutions with individual students. But in the real world, you have to negotiate collectively, and there are things you don't have the discretion to negotiate. So, this often takes the form of rules.

It's very much an art to do this effectively, without alienating your students. You have to be consistent, yet flexible. Thorough, yet empathetic. Fair, yet differentiated. It's a web of contradictions.

There are many amazing teachers and school administrators, and many who are just muddling through doing their best every day. There are also some sadistic jerks, and some who are incredibly bad at communication and problem solving and controlling their own emotions, especially among the lower levels of the administrative staff.

I can understand that dealing with scores of angsty teenagers every day, and especially getting stuck with resolving all of the most intractable disputes, can be trying for even the most patient person. But there are some administrators who escalate every situation brought their direction into an aggressive pissing match. As if the reason some of them stuck with the job is that exercising control over other humans (in however petty or counterproductive a manner) makes them feel powerful.

For sure. There's no defending the sadists out there. I just think that even if we got rid of them, we'd still have a lot of issues.

Thanks. Just bought that book (qua parent, not teacher)

I had a teacher in high school tell a student to go home, after a disagreement.

The kid didn't show up for two days.

On the third day, my teacher went to the kid's house, and asked him to come back. The kid said he dropped out of school. He told my teacher it wasen't his fault, he was planning too.

Well, my teacher was never the same. He went from a enthusiast guy to someone who didn't say too much. He talked about the kid the entire semester. He claimed he went to the kids house, and begged him to give school another chance.

To this day, I think about how one, usually ego driven comment/directive, can affect a person's life. I'm talking about the teacher's life.

I don't know what happened to the student, but I think about the guilt of that teacher, and how he carried it around.

I also realized this which made me game the whole schooling system. I didn't study and had a poor attendance but still got an award for the being the school's best student. Pretty crazy when I think about it. Suffice to say, my strategy didn't work very well in university.

High-five, fellow "burned by needing to do real work in university" high schooler :(

Same here. Once I figured out that I didn't really have to do any homework in high school, and wasn't even required to do so in university, I was doomed.

I'm now trying to teach my son that just learning to do the work, even if it's boring, is the real skill you need. But he's too focused on winning every mini-game.

This. I found out if I showed up everyday in high school and focused in class I could get a B or A in every class without doing any work at home. I still did some homework but it was in school. My time outside of school was mine. It was great.

I had a very rude wake up call when I got to college.

I know high schoolers now and I encourage them to actually do the work. It's not that x,y,z topic may be important someday... It's the skill of doing the work, even when you don't want to, that will be important in life.

Look up The Marshmallow Test. If there was one thing I wish my parents had instilled in me, it's good study habits.

Though nobody is good at working hard to reap rewards that are a decade or more down the line, which is where learning to do boring work really pays off.

Wasn't that debunked? It's useful as a myth - "teach your kids patience", "don't go into the woods alone" - but it doesn't actually turn out to be true.

I've not been able to find anything about it being debunked. Wikipedia[0] says

> A 2012 study at the University of Rochester (with a smaller N= 28) altered the experiment by dividing children into two groups: one group was given a broken promise before the marshmallow test was conducted (the unreliable tester group), and the second group had a fulfilled promise before their marshmallow test (the reliable tester group). The reliable tester group waited up to four times longer (12 min) than the unreliable tester group for the second marshmallow to appear.[11][12] The authors argue that this calls into question the original interpretation of self-control as the critical factor in children's performance, since self-control should predict ability to wait, not strategic waiting when it makes sense.

but it sounds like the original experiment controlled for the trust factor so I don't really think it shows that the original results were invalid.

Having said that, I've not done a huge amount of research into this so maybe take my opinions with a grain of salt or two.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_marshmallow_experimen...

It wasn’t exactly debunked, but seems to measure something different to what they thought recently. So as a parent your takeaway should be to give your kid experiences of delayed gratification that actually pays off, and help them learn to identify which scenarios fit into this.

Maybe you're thinking of "grit", popularized by Angela Duckworth.


Maybe try to figure out how to make the work fun? Or, try and instill a goal less of "getting the grade" and more "attain mastery of the subject"?

I would have been burnt in college, except I got to homeschool the last few years of high school. During that time I took CLEP tests. They were pretty easy for the most part, but they required I actually do the reading and prepare for them. That helped, since in school I just had to pay attention in class, and I'd be good. Then I went to a community college for most of my core classes. That helped too, because there the homeworks either were optional or counted for very little, but I got to see how not doing them hurt my grade. By the time I went to the actual university I wanted to for my major specific stuff, I had developed better study habits, and knew what it took to actually do well. I was helped at that point that, since it was the courses relevant to my major, it was all stuff I was interested in, and actually wanted to attain mastery in.

> Maybe try to figure out how to make the work fun?

I don't think this is the right approach, because you need the ability to focus on work even when it is not fun.

You do need something that makes the work rewarding in some way, but I wouldn't push to hard to try to make it fun.

> Or, try and instill a goal less of "getting the grade" and more "attain mastery of the subject"?

This was my approach in high school as well. It led to me being the one everyone wanted to study with because I picked up the material the best, but then I flunked classes because I never did the homework.

I would flunk classes that depended mostly on homework, and ace classes that depended mostly on tests. Since I had convinced myself that mastery was more important than grades, this reinforced my behavior.

Somehow, the acing the tests part allowed me to get into an Ivy League college. Which I then flunked out of because at that point, I couldn't get by without actually doing the homework and studying outside of class.

This pattern of behavior continues to be something I struggle with as an adult. I can be quite productive for short bursts of time, but have a hard time keeping on track with longer term projects that don't pay off immediately.

I think what you need is to learn the value of steady incremental work that only shows significant results after a long period of time. Basic reinforcement training techniques can be used for this; provide rewards for getting incremental work done, but better to provide them intermittently. Eventually work up from smaller rewards for smaller goals to larger rewards for larger goals.

I think that reinforcing consistency, habit, and small incremental progress rather than brilliance is a big part of what you need. The problem with brilliance is that you can easily get a lot of positive reinforcement for it; people are impressed at how well you understand something, at how much you know, at how quickly you pick it up. But even if you are better than average at picking things up and figuring things out, you will eventually hit the limits of what you can do through brilliance alone; there are some things that will just take long hard work no matter what, and then all of that reinforcement for brilliance comes back to bite you because you're not getting the same kind of reinforcement, and you can easily get stuck and lose faith in your self-image.

>> Maybe try to figure out how to make the work fun?

> I don't think this is the right approach, because you need the ability to focus on work even when it is not fun.

this is just coming from my personal experience, but i think it is very important for a kid to have a job sometime in the high school years. my parents are fairly well off and they "protected" me from this need by just giving me spending money (sometimes for a trivial amount of chores, but usually just free money), so that a menial job would not distract me from my studies. of course, i just spent that money on frivolous things and outings with friends that distracted me from school anyway, and i ended up doing quite poorly (though i made it most of the way through a fairly prestigious school before it caught up with me).

eventually i transferred to a regional (but still quite rigorous) university and had to get a restaurant job to pay my expenses. i learned a whole lot about the world real fast. it wasn't so much that i learned about the value of steady work, but rather that low wage jobs in low margin industries really slam home the point that you will never have anything unless you put in the work, and i worked real hard from that point on. i still have bouts of procrastination, but i never just let things slide now, and every time i spend a dollar i feel the amount of my own labor that i am letting go.

One way to control unnecessary spending is to put the price in terms of how many hours you had to work to get that money. Then it becomes easy to put the item back on the shelf.

i agree, and i often think things out explicitly that way. i actually take a step further though. some fraction of my expenses are fixed (rent, insurance, food to an extent) which leaves me with some percentage of disposable income, call it 25% for this example. so if i get paid $20/hr, a $20 item that isn't absolutely necessary doesn't cost me one hour of work, but rather four, because three quarters of that money is "already spent". suddenly it doesn't seem like i need the shiny new gadget that badly.

Making work fun is nice, but what really improved my effectiveness was cultivating the ability to do work that wasn't fun, but valuable. I think it depends on your strategy. I will always be able to accomplish what I need to now, but since I'm not passionate, I probably will never be brilliant.

> Maybe try to figure out how to make the work fun?

You need discipline, not fun. Schools largely fail at teaching discipline, let alone self-discipline.

People working just by sheer discipline tend to produce mediocre work. The best results come from people who are passionate about what they do.

We're talking about university here - if you need to rely on feeling passionate about every single course you take, and you actually do, then you're one in a million.

My dad told me that school isn't about learning, it's about learning how to learn. That really changed my perspective. I won't care about classical painters and what years they were around and why they were remarkable in even 6 months, but when I do find something I care about, I'll be able to apply focus and learn.

Same here, as all above.

Yet here we are on HN on Thursday morning...

I'm quite proud of the range of results I got in maths at University - I tried the "no study" approach in first year and got burned badly.

Fortunately we didn't have the uncivilized GPA system here so my first year indiscretions had no impact on my final degree.

GPA has no impact on your final degree in the US either. You complete the same coursework and get the same degree as the person with a perfect GPA.

The only real exception is if you’re screwing up so bad that they kick you out, in which case you don’t get the degree because you don’t complete the coursework.

What I meant is that in the UK the "class" of degree us (or at least used to be) based almost entirely on what you did in your final year. People seem to refer to GPA for US degrees in the same way that we use the class of honours: first, upper second etc. even though they would appear to measure different things.

On a number of occasions I have had prospective employers ask what my final grade was for specific classes. I have never been asked about my GPA specifically, but my grades at the University certainly affected me beyond academia.

May I ask which classes, and what type of employer? I don't even know if any of my employers bothered verifying that I graduated college.

Before I graduated, when I was interviewing for jobs, lots of companies wouldn't interview anyone with lower than a certain GPA. Google was the most notable one, although they've since gotten rid of that requirement since they found it has almost no correlation with your performance as an employee.

Other larger companies that cared were Lutron, Epic, and a few more I don't really remember. I think Epic even asked me what my ACT score was.

Beyond that first job though, my GPA hasn't mattered at all, which is good because mine was pretty mediocre.

Outside of the college recruitment pipeline, I've neither seen nor heard of anyone asking for gpa. Some places want or even require degrees, but nobody cares about gpa at all once you have a year of experience.

I've had one company so far ask me for transcripts, and this was after I had been working for several years. That should have been a huge red flag.

What did they want your transcripts for?

I have absolutely no idea. If it helps, that company also wouldn't hire one of my best interns without him taking some programming language courses. He had a 4-year degree, too. They also didn't want to hire one of my other good interns into an embedded role despite that being what she went to school for, and despite her having the aptitude for it. They wanted to hire her into SDET instead. I don't believe she took the job.

That's pretty asinine. I wouldn't have the foggiest idea what I finished any of my classes in college at, even when I was only a year or two out.

You are missing the point.

Schools are really failing their students by not helping them realize just how difficult university and "real life" can be.

Actually university is fairly easy if you seize the learning opportunities that courses give you; many students attend neither lectures nor tutorials/exercises nor tutoriae and then complain how difficult it is to pass the exam.

This still happens even though older semesters will tell any freshmen that they need to attend courses and do exercises to make it. What kinda works are mandatory exercises.

"university is fairly easy if you seize the learning opportunities that courses give you"

It might be "fairly easy" if you're lucky enough to have had a decent K-12 education, which is what prepares you to do what you say and do it effectively.

Far too many students graduate high school barely literate, without knowing how to learn, without sufficient direction or motivation. That's not to mention various emotional and psychological issues students might struggle with that keep them from applying themselves and making the most of their university education. It's also not to mention the fact that way too many students look at university as primarily a place to party, or to cheat their way to a degree.

Hm, maybe. I attended all of my courses because that got me straight-As in high school. I was then blindsided by needing to study for anything ever. So I was engaged, as far as I knew - but I didn't know how unengaged I was.

This is why I think people need to work and grow up a bit between high school and university. Figure out why you want to go before you commit to it.

I was in the military for 4 years between them (and I was not a good student before), but I decided to go to university specifically to learn something that interested me. And it was sad seeing my peers waste their time doing the same stupid crap I'd outgrown and become bored of in the military. (At least there I wasn't expected to learn anything hard.)

Yep, totally agreed. I would have benefited from a gap year or four.

Me too. I skated through hs and got a wakeup call at uni. The most critical skill hs can teach is to do homework. Even if its boring.

I don't know if we need a club or a support group, but I'm in.

I never learned to study in HS either, and then on top of the actual workload in college I suffered a brain injury shortly after HS graduation that ruined my short term memory function. That first year of college was a massive challenge in learning discipline and just learning!

One more...

It didn't help that I went to uni to study Physics, either.

I did CS and it was bad enough for me, can't imagine Physics...

I would like to go back to university and take notes this time. We had past years' exams available in our library if you knew where to look, so I learned to cram before tests and exams instead of learning to take notes.

Yup, the classical the teacher's revenge. Let him go away as fast as we can.

This is probably a highdea, but what if coyotes are having a tough time in the wild and they are smart enough to see how we treat dogs, so they are actually doing what wolves did thousands of years ago by slowly, cautiously edging their way into human society in hopes that they can integrate with us?

They aren't particularly hostile, they seem to just want to survive. There have been maybe a couple hundred reported coyote attacks in the past 50 years[0] compared to millions of dog-related attacks per year[1]. Of course, one would expect dog-related attacks to be more common because they interact with us more, so it's not quite a controlled comparison.

Why hate on coyotes? I guess it boils to how cute they are, unfortunately. I don't think we truly need them, and they aren't cute enough to keep around for most people. Perhaps if I raised a baby coyote, I would be very inclined to keep one as a pet.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coyote_attacks_on_humans

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatal_dog_attacks_in_the_Unite...

Coyotes really aren't having a tough time in the wild at all. They are thriving. With the demise of wolf populations, they've started taking on apex predator roles, but are still incredibly adaptable. They have no real predators, and the margins in trapping and hunting them has gone down as fur is less popular and fewer areas pay bounties on them.

I know a few people that hunt them, but it's just because they want to keep the coyotes from preying on the deer herd. So that they can prey on the deer herd themselves.

No! Thats a major point in the article. Coyotes don't meta-game. Trying to get your great-grand-cubs domesticated would be a meta-game strategy. Coyotes are masters of the scheming mini-game.

It may be a major point of the article, but that doesn't mean it's correct, or that the remark about coyotes trying to be domesticated is necessarily wrong. Doesn't mean it's right, either, by the way.

does any individual animal other than humans meta game? I'd be surprised if even chimps had long term deceptive overarching strategies

I think another point of the article is that even though we humans meta-game, we probably aren't meta-gaming at a high enough level and that might give the human species trouble at some point in the future. You could even argue that it's already happening with our fairly casual destruction of the environment, overfishing, over use of certain crops, etc.

We actually were meta-gaming at a high enough level: rush through the tech tree with massive resource expenditures and no concern for the side effects, then curbstomp all our problems with nanotech and space travel/megastructures. The problem is we stopped.

> in hopes that they can integrate with us

I think you can stop right there. The dog thing happened not because dog "wanted" to be with humans. Dogs were clueless about what happened, it just did. The explanation is on a higher level, not in their desires, not even in the desires of the humans who participated in most of the dog domestication (even if some of them may have thought about it, but by then it was already happening).

How can you talk about these things with such a high degree of certainty?

I've read different theories about dog domestication. All of them have some strong and some weak points. All of them don't have enough evidence to be taken as the only source of truth.

> How can you talk about these things with such a high degree of certainty?

Because "in hopes that they can integrate with us" is just silly.

Of course, I admit that I take for granted that I don't have to justify a believe in evolution.

If you entertain the possibility it was a deliberate human act it would have required an effort like the Fox breeding experiment in Russia. They would have had to go out and catch wild wolves and breed them for generations - that seems extremely far-fetched. Much more likely that there already were wolves that had gotten used to humans, which means they had already changed. Which is what I said:

> even if some of them may have thought about it, but by then it was already happening

It sure is likely that humans at some point thought it useful, but the domestication started not because anybody in particular wanted it to happen.

By the way, I think horse domestication is (was) probably different. It's easy to see how wolves benefit from leftovers found near humans, but horses just need grass. Horses also still don't depend on humans nearly as much as dogs do.

Can you source any of your statements about what precisely happened and who desired what thousands of years ago?

Because you think the dogs had a long term plan?

> not even in the desires of the humans who participated in most of the dog domestication

Did you read the full text or just immediately jump to the snarky burn attempt?

The statement that requires proof is the one that dog evolution was caused by desires of any one in particular, especially "hopes to integrate with us" of wolves.

> not even in the desires of the humans who participated in most of the dog domestication (even if some of them may have thought about it, but by then it was already happening).

Again: Can you support this claim with anything? I'm actually curious, and you seem evasive.


Again: Proof has to be provided by the one making the extraordinary claims.

The statement that requires proof is the one that dog evolution was caused by desires of any one in particular, especially "hopes to integrate with us" of wolves.

That statement was made by anonytrary, not by me.

Are you referring to the statement that he himself called an "highdea" and started with "what if"? In any case, I can't be bothered with this anymore. If you don't have a source for what you stated, then that's fine with me.

It was "please can you indicate what specifically about the claims you think is unlikely; or your purpose in questioning and expectations for a response".

I mean you don't actually think there's documentary evidence from the time dogs became domesticated of either what the people, or the dogs, were specifically thinking, do you? It was my hope that, perhaps, by reflecting on that I might draw attention to the obvious futility of the direction of questioning.

And yes, snark.

I just wanted to know how OP could state so precise things about the intentions of humans back then. I didn't even consider the types of existing evidence or whether the direction of questioning was obviously futile; I just asked a person if there was a source or data behind a statement. But thanks for the snark, it really improved the discussion.

>not even in the desires of the humans who participated in most of the dog domestication

[citation needed]

If you want to claim they caught wild wolves and started a breeding program like what was done with the famous Russian foxes then it is you need to bring a citation.

The outrageous claim that needs citations is that the wolves had "hopes that they can integrate with us".

Selective quoting, you missed out the part where he said:

"are having a tough time in the wild and they are smart enough to see how we treat dogs".

Its a hypothesis and it doesn't seem unreasonable.

How exactly do they "see how we treat dogs"? I must admit I don't see a "reasonable" hypothesis at all.

> Selective quoting,

Yes - because that statement does not make sense regardless of context, so I didn't quote the rest. It also saves space. I always only quote the part that I respond to, the rest of the context always still is right there in an Internet forum, unless OP deletes the post. If I quoted in a different place, for example I quote someone in my own blog post, copying from another website, then I would have to provide the context.

I'd just like to point out that the article connotes multiple ideas using the plot summarised by this comment; hence this is not really a summary of the whole article.

I'd say that here coyotes don't play too smart, but not smart enough.

Instead of understanding a signal and backing off, they proceed and get shot. They win tactically until they lose strategically.

This is even more sad became coyotes are definitely smart enough to understand symbolic violence and audial signals as a substitute for real fighting, and use this in their interactions within a pack.

>> But at some point I realized that most of the time you aren’t getting in trouble because you are breaking the rules. You are getting in trouble because you are making the rule makers unhappy. Once I had that realization I was able to focus on relationships with the rule makers and figure out what they actually cared about. This allowed me to break the rules just as much but without getting in trouble.

Tangentially related, I also read once that the main determinant in whether a doctor got sued for malpractise is not the actual blunder itself, but the doctors bedside manner and relationship with the patient and their family. (Obviously this relates to honest mistakes, more than extreme negligence) As a result, on any project I am on now (as a PM) I make it my practise to befriend as far as possible all the stakeholders in the project.

The other advantage is it also makes your time at work more enjoyable.

The question for me is the definition of “winning”. In his perspective animals like sheep are “winning” the meta game because they behave. However, becoming dumbed down just to survive is maybe not much of a “win” either.

> dumbed down

Hey now, I'd like to speak up for the sheep. Maybe a bit introverted but not dumb. In my experience they are quite opinionated and willful.

Ok maybe I am projecting a bit.

The same author has another post that describes in more detail his views on sheep and how the modern popular connotation is not at all the way sheep actually behave.


there's always a bigger meta.

I read the entire article.

My take: don't bother unless you have some time and are looking to be mildly entertained (very mildly IMO).

It's fluff. The central analogy is a little amusing but doesn't even roughly fit reality.

In chasing its premise the article ignores a key dynamic of "financial innovation" schemes, which is that the schemers largely avoid the negative consequences of their schemes. Well, the money spigot stops at some point, which the schemers see as a tragedy, but they generally aren't losing too much of what they grabbed before the end. In 2008, I think most had to endure talk of losing their bonuses (not actually loss of bonuses, just talk and sometimes a temporary delay). The real consequence is that they have to get back to work building up a new scheme so they can do it all again.

Yeah, basically nobody went to jail, and yet, he considers Bear Sterns losing its independent existence to be the equivalent of a coyote getting shot? Sloppy thinking there.

This is unrelated, but they mention The Great Financial Crisis which made me remember the Recession of my youth.

It devastated my family. My father was in construction. That market seriously ebbs.

I remember a faint feeling I had back then: resentment towards families who happened to be in industries that weren’t hit.

Not because I thought it was unfair that we were hit, I just resented that they didn’t even have to notice what was happening.

And I just had to check myself about this Great Financials Crisis. Lucky timing, I have been pretty employable the last 20 years. The “crisis” was always a political skirmish to me. I cared about it, but it seemed small compared to past crises.

Just now it occurred to me though, that whatever millions of people are going through exactly what I did, their families collapsing.

And I’m the one can not notice that.

I’d like to securitize those families.

Reminds me of what I've heard called a Czech fable:

A poor farmer whose livestock is a single dairy cow goes to the field one morning to milk the cow and discovers that she's dead. He falls to his knees and looks skyward, shaking his fists and cursing God for his misfortune. Suddenly a voice is heard from the heavens: "Your cries have reached me, my son. Tell me what you would like me to do." The farmer gazes upward and says to God, "Please, Lord, kill my neighbor's cow."

If your neighbor loses his job it's a recession. If you lose your job it's a depression.

FamilICO -- pegged to the net worth of the world's poor.

Not sure I'd buy that coin.

But I would make options on that coin a mandatory part of the compensation package of leaders in both the public and private sector.

It is all about finding the right sort of incentive.


Options are the right to buy not the mandate to buy. Thus the name "option". I don't know that I follow your point?

If they aren't exercised, part of the compensation is nullified


As Google can’t find it, I’d say NaN percent.

Even if the coin did exist economists do actually know how poor the poor are, and so would include racist and sexist pay policies in the coin price (assuming cryptocurrencies can even be tied like that); and even if they didn’t know that neither BLM nor feminists are claiming their pay turned out to be Monopoly money or chocolate coins.

BLM started as a result of black people being treated like their lives didn’t matter, hence the name, not their poverty not mattering.

Feminist here. I have a plan : we will make money by paying a significant percentage of western government officials in the new "poor coin".


I think you're mixing disparate phenomena to make a political point. There are places where feminism had a strong impact on culture. There are fractured families. There are families with fewer children (whether this is a good or a bad thing is debatable and a matter of perspective and opinion). But the places where the effect of feminism on the equality of opportunity, power, and so forth are most strongly expressed tend to be the ones with smaller, more stable families. Two of your phenomena anti-correlate. As for the prevalence of disorders, that's a pretty big bag, diagnostic criteria change, and diagnosis itself is iffy. I doubt anyone can make a very strong claim.

> But the places where the effect of feminism on the equality of opportunity, power, and so forth are most strongly expressed tend to be the ones with smaller, more stable families.

Yes, that's what winning skirmishes and losing the metagame looks like. If a meme's host population has a low fertility rate, it'll need to be very strong in recruiting. How strong is this particular meme in recruiting, and what's the delta?

> As for the prevalence of disorders, that's a pretty big bag, diagnostic criteria change, and diagnosis itself is iffy.

Would you mind explaining this one to me, please? Is Xuper trying to suggest that being a feminist makes it more likely that your children will have health disorders?

I'm not sure I understand. How is feminism leading to children with more disorders and fractured families?

It's the classic "family values" propagandist's argument. As soon as you acknowledge that women aren't property, it's a slippery slope to children born late out of wedlock.

It actually is unfair. The Fed's means of control over the economy is interest rates. This affects construction more than most other industries. So construction workers get thrown out of work so the rest of us can have a smooth ride.

I'm intrigued by your phrase 'securitize those families.' What do you have in mind?

Okay. Let's slow down here:

The OP says.

>> And they’re not that smart. I’d put our barn cat up against a raccoon any day on any sort of cognitive test. We think raccoons are clever because they have those anthropomorphic paws and those cute little masks and even a Marvel superhero with its own toy line, but please. Raccoons are takers, not schemers.

From Wikipedia

>> Zoologist Clinton Hart Merriam described raccoons as "clever beasts", and that "in certain directions their cunning surpasses that of the fox." The animal's intelligence gave rise to the epithet "sly coon".[120] Only a few studies have been undertaken to determine the mental abilities of raccoons, most of them based on the animal's sense of touch. In a study by the ethologist H. B. Davis in 1908, raccoons were able to open 11 of 13 complex locks in fewer than 10 tries and had no problems repeating the action when the locks were rearranged or turned upside down. Davis concluded they understood the abstract principles of the locking mechanisms and their learning speed was equivalent to that of rhesus macaques.

Learning speed equivalent to the macaques? You gotta be kidding me. These creatures are underestimated and the author might just not like them?

I mean, look at his eyes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Raccoon_climbing_in_tree_... That guy looks really smart and self aware.

This is a weird point to decide to get stuck on. The whole "coyote/racoon" thing is just meant to be an allegory. The correctness of author's definition of "racoon" is irrelevant; rather, how these definitions correlate to and can help illustrate the author's main point is what matters here.

It would be like reading The Lion and the Mouse and tossing the whole thing out because you think that a mouse really wouldn't be able to chew through all those ropes.

I agree. Having grown up in a rural area near raccoons and eastern coyotes, I definitely prefer the latter. I don't _know_ why, but if I were to wager a guess it's probably because they remind me of dogs. Maybe an unconscious bias shared by a lot of people thanks to the domestication of the dog.

Raccoons, in my experience, definitely seem intelligent. I think the author just needs a proxy for a villain. I can't be alone in thinking that the author has chosen poorly; the fault he finds in the coyote is, by his own admission, not shared by the raccoon. The raccoon is successful in both the mini- and meta-games.

I am a big fan of raccoons as well. I think they are hilarious. They are just smart enough to seem stupid if that makes any sense.

I think one's feelings on racoons vary by where you live. Here in the semi-suburban New Hampshire they're not much of an issue: if you have a decent trash can you'll never know they are there. I imagine a owning a farm would color one's perspective, especially based on the author's suggestion that they kill more than they need.

I'm fairly neutral on coyotes but we've never lost an animal to them. I like their haughtiness, though I can get the same from the fox that lives around here somewhere without as much worry about what she might do to our pets.

It's really just the bear paw print that worries me.

Truly the Columbo of the animal world.

From what racoons do to evade capture in traps (while still making away with the bait), and the damage they can wreak, apparently driven by curiosity due to no apparent indication of a food reward, I gather that they are remarkably smart. They are also remarkably frustrating. And fierce when cornered.

The only issue with his metaphor is that coyotes have been doing very well at the meta game. At the time of European contact there were no coyotes anywhere near Connecticut. Lewis and Clark didn't encounter them until they hit the great plains. Actually only a few decades ago there were no coyotes near the eastern US.

But coyotes are clever and they've learned to adapt and live in close proximity to humans. And as we've changed the landscape and removed & added various animals and plants to the landscape they've found niches that work for them and have expanded their range greatly.

Slightly OT but the evidence we have strongly suggests that exterminating the wolf is the primary reason for the expansion of the range of the coyote to most of the continental USA.


Here in Ontario (and likely elsewhere), the majority of coyotes are actually coywolves (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coywolf). We have them on the property regularly and they are no problem at all, but they are larger and more adaptable than the coyote of old.

Undoubtedly true when looking at the continent overall, but the salient point is that coyotes are thriving today in suburban and in some cases even urban environments. These are not areas that were ever owned by wolves, and to the point of the blog post, areas that require coyotes to "play the game" well with humans.

But the biggest winner in the meta-game is the coyote’s domesticated cousin: the dog. They are the darlings of the human world. If earth was imploding and we had to leave for another inhabitable planet, I bet there would be a few dogs and cats aboard those spaceships. Not so sure there would be room for coyotes. Caring for dogs is now a many billion dollars industry and growing. Dogs might be dumber than coyotes but they’ve totally won the meta-game by being thoroughly domesticated (though one can argue at a cost to their dignity and independence). There is an obvious analogy here.

This makes me question what is should mean to "win" in a genetic sense. The dog may be high in number, but its genetic selection has been artificial, controlled by humans selecting for favourable traits. Similarly, could we consider the cow to be successful, having been bred to produce enough milk that it can't stand, yet with a population much higher than before humans?

I'm not sure about whether dogs or cows are successful, but their genes surely are.

Something similar is happening in Europe. The golden jackal [1], a close relative to the coyote, is expanding its range northward and westward from the Eastern Mediterranean [2]. They are breeding now in Austria [3] and recently an animal was spotted by a camera trap in the Netherlands [4].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_jackal

[2] https://phys.org/news/2015-07-expansion-golden-jackal-europe...

[3] https://www.zobodat.at/pdf/ANNA_109B_0073-0076.pdf

[4] https://www.wur.nl/en/newsarticle/First-golden-jackal-spotte...

For those interested on the more-fascinating-than-you-might-assume history of coyotes I suggest you read Coyote America by Dan Flores. There is also a fantastic podcast episode that hits the high points of the book: http://www.themeateater.com/podcasts/episode-033/

I think that coyotes are doing well as species, not necessarily as individuals. I suspect this is the framework of the post as well, but it should have been more explicit.

Non-domesticated technology/industry/world changing innovators ("coyotes") will exist in any modern society and will still change the world. But an average young coyote cub could still be very miserable.

The true meta-gamer of the story snuck by with a single sentence reference.

So I'm calling you out barn cat. You think you can sneak by having your cake and keeping your solidarity and standoff distance from the humans but also benefit from the free housing + healthcare + steady food when you don't want to kill mice + affection when you decide to wander over to the main house.

But I'm onto you.

Actually the parasite infestation (fleas), lack of affection and food when they want it (except through hard work), temperature variations, etc...make the barn cat a misanthrope.

Every house cat owner knows that the house cat is the 'meta game mastermind'. Hell, they've engineered the system to care about their safety so much that it is cruelty to have them reproduce via the species own painful biology. Letting them out into the street is homicidal. If they get pests they inflict them on their caretaker and every other discomfort is communicated to the human caretaker willy nilly. When they want to exert themselves they can be amazingly cruel, subtle, unpredictable and unyielding. House cats win.

I'm not a fan of having house cats. Indoor only cats develop weird psychological issues at a rate that makes me suspect that living inside isn't all that healthy for them.

Every cat I have owned has been an indoor-outdoor cat. There are downsides. They tend to be less affectionate and more independent than house cats, but they also seem healthier and happier than the indoor cats I have known.

Also they don't need a litter box. That is a biggy.

Well, having an indoor cat means keeping an indoor cat happy which is a larger problem (for the caretaker) but indicative of the meta supremacy in house cat behavior.

In all seriousness I would rather take the time to care for a house cat than to deal with the possibility of roadkill/injury, disease, pests or other accidents of nature. If the cat is a problem for you then don't own one?

On the other hand, I figure that yes, a cat (which I'll never have - allergies) is safe indoors, but if they're happier outdoors... well, maybe nature will happen, but should I really imprison the cat to save it? Not as far as I'm concerned. The cat can go enjoy itself.

The point being, it's not that the cat is a problem. It's that some of us think nature should remain natural, not be pressed into service keeping us company.

When I was in school, there were the people who seemed smart and the people who seemed like they worked hard.

The people who seemed smart won the minigames. They got good grades with little effort. But somehow, they ended up with no institutional support -- in fact, the school hated them. Eventually one of the teachers (who was visibly insecure about her own intelligence and competence) cooked up a nonsense pretext to get some of them expelled.

One kid's parents brought a legal challenge, the school settled for a year's worth of college tuition, and last I heard his parents had withdrawn him from college to pack him off to rehab for heroin addiction. The only other expellee I've heard from left the country, never to return.

The people who seemed like they worked hard didn't always get the best grades. But the institution went out of its way to make life easier for them, and they're all doing alright now.

The education system prioritizes the average, the mean, mediocrity. It's a political aim I believe - I expect without our 'schools' society would look completely different - the spread of outcomes much wider.

People hate their superiors unfortunately. This is why I think rich/high IQ parents need to put their kids around other rich/high IQ kids: proles/low IQs will tear your children apart out of jealousy, possibly leading to mental disorders and drug addictions

That does not seem like a recipe for a solid society. And suggesting the poor are the cause of the rich's mental problems & substance abuse is . . . well, it's something.

You're assuming rich and high IQ go together. We don't live in a meritocratic society and as such, that's not true.

Appropriately, this article is a slightly-too-clever way of talking about three things at the same time.

The most relevant take away from this article (for me) is how the coyotes (crypto and currency experts) invented Bitcoins, raccoons over leveraged it out of dumb greed (investors) and the state took notice and acted out of sheer desperation to not lose control and once again rendered the invention useless by gaining more control than before (the part that is currently in its early stages right now).


I think the article insinuates an interesting take on the invention of cryptocurrencies (by coyotes), their bubble (by raccoons) and their suppression (by the state). But IMO in this case, the state suppressed the invention not just because they fear what the coyotes have produced but also what raccoons have done with it (with the whole ICO bubble, etc.).

Of course, bitcoin's own limitations would've prevented it's widespread use, with or without the over-speculation (lack of throughput and excessive energy consumption).

That's true. The idea holds up better if looked at from an all cryptocurrencies perspective rather than only Bitcoin.

Also because states aren't just trying to control / suppress Bitcoin alone but all cryptocurrencies. For example, here in India the central bank has banned all cryptocurrencies.

They don't have control though. At best, they sabotaged just the bitcoin core blockchain, and those who were in it to destroy the state and central banks forked off into bitcoin cash. They also provoked a tidal wave of "financial innovation" in the sector with now dozens of independent blockchains, some utterly anonymous, over which they have zero control.

If their campaign was the bring this under their power, it cannot be viewed reasonably as anything other than a miserable failure.

Also the analogy to the metagame does not acknowledge the reality that actually those in power in the metagame are a predatory parasitic coercive force in themselves, and their brand of coyote cunning is just traditional machiavellian politics rather than financial innovation backed up with cryptographic peer to peer networks.

It's not a war between animal control and coyotes. It's a war between many coyotes executing different strategies. While both the sheep and the raccoons just try to get by as best they can.

I agree with the essence of your comment that the efforts of the state to suppress cryptocurrencies (to prevent themselves from losing control) are a miserable failure.

However, the same is not true in the developing world where a number of countries have outright banned all independent cryptocurrencies and will be launching state controlled cryptocurrencies soon. Seems like they don't care much about anyone (coyotes, sheep or raccoons).

Yeah, Zimbabwe banned it and it immediately spiked by 5k. Banning hard currency is an old government play and it never works, not even when it's something big heavy and hard like gold, much less something you can memorize as twelve words and transact in invisibly and at will.

> The coyotes know exactly where the invisible fence begins and ends, without the benefit of ever wearing a shock collar. How do I know? Because they intentionally leave their scat on their side of the invisible fence, creating a demilitarized zone as precise and as well-observed as anything on the Korean peninsula. Occasionally a coyote will try to test our dogs by leaving its scat juuusst over the line on our side of the DMZ.

My question is, why does the human think coyote scat on the other side of the line was precisely placed and scat on his side of the line is an intentional provocation? A more reasonable explanation is that the coyotes don't know exactly where the invisible line is.

I think the metaphor is a stretch, especially when applied to Bitcoin. There were many factors which played a part in the financial crisis, including the following non-exhaustive list which were not mentioned is the essay:

- By bailing out big banks and other institutions, the government signaled to these institutions to pile on risk because they'd just be saved by the government when things went bad

- Policy which gave incentives for risky mortgages under the intention of helping the poor

- Tax policy continuing to give incentives for people to buy houses instead of renting

> Coyotes can change the world. (But) Not if they fetishize ANY financial instrument as an intrinsic aspect of a commitment to liberty and justice for all. Because it’s not.

This. In <blink> and <marquee> tags

I take issue with the way he describes securitization as if it's some horrible evil. Securitization (and financialization in general) just takes big balls of intertwined risks and breaks them apart into little balls of (theoretically) consistent risk so that everyone can get the amount of risk they desire.

Imagine a company that has a single customer. There's a 50/50 chance that the customer will pay. If the customer pays then the company makes a ton of profit, if the customer doesn't pay then the company goes out of business.

For the company, this is probably more risk than they want to take. But there's probably hedge fund out there who has enough money to survive the customer not paying and is willing to take that risk for a fee. So the company can go to the hedge fund and say "if the customer pays us in the future we'll give you all the money. In exchange give us 40% of it right now".

And the company is happy because they have a 100% chance of staying in business. And the hedge fund is happy because (if the risk was priced correctly) they have a positive expected value in the trade.

That's all securitization is.

That's true in that it's what securitization is meant to be but unfortunately as was seen in the mid-2000's it proved extremely difficult to accurately price the little balls of risk and the money being made in doing the selling and breaking apart those balls provided an incentive for people to keep the pipeline of loans going well past what was prudent.

In the UK we ended up with all sort of shenanigans like "self-certified mortgages" where the person taking out the loan was allowed to certify their ability to repay. with that kind of product it's very difficult to classify risk of non-repayment as you can't believe the evidence provided (necessarily).

PayPal was one of the few financial innovators to dodge animal control. They were first and they were fast.

And they were compliant. Their business model was not "you can use this new form of money to mail order cocaine".

I don’t think they really care about the drug trade near as much as large scale tax avoidance.

They were the friendly coyotes that managed to invent something that did not threaten the state.

The State still cannot tell the Coyotes from Raccoons. Especially so because neither of them show there form truly until the deed is done. Thus the Coyote population control. The utopia of a Coyote population playing the meta game will indeed happen some day - just that the time isn't right. Yet! So the same Animal Control that goes around looking for masked men with rifles, also chases those who leak the rightful information to the People. The question is not who is right - the question is are the People ready? And what's the ratio of Coyote's to Raccoons. And how exactly do you tell them apart pre-facto.

I think because the raccoons are in the government. If Bear Stearns is a coyote, Goldman Sachs is a raccoon. They don't mind breaking stuff for profit, and yet they always get some people in every single US government.

Reminds me of when Andy Dufresne thought he was protecting himself when he told the warden he'd never tell anyone about cooking his books.

what scene in shawshank are you referring to

The scene where Andy Dufresne told the warden he'd never tell anyone about cooking his books

When Andy's trying to get the warden to let Tommy tell them he's innocent


It's this scene (around the 3:55 mark in this clip):


Closes the article by implying that the federal government is a monolithic political entity ("the State") that stands apart from private financial interests.

And then quotes Jesus.

Way to stay true to your roots.

If you enjoyed this article and especially the parallel between animal populations and human behavior. I recommend reading about [1] Evolutionarily Stable Strategy and specificly the book [2] The Selfish Gene by [3] Richard Dawkins.

The gist of it is that survival strategies are only viable given the distribution of the behavior throughout the entire species or population. Similar to a finicial market, some strategies work only when a small percentage of the population exhibits the behavior.

A bonus is that, like the phrase Too Clever by Half, Dawkins is also British.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionarily_stable_strategy

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Selfish_Gene

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Dawkins

At least part of the point of the article seems to be about narrow specialization creating blinders that inhibit deep strategic thinking.

I can see very strong parallels with systems thinking and the role that systems engineers play within the V-model.

I'm not sure what the connection was, exactly, but this story talking about coyotes and raccoons in finance gave me an epiphany of understanding about Plato's Allegory of the Cave.

He’s just saying block chain is the next CDS(credit default swaps)

...but for individual instead of for institutional investors:

> Turns out that B̶i̶t̶c̶o̶i̶n̶ a AAA-rated tranche of Alt-A mortgages wasn’t the store of value that coyote-math “proved” it was, to the detriment of i̶n̶d̶i̶v̶i̶d̶u̶a̶l̶ institutional investors who put a significant portion of their portfolio into these securities, and to the ruin of those who used leverage to acquire these securities.

I think opensourced block chain implementation is way more transparent than the bundled derivative instruments the bankers made. The problem is that people will still invest in stuff like shit coins or use stuff like Tether where nothing is transparent

Argh - please dang, can we have subtitles, or something, to reduce the numbers of clickbait non-descriptive titles.


Infuriated of Norwich.

Fun article, interesting point, and I don't even necessarily disagree (entirely, anyway), BUT: coyotes have a larger range now than they have had since long before humans showed up in North America, largely because humans cleared out their main competitors, the wolves. And raccoons are not stupid, although they are destructive.

So, I get what the author is trying to say with this little parable, but the fact that the central facts it is using (coyotes losing out, raccoons are stupid) are both false, it makes me more than a little suspicious of the conclusion, when I otherwise might not be.

If any animal has won the meta-game it's the cats. Yes, those adorable, cute, dumb bastards. They badly lose on any tactical level. But man, win on the strategical level so much.

We got some kibble from an aunt that the cat isn't keen on. She'll eat it if and only if she's starving and it's the only stuff around. Also we use a feed puzzle tower where she has to paw the kibble through holes to get it into the "bowl". We mixed the bunk kibble with the good stuff to try to coax her to eat it, but she sniffs each kibble and ignores the inferior stuff.

Well, the bunk kibble is round and likes to roll away. So in the course of getting at the good stuff, the round garbage unworthy for the princess scatters everywhere, gets stepped on, attracts ants, etc. Well, I'm left with a tupperware full of the mixed kibble that I have to use up, so I just pour it into the bowl so it doesn't scatter. Pesky poking has given way to the buffet.

I don't know if you knew you were playing, but good game, cat, good game.

Very interesting. One might also say something like "half measures break the whole." The conclusion drawn about the State getting stronger and weakening mobility for coyotes seems like a legitimate concern too.

In the case of Bitcoin, being such a foray into uncharted territory, I'm unsure of how you would be good at the meta game, or figure out how racoons will abuse your radical new idea. Maybe I need to improve my meta game, heh.

Perhaps the post itself is too clever by half. It was about “why Bitcoin is going to fail” and yet all anyone is discussing is its well-told animal analogy.

Probably because it's pretty obvious that Bitcoin is going to fail.

>But the trait that ALL domesticated species demonstrate relative to their wild species is a smaller brain. I’d bet it’s happening with humans, too, but that’s just an observation for another day.

It is: http://discovermagazine.com/2010/sep/25-modern-humans-smart-...

Associating brain size with intelligence is facile. As the article points out, no one knows why cranial volume is shrinking, and there's no clear connection to intellect.

This reminds me of the scene in the Indiana Jones movie when someone comes up and starts challenging Indy with a bunch of flashy sword moves. Rather than engage him that level, where he is definitely outclassed, Indy simply draws his pistol and shoots him: https://youtu.be/anEuw8F8cpE

I'm curious about what people appreciate in this essay. In the end, I don't think I learned anything valuable from it.

That you can be clever and win and still lose, and someone less smart may actually do better. I ignored the second half (read it though) because I thought it was quite a stretch from the coyotes to financial instruments. Actually, it's all quite a stretch as far as the details go, while the general idea that I stated at the beginning is true but not exactly original.

I think the take away is basically that you're optimizing for the the sum of all series, which means that focusing on winning either the battle or the war by itself is fruitless and counterproductive.

I agree, in a lot of ways, I prefer to make situations win-win because it leads to better long term outcomes. It's as much about framing as it is about succeeding in the short or long term.

If you're actually curious, I'd suggest leaving off the slam next time.

Thanks for the feedback. I removed it.

They are, to use the wonderful Brit phrase, too clever by half...not good in the meta-game. And the meta-game has turned against the coyotes with a vengeance.

Here's the thing about the meta-game: It's very contextual. Coyotes can't play the meta-meta-game of thinking about your context and possibly changing it. Some human beings can.

Slightly OT: For us on our farm back in Iowa, the clever animals were the raccoons. It got to the point where we had to put locks with keys on the grain bins; metal hooks and clasps---even some requiring refined motor skills to open---were not enough to keep the buggers out. Fortunately, they couldn't pick the locks. :)

There is a pretty good book about the history of the Coyote - Coyote America by Dan Flores.

I've long had the suspicion that in domesticating animals, we've dumbed them down severely. And I sometimes wonder if humans were smarter before civilization replaced evolution as the driving factor for intelligence.

> And I sometimes wonder if humans were smarter before civilization replaced evolution as the driving factor for intelligence.

this is an odd proposition. evolution has not been replaced; rather, the evolutionary pressures have changed. in any case, civilization is not much more than 10,000 years old, which is pretty short in evolutionary timescales.

and although we employ some measures (ie social services) to prevent the weakest from dying outright, it seems like long term strategic thought is more important than ever. for instance, it takes 5-7 years for a high school grad to get a master's degree. can you really envision an adult hunter-gatherer working towards something for that long without seeing the fruits of their labor? their environment mandated a much shorter term focus to avoid starvation or lethal competition from other humans.


> it seems like long term strategic thought is more important than ever

is true for the minority only.

Of course any description of what's happening and what can be done to prevent it is to the right of the Overton Window and is thus illegal to discuss on this forum.

Well, if humans haven’t changed in 10,000 years then the author’s thought that domesticated animals are different is also false.

What are you basing that assertion on? For starters, animals had way more generations than humans in those 10,000 years - probably by an order of magnitude or 2 depending on the animal.

I'm quite amused to see all that veiled scaremongering when it comes to crypto, even if it has a grain of truth. Yeah, truly the ones who get involved in it can be thought of as either coyotes or raccoons, but I think prohibition and "the war on drugs" only shows how much can something be made desirable by making it unfit for public consumption, and at that point the animal simile breaks down.

Not to mention that, as other commenters have mentioned, coyotes have been rather successful in spite of human encroachment, just like cryptocurrencies grow stronger in the face of looming regulation and sanction. Sure, it might scare off some raccoons and kill some coyotes in the short term, but it's going to be still there. And for all the "coyote institutions" that perished, there are still many more.

I don't know if it's scaremongering because I'm not entirely sure what point the writer is getting at. The angle I chose to read is that, cryptos acting all "You can regulate us, because distributed blockchain! Muahaha!" is the 1st order game, akin to the coyote calling bluff on the noisy can.

Government types developing an ill will towards the defiant cryptos is the neighborhood moms getting pissed at the bold coyote.

The animal control is the 2nd order game. Regulators come in and crack down on cryptos. Put the squeeze on exchanges, make it hard to cash out to legal tender.

I am no coyote or raccoon. I'm more like a German Shepherd / Corgi cross.

What do people think of his connection between Credit Default Swaps and all these ICOs?

I don't see any useful insight in it.

Hands down one of the best reads I have had in a longgg while

The author describes how coyotes win the "skirmish game" when they casually walk into suburban yards and demonstrate that they are not afraid of the humans when they do things to scare them away such as make loud noises at them. However, they lose the "meta-game" when animal control shows up and puts them down because they won't go away.

The author uses this analogy to compare coyotes to financial innovators. His argument is that every time financial innovation gets out of control and the economy at large is impacted, larger powers step in and squash it. He argues tha this is what happened in the 2008 financial crisis with mortage backed securities, and that this is the same thing happening now with Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.

I disagree with the parallel he draws to cryptocurrencies.

While I don't necessarily think cryptocurrencies will dominate the world, and Governments may even succeed in reigning them in, they aren't in the same category as other financial innovation.

Mortgage backed securites were the coyotes stalking across the laws of suburban moms, hoping animal control wouldn't interfere.

Cryptocurrencies are a coordinated attack by a pack of coyotes on animal control headquarters.

They were designed specifically to be as government-resistant as possible. Now, animal control has a lot of firepower and they can call in reinforcements. Governments have a lot of resources and powers they can draw on to stop and regulate cryptocurrencies. However, these coyotes are well aware of the meta-game, who the true enemy is and they're gunning hard for him.

Before bitcoin, no currency that wasn't backed by a government lasted long before being shut down by a government entity. Bitcoin has been going for nine years now, and in that time further innovation has given us Monero and Zcash which are even more censorship and surveillance resistant.

The primary attack vector, the only one that's worked, has been made by the "racoons" at Blockstream and their investors from Visa and the banking industry. This is a much more subtle attack than direct government intervention. In a nut-shell, when Satoshi left the project, he left a guy named Gavin Andresen in charge. Gavin trusted the wrong person with commit access to the project, who was co-opted by the banking industry and who then booted him from access. Thos current group of developers crippled Bitcoin by repeatedly refusing to expand the block size and moving forward developing the "Lightning Network" which is nothing more than a copy of the current inter-bank payment system and which, quite frankly doesn't work.[1][2] They also took over the r/bitcoin subreddit as well as the bitcointalk forum and completely censored it.[3]

The fact that the racoons have taken this more subtle approach, suggests to me that the enemies of Bitcoin now believe that attempts to shut it down by more direct mean will fail.

However there are still a lot of coyotes working on other cryptocurrency projects. These coyotes are clearly playing the meta-game, and for now they're winning.

[1] Summary of what the lightning network is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYHFrf5ci_g [2] Discussion of a developer who tried to implement micropayments with lightning network, but had to switch because it did not work well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ew2MWVtNAt0 [3] A (brief and incomplete) history of censorship in /r/Bitcoin: https://medium.com/@johnblocke/a-brief-and-incomplete-histor...

It would be pretty easy for the government to shut down any cryptocurrencies it cared too: go after the exchanges. This is already happening by making them follow the know your customer regulations that banks have had to follow for years. But I think you're being a little to cynical. I don't think the government cares that much about bitcoin except to the extent that it allows people to get around existing laws, and its high potential for abuse by unscrupulous business people.

Truly HN quality post!

> I’d bet it’s happening with humans, too, but that’s just an observation for another day.

Ho Ho!

Tell me more brother. I am curious.

This links up with David Krakauer's ideas I'll bet.

>I know, I know … it’s negative reinforcement

No it isn't. It's positive punishment.

Oh no, poor finance jerkoffs got ripped off by their own cleverness.

Nothing says dbag like Alabama man who now lives in Connecticut crying over dead asshole financial firms.

We've had 4 (or more) of these banking/finance ripoffs in my fucking lifetime. Bankers and finance assholes are the scourge of mankind.

I got a degree in Finance just so I could avoid the bullshit these fucking assholes use to rip everyone off. A State Bank as the author is so scared of, like the one in North Dakota, won't run into any of these issues. Because their goal isn't profit at any cost, it's providing banking and investment services.

tl;dr; fuck this guy

A local commercial bank and a New York investment bank are really different things. The financial industry has caused some large problems, but it's also a big part of why the modern world works as well as it does. I don't think you're being charitable in your criticism of the article.

The modern world works well for whom?


When would you rather be alive? There are tons of problems with the world today and many that we can fix but aren't. But the idea that things are worse now than before is just not true.

The idea that our measurement of progress only needs to be binary (did we or didn't we progress?) shows indifference to the endless problems yet unsolved. Better than yesteryear doesn't mean good enough. Far from it.

I don't view progress as binary. That some things are worse now than in the past is a banal and uninteresting point, but it's clear that the world is much better now than it was even 50 years ago for the average person by virtually any metric that matters: number of people living in poverty, childhood mortality, life expectancy, chances of being persecuted for your religion, race, or sexual orientation. The list goes on.

There are obviously tons of problems still but the improvements that have been made are vast. I get that we still have a lot of progress to make, but the cynicism of the person I was replying to is inappropriate when you look at the facts.

I'm a white guy in American born to two college educated parents.

My life isn't representative of everyone on this planet. I won the birth lottery.

I'll pick the future, since it's a futile exercise.

It's really sad to see this article about animal abuse on the front page of HN.


I'll be copy pasta'ing this comment to every top level comment about animal abuse here. Shock collars can be used for abuse. But fuck, they can do so much good.

= = = = =

I'm happy to see you down voted here.

I have had to employ shock collars for foster dogs who were capable of jumping 10 feet fences in the past and these things work a damn charm.

They were the last option available to me after trying every other option. But damn do they work. After a day or two the 'beep' of the shock collar is enough negative reinforcement to stop the dog(s) from retrying the ol' 10 foot pole vault.

And before I let my dog(s) use it I tried it on myself.

The shock it's self was pretty harmless, certainly not comfortable, but the longer I stayed near the perimeter the more often the shocks were deployed. I learnt my lesson quick enough.

Except for one of my foster dogs anyway, he was a 60kg athletic failed pig hunting hybrid mongrol named Loki, looked like a Bull Arab crossed with a Great Dane. I named him Loki because of his tenacity and ingenuity for getting in trouble.

He learnt if he ran up the adjacent wall (attached to the house, that didn't have an invisible fence line) quick enough, he could be mid-flight before the shocks were administered and when momentum is carrying you through the air at 12 feet, over the shock line, the shocks don't do shit. You're already flying. And the shocks stop well before you hit the ground on the other side so you can gracefully land and wonder a few streets to go meet Nani at the local Cafe for free biscuits and pats for an hour. While I rode my bicycle home to 'rescue' him from getting fat.

Alas. Similar to the Cayote. His abuse from prior owners saw him lose the meta-game in the long run. The abuse saw massive changes in behavior between loveable giant to dangerous beast from the smallest changes in environment. Even after 12 months of behavioural monitoring and professional dog therapy from I and his rescue organisation, he was not for long for this world. The level of risk from his occasional aggressive outbursts at times were just too high.

Still one of my favourite dogs. Miss the guy every day.

Anyway. Thanks for reading. And PS, as a last option. Shock collars are great. They save lives.

Any dog ever would gladly trade a few zaps for a wide open place to explore outside. Cruelty is depriving dogs of exercise and outdoor time and stimulation and the chance to run, not invisible fences.

My anecdata shows one amongst 4 dogs who I used a shock collar on wanted to get outside regardless. And he was aptly named Loki for a reason. So no, not 'any dog', not by a large stretch.

You're making assumptions that I didn't exercise or allow my dog(s) outdoor time. Wether it was daily visits to the dog park or visits to the beach or the hinterland on the weekend. You're wrong to assume that the dogs whether adopted or fostered where ever deprived of anything. Shock collars are barbaric but they are means to an end, and an effective one once all options are exhausted.

Plus the whole, let your dogs roam free in a country like Australia would come at a significant cost to the local wildlife where wild dogs and cats are pests and not all of us live on farms, I'm not sure what you would have suggested for the dogs under my care. Or if your opinion here is almost entirely biased?

You did not read until the part he starts drawing parallels between Bitcoin and the 2008 mortgage crash.

Nevermind that - what animal abuse? r4unwud, I didn't see any animal abuse mentioned in the article.

They are referring to the zap collar being used on the dogs.

Oh but regular collars must be animal abuse too, then, because tugging on a creatures neck is not pleasant. As well as not providing a square mile play area with ideal humidity and temperature and lots of fun toys.

I was reading this in Dwight K Shrute's voice. lol

>> When the dog gets close to the wire, the receiver starts to beep, and when the dog gets all the way to the “fence” boundary, the receiver generates a small electric zap. I know, I know … it’s negative reinforcement and it’s a shock collar and all that. Don’t care. It’s fantastic for us and our dogs.

That's disgusting.

Do you know what's worse? Your dog straying out of the farm and getting eaten by a bear. Or run over by a truck

Oh it's for the dog's own good? Well in that case you can lock it up in a pen so it can't get out, or the bears come in. That will keep it safe.

Nothing wrong with that, is there?

What exactly are you arguing for?

Thanks, that was hilarious.

You're welcome, I can see you were eager to engage in meaningful conversation.

I had the same initial reaction but then again I don't have a dog nor do I have a large enough estate to ever need such a device anyway. Clearly I don't have the data to weigh in on this issue. That being said if you consider that having dogs in a very large outdoors environment with a colar that zaps them (after warning them) if they stray too far is abuse, then isn't keeping the same dog in a small cramped urban flat much, much worse? If I was the dog I know what I'd choose.

That being said I think if I was in their position (and again, I'm very far from it) I think I'd prefer having an actual physical fence.

For what it's worth, my folks have an actual physical fence but it is just insufficient. The dog would always figure out a way through or under or over it. The shock collar is also not perfect but far more effective.

One thing that's far more effective is tying the dog up to a pole and never letting it roam free.

Is there an objection to handling a dog in this manner?

All day? I guess I'm making an assumption here about the internal desires of a dog but I think she'd prefer to roam several hectares, even with the risk of an electrical shock, rather than be tied to a stick.

Maybe she would prefer to roam free behind an ordinary fence and not have to risk an electrical shock?

The reason this is used instead of a fence has nothing to do with the dog's preferences (which of course we can't know), safety, or convenience. Instead, the reason seems to be cost. I don't see how it's possible to justify avoiding the cost of building a fence by mistreating your animals. If the man who has this farm can't keep dogs without delivering electric shocks to them, then maybe he shouldn't have any dogs.

I'm curious how much firsthand knowledge you have of these systems.

1) The electrical shock is not truly painful. It's startling and highly unpleasant, but it's not painful, for short bursts. I can't speak for all systems, but for the ones I tested (albeit holding the collar in my hand, not on my neck), it was no worse than typical electric fencing, which is widely used.

2) These systems have the benefit of not affecting other animals, and dogs and other animals cannot get stuck in them. We had an electric fence around a duck nesting ground growing up, and I'll never forget the morning we found a whimpering fox that had somehow gotten tangled in the wires. I guess it had jumped at the shock and pulled a wire off the fence? I don't know. But it had the electrified wire wrapped around a back paw. At least it was a pulsing fence (rather than constant current); so the fox didn't appear to have a bad burn, though I'm sure being stuck in it for hours was terrible (and truly painful).

2b) They also do not impede the traffic or cut off travel corridors of other wildlife, which can be a real problem in some areas.

3) Ordinary fences are (often) less effective. Given enough time and a large amount of fence that cannot be thoroughly checked & repaired regularly, dogs will find a way to escape. They'll dig under, they'll jump over, they'll climb, they'll chew holes in, etc. We had a super smart lab who figured out how to climb a chain link fence. Depending on the risks of escape, this can be highly dangerous.

4) The risk of shock is typically very low. When these systems are installed, they are typically buried along natural boundaries, and when they aren't, you put temporary flags in the ground to show the dog where the boundary is. So the dog very quickly learns the boundary, learns what the beep means, and rarely gets a shock after the first couple of days.

Overall, I don't think these systems are signficantly less humane than other types of fencing – probably more humane if you're comparing them to traditional electric fencing.

That said, these fences aren't perfect either. I have another friend who installed one to keep his husky from leaving his ~3 acre yard, because the dog was breaking into a neighbor's chicken coop. It worked for a while, but eventually that husky realized she could just get a running start, jump over the boundary, take the brief shock, and then be free. The drive to get those chickens was just too compelling. Of course, the drive to return home was not quite as strong. So she'd sit at the edge of boundary, whining to be let back into the yard.

A traditional fence might have been more effective in that case, though I think that husky would have found a way out. She was relentless and clever. They had to get rid of her eventually, when their neighbor threatened to put out bowls of antifreeze – now that's disgusting! (To be fair, this was in rural Alabama ~15 years go, and that neighbor depended on the chickens/eggs for food. Still disgusting, but the frustration is understandable if a dog is literally taking food out of your kid's mouth.)

How would you keep a dog from straying into the wild and getting injured? These are pets and not wild animals able to survive in the bush on their own.

Talking with a friend recently about how "wild" our pet dogs are. In the local area, dogs get out at night and form packs that hunt calves and lambs and simply kill them and leave the bodies.

There is a good business in hunting feral cats and dogs that were pets and have been left to fend for themselves in the wild because they were no longer wanted.

It's changed as the demographics shifted and the county urbanized but thirty years ago the local sheriff still issued deputy animal control papers to hunters, farmers, woodsmen, etc. who reported dog packs. There are fewer farms, greater housing density, more posted land, revised laws, and different attitudes toward animal control (generally, better) but the problem still occasionally comes up. Feral dogs aren't just a semi-rural problem, this was the situation in Brooklyn https://gowanuslounge.blogspot.com/2007/07/dog-days-remember... and resulted in a handful of publicized attacks on joggers and pets.

The dogs I referred to are not feral as such. They are pets to someone. It is when they get together in packs that their behaviour goes wild. The owners are often unaware that their dogs have wandered about and partaken in killing of stock.

It is also applicable to cats.

Yup, many dog owners I know are shocked to find out that it's legal in most states to kill a dog that's harassing livestock(hasn't yet done physical harm).

Here the feral dog problem is solved enough that there's a substantial population of rabbits living in town.

(a small town in a rural county)

Are you saying that most people who have dogs in farms use invisible wires to keep them safe?

Because I'm in the position to know that this is not the case. My partner's father has a farm with animals, including dogs. The farm has a fence and the dogs can roam freely inside it.

Anecdotes are not data. I know plenty of farms that do use invisible fences. Dogs have a habit of digging under fences when determined.

As a nitpick, if I recall correctly, "negative reinforcement" is when you remove a desirable stimulus to reinforce behavior. In this case it's actually "positive punishment" as they are introducing an aversive stimulus to extinguish some behavior (go out of bounds).


It's less disgusting than seeing your poor dog smashed to hamburg by a pulp truck in the road, or put down by animal control because it wandered off and got antagonized.

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