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

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

35 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 (97)

You are viewing a single comment's thread. Show more comments above.

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 *  6 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 2 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 1 point [-]

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