Game designer at Naughty Dog, software engineer, Canadian abroad
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Thwarting Boring Tactics

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Concept art for Deathloop

Arkane Studios are one of my favourite developers. Playing through Deathloop has made me realize that I’ve been playing their games the wrong way for years.

I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of this revelation, but first I want to frame it within a general game design principle. It’s not enough for designers to provide players with a myriad of interesting gameplay options (as Arkane games certainly do). Within those options, players may find a strategy that’s boring but reliable and effective. The existence of such a degenerate strategy may lead some players to repeatedly use it even if they ruin the game for themselves.

It is therefore essential that designers make boring tactics impossible or ineffective.

This is not the same problem as designing systems that encourage players to switch up their tactics. For instance, the classic RPG pattern of having some enemies that are weak to fire and others weak to ice. This is a “carrot” that encourages players to vary using fire and ice attacks. The problem archetype I’m referring to would be the player who dumped 100 points in their ice attack, and spends the rest of the game freezing enemies for massive damage regardless of elemental weaknesses. The game systems need a “stick” that disincentivizes this boring strategy.

I – CLEAN HANDS

I have a history of playing stealth games as puzzles that can be optimized. To quote myself from almost a decade ago:

My preferred approach is to play each scenario as flawlessly as I can. I like to ascertain a situation, determine a strategy, execute it, then figure out how I could have done better. Can I avoid alerting the guards? Use fewer resources? Turn the environment to my advantage? I treat it like a puzzle, playing it over and over to find the optimal path.

This is the attitude with which I took on the Dishonored series1. I tried over and over until I had a near-perfect stealth run. Nothing in the game’s systems discouraged me from playing this way; in fact, there were multiple systems that encouraged it:

  • Killing and going loud gives you the high chaos “bad ending”. Chaos performance stats are shown at the end of every mission.
  • There are compelling and creative nonlethal assassination options, and they often become unavailable if you alert the target or make some other error.
  • Being judicious about stealth and killing aligns with Corvo and Emily’s story goal of stabilizing and regaining control of the Empire.
  • Perhaps most importantly, there is no limit or penalty for save scumming.

Screenshot of the Clean Hands trophy: complete the game without killing anyone.

Unlocking the “Clean Hands” trophy was challenging and rewarding in its own way. However, I ended up completing the game without ever engaging with the dozens of combat systems and tools the game had to offer. If this means I played Dishonored “wrong”, then I would argue that it wasn’t entirely my fault. The systems encouraged me to play flawlessly (carrot) and nothing prevented me from doing save scumming (stick).

Compare that with Deathloop, a game with similar action gameplay options but completely different high level incentives:

  • You play the levels over and over. Early runs are typically messy and chaotic, but as you gain information (both in-game and as a player) the puzzle-box options slowly reveal themselves.
  • Messed up your intricate plan? You haven’t permanently tarnished your save, just try again tomorrow.
  • The presence of Julianna adds chaos, complicating any attempt at a “perfect” run.
  • Killing eternalists doesn’t conflict with Colt’s morals or story goal. They’ll come back tomorrow anyway.
  • You can only save between levels, and lose most of your day’s progress on death. However, to offset this, the game is quite forgiving in other ways (the Reprise slab, regenerating health sections, infinite power regen, etc.)

By actively disallowing my boring perfectionist strategy, Deathloop gave me permission to have fun. Rather than reloading when my plans went awry, I improvised. I engaged with all the combat and weapon systems I’d been neglecting all these years, and had a blast doing so. I got out of my own way and just enjoyed myself, knowing that the game systems allowed me to do so.

This shift in mentality could not have been accomplished with incentives alone. Even with the forgiving nature of the time loop, save scumming still would have been a temptation. Rather, the enforced permadeath and limited saves completely removed my ability to adopt a boring tactic.

II – WHY DO WE RUIN OUR OWN FUN

As designers, why is it necessary to solve the problem of players ruining their own fun? Shouldn’t players naturally avoid making themselves bored, and actively seek playstyles that are engaging? Why isn’t this a self-correcting problem?

The answer may lie in the concept of “double consciousness”, which in a general sense refers to the fact that “games are multilayered in terms of identity experience”. While studying D&D players in the 1970’s, sociologist Gary Allen Fine split the player’s identity into three. These ideas were later further developed by Harvey Smith (co-creative director of Dishonored) and Matthias Worch. The three parts are:

  • Character: “the fictional character embodied by the player”
  • Player: “the player acting within the framework and the rules of the game”
  • Person: the person with life demands and self-perception outside of the game

Uniting these three frames is one of the challenges of game design. When they are not aligned on shared goals, they risk drifting apart and undermining the player’s investment in the game (i.e. ludonarrative dissonance).

Identity is composed of character, player, and person.
Slide from Matthias Worch’s 2011 GDC talk “The Identity Bubble”

Playing Dishonored as a pacifist is compelling because it’s reinforced in all three parts of the player’s identity:

  • Character: Corvo and Emily want to bring peace and stability to the Empire
  • Player: Low chaos mission rating perceived as good performance
  • Person: Identifying as a good person, therefore seeking the good ending

If there’s a countervailing incentive towards a more expansive and improvised playstyle, where is it seated within this identity framework? Trophies for creative kills provide an incentive within the game rules (i.e. “player”). If it’s a desire driven by emotions such as curiosity or boredom, this is also an aspect of the “player” identity (since we bring our emotions into the “magic circle” of a game). Within the “person” frame, it could be driven by self-perception as “someone who expresses their innovation and creativity within games”; Mark Rosewater calls this player archetype a “Johnny”.

Depending on one’s personality then, some players could have a completely different identity experience:

  • Character: Corvo and Emily are badass supernatural assassins
  • Player: I’m going to pull off cool assassin moves using all the tools in the toolbox.
  • Person: “I would do cool stuff like this if I was Corvo”

The fact that both interpretations and playstyles are valid and supported within Dishonored is a testament to the range and versatility of the immersive sim genre. But it also suggests why the “boring tactics” problem isn’t self-correcting; players align a game’s narrative and mechanics with their own perspective, preferences, and values. Players aren’t really choosing their playstyle, it’s a manifestation of who they are.

It therefore behooves designers to thoughtfully craft their game story and rules to incentivize the ideal / desired / most fun way of playing. Assuming the developers at Arkane Lyon wanted to promote an improvisational playstyle, they skillfully reinforced it within the player’s identity frames:

  • Character: Colt is brash, audacious, and willing to do anything to escape the loop.
  • Player: The game’s structure rewards improvisation, not perfect play. No long term disadvantage to killing or going loud. Mistakes are impermanent, try again another day.
  • Person: “If I was in Colt’s situation, I would do the same thing.”

III – NAUGHTY DOG COMBAT DESIGN

In my work as a systems designer at Naughty Dog, I’ve grappled with the same problem archetype in more low-level mechanics. We run frequent internal playtests when our games are in development; whenever I see a tester adopting a boring tactic to progress, I start thinking about how we could tweak our systems to push them to play more dynamically.

1. Staying put

For instance, consider the problem of the player choosing to stay put. They pick an attractive cover position and try to clear out the entire fight from that one spot. Playing this way is a very safe option, as enemies typically need to expose themselves to advance or flank. It’s also appealing to timid players who would rather stick to the section of the layout they know rather than move forward into the unknown.

However, this is a boring strategy. Playing this way won’t deliver on the fantasy of being a climbing / swinging / jumping treasure hunter (Uncharted) or a scrappy smuggler surviving on the ragged edge on their wits and grit (The Last of Us). It fails to engage with the complexity of the combat spaces or the knowledge model of the AI. If we condone players using this tactic, then it’s our fault if players come away from the experience with the impression that our games have lackluster combat.

Screenshot from Uncharted 4 with debug circles for the grenade manager.

We have several systems that are designed to make this tactic ineffective. The most direct method is grenades in the Uncharted series (and to a lesser degree molotovs in The Last of Us). The grenade manager detects when the player has remained within small radius x for more than y seconds, which is a heuristic for the player staying in place. When this condition is detected, it requests the AI coordinator to throw a grenade, flushing the player out of their position and forcing them to move.

A subtler system is baked into our enemy accuracy model. Like many things in video game AI, baseline enemy accuracy is calculated by multiplying together a set of tuning parameters, each expressed as a float in the [0,1] range. Some of these parameters are based on curves that ramp up over time. One of these parameters slowly ramps to 1.0 while the enemies know the player’s current position. Players who stay in place are penalized with enemies who gradually hone in their accuracy on a stationary target.

We also use enemy design to nullify this tactic. Brutes in Uncharted and Clickers in The Last of Us are tanky high-threat enemies that charge right at the player’s position. They function as “spiky balls”2 that force the player to maintain their distance and continuously reposition. Other enemies provide area denial, creating dynamic obstacles that limit where the player can fight from.

Venn diagram of various enemy types. Clickers are a spiky ball.

2. Charging at enemies

However, one of the unintended consequences of disallowing staying put is that players might pivot to charging directly at enemies instead. This is also an undesirable tactic, and for the same reasons; it short circuits other systems and flattens out the combat experience. This tactic is a particular concern for The Last of Us, where charging straight into gunfire unscathed would severely compromise the game’s grounded tone.

To disallow this tactic, we go as far as overriding the baseline enemy accuracy. Every frame we detect the player’s movement vector towards each enemy. If that vector is within a ~70° cone directly at an enemy within ~15 meters, we consider the player “charging towards” that enemy. Enemies who are being charged towards have their accuracy parameters overridden to be nearly 100% accurate. We also guarantee that they get a “full body” hit reaction, which knocks the player backwards on hit. Furthermore, in some cases, we even give them a more aggressive firing pattern when charged. It’s effectively impossible to close the distance on an enemy except this way.

Diagram showing the logic for charging at enemies.

This tuning is heavy handed, but it’s critical for the integrity of our combat loop that this tactic is ineffective. It forces players to consider the combat layout, using occluders to regain stealth or to approach enemies without being shot.

3. Hoarding resources

Another boring tactic we actively try to subvert is hoarding resources. Ammo and supplies are scarce in the world of The Last of Us, and some players respond to this by adopting an ultraconservative playstyle. They squirrel away all their shotgun ammo and crafted items, hesitant to consume them lest their need be greater in a future encounter. However, as in the other cases, people who play this way rob themselves of the full breadth of the gameplay experience.

The most straightforward solution to this issue is to have a low maximum inventory. This means that hoarding players quickly find themselves in a situation where they’re walking past pickups unable to pick them up. There’s no benefit to hoarding once you’ve hit the cap, so players have permission to use their items less discriminately. Since weapons have individual ammo types, this has the added benefit of pushing players to cycle through every capped weapon in their inventory.

A more pernicious solution to this problem is to dynamically spawn fewer items based on current inventory. While this does penalize hoarding, the increased scarcity simply reinforces the player’s mental model; stingy item drops validate a conservative playstyle. We have some systems like this in The Last of Us series, but we keep it a light touch to avoid this issue.

Counterintuitively, on The Last of Us Part II we found it more effective to use starvation prevention logic to preempt players from developing this mindset entirely. This means loading the dice, favouring high-roll drops for players with low resources. However, we wanted to avoid rewarding players who were simply playing carelessly by resupplying them mid-fight. To that end, we ensured that the starvation logic only triggered in the exploration spaces between fights. This helped maintain the player’s long term supplies, and bolster their confidence that the game wouldn’t leave them stranded.

Another effective prevention measure is to limit the opportunities to spend their resources. In playtests, we often noticed players hoarding supplements (player upgrades) while reliably spending their parts (weapon upgrades). This is because player upgrades are available anytime from the backpack menu, whereas parts can only be spent at a workbench. Since there’s usually at least an hour of play time between workbenches, the same loss aversion that causes hoarding works in our favour. Might as well spend your parts now, as you may not have another chance for a while. (Deathloop also limits upgrade opportunities this way; you can only spend residuum between missions.)

IV – ADDITIONAL CASE STUDIES

Here are some additional examples of designers responding to boring tactics.

League of Legends – Lane Swapping (2v1)

Around 2015, a new strategy emerged in high level League of Legends play. Rather than following the traditional metagame of sending two players to the bottom lane, teams would send their duo to the top lane to face a lone opponent. Depending on the champion draft there can be various incentives to do this: dodging an unfavoured matchup, starving the enemy solo laner, and the gold and map advantage of taking an early tower.

On the surface this seems like a valid and interesting strategy, an alternative choice that players can situationally opt into. However, it has a number of deleterious consequences for League of Legends as a whole. Firstly, it drastically shrinks the number of viable top lane picks, placing an enormous premium on the small pool of champions that can cling to life in a 1v2 lane. Secondly, short circuiting the typical “lane phase” in this manner takes a lot of excitement out of the early game. Both teams are forced to play conservatively as they strategically concede their weak side of the map, and the action doesn’t pick up again until midgame. This staid opening is particularly problematic for League as a spectator esport.

Riot have pursued a number of approaches to limit the effectiveness of this tactic, with two in particular having stood the test of time. Firstly, they have made turrets more resilient in the early game, first as an emergency patch before the world championship and later more officially as a “turret plating” mechanic. Secondly, despite a stated desire to “find a more nuanced approach” that preserves map symmetry, they have made the bottom turrets a little weaker. Only the top and mid lane towers get a “fortification” buff for the first five minutes of the game.

Destiny – The Loot Cave

Less than a week after Destiny’s initial launch, a curious strategy emerged. Players found an effective strategy for farming engrams by massing together in communal spaces and mass firing into a narrow cave, instantly obliterating the continuously respawning enemies.

I wrote a lengthy post back in 2014 about how the runtime interaction of various mechanics created the Loot Cave dynamic. Needless to say, the developers at Bungie felt like this was a boring strategy in comparison to the intended pathway to progression: “shooting at a black hole for hours on end isn’t our dream for how Destiny is played.” They hotfixed this particular area and made their activities more rewarding.

Metal Gear Solid V – Enemy Preparedness

Once players find a playstyle that works, it can be very difficult to push them to try other approaches. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has a unique “enemy preparedness” system designed to do just that: dynamically reacting to the player’s tactics and deploying enemies with countermeasures.

Players have documented six categories of preparedness, though they are not specifically identified in-game. For instance, if players frequently approach bases under the cover of darkness, they’ll start deploying mortar-flares and night-vision goggles. If players assault bases aggressively, they’ll begin wearing body armour and carrying LMGs.

I think of this as a second-order design solution. It’s not that any of these individual playstyles is inherently boring. Rather, in a game with a wide array of available options, it’s boring to keep playing the same way. The preparedness system incentivizes pivoting to new strategies.

Call of Duty – Infinite Respawns

While the use of this technique has waned in modern titles, a mainstay of the classic Call of Duty games was that enemies infinitely respawned until you pushed forward and triggered the next phase of the fight.

While this type of encounter design can be frustrating, it’s designed to prevent playing passively. Without infinite respawns it would be very effective to hang back in cover, snipe the enemies from afar, then saunter forward when the coast is clear. However, this would fail to deliver on the fantasy of being on the frontlines of a war.

Modern shooter games tend to use different approaches to solve this same problem. For instance, creating combat layouts with shorter sightlines and more legible flank routes. Within the AI, developers can adjust how enemies peek and aim from cover to make them less susceptible to being whittled down at long range.

V – ACCESSIBILITY IS NOT BORING

How does accessibility fit within the designer’s responsibility to disallow boring tactics? The common argument is that overcoming difficulty is core to the experience of certain games, and that options that reduce difficulty would enable players to ruin the game for themselves. In this view, using options to remove challenge is a boring player choice, and thus is fair game for a designer to disallow.

As an accessibility advocate I do not agree with this position, but I don’t believe the core concern is completely without merit. Rather, I believe that it is also the designer’s responsibility to frame these options. Players need context and clarity to determine whether their experience would benefit from enabling certain options.

The accessibility messages shown in Celeste and The Last of Us Part 2

For instance, consider this message that Celeste presents as part of its menu flow3:

“Assist Mode allows you to modify the game’s rules to fit your specific needs. This includes options such as slowing the game speed, granting yourself invincibility or infinite stamina, and skipping chapters entirely. Celeste is intended to be a challenging and rewarding experience. If the default game proves inaccessible to you, we hope that you can still find that experience with Assist Mode.”

Based on focus test feedback, we added a similar information screen to our “combat accessibility” submenu in The Last of Us Part II. It says:

“These settings are designed to make combat accessible for all players. As such, they can significantly alter the gameplay experience.”

In both cases, the developers are framing the intended audience for accessibility features as players with “specific needs”. These are players for whom the “default game proves inaccessible”, rather than the intended “challenging and rewarding experience.” The designers do not condone tweaking these options haphazardly; they are intentionally designed to support a player base with a spectrum of diverse needs.

Those who choose to enable these options are doing so with the clear understanding that they are changing the rules of the game. The “magic circle” of the game is bounded by these rules, so modifying them must be done from the “real world” outside the circle. The designer has relinquished a small measure of control, and put the burden of tailoring (literally “to make fit”) the game experience on the player. With their cooperation, we remove the barriers and rejoin the intended experience within the magic circle.

VI – CONCLUSION

In the MDA framework, game designers define the rules of the game (mechanics). In motion, the rules interact with each other and with player input (dynamics), creating an emotional and intellectual experience in the player’s mind (aesthetics).

At its core, what I am arguing here is that designers are also responsible for the negative space of aesthetics. There should be intention and craft put towards the experience that the player is NOT having. This is a kind of shadow game design, where the goal is to surgically cut holes out of the possibility space where boring options used to be.

1. To prove I’m not alone in playing this way, check out this poster who has a similar revelation about perfect runs while playing Prey: Mooncrash.
2. No clue where I picked up this name, it’s apparently not a term of art.
3. I am quoting the modified version of this message, which was adjusted in a 2019 patch.

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Gangles
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Starving the Beast

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Willie Sutton robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” But if he was still alive, he’d probably be studying pension funds.

Chances are you’ve heard of Harvard, which is why it was big news when after a ten-year campaign the school finally relented, divesting its $40 billion endowment from fossil fuel. And in the weeks that followed, many others took the chance to follow: Boston University (whose president said the school wanted to be “on the right side of history,”), the University of Minnesota, the MacArthur Foundation. Ten of the twenty richest colleges in America have now divested, the result of countless hours of work by activists; they’ve helped rob the oil industry of its social license, tarring its once-good name. The students and others who have done this work are heroes of the first order.

Taken together, those 20 richest schools have a total worth of $322 billion-with-a-b, absolutely nothing to sneeze at. But earlier this week a single pension fund that you’ve probably never heard of unless you’re a Canadian retiree, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, announced that it too would divest from fossil fuels. And with that one announcement, it took $315 billion out of play for the fossil fuel industry. It’s Canada’s second-biggest pension fund and the world’s twelfth biggest (its other giants are under pressure to divest as well). It joins other massive pension funds—New York City and New York State, for instance, each of them over $200 billion. Others are following suit: the Maine legislature, for instance, recently instructed the state pension fund to divest—it’s “only” $17 billion, but that’s the biggest pool of capital in the state by far. (The fact that long-term fossil fuels are the worst investment you can make has helped).

These divestments are so large that they’re starting to have deep effects on the ability of the fossil fuel industry to expand. As an executive at the investment giant Morningstar explained to the Toronto Star, the “slowdown in funding for new projects means that oil companies will instead need to focus on squeezing every last drop of profit out of older ones while keeping a closer eye on environmental concerns. ‘They’re not going to be focussed on growth,’ he said. ‘They’ll be more in a holding situation, and focussing on cost efficiencies, and reducing their carbon footprint.’”

“Energy companies rely heavily on large, institutional investors such as pension funds because the oil and gas industry is one of the most capital-intensive industries around, said Adam Freneth, an assistant professor at Western University’s Ivey School of Business, who specializes in the energy sector. “When you’re going to the market for billions of dollars year after year, it’s not good when pools of capital get cut off,” Freneth said. “There are limited numbers of places where you can access that amount of capital.”

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As early as 2016, it was clear that divestment campaigns were damaging the coal industry’s ability to raise capital—industry giant Peabody cited it as a cause of its bankruptcy. The oil giants are much larger, with massive cash flows, but even Shell, in a recent annual report, called divestment campaigns a ‘material risk’ to its business. All you really need to know is that the fossil fuel industry maintains a website entirely devoted to moaning about divestment and begging universities and pension funds to continue “engaging” with them instead. Remember: their only strategy is delay. There’s nothing they’d enjoy more than a few more decades of parrying back and forth with investors.

Which is why it’s such good news that the pressure on pension funds just keeps growing. The world’s biggest pension funds are often in “blue” cities, states, and countries, because that’s where most of the world’s money gets made. And from the New York State Teachers Retirement Fund to the California Public Employees pension scheme to the giant TIAA fund that provides the pension for most American academics, the pressure for divestment just keeps mounting.

It’s taken ten years to get to this point: the world’s first fossil fuel divestment came in 2012, when tiny Unity College in Maine pulled its $8 million out of coal, oil and gas. (And you should have heard us cheering). It’s also taken ten years for engineers to drop the cost of renewable energy 90 percent. In both cases that’s decades too long. Would that we’d started the divestment campaign much earlier; would that America had embraced Jimmy Carter’s 1979 plan to get 20% of our energy from the sun by 2020.

But we are where we are—in a world badly damaged by climate change, but with a chance still to avert the very worst. Reining in the fossil fuel industry is absolutely essential: please keep the pressure on colleges, on churches—and on pension funds. Because it makes no sense to invest retirement funds in companies that insure there won’t be a world to retire on.

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Gangles
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Learning as Investing: 7 Skills That Pay Off in Any Job

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It’s common to talk about learning as an investment. Economists talk about human capital, assuming that skills and knowledge, like machines or factories, are primarily things we can use to earn money.

Of all the reasons to learn, solely making money is hardly the best. I spend most of my learning time on things I don’t expect to earn me a penny.

Yet, since we talk about learning as an investment so frequently, I thought it would be interesting to ponder which skills have the best return on investment. If you were a portfolio manager for human capital, let’s say, what would you learn to maximize your return?

First, Some Quibbles…

The value of knowledge is not universal. For most people, knowing how to sing is not a lucrative skill. And then there’s Beyoncé. Similarly, even if machine learning experts or hedge fund managers can make millions by applying complex math, most people never use calculus outside the classroom.

So the correct, albeit dull, answer to the titular question would mirror the most economically valuable professions.

A more interesting answer would restrict our analysis to skills that are useful in a wide range of professions, abilities that you could add to many lines of work and see a return.

But we can go further. The value investing paradigm argues that the key is finding overlooked opportunities. The best investments aren’t the flashiest, but those that are neglected by everyone else. Invest here, and you can reap bigger returns than by chasing the latest fad.

With these two constraints in mind (i.e., non-profession-specific, underappreciated abilities), here would be my picks for a hypothetical portfolio:

1. Being Really Good at Excel

Everyone wants to be a programmer or AI developer (at least if my newsletter replies are any indication). Excel, in contrast, is boring. But a surprising amount of business activity depends on Excel.

In a previous post, I mentioned a friend who joked that his consulting business was basically just him being good at Excel. After that post was published, I got several emails from people who do the same thing (as well as business owners looking for such people).

Many of the most valuable skills aren’t cutting-edge; instead, they involve being highly skilled with a commonly used tool.

2. Writing Good Emails

Email is the basis for a dizzying amount of our work. My friend, Cal Newport, wrote a whole book about how this results in a “hyperactive hive mind” workflow that ruins our productivity.

Many workplace email threads I’ve seen are sloppy and disorganized which leads to a sea of noise. The bar is set really low here. Being able to organize and express your thoughts in a way that makes action items jump out and reduces back-and-forth is a tremendous asset.

3. Being a Non-Terrible Public Speaker

I have immense respect for good public speakers. Holding an audience’s attention isn’t easy. Doing so while being funny, polite, informative and helpful is an enormous task.

As with email, however, the bar is set quite low here. Being non-terrible as a speaker is enough to make you stand out at conferences and meetings.

At a minimum, you should be able to deliver a talk without reading notes or slides, communicate concisely, and pivot your presentation depending on the needs of your audience. A few months in Toastmasters can make a massive difference if you don’t feel confident speaking.

4. Getting Everything Done You Said You Would

A remarkable amount of economic success just comes down to basic reliability. Did you take on a task or project? Did you finish it on time, or did you need extra reminders and prodding?

Part of this skill is simply being organized and productive. But a lot of it is also about managing expectations. Many people, who feel unable to push back against demands, reluctantly agree to work they’re not sure they can deliver on. Yet this pressured “yes” often backfires and makes them seem less reliable in the future.

Richard Feynman famously got out of extra commitments by claiming to be irresponsible. But most of us aren’t Nobel-level geniuses, so the skill of being dependable is still at a premium for us mortals.

5. Researching Effectively

We tend to associate research with academics and journalists, but finding a comprehensive answer to a question is valuable in any field. Which is the best software to use? What do our competitors do? What do the experts recommend?

Knowing how to do research is hardly automatic. It took me years to figure out how to do systematic research that went beyond simple web searches. Getting answers from other people is itself an art that requires practice.

Even if you can’t be the smartest person in the room, you can learn to access what the smartest people think.

6. Ballparking Numbers

Most of our experience with math in school is finding exact answers to precisely worded questions. This is a shame because very few problems in life are like this. Instead, we more often face vague problems where only some of the numbers needed are known.

The physicist, Enrico Fermi, was famous for his ability to develop a good approximation to such questions. His technique was to start from easier-to-estimate numbers and successively work down to the harder-to-estimate quantities.

To illustrate, try to guess how many piano tuners there are in Chicago. Hard to do, right? But perhaps you could start with the population instead—that’s easy to look up. Then guess how many of those people own pianos. How often would they need to be tuned? How long does it take to tune a piano? If you follow through, you can get remarkably close to the true number.

Practicing the ability to quickly ballpark numbers, to make valid estimates of what things should be, is helpful for any quantitative line of work.

7. Learning New Software Quickly

Getting quickly on top of new software is increasingly a requirement for professions outside of IT. Doctors, teachers, lawyers and engineers constantly face new technical interfaces with their work—if you struggle to learn new software, your core professional skills may be undervalued.

I’ll admit, this isn’t my strong point. While I’m good enough at learning new software, I’m hardly a master. Still, knowing how valuable it is, I’ve made a point of hiring people who have this knack in my own business. Being the go-to person for figuring out new tools can give you a valuable edge over the competition.

Other Valuable Skills

Which skills have I missed? I ignored some skills because they were too profession-specific (programming is still primarily useful for programmers, ditto machine learning). Others I left out because they seem to be commonly appreciated (leadership has its own shelf in the bookstore).

I imagine there are lots of skills that work well for particular fields. Figuring out what customers want to buy is huge in client-facing roles. Similarly, teaching is a tool that goes way beyond K-12.

What portfolio would you craft? If you had to invest, which skills would give you the greatest yield? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

The post Learning as Investing: 7 Skills That Pay Off in Any Job appeared first on Scott H Young.

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Gangles
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Q, Trust, and You - by Will Wilkinson

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The QAnon conspiracy narrative is built from absolutely insane pieces and lots of people believe in it. I knew that already. But it hits differently when you see it. Watching the first episodes of Q: Into the Storm on HBO and its depiction of totally ordinary, familiar white folks scrolling through their Costco iPads on their Costco sofas spouting bonkers claims, I found myself agog with incredulity. It didn’t matter that their comprehensive enmeshment in this demented, ad hoc revenge fantasia wasn’t actually news to me. It’s sort of like the Grand Canyon. You always knew it was there and enormous. Nevertheless, stunning to see.

I kept thinking: “These people don’t even know what evidence is…”

It’s not as if Qanon devotees are trying to determine the plausibility of the conspiracy’s constituent propositions against some standard of logical consistency or coherence with their pre-existing beliefs. They aren’t doing this badly. They aren’t doing this at all. They read stuff on 8chan and watch videos on YouTube and just believe it. Insofar as there’s any impulse to maintain a web of personal belief that isn’t a chaotic jumble of internal contradiction, they do it by regarding Q’s revelations, and the interpretation thereof by an emergent class exegetical elites, as their fixed points. Everything that conflicts with them, they drop or revise, even if those beliefs were much better grounded in reason and reality. It’s wild!

I was launched back into this bewildered amazement by Laura Nelson’s fascinating piece about QAnon and SoCal woo in the LA Times.

We get treats like this:

When the world shut down in March of 2020, Eva Kohn of San Clemente created a group text to stay in touch with nine other women in the area. Niceties about families and lockdown hobbies devolved over the months into false conspiracy theories: that Democratic elites were harvesting adrenochrome from tortured children to use in satanic rites, that the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was perpetrated by antifa, that the COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility.

People believe this! Lots of people! Now, I doubt that you're very surprised to find that folks who will believe in chakras and auras and manifesting things into reality by, like, thinking about them really hard might also believe that Hillary Clinton devours baby faces or whatever. Still, it’s a bracing reminder of the suggestible wildness of the human mind.

Anyone this epistemically dissipated — anyone this anarchic and antinomian about norms of truth-conducive cognition — can end up believing anything. It’s astonishing to see people fervently believing any old arbitrary thing in a massively coordinated way.

Or maybe not so astonishing. If you know where to look, you can see it every Sunday morning. Maybe it’s not so different from what we all do, in a way.

This bit sparked a thought:

“People aren’t taking QAnon as seriously as they should, given how pervasive it is in these worlds — evangelical Christians, yogis — that otherwise have very little in common,” Schwartz said. “They’re creating a world where truth is whatever you feel like it is.”

It’s that last sentence that got to me. I’ve always found the idea that you can just decide to believe something sort of crazy. For a minute I thought maybe the prevalence of QAnon might be a datapoint that counts in favor of “doxastic voluntarism,” as the philosophers call it. I thought maybe I should reconsider.

But this isn’t a story about individuals who independently want to believe that the Pfizer vax will render your gonads moot, and then proceed to will themselves, one at a time, into believing it. This is mass delusion. That makes it seem less than entirely voluntary. People are getting swept up in QAnon for psychologically normal (though no less troubling) reasons. They’re not just deciding to believe in all this. If an individual were to voice belief in this stuff entirely of his own initiative and on his own steam, we’d suspect a loose connection in the noggin. But we don’t think it’s crazy to believe absolutely batshit stuff as long as enough people believe it. Why is that?

I think it’s because we have no choice but to rely on testimony. I’ve never been eye-to-eye with a virus. I think I’ve seen pictures taken through powerful microscopes. I just take it for granted that these microscopes exist, that they’re powerful enough to take snaps of viruses, and that these alleged depictions are what they’re said to be.

It’s trust. I don’t suspect that any of the people involved in the chain of transmission here are making mischief or telling fibs. The idea that there’s a conspiracy to make me falsely believe that there are pictures of viruses does not jibe with my web of belief. So I don’t give it a second thought. I just assume James Madison was real. All the books say so.

The fact is, almost all the general information in your personal web of belief is stuff you read, stuff somebody told you, stuff you saw on TV. Building a relatively accurate mental model of the world doesn’t have all that much to do with your individual reasoning capacity. It’s mostly about trusting and distrusting the right people. The problem is that few of us have the capacity to independently assess whether someone, or some institution, or some process, is a reliable source of accurate information. You have to depend on other people to tell you whose testimony you ought to trust. There’s no way around it. The bootstrapping problem here is central the human condition. We can’t get started building a model of the world that encompasses more than our own extremely narrow idiosyncratic experience unless, at some point, we simply take somebody’s word for it.

It’s easy to see how, if you start out trusting to wrong people, you can get trapped in a bubble. If you start out trusting the wrong people, they’ll tell you to trust other unreliable people, who in turn will tell you to trust unreliable methods. Worse, they’ll tell you to distrust the trustworthy people spreading the word about the genuinely illuminating results of reliable knowledge-gathering methods. You won’t be listening to the people you ought to be listening to. It’s a problem that comes for most of us, sooner or later. That’s why ideology tends to be self-insulating; it functions as a heuristic for grading the trustworthiness of testimony.

It took me for what feels like forever to finally let go of my ideological libertarianism because I had a hard time extending merited epistemic authority to critics of libertarianism because I’d already extended unmerited epistemic authority to critics of those critics. It didn’t really matter that I was way better at reasoning and evaluating the quality of arguments than most people, thanks to eleventy years of philosophy school.

This side of geometry, just about any serious dispute will turn on a number of empirical assumptions or claims. In sophisticated ideological disputation, confirmation bias takes the form of giving the testimony of some authorities slightly more weight than others, of harboring slightly more concern about the credibility of empirical methods behind inconvenient claims and slightly less about methods that tend to bolster your position. That’s why debates almost never move anyone off their position.

It might even be a little misleading to characterize this as confirmation bias, insofar as that suggests illicitly motivated reasoning. Part of what it means to have a coherent worldview is that your substantive opinions and your views about the reliability of various method of inquiry, experts, and other sources of information are mutually supporting — are in reflective equilibrium.

It’s hard to break out of a stable equilibrium. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be stable. But once you do break out of it, all that is solid melts into air. You rub your eyes and suddenly it’s clear that people you had trusted, who you’d relied upon, were actually full of it. You’re confronted with the fact that you’d been discounting the testimony of extremely trustworthy and reliable people — that you should have been feeling the weight of what they were saying, but weren’t. Even a little reweighting of the relative credibility of expert testimony and various empirical methods can have profound ramifying implications that rock your web of belief.

Now, I’ve come to think that people who really care about getting things right are a bit misguided when they focus on methods of rational cognition. I’m thinking of the so-called “rationalist” community here. If you want an unusually high-fidelity mental model of the world, the main thing isn’t probability theory or an encyclopedic knowledge of the heuristics and biases that so often make our reasoning go wrong. It’s learning who to trust. That’s really all there is to it. That’s the ballgame.

But that’s a lot easier said than done. I can’t use my expertise in macroeconomics to identify which macroeconomists we ought to trust most, because I have no expertise in macroeconomics. I’m going to have to rely on people who understand the subject better than I do to tell me who to trust. But then who do I trust to tell me who to trust?

It’s really not so hard. In any field, there are a bunch of people at the top of the game who garner near-universal deference. Trusting those people is an excellent default. On any subject, you ought to trust the people who have the most training and spend the most time thinking about that subject, especially those who are especially well-regarded by the rest of these people. This suggests a useful litmus test for the reliability of generalists who professionally sort wheat from chaff and present themselves as experts in expert identification — people like Malcolm Gladwell or, say, me. Do they usually hew close to the consensus view of a field’s leading, most authoritative figures? That may be boring, but it’s a good sign that you can count on them when they talk about subjects you know less well.

If they seem to have a taste for mavericks, idiosyncratic bomb-throwers, and thorns in the side of the establishment, it ought to count against them. That’s a sign of ideologues, provocateurs, and book-sale/click maximizers. Beyond prudent conservative alignment with consensus, expert identification is a “humanistic” endeavor, a “soft skill.” A solid STEM education isn’t going to help you and “critical thinking” classes will help less than you’d think. It’s about developing a bullshit detector — a second sense for the subtle sophistry of superficially impressive people on the make. Collecting people who are especially good at identifying trustworthiness and then investing your trust in them is our best bet for generally being right about things.

Model citizens with responsibly sound mental models don’t need to be especially good at independently reasoning or evaluating evidence. They just need to piggyback off people who are. But I digress… sort of.

What’s gone wrong with QAnons is not, as I thought while watching that HBO QAnon doc, that they don’t even know what evidence is, because they do. Testimony is evidence. It’s usually all the evidence we ever get. It’s the basis for most of our perfectly sound, totally justified factual beliefs about the big old external world. What’s gone wrong with QAnons is that they came to trust people who trapped them inside a self-serving hallucination.

Evangelical Christianity teaches people to trust their feelings and the pastoral charisma of hucksters out to get ahead by validating their prejudices — not so different from Marianne Williamson California guru woo. Over time, this became the default epistemology of the American right. Meanwhile, Conservatism Inc. has for decades cultivated distrust in our most reliable and authoritative sources of accurate information — academics, the New York Times, etc. — in an effort to keep their base unified around and agitated by a polarized, highly mobilizing worldview that is, at best, tenuously related to reality. This propaganda shaped and reinforced the political and cultural assumptions of white evangelicals, which worked their way into the content of their weird syncretic Christianity thanks to the grifty, emotive, self-indulgence of their increasingly fused religious/political culture.

All this, together with super-heated negative polarization, readied them to find something captivating and compelling about Donald Trump’s one dumb narcissistic trick of sowing contemptuous distrust in any source of information at odds with his personal interests. The normal follow-the-leader dynamics of partisan opinion-making made it easy for Trump to shut down the influence of anyone or anything telling the truth about Trump. Most of the right’s remaining tethers to reality were left flapping in the wind.

Membership in a community that confers status and trust on people worth trusting about the way things are supplies what you might call epistemic herd immunity. We mostly believe what people like us believe just because they believe it. And that’s fine, as long as the community’s beliefs are ultimately based on trust in genuinely trustworthy people. Under the influence of footloose evangelical epistemology, decades of partisan propaganda and disinformation and, finally, Trump’s “it’s only true if I say it’s true” cult-leader authoritarianism, the American right ceased being that sort of community. It became collectively immunocompromised, susceptible to the rapid transmission of epistemic contagion. It was easy enough for QAnon to win trust and burrow into its hosts by latching onto polarized tribal fidelity to Trump and the cover-up conspiracy theories about Democrats and the Deep State he’d already implanted in his followers to inoculate them against the ugly truth. Once inside the partisan hivemind with root-level permissions, QAnon was able to nuke the remaining exits to reality, achieve full epistemic closure, and trap many thousands in a nightmare dreamscape wholly unmoored from the world.

I don’t care how smart you think you are. It’s dangerous out there, especially if you have an Internet connection. Be careful who you trust. Tune that bullshit detector. Eschew iconoclasts and ideologues. Agree with the respectable consensus. Be a model citizen. And if you get a chance, stick up for maligned yet generally reliable sources of information. Stick up for your local critical race theorist. Stick up for the New York Times. If those suggestions make you stiffen, consider the possibility that you have trust issues.


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Gangles
50 days ago
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I’ve replaced my Switch with a Game Boy Advance SP

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Hand holding a blue Game Boy Advance
Photo: Ana Diaz/Polygon

My GBA SP has become my go-to console to tote around

I used to be convinced that nothing could wrench my Nintendo Switch from my hands. After roughly four years with it, I still can’t believe I can play giant games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or old favorites from my PC like Stardew Valley whenever, and seemingly wherever I wanted.

And it’s not like companies aren’t vying to give me other options. This year will bring all sorts of shiny new toys like the Steam Deck and PlayDate. But the thing that got me to put my Switch down was my Game Boy Advance SP.

What brought me back to the GBA SP was convenience. I realized that I don’t really bring my Switch around with me in my day-to-day life. I would never bring such a chunky-but-delicate console around with me outside. The PlayDate seemed like something that could fill this role, however, after spending a bit of time thinking about pre-ordering it, I realized that I already had a fun, cute-colored handheld in my basement: my SP.

I wasn’t inspired to dig it out until I listened to an in-depth, and surprisingly moving conversation on the best Game Boy Advance games from a podcast called Into the Aether, I finally felt behooved to fish out my Game Boy Advance SP from my growing collection of assorted gamer crap in my basement storage unit.

I now realize that part of what brought me to love the Nintendo Switch is what now is bringing me back to the Game Boy.

I’ve spent the past three years pouring my time into incredible indie games like Iconoclasts and Stardew Valley on my Nintendo Switch. These are games that were informed by games I loved on the Game Boy Advance, like Metroid Fusion and Harvest Moon: Mineral Friends of Town. The Game Boy Advance still has some of the best, most inventive entries for well-established Nintendo franchises (see The Legend of Zelda Minish Cap and Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga.) We’re now seeing a resurgence of the Game Boy Advance era on the Switch with games like Wario Ware: Get It Together!, the Advance Wars remaster, and Metroid Dread.

I just love that I don’t need to be delicate with it. I can snap the clamshell closed and not have to worry about it being in my bag. It’s all one piece so I don’t have to deal with my Joy-Con sliding off, which happens all the time with my Switch. My GBA still doesn’t have any drift issues, either. And while I wish I could use my headphones with it, there’s something nice about not having to deal with another piece of tech. I just keep it next to my keys and grab it on my way out and stuff it in the oversized pocket of my denim jacket. It has the same kind of pleasure as bringing around a small, hand-sized book that fits into most purses that I can pull out whenever I run into a bit of time.

My point here is the Game Boy Advance rules, and my SP rules. The Switch getting these games now feels like a recognition of that. I was looking for the handheld console of my dreams, but I had it all along with my SP. I’ll let it clang around in my bag with no cares, and play its games any day.

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Gangles
54 days ago
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Bring back portable consoles.
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The NYT stopped shilling for cigarettes. Why won't it stop shilling for fossil fuels?

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For more information on how to help those affected by recent climate disasters, try here, here, and here. Or leave a comment with your preferred organization/approach—and help start a conversation on the best ways to lend support.

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Millions of people will be seeking information this morning about Hurricane Ida, the Caldor Fire, and the Chaparral Fire—three ongoing climate disasters leaving tremendous pain and suffering in their paths.

For timely, trustworthy news on these crises, many will likely turn to the New York Times.

The paper of record’s reporting will undoubtedly be of quality. But readers will have to be careful not to get distracted.

In addition to information about these deadly disasters, Times readers today may also be shown advertisements for the fossil fuel industry—the main industry responsible for making the disasters worse.

These advertisements, many of which are created for the industry by the Times, routinely run on the paper’s website alongside its journalism. They attempt to sell readers not on a product, but on an idea: that fossil fuel companies are helping save the planet.

This idea is false, as repeatedly demonstrated by The Times’ own reporting. Fossil fuel ads are political propaganda, attempts by the industry to placate public outrage about climate change.

This outrage is often sparked by deadly disasters like Hurricane Ida and the wildfires in California—each of which were super-charged by extreme, human-caused heat.

In perhaps the most depressing form of serendipity, a new activist campaign to pressure the Times to stop creating and running fossil fuel ads is launching today. Called Ads Not Fit to Print, the campaign argues that fossil fuel advertisements endanger Times readers’ health in the same way now-banned cigarette ads did—and likely, even more.

“What the Times is doing right now is shameful,” said Genevieve Guenther, whose group End Climate Silence is spearheading the campaign.On one hand, they’re trying to seem like part of the reality-based community who acknowledges the climate crisis and wants to solve it. On the other, they're doing everything they can to keep the fossil fuel economy going because it is one of the sources of their own power and they believe in it.”

An ad created by the New York Times’ T Brand Studio for Exxon.

Activists aren’t the only ones taking issue with this practice, either. In conversations with HEATED over the last week, several current and former Times newsroom employees expressed concerns about the paper’s practice of creating and running fossil fuel ads. Their concerns ranged from undermining the Times’ own climate reporting, to harming Times readers’ health, to aiding industry attempts to mislead the public about the deadly effects of fossil fuels.

The issue has also been discussed in the newsroom before, according to three current and former employees whose work focused on climate; the earliest recollection was in late 2019. But those conversations have not yet been formally raised with either Times publisher A. G. Sulzberger or T Brand Studio, the Times arm that creates ads for Big Oil companies like Shell, Exxon and Chevron.

The new activist campaign, then, may represent the first time the issue of fossil fuel ads has been brought directly to Times decision-makers. But it’s unclear if those decision-makers really understand climate science, and if they are aware of the paper’s own history of taking a stand against deadly lies.


In 1999, The New York Times made history by becoming one of the first major newspapers to ban cigarette advertising. The move came amid a heated legal battle between states and the tobacco industry over deceptive advertising of its products, which were killing people at an alarming rate.

While other newspapers refused to budge on the issue, the Times drew a line in the sand. “We don't want to expose our readers to advertising that may be dangerous to their health,” Times spokesperson Nancy Nielsen said at the time.

The decision enraged tobacco companies, which accused the paper of trampling on free speech. But the Times’s then-publisher, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., was unmoved. “The First Amendment gives the press the right to publish what it chooses to,” he said. “It doesn't force the press to publish something, whether that's a news story or an advertisement.”

Seven years later, in 2006, a federal judge found tobacco companies had illegally engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to lie to the public about the deadly effects of smoking through advertisements. Today, the tobacco industry still runs ads, but they are highly restricted due in part to that ruling, and most news outlets don’t run them.

Though many media executives in 1999 considered banning cigarette ads an activist issue, the Times understood it was a matter of journalism. Banning cigarette ads was about stopping the spread of misleading information about a product scientists had unequivocally linked to death.

Twenty-two years later, scientists have unequivocally linked the burning of fossil fuels to climate change, a phenomenon that’s already causing mass death across the world. And it’s expected to cause much more death worldwide the more those fuels continue to be burned.


Some newspapers have already banned fossil fuel ads for the reasons described in the new activist campaign. The British newspaper The Guardian did so in 2019, continuing its reputation for setting standards for climate coverage. The British Medical Journal and Swedish publications Dagens Nyheter and Dagens ETC have done the same.

So what’s standing in the way of the Times applying the same logic for fossil fuel ads that it applied to cigarette ads more than two decades ago?

One possibility is revenue. Though Times communications director Nicole Taylor would not say what percentage of the paper’s ad revenue comes from fossil fuels, she said in an e-mail that ads “are essential to our ability to provide journalists with the resources to do important, time consuming work, including the climate reporting that is read by millions of users per week.

But the Times is increasingly relying on reader subscriptions more than ads to fund its journalism, and so some current and former newsroom employees are skeptical that revenue is the reason. Some believe the reluctance to ban fossil fuel ads comes from the paper’s top editors, and their desire to seem reasonable and non-partisan.

“Nobody on masthead understands climate,” said one former Times newsroom employee who worked on climate, who asked not to be named for professional reasons. They said the topic is “seen as an activist issue” by the paper’s top editorial brass, who understand the urgency of climate change but don’t understand the strong scientific connection between fossil fuels and planetary chaos.

It’s hard to know if that’s true from editors’ public statements. Publisher A. G. Sulzberger hasn’t said much publicly on the issue. Shortly after he became publisher in 2018, Sulzberger told Times readers he considered climate change “one of the most important stories of our time.” In a 2019 lecture, he said his newsroom would do “the most creative, ambitious, and important work on climate change.” In 2020, the paper under his leadership was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prizer in Public Service, for its reporting on the Trump administration’s political war on climate science.

But Sulzberger also said in 2018 that “the science can be dense and complicated,” so he prefers visual storytelling. He also said in a 2019 interview with Der Spiegel that “We know [climate change is] happening, we know it's dangerous, but it's really hard to attribute any one storm to climate change.”

Both of these statements are misleading cliches. Unless you’re talking about specifics like what will happen to clouds, the science of climate change is actually pretty simple. And scientists have been able to attribute storms to climate change for many years—which Times reporting has repeatedly demonstrated, from as far back as 2016 and 2017 to just this week.

Three current and former newsroom employees also told HEATED they recalled Sulzberger speaking against the Guardian’s climate rhetoric at an all-hands meeting in 2018. One former newsroom employee, who asked not to be named out of concern over professional consequences, said Mr. Sulzberger called The Guardian an "activist” organization.

Asked by HEATED to confirm and/or clarify those comments, the Times did not provide a response. The paper also did not answer a question about whether Sulzberger’s understanding of climate science has evolved in the years since his 2018 and 2019 comments.

The paper also did not provide responses to questions about how Times advertising decisions are made; what percentage of Times advertising comes from fossil fuel companies; whether editorial staff have ever raised concerns about fossil fuel ads; or why the paper recently banned fossil fuel ads from running on its climate newsletter and in the podcast “The Daily” but not other places.

What Times communications director Nicole Taylor did provide was an e-mailed statement about the paper’s commitment to climate journalism. Here’s the full statement:

The New York Times is dedicated to seeking the truth and helping people understand the world, and that mission is especially important and urgent in our climate change journalism.

We accept ads that range across a wide spectrum as long as they meet our advertising acceptability guidelines, and all advertising, across our print, digital, audio, and other products, supports our newsroom. Those advertising dollars are essential to our ability to provide journalists with the resources to do important, time consuming work, including the climate reporting that is read by millions of users per week.

We continue to produce more coverage of climate change than any other newspaper in the U.S. or Europe, from interactive visualizations of the world’s most polluted cities to multimedia explorations of ways to fight climate change. All our journalists operate with complete independence, in line with our historic commitment to pursue the truth without fear or favor. 


A month before the Ads Not Fit to Print campaign launched, Guenther sent an e-mail to Sulzberger, hoping he might follow in his father’s footsteps. She also sent it to executive editor Dean Baquet, head of Times branded content Amber Guild, and other employees of the T Brand Studio, according to a copy seen by HEATED.

The e-mail informed Sulzberger and the others of the upcoming activism campaign, and asked the paper to reconsider its stance on fossil fuel ads. Guenther says she did not receive a response.

“I don't know that I felt angry,” she said. “I think I just felt profoundly disappointed.”

“Our goal is to get fossil fuel money out of the media entirely,” she said. “But we wanted to begin with the Times because they do seem to be one of the news outlets that really gets a climate crisis.” If the Times stopped running fossil fuel ads, she said, other major news institutions might follow.

Guenther is now hoping that others will join End Climate Silence and other environmental groups in increasing the pressure for a response from the Times—specifically, from Sulzberger, who she believes to be the key to action. She’s asking people to start by signing her campaign’s petition to the paper—which, she insists, is no small act.

“If we can get enough response to this, I think we’ll justified in bringing it back to [the Times] and saying, look, you're going to be losing readers, you're not going to be attracting young readers,” she said. “If you want to continue to be the paper of record as the climate crisis accelerates, you need to put your money where your mouth is, and stop trying to get your readers to consume more fossil fuels.”

“We may not get them to agree today,” Guenther continued. “But the pressure will be on them. And after a while, that pressure is going to break.”


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Gangles
55 days ago
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