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Viliam_Bur comments on Politics is hard mode - Less Wrong

28 Post author: RobbBB 21 July 2014 10:14PM

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Comment author: Viliam_Bur 23 July 2014 07:20:06PM 1 point [-]

In some sense you are right. But not everything that impacts real life is an obvious power grab. Here are a few things one could try as solutions to the "women as a group are underrepresented in rationalist groups (possibly because they don't feel welcome)" problem:

  • Emphasise the work already done by women in the rationalist community. For example, make a collection of online videos of female rationalists giving lectures on rationality / AI topics. (This could encourage any woman hesitating about making her own contribution.)

  • Write an article or a series of articles about women who contributed significantly to mathematics / computer science / heuristics and biases / AI. (Just do your research well, and instead of "Ada Lovelace invented programming" meme write something about Grace Hopper.)

  • Make a "Women Debate Thread" on LW, a space for women to express their opinions and experiences. Men can join the debate only by linking a comment from an Open Thread. Alternatively, men can join only 24 hours after the thread was created, and even then cannot post top-level comments. (Let those women speak for themselves; they don't need anyone to be their speaker.)

There are also some good off-line ideas (invite a female scientist to give a lecture at the meetup; make a presentation of rationalist community at some school with mostly female students; create a rationality seminar specially for women... you could probably get some grant money for that), but I guess it's not fair to ask that much on a website where most people participate only virtually. Just saying that if making a rationalist community a space for women is very important for someone, there is a way.

How are these suggestions different? Seems to me the main difference is that they don't have an enemy. There is no blaming anyone, attacking anyone, asking the LW community to take a side against anyone. I believe almost all LW readers would be okay with them (okay, the third one would be more controversial), and they don't violate the LW soft taboo on politics.

Yes, under some definitions, increasing female presence on LW or making women more comfortable on LW is a political goal. But I believe most people here wouldn't object against that goal. The objection is against specific methods of achieving this goal.

Comment author: Azathoth123 24 July 2014 04:30:54AM 3 points [-]

Your examples have the same problem that you criticized daenerys for:

focus on the experiences of women, excluding the experiences of men.

Your first two examples amount to focusing of the accomplishments and contributions of women at the expense of the (much larger) accomplishments and contributions of men.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 24 July 2014 11:00:50AM *  1 point [-]

Technically you are right, but there is a difference in context:

Saying "Grace Hopper wrote a COBOL compiler" can show some readers that "some women made significant contributions to computer science", but is unlikely to make them think that all (or majority of) significant contributions were done by women.

(Okay, I can imagine doing that in a crazy way which could completely confuse a very naive reader... but I don't suspect anyone would do this on LW, or that such kind of a naive reader could survive on LW.)

But in internet debates... well, sometimes I have this impression that some people really do believe that experiences like "people devalue my opinions because of my gender or because of my looks" are specifically female experiences, as opposed to generally human experiences. Then a discussion about this kind of experiences, focused only on women, serves to strenghten this prejudice. -- It would be an equivalent of saying "please send me a list of computer languages and people who wrote their compilers, but only if those authors are men". Then publishing the list to show everyone that writing compilers is a uniquely male experience.

Comment author: Azathoth123 25 July 2014 02:52:27AM 2 points [-]

Saying "Grace Hopper wrote a COBOL compiler" can show some readers that "some women made significant contributions to computer science", but is unlikely to make them think that all (or majority of) significant contributions were done by women.

Probably not, but it might make them think that a significant minority (or even nearly 50%) of contributions were done by women, which is false.

Comment author: David_Gerard 23 July 2014 08:54:15PM 0 points [-]

Are you familiar with the tone argument? In the sort of political problem you are describing, it's claiming that an apparent objection to a viewpoint is actually an objection to the way the arguments are made. This tends not to convince people who don't already agree with the arguer.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 24 July 2014 10:16:30AM *  2 points [-]

No, the "pleasant tone" is a strawman. I am speaking about a difference between:

a) suggesting to fix a problem directly; and

b) suggesting that your tribe should be given more power, and then your tribe will fix the problem.

The proponents of the latter solution may believe that all solutions of the former type are obviously doomed to fail, thus they are not even worth considering. (Motivated stopping.) Or even invent rationalizations about how all solutions that don't give more power to their tribe would actually make the whole problem worse.

EDIT: There is usually also a lack of specific details. Let's say that every mention of politically incorrect topics on LW would be banned, and that feminism would become an official belief and moderation policy. How specifically would that bring to LW more women interested in artificial intelligence and rationality (as opposed to merely interested in evangelizing feminism among people interested in rationality). Uhm... I guess there is only this vague belief that what is good for feminism is by definition good for women, therefore the problem will either magically fix itself, or we will have to find some other guy to blame. (Maybe after a few iterations we will decide that Eliezer's writings are irrepairably sexist, or maybe that the whole idea of rationality was just rich white cishet males' invention to oppress the voodoo believers.)