Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

sdr comments on Project Hufflepuff: Planting the Flag - Less Wrong

40 Post author: Raemon 03 April 2017 06:37PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (106)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: sdr 02 April 2017 01:49:31AM *  17 points [-]

Fellow Hufflepuff / startupper / business getting-stuff-done-er / CFAR / Bay-arean here. Can we talk about the elephant in the room?

  • Geeks, MOPs, and sociopaths in subculture evolution <- describes the idea of the role of parasites in subculture evolution; specifically, that once group-surplus achieves a threshold, it is immediately soaked up by parasites funneling it to agendas of their own
  • There are, by my count, at least 3 such parasites in the Bay community; and specifically they position themselves as the broken stair step right at onboarding, making the community feel "impenetrable and unwelcoming". The way how this happens operationally, is when I admit to some level of operational surplus (language skills, software development, business building), from these specific persons I get immediately asks of "Would you like to do free translation for me?" / "Would you like to build $website-idea$ for me?" / "Would you like to donate to $my-cause$?". I also notice that they don't do it this overtly to long-term members.
  • Note, the problem here isn't the ask. We do asks in entrepreneur-topia all the time. The problem is the lack of dealcraft: the asks are asymmetrically favouring the asker, and only offer vague lipservice-waving-towards-nice-things as return.
  • Presence of these parasites, and lack of dealcraft by these people reached equilibrium at having 'a strong culture of “make sure your own needs are met”, that specifically pushes back against broader societal norms that pressure people to conform.' , because people who have been valuepumped hard enough can not sustain themselves in the Bay.

You are attempting to increase the group-surplus of the community. This is very cool. My pre-mortem says, that any such surplus created by the sweat of your brow will be soaked up by this parasitic behavior, and hence fail to achieve long-term changes in admitted competence of the community.

There might be several ways to work around this problem. I want to be upfront about the evaluation criterias for it:

  • not talking, or taking action about this problem will not make it go away;
  • parasites' aim is value-pumping: that is, closing deals in which they get the maximum amount of value with the least amount of work on their own;
  • parasites participate in the culture like everyone else; for this reason, any plan you might come up with must be reflection-complete: that is, it needs to work, even if everyone in the community knows that such plan is in motion.

A few candidate solutions which sticks out:

  • Level up dealcraft: cultivate, and enforce a culture of mutually beneficial asks.
  • Level up quantitiy of dealcraft: elicit members -all members- of their goals / objectives / needs, and focus on coincidence of wants. There's a pretty cool model of this in the book Wishcraft: "Barn-raising"
  • Systematically post-mortem newbs, elicit list of parasites ("was there someone who made you uncomfortable, and describe the exact specificities of the situation"), and systematically intervene in the onboarding process.

Edit note: originally, this post used the word "sociopath", incorrectly -thanks for Viliam's comment below for pointing it out- fixed.

Comment author: Viliam 03 April 2017 09:45:04AM *  25 points [-]

Everyone, could we please stop using the word "sociopath" to mean things other than... you know... sociopathy?

I also like the linked article and I believe it does a great job at describing social dynamic at subcultures. I shared that article many times. But while it is funny to use exaggerations for shocking value, making the exaggerated word a new normal is... I guess in obvious conflict with the goal of rationality and clear communication. Sometimes I don't even know how many people are actually aware that "trying to make profit from things you don't deeply care about" and "being diagnosed as a sociopath" are actually two different things.

To explain why I care about this, imagine a group that decides that it is cool to refer to "kissing someone for social reasons, not because you actually desire to", as "rape". Because, you know, there are some similarities; both are a kind of an intimate contact, etc. Okay, if you write an article describing the analogies, that's great, and you have a good point. It just becomes idiotic when the whole community decides to use "rape" in this sense, and then they keep talking like this: "Yesterday we visited Grandma. When we entered the house, she raped us, and then we raped her back. I really don't like it when old people keep raping me like this, but I don't want to create conflicts in the family. But maybe I am just making a mountain out of a molehill, and being raped is actually not a big deal." Followed by dozen replies using the same vocabulary.

First, this is completely unnecessarily burning your weirdness points. Weird jargon makes communication with outsiders more difficult, and makes it more difficult for outsiders to join the group, even if they would otherwise agree with the group's values. After this point, absurdity heuristics works against anything you say. Sometimes there is a good reason for using jargon (it can compress difficult concepts), but I believe in this case the benefits are not proportional to the costs.

More importantly, imagine that if talking like this would become the group norm, how difficult it would be to have a serious discussion about actual rape. Like, anytime someone would mention being actually raped by a grandparent as a child, there would be a guaranteed reaction from someone "yeah, yeah, happens to me when we visit Grandma every weekend, not a big deal". Or someone would express concern about possible rape at community weekend, and people would respond by making stickers "kisses okay" and "don't like kissing", believing they are addressing the issue properly.

I believe it would be really bad if rationalist community would lose the ability to talk about actual sociopathy rationally. Because one day this topic may become an important one, and we may be too busy calling everyone who sells Bayes T-shirts without having read the Sequences a "sociopath". But even if you disagree with me on the importance of this, I hope you can agree that using words like this is stupid. How about just calling it "exploiting"? As in: "some people are only exploiting the rationalist community to get money for their causes, or to get free work from us, without providing anything to our causes in return -- we seriously need to put stop to this". Could words like this get the message across, too?

Also, if you want to publicly address these people "hey guys, we suspect you are just using us for free resources; how about demonstrating some commitment to our causes first?", it will probably help to keep the discussion friendly, if you don't call them "sociopaths". Similarly, imagine LessWrong having an article saying (a) "vegans as a group benefit from the rationalist community, but don't contribute anything to the art of Bayes in return", or (b) "vegans are sociopaths". Regardless of whether you personally happen to be a vegan or not, this is obviously harmful.

tl;dr -- we are in the rationality business here, not in the clickbait business; talk accordingly

(EDIT: Just to be explicit about this, ignoring the terminology issue, I completely agree with the parent comment.)

Comment author: ingres 04 April 2017 04:06:18PM *  2 points [-]

Thank you. This was really bothering me but it didn't occur that I should say anything about it.

Comment author: sdr 04 April 2017 03:57:57AM 2 points [-]

Agreed. Recommend a non-verbed descriptive noun, and I'll update the post above.

Comment author: Viliam 04 April 2017 10:29:25AM *  3 points [-]

Thank you!

Uhm, I guess "exploiters" or "free riders"? (Or "parasites" if one wants to offend. Or "moochers" when talking to Randians.)

Sorry, not a native English speaker, I may be missing something more fitting.

Comment author: Raemon 04 April 2017 02:10:33PM 3 points [-]

I think it's important that what the original post is warning about is not people who show up and mooch off the group - it's people who show up and begin to take over the group so thoroughly that they distort what the group is about. I think "exploiter" works pretty well, but "free rider" doesn't really convey it to me.

Comment author: Lumifer 04 April 2017 05:39:58PM *  1 point [-]

"Parasite" actually has the right biological connotations: feeds on the host but doesn't want to kill the host and may actually be somewhat helpful to the host for the purposes of keeping it alive.

A highly esoteric term for the situation when the parasite gains control of the host would be "cordycepted" X-/

Comment author: sdr 04 April 2017 04:55:10PM *  0 points [-]

Updated. Re: | if you want to publicly address these people <- if people are addressed offline in public, I suspect you can dress it up with the appropiate social grace. But, we're talking about behavior here (and entrepreneurs have exploits they're already proud of, like hackers have hacks, and free riders aren't actively malicious), and I feel that dressing it up with the same grace would actually backfire by not changing (or even harming) the reward structure of the behavior.

Comment author: Viliam 05 April 2017 01:04:30PM 3 points [-]

Yeah. Words can have different connotations for different people. I guess the solution to this is "tabooing" the words, and just describe it shortly for what it is. Like:

"Recently we have noticed that there are people (and it's not just an isolated incident or two) who come to our meetups to simply ask others for free work on their private projects, or even to contribute money. This is not cool; this is not why we are here. These people try to exploit us as a free resource, without providing anything in return. If someone approaches you at our meetup with a similar request, feel free to tell them that such behavior is not welcome."

Could be expressed better, but the idea is to make it descriptive, make it short, and have an organizer announce it as an official policy at the beginning of a meetup.

Comment author: Raemon 03 April 2017 01:22:50PM 2 points [-]

Very much agreed

Comment author: Los793 04 April 2017 11:49:50PM 1 point [-]

Casual rationalist-adjacent here (I've been reading LW for over a year, but this is my first post). I also very much agree (and with the parent comment too). I only want to add that in my experience weird jargon-- even the kind that doesn't obscure communication-- is a large part of why people find the community impenetrable. I don't necessarily mean major concepts from the Sequences, which serve a clear purpose of condensing and which everyone who sticks around long enough should know regardless.

But more subtle jargon, even phrases as simple as "level up dealcraft" (and sdr, I don't mean to single you out-- I could take an example from anywhere-- your post is just the most immediate) as opposed to, say, "improve negotiating skills." Sure, the meaning of is discernible from the context-- almost everyone would grasp the meaning-- but the wording will isolate a lot of people.

Comment author: ThoughtSpeed 15 April 2017 08:59:57PM 0 points [-]

I think "upskill" is another one of these.

Comment author: ialdabaoth 06 April 2017 01:42:03AM 0 points [-]

Okay, so if I understand correctly, tthe objection is that 'sociopath' has a specific clinical definition, which nowadays is called Antisocial Personality Disorder. Then again, "moron", "idiot", "imbecile" and "retard" used to have specific clinical definitions, too.

But even if we allow that to be stretched a little into a colloquialism, someone who is incapable of human empathy, narcissistic, Machiavellian, and perhaps a bit sadistic.

The problem is that Rao and Chapman both want 'sociopath' to mean something broader - specifically, someone who out-competes everyone else, and who is willing to win at social games even if it destroys the social environment they're competing within. And this seems to mutate one step further, such that "sociopath" essentially becomes synonymous with "winner".

The sad truth is, this isn't just a euphemistic treadmill. This is a reasonably accurate description of reality. Actual, clinical narcissistic sociopaths, with higher-than-average intelligence and willpower, have pretty much taken over Western culture over the past 50 years. Such that by the 21st century, the entire playing field is dominated by their strategies. If you aren't a sociopath, you probably aren't winning. It's unusual to be a non-sociopath and win. Which means that if someone's winning, it's very risky to assume that they'll give a shit about you.

Which ALSO means that if you intend to win, you'd better learn to not give a shit about people.

(This means that, sadly, many of the sociopaths that enter the winner's circle didn't start off that way.)

Comment author: Viliam 06 April 2017 01:06:56PM *  4 points [-]

This is an empirical statement, which should be either confirmed or disconfirmed by observing reality, not established by changing the vocabulary.

As far as I know, sociopaths by the clinical definition make about 1-4% of population. Those who don't have above-average intelligence probably quickly end up in prison. Therefore the smart sociopaths make maybe 0.1% of the population... I am not going to argue about the exact number here, just saying that it is a small number, therefore any definition of "winning" that applies to a large fraction of population must, for mathematical reasons, also include people who are not clinical sociopaths. Now the rest of this debate depends on how narrowly you would define "winning".

Comment author: FourFire 10 April 2017 08:30:48AM *  1 point [-]

I think ialdabaoth's claim is valid if, when measured, the most politically and culturally powerful quintile of the world population proves to be more than 1-4% clinical psychopaths.

I am assuming the top quintile of world population is what is meant by winners: people who control a disproportionate amount of the world's resources, and by proxy, people.

The USA has the world's largest prison population, of ~2.2MIllion and a total population of ~316 Million (both 2013)

If we were to expect an even distribution of Psychopathy across the bellcurve of intelligence then there should be between ~1.58 Mn and ~6.32Mn Psychopaths in the US prison system. Furthermore, we should expect 35.5Mn to 142Mn worldwide prison population of 100% <100IQ psychopaths.

However it is a mere 10.3Mn (all 2013 statistics)

This indicates that at least 70%, and perhaps as many as 92% of <100IQ Psychopaths are going free worldwide, this of course does not indicate that these individuals aren't simply part of the exploited lower classes. It also says nothing about the remaining population of >100IQ Psychopaths, presumably of equal size.

There is much hubub around some tabloid 'research' along the lines of "21%of leadership positions filled by psychopaths" However I can't be bothered to validate the source so I won't claim this is true.

This leaves me with a rather weaker position than I expected before writing this but you should draw your own conclusions.

Comment author: Viliam 10 April 2017 09:02:15AM 0 points [-]

I believe that clinical psychopaths will be overrepresented among: the ruling elite, prison population, and probably also victims of drug abuse. But given their relatively low base rate, there is a chance to win at life (or get to prison) without being one of them.

Comment author: FourFire 12 April 2017 10:07:56PM *  1 point [-]

My steelmanning of Ialdaboath's claim isn't that it is impossible to succeed without being a psychopath. (Though I would definitely agree that his perspective is rather dreary and pessimistic) It is that the paths to success in society have been distorted by psychopaths into requiring one to express psychopathic traits in order to succeed a lot more of the time than would be the case in absence of psychopaths within the ruling elite.

Comment author: ialdabaoth 13 April 2017 12:33:34AM 0 points [-]

Yes, although I'd say it slightly more strongly: the paths to success have been distorted by psychopaths - and by our outright worship of them - into requiring one to express psychopathic traits in order to succeed, so much so that society's various commons are - in general - being drained more quickly than they're being replenished. Moreso, most of these so-called "successful" traits aren't even seen as psychopathic anymore; they're seen as "alluringly confident" or whatever.

Comment author: Lumifer 13 April 2017 02:45:51PM 1 point [-]

paths to success have been distorted by psychopaths

At which point in time and in which societies the paths were NOT "distorted"? When and where was the Golden Pre-Psychopath Age?

Comment author: Lumifer 10 April 2017 02:29:36PM 1 point [-]

I believe that clinical psychopaths will be overrepresented among: the ruling elite, prison population, and probably also victims of drug abuse.

...cops and prison guards as well.

Comment author: wnoise 29 June 2017 06:59:45PM 0 points [-]

sociopaths by the clinical definition make about 1-4% of population.

smart sociopaths make maybe 0.1% of the population

Are you asserting that "smart" is top decile to 2.5%, or that sociopathy is correlated to intelligence?

I'd consider a sigma away from the mean to be smart, so 0.3-1.3%.

Comment author: Viliam 30 June 2017 09:59:43AM 0 points [-]

I am not going to argue about the exact number here, just saying that it is a small number

I didn't mean to imply any specific correlation.

Comment author: Lumifer 06 April 2017 03:18:30PM *  3 points [-]

This is a reasonably accurate description of reality.

Would you like to show some data in support of that statement? Because my reality doesn't look like this at all.

Comment author: ChristianKl 11 April 2017 11:21:44AM 2 points [-]

Having deep long-term relationships is useful in Western society to gather power. Committing to a realistic long-term vision and working towards it is also useful for success.

Clinical sociopaths have trouble with both.

Comment author: Raemon 02 April 2017 01:59:54AM *  5 points [-]

This, and problems similar to this, are indeed a pretty major issue I foresee Project Hufflepuff needing to resolve. I'd read the Mops/Fanatics/Sociopaths essay but hadn't thought about this particular issue from this angle before, thanks.

Comment author: Raemon 02 April 2017 02:36:25AM 2 points [-]

(That said, I'm also trying to be more careful about how I think about armchair-theorizing-sociology pieces, so I'm not sure if I'm fully endorsing your particular take on things yet)

Comment author: sdr 02 April 2017 03:51:02AM *  7 points [-]

(I'm not sure which part of this is "armchair-theorizing-sociology piece", so let me share impressions:

  • The 3 specific examples are all observations: 2 on a CFAR event, 1 on a bay-lesswrong event
  • The "people putting other's needs ahead of their own" comes from 2 persons who both bounced from the Bay for this reason
  • The "attempting value-pumping" / lack-of-dealcraft is ubiquitous everywhere where people are Getting Stuff Done; the only novel thing in the Bay is high turnaround / people onboarding allows this to be done systematically
  • The "let's make stuff suck less" -> "let's all of you do my stuff" headfake is a non-profit-special; 2 attempts so far on me
  • The part where instead of attempting to "forbid parasiting", I turn it around and ask "how can we make these parasites profitable?" is a special of mine, and has so far been very profitable, in a number of contexts.

If you see none of these, I am happy for you. )

Comment author: Lara_Foster 02 April 2017 08:55:26PM 3 points [-]

I agree that this is an important issue we may have to deal with. I think it will be important to separate doing things for the community from doing things for individual members of the community. For example, encouraging people to bring food to a pot luck or volunteer at solstice is different from setting expectations that you help someone with their webpage for work or help out members of the community who facing financial difficulties. I've been surprised by how many times I've had to explain that expecting the community to financially support people is terrible on every level and should be actively discouraged as a community activity. This is not an organized enough community with high enough bars to membership to do things like collections. I do worry that people will hear a vague 'Huffelpuff!' call to arms and assume this means doing stuff for everyone else whenever you feasilbly can -- It shouldn't. It should be a message for what you do in the context of the public community space. What you choose to do for individuals is your own affair.

Comment author: Raemon 02 April 2017 04:16:29AM 3 points [-]

Oh, that was directed at the original Mop/Fanatic/Sociopath post, and I didn't mean "I don't buy this", just, "I want to think about this more."

Comment author: k_ebel 26 April 2017 01:20:40AM *  1 point [-]

"Note, the problem here isn't the ask. We do asks in entrepreneur-topia all the time. The problem is the lack of dealcraft: the asks are asymmetrically favouring the asker, and only offer vague lipservice-waving-towards-nice-things as return."

I want to talk about this just a bit. If I've missed a comment that also addresses the same point, I apologize.

So, yes, asks are super common in the culture you're in. But in other cultures - specifically those that are more guess oriented - it's actually really difficult to grow negotiation skills. I'd caution strongly against taking a lack of ability in these areas as some sort of strong indication of a person being a "parasite" or having some other baked-in personality type issue. Which isn't to say that it's not a problem, just that I don't know that this piece of evidence is especially strong given how rare it is to find good examples of tell (or even ask) culture in large portions of the country/internet.

If you're concerned with the lack of dealcraft that comes from newbies, then knowing good resources to point them towards - or offering to be a source of practice in short, low-cost scenarios - may be a more effective way of dealing with this. This will also give you an opportunity to observe how folks respond to those opportunities, which may give you stronger evidence to use to actually identify the parasites/moochers/insert-preferred-term-here that do filter in (because I agree that this is also a thing that happens).

Comment author: sdr 26 April 2017 04:46:31AM *  3 points [-]

Thank you for posting this. I agree, that growing negotiation skills is hard under best of circumstances; and I agree that certain types of newbies might self-identify with the post above.

There is a qualitative difference between people who are negotiating (but lack the proper skill), and the parasites described above:

  • Beginner negotiators state their request, and ask explicitly (or expect impliedly) for price / counter

  • More advanced negotiators start with needs/wants discovery, to figure out where a mutually beneficial deal can be made; and they adjust as discussion proceeds

  • These parasites, in comparison, attempt to raise their request against explicitly stated, nebulous things (or nothing at all): "Would you like to do free translation for me?" - "Cause X is very important, and therefore you, specifically, should do something about it" - "Would you like to build my full website for me in exchange of 1% shares?"

For the record:

  • I have attempted education in some cases (1-on-1, no social standings on the line on either parties, being discreet, etc), to no effect, and only resentment from the other party.

  • I observe that this parasitic strategy works some of the time, which incentivize existing parasitic behavior to grow until saturation. These are the reasons why I brought this up here in the first place.

  • Kindly note, that while there were a lot more evidencing going into this than described above, I am hesitant to disclose more specificities about any of these cases, because the Bay is small (-> personal identification), and discussion isn't reflective-complete (parasites read this, too; the more I disclose here, the more they can shift their strategies)

Comment author: k_ebel 26 April 2017 06:33:33PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for your reply and the additional clarification of your original point.

I certainly am not seeking additional identifying information. For one, it would do me no good as I don't have the local context knowledge to map it to anything anyway. Secondly, the gist of my initial comment was really more responding to the sense that taking a few examples and generalizing them to a larger group of people seemed inadvisable to me.

Along those same lines, I'm still really hesitant to get behind a statement that strongly implies that all well-intentioned newbies will start poorly negotiating in only one way (or one set of ways), and that anyone who starts negotiating poorly in a different or particular way (or set of ways) is obviously doing so from a place of poor intentions. The more visibility and reach this community has, the more diversity we're going to see in the new people who are finding it. And in the ways of communication they've learned are effective and acceptable. Additionally, not every newbie who comes into the community is ready or able to identify culture differences as the source of the problems they're encountering. Troubleshooting is its own skillset.

It also feels really important to me to point out that - if we're going to encourage people to ask and to practice asking (both of which are necessary in order to actually improve our asking and negotiating skills) then it creates some counter productive incentives if we then turn around and say things like "oh but folks who are asking in these particular ways are clearly a parasite."

While I agree that the examples you give of how a parasite might ask for something (or the scenarios they propose) don't look like particularly good deals... I still don't understand how this particular kind of ask is an indication of some sort of inherent parasitic nature the part of the asker. If we're going to create or maintain a culture where asking is an OK thing to do, then part of the underlying assumptions that go into it are that the other person is free to say "No."

To be completely fair, this is a legitimately difficult situation. In your initial comment you pointed out that one of the indicators you were looking at was the fact that these asks are primarily going towards newer folks (who may not be comfortable with ask/tell culture and who may feel obligated to say yes.) Which makes me think that perhaps the educational thrust I suggested initially was lacking in some key areas.

Perhaps - in addition to offering resources to new folks who want to learn how to ask effectively and responsibly - it would also be a really good idea to also include resources on things like how to say No/ how to be comfortable saying No, and - also really important for those coming from guess cultures - how to gracefully receive No.

I don't know that this is so much a solution for any particular individuals who are already here as it is a set-up for new people coming in that seems to give space for folks to learn the skills needed to not fall into a pattern of behavior that might be read as parasitic - before passing judgement on whether or not they are parasites.

Comment author: ChristianKl 02 April 2017 02:10:15PM 1 point [-]

There are, by my count, at least 3 such sociopaths in the Bay community; and specifically they position themselves as the broken stair step right at onboarding, making the community feel "impenetrable and unwelcoming".

I have never been in physically in attendance in the Bay community and so I don't know whom you are talking about. Do you think other people agree with you that those people are sociopaths? Have you talked with others about the specific people you are concerned about?

Comment author: Raemon 02 April 2017 03:51:28PM 6 points [-]

I think it is really important to note that "sociopath" in the article does not necessarily mean literal-sociopath (and while I think it was useful-ish as a rhetorical trick to make the article stand out more, I don't think it's a good idea to discuss the problem in real, practical detail while continuing to use the sociopath label)

Sociopath here means "someone who's trying to extract resources from the community, who doesn't actually care about the community's core value/creations." (Or, "cares more about extracting resources than they do about the original value, enough so that they start subverting that value.")

Comment author: ChristianKl 03 April 2017 08:57:02AM *  4 points [-]

Yes, overloading the word sociopath is a bad idea. There are true sociopaths out there and knowing how to interact with them can be important. Prisons did raise recidivism rates of sociopaths by giving them the same "empathy for victims" training that works for the average prisoner to reduce recidivism rates.

Leecher might be a more appropriate word for a person who extracts resources without giving anything back. You might turn a leecher into a contributing member of a community by appealing to moral principles but the same approach is useless for a true sociopath.

Comment author: Lumifer 03 April 2017 03:37:19PM 0 points [-]

"Leecher" cross-contaminates with lecher. In my neck of the woods the usual verb is "to mooch".

Comment author: ChristianKl 11 April 2017 11:01:01AM 0 points [-]

Okay, moocher works well.

Comment author: MaryCh 02 April 2017 04:20:18PM 2 points [-]

For example, I am a sociopath according to this definition. (Although the person who taught me seems to be both sociopath and creator, or in our local lingo, a 'tyrant'.)

Comment author: Raemon 02 April 2017 05:05:44PM 3 points [-]

I'm interested in knowing more about what you mean (with an understanding that this is a sort of fraught conversation. I'm fine with substituting a word that isn't so connotationally loaded)

Comment author: MaryCh 02 April 2017 07:10:25PM *  7 points [-]

(I understand it is fraught - will try not to make it more so. The word 'sociopath' itself is OK by me, I might have not used it before in any context, so I probably 'get' fewer connotations than you do.)

I come from a circle of environmentalists, most of whom used to study in the same college. We gathered around a zoologist who had been passionate about it since childhood (now he 'wears a suit for nature' - coordinates surveys of rare biota, etc.); he was at first our formal leader and he taught us the legislature. A rare kind of man, who doesn't give up and who wants to be friends with his helpers - to know them as people. I would say he's a pure geek, and a very charismatic one at that. He invited us to share his hobby, but very few of us could match his sheer input. He used us - mostly to compose & mail letters, which sometimes took hours (and enough money to be a drag on a student's pocket), but also for various odd jobs, and we went happily, because it served a purpose and doing it with him was a privilege.

...Our informal leader was another guy, who picked up the slack in botany, poaching prevention, protesting development of sites of local historical significance, learning from our elders in specific things (= organizing expeditions, workshops and such like), and keeping us working as a team - I look back on it, and can't believe he did all of that while working two jobs and specializing in an unrelated discipline that required lots of fine-tuned practical knowledge. Ah yes, he also drew (not as a professional, but enough to illustrate some things.) We called him a tyrant (to his face), because he 1) believed in evolution over democracy - either you worked under him, or with him (if you showed ability), or he wasn't interested in 'your approach' and let you sink or swim on your own, 2) held us directly responsible when we failed to do as he ordered (although the orders themselves could be discussed and ultimately discarded, and they were framed as requests unless time didn't permit it, once they were agreed upon - they had to be carried out), 3) honestly, was a bit of a git at times. (He became my 'second first love', then my supervisor and dear friend, and I admit I am being harsher than I absolutely need to be, but still, a git:) He did not hesitate to call on our means and brains, but never took anything for his own enrichment. I would call him both a geek and a sociopath in the above-mentioned sense.

Most of the rest could be called fanatics, with a constant trickle of mops who didn't stay for long. (Girls seemed more loyal, in that I can't recall a case where a girl would just change her mind and go away (and I recall two serious cases when boys did it), and in that they showed more initiative, either agreeing to join the tyrant or branching off into other directions like educating schoolchildren.)

And the tyrant's way of looking at things was that the world was a big... dump, to pick a polite word, and when you saw an opportunity to make it better, you didn't question the far-mode/near-mode aspect, you grabbed it and rode it until it dropped under you and breathed its last. If I applied his logic to LW (and believe me, sometimes it is so tempting), I would have said: "Here's an on-line community which calls itself smart, consisting of weird people who think that nature is cruel to animals and weigh chicken-eating ethics vs. cow-eating - but I bet they have never signed a petition against using animals in circuses or dolphin parks, or donated a single schilling to a rehabilitation centre for bears used to train certain dog breeds, or looked up how agricultural waste can be re-used in further manufacture; and by the way, I bet, further, that they would not see this as relevant; of people who keep tirelessly recycling the same meta- and not very meta- questions year after year; of people, most of whom never shout out that there's something out there that needs help now - anything, doesn't have to be my passion, just anything... do they think so little of me, that I will not stand by them?.. Guess somebody has to optimize the situation a bit."

So I really, truly, honestly keep telling myself LW is not a place to recruit people to do my satanic bidding, but - truth will out...

Comment author: Raemon 04 April 2017 10:22:37PM 3 points [-]

This actually doesn't seem like the same thing to me.

I think it's fine to recruit people for projects. (if sdr meant to be implying that that was not okay, I'd disagree with that). The problem is systematically recruiting newcomers in a way that pressures them into doing things that aren't actually in their interest.

One thing I like about LW and EA is that it's fairly common for people say "IF you care about X and Y, then maybe you should consider doing Z", instead of "Do Z."

I actually think we do a decent, if imperfect, job of pointing to object-level-things to do. If you care about animals, donate to the Humane League or other Animal Charity Evaluator recommendations. If you care about animals and want to dedicate serious time to it, volunteer for one of those organizations. (These might not be the same things you think are most valuable, but if that's the case, then you can argue specifically with those recommendations or advocate for why you think your causes are most promising - there's a lot of that going on)

Comment author: MaryCh 05 April 2017 05:07:40AM 2 points [-]

Then maybe we need a 'Things I care about' thread:)