BTW: The guy that invented TEL also invented CFCs!
See Thomas Midgley Jr:
This guy who invents awesome working chemicals that are tragically bad for people on a worldwide scale manages to exit life dues to his own inventions, unrelated to chemistry... Kind of Ironic! Thomas Midgley, Jr. (1889–1944) was an American engineer and chemist who contracted polio at age 51, leaving him severely disabled. He devised an elaborate system of ropes and pulleys to help others lift him from bed. He became accidentally entangled in the ropes and died of strangulation at the age of 55. However, he is better known for two of his other inventions: the tetraethyl lead (TEL) additive to gasoline, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Maybe an overwrought comparison but I genuinely do feel like we’ll look back on this age of social media and disinformation in the same way we did leaded gas. The people making money knew exactly how dangerous it was and the problems it caused but they did everything in their power to cover it up in the name of profit. Originally it felt like a social annoyance and not much else but in this era of vaccine denialism, election fraud conspiracy theories, even body image issues from touched up photos, there’s little doubt in my mind that society is suffering and that the problem will likely get worse before it gets better.
Everybody likes to hate on "big tech" these days, but if there's anyone that knows the dangers and all the ill effects but ignores them to make a profit, it's content creators. They are hyper-attuned to the way people respond to their content, and they'll do anything to get a reaction, the more intense the better. And if that means siccing a mob on somebody, so be it. If it means doing stunts that endanger people in the real world, fine. And polarization is the best technique they've stumbled onto yet: say stuff that enrages people to get them to engage with the post, and then pick up followers among those that watch the rage with glee.
Just about every successful influencer has done a post about how hard it is to be internet-famous. It's almost always about how the negative effects of their work get reflected back at them. They know how the things they say harm people, they just want the negativity to be directed elsewhere.
There's a lot of debate about how social media companies should be regulated, how much censorship should be allowed, how much platforms should subsidize legacy media etc. But none of it will matter if we don't rein in what's considered acceptable in the creator economy.
This is like blaming smokers instead of Philip Morris.
It's hardly a free choice when they're actively undermining your ability to choose freely.
Went in with a colleague to have lunch and go over some diagrams. Got laptop out so we could see the diagrams and then got kicked out, had lunch down the road instead.
If I’m eating out on my own I’ll read a kindle. That’s not allowed. Read a dead tree is fine though. Pathetic.
Unfortunately, toxic content is a lot harder to regulate than toxic chemicals, when one man's truth is another man's fake news.
By pushing 'engagement' at all costs, it's essentially inevitable that all the terrible behaviors we see from 'content creators' happen. I agree that they are far from blameless, but when your entire platform is practically globally available to anybody and you only reward unsavory behavior... you're going to get unsavory behavior.
There could be many, many people behaving ethically, and most people may never even see any of them due to the way the platforms are set up.
It's technically content-agnostic in the most technical sense, but practically it's one big system designed to incentivize and surface unethical behavior.
They don't only reward that. They reward any engagement, and some content creators have raced to the bottom in terms of creating divisive content.
If we were still in the era where feeds were just a chronological list of posts by people you're subscribed to, that might be a little different.
But the feed is manipulated by algorithms that dump any non-toxic things away into obscurity while upranking and featuring the most controversial things in order to get more engagement. That's by design.
Both are choosing to ignore the damage which is a direct result of their actions and they both ignore long term damage in the name of an immediate profit return.
There no reason we have to choose one or the other when both are clearly willing to destroy.
I’m not sure what solutions exist though, I’m in favor of regulatory action but it’s often just moving the goalposts as there are always loopholes to be found.
> they choose harmful words because it makes them more money
OK but who is responsible for the fact that choosing harmful words is more profitable?
Yeah, because they're the Standard Oil and Aramco of this story.
> but if there's anyone that knows the dangers and all the ill effects but ignores them to make a profit, it's content creators.
That's like blaming the owners of mom-and-pop filling ("gas") stations for the ills of leaded petrol ("gas").
I don't love the idea with the current iteration, but every mass media invention has the exact same trope play out as we're seeing with social media.
1) first adopters and skeptics
2) major use
3) exploitation of those users
4) combo of regulation and individuals becoming more savvy
We're deep in phase three. It might get worse still, but I don't see much worse until you factor in additional game changers (deep fakes seem most obvious, but my money is on something currently unknown)
A new equilibrium will be found, better for some interests and worse for others.
People will get bored of it all, I know I have. Right now my platform of choice is Discord. It might technically be social media but it's way less toxic as it encourages people to build relationships rather than shouting at each other.
I had something interesting happen to me last week on Insta. It was very late at night and I was about to fall asleep, when a live feed alert informed me that a band I liked was talking live directly with just about anyone about their new album release.
It was amazing to see them that open and welcoming to their fans and to be able to instantly download their album after being told it had just dropped. That kind of instant communication is wild.
Yes, I assert that comparing social media to a deadly substance is overwrought, hyperbolic, and not lucid enough to be helpful.
Lead causes brain damage and kills people.
What we call social media is an advertising business offering free channels of shallow discourse as incentive. The business has delivered.
Consider social media to be a test of the education system and of democracy in general. If society has failed the test, the test has been useful indeed.
So I do disagree with the liberty of the metaphor in this case.
Social media is the business of providing channels of communication to people in exchange for some lucrative data. Other businesses do this too (television, radio, newspapers).
I am not at all a proponent of social media. The discourse is broken by petty, idiotic exchanges. The signal-to-noise ration is far too low and the sophisticated advertising techniques have become a form of surveillance that I reject.
But petty, idiotic exchanges have always existed. So have ignorant people, propaganda, gullible people, and fanatics. They can meet in basements, in taverns, in temples, in arenas... The fundamental problem is failing education and social disorder.
It takes great liberty of metaphor to compare social media to a real toxin. I share people's dislike of social media. But I will look back on the past decade and not blame any of the social-media companies for the idiocy of people who should know better through public education.
However, the liberty of the metaphor is well justified.
Social media is a plausible (not proven, but plausible) factor in a 57% increase in teen suicide between 2008 and 2018 (noting that rates were stable for the years 2000-2008, and that 2006 was the watershed year for smartphones and social media).
I'm not motivated to dig out the numerous resources showing the deleterious influence of social media on teen psychology, but it doesn't take much searching if you are open. There are clear psychological mechanisms, and Facebook especially was clearly and explicitly designed to take advantage of these psychological mechanisms.
"Explicit manipulation" is a modus operandi of business and politics. At what point it becomes mephistophelian is largely determined by group conventions.
Social media accounts can become for some people an avatar of self-worth. There is even the reputational business model, i.e. linking business profiles. (Let's leave aside for now the question of streaming sex-work and voyeurism.)
But for the vast majority of users (I estimate hundreds of millions of users, on the back of a napkin), social media is not fatal or damaging. People connect, check friends' news and say hello, then disconnect.
> not proven, but plausible
We know that social media has been used in some cases for bullying and cruelty. The evidence has been tried in court. Social media has been a means of communication in these cases, like the anonymous telephone call or the stamped papermail. (The ghoulish Edgar J. Hoover had his vile FBI operation send at least one letter to MLK telling the civil-rights leader to kill himself.)
The worse tendencies of human nature have of course been known to us for some time. Adam Smith wrecked the job prospects of his friend David Hume. On Usenet of yore, there were flame wars: people pursuing a quarrel because someone is wrong on the Internet. Also consider a funny piece by Woody Allen about two stubborn men playing chess by stamped papermail.
Irascibility, stubbornness, cruelty, and schadenfreude joy are failings of character that are usually treated as legal.
Bullying is a problem and is explicitly punishable in some codes of conduct. To cause death is much worse, of course. It is a crime.
Bullying does happen every day, in hallways and buses and roadways and offices, among people of all ages. There are tyrannical bosses, tavern disputes, cruel remarks in sport, and the art and business of gossip. In some cases, we even applaud a great leader despite that fact that he treats people like rubbish. (I think of at least one famous figure in computing and one former elected leader of a large country.)
In short, I would not say in this case that correlation equals causation, but correlation may indicate something disturbing about the collapse of group ethics and social discourse. I find social media deplorable for the tone of people's discourse. I also don't like television or malicious text messages.
By the way, I upvoted your post. Cheers!
In most popular cases, it is communication of people to finely drawn images of all sorts of ideas which bring money. Social media is not a social media, it’s an advertising/deception media. Face it: people on average are not able to socialize properly on a large scale, because the reality is boring and images of all sorts are escapist’s fun. That’s why cinema/theaters and artists existed since forever. “Social” media is a well-coined term that everyone accepted blindly.
Would you say that the difference between television (TV) and social media (SM) is that TV can only push the propaganda from a central server, whereas SM provides the push of propaganda as well as mutual reinforcement through sharing comments?
I find it all quite deplorable, I assure you. But I really think the "toxicity" is a precursor to the expression of the "toxic" opinions. They already existed, but were hushed by the shame of direct attribution in regular public discourse.
With all the deaths caused by anti-vaxxers, one could argue that social media also causes brain damage and kills people.
If anything social media has a capacity for indirect harm that is in some cases greater than the original harm in question.
Very fattening, no nutrient value. Unless a restaurant is willing to invest in peanut oil (and they will tell you on the menu if they did because it costs so much more than hydrogenated soybean oil) all fried foods are cooked in burnt up (oxidized and broken down) soybean oil. You have to c he ange the oil in a fryer every day to get a decent food product out of it. Good restaurants might filter it and reuse it for one additional shift/day. In reality it is used until it is smoking heavily and not able to cook food without rendering it deflated and dark brown.
There are massive inertia and industry lobbyists (producers and food mfg) behind it that know how to install fear in politicians. We have know for along time that putting it in your body is a bad idea.
I think arguing that "polyunsaturated fats will be seen as grossly unhealthy" requires more than an example of (ab)use of a particular oil.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats are good for you in moderation if extracted cold without processing, uncooked, and stored in opaque containers in a fridge.
In general, getting oils from foods is best, rather than using them in refined form.
The reason PUFAs are pushed so much is probably due to heavy support from the farms and industry that manufacture them.
> they're all heavily processed in refineries using noxious chemicals
While processing might matter, it's hard to tell just from that if it does. Admonishing processing with "noxious chemicals" sound a lot like suggesting that something is healthier because it's natural.
> they have low smoke points, and get rancid easily
I can see these as detriments or even show-stoppers for some uses, but I fail to see how these are important if you don't overheat the oil or let it go rancid. I see these more as issues of incorrect use. In some sense they are of course downsides of the product since some other fats might have better properties in terms of ease of use (harder to overheat), but I don't think it follows that they're unhealthy by themselves. They could be, but that doesn't follow from a low smoke point.
As for omega-6 fatty acids, I've understood there to be some evidence that they're not healthy in large amounts, so there might be some truth to (at least some) polyunsaturated fats not being as healthy as they're made out to be. I still don't really see enough here to get behind the statement that polyunsaturated fats will be seen as grossly unhealthy in the future.
I might be wrong -- again, I have no expertise here -- but I just don't see it in the arguments.
Body image issues from advertising was an issue that existed way before the advent of Instagram, though - even before the first line of Photoshop was coded. Ultra-thin, half starved and sometimes drugged models were the norm for way, way too many years.
Wow it didn't take long for evidence of that to surface:
I would be interested to know what evidence you have for this. Of course, given the billions of ideas in the world there are necessarily a few conspiracy theories that were later shown to be true. But it has always been my impression that the percentage of conspiracy theories that later turn out to be true is vanishingly small... perhaps one in a million or less?
Do you know of any evidence of the prevalence of ideas seen as conspiracy theories at first but later shown to be true?
Have you considered a possibility that may be, the outright idiotic conspiracy theories that you're talking about don't actually have that much supporters, and could be used as scrape-goats to excuse the censorship and information control which would actually be targeted at much less insane stuff?
Edit: Actually, strike that: I think that none theories should be silenced, including flat Earth. Exactly because of what I described in this thread.
I'd go the exact opposite way and say that in this age of free information the self serving lies of the old centers of power were found wanting and ignored. Blaming fakenews for things going wrong is the dying gasp of a failed system trying to stay relevant like the catholic church was after the printing press.
Before I get dogpiled on because of the current pandemic, we should remember the food pyramid, the following fat epidemic and the 200k deaths a year we have been getting every year for the last 30 years: https://www.pnas.org/content/115/5/957
The past wasn't great, experts got things wrong and a whole lot of people died.
> this era of vaccine denialism
Not central to your point, but this isn't really that widespread. 98% of Americans have the full regime of vaccines. The whole "antivax" scare is largely fiction and has been whipped by journalists afraid of people asking questions. Now, where the covid vaccine is concerned, that's different. People who aren't skeptical of vaccines qua vaccines are skeptical about this particular vaccine or whatever you want to call it because of the obscene level of politicization around it masquerading as "science". So I wouldn't conflate the two.
I have a data point of one in my father, who followed exactly this path.
Among the list of nasty things we are doing, fracking stands out. Fresh water is scarce in much of the world. Ground water is drying up and massive aquafers are eroding.
Simultaneously we are pumping cancer directly in the ground, breaking up rocks, and mixing the cancer stuck in the rocks into the ground water. Pumping that cancer back out and ... god only knows what is really happening to it.
My town, which relied on well water for as long as it has been a town, had city water installed in 2005~. Right around the time all the well heads were going up. I would guess that my well is no longer safe/usable - though I have never had it tested.
Seems a real shame and extremely short sighted.
Unless neighbors had theirs tested, there's no reason to assume there are issues with your well's water quality or that fracking caused them. Testing it if you plan on using it again is reasonable, though.
I'm gonna go with overfishing. Anyone who has been shopping since the 1990's has seen fish diversity decline and prices skyrocket beyond inflation (not to mention a sharp increase in farmed and faux-colored fish like salmon). Illegal fishing is impossible to combat.
See China's illegal fleets:
Commercial fishing also had no hard limits back then, and so we eradicated the redfish population and most of the specks. We now have pretty substantial limits on how many of each we can keep when we go fishing, to the point where you're doing it just for the experience because you won't catch enough to recoup the gas money.
This is because the water became so polluted that families no longer thought that it was safe to be in. It's been decades now and the water quality is just starting to be clean enough to swim in again.
I don't think a few years would cut it, the Grand Banks are juuuust starting to come back after almost 30 years of nearly no fishing.
I think propane had to wait for precision manufacturing to be commoditized before it could be tolerated in living spaces. Leaking propane around switching electrical equipment can end badly.
Your argument assumes refrigeration is a universal good, and other alternatives were not. Likewise, that the highly centralized food distribution system which became the defacto due to refrigeration is a universal good, while decentralized systems are not.
such as the rich and varied food of Vietnam.
Also, plastics touching food ever. "Food grade" plastic is a myth sold to us by the plastics industry. This one is going to take longer though.
I'd bet that some small minority of plastic really is food grade, that the rest hides behind legalese, that consumers can't tell one from the other, and that both are routinely used for food, certainly within the home, and probably also commercially.
Also: There are a bunch of dirty political tricks that industry could pull to "problematize" concern about endocrine disruptors. Think of the famous "crying Indian" ad that started the recycling scam, but with hip 2021 sensibilities. I think we're going to have to be ready for that trick. "Those right-wingers! It's like that scene in Dr. Strangelove -- always concerned with their precious bodily fluids." You can see how it'll work.
We should be ashamed at the number of people that die everyday in car "accidents". Specially pedestrians and cyclists.
If you looked at our reaction to Covid, you'd think we value human life very much, but when you look at how our streets works, you realize we actually don't.
The problem is even worse in poor countries.
People have already listed a lot of true answers and a number of speculative answers (also likely mostly true, imo), but I'll toss in that we use two-stroke engine leaf blowers and lawn mowers everywhere—mostly right outside our homes—and it's absolutely bonkers. Massive amounts of NOx, PM2.5, etc.
We spent all this time and money cleaning up our cars (which are still pretty bad), but then run these tiny things that are far worse, right where we live.
I'm willing to bet the noise pollution of them + traffic has a significant negative effect on our health too, but in terms of localized air pollution, the emissions from leaf blowers running a few times week across the street from me easily trump that from all the cars driving past my house.
Hoping electric leaf blowers get good and gain popularity.
In South of Chile where wood is a very common and available fuel for cooking or heating this has been a permanent issue every winter, too many people with asthma as a consequence of pm2.5 and other particulate materials
In my country, this is called criminal imprudence. If this isn't a crime in the US, it should be.
I have a suspicion that slathering typical consumer sunblock agents (and spraying the out of aerosol cans, and breathing the sunblock, etc.) is going to seem unwise to future us.
I am not contrasting sunblock vs. no sunblock ...
I am contrasting cheapy chemical sunblocks vs. pure titanium dioxide (?) which appears to be totally benign/inert and which is easy to purchase in a few different form factors (although not spray, which, again, I think is problematic).
- Social networks.
- The coddling of the mind.
In fact, the sugar industry has been behind the effort to deflect blame to fat for the last 50 years.
Saturated fats are still debated - some studies did show replacing saturated fats with vegetable fats did reduce cardiovascular disease etc., but then that might be more that there are some protective effects to the vegetable fats and adding them in rather than replacing might have had a similar effect…
Then there are about a million confounding variables. Doing a decent amount of exercise is a big one, because it’s harder to control for than the other common health detriment - smoking, but things like whether your dairy is grass-fed (as it is here in Australia and much of Europe) vs. grain fed apparently makes a big difference (grass fed apparently has a lot more things like CLA, omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin K2, the benefits of which seem to potentially more than cancel out any problem from the saturated fat).
One other big problem is that a lot of “low fat” products tend to have more sugar added to make up for it.
Too much sugar is bad, yes, and it’s pretty alarming how seemingly little you need to be over that threshold. Literally a single can of coke is almost the entirety of the sugar one should be consuming in a whole day! Fruit juice is also pretty bad unfortunately - basically just as bad as soft drink (I love soft drinks, apple juice, sweet ice tea, it’s been a challenge to cut most of it out!).
You can say that again...
I was recently looking at the nutrition content of Wendy's cheeseburgers; they actually do a pretty good job at displaying nutrition facts and also scaling it with custom orders. Anyway, I noticed that a triple cheeseburger could have ~4g of trans fats.
Wait a sec, is Wendy's ignoring regulations about trans fats?
No, as it turns out. I discovered that some trans fats from nature are actually beneficial (palmitoleic acid and vaccenic acid in the beef patties). This went totally counter to everything I thought I knew.
In other words, it never ceases to surprise me how nuanced nutrition can be and how easily we oversimplify it.
The basic logic of the anti-sugar sentiment is this:
Excess of blood sugar is toxic and so it triggers a shot of insulin, intended to drain sugar from the blood and hide it in various places: the muscle tissue, the liver, and last resort - the fat cells. Normally it works just fine, but sometimes the system gets overwhelmed with a big sugar rush and starts producing too much insulin, draining too much sugar, overshooting the target, causing hunger, craving for more sugar, and eating more sugar. The human then goes into the infinite loop of sugar binging accumulating fat on the go.
Now if you add dietary fat into the mixture it's possible that the fat cells will suck it up too. That I don't know for sure.
Suppose your reaction to discomfort is to retreat or isolate yourself from it. Having done so you will find that your calibration of comfort has changed and things you previously found at the fringe but normal now became clearly uncomfortable. If you repeat this process several times you will find that the field of acceptable things to do has narrowed itself to a single fine line of propriety that is surrounded by a vast field horrors and misdemeanors. Worse yet, the narrower the range of acceptable things, the more anxious you will be and the harder you will lash out at those recently (but no longer) normal things.
For a tame example, I have a number of friends who as they got richer retreated into more and more comfortable suburbs. Perfectly reasonable right? Well, they are now afraid to visit downtown because crime, dirt, and homeless. Not at all reasonable anymore.
I'm sure you can come up with more examples. In fact now that I told you, you can't escape seeing them.
Why wouldn't that be my reaction? Seems a pretty normal reaction to most discomfort. I lean into discomfort only when necessary and avoid it otherwise at all costs, that strategy has gotten me pretty far in my half+ century.
But even if we assume the proposition that people somehow become more withdrawn as they withdraw... what's the downside?
Perhaps your downtown really is a mess and they choose to avoid it. I'm guessing you're not a mind reader, and yet you've created a narrative that your friends have withdrawn due to their inability to handle discomfort and are now... what exactly, bad for the earth? (Recall, that was literally the proposition you responded to.)
Sounds rather arbitrary as well as subjectively punitive to me.
EDIT: This reminds me of me when I was in my 20's. I used to look down on people who went on vacation and stayed in hotels, or god forbid, resorts. I saw them as soft-headed sheeple who needed to be spoon-fed "fun in a can". Not me. I backpacked. I went to developing nations. In my mind, if you went to a foreign country, you didn't really "visit it" unless you lived among the natives and got your fingers dirty. I got giardia in Belize, was held up at gunpoint in Serbia, escorted by soldiers in Israel, woke up in a roach infested bed in a hostel in Thailand. ... But today? I want to snap my fingers and have someone bring me a cocktail while I sit poolside and sun my fat belly. I no longer enjoy wallowing in 3rd world filth as a means to establish me credentials. I want comfort because I work too goddamn hard for my vacations to involve police reports. So perhaps this is result of cowering away from discomfort, or perhaps it is just a change of priorities.
That is a fairly common reaction. But accepting discomfort, without aversion to it, is powerful.
Liking to stack the deck in my favor, I've moved to all stainless steel and cast iron cookware.
Aluminium is the 7th most abundant element on earth (1.5% by weight) and even more so in the crust. It is used in various forms as additives in food, and discomfort medications. Reasonable tolerance seems likely.
In contrast, stainless steel is typically 20% or more chromium and nickel. Both heavy metals, chromium being worse. Good stainless steel does not corrode or release much, if handled properly, but if you are cusing naked stainless steel, you are consuming chromium and nickel. Especially with new or bad cookware, acidic foods or when scraping with hard utensils.
While aluminium is much less toxic, I don't in fact use cookware with aluminium surface, as I think it leaks too much / too easily. I either carefully use stainless steel, or often prefer enameled / ceramic glazed cookware.
Cars and fridges bad, is pretty much HN at it's core.
These saved millions, probably billions of lives (depending on how you measure it)
Thomas Midgley Jr work making these more efficient means he is an amazing human being that helped humanity saving many many lives.
I guess people need something to justify pushing code around that does nothing?
> On October 30, 1924, Midgley participated in a press conference to demonstrate the apparent safety of TEL, in which he poured TEL over his hands, placed a bottle of the chemical under his nose, and inhaled its vapor for 60 seconds, declaring that he could do this every day without succumbing to any problems. ... Midgley would later have to take leave of absence from work after being diagnosed with lead poisoning.
Guy sounds like a nut.
> Environmental historian J. R. McNeill opined that Midgley "had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth's history", and Bill Bryson remarked that Midgley possessed "an instinct for the regrettable that was almost uncanny".
Later down in the legacy section, these are some serious burns, almost laughable if it weren't for them being true and the consequences of that.
But I must say, although it's fun to pin it on one man, many people and corporations were involved in the propagation of his catastrophes.
I can't stop laughing when I read this.
But it is shocking that one human can have such an impact on Earth.
It's actually kind of scary.
What's to stop the next nut, perhaps in a country outside the reach of international law, from causing the same?
> In 1923, Midgley took a long vacation in Miami, Florida, to cure himself of lead poisoning.
To put his other inventions under more scrutiny seems like a smart idea, but arguments for authority seem weirdly misplaced in this context.
Budapest was no standard of cleanliness at the time (late 90s), however Belgrade was truly still in its post-war phase and had all of the energy, anger and edge of a place that had been pretty beaten up.
We were robbed, given a pistol in a nightclub (still have no idea what was going on there, I just remember being really surprised that pistols came in styrofoam and shrink-wrap packages when they are new... Being from Canada I had never even seen a pistol before), were surrounded by really beautiful people who we thought wanted something from us but who were only generous and kind, and .... the smell.
The smell of that leaded fuel was everywhere. It smelled sweet and was so unique. It's what has stuck with me 20+ years later.
One other side note from that trip. We were in the countryside (mean to be meeting a friend from home in his ancestral/family village but took the wrong bus) and someone in the village directed us in to a pub that was basically an old barn. Inside there were many middle eastern guys and a mix of Serbian and english speaking people. I was given a pin by one of the middle eastern guys after I threw an excellent game of darts on the dartboard next to him.
Years later I had a job for a defense contractor and the subject of that trip and the pin came up. I showed him a picture of it and he recognized it instantly: al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. I looked it up and so it was.
We were put up with a local elderly woman who served us some type of soup in the morning and then someone gave us a ride out of town to a bus stop that had service that day. We waited only an hour until the first car came along, reeking of leaded fuel.
However, tetra-ethyl-lead (think one lead atom bonded to four ethanols minus the oxygen atoms) was never necessary to combat the problem. Ethanol's anti-knock properties at a blend of 85% gasoline 15% ethanol were well known, and issues with corrosion in fuel lines had been dealt with. However, that meant giving farmers (the only ethanol producers) 15% of the profits, and the famously monopolistic Rockefeller didn't like that. Indeed, about that whole Rockefeller-financed ethanol temperance movement, and Prohibition in general...
In addition, alkylation strategies in World War II by Shell produced 100-octane aviation gas for prop engines, with no lead. It's been reintroduced it seems (wiki):
Shell Unleaded 100-Octane Fuel
"In December 2013 Shell Oil announced that they had developed an unleaded 100 octane fuel and will submit it for FAA testing with certification expected within two to three years. The fuel is alkylate-based with an additive package of aromatics. No information has yet been published in its performance, producibility or price. Industry analysts have indicated that it will likely cost as much as or more than existing 100LL."
In the long run though, electric airplanes look far more attractive for the short-haul prop-driven world.
In the interim, the Rotax 912/914 series is a nice, modern, reliable powerplant for smaller/lighter airplanes that will happily burn autogas.
avgas is only popular in the US and Canada.
jet a is universally cheaper
avgas engines can be overhauled at the end of their life, which saves money.
diesel engines are basically thrown away and you buy a new one, which negates the cost savings of jet fuel over avgas
Because they're "genuinely" absolutely broken, or "just" because of high aviation safety standards? That is, do they really have to be "thrown away" -- or could you buy one, refurbish it, and run it in your light truck, accepting a slight risk of breaking down on the highway in exchange for getting the engine really cheap?
It's limited to a subset of the GA engine fleet initially, but the plan is to broaden over the next year or so.
Someone once was arguing this point to me and I just had to drop the topic because it was such a baffling stance.
It of course sounds insane when you say it baldly like this, which is why it rarely gets stated openly. But a lot of traditional societal structures depend on harm to others, so there's a big constituency for the suffering of others when it benefits the speaker.
But to not have those rules ultimately invites leaded gasoline 2.0 as technology progresses.
I don't think there is anyone who actually thinks of these things in terms of "regardless of the harm it causes others". Ok, this being the internet, we can probably find one, but I don't think there's any significant portion of the population. That position is basically a strawman.
I do think, however, that there's people who draw the lines in very different places, or put different weight on different categories of harm.
As an example, physical or financial harm are very easy to verify. There's not a lot of debate about if they qualify. Mental or emotional harm, on the other hand, is very hard to verify. This presents a significant problem for anyone who is worried about the system being abused. These groups will draw lines at very different places around any claim of harm within those categories.
The end result is that you'll end up with one group being labeled as grifters who want to fleece the system, and the other as being completely insensitive to human suffering (sound familiar?)
That's not even to get into the debate of what constitutes harm. For example, is not helping someone harming them? Is ceasing help once you've started helping someone harming them? These are too big of questions for the post, but I imagine you get the idea.
A clear historical example is America's conflict around slavery. The primary southern justification for creating the Confederacy was freedom. That continued after the Civil War; see the UDC catechisms for example. "States' rights" they'll shout, meaning the right of the white people in power to treat black people like livestock and keeping that in that condition through systematic violent abuse. And you'll still find people today arguing the point.
A modern example is public health. Everything from preventing toxic waste dumping to COVID mask mandates is met with cries of "FREEDOM!" Right now there is a large constituency in the US for the right to do whatever they please even if that means they will kill people by giving them a disease.
I agree that what constitutes "harm" can be a tricky question for some issues. But I think we can agree that death qualifies. And that people who have never left the house unclothed having to wear another half-ounce of fabric in public is not.
I think this is an excellent example of what I meant about "how direct the harm is" mattering.
Imagine, if you will, a continuum ranging from absolutely direct harm to absolutely indirect harm.
On the absolute left, imagine person A stabbing person B. That's about as direct as you can get, right? And I also think there's not a ton of people who would disagree that stabbing someone should be banned (let's ignore self defense arguments).
On the absolute right, imagine person A moves a chair. Someone trips over this chair. That person ends up in a foul mood and cuts someone off in traffic. This causes a traffic jam. In this traffic jam, a refrigerated truck breaks down and a bunch of food is ruined. More food is ordered, which takes up space in a shipping container that would have gone to medicine, had the food not been ordered. Person B dies because of a lack of medicine that would have been there had person A not moved the chair.
This was about as indirect of series of events as I could come up with, but I think you get my point here. There's a direct causal chain between person A's actions and person B's death in both scenarios, but I can't imagine very many people really condemning person A in the second one. In fact I think someone trying to ban moving chairs because of this incident would be soundly ridiculed.
So where does going outside without a mask during a pandemic sit on this continuum? Well, going outside without a mask, if you have a high viral load, and someone comes close to you, there's definitely a chance they could die. That's definitely not nearly as direct of harm as stabbing someone. It's also clearly not nearly as indirect as that tortured example I came up with in the second one.
Personal opinion? It's definitely farther to the left than the right. Say, somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 of the way to the left. Maybe somewhere around 2/3 of the way there.
Someone's opinion on something such as a mask mandate, is going to depend on if they view that as direct enough harm for the government to have a legitimate interest in regulating.
It’s such a rabbit hole, who should know best?
As to "Who should know best?" that's exactly what we're paying our politicians to be on top of.
We can start with the internet! :)
Not true. You raising the demand of a good enables the producers to employ economies of scale thus making food less expensive for all.
It seems like "as long as I don't harm others" means "I consider the small harm to others worthwhile for the benefits". And "regardless of harm to others" is using the same approach to come to a conclusion you disagree with.
There's a lot of different ways to approach freedom, but I don't think "I don't care about others" and "I would never inconvenience others" is an accurate binary taxonomy.
One that comes to mind is gay marriage.
You can’t reap the rewards of invention without the accountability that comes with it.
No they don't. That's not how people think, at all. People who do horrible things are very good at rationalizing that they are actually the good guys. This is a well studied phenomenon.
Even utter sociopaths know not to talk like they don't give a shit about anybody else. The social consequences for that are too high. So if we want to understand what people care about, we can't just go with their claims about their motivations. We have to look at where they put in the work.
> So if we want to understand what people care about, we can't just go with their claims about their motivations.
I never claimed we should do that. Nobody else claimed such a thing either.
Also, I take it as concession that you were unable to provide a single example to support your claim.
I have provided examples elsewhere. But if they aren't sufficient for you, take it as anything you like. I long ago stopped caring that every internet on the random understood my point, especially the ones working hard to not get what I'm saying.
Not true. You're strawmanning again. I already addressed this distinction between "say" versus "think" in the sibling comment, which I'm sure you've read. To refresh your memory, I said: "That's not how people think, at all. People who do horrible things are very good at rationalizing that they are actually the good guys. This is a well studied phenomenon."
> I have provided examples elsewhere.
Ok, I searched the thread and now found your examples. Let's address one of them:
> A modern example is public health. Everything from preventing toxic waste dumping to COVID mask mandates is met with cries of "FREEDOM!" Right now there is a large constituency in the US for the right to do whatever they please even if that means they will kill people by giving them a disease.
If you actually engage with these people, you will find that these people don't believe that they are causing significant harm to others. You're comparing their actions to literally killing people, as if going to the grocery store without a mask (as a person who has no symptoms and may even be vaccinated) is placing the public to a risk that is comparable to literally homicide. You're trying too hard to rationalize your belief that republicans are evil. They're not. They're normal people like you and I. Most of them care about their fellow humans, even if they see different risk/benefit tradeoffs to decisions than you do.
I have read oceans of anti-masker afguments. Some claim they don't believe they are harming people, and some of those may actually believe it. But the question is whether they have a justified, true belief. They don't. They are all clearly aware of the potential of harm, and the science is pretty clear. Even for the ones who truly believe it, they have to admit that they could be wrong and are going ahead anyhow, so we are back in the "regardless of harm to others" bucket.
And that's not even counting the large number of people who are aware of the possibility of death and are perfectly fine with it. You could look at the Texas Governor speaking proudly about it's ok to sacrifice some old people as long as we're preserving American freedom. Or the Florida governor who banned mask mandates saying, "That’s ultimately an individual's choice to be able to do [vaccines]... And so, I think the question is, we can either have a free society or we can have a biomedical security state. And I can tell you, Florida, we’re a free state."
And masking is just the most dramatic recent example. The history of slavery is super clear. Ditto the history of workplace safety. Or we could look at the societal shifts against drunk driving and secondhand smoke. Both of those were indulged for decades despite high body counts. The shift for each took decades and was fought all the way by people who valued their freedom to do whatever they wanted without regard to harm to others. Including by executives and lobbyists who were well placed to be informed about the actual harm but still worked to keep the laws in their favor without regard to body count.
I agree that all of these people care about some of their fellow humans. They're not monsters. But what they do have is a (learned and often cultivated) lack of empathy for people seen as "other". Which is why we are slowly seeing mask and vaccine resistance decline, along with plenty of deathbed pleas to get the vaccine and for others to get the vaccine.
I agree that slavery, drunk driving and secondhand smoke are very bad. I agree that people who've committed such acts likely have less empathy towards other people.
I disagree with the sentiment you expressed about "mask freedom" and "vaccination freedom". I think vaccinations are great and masks are somewhat useful, but I think the tradeoff of sacrificing freedoms is not worth it to force this stuff on people by government mandate. So I guess I fall in the category that you defined as "aware of the possibility of death and perfectly fine with it". Be that as it may, I certainly don't have the mindset that anything goes, regardless of harm to others. I think there's tradeoffs to be made and I think reasonable people can disagree about those tradeoffs. I'm sure if we went through a variety of different topics (like personal cars) we would find several topics where you're also willing to make tradeoffs "aware of the possibility of death and perfectly fine with it".
This model is incorrect. Many slaveholders were perfectly nice people to family members, for example. And of course to other rich white men. Empathy is reserved to specific groups, and lacking/discouraged/repressed for the rest. This is a learned, societally mediated behavior. You can read Kendi's "Stamped from the Beginning" if you'd like to see how that works in detail. Mills's "The Racial Contract" is a good philosophical examination, and Loewen's "Sundown Towns" looks at related aspects via data and history.
So we see early on in the pandemic that a lot of white conservatives were perfectly fine with the disease spreading in major cities where people were concentrated. Some were gleeful. Now it's mainly a red state phenomenon and people are still resisting basic public health measures. I think that's still rooted in contempt for the lessers. E.g. https://twitter.com/jacobtwop/status/1436383225451094019
Or you might also read Serwer on "the cruelty is the point".
But all of this is pretty far afield from my actual point, which is that there are two concepts of freedom in American discourse. One admits of nuance and balance; the other is "I do what I want and fuck you". Different people may use one or the other at a particular moment. But the concepts are rhetorically very distinct.
If people see their freedom as reasonably limited when it harms others, then if that harm is pointed out to them, they'll immediately apologize and stop. The more energy people put into persisting despite that, the clearer it is they don't actually care.
You can look at the history of pretty much any piece of extant consumer or worker protection to find examples of this. Go read Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle", for example, which painted a portrait of large companies abusing both. It kicked off a long struggle that ended up with substantial shifts in the law. Or you could look at the long history of workplace safety in coal mines. The coal barons clearly saw workers as expendable and any encroachment on their freedoms as intolerable.
Are you saying that people who smoke openly state that they "should be free to profit regardless of harm to others"? Who said that? Where? I already asked you to point to a single example to support this claim that certain people think this way, and you couldn't do that. That's because there's literally no people who think like that.
And so is your insistence on pretending not to understand that. Not a pretty one.
You're the one pretending. There's a difference between these 2 things:
1) Taking actions (like smoking) that put others at some level of risk
2) Thinking that placing any level of harm onto others is justifiable as long as it's profitable
You know very well there's a difference between those things, and yet you're pretending to not understand, while claiming that I'm "pretending not to understand".
Or are you claiming that the average smoker cares so little about fellow humans that they'd be willing to push a person over a cliff ("any level of harm") in order to steal a half-empty beer can from them ("a profit")? Even if we assume a situation where they would be guaranteed to profit the half-empty beer can, I think it's safe to say almost no-one would think this level of harm would justify this level of profit.
Yes, a smoker will put your life at risk by smoking near you. In related news, a driver will put your life at risk by driving near you. Doesn't mean that smokers or drivers will do literally any level of harm to humans in order to gain the tiniest of profit to themselves.
Do they actually say out loud “I am willing to profit regardless of how much I harm others”? No, probably not. But actions speak louder than words here.
Yes it is. Here is the full statement copypasted without modifications:
> America has two radically different concepts of freedom that travel under the same name. Both start with "I should be free to do as I want". One ends with "as long as I don't harm others". The other ends with "regardless of harm to others". You were dealing with the latter.
According to the original claim, there are two groups in America. One group (hint: democrats) can not justify any level of harm in exchange for their freedoms, while another group (hint: republicans) will justify any level of harm in exchange for their freedoms. The original claim paints these 2 groups as polar opposites, while in reality both groups are willing to accept various levels of harm in exchange for various levels of freedom. They merely disagree about some tradeoffs.
> Secondly even if you insist on an extreme level of harm there are still examples. We can use any of a number of dictators that are literally willing to kill millions to stay in power.
Sure, I accept this example. Yes, there are some rare individuals who truely are monsters and are willing to cause extreme levels of harm in exchange for their own personal benefit. I don't think half of America is like that, though.
> Yes it is. Here is the full statement copypasted without modifications:
> > America has two radically different concepts of freedom that travel under the same name. Both start with "I should be free to do as I want". One ends with "as long as I don't harm others". The other ends with "regardless of harm to others". You were dealing with the latter.
No it isn't. "Regardless of harm to others" is not the same as "regardless of any level of harm". Just bloody look at them: Is there any mention of levels in the first? No, there isn't.
Now please do us all a favour and stop this -- we're all too excrutiatingly embarrassed on your behalf just from seeing you make such a spectacle of yourself.
Definition of "regardless" is "without regard or consideration for". If there is no consideration for harm, then it does not matter what the level of harm is. Therefore, "regardless of harm to others" means exactly the same thing as "regardless of any level of harm".
Even if you are using your own dictionary to invent new meanings for words to win imaginary arguments inside your own head, it's not exactly clear to me how you interpret this original quote in a manner that doesn't paint democrats and republicans as polar opposites:
> > America has two radically different concepts of freedom that travel under the same name. Both start with "I should be free to do as I want". One ends with "as long as I don't harm others". The other ends with "regardless of harm to others".
So I take it you work with computers...? Natural languages like English don't work the exact same way as programming languages like C.
> Therefore, "regardless of harm to others" means exactly the same thing as "regardless of any level of harm".
No it doesn't: Most people, not being monsters, wouldn't inflict immediate, grievous harm on others just because it's easier on themselves. They wouldn't, for instance, walk around with the lid off a container of nerve gas just because they can't be bothered to put it on, immediately killing all who come near. They realise and accept that they can't be free to do whatever they want regardless of any level of harm to others.
Many of those same non-monster people are smokers. And many -- at a guess, a majority -- of those, in turn, being a bit of an arsehole like we all can be, do gladly put their own convenience and immediate gratification above their consideration for you and your lungs: They know the dangers of second-hand smoke, but some unknown level of possible breathing disorders at some unknown point in other people's future, and some small amount of shortening of these other people's lifespan... That doesn't count the same to them as carrying a lidless bucket of sarin gas: They'll blow smoke in your face (or at least exhale it in your vicinity, where it will sooner rather than later find its way into your lungs). So they obviously do think they should be free to do what they want regardless of some level of harm to others.
What you've been saying boils down to "You're wrong in claiming that everyone would gladly nerve-gas everyone around them!". But nobody ever claimed that. The original contention was just "people do shit like smoking regardless of the harm it does to those around them".
I can't even grasp how you couldn't see this. (Nor can I tell which would be the more charitable way to react to your behavior, to take it as genuine or fake. AFAICS, neither alternative is possible to interpret particularly charitably.)
That's literally the opposite of what I've been saying. That "everyone" in that sentence, man, do you not listen at all? I've explained to you multiple times that the topic of contention is not "degree of evil that everyone has" - the topic of contention is whether people are grouped into 1 group or 2 groups in this context. What I found offensive in the original post is that it grouped people into 2 groups instead of 1 group. And yet you're here pretending that I'm upset that someone grouped people into 1 group. No, that would have been fine, but they didn't do that. If the original post had grouped people into 1 group, like if it had claimed "everyone is an arsehole", that would've been fine by me, as I've explained to you multiple times. My issue was with a description that divided people up by party lines and described one group as saints and the other group as evil.
> The original contention was just "people do shit like smoking regardless of the harm it does to those around them".
No it wasn't. The sentiment in your statement is that "people are similar in this way", whereas the sentiment in the original post was "people are not similar - there are 2 groups of people, one of these is good and the other is evil". For reference, here's that original post again, which VERY OBVIOUSLY describes the existence of 2 groups which are different from each other:
I'm arguing that "two radically different" groups don't exist; that people are similar in this manner, not too different from one another. You've already conceded multiple times that you agree with this point. If you want to argue that the original post (which I copypasted above) is also saying that "two radically different groups" don't exist, PLEASE, go ahead, let's see that magic how you will twist those words into the opposite of what they actually meant. Go ahead, I'll wait.
I don't want to ban you, so if you'd please review the site guidelines at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and stick to them in the future, we'd appreciate it.
Edit: please see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28579169 also. That's already a pattern—please reverse it!
For a guy who is very eager to accuse others of straw manning, you seem to be working very hard to invent things so that you can dismiss them.
People may not be monsters, but quite a lot of them are just ordinary arseholes. You know, the kind of ordinary arsehole people who would thoughtlessly -- or, if they happened to come to think of it, wilfully -- do as they want, regardless of harm to others... As people so often do. Because, while they may not be monsters, many of them -- of us -- are certainly arseholes.
One gets the feeling someone has just realised this, and is on a desparate quest to convince themselves they aren't actually an arsehole... By convincing everybody else that no such arseholes exist. This is doomed to fail, because everybody knows they do.
> Everyone is willing to cause some harm/risk to others in order to gain something for themselves
Yup. Which makes us all more or less arseholes, because "some" harm/risk to others still is harm/risk to others.
And which was also all that was claimed to begin with -- there never was any original claim of "any level of harm"; that was always a windmill your fevered mind conjured up all on its own. So, how foolish do you feel now that it (and with it, your attempt at convincing yourself) has gone up in a puff of smoke?
> Yup. Which makes us all more or less arseholes, because "some" harm/risk to others still is harm/risk to others. And which was also all that was claimed to begin with
This was not "all that was claimed to begin with" - in fact the opposite of such was claimed. The original claim paints a very clear picture of 2 groups as polar opposites in their regard for harming other humans. This is in stark contrast to my claim (which you conceded to above) that most of us are similar (not polar opposites) in regard to harm. For reference, here's that claim again:
>> America has two radically different concepts of freedom that travel under the same name. Both start with "I should be free to do as I want". One ends with "as long as I don't harm others". The other ends with "regardless of harm to others".
> One gets the feeling someone has just realised this, and is on a desparate quest to convince themselves they aren't actually an arsehole... By convincing everybody else that no such arseholes exist. This is doomed to fail, because everybody knows they do.
Yeah no, I don't care about that. If you want to say "all of us are more or less aresholes", instead of saying "all of us are more or less empathetic", that's fine. Both of those statements are true. I'm also somewhat of an arsehole by risking other peoples' lives by actions such as driving a car, sure, fine. That's not the point. My point was: people are mostly similar in their relation to harm, as opposed to being polar opposites. You have already conceded to this, and now you're just trying to reframe the original argument as somehow meaning the same thing, when in fact it meant the opposite.
> there never was any original claim of "any level of harm"; that was always a windmill your fevered mind conjured up all on its own. So, how foolish do you feel now that it (and with it, your attempt at convincing yourself) has gone up in a puff of smoke?
I'm not sure what exactly you think has gone up in a puff of smoke. Definitions for well-established English words still exist, they haven't gone up in smoke. This includes the definition for the word "regardless", which doesn't change at your whim. For example, here's the Cambridge dictionary definition for it: "despite; not being affected by something". If my decision to do something is "not affected by harm/risk to others", then clearly the level of said harm has no bearing on my decision. Thus, the words "regardless of harm", and "regardless of any level of harm" mean the same thing. You're trying to make a big deal out of me using slightly different words in reference to the original claim, even though those words mean exactly the same thing.
Furthermore, even if we don't get stuck on definitions of individual words, but instead look at the general sentiment expressed in the claim, it's very clear that the claim is painting these 2 groups as polar opposites, and I'm painting them as similar to each other (and you have already conceded that the groups are similar, in your message where you said that all of us are "more or less arseholes").
1. that lead is natural to the human body, and
2. that a poisoning threshold for lead existed
Robert Kehoe, working for GM, was the chief advocate for leaded gasoline, and really the only person/lab doing research on lead until Clair Patterson stumbled into it while measuring the age of the earth. [0,1]
A modern equivalent might be if Facebook was the only organization researching social media's impact on society, while being able to set the paradigm/assumptions about said safety for half a century.
So even when Patterson's research was published in 1965, it took time to change the paradigm, and more time to phase out lead's use.
Should anyone want to read a narrative about the intertwined lives of Midgley, Patterson, Kehoe and lead, then this Mental Floss article is a good read. 
Like you note, it was also extremely convenient and relatively cheap. Pretty sure at least some of the chemicals we’re using now in soaps or for food processing will have something nasty associated with them once time has passed.
I wonder which tastes better?
AFAIK work in any Roman mine was considered a death sentence in the long run.
It is also possible that two of you were arguing about different things despite seemingly talking about the same one. For example, you could be arguing that preventing people poisoning by lead is good, where the other person were arguing that people should bear more responsibility instead of pushing it on the third-party.
I.e. I don't think the person you were arguing with was thinking "yeah, breathing lead is a good idea, let's fill the air with lead!". Perhaps I am too naive...
The remainder of the damage from lead was done to employees, where the advice boils down to "don't work because your employer may be killing you."
Let's take someone with anarcho-capitalism views - the typical answer by an ancap to the lead poisoning problem will be - suing for damages. It is not that ancaps want everyone to get poisoned, they simply do not want to give so much power to a single entity to decide for them. In their opinion, the danger of tyranny is a greater threat to the people than lead poisoning.
Or someone who is not necessary a proponent of free-market and such, but still sees a great danger to all the people of letting one entity to define rules. Not because they see that one particular entity as an evil (although trump's election could be such an example), but rather because that single entity is a single point of failure and when it fail - the whole nation fails. And in that mental model the danger of existence of such single point of failure is greater than danger of lead pollution.
(Similarly, someone who is in favor of regulations is doing so not necessarily because they are trying to build some type of bad `X-ism`, but because they see a great danger if lead poisoning not stopped right away. And that danger in their opinion is greater than the danger of whatever that may come with regulations).
I still believe that the majority of human beings are not evil and most of them would rather not harm someone. But I also realize that most humans will have slightly different priorities. When arguing, I think it is very important to argue about the same thing, otherwise agreement can not be achieved ever.
But from the perspective of GM, Kitman wrote, ethanol wasn’t an option. It couldn’t be patented and GM couldn’t control its production. And oil companies like Du Pont "hated it," he wrote, perceiving it to be a threat to their control of the internal combustion engine.
I'm generally an avid beliver in free markets as an agent for positive change, so these types of "revelations" are really disheartening.
What are the solutions to this? What governing system would have mass produced ethenol as the best antiknocker with no regard to the interests of top players?
Perhaps the government should open companies that are meant to lose money and are tax supported (for-loss conpanies) that compete with the industry with solutions that are good for the people but bad for business?
Unlike TEL, ethanol is hydrophilic, which makes gasoline blended with it more apt to be contaminated with water, and other water containing contaminants, this is particularly relevant for aviation uses and also reducing incidences of vapor lock.
TEL is also (more) rubber and seal friendly, other than the (very) high risk of lead toxicity, TEL blended gasoline is easier to work with and process than Ethanol blended gasoline.
TEL also acts as a natural lubricant of its own, the lead acting as lubricant, particularly on valve and other top end engine components.
This isn't really a defense of TEL - particularly not in road gas, while it was understood that exposure to large quantities of lead was toxic, toxicity of low dose exposure to environmental lead wasn't really fully understood until the 50's/60's, we also didn't really understood how long environmental lead lingered around until the 60's. Modern technologies have overcome much of the issues from ethanol in road gas, but there are reasons TEL is still used in AvGas.
TEL in AvGas was vital in reaching higher octane, and Ethanol is contraindicated in AvGas (at the last I looked into the topic) because of its hydrophilic nature - our ability (the allies) to produce high octane AvGas is one of the factors that won WW2, and use of TEL was a deciding factor in that.
I am guessing it's still allowed because people who fly planes can afford to lobby.
I was astounded to find TEL was still allowed in aviation fuels. Rates of cancers etc are higher near military bases due to fuel handling incidents.
Avgas is only used in piston engines, and the military mostly flies turbines, which use ordinary jet fuel (which does not contain lead). They have some, but I think if you told the military "jets and turboprops only" it wouldn't be a big problem. (Not sure how they would train new pilots, however.)
If you're looking for disease/damage from lead in avgas, you want to find a little airport in the middle of nowhere that has a really good restaurant on the field ;)
> I am guessing it's still allowed because people who fly planes can afford to lobby.
People that fly piston engines do not have any money to lobby.
To me it feels very similar to why software engineers pay so much tax -- we get paid just enough to be dinged by things like the AMT, but not enough to afford lobbyists.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/973128/ as an example.
There might be some piston-based helicopters (too many to check), or drones.
Otherwise, yes, bangers are out.
A previous article about Leaded Petrol caused me to read how the UK exempted some very old cars which could not be effectively modified. There's actually a waiver so that, in theory, every fuel station in the country can do paperwork to get a small amount of leaded gasoline (a tiny fraction of their total fuel sales) and sell it for this purpose. The politicians were thus able to tell their constituents we did not screw you, just ask your local supplier to set aside fuel for you.
But economics does the rest, at first those retailers see sales of leaded fuel are very low. Those who love classics maybe decide to set aside the option for a year or two and see how it goes, everybody else stops selling leaded fuel. The wholesalers now see that sales of leaded fuel are tiny, so they don't bother making it, it becomes a special order, which then further increases the pressure not to bother stocking it. Today enthusiasts will just mail order the lead additive and pour it into their tank after a refill or they use a substitute additive which these days works well enough, the politicians didn't have to lift a finger.
> After more than three decades of research and development, general aviation finally has an approved unleaded 100-octane fuel.
AvGas (which uses TEL) is used by general aviation exclusively.
But it isn't. Those planes aren't aren't fuelled by AvGas. Their engines use JetA (basically kerosene) because they've got a turbine inside like those turbofan engines which look so visibly different, however their turbine powers the propeller rather than a set of fans to drive more air through the engine and produce thrust that way.
The categories (for non-military use) are generally Scheduled or Air Transport (any time you buy tickets for a flight, that's the category, you don't know or care who is flying, you paid for the journey between a specific origin and destination at a specific time; a FedEx plane is also Transport), then Commercial (not Transport but somebody is getting paid to fly aircraft, maybe it's crop spraying, TV news copter, police, or just another TV priest being flown around in his private jet), and only if nobody was getting paid is it General Aviation.
If your cosmetic dentist can afford a brand new Vision Jet so that he can live 100 miles away and fly in to do $5000 appointments without sitting in traffic, that's General Aviation. The authorities don't care that he's getting paid to be a dentist, he's not getting paid to fly his plane.
If your airline uses a relatively tiny PA-42 to get customers to an obscure but important airstrip with maybe 3-4 passengers per day that's still Air Transport.
On the other hand if some oil sheik owns their own A320 with their own custom decor and has a team of pilots to fly it wherever they want, that's still only Commercial, not Air Transport because nobody is buying tickets, it just goes wherever he wants.
Don’t confuse the commercial certificate[“license”](which is required to be paid for flying) with commercial operations (typically holding out to the public for air transport).
And by people who don't want to ever have to clean or rebuild a carburetor in their small motors. It's been an exceptional motor-life-extender to my chainsaws specifically.
which is the one used for commercial aviation.
Then there is the elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about, the military which is using the 'JP-X' variants all over the world,
some of them even for their cars and trucks, because, hey, it's just better Diesel, why would we stock different fuels if we don't have to?
What a logistic nightmare!1!!
It's just something I won't do.
If not, it could be some lower octane unleaded formulation. There are a couple of standards for these, but they have never caught on.
There’s been a lot of interest in it, especially in light of the recent discussions to close RHV in San Jose. I know one of the flight schools here just switched all their aircraft over to UL94.
Higher performance aircraft will need UL100, which is still not available, but is expected soon. There’s been significant progress in getting it approved over the last year.
Swift Fuels sells the supplemental type certificate aircraft owners need to use UL94. They are offering a free upgrade to the UL100 STC once it’s offered, so aircraft owners don’t have to pay twice to start using UL94 today.
The standard story seems to be that 20% of the planes burn 80% of the fuel, and need all the octane in 100LL. And GA is such a small market that airfields can't justify having multiple fuel grades available, so 100LL everywhere it is.
But yes, nice to hear that UL94 is nonetheless available in some places.
We fill our cars every week and when you stand there thinking "damn I love this smell" yet when there's 1ppm of benzene in sun cream people scream "caaaancer"...
Comprehensive government regulation would create such an infrastructure. When the government says "in 5 years we will disallow creation of new airframes that use leaded gas, and in 10 years there will be no more leaded gas sold, and in 15 years additives will be illegal", everyone knows what's on the horizon - and you can bet that there will be engine vendors selling modification kits and maintenance infrastructure, since now everyone knows that there will be a massive market coming up as everyone has to adapt to the new rules if they want to keep flying!
Or, it would destroy small engine general aviation.
> and you can bet that there will be engine vendors selling modification kits and maintenance infrastructure, since now everyone knows that there will be a massive market coming up as everyone has to adapt to the new rules if they want to keep flying!
What if, you know, people can't adapt? What if people can't afford to replace their 40 years old aircrafts with sparkling new ones, costing 5-10 times much? Sure, some of them will, but there are many hobbyists who can afford loan payments and insurance on a plane worth $100k, but couldn't do the same on one worth $500k.
Yes, this would stop emissions of TEL, sure, but at tremendous cost. Is that cost worth it? To our (and FAA, and EPA) best knowledge, probably not, as lead emissions from GA have much different characteristic than the ones from cars.
This is a myth. TEL has no lubricative properties in engines. The reality is opposite; lead deposits are corrosive. From https://www.shell.com/business-customers/aviation/aeroshell/...:
"The temperature for Lead deposits to form tend to be favourable around the spark plugs (as the whole mixture is quite cool before the flame starts to propagate) and on the exhaust valve stem (as the mixture cools after combustion). The problem is that the deposits are electrically conductive, which shorts out the spark plug - and corrosive, which can start to attack the metal of the valve stems."
After combustion, its like any heavy metal being burned, it turns into an oxide, which has a variety of characteristics.
The most popular theory is that the lead oxide fouling reduces the occurence or effects of micro-welds between valve and seat surfaces, which otherwise produce abrasive particles that contribute to valve seat recession. While this theory is plausible, it has not been shown to occur under normal operating conditions in automotive engines, nor in aviation engines as far as I know.
The final report from the EPA's Valve Seat Recession Working Group found no evidence that leaded gas reduces engine wear under any but the most extreme operating conditions:
"In real world conditions, virtually no evidence of excessive valve wear has been found in vehicle or engine operation in normal everyday use, and several studies that monitored vehicles in actual daily service in countries that eliminated lead found no excessive valve wear."
Ethanol has requirements for hoses and seals that might otherwise be degraded by alcohol. But this is not an ongoing issue in modern vehicles.
It's like using a towel to dry your shower tray: in the short run it's helpful but if you leave it there all the time you'll end up with a permanently soggy towel keeping everything damp.
EDIT: Some empirical evidence for the doubters- https://youtu.be/UvS_D4_lF5U
Many government owned companies actually make a profit until private industry lobbies them into ineffectiveness. The US Post Office was profitable until a change lobbied by Fed-Ex and UPS forced them to keep 100% of their pensions available at all times.
Various crown corp electric companies were profitable in Canada and SaskTel, a crown corp telecommunications company is the last bastion of non-insane cell phone plans though I'm sure Rogers and Bell are working on it.
People just hate seeing the government make money. They see that things are good, say "hey, why should the government get this money" and then shut down the system that's working and complain when everything costs more because private industry is trying to squeeze every last cent out of them.
I do think it would be useful for economists to analyze the conditions under which state-run entities create good outcomes, but in the currently charged political climate, it probably won't happen.
No, this is too generic - name the correct groups: Conservatives, neo-liberals and the rich elites hate see "the government" or government-owned/ran entities make money.
Everyone else sees that government-run services usually provide decent service at affordable prices, and that after privatization, service quality goes downhill and the cost keeps rising.
Without massive governmental subsidies, many services - especially public transport, postal service, libraries - would simply be unaffordable for wide parts of the population.
Part of the power of FOSS is that it often leans on copyright to compel sharing. But, in the absence of copyright, why wouldn’t capitalistic powers simply stop sharing their code?
Those things are logical opposites. If someone has a right to place any conditions at all on the way people copy their software, that is a copyright.
Maybe they meant to suggest copyright reform.
I make this point because people often like that GPL forces republishing of derivative works. This is an exercise of copyright, not a lack of it.
Or using anticompetitive practices to prevent competitors from joining the market.
Or by gaining regulatory capture.
The three issues I see: One, the short-term market incentive was for them to have something patentable and controllable. Two, the money accrued to them but the harms fell to others, creating a huge negative externality. And three, free markets in goods tend to create markets in political power.
This is all exacerbated in a kyriarchic  system, one where domination hierarchies are normalized. Negative environmental externalities tend to fall on disfavored groups. The workers getting poisoned with lead were lower class; especially in that era, their deaths were seen as acceptable. Toxic spills don't happen on the Harvard campus or in wealthy suburbs, because however "safe" that stuff is in the official view, it's not so safe that elites will live next to it. Etc, etc.
We could eliminate a lot of this with just by preventing any money flow from business to politics. No donations, no gifts, no ads, no PACs. Perhaps no lobbyists. Politicians live on fixed budgets, any private wealth is put in index funds, and they are restricted after public service in what they can earn. The finances of politicians and former politicians are entirely public. The finances of executives and companies are also entirely public. We have well-funded, independent ethics watchdogs.
Then on top of that we have well-funded public science systems with empowered public health authorities. That definitely exists in the US at least in patches, so I think we could make rapid progress here.
And then I'd want to see strong laws where people making and profiting from harm are always held accountable. If we look at the 2008 financial crisis, nobody went to jail. A lot of people got rich doing dodgy things, and a few of them had to give a fraction of the money back. That did not teach a lot of lessons. One could argue that's ok in finance (although I wouldn't). But when it results in physical harm and death, I think the money and power should not be separable from the consequences. Currently CEOs and execs take paydays and walk away from things where I think negligent homicide charges are merited. Instead of "Gosh, I didn't know" being an acceptable excuse, I think the standard of "knew or should have known" and "could have acted differently" should be sufficient for execs.
I like where you are going with all this, but I'll nitpick here that while tying politicians' wealth to the overall stock market in general reduces their incentive to legislate in favor of particular companies, it does provide them incentive to legislate in favor of corporate America in general. We don't need laws that help stock market participants. ~50% of Americans don't hold stock in any form, even through mutual funds or retirement accounts.
I don't know what the solution is. As long as rule making can disproportionately affect the rule maker's own personal wealth and wellbeing, you have a conflict of interest.
But everybody benefits from the wealth of society, which somewhat includes the value of the businesses within the economy.
Care needs to be taken not to kill the golden goose.
The problem I see with the US is the two party political system. I live in New Zealand and while MMP has serious problems, it was a great improvement over FPP.
Note I personally believe in equitable sharing of wealth ("The Scandinavian model"). But as a founder I also believe in the power of the incentives of personal gain from enterprise, which needs to be approximately 10:1 to break even given the risk (see VC).
Maybe we should address that problem -- it's one of the best long term ways for anyone to build wealth. Why aren't we educating people about this in school?
Yes some people must spend all their income on food and shelter. And government assistance stupidly penalizes people who try to save. But many people, even lower income people, could save a little. I think they have never been shown what the power of compounding can do over time. It is not intuitive, because the gains in early years are small.
It could have inherent failure modes you're not taking into account. For instance, if systemic crashes are built into the model, and 'anyone' as a class is substantially more likely to risk such crashes and lose everything, that changes the calculation.
How is this measured?
There are many such examples. Here’s one from my life: when I was in the pharmaceutical business one of the chemists developed a treatment for a fairly common disease. He and a couple of others tried it on themselves. We could have patented it and run it through clinical trials, but it was something any compounding pharmacist could have whipped up so such a patent would have been worthless. We were a startup so didn’t spend any effort doing a study much less a full program. Instead there are marketed, less effective products on the market.
BTW it wasn’t “the chemist and his friend” — that would have been a crime. It was a few chemists in the company dosing themselves — also technically illegal but done all the time and generally excused if it’s a trivial scale and disclosed in your filings.
Feel free to be skeptical but those are the business issues.
It's understandable that a startup could not invest further in something they can't sell. The problem seems therefor deeper than a general invocation of 'free markets'.
Perhaps the real problem is that apparently there was no way or perhaps incentive to publish the result without an expensive full study. Had the idea been published perhaps someone else would have picked it up. Would the recent fashion of preprints have helped?
Or maybe the problem is that pharmaceutical business/research income depends on patents alone, and we should have some form of public investment which guaranteed profits for development of treatments regardless of patents?
Canada used to have crown corporations (until conservative governments sold them off to do a one time balancing of the budget).
When done well the crown Corp. serves a valuable purpose. The government no longer needs to rely on industry to tell them what is needed.
Eg. In this scenario the crown Corp. refinery would have their own scientists doing research to stop the engine knock and those scientists would have the expertise to know of safer alternatives and would use those as additives. Creating a more competitive environment.
The government can also use those industry experts to get honest answers on what the industry needs. Eg. “Mr. lobbyist, If these safety standards increase your industry’s costs too much then how come our own government plant is seeing net cost savings due to lower worker injuries?”
It’s a crime that in short term interests crown corps have largely stopped being a thing.
Perhaps the government should close companies that are good for business but bad for the people instead.
In France after WW2, the companies that had participated in the German war effort, or to collaborate were simply confistated. When I see this kind of revelation, which show a complete breakage of corporate oversight and an evaporation of personal responsibility, I wonder whether the easiest solution may be to void existing stocks, have the government take over the board and re-auction the company once the management structure has been cleared.
That's precisely what Norway did in its own financial crisis:
>In the last years of the 1980s, there was a major financial crisis in Norway and by 1991 the bank had used up all capital. To save the bank, the Government of Norway took over the bank and gave it new capital, rescuing it from bankruptcy.
It's a good idea: the shareholders, who boast that their returns come from the risk they're taking, should bear that risk. If the business is too big to fail, well, then it should just be brought under government control when it would otherwise fail.
The way competition and free markets are supposed to work, someone else would've introduced ethanol as an anti-knock additive, sold gasoline cheaper (and healthier!), and everyone would've benefitted. But Kettering & Midgley went on an extensive PR campaign after their invention to convince the public leaded gasoline was safe, and they had GM and Dupont's full advertising budgets at their disposal. The public wouldn't know any better, so they believe what they're told and leaded gasoline becomes the standard.
You can hear echoes of that with many Facebook advertising & misinformation campaigns today.
This also causes stock market bubbles & crashes. People are supposed to independently value securities, and then their errors cancel out and you get a very good statistical approximation of true value. Instead, they invest in what everyone else invests in in, until prices have been bid up to insane levels, then run out of gullible buyers and the price crashes.
And brand-based monopoly. Instead of judging product quality for themselves, they buy products that all their friends are buying, "trusted brands", and this creates a barrier to entry that new entrants have a very hard time surmounting.
Democracy is affected too. In theory, the best candidate should win. In practice, the candidate with the most money to buy ads wins. People's opinions are mutable; they don't rationally seek out information independently and make an informed, self-interested choice. They tend to trust what they hear a lot, which creates a market for influencing people's opinions.
I can't think of a way to solve this, though. The "solution" would be to go from a high-trust society to a low-trust society, where everybody basically assumes that whatever they're told is a lie and ignores it. Societies like this have much higher transaction costs, much lower rates of innovation, and much higher rates of violence, which is not an improvement.
The failure modes always center around the capture of popular opinion, whether through explicit buy-in from the state or through aggressive PR campaigns.
I am not an expert on combustion engines but the biggest problem with ethanol in the early days was it polluted the engine with water that it absorbed as a water soluble organic compound. Those days engines were not made from Aluminium but iron so it destroyed motors over time due to the formation of rust. Furthermore, production of tetraethyllead got much cheaper once its synthesis was automated. Knocking itself is bad for motors so people actually wanted to use anti-knocking additives to improve the longevity of their cars (aside of better fuel economy).
So in the end tetraethyllead prevailed as an anti-knocking agent because of its technical and economical advantages and not because of a conspiracy of oil companies as the article suggests.
The main issue stations won't do it unless compelled is that it will reduce gas mileage slightly. You don't want to be the company selling gas that has a lower mileage. If they could sell it at a lower price that would be something.
The thing is that you need a lot more ethanol than tetraethyllead, so it actually does end up being more expensive, for the same energy.
And actually cast iron blocks are still being used nowadays.
Modern plastics, better valves, better treatment chemicals all mean it’s less of a problem now - but it is still a major problem and kills a lot of small engines in particular in states where all gas is some kind of ethanol blend.
While yes ethanol is hygroscopic, 10% ethanol won't cause issues even in old vehicles (see people with old motorcycles) unless you keep it in for a long time without use.
If running ‘pure’ ethanol, it’s still really hard to not have engines die or fuel handling not contaminate it. It’s not an easy thing to keep pure enough, and is even a bit corrosive compared to gasoline.
I agree that 100% ethanol would require hermetic seals, but this is about ethanol as an additive.
GM were considering using ethanol as an additive, not 100% ethanol fuel. That would require massively changing up the engine anyways and wouldn't be compatible with straight gas.
Conspiracy: n. An agreement to perform together an illegal, wrongful, or subversive act.
The word conspiracy doesn't mean the same as "conspiracy theory" and even that doesn't necessarily imply something wacky like reptilian aliens secretly controlling the government.
Absolutely. In my country, the engines of nearly all cars run on any mix of gasoline and ethanol. I always have the option to choose. I've even seen cars running on natural gas, seems to be the only thing keeping things profitable for Uber drivers these days.
Corporations should have no control over anything to begin with. Monopolists ruin everything. The damage they've done to the western world cannot be calculated.
> What governing system would have mass produced ethenol as the best antiknocker with no regard to the interests of top players?
My country did that.
That form of belief gets fixed in your mind via a very different method to beliefs such as "what goes up must come down".
It's not a result of distilling evidence.
It's a result of persuasion.
There is an intellectual framework in place for making sense of leaded petrol in the context of markets, and that's externalities. It is no different in concept to noise pollution, carbon pollution, or other types of externalities, it is just one that's significantly worse.
Leaded petrol is at best a negative externality which should be taxed, and probably should just be considered physical assault similar to punching someone in the face (the user of the petrol is giving others literal brain damage) and totally banned and criminalized.
From a tech perspective tetraethyl lead also has lubricative properties that add to exhaust valve longevity under high temperature conditions which may be one of the reasons it took so long to disappear.
But there was an economic incentive to use TEL, so the free market prioritized profits.
What I think would be improvements are protections to free speech. More specifically, removal of any obstacle to free speech. The next thing, and in line with this is very generous protections to whistle blowing. There could be a yearly award with elections by the public that chooses the whistle blower of the year. The price money should be enough to live on for some tens of years at the least, perhaps even for life. Also, winning the price should make a person immune to lawsuits related to the issue that the whistle blowing was about.
I'm with you here - especially including the observation that it was the non-free market force ("It couldn’t be patented") that skewed the choice in favor of the inferior, poisonous option.
Side note, besides its anti-knock properties, the lead also had protective effect on the valves - with early metallurgy, the high temperature gasses wore out valves, in particular the exhaust ones; lead partly ameliorated that. It is a concern with older vehicles (aircraft and cars) and they may require leaded gasoline for that particular reason - or at least replacement of relevant engine parts.
This hasn't been true since about 1970, and even then, it was dubious.
>Lycoming provides a list of engines and fuels that are compatible with them. According to their August 2017 chart, a number of their engines are compatible with unleaded fuel.
>However, all of their engines require that an oil additive be used when unleaded fuel is used: "When using the unleaded fuels identified in Table 1, Lycoming oil additive P/N LW-16702, or an equivalent finished product such as Aeroshell 15W-50, must be used."*
"Field experience has determined the use of unleaded automotive gasoline to be the cause of premature cylinder replacement due primarily to rapid and severe valve seat recession." 
They don't ever present evidence from controlled testing that backs up their "field experience". And controlled testing of automotive engines has shown that leaded fuels don't provide any significant protection. 
Twenty years ago, aviation writer John Deakin issued a challenge for anyone to provide good evidence that leaded avgas prevents engine wear . As far as I know that challenge was never met .
1 - https://web.archive.org/web/20171004135916/https://pceonline...
2 - https://archive.epa.gov/international/air/web/pdf/vsr-finald...
3 - https://www.avweb.com/features/pelicans-perch-55lead-in-the-...
Interesting, because my take on patent law is that it exists to encourage capitalism. Specifically, to reward the risk takers that develop novel ideas (leading to positive change?).
These will be derided as loss-makers by a surprisingly large contingent, and they'll defeat the whole purpose (when they can) by changing the approach so it either turns a profit, or fails entirely (see the US Postal Service, which always delivers, including on unprofitable routes)
Unless you mean that you're disheartened that the government doesn't allow a free market here, and you wish they would?
> What are the solutions to this?
Not believing in propagandist fairy tales? The "free" market is clearly a lie, it's a false front around capitalists seeking to maximize profit based in the regulatory framework(s) that government(s) have stood up. These frameworks aren't respected for their actual spirit either, instead exploited to their literal letter at every moment.
To see someone on a logical forum like HN espouse a childish idea like "the free market will make an efficient solution", with none of the subtext that the solution is exclusively to the problem of making money, just shows how effective that propaganda is.
Instead, acknowledge reality: incentives control actions, and capitalist incentives exclusively are to make money and control markets. Captive markets make more money, so they will work towards aspects of the regulatory frameworks that they can use to keep others out.
There is no goodwill from corporations. There is no environmental concern from corporations. There is no concern on social impact from corporations. There are no morals in corporations. There is profit maximization techniques and nothing else.
The free market has seen capitalists destroy our world with barely an impressive invention along the way.
So it's not just free markets.
Sometimes giving away an invention for free (or finding a non-patentable alternative) makes you more money because it’s not a barrier to adoption.
A global reset of “free markets” via a ‘day zero of capital accumulations’ could provide a solution. Many of the established capital hordes are legacies of activities that are now understood to be anti-social at best, and predatory at the extreme.
Coupled with this, we need pedagogical guidance to inform the new generations who are not to manor born. Almost none of the new blood born to middle or lower classes are educated in the necessities of generational wealth preservation and applications of wealth towards affecting societal outcomes. At best, we have children of Marxists and pseudo-Marxists railing against “Capital” without understanding the dynamics of societal power based on multi-generational societal networks, which transcend mere capital.
Primary sources working against such a program are precisely the “entertainment” complexes owned stock, lock, and barrel by informed and purposive societal networks, which at this point in human history have fully transcended ethnic and national boundaries, and clearly aim for stupefying the masses. There is a reason you have been treated to 2 decades of Marvel comics in films.