Timothy Underwood

Wiki Contributions


So I'm just reasoning off the general existence of a really strong demographic transition effect where richer populations that among other things are way, way less likely to die in childbirth have way fewer children than poor populations.

The impression I get, without having looked into this very deeply, is that the two most common models for what is going on is a female education effect, which correlates with wealth and thus lower mortality, but where the lower mortality effect is not having a direct causal influence on having fewer children, and a certainty of having surviving children effect, where once child mortality is low enough, there isn't a perceived need to have lots of births to ensure having some kids who survive to adulthood.

I'm sure there are other theories, and I don't know the literature trying to disentangle from observational studies and 'natural experiments' exactly what component of the changes that are involved with becoming a rich industrialized society causes birthrates to collpase.

The basic point though is that whatever the causal story, empirically you will find an extremely strong association between low childhood mortality rates and low birth rates. This is why people who are concerned with overpopulation generally see reducing childhood death rates as a good thing from an overpopulation perspective: There is a good chance that it is causal for fewer people being born, and it definitely in the historical record doesn't seem to drive rapid population growth.

Having said that, when I was more interested in demographics ten years ago, I got the impression that Africa was seen as transitioning slower than Asia, Europe, Latin America or the Middle East had. 

It wouldn't. First the time it takes for population changes to happen is very slow compared tithe business cycles that drive adaptations to economic changes. Second, eliminating malaria is considerably more likely to reduce population growth than increase it.

While I think there are cases where condensing world details is better writing, I think in general that is more of a style preference than actual good or bad.  Some people like jargon heavy fantasy/ sci-fi, and I'm one of them. 

But the second point that I should pay more attention to how what the character notices says about him is completely right, and probably by shifting that around more is a strong way to improve the viewpoint.

This seems to be a consistent (and not really surprising) point of criticism. I'll soon try rewriting the first chapter somewhat to see if I can make a version which works better. Though I suspect that the book is inevitably going to have somewhat of a preachy feeling, in part simply because I'm not as good of a writer as EY.

I was just checking if you might have introspective knowledge about how you'd respond to that :P, also I think I may have been trying to demonstrate that I am in fact paying attention to and thinking about the criticisms -- the important thing is in fact that X didn't work for you (and didn't work for several other people in the same way). Isn't there some saying about product development that when the customer tells you that it isn't working, they are right. When they tell you how to fix it, they have no idea what they usually don't know what they are talking about?

The too preachy feeling definitely is something to soften out and try fiddling with.

Yeah, you are right. 

I added the prologue when an earlier version of the first chapter had a much weaker opening couple of opening sentences, but the first sentences here really don't need that extra intro.

But tone down the preachiness seems to be the general advice. I think I went too far in trying to make sure that certain ideas were clearly covered. 

"It sort of feels like the author is a perfect EA machine who exists only to maximize total utility. I'm not getting much in the way of feelings or emotions from him."

Do you think you'd find him more relatable and emotional if I strongly emphasized how he is afraid of dying again?

Though maybe trying to bring out points of joy might work better, but that could also make him seem more like what you are talking about.

I don't think that is relevant to this project.

I'm not trying to have a fictional world provide evidence that EA is true. I'm trying to write a basic intro to EA essay that people who wouldn't read an 'EA 101 post' will read because it is embedded in the text  of a novel that they are reading because I got them to care about what happens to the characters and how the story problems get resolved. 

Also, I do think works of fiction can definitely be places to create extended thought experiments that are philosophically useful. I mean something like Those Who Walk Away from Omelas is a perfectly good expression and explanation of a view about the problems with utilitarianism. I don't like it because I bite the bullet involved and because I think vaguely pointing in a direction and saying 'there has to be a better solution' isn't actually pointing at a solution. But the problem with it as a piece of philosophical evidence is not that it is fiction, any more than the problem with every single trolley problem ever is that it is a work of fiction. 

I'm definitely not saying/ assuming that you are wrong on this point (most likely you are right for some readers, and wrong for some others), but part of my theory of how to write the character comes in part from Harry in MoR who definitely begins as being extremely who he is.

A priori I don't see any reason to think that a textbooky novelization of a set of philosophical ideas will be worse if I have the MC start with that set of beliefs than if I have him develop them over time. I went through four different outline concepts while planning out this novel, and this resonated more strongly with me than the ones that were more focused on the MC being the one who gradually turns into an EA.

I guess the question should be to test how people respond to the charater and opening on average (but it probably shouldn't be random people, but fantasy readers who are inclined to be interested in EA in the first place). 

Perhaps I could run some sort of mechanical turk or similar survey of a hundred or so people and ask questions about whether they find this preachy/ etc. 

Or does anyone know good reddit subthreads to post this to, to see if people who are not part of the community react negatively to this as overly preachy?


"Having the protagonist get all these magic powers and saying that what he was most excited about was being able to help more people isn't something the reader is likely to connect to."

Do you mean that you didn't connect to this, or that you are guessing that EA naive or semi-naive readers won't connect? -- in the latter case I think that falls very much under the heading of a theory that should be tested, and if this novel doesn't work, the next author ought to try a different approach (and if this novel does work, the next novel ought to have a different approach anyways, because fiction is anti-inductive).

Regarding sterility perhaps that feeling points to something that can be improved in a straightforward way. Can you maybe try to draw out what you mean by it in more detail? That might spark some creative thought I can use.

That sounds very weird to me and surprising. I have been actively self publishing for seven years, and I've never heard anything about that. It might be some weird specific contract with Amazon.

The general problem that does come up is there are benefits to having an exclusive contract with Amazon, where only a ten percent sample can be posted elsewhere, but I'm not planning to go that route as it would probably limit the audience more than it would expand it.

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