Wilfrid’s Bro

Sometimes people message me on teh tweeter. Here’s a chat from this summer, with a friend I will call Wilfrid. His lines start with a Capital, mine are lower case and in italic.

* * *

Willard help, my brother is reading Michael Shellenberger’s Apocalypse Never

how old is he

I’m younger


Yes — pediatrician
He’s also a covid contrarian

so he’s interested in Nuke Mike’s doc opinion
it’s a bit early to have the juiciest quotes from his ClimateBall past
here’s a post on the book instead


Omg you posted this today?

no, AT’s is an astrophysicist’s blog,
i’m just a ninja
what kind of covid contrarianism?

“It’s no worse than the flu, shutting down is a huge overreaction” etc

shutting down was an overreaction
but hindsight is 20/20
and this does not imply we can open up like some states did
notice the frame
1. yes
2. but
3. and

(I’m in the States, watching everyone open up)

ask him about ICUs
the more people maintain distance and wear masks, the quicker we can open
there is evidence that shutting down for kids was actually bad
and he’s a pediatrician, so
you can’t just dismiss everything he says
same with breakthrough stuff


the Breakthrough Institute
follow AT’s links, the article provides the background
but basically, mike is what we call an Ecomodernist
hippie 2.0, cali style
green, but tech
so nuclear, cities, and ogms
of course he made TED talks


A Green Vision of Technology
nuclear is really hard to lift off in the western world these days
too risky, too expensive, too much regulations
cities are fine, but even then we got space
and Le Corbusier’s utopia leads to really bad cities and is fascist

I don’t really understand this attitude. It seems like a kind of hollow environmentalism, with technology fixing a problem which it can’t even seem to understand as a problem…

think of Dennett, but for green stuff
optimism is an attitude that people like
it’s not that problems go away if you only focus on feel-good futuristic utopias
but when you had a long day at work, it makes sense

“While many mainstream environmentalists want to make peace with nature through the sustainable use of natural resources, the modernists want to cut the links between mankind and nature.”

yes, so let’s reinvent Descartes

Man, read alongside Baird Callicott this just sounds psychotic
Yeah it’s wicked Cartesian

the opposition is probably between two strawmen
most reasonable persons would agree that we need a little of both
so focus on what you share with your bro


Okay, thanks for the resources

the actual models have already taken into account technological fixes,
and since the future is not rosy, your bro is better be right

the tl;dr is this
say yes
try not to say a bigger “but”
and since he’s into futurism,
dream about and’s with him
good luck


* * *

This simple exchange emphasizes two tips. The first is to proceed dialectically. The second is to show humanity.

The yes-but-and game plan echoes what Randy calls the ABT technique. I’m not sure what’s special about that. If people need to buy seminars to learn conversation manners, so be it.

(Legend has it that the thesis-antithesis-synthesis comes from Hegel. Problem: Georg mentioned it once, only to mock it. Gustav haz receipts. By serendipity, Hegelianism is currently being revived by American philosophers. One culprit could be Wilfrid’s avatar.)

The second tips echoes George’s, especially those in his How to Talk to a Denier. Seek common ground; show respect; hold and own your views; tell your personal journey; frame your points to connect with your interlocutor’s worldview; offer rewards.

These tips apply to conversations in general. They sometimes apply to ClimateBall, but online exchanges go beyond conversational conventions. Mileage varies. As a philosopher once said, plans are good until you get punched in the face.

About Willard

This entry was posted in advocacy, We Are Science and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Wilfrid’s Bro

  1. Thanks for the Sellars link- it’s amazing how far beyond the orbit of the Lycée Louis le Grand he traveled, compared to that better known ancien, Derrida,

  2. Nathan says:

    Sounds like how people play in Improvisation acting. I guess it’s about trying to build a common story? I like it.

  3. Willard says:

    Exactly, Nathan. You might like:

    Ligue nationale d’improvisation (LNI) is an improvisational theatresports group devised in Montréal in the 70s whose rules imitate those of hockey, and whose “matches” are fought on a skating rink. Two teams of actors-improvisers face off for three periods, and a referee ensures respect for the rules and the designation of punishment. The subject, style, number of players, and length of each improvisation are chosen at random. An audience vote by show of hands indicates the winner of each confrontation, and the team accumulating the most points wins the match. The LNI proposes a regular season with qualifying heats as in the National Hockey League.


    Without saying “yes” nothing gets built. In fact when players systematically break the flow of an impro they get a penalty for obstruction. After three penalties the other team gets a bonus point.

    To give you an idea of the LNI’s caliber, Robert Lepage used to play. Their Hall of Fame contains very good actors.

  4. Steven Mosher says:

    “Hegelianism is currently being revived by American philosophers.”

    about time.

  5. Nathan says:

    Saw the Image Mill in Quebec City ages ago, was really good.

  6. Thomas Clarke says:

    A very accurate post. But perhaps those who would gain most enlightenment from it would not think so?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.