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[LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist

21 Post author: Apprentice 06 January 2014 12:16AM

A long blog post explains why the author, a feminist, is not comfortable with the rationalist community despite thinking it is "super cool and interesting". It's directed specifically at Yvain, but it's probably general enough to be of some interest here.

http://apophemi.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/why-im-not-on-the-rationalist-masterlist/

I'm not sure if I can summarize this fairly but the main thrust seems to be that we are overly willing to entertain offensive/taboo/hurtful ideas and this drives off many types of people. Here's a quote:

In other words, prizing discourse without limitations (I tried to find a convenient analogy for said limitations and failed. Fenders? Safety belts?) will result in an environment in which people are more comfortable speaking the more social privilege they hold.

The author perceives a link between LW type open discourse and danger to minority groups. I'm not sure whether that's true or not. Take race. Many LWers are willing to entertain ideas about the existence and possible importance of average group differences in psychological traits. So, maybe LWers are racists. But they're racists who continually obsess over optimizing their philanthropic contributions to African charities. So, maybe not racists in a dangerous way?

An overly rosy view, perhaps, and I don't want to deny the reality of the blogger's experience. Clearly, the person is intelligent and attracted to some aspects of LW discourse while turned off by other aspects.

Comments (866)

Comment author: Yvain 06 January 2014 11:53:53PM *  90 points [-]

Since it has suddenly become relevant, here are two results from this year's survey (data still being collected):

When asked to rate feminism on a scale of 1 (very unfavorable) to 5 (very favorable), the most common answer was 5 and the least common answer was 1. The mean answer was 3.82, and the median answer was 4.

When asked to rate the social justice movement on a scale of 1 (very unfavorable) to 5 (very favorable), the most common answer was 5 and the least common answer was 1. The mean answer was 3.61, and the median answer was 4.

In Crowder-Meyer (2007), women asked to rate their favorability of feminism on a 1 to 100 scale averaged 52.5, which on my 1 to 5 scale corresponds to a 3.1. So the average Less Wronger is about 33% more favorably disposed towards the feminist movement than the average woman (who herself is slightly more favorably disposed than the average man).

I can't find a similar comparison question for social justice favorability, but I expect such a comparison would turn out the same way.

If this surprises you, update your model.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 07 January 2014 08:24:46AM *  60 points [-]

the average Less Wronger is about 33% more favorably disposed towards the feminist movement than the average woman

Maybe that's exactly what makes LW a good target. There are too many targets on the internet, and one has to pick their battles. The best place is the one where you already have support. If someone would write a similar article about a website with no feminists, no one on the website would care. Thus, wasted time.

In the same way, it is more strategic to aim this kind of criticism towards you personally than it would be e.g. towards me. Not because you are a worse person (from a feminist point of view). But because such criticism will worry you, while I would just laugh.

There is something extremely irritating about a person who almost agrees with you, and yet refuses to accept everything you say. Sometimes you get angry about them more than about your enemies, whose existence you already learned to accept. At least, the enemies are compatible with the "us versus them" dichotomy, while the almost-allies make it feel like the "us" side is falling apart.

EDIT: Seems like you already know this.

Comment author: CronoDAS 08 January 2014 06:54:21PM 23 points [-]

"A heretic is someone who shares almost all of your beliefs. Kill him." - Some card game

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 07 January 2014 04:56:44PM 10 points [-]

There is something extremely irritating about a person who almost agrees with you, and yet refuses to accept everything you say. Sometimes you get angry about them more than about your enemies, whose existence you already learned to accept. At least, the enemies are compatible with the "us versus them" dichotomy, while the almost-allies make it feel like the "us" side is falling apart.

Upvoted for that.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 January 2014 09:08:16PM 10 points [-]

In my experience, groups that want something to attack will attack groups that are generally aligned with them, rather than groups that are further away -- possibly due to the perceived threat of losing members to the similar group.

I've seen so many Communists get called Nazis by other Communist groups -- and those groups never go after people who actually call themselves Nazis.

Comment author: Alexei 08 January 2014 06:58:54PM 3 points [-]

Would love to see these numbers broken down by gender.

Comment author: Yvain 09 January 2014 12:12:09AM 8 points [-]

For the sake of simplicity, I used sex rather than gender and ignored nonbinaries. The average man on the site has a feminism approval score of 3.75; the average woman on the site has a score of 4.40. These are significantly different at p < .001.

The average man on the site has a social justice approval score of 3.55; the average woman on the site has a score of 4.21. These are, again, significantly different at p < .001.

Comment author: Alexei 09 January 2014 12:20:23AM 2 points [-]

Wow, this is exactly opposite of what I expected. Thank you!

Comment author: Yvain 09 January 2014 12:26:45AM 5 points [-]

You expected men to be more feminist than women? Why?

Comment author: [deleted] 10 January 2014 08:29:49PM *  2 points [-]

Because the Internet is weird? I've seen conversations in which the only feminists were men and the only MRAs were women.

(Myself, I expected the difference to have the same sign but be an order of magnitude smaller.)

BTW, FWIW in the survey on your blog men thought that being a woman is 3% worse than being a man and women thought that being a man is 3% better than being a woman, though the exact numbers varied noticeably depending on which question exactly they were answering.

Comment author: pgbh 08 January 2014 04:08:07AM 9 points [-]

Perhaps this is obvious already, but the positions people explicitly endorse on surveys are not necessarily those they implicitly endorse in blog comments.

Comment author: hyporational 09 January 2014 04:27:11AM 8 points [-]

Also, people are free to interpret blog comments as it suits their goals.

Comment author: jaibot 09 January 2014 07:20:10AM 5 points [-]

Anyone want to set up an implicit association test for LW?

Comment author: Vaniver 13 January 2014 03:15:12AM 21 points [-]
Comment author: jooyous 13 January 2014 04:51:32AM 2 points [-]

Where can we talk about it? He has comments turned off.

Comment author: Vaniver 13 January 2014 05:22:16AM 2 points [-]

It might be sensible to make a link post for it in discussion, but it seems reasonable to discuss it here for continuity's sake.

Actually, it may be best to not discuss it in short-form comments; I haven't read the 772 comments on this post (I've been on vacation), and I don't expect to start now.

Comment author: Dagon 07 January 2014 08:16:30AM 7 points [-]

Note that this community reacts badly to some topics as well.

The failing of being mind-killed by certain triggers is pretty common, and I have to give this author credit for recognizing it. I'd prefer an attempt to analyze and work with the emotional impact, to find ways to continue to discuss things where rationality is possible, rather than a set of examples that trigger this person specifically.

I do wonder if we should have a way to add trigger-warnings and filters to posts and comments. It can't be made perfect, and there are some interesting and smart people who will still not be able to participate, but it could help for those who just can't be open and tolerant of some topics. And it could perhaps allow us to explore some of WHY some topics are mind-killing to some people, and find ways to work around it rather than just avoiding the topic.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 07 January 2014 01:44:50PM 4 points [-]

Note that this community reacts badly to some topics as well.

In the sense of being unfavourable to some topics, or being irrationally unfavourable to those topics?

Comment author: ChristianKl 06 January 2014 12:29:25AM 7 points [-]

What is Masterlist supposed to mean? It appear in the headline but not in the text.

Comment author: Apprentice 06 January 2014 12:34:09AM 16 points [-]

This thing, I suppose.

Comment author: shminux 06 January 2014 07:15:47AM 37 points [-]

Just wanted to mention that an amazing amount of arguments in this thread and in the linked piece consists of misidentified non-central fallacies (in Yvain's labelling). None of the targets of the labels used ("racist", "eugenics", "feminist", what have you), correspond to a typical image evoked by using them.

Comment author: jkaufman 07 January 2014 01:58:19PM 5 points [-]
Comment author: RichardKennaway 07 January 2014 12:20:07PM 6 points [-]

How did that blog post come to your attention? It appears to have just been created, and that is the only post on it.

Comment author: Apprentice 07 January 2014 01:21:55PM 15 points [-]

I was following a thread from August on Yvain's site. The author of the blog post we are discussing added a comment there on January 4 and Yvain replied. I should have included this link in my original write-up. And since I've started criticizing myself, I should have left out my half-baked musings on racism and spent more effort on summarizing the post I was linking to. For example, it might have been a good idea to quote the following:

If you prefer to not have any truck with the word ‘privilege’, substitute ‘the less likelihood of having to anticipate culturally-permissible threats to their personhood they have lived with’, since that’s the specific manifestation of privilege I mean. Sadly, that is a long and unwieldy phrase.

This shows that the author is able to taboo words in order to improve readers' understanding. A communication skill justifiably prized on LessWrong.

Comment author: James_Miller 06 January 2014 04:02:33AM 30 points [-]

Our caveman/cavewomen brains think that we will only ever interact with a very small number of people, and losing the respect of anyone could materially worsen our chances of survival in a crisis. Consequently, many are terrified of public speaking or even of contributing to Internet debates such as on LessWrong. I suspect that the lower you perceive your status to be in the tribe, the greater the fear you will have of further weakening your position by saying something that others criticize.

Some communities go out of their way to create "safe spaces" that limit criticism to attract participants who would otherwise be too fearful to join discussions. LW's implicit philosophy (which I don't disagree with) is that a cost of participating is that you are fair game for blunt criticism. Alas, such a philosophy probably repels some potential participants who would otherwise make intelligent comments.

I face a similar trade-off in my classes. (I teach at a women's college.) Giving honest/blunt feedback during class discussions or on papers can cause a very negative emotional reaction in some students. Interestingly, students who went to high school in Asia are much better (on average) than Americans at handling criticism because they got so much more of it in high school than their American counterparts did, but my Asian students are (on average) far more fearful of public speaking than Americans, because they did so much less of it.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 06 January 2014 11:11:37AM *  4 points [-]

Our caveman/cavewomen brains think that we will only ever interact with a very small number of people, and losing the respect of anyone could materially worsen our chances of survival in a crisis.

Determining for how many people that caveperson assumption is valid is difficult, since their lack of support network-building ability also makes them easy to overlook. Such people do exist, however, and I would not be surprised if they appear at higher frequencies among marginalized demographics, especially the sort that would otherwise have interest in communities such as LessWrong.

I doubt that the author of the linked article is in such a situation, however; when a blog post directed at one individual gets linked at a larger community blog and receives \>70 comments discussing it and its message, my prior probability for "someone with an unstable social network and an inability to repair damage to said network" is adjusted way downward.

Comment author: Nornagest 06 January 2014 05:49:41PM *  3 points [-]

I don't think laboring under ancestral-style social assumptions necessarily implies a weak or unstable social support network, or problems maintaining social links. Particularly not the latter; if you're working with a set of unremediated instincts telling you that losing rapport with anyone in your ingroup is a disaster, then it follows that you should invest heavily in repairing any damage to it.

It does suggest some failure modes that wouldn't be present in the network of someone more willing to burn bridges, but we're talking differences in style and overall optimization, not being strictly worse at everything social.

Comment author: bogus 06 January 2014 04:09:41AM *  16 points [-]

Alas, such a philosophy probably repels some potential participants who would otherwise make intelligent comments.

But the 'safe space' policy also repels potential participants - so, it's basically a wash. And only one of these policies is epistemically problematic - I'll let you guess which one.

Giving honest/blunt feedback during class discussions or on papers can cause a very negative emotional reaction in some students.

Obviously, when giving public feedback from a position of authority (being the course lecturer), you need to be quite thoughtful about the connotation of any statements on your part, specifically your impact on the students' perceived status. It's less clear that this would be a problem at LW, where few people speak with any overt authority and the karma system is an independent source of merit/status.

Comment author: Nornagest 06 January 2014 04:45:15AM *  17 points [-]

But the 'safe space' policy also repels potential participants - so, it's basically a wash. And only one of these policies is epistemically problematic - I'll let you guess which one.

Not that I'm much of a fan of "safe space" policies, but surely we should also be interested in how many potential participants each of these approaches repels. And potentially the quality or originality of their comments.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 07 January 2014 05:15:45AM 9 points [-]

And potentially the quality or originality of their comments.

Well, one of the groups is being repelled because certain true statements make them uncomfortable. That is evidence against the quality of their comments.

Comment author: drethelin 07 January 2014 06:17:33AM 14 points [-]

People are allowed to be repelled by true statements. For example, did you know that many people like to have sex with horses? Both men and women! Horses have very large penises and this is something that both intrigues and excites some people. Did you know that horse semen is available for purchase over the internet? I don't think someone who prefers not hear about horse sex is necessarily or even probably a low quality commenter.

Comment author: lmm 26 January 2014 10:43:52AM 5 points [-]

I'll bite your horse penis: I think someone who would get upset or angry at your statement, who would avoid LW because of it, or ask that LW act to stop such statements being posted here, would indeed be a low quality commenter.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 10 January 2014 01:02:19AM 5 points [-]
Comment author: Viliam_Bur 07 January 2014 09:53:59AM *  5 points [-]

Upvoted for making me laugh.

Then I started thinking about how this relates to the six moral foundations, especiallly to the hypothesis that the Purity dimension is only important for conservatives. I mean, if that hypothesis is true, then liberals should insist on discussing this topic as much as possible, to make sure the horses are treated fairly, that people who like to have sex with them are not marginalized in internet debates; and they should insist on discussing technical details to minimize the possible harm resulting from such sex. -- Any objection to this means that the person is not sufficiently liberal, or that the hypothesis of liberals not caring about the Purity dimension is not true.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 08 January 2014 02:01:03AM *  12 points [-]

especiallly to the hypothesis that the Purity dimension is only important for conservatives.

Even Haidt no longer believes this. See the green movement, for example.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 06 January 2014 08:30:10AM 9 points [-]

But the 'safe space' policy also repels potential participants - so, it's basically a wash.

When you repel one member of an over-represented group and attract a member of a previously-absent group, you keep the same number of participants but increase the amount of information present in the discussion.

Comment author: epursimuove 15 June 2014 08:29:14AM 3 points [-]

You're assuming that the new arrival has more information to offer than the departing one. I suspect the opposite is true. There's probably a sizable negative correlation between one's reluctance to hear uncomfortable ideas and the quality of the information one has to offer.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 06 January 2014 02:04:13PM 9 points [-]

Or maybe you repel ten members of some group, hoping to attract one member of another group... and even then the person decides not to come, because something else bothers them.

Comment author: jaibot 06 January 2014 04:24:12PM *  10 points [-]

Does it seem at all worrying that your explanation hinges on members of the in-group having a lot of positive characteristics that members of the out-group lack? "We're just too honest and unflinching in the face of criticism. If only the out-group were so gifted!"

There's probably more than one thing going on here; among them some evaporative cooling.

Comment author: knb 06 January 2014 05:27:56PM *  69 points [-]

I think it's worth noting that we are (yet again) having a self-criticism session because a leftist (someone so far to the left that they consider liberal egalitarian Yvain to be beyond the pale of tolerability) complained that people who disagree with them are occasionally tolerated on LW.

Come on. Politics is rarely discussed here to begin with and something like 65*% of LWers are liberals/socialists. If the occasional non-leftist thought that slips through the cracks of karma-hiding and (more importantly) self-censorship is enough to drive you away, you probably have very little to offer.

*I originally said 80%, but I checked the survey and it's closer to 65%. I think my point still stands. Only 3% of LWers surveyed described themselves as conservatives.

Comment author: JQuinton 06 January 2014 10:15:54PM *  30 points [-]

Only 3% of LWers surveyed described themselves as conservatives.

Interesting. I wonder why LW has so few conservatives. Surely, just like there isn't masculine rationality and feminine rationality, there shouldn't be conservative rationality and liberal rationality. It also makes me wonder how valid the objections are in the linked post if the political views of LW skew vastly away from conservative topics.

Full disclosure: I'm a black male who grew up in the inner city and I don't find anything particularly offensive about topics on LW. There goes my opposing anecdote to the one(s) presented in the linked blog.

Comment author: Nornagest 06 January 2014 10:20:48PM 28 points [-]

At a guess, I'd say this is linked to religion. Once you split out the libertarian faction (as the surveys historically have), it's quite rare for people on the conservative side of the fence (at least in the US) to be irreligious, and LW is nothing if not outspokenly secular.

Comment author: randallsquared 07 January 2014 03:36:12AM 10 points [-]

People in the rationality community tend to believe that there's a lot of low-hanging fruit to be had in thinking rationally, and that the average person and the average society is missing out on this. This is difficult to reconcile with arguments for tradition and being cautious about rapid change, which is the heart of (old school) conservatism.

Comment author: drethelin 07 January 2014 12:12:57AM 9 points [-]

I think futurism is anti-conservative.

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 07 January 2014 09:05:06PM *  19 points [-]

My steelman of the conservative position is 'empirical legislation' : do not make new laws until you have decent evidence they achieve the stated policy goals. "Ah, but while you are gathering your proof, the bad thing X is still happening!" "Too bad."


FAI is a conservative position.


To respond to the grandparent, I think in the US conservatives ceded all intellectual ground, and are therefore not a sexy position to adopt. (If this is true, I think one should view this as a bad thing regardless of one's political affiliation, because 'loyal opposition' is needed to sharpen teeth).

Comment author: [deleted] 11 January 2014 11:37:06AM 2 points [-]

See the penultimate paragraph of this comment, take a look at this, and try to guess whether US::conservatives have higher or lower Openness in average than US::liberals.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 06 January 2014 07:27:27PM 23 points [-]

something like 80% of LWers are liberals/socialists

60%. But yes, it was funny to find out who the evil person was.

Actually, no, it was quite sad. I mean, when reading Yvain's articles, I often feel a deep envy of the peaceful way he can write. I am more likely to jump and say something agressive. I would be really proud of myself if I could someday learn to write the way Yvain does. ... Which still would make me just another bad guy. Holy Xenu, what's the point of even trying?

Comment author: pragmatist 06 January 2014 09:28:15PM *  14 points [-]

Politics is rarely discussed here to begin with and something like 65*% of LWers are liberals/socialists.

Yes, but people on the far right are disproportionately active in political discussions here, probably because it is one of the very few internet venues where they can air their views to a diverse and intelligent readership without being immediately shouted down as evil. If you actually measured political comments, I suspect you'd find that the explicitly liberal/social ones represent much less than 65%.

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 06 January 2014 06:40:15PM 3 points [-]

something like 80% of LWers are liberals/socialists

I did not know that, thanks!

Comment author: knb 06 January 2014 07:08:16PM 9 points [-]

Turns out I was wrong, according to the 2012 survey only like 65% of LWers are socialist/liberals.

Comment author: IlyaShpitser 06 January 2014 07:09:07PM 2 points [-]

Ok, that sounds much more reasonable.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 06 January 2014 03:47:59PM *  34 points [-]

The linked article is too long and it is not obvious what exactly its point is. I kept repeating to myself be specific, be specific while reading it.

I believe there was most likely one specific thing that offended the author... and rest of the long unspecific article was simply gathering as many soldiers as possible to the battle -- and judging by the discussion that started here, successfully.

The summary at the end hints that it was a use of word "eugenics" somewhere on LW, or maybe somewhere on some LW fan's blog. Unless that was just a metaphor for something. The author is probably disabled and feels personally threatened by any discussion of the topic, so strongly that they will avoid the whole website if they feel that such discussion would not be banned there. Unless that, too, was a metaphor for something.

(The main lesson for me seems to be this: If you want attention, write an article accusing LW of bad things. LW can't resist this.)

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 08 January 2014 02:47:57AM 3 points [-]

It seemed like the whole rationality community was the problem, not just LW. I agree that more specificity would have helped-- in particular, the indicators she ignored with other people, and what went wrong in those relationships.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 06 January 2014 03:52:28PM 12 points [-]

Most of the rest of the above comment seems to be insults accusing the author of bad faith, but this bit implied a question of fact:

The summary at the end hints that it was a use of word "eugenics" somewhere on LW, or maybe somewhere on some LW fan's blog.

Probably here.

Comment author: Dentin 07 January 2014 05:46:39PM 17 points [-]

We already practice eugenics, every time we do a genetic test and abort a fetus when it has some horrible transferrable genetic disorder. Frankly, we could do with a bit more of that - there are many, many horrible recessive genetic diseases which people should never have to endure, and which should be eliminated if at all possible. Not doing so strikes me as similar to not trying to cure polio.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 January 2014 07:20:44AM 8 points [-]

We already practice eugenics, every time we do a genetic test and abort a fetus when it has some horrible transferrable genetic disorder.

And indeed there are plenty of people who object to that (at least where I am -- it may be different in places further away from the Pope).

Comment author: hyporational 09 January 2014 04:53:04AM *  5 points [-]

If you want attention, write an article accusing LW of bad things. LW can't resist this.

I don't think a random person critiquing LW would have the same impact. They also have to be "oppressed" or something.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 09 January 2014 03:28:49PM *  15 points [-]

Yes, they need to know our buttons and press them. Such as:

  • you are an unfriendly place for women;

  • you say that politics is the mindkiller, but secretly all of you are libertarians (or all of you are conservatives);

  • you are actually a cult;

...and for the best impact: all of the above, in a long article, with citations out of context from random parts of the website; quoting some offensive and heavily downvoted comments and presenting them as a typical LW content; claiming to be an expert on artificial intelligence or quantum physics and claiming that everything LW says on these topics is a pseudoscience. Did I forget something important? Oh yes, the basilisk! And end with a huge generalization that this all proves that LW is a horrible group of people, and that you will tell everyone you know to avoid LW: both your personal friends, and also any scientist or an organizer of an atheist or skeptic meetup.

(I am not saying this is what the linked article did. Just that this is what I would include into a troll manual, and bet money that LW couldn't resist discussing such article. But a subset of this is enough to succeed.)

Comment author: Emile 10 January 2014 10:46:42PM 8 points [-]

You forgot torture vs dust specks, nerd rapture, building a benevolent God, and many-worlds.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 January 2014 11:24:07AM 8 points [-]

...and cryonics.

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 07 January 2014 03:09:12PM 18 points [-]

Social justice rhetoric tends to lose me when it shifts from "I should be heard in the conversation because I can contribute to it" to "I should be heard in the conversation because I cannot contribute to it."

Comment author: [deleted] 06 January 2014 10:20:25AM 28 points [-]

Refusing to tolerate tolerance is dangerous.

Let's please continue to tolerate tolerance.

Comment author: cousin_it 06 January 2014 09:35:20AM *  11 points [-]

I cannot in good faith entertain the argument that high-scarcity societies are right in having restrictive, assigned-sex-based gender roles, even if these social structures result in measurable maximized utility (i.e. many much kids).

Which argument is the blogger referring to? Does it make sense to have many kids in a high-scarcity society?

Comment author: [deleted] 06 January 2014 03:44:14PM 5 points [-]

Yes, because many of them will die before adulthood; also, they will help you work in the fields.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 06 January 2014 08:00:47AM *  34 points [-]

I like Less Wrong-- there are courtesy rules here which keep it from going wrong in ways which are common in SJ circles. People get credit for learning rather than being expected to get everything right, and it's at least somewhat unusual to attack people for having bad motivations.

This being said, there are squicky features here, and I'm not just talking about claims that women are different from men-- oddly enough, it generally (always?) seems to be to women's disadvantage, even though there's some evidence that women are more trustworthy at running banks and investment funds.

I tolerate posts like this, but LW would seem like a friendlier place (to me) and possibly even be more rational if articles about gender issues would take utility for men and women equally seriously.

Reactionaries had something of a home here-- less so after the formation of More Right, I think. I haven't seen evidence of anything especially extreme on the egalitarian side, though there might be as good a rationalist case to be made for thorough reparations. Now that I think about it, I haven't even seen a case made for strong economic support for intelligent poor children.

Trolley problems..... I keep getting an impression that the point is that people don't have enough inhibitions against killing for the greater good. (By the way, how easy do you think it would be to move an unwilling person who weighs a good bit more than you do?)

And torture seems to be taken too lightly. It's a real world problem, not just a token to be passed around in arguments.

What the original post made me realize is that what I consider most certain to be valuable at LW is the instrumental rationality material, and it would be a good thing for there to also be an online site for instrumental rationality without the "let's do low-empathy discussions to prove how rational we are" angle.

Comment author: moridinamael 06 January 2014 12:45:19PM *  39 points [-]

It's funny, I am totally sympathetic to everything you wrote here, yet all I can think is, "my daily life is chock full of people incapable of grappling with trolley problems or discussing torture concretely, why are you trying to make LessWrong more like real life?"

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 06 January 2014 02:56:56PM 10 points [-]

This encourages me to think more about just what I was proposing....

A lot of what I was trying to do was demonstrate that I think the writer of the original link has a point. This is not quite the same thing as a call for action, even though I'd be happier without the trolley problems.

Another angle I was taking was that LW is theoretically open-minded, but is actually much more hospitable to some sorts of radical low-empathy ideas than others.

What I think is more feasible than changing LW (which is not to say very feasible) would be an empathy-tilted rationalist blog. It might be an independent development or started by disaffected LWers.

Have a probably empathic idea: HBD focuses on IQ, but there's little or no discussion of the possibility of tech for raising IQ from 90 or so to 110, even though that would make a large positive difference.

Meanwhile, I'll mention Hillary Rettig, a progressive who's good on instrumental rationality.

Comment author: bramflakes 06 January 2014 04:56:02PM 12 points [-]

Are you talking about raising the IQ of a person, or the average IQ of a population? There's little discussion of the former because decades of failed interventions has made "you can't raise an existing person's IQ reliably" the default hypothesis. Once you've got past the easy childhood stuff like nutrition, lead paint and iodine deficiencies, there's not a lot you can do. Aside from some kind of Black Swan like a pill that raises you up a standard deviation, there's not much room for hope.

Raising the IQ of the next generations though, there's discussion on that since all the theory deems it totally possible. See here for example.

But yes, in absolute terms there's little discussion on how to solve the problem. Many writers assume the problem is politically intractable.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 07 January 2014 04:53:54PM *  5 points [-]

I was talking about raising the IQs of large numbers of existing people.

My impression is that there just isn't much interest is looking for physical solutions.

Compare the amount of interest in combating obesity to the amount of interest in becoming more intelligent.

Comment author: drethelin 07 January 2014 08:21:59PM 6 points [-]

There's a good amount of interest in eg r/nootropics and Gwern has written about the possible benefits of supplementing local water supplies and whatnot. Part of the problem is that the solutions are political complex since they involve A) convincing sufficient people IQ is really a thing and then B) getting large groups of people to admit they're dumb and want their children to be smarter. In terms of technical solutions we're just not there cybernetically yet I don't think. Genetic solutions have the whole eugenics problem to contend with though china seems to be working on it regardless.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 January 2014 07:16:00AM *  6 points [-]

Now that I think about it, I haven't even seen a case made for strong economic support for intelligent poor children.

Does there need to be a case made for that? This seems like one of the earliest identified reasons for redistributing wealth. You had people and organizations sponsoring poor talented youth and this being considered virtuous since ancient Greece. And the reform of education and welfare in the 19th and 20th century often emphasized this example, thought they may not have always done much about it.

In Slovenia at least we have scholarships handed out to people who preform very well on aptitude tests, is this something that doesn't happen as reliably in the US?

Comment author: jaime2000 14 January 2014 01:38:47PM *  3 points [-]

In Slovenia at least we have scholarships handed out to people who preform very well on aptitude tests, is this something that doesn't happen as reliably in the US?

Several states have merit-based scholarships (though these usually require performance in classes as well as aptitude tests, so there is a conscientiousness element as well as an intelligence element). I myself am going to university on a Bright Future scholarship. However, my impression is that federal need-based aid is a lot more common than state merit-based aid.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 13 January 2014 03:20:36PM 2 points [-]

I know smart Americans who grew up very poor, and don't seem to have received a lot of help.

Comment author: drethelin 07 January 2014 12:29:46AM 6 points [-]

I think a lot of the focus on trolley problems is they're sort of a platonic model of making hard decisions about tradeoffs, with the idea being that if you can convince people it's right to make tradeoffs in the most obvious situation, they should consider the tradeoffs in much more complicated policy decisions also. EG people who propose Basic Income want people to be willing to trade "some of your money" for "greater happiness for many people". This is also what a lot of Effective Altruism movement is based on, making GOOD tradeoffs rather than bad ones.

Comment author: Mestroyer 06 January 2014 08:12:19AM 11 points [-]

And torture seems to be taken too lightly. It's a real world problem, not just a token to be passed around in arguments.

What do you have against passing real world problems around as tokens in arguments?

Comment author: Nornagest 06 January 2014 07:32:51PM *  7 points [-]

LW historically has had a habit of choosing examples with shock value beyond what's necessary to make the point; granted, this no longer seems quite so fashionable for new top-level content, but it does remain noticeable in comments and in older posts, including parts of the Sequences. I view this habit as basically a social display: a way of signaling "I can handle this without getting mind-killed". Now, let me be very clear: I do not regard this as intrinsically destructive, nor do I place substantial terminal value on avoiding offense. But I do think its higher-order effects have avoidably reduced the quality of discussion here.

The fundamental issue is that not everyone here is equally able to avoid derailing discussions when exposed to topics like, say, torture. Even people who are generally very rational may find particular subjects intolerable; judging from experience, in fact, I'd say that most of the people here have one or two they can't handle, including myself. Avoiding these is part of our culture when they overlap with talking points in mainstream politics, and that's good; but there remains a wide scope of weakly politicized yet potentially mindkilling ones out there, many of which we've historically thrown around with the gleeful abandon of a velociraptor plunging into a vat full of raw meat.

I think we should stop doing that, at least to the extent that we avoid conventional politics and for most of the same reasons.

Comment author: Mestroyer 08 January 2014 03:48:18AM 8 points [-]

Torture is a uniquely good tool in thought experiments, when you need something bad, and I refuse to give it up.

Death is too complicated (and therefore invites too much hypothetical-fighting). There're questions of what quality of life you're missing, how long you would have lived, etc, and worse yet, some people think it's a good thing. No one* thinks torture (of the average person) is a good thing. When people say things like "I want to go on living no matter what my life is like" the only correct answer is extremely unpleasant experiences, which are also called torture. I could wrap the idea of torture in a bunch of sterile-sounding abstractions, but no one likes obfuscation, and it would still be torture. If leaving out the word "torture" changes their reaction, then including it is necessary to make my point. Anything else equivalently bad that could do the job in my thought experiment would probably be some more specific thing than torture, or disturb people as much as torture anyway.

(*Colloquial sense of "no one")

When I need to make an argument about factory farming, and I want to draw an accurate analogy, I need to bring up torture, because that is an accurate description of what actually happens in factory farms. It's not just the death in them that bothers me. Indeed, to counter the Robin Hanson argument that meat is moral, references to actual torture are the only answer (linked to cache version because as of writing this the page is down).

When I am arguing with a theist, and I need to sidestep their cached thought that people in Hell deserve it, I have to use the word torture, because that is a boo-light, and i am fully justified in using it because torture is what we're talking about.

If you can't discuss these things with me, that is too bad. Children likely have valuable insights that adult conversions are missing due to their absence, but I am still gonna talk about these things. So if you must leave the room while the grown-ups are talking, then go. Grown-ups' conversations are important, and making everything kid-friendly is not an improvement (This is also my response to the entire essay that started this thread).

I have always seen LessWrong as a place for grown-ups. An almost-grown-up can gain a lot by jumping into the grown-ups' conversation instead of talking with kids, but the real grown-ups still need to talk about real grown-up things.

As for your fashionable signaling hypothesis for jarring and vivid examples, as Lumifer pointed out, you just did it yourself. Were you signaling then? I bet not; I bet you forgot that "meat" is a disturbing mind-killer to some people, and when the idea popped into your mind, you thought "that feels like it makes my point well, and sounds kind of amusing," so you wrote it. If I told you to watch your thought experiments and examples and not bring up meat because it might drive people off, you would probably think (and be right) that that is too much effort on behalf of too small a population, if people were socially expected to watch what they said all the time like that it would make posting less enjoyable. The feeling of being made to act in a kid-friendly way is not a good one.

I don't like being around literal kids because (among other things) people expect me not to swear around them (Also partly because people expect me to not tell them that Santa isn't real, etc). And not being able to swear is frustrating. This is the same feeling that the policy you're advocating will impose on the rest of LessWrong who are not psychologically scarred.

I expect you're thinking, "Yeah, but like I said, there are lots of potential mindkillers, and lots more than a small minority are mindkilled by at least some of them. It doesn't have to be the same mindkiller that kills every mind." But either handling your personal mindkillers, or at least just quietly sitting out and not making a fuss while other people talk about them is the price you pay for sitting at the grown-ups table, and in return you don't have to be super-careful about stepping on everyone else's toes.

By the way I didn't downvote you.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 08 January 2014 07:28:27AM 6 points [-]

I'm fascinated, because those are not at all the sorts of mentions of torture that bother me-- what gets to me is the tortures vs. dust specks and "is that worth fifty years of torture?, what if the person is memory-wiped afterwards?" discussions.

Those do mind-kill me, and I pretty much don't read them.

Comment author: Nornagest 08 January 2014 06:50:43AM *  2 points [-]

But either handling your personal mindkillers, or at least just quietly sitting out and not making a fuss while other people talk about them is the price you pay for sitting at the grown-ups table, and in return you don't have to be super-careful about stepping on everyone else's toes.

Generally speaking, it's not my personal mindkillers that I'm trying to avoid; I do have some, but they aren't the ones I mentioned and I know well enough to leave them alone. Nor do I much care about the occasional isolated outburst from someone else that I can downvote and ignore. It's the thousand-post threads that could have been summarized without loss of generality in ten good ones. It's the extended bouts of ideological angst that recur every few months without bringing up any new information. It's a community phenomenon, not a personal one.

Meat used as part of a throwaway metaphor doesn't trigger that sort of thing, as evidenced by the fact that I am not now defending myself against a howling mob. (Incidentally, neither does death as such; it's too abstract.) Torture used as part of an extended thought experiment, without hemming it in plenty of obligatory hand-wringing, does. So do a number of other things that I'm sure you can remember from experience. I'm not trying to suggest a precautionary principle here; I hate those things and I'm sure you do too. But we do have that experience to draw on, and it now seems to me that persisting in the use of language and concepts we know that we as a community can't handle in an adult manner is symptomatic of either gluttony for punishment, of bloody-mindedness to the point of pathology, or of some truly outstanding cluelessness.

I'd like it too if LW could reliably be treated as the grown-ups' table. But that isn't the world we live in.

Comment author: Lumifer 06 January 2014 10:00:42PM 15 points [-]

a habit of choosing examples with shock value beyond what's necessary to make the point

...

with the gleeful abandon of a velociraptor plunging into a vat full of raw meat.

:-D

Comment author: bogus 06 January 2014 08:29:00AM *  7 points [-]

I tolerate posts like [More ominous than a (marriage) strike], but LW would seem like a friendlier place (to me) and possibly even be more rational if articles about gender issues would take utility for men and women equally seriously.

Well, since that post quotes liberally from a "manosphere" website, you'd be justified for assuming that it does take men's welfare more seriously than women's. But for what it's worth, it's mostly concerned with trying to predict men's strategically reasonable response to a change in institutions, and determining the resulting equilibrium. Whether you value men's and women's welfare equally doesn't much affect how bad the projected outcome is.

I keep getting an impression that the point is that people don't have enough inhibitions against killing for the greater good ...

Why? A standard result in the trolley-problem literature is that folks deviate from utilitarian ethics in a way that's suggestive of just such a moral injunction. People on LW are different, in that they tend to be highly committed to utilitarianism. But we already knew that - the way trolley problems are discussed here is just more evidence of this fact.

Comment author: knb 06 January 2014 04:49:27PM 10 points [-]

I tolerate posts like this, but LW would seem like a friendlier place (to me) and possibly even be more rational if articles about gender issues would take utility for men and women equally seriously.

That post is by GLaDOS, who is female. I doubt GLaDOS values women less than men, but it would be nice if you would actually make a case for your insult/accusation rather than just throwing it in without any discussion.

Comment author: ChrisHallquist 06 January 2014 09:29:52PM 6 points [-]

Re: trolley problems and torture:

I seem to remember reading somewhere, I think it was something Daniel Dennett said, about the value of having philosophers willing to explore ideas that are (and maybe should be) taboo for ordinary people.

Take Peter Singer, for example. I don't buy the whole standard consequentialist package in ethics, but I really like Peter Singer. And he says things that are really shocking to many people, for example arguing that infanticide is often morally OK. But I suspect being willing to consider shocking ideas like that may be a prerequisite for being able to make progress on certain really important topics (see Singer's ideas about animal rights, charity, and some areas of medical ethics). Not everyone needs to be Peter Singer, but having a few Peter Singers - even a whole blog community of them - seems really valuable.

A couple other points: on torture, I don't think it's exactly being taken lightly. Rather, I suspect the reason it's used as an example is precisely because it an archetypal example of a really horrible thing.

As for seeming un-empathic, I don't think it's just rationality signaling. There's an issue that when you're making decisions that effect huge numbers of people, being too driven by your feelings about one case can lead to decisions that are really bad for the other people involved and that you wouldn't make if you really thought about it.

Comment author: solipsist 06 January 2014 02:19:06AM 48 points [-]

Apposite criticism. Most worrying excerpt:

...these environments are also self-selecting. In other words, even when the people speaking loudest or most eloquently don’t intentionally discourage participation from people who are not like them / who may be uncomfortable with the terms of the discussion, entertaining ‘politically incorrect’ or potentially harmful ideas out loud, in public (so to speak) signals people who would be impacted by said ideas that they are not welcome.

Self-selection in LessWrong favors people who enjoy speaking dispassionately about sensitive issues, and disfavors people affected by those issues. We risk being an echo-chamber of people who aren't hurt by the problems we discuss.

That said, I have no idea what could be done about it.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 06 January 2014 09:44:01AM *  39 points [-]

I'm not sure that anything should be done about it, at least if we look at it from whole society's perspective. (Or rather, we should try to avoid the echo chamber effect if possible, but not at the cost of reducing dispassionate discussion.) If some places discuss sensitive issues dispassionately, then those places risk becoming echo chambers; but if no place does so, then there won't be any place for dispassionate discussion of those issues. I have a hard time believing that a policy that led to some issue only being discussed in emotionally charged terms would be a net good for society.

Comment author: Randy_M 06 January 2014 03:03:28PM 22 points [-]

Yes, the complaint strikes me as "Stop saying things we don't like, it might lead to disapproved opinions being silenced!

Comment author: [deleted] 07 January 2014 01:41:04AM 10 points [-]

Wouldn't it be possible to minimize signaling given the same level of dispassionate discussion? That is, discourage use of highly emotionally charged/exosemantically heavy words/phrases if a less charged equivalent exists or can be coined and defined.

Say if you have a word X that means Y plus emotional connotation α and thede/memeplex/identity signaling effect β (not that emotional connotation is detached from the thedish/political/identity-wise context of the reader, of course), there's really no reason to use X instead of Y in dispassionate discussion. To give a concrete example, there's no reason to use 'sluttiness' (denotatively equivalent to 'sexual promiscuity' but carrying a generally negative connotational load, signaling against certain memeplexes/political positions/identities (though ideally readers here would read past the signaling load/repress the negative emotional response), and signaling identification with other positions/identities) instead of 'sexual promiscuity', which means the same thing but sheds all the emotional and thedish/tribal/whatever baggage.

(That shouldn't be read as an endorsement of the reasoning toward the same conclusion in the post, of course.)

Comment author: asr 07 January 2014 02:02:23AM 11 points [-]

I don't believe this is feasible. My impression is that emotional connotations inhere in things, not in words.

Over the decades, society has, over the decades, gone through a whole string of synonyms for "limited intelligence" -- none of which are emotionally neutral. Changing terms from "imbecile", to "retarded", "developmentally disabled" to "special needs", has just resulted in a steady turnover of playground insults. You can't make an insulting concept emotionally neutral, I think.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 January 2014 02:42:42AM 11 points [-]

The two aren't contradictory: emotional connotations can inhere in things and words.

The euphemism treadmill is what you get when the emotional connotation inheres in a thing. But what emotional connotation inheres in 'sexual promiscuity'? Even if it is there (and its recommendation by someone sensitive enough to emotional connotations that inhere in words [from the perspective of a specific thede/tribe] seems to suggest that it isn't), certainly there's less negative connotation there than in 'sluttiness'.

Similarly, it's possible to find loaded equivalents, or at least approximations, for most (all?) of Mencius Moldbug's caste terms. (UR is a good place to mine for these sorts of pairs, since he coins emotionally neutral terms to replace, or at least approximate, emotionally loaded terms. Of course, if you use them, you're signaling that you've read Moldbug, but...)

Comment author: Emile 07 January 2014 06:50:18AM 4 points [-]

I get the impression that we're already pretty much mostly discusing issues in a "less emotionally laden" way, avoiding shocking words,etc., no?

Comment author: bramflakes 06 January 2014 02:33:03AM 12 points [-]

Continuing the argument though, I just don't think including actual people on the receiving end into the debate would help determine true beliefs about the best way to solve whatever problem it is. It'd fall prey to the usual suspects like scope insensitivity, emotional pleading, and the like. Someone joins the debate and says "Your plan to wipe out malaria diverted funding away from charities that research the cure to my cute puppy's rare illness, how could you do that?" - how do you respond to that truthfully while maintaining basic social standards of politeness?

Someone affected by the issue might bring up something that nobody else had thought of, something that the science and statistics and studies missed - but other than that, what marginal value are they adding to the discussion?

Comment author: BarbaraB 06 January 2014 07:51:58AM 13 points [-]

Someone affected by the issue might bring up something that nobody else had thought of, something that the science and statistics and studies missed

Aye !

but other than that, what marginal value are they adding to the discussion?

Is that not enough for You ? Especially in some discussions, which are repetitive on LW ?

Comment author: gothgirl420666 06 January 2014 03:23:51AM 13 points [-]

I agree that this is by far the most interesting part of the piece. IIRC this site is pretty much all white men. Part of it is almost certainly that white men are into this sort of thing but I can't help but imagine that if I was not a white man, especially if I was still in the process of becoming a rationalist, I would be turned off and made to feel unwelcome by the open dialogue of taboo issues on this website. This has the obvious effect of artificially shifting the site's demographics, and more worryingly, artificially shifting the site's demographics to include a large number of people who are the type of person to be unconcerned with political correctness and offending people. I think while that trait in and of itself is good, it is probably correlated with certain warped views of the world. Browse 4chan for a while if you want examples.

I think that between the extremes of the SJW Tumblr view of "When a POC talks to you, shut the fuck up and listen, you are privileged and you know nothing" and the view of "What does it matter if most of us aren't affected by the problems we talk about, we can just imagine and extrapolate, we're rationalist, right?" is where the truth probably lies.

Like you said, I have no idea what to do about this. There are already a lot of communities where standard societal taboos of political correctness are enforced, and I think it's worthwhile to have at least one where these taboos don't exist, so maybe nothing.

Comment author: David_Gerard 06 January 2014 08:51:52AM 9 points [-]

I'm a white man who's done handsomely in the privilege lottery and I find quite a lot of LW utterly offputting and repellent (as I've noted at length previously). I'm still here of course, but in fairness I couldn't call someone unreasonable for looking at its worst and never wanting to go near the place.

Comment author: Dentin 07 January 2014 05:14:53PM 8 points [-]

If all you show a person is the worst of lesswrong, then yes, I could see them not wanting to have anything to do with it. However, this doesn't tell us anything; the same argument could be made of virtually all public boards. You could say the same thing about hallmark greeting cards.

Comment author: jaibot 06 January 2014 01:34:45PM 8 points [-]

This is roughly how I feel. There is a lot of good stuff here, and a lot of lot of horrible, horrible stuff that I never, ever want to be associated with. I do not recommend LessWrong to friends.

Comment author: Lurker 06 January 2014 06:31:43PM 10 points [-]

a lot of lot of horrible, horrible stuff that I never, ever want to be associated with.

As a lurker and relatively new person to this community I've now seen this sentiment expressed multiple places but without any specific examples. Could you (or anyone else) please provide some? I'd really like to know more about this before I start talking about Less Wrong to my friends/family/coworkers/etc.

Feel free to PM me if you don't want to discuss it publicly.

Comment author: Dentin 07 January 2014 05:19:57PM 9 points [-]

I'm at a loss regarding what you must consider 'horrible'. About the worst example I can think of is the JoshElders saga of pedophilia posts, and it only took two days to downvote everything he posted into oblivion and get it removed from the lists - and even that contained a lot of good discussion in the comments.

If you truly see that much horrible stuff here, perhaps your bar is too low, or perhaps mine is too high. Can you provide examples that haven't been downvoted, that are actually considered mainstream opinion here?

Comment author: jaibot 08 January 2014 01:55:37PM *  9 points [-]

Most of these are not dominant on LW, but come up often enough to make me twitchy. I am not interested in debating or discussing the merits of these points here because that's a one-way track to a flamewar this thread doesn't need.

  • The stronger forms of evolutionary psychology and human-diversity stuff. High confidence that most/all demographic disparities are down to genes. The belief that LessWrong being dominated by white male technophiles is more indicative of the superior rationality of white male technophiles than any shortcomings of the LW community or society-at-large.

  • Any and all neoreactionary stuff.

  • High-confidence predictions about the medium-to-far-future (especially ones that suggest sending money)

  • Throwing the term "eugenics" around cavalierly and assuming that everyone knows you're talking about benevolent genetic engineering and not forcibly-sterilizing-people-who-don't-look-like-me.

There should be a place to discuss these things, but it probably shouldn't be on a message board dedicated to spreading and refining the art of human rationality. LessWrong could easily be three communities:

  • a rationality forum (based on the sequences and similar, focused on technique and practice rather than applying to particular issues)

  • a transhumanist forum (for existential risk, cryonics, FAI and similar)

  • an object-level discussion/debate forum (for specific topics like feminism, genetic engineering, neoreactionism, etc).

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 08 January 2014 04:31:23PM *  22 points [-]

High confidence that most/all demographic disparities are down to genes. The belief that LessWrong being dominated by white male technophiles is more indicative of the superior rationality of white male technophiles than any shortcomings of the LW community or society-at-large.

I am not sure how much these opinions are that extreme, and how much it's just a reflection of how political debates push people into "all or nothing" positions. Like, if you admit that genes have any influence on population, you are automatically misinterpreted to believe that every aspect of a population is caused by genes. Because, you know, there are just two camps, "genes, boo" camp and "genes, yay" camp, and you have already proved you don't belong into the former camp, therefore...

At least this is how I often feel in similar debates. Like there is no "genes affect 50% of something" position. There is a "genes don't influence anything significant, ever" camp where all the good guys are; and there is the "other" camp, with everyone else, including me and Hitler. If we divide a continuous scale into "zero" and "nonzero" subsets, then of course 0.1 and 0.5 and 1 and infinity all get into the same subset. But that's looking through the mindkilling glasses. I could start explaining how believing that genes can have some influence on thinking and behavior is not the same as attributing everything to the genes, and is completely nothing like advocating a genocide... but I already see all the good guys looking at me and thinking: "Nice try, but you are not going to fool us. We know what you really believe." -- Well, the idea is that I actually don't.

I even don't think that having a white male majority at this moment is some failure of a LW community. I mean -- just try imagine a parallel universe where someone else started LW. How likely it is that in the parallel universe it is perfectly balanced by ethnicity and gender? What exactly does your model of reality make you predict?

Imagine that you are a visitor from an alien species are you are told the following facts: 1) Most humans are irrational, and rationality is associated with various negative things, like Straw Vulcans. Saying good things about rationality will get you laughed at. But paradoxically, telling others that they are not very rational, is offensive. So it's best to avoid this topic, which most people do. 2) Asch's conformity test suggests that women are a bit more likely than men to conform. 3) Asians have a culture that discourages standing out of the crowd. 4) Blacks usually live in the most poor countries, and those living in the developed countries were historically oppressed. -- Now that you know these facts, you are told that there is a new group of people who tries to promote rationality and science and technology. As the alien visitor, based on the given data, please tell me, which gender and which race would you bet would be most represented in this group?

If the LW remains forever a group of mostly white males, then yes, that would mean that we have failed. Specifically that we have failed to spread rationality, to increase the sanity waterline. But the fact that LW started with such demographics is completely unsurprising to me. So, is the proportion of other groups increasing on LW? Looking at the surveys for two years, it seems to me that yes. Then the only question is whether it is increasing fast enough? Well, fast enough compared with what? Sure, we could do more about it. Surely, we are not automatically strategic, we have missed some opportunities. Let's try harder. But there is no point in obsessing over the fact that LW started as a predominantly white male group, or that we didn't fix the disparities in the society within a few years.

Comment author: thelomen 10 January 2014 11:26:45AM 5 points [-]

I've definitely experienced strong adverse reactions to discussing eugenics 'cavalierly' if you don't spend at least ten to fifteen minutes covering the inferential steps and sanitising the perceived later uses of the concept.

Good point about the possible three communities. I haven't posted here much, as I found myself standing too far outside the concepts whilst I worked my way through the sequences. Regardless of that, the more I read the more I feel I have to learn, especially about patterned thinking and reframes. To a certain extent I see this community as a more scientifically minded Maybe Logic group, when thinking about priors and updating information.

A lot of the transhumanist material have garnered very strong responses from friends though, but I've stocked up on Istvan paperbacks to hopefully disseminate soon.

Comment author: Lumifer 08 January 2014 03:37:01PM 6 points [-]

because that's a one-way track to a flamewar

I don't think this hypothesis is supported by the evidence, specifically past LW discussions.

Comment author: ThrustVectoring 06 January 2014 02:51:38AM 10 points [-]

We risk being an echo-chamber of people who aren't hurt by the problems we discuss.

I don't see this as a problem, really. The entire point is to have high-value discussions. Being inclusive isn't the point. It'd be nice, sure, and there's no reason to drive away minority groups for no reason.

I mean, I don't see us trying to spread internet access and English language instruction in Africa so that the inhabitants can help discuss how to solve their malaria problems. As long as we can get enough input about what the problem is actually like, we don't need to be inclusive in order to solve problems. And in the African malaria case, being inclusive would obviously hurt our problem-solving capability.

Comment author: Bakkot 06 January 2014 03:44:58AM 24 points [-]

Eh, yes and no. This attitude ("we know what's best; your input is not required") has historically almost always been wrong and frequently dangerous and deserves close attention, and I think it mostly fails here. In very, very specific instances (GiveWell-esque philanthropy, eg), maybe not, but in terms of, say, feminism? If anyone on LW is interested tackling feminist issues, having very few women would be a major issue. Even when not addressing specific issues, if you're trying to develop models of how human beings think, and everyone in the conversation is a very specific sort of person, you're going to have a much harder time getting it right.

Comment author: Emile 06 January 2014 12:51:39PM 29 points [-]

This attitude ("we know what's best; your input is not required") has historically almost always been wrong

Has it really? The cases where it went wrong jump to mind more easily than those where it went right, but I don't know which way the balance tips overall (and I suspect neither do your nor most readers - it's a difficult question!).

For example, in past centuries Europe has seen a great rise in litteracy, and a drop in all kinds of mortality, through the adoption of widespread education, modern medical practices, etc. A lot of this seems to have been driven in a top-down way by bureaucratic governments who considered they were working for The Greater Good Of The Nation, and didn't care that much about the opinion of a bunch of unwashed superstitious hicks.

(Some books on the topic: Seeing Like a State; The Discovery of France ... I haven't read either unfortunately)

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 06 January 2014 07:15:02AM 9 points [-]

Even with malaria nets (which seem like a very simple case), having information from the people who are using them could be important. Is using malaria nets harder than it sounds? Are there other diseases which deserve more attention?

One of the topics here is that sometimes experts get things wrong. Of course, so do non-experts, but one of the checks on experts is people who have local experience.

Comment author: ThrustVectoring 06 January 2014 05:28:27PM 6 points [-]

Even with malaria nets (which seem like a very simple case), having information from the people who are using them could be important.

Even then, is trying to encourage sub-saharan African participation in the Effective Altruism movement really the best way to gather data about their needs and values? Wouldn't it be more cost effective to hire an information-gathering specialist of some sort to conduct investigations?

Comment author: CAE_Jones 06 January 2014 03:40:56AM 10 points [-]

I don't see this as a problem, really. The entire point is to have high-value discussions.

High-value discussions here, so far as is apparent to me, seem to be better described as "High-value for modestly wealthy white and ethnic Jewish city-dwelling men, many of them programmers". If it turns out said men get enough out of this to noticeably improve the lives of the huge populations (some of which might even contain intelligent, rational individuals or subgroups), that's all fine and well. But so far, it mostly just sounds like rich programmers signalling at each other.

Which makes me wonder what the hell I'm still doing here; in spite of not feeling particularly welcome, or getting much out of discussions, I haven't felt like not continuing to read and sometimes comment would make a good response. Yet, since I'm almost definitely not going to be able to contribute to a world-changing AI, directly or otherwise, and don't have money to spare for EA or xrisk reduction, I don't see why LW should care. (Ok, so I made a thinly veiled argument for why LW should care, but I also acknowledged it was rather weak.)

Comment author: buybuydandavis 07 January 2014 07:41:42AM 32 points [-]

The author apparently has the privilege of living in a bubble where everyone she knows fundamentally approves of all her opinions, but occasionally has one person out of 20 show up at a gathering who disagrees, and just may throw a fit if that person dare voice their opinions.

Me - atheist, egoist, libertarian - I'm lucky if one person out of 20 won't think I'm the devil if I'm open about my opinions. I weep for the discomfort she feels when my existence impinges on her awareness.

I note that a Christian or Muslim describing how they are hurt by those who dare openly(!) question their sacred values wouldn't receive such polite consideration, and certainly not by this blogger.

Comment author: Locaha 07 January 2014 09:40:09AM 7 points [-]

Me - atheist, egoist, libertarian - I'm lucky if one person out of 20 won't think I'm the devil if I'm open about my opinions. I weep for the discomfort she feels when my existence impinges on her awareness.

Are you ever in physical danger because of your opinions?

Comment author: Dentin 07 January 2014 05:56:00PM 4 points [-]

Not really a valid question; I feel similarly, but you quickly learn to suppress it when the situation becomes questionable. Anyone who reacts strongly to my more mainstream opinions, is almost certainly going to be a lost cause when it comes to my extremist opinions. I can't say I've been in physical danger because I've never pushed it to that point. However, I can think of instances where physical danger was on the table of options (the KKK in minnesota is a good example.)

Comment author: fubarobfusco 06 January 2014 09:21:24AM 34 points [-]

This is a bit of a tangential ramble on why diversity might be kind of a good idea.

Different evidence accrues to people with different experiences.

A Bayesian agent who goes through an upbringing as a boy and one who goes through an upbringing as a girl will probably not possess identical beliefs about society, the world, humanity, and so on. This is not because one has been held back or misled, nor because one is less rational than the other ... but because two different partial explorations of the same territory do not yield the same map.

This does not mean that "men's truth" and "women's truth" (or "European truth" and "African truth") are different truths. Nor does it mean that any map is just as good as any other. Some people really do sit down and scribble all over their map until it is useless.

But since nobody's map is equivalent to the territory, overall we can expect that we will navigate the territory better if we can get help from people whose maps are different from our own.

That means that if we spend our time hanging out only with people whose experiences are a lot like our own, and going all Robber's Cave on anyone whose map doesn't look like ours, we are probably going to end up kinda ignorant. At the very least we will not have as complete a picture of the landscape as a group who has shared maps from lots of different paths.

This matters if we care about possessing accurate maps; and it also matters a great deal if what we are trying to map includes things like "the good of humanity" or "coherent extrapolated volition of humankind" or things like that.

Comment author: hyporational 09 January 2014 07:38:52AM *  9 points [-]

The burning question is diversity in what exactly? I'm pretty sure there's good diversity and bad diversity, whatever your values happen to be. Then there's diversity that doesn't matter. I don't care how tall people here are.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 06 January 2014 03:02:47PM *  16 points [-]

overall we can expect that we will navigate the territory better if we can get help from people whose maps are different from our own

Only if their maps are better than random. We should try to attract those people from the under-represented groups whose maps are better than random.

People with strong political identities usually have their maps systematically distorted. So while trying to attract the members of the under-represented groups, we should avoid political applause lights, to avoid attracting the most politically active members of these groups.

Specifically, I think LW would benefit from participation of many women, but we should avoid applause lights of feminism, social justice, or however it is called. Because that's just one specific subset of women. If a person with strong political opinions criticizes LW as not the best place for them... well, maybe in this specifical case, that's system working as intended.

Instead, invite all the smart women you know to the LW meetup, and encourage them to write an article on LW. Select them by smartness, not by political activity and willingness to criticize LW for not conforming to their party line. Analogically for any other under-represented groups. Invite them as individuals, not as political forces.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 06 January 2014 03:32:27PM 16 points [-]

I can see the problem you're trying to avoid-- the assumption that one sort of feminism is typical for women. And I think it's worth avoiding.

However, you seem to be implying that men aren't excessively clustered by politics at LW.

Also, the problem pointed to in the Not on the Master List article doesn't generally manifest at that level of fear. I think the more common negative reaction to LW is moderate revulsion, and I suspect that just inviting more women isn't going to solve it.

If anyone tried the experiment of inviting more women, it might be world posting about how it worked out.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 06 January 2014 06:48:41PM *  20 points [-]

Maybe it's just that when someone says: "I feel uncomfortable about X", my natural reaction is thinking about a possible fix; but when someone says: "I am a member of a tribe T and we dislike X", my natural reaction is: Fuck you, and fuck your tribe T!

Only later comes the rationalization, that improving a situation for a specific person, especially for someone who feels some discomfort and yet wants to be a member of the community, is good for the community. But obeying demands made in the name of a different tribe, just helps the other tribe conquer this territory; and the complaining person probably wasn't interested in membership too much, just wanted to plant a flag of the tribe T here.

My model of a person who wrote this article is that even if LW changed according to their wishes, they wouldn't join LW anyway (they would just tick off another internet battle won), or they would join but would contribute mostly by criticizing other things they don't like, making some existing members (including women) uncomfortable.

Still, there is a question: If we change according to this person's wishes, maybe this person will not join us, but perhaps some other person would? In which case, I recommend thinking about making LW more comfortable to this hypothetical other person, whose wishes in fact don't have to be the same. Maybe this other person would actually prefer to express their opinions more freely.

you seem to be implying that men aren't excessively clustered by politics at LW.

According to the survey, it's 36% liberal, 30% libertarian, 27% socialist, (edit:) 3% conservative. (Okay, that's all members, but since men are 90%, I assume the numbers for men would be pretty much the same, plus or minus at most 10% in some category.) At worst that would be (edit:) three different clusters; and any specific of them would be a minority.

Still, some groups are louder than the others. For example, the Moldbug fans are impossible to overlook. On the other hand, I don't remember hearing much socialist opinions here; and I think I would have noticed. Not sure what it means. (Different average loudness of different groups?)

the more common negative reaction to LW is moderate revulsion

Common reaction among who? The people who decided to write a critical article about LW? That is not necessary a reaction of an average person.

just inviting more women isn't going to solve it

Assuming that more women on LW would mean more articles and comments written by women, it would either mean that the content gets less repulsive on average... or that LW fans are repulsive to outsiders whether they are male or female, so at least it cannot be blamed on gender disparity anymore.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 08 January 2014 04:08:13AM 5 points [-]

According to the survey, it's 36% liberal, 30% libertarian, 27% socialist, 25% conservative....At worst that would be four different clusters; and any specific of them would be a minority.

Math. Conservatives are 3%.

Just 3 labels make up roughly 93%, and I'd say only two real clusters, as libertarian vs. socialist/liberal. I haven't noticed substantive debates here between liberals and socialists. It would be interesting to see, if someone can point some out.

Note the predominance of the Anglosphere - with the 4 top represented countries making up around 75% of the survey respondents, and those 4 countries being 4 of the top six in per capita terms.

Comment author: michaelkeenan 08 January 2014 05:16:36AM 4 points [-]

This doesn't matter for your point; I'm just letting you know: the survey results showed 3% conservative, not 35%. There were 35 total conservatives, which was 3% of respondents.

Comment author: ESRogs 06 January 2014 07:47:50PM 10 points [-]

Maybe it's just that when someone says: "I feel uncomfortable about X", my natural reaction is thinking about a possible fix; but when someone says: "I am a member of a tribe T and we dislike X", my natural reaction is: Fuck you, and fuck your tribe T!

Not sure if you meant to imply this, but did the linked article read to you like, "I am a member of tribe T and we dislike X"? To me it just sounded like, "I feel uncomfortable about X."

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 07 January 2014 09:24:23AM 18 points [-]

Uhm, after reading the article again, I think you are right. It was written as: "I feel uncomfortable about X."

Yet I somehow perceived it completely differently. I wonder why exactly. Probably because it was long and not going to the point (which made the real point less obvious) and contained a lot of keywords typical for a specific tribe (so I assumed it was speaking in the name of the tribe).

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 08 January 2014 02:54:43AM 14 points [-]

Also because members of that tribe frequently argue that making them uncomfortable should be a punishable offense.

Comment author: jsalvatier 06 January 2014 11:34:17PM 4 points [-]

" moderate revulsion" is a reaction I've seen from people who I would like to be party of the community and I thought had a reasonable chance of being interested.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 06 January 2014 03:49:13PM *  31 points [-]

People with strong political identities usually have their maps systematically distorted.

Oh, certainly. Feminism points out, though, that the social mainstream is also a strong political identity which systematically distorts people's maps. They use somewhat unfortunate historical words for this effect, like "patriarchy". That's just a label on their maps, though; calling a stream a creek doesn't change the water.

So combining this with your guideline, we should be careful not to invite anyone who has a strong political identity ... but we cannot do that, because "ordinary guy" (and "normal woman") is a strong political identity too. It's just a strong political identity one of whose tenets is that it is not a strong political identity.

We don't have the freedom to set out with an undistorted map, nor of having a perfect guide as to whose maps are more distorted. Being wrong doesn't feel like being wrong. A false belief doesn't feel like a false belief. If you start with ignorance priors and have a different life, you do not end up with the same posteriors. And as a consequence, meeting someone who has different data from you can feel like meeting someone who is just plain wrong about a lot of things!


Also ... I wonder what a person whose maps of the social world were really "no better than random" would look like. I think he or she would be vastly more unfortunate than a paranoid schizophrenic. He or she would certainly be grossly unable to function in society, lacking any ability to model or predict other people. As a result, he or she would probably have no friends, job, or political allies. Lacking the ability to work with other people at all, he or she would certainly not look like a member of any political movement.

As such, I have to consider that when applied to someone who clearly does not have these attributes, that expression is being used as merely a crude insult, akin to calling someone a "drooling moron" or "mental incompetent" because they disagree with you.

Comment author: jaibot 06 January 2014 04:30:27PM 25 points [-]

tldr: Having strong political opinions feels like common sense from the inside.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 06 January 2014 05:47:15PM *  19 points [-]

Even if everyone's map is distorted, I think there is an important difference whether people try to update, or don't even try. Which is part of what this website is about.

In other words, I would be okay with an X-ist who says they could be convinced against X-ism by evidence, even if they obviously consider such evidence very unlikely.

(And I obviously wouldn't be okay with people suggesting that presenting an evidence against X-ism should be punished.)

Comment author: [deleted] 07 January 2014 12:58:52AM *  17 points [-]

Right. Refusing beforehand to consider certain types of argument/conclusion without looking at their merits, and having freely-acknowledged yet apparently-not-seen-as-a-problem-and-even-actively-justified emotional reactions to those arguments that trigger that refusal[1], seem like exactly the sort of things this site -- or any community dedicated to generating quality thought -- would want to discourage as much as possible. And when the justification is given in the language of a thede/tribe/political movement/identity that is opposed to the types of argument/conclusion being rejected... well, creating/promoting/incentivizing those emotional reactions is very useful to the movement, but not at all conducive to generating quality thought.

(The fun part about all of this is that it looks like it leads straight to a version of Marcuse's paradox (tolerance requires intolerance of intolerance): you have to refuse to update toward refusing to update.)

[1] I've been calling this sort of thing a memetic immune reaction, extending the memes-as-viruses metaphor. The justification for it isn't always present, and the emotional trigger to the refusal isn't always acknowledged, so that blog post is really an excellent case study. (edit: whoops, asterisks are bullet points, can't footnote that way)

Comment author: hyporational 09 January 2014 07:31:12AM *  8 points [-]

Feminism points out, though, that the social mainstream is also a strong political identity which systematically distorts people's maps.

This sounds awfully like "if you're not with me, you're my enemy." Any advice how to untangle myself from this web that seems inescapable? I already don't vote or read the news from any particular source, nor do I actively try to change political opinions.

People with agendas seem to want to make everything about politics and me as their pawn as a consequence. When they try to take my passiveness IRL as a sign of opposition to their political agenda, I usually proceed to explain how much more of a political enemy I could be just to demonstrate my point if I cared to.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 January 2014 11:12:49AM 2 points [-]

but we cannot do that, because "ordinary guy" (and "normal woman") is a strong political identity too.

If everyone has a strong political identity, then the phrase “strong political identity” is meaningless.

Also ... I wonder what a person whose maps of the social world were really "no better than random" would look like.

Exactly. Reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

Comment author: ChristianKl 06 January 2014 04:53:43PM 7 points [-]

This is a bit of a tangential ramble on why diversity might be kind of a good idea.

Taboo "diversity". Specifically are you saying that having norms that prevent certain views from being expressed increases diversity by making the community more welcoming for members of minorities or are you saying that preventing certain views from being expressed decreases diversity.

Comment author: David_Gerard 06 January 2014 12:35:33PM *  13 points [-]

A Bayesian agent who goes through an upbringing as a boy and one who goes through an upbringing as a girl will probably not possess identical beliefs about society, the world, humanity, and so on. This is not because one has been held back or misled, nor because one is less rational than the other ... but because two different partial explorations of the same territory do not yield the same map.

The apparent inconceivability (in this thread) of the notion that someone might disagree on a deep level with local memes without being insane is quite amazing. Typical mind fallacy, the lack of realisation that there exist unknown unknowns.

This matters if we care about possessing accurate maps; and it also matters a great deal if what we are trying to map includes things like "the good of humanity" or "coherent extrapolated volition of humankind" or things like that.

Yes. This thread reads like LW is aimed at realising the CEV of well-off programmers in the Bay Area. If you're serious about working for all of humanity, it may conceivably be useful to seriously listen to some who don't already agree with you.

Comment author: ChristianKl 06 January 2014 05:12:43PM 14 points [-]

The apparent inconceivability (in this thread) of the notion that someone might disagree on a deep level with local memes without being insane is quite amazing. [...] If you're serious about working for all of humanity, it may conceivably be useful to seriously listen to some who don't already agree with you.

I don't think that's the case. If people would find that notion inconceivability I doubt that the thread would be upvoted to 19 at the point of this writing.

I would also point out that the kind of ideology that expressed in the linked post comes from the Bay Area. As far as core differences in ideologies goes pitting one Bay Area ideology against another Bay Area ideology isn't real diversity of opinion.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 06 January 2014 01:15:12PM 8 points [-]

The apparent inconceivability (in this thread) of the notion that someone might disagree on a deep level with local memes without being insane is quite amazing. Typical mind fallacy, the lack of realisation that there exist unknown unknowns.

I considered posting a third-hand account in the rationality quotes of a blind couple who, in a public park and not hearing anyone else nearby, decided to have sex. They told the judge they did not know that anyone could see them; maybe they didn't, what with plausibly having no idea what vision is capable of.

It felt too lengthy, and it wasn't originally intended as a parable, so I decided against posting it. I think it more easily explains itself in this context, though.

Comment author: JTHM 07 January 2014 06:41:16PM *  8 points [-]

Your argument is cogent, and yet I find the overwhelming majority of calls for diversity to be somehow underhanded. I suspect that your true motives are invisible to you. Consider this: is your motivation for valuing diversity really a product of your philosopher's thirst for pure, pristine knowledge, or do you just want every social group you see as important to be loaded with demographics which support your political faction? (Think carefully--the truth might not be obvious from casual introspection; we are masters at self-delusion when politics is at play.)

I say this because I cannot help but notice that the cry of "Diversity!" is invoked exclusively by those who are trying to import to a group those demographics which tend to offer political support to the left. What's more, the frequency which with this cry is invoked correlates positively with the degree to which that demographic supports the left. Consider the following data from the 2012 presidential election:

Whites voted 39% for Obama, and 59% for Romney. Blacks voted 93% for Obama, and 6% for Romney. Hispanics voted 71% for Obama, and 27% for Romney. Asians voted 73% for Obama, and 26% for Romney.

Source

When I encounter someone singing the praises of diversity, I more often find that they are lobbying for Blacks than Hispanics, rarely for Asians, and never for Whites. Blacks offer overwhelming support to the left, Hispanics are more lukewarm, Asians' support proportionally resembles that of Hispanics' (but they are a smaller group overall so it is less important for the left to signal respect for their faction), and Whites support the right. Coincidence? Unlikely.

Now consider gender (same source as above):

Men voted 45% for Obama, 52% for Romney. Women voted 55% for Obama, 44% for Romney.

Again, women support the left and men do not. Again, the cry of "Diversity!" is invoked for those trying to add women to a group, and rarely for men. I seem to encounter such arguments invoked as often for women as I do for racial minorities. While women do not favor the left as heavily as Hispanics or Blacks do, they are a larger group than all racial minorities combined, and so it is highly important for the left to signal respect for this demographic, and to ensure that they occupy positions of prestige and influence.

The overwhelming majority of people shouting, "Diversity!" are not motivated by epistemology at all. They are subconsciously (sometimes even consciously) making a power grab. That is all. You can tell by who, exactly, they are trying to include and in what they are trying to include them. For one, they are always lobbying for a demographic on the grounds that said demographic will bring additional knowledge to a discussion, but not for someone from a specific field of expertise which would be relevant to said discussion. There is likely to be more intellectual diversity between an exclusively middle class white male group comprising a physicist, a lawyer, a mathematician, a programmer, a chemist, a politician, an economist, and a businessman than there is between a demographically diverse group of eight people randomly selected from the general population. And you regularly see the pro-diversity crowd lobbying for their favored demographics to occupy positions in which being demographically distinct cannot possibly be an advantage, such as in the hard sciences. I find the champions of diversity disingenuous in the extreme.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 08 January 2014 10:03:09AM *  11 points [-]

the cry of "Diversity!" is invoked exclusively by those who are trying to import to a group those demographics which tend to offer political support to the left.

I wouldn't mind "importing a demographics which tends to support X" assuming that we continue using the existing filters on content, and require rational comments and avoiding mindkilling politics. The difference between 55% and 44% seems unimportant, because we don't use majority voting in LW anyway. It's not like a 5% advantage would make someone win or lose an election. Unless we really lose our basic community values, it wouldn't even mean that the minority group would automatically get negative karma for every comment.

I am more concerned about "importing a subset of a demographics, selected by its support for X". As a strawman example, by suggesting that we need more Obama-voting women, but we actually don't care about Romney-voting women. As a more realistic example, by trying to optimize LW for women from the feminist / social justice warrior cluster, instead of for women in general. (Because, you know, there are also women who prefer free speech, and some changes would make LW even less attractive for them.)

Therefore I think new demographics should be invited here, but in a way that does not signal preference for a political group X. Specifically, we should invite women, not feminists. (If some of those women who come happen to be feminists, that's perfectly okay. As long as they are equally invited if they are libertarian, conservative, neoreactionary, or whatever.) If we want to invite the demographics, let's really invite a demographics, instead of making a power grab for a political group X in the name of inviting the demographics.

Comment author: ChristianKl 06 January 2014 01:16:31AM 26 points [-]

There a certain argument that I will call the glorification of self interest.

It goes like this: People who are subject to personal threats of their livelihood, tend to think about those threats and focus their mental energies on fighting those threats whenever possible. Because those people are indeed facing threats, they are they good guys which have to be defended. Anybody who isn't centrally concerned with threats against them, is privileged and should be ashamed for being privileged.

The only way to act utilitarian and care substantially about people in some far off country is because one doesn't have personal threats against oneself that need attention.

I don't think that's true. During the last US presidential election there were people who argued that Glenn Greenwald can afford to oppose Obama because of personal liberty issues and being a warmonger because Glenn Greenwald isn't subject of a minority for whom it's very important that Obama and not some Republican heads the White House.

At that point Glenn Greenwald lived in exile in Brazil because his homosexual partner couldn't legally live in the US. As far as being discriminated against being forced to live in exile seems to be something serious. That still didn't prevent social justice warriors from saying that Glenn opposed Obama because of his privilege as a middle class white American man.

But they're racists who continually obsess over optimizing their philanthropic contributions to African charities. So, maybe not racists in a dangerous way?

If you are an African American and get support from some sort of charity, then you are in danger if somebody comes and says that you shouldn't get that support because it's higher utility to spend that money on a charity that actually operates in Africa.

If you do the utility calculation you will stop supporting many of the programs that social justice warrorism favors.

I once had a conflict in an online community about whether an African is allowed to say in that community: "Just because some countries legalized homosexuality doesn't mean that it isn't still a crime." The person lived in a country in which it was a crime. We had a split that those who were white heterosexual males favored allowing the African his free expression and a US upper-middle-class woman and homosexual male wanted to censor that person.

The kind of safety belts that US social warriors want are policies that keep the majority of the world from participating.

If you are a member of an US minority group than of course you have to fear someone who makes clear utility calculations and comes to the conclusion that resources are better directed at helping poor Africans than members of US minority groups because in contrast the fate of the poor African is simply worse.

That doesn't mean that members of US minority groups don't suffer to some extend. but showing that you suffer just isn't enough. If you however suffer and don't want to make clear utility calculations because you don't want to weaken your tribe, then you will find it hard to fit into this community.

I don't think the claim that the only way to do those clear utility calculations is to have no self interest and thus have privilege. I think that unfair to those people in minorities.

Comment author: ThrustVectoring 06 January 2014 02:33:46AM 42 points [-]

Feminism in particular has a bad history of leaning on a community to make changes - to the point where the target becomes a feminist institution that no longer functions in its original capacity. I may be overreacting, but I don't even want to hear or discuss anything from that direction. It's textbook derailing. "But what you're doing is anti-woman" has been played out by feminists, over and over again, to get their demands met from community after community. From Atheism+ to Occupy Wall Street, the result is never pretty.

And honestly, attacking open discourse as anti-woman and anti-minority is very, uhh, squicky. I don't have a better way of putting my thoughts down on the matter - it's just very, very concerning to me. It feels like a Stalinist complaining that we aren't putting enough bullets in the heads of dissenters - except it's a feminist complaining that we aren't torpedoing the reputation of enough people who express "anti-woman" ideas. Just... ew. No. It doesn't help that this idea is getting obfuscated with layers and layers of complicated English and parenthetical thoughts breaking up the sentence structure.

Some choice quotes:

I thus require adherence to these ideas or at least a lack of explicit challenges to them on the part of anyone speaking to me before I can entertain their arguments in good faith.

Big warning flag right here. It's threatening to ignore, ostracize, or attack those who disagree with their sacred cows. That's an unconscionably bad habit to allow oneself.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 06 January 2014 03:05:42AM 8 points [-]

Are Atheism+ and Occupy Wall Street examples "where the target becomes a feminist institution that no longer functions in its original capacity"? Could you spell out what you mean or point to discussion of their changes?

Comment author: ThrustVectoring 06 January 2014 03:40:10AM *  26 points [-]

The Occupy Wall Street example in particular was talking about their use of what they call "the Progressive Stack" to organize meetings. The general idea was this - people want to speak up, but not everyone can talk at the same time, so we need some sort of system for choosing who gets to speak when. First in first out isn't fair enough when you factor in things like minorities or women feeling more inhibited about speaking, so let's let them jump the queue and speak before people who are white and/or male.

It's an idea that sounds just fair enough to be considered, and has the benefit of both having passionate supporters on the left and of having an obvious path to paint opponents as sexist racists that want to silence women and minorities. The left won on this point at the cost of driving off much of their popular support, and the movement has been marginalized since.

The above is my understanding of what happened with this, synthesized over a fair amount of reading and research. It may well be wrong, and the situation may well be more complicated than I described. As far as I understand it, though, it's the major mistake that the movement made - it let itself be co-opted into caring about social justice at the cost of their other goals.

As far as Atheism+ goes, it's an organized group spearheaded by people like Rebecca Watson who are outraged -- outraged -- at the behavior of atheists being insufficiently pro-woman and pro-social justice. Rebecca Watson in particular has a laser-like focus on sexism within the atheist and skeptic community, at the expense of the larger groups' nominal goals. She's responsible for the whole "elevatorgate" debacle, and responded to Richard Dawkins' claim that she was overreacting by going after Dawkins personally with this piece of loveliness. It says it's not a call for a boycott, but it's a call for a boycott ("Nope, I didn’t call for a boycott. I’m relaying the fact that I have no interest in giving this person any more of my money or attention." I read that as "I want to hurt Dawkins personally but realize that I don't have the social capital to carry off leading a boycott, so I'm going to encourage people to boycott Dawkins while saying that I'm not doing so)

I actually haven't done all that much analysis of Atheism+. I pretty much have discarded it as a group of people who have been successfully derailed by people like Rebecca Watson talking about sexism constantly within the atheist and skeptical community, and want to do the same. Just look at the first sentence of their FAQ

Atheism Plus is a term used to designate spaces, persons, and groups dedicated to promoting social justice and countering misogyny, racism, homo/bi/transphobia, ableism and other such bigotry inside and outside of the atheist community.

They are essentially policing the atheist community for compliance with social justice ideas. Their own website is saying the same things I am about them with different wording and connotations.

Comment author: bogus 06 January 2014 03:50:39AM *  18 points [-]

[Occupy Wall Street] let itself be co-opted into caring about social justice at the cost of their other goals.

When discussing OWS and similar political movements, the term "social justice" gets quite ambiguous. OWS has always been about social justice, by any reasonable meaning of the term. To be clear, you obviously mean identity politics, the notion that self-styled "minority" groups are more equal than everyone else.

Comment author: ThrustVectoring 06 January 2014 03:54:34AM 9 points [-]

Yeah, I'm talking about the more narrow definition that gets made fun of in /r/tumblrinaction. As opposed to what I think of as "economic justice", which involves things like banking reform, fairness in income distribution, taking care of the poor and homeless, etc.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 January 2014 07:28:14AM *  4 points [-]

The above is my understanding of what happened with this, synthesized over a fair amount of reading and research. It may well be wrong, and the situation may well be more complicated than I described.

I would be very interested in any references or notes on this you might be willing to share! Also on the history of any other such movements, because it seems very much directly relevant to the research I'm doing for my blog.

Comment author: V_V 06 January 2014 06:42:28PM *  18 points [-]

As far as Atheism+ goes, it's an organized group spearheaded by people like Rebecca Watson who are outraged -- outraged -- at the behavior of atheists being insufficiently pro-woman and pro-social justice. Rebecca Watson in particular has a laser-like focus on sexism within the atheist and skeptic community, at the expense of the larger groups' nominal goals. She's responsible for the whole "elevatorgate" debacle, and responded to Richard Dawkins' claim that she was overreacting by going after Dawkins personally with this piece of loveliness.

It got worse.

Jen McCreight and PZ Myers have been circulating unverifiable accusations of rape, allegedly relied from anonymous sources, against big-name activists in the Skeptics movement, including Lawrence Krauss and Michael Shermer, who didn't happen to have jumped on the Atheism+ bandwagon.

Link

Comment author: ChrisHallquist 06 January 2014 07:44:40AM 5 points [-]

I've nothing to say about OWS, but as an ex-member of Freethought Blogs and I've written a bit about the problems with that clique, for example here. (PZ Myers is the most popular blogger on the FTB network, and not all bloggers do the kind of shit he does but quite a few do.)

Comment author: bogus 06 January 2014 02:48:01AM 22 points [-]

This is harsh, but I think it's basically right. A useful rule of thumb: any time you see the words "safe space" used in the context of deliberation or political discussion (as opposed to, y'know, providing actual, safe, spaces to people threatened with actual bodily harm) you can substitute "echo chamber" and see whether their argument still makes sense. Yes, sometimes echo chambers generate worthwhile political arguments, but that's kind of the exception, not the rule. And these arguments still need to be evaluated openly, if only because this is the only way of acquiring durable credibility in a political or deliberative context.

Comment author: Manfred 06 January 2014 06:09:04AM *  6 points [-]

I agree about political discussion. But LessWrong isn't about political discussion. Far more important to a typical LessWronger would be something like community building, which correct me if I'm wrong but that's pretty much a textbook example of what "safe space" is good for. This criticism was not directed at us per se, but we can extract useful information from it.

Comment author: Randy_M 06 January 2014 03:29:20PM 5 points [-]

It is about honest discussion of issues with political implications, I believe, without unnecessarily belaboring those implications.

Comment author: bogus 06 January 2014 06:35:28AM *  11 points [-]

But LessWrong isn't about political discussion ...

Fair point. It is about deliberation, though. And make no mistake, these folks use "safe space" in the political/echo-chamber sense all the time. To me, this makes their overall argument extremely problematic - they're showing no appreciation at all for the benefits of open discussion.

Also, yes, real-world communities, meetups etc. are quite different and some important concerns do come into play. But LW folks have been quite aware of this, and we've seen plenty of useful discussion about related issues, with very little controversy.

Comment author: Manfred 06 January 2014 06:28:12AM *  25 points [-]

I may be overreacting, but I don't even want to hear or discuss anything from that direction.

[later]

It's threatening to ignore, ostracize, or attack those who disagree with their sacred cows. That's an unconscionably bad habit to allow oneself.

throws hand in air

You'd think if we were such hot stuff at dispassionately debating things, we could handle outgroup criticism like this without either ignoring opposing views or devolving into tribal politics. But as Tarski would say, "if we can't, I want to believe we can't," and I admit I'd rather not discuss this sort of thing than always discuss this sort of thing.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 January 2014 03:05:38AM 18 points [-]

To maximize open discourse, you have to close down discourse against open discourse.

It's just Marcuse's paradox (which I'm pretty sure I'm coining here): to maximize tolerance, you have to be intolerant toward intolerance. Or in the legal arena: "the Constitution is not a suicide pact."

There are two arguments in that post: "certain elements within the rationality thing signal more than is necessary", the correction of which would aid the goal of generating high-quality open discourse, and "certain conclusions should not even be considered, certain arguments should not be made, no matter their strength, because certain people have memetic immune reactions to them that drive them away from participating at all", the correction of which would mean an end to open discourse. Given that ThrustVectoring (presumably) values open discourse, the response of "I don't even want to discuss anything from that direction" is exactly correct.

That doesn't mean that it can't be discussed, of course; it just means that a community that values open discourse can't discuss it. If apophemi wants there to be a community based around limited rationality -- that is, rationality-minus-discourse-about-certain-things -- well, one can always be started. Secession is always an option, and online, you don't even have to figure out how to build a seastead to secede.

Comment author: CronoDAS 08 January 2014 04:41:09AM 7 points [-]

"the Constitution is not a suicide pact."

Humorous, off-topic response: But the Declaration of Independence is!

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Comment author: CellBioGuy 06 January 2014 02:19:47AM *  11 points [-]

Any community that claims to be based on 'rationality' runs an extremely high risk of inappropriately automatically labeling opposing arguments to their in-group assessment as irrational and dismissing them as irrelevant. They themselves are inevitably irrational and will make the mistake.

Comment author: passive_fist 06 January 2014 10:56:03PM *  7 points [-]

All of us have biases; that's something that's part of how the human brain works and simply cannot be avoided. The approach taken on LessWrong is not to purge oneself of biases, but to identify these biases and then consciously attempt to work around them in some way. It is implicit in this mindset that one will always have biases whose existence may not even be known. As long as everyone agrees with this, I don't think the community would devolve to that level.

The person who wrote this article has taken the first step - she's admitted to having a lot of biases that prevent her from accepting arguments that oppose her viewpoints. I'd like to see her take the next.

Comment author: ESRogs 06 January 2014 07:24:34PM 5 points [-]

I'm not sure I understand your comment, is the "they themselves" referring to people in the 'rational' community or outside it?

Comment author: ThrustVectoring 06 January 2014 02:38:58AM 14 points [-]

Furthermore, in-groups want to co-opt any 'rationality' movement as their own, so that they have more soldiers to attack opposing viewpoints -- to wit, labeling it as disagreement with the 'rational' point of view. See rationalwiki for a horrific example of this.

Comment author: ChrisHallquist 06 January 2014 04:16:15AM 14 points [-]

Most of the problems described in this post seem to be things that are not really practical to do anything about, but this caught my eye:

tl;dr: If you just typed in all honesty “I like eugenics”, even if I enjoy your posts about economics, congratulations, you freak me out and I really, really don’t know why I’m still reading your blog.

Really we need to stop using the word "eugenics." In the real world it really isn't smart to keep insisting on the "official" definition of a word decades after it acquired negative connotations for actually pretty good reasons.

Comment author: Manfred 06 January 2014 06:31:52AM 22 points [-]

My desire to hang onto familiar words reminds me of a joke.

"I'm a great communicator, people just keep misunderstanding me."

Comment author: drethelin 06 January 2014 04:32:32AM 7 points [-]

yeah I had this exact problem happen over twitter. "I like eugenics" "You're a monster!" "What? It's not like I advocate genocide to achieve it!" "Eugenics means advocating genocide!"

Comment author: Jack 06 January 2014 10:17:08AM 18 points [-]

The problem isn't the word. If you describe a policy that meets the official definition, but don't use the word people still hate the thing you're talking about and know it is called eugenics.

People actually call things that are less controversial than actual eugenics, "eugenics". E.g. Project Prevention.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 January 2014 09:47:23PM 9 points [-]

It's certainly not smart in public, when you're trying to get things done; but if you're trying to maintain quality, wouldn't it be a net positive to drive off people prone to The Worst Argument In The World?

Comment author: CharlieSheen 13 January 2014 07:36:48AM 8 points [-]

You know the problem with not outright saying that what you are advocating is actually eugenics is that eventually someone else will do it for you.

Comment author: BarbaraB 06 January 2014 10:41:12AM *  6 points [-]

What word would You suggest instead of eugenics ?

(Btw, I find it hilarious, having the discussion about inventing newspeak at LW, of all forums !)

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 07 January 2014 10:30:53AM 12 points [-]

Affirmative Genetic Action; Fighting Against Genetic Unequality; Genetic Justice; No Mutant Child Left Behind...

Comment author: ThrustVectoring 07 January 2014 11:03:40PM 6 points [-]

I'd like to borrow from David Brin and call it "Uplift".

Comment author: [deleted] 06 January 2014 10:23:34AM 2 points [-]

(It's funny how the instance of ‘eugenics’ after which that happened was actually dysgenic BTW.)

Comment author: gjm 06 January 2014 01:58:28PM 12 points [-]

Even better (or worse) than that. It was dysgenic for the German population. It was probably eugenic for the Jewish population. So what the Nazis managed to do was to help make the Jews racially superior to the Germans.

In other words, they managed to massacre 6 million people in order to achieve the exact reverse of what they said they wanted to do.

For the avoidance of doubt: (1) I think what they did was a horrible terrible thing, (2) although it was probably eugenic for the Jewish population it was dyseverythingelse for them, and in particular (3) I am certainly not suggesting, e.g., that Jewish people should be glad it happened or anything similarly monstrous. Also (4) of course neither "the Jews" nor "the Germans" is a particularly well-defined group biologically and I am not suggesting otherwise, and (5) I am not claiming that this sort of "racial superiority" is something anyone should be aiming at. Oh, and (6) I am also not suggesting that the worst thing about what they did is that it didn't achieve their goals. It would have been just as awful if it had.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 06 January 2014 02:42:33PM 7 points [-]

I'm not sure my premises are correct, but this might be an example of LW's excessive emphasis on genes. I think you're saying that smarter Jews were more likely to survive the Holocaust. This might be true for German Jews (a lot of warning, a lot of people with resources to move-- and still, only 25% got out), but not so true about Polish Jews, where it happened very fast-- and that's where a very high proportion of the Holocaust happened.

Also, a major focus at LW is on extraordinarily smart people. Even if Ashkenazi Jews went from an average IQ of 115 to 117, where are the great mathematicians and physicists? I tentatively suggest that there was something special about Jewish culture (or possibly Jewish culture + surrounding Gentile culture when the latter was benign) in Germany, Austria, and possibly Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and it's gone.

Comment author: gjm 06 January 2014 07:45:55PM 10 points [-]

excessive emphasis on genes.

When looking at the question of whether something intended as a eugenic program was in fact eugenic or dysgenic, an emphasis on genes seems highly appropriate, no? (I agree that the eugenic or dysgenic effect isn't the only or the most important thing we should care about -- the six million people murdered would seem like one other thing, for instance -- and I already said that as clearly as I could.)

I think you're saying that smarter Jews were more likely to survive the Holocaust.

Yes, I'm suggesting that probably smarter Jews were more likely to get out early and more likely to find ways to survive. (Of course plenty of smart ones died and plenty of not-so-smart ones lived too.) If so, then the Holocaust will have had a (probably rather small) eugenic effect on the Jewish population.

where are the great mathematicians and physicists?

26% of all Nobel prizewinning physicists to date, and 29% of all Fields medallists to date, are at least half-Jewish by ancestry, according to jinfo.org. I haven't checked their figures.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 January 2014 07:44:06AM 7 points [-]

Jewish culture (or possibly Jewish culture + surrounding Gentile culture when the latter was benign) in Germany, Austria, and possibly Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and it's gone.

I agree this is likely the case, but I think those where likely doomed at the end of WW1 not WW2, as I credit the Austro-Hungarian and German Empires as their incubators. We are unlikely to see the Kaisers return. It is most unfortunate because the intellectual beacon that was Vienna and groups like the Martians won't ever be seen again.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 13 January 2014 03:19:39PM 3 points [-]

Can you expand on what was special about the culture? I just had the cultural explanation as a hypothesis, but I don't have details.

Comment author: pianoforte611 06 January 2014 03:06:00PM 3 points [-]

I don't know much about the Holocaust, however, due to the shape of a Bell Curve, very small changes in the average result in large changes at the tail ends.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 06 January 2014 03:24:57PM 3 points [-]

I think that depends on the cause of the change.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 06 January 2014 01:54:26AM *  21 points [-]

Many LWers are willing to entertain ideas about the existence and possible importance of average group differences in psychological traits. So, maybe LWers are racists. But they're racists who continually obsess over optimizing their philanthropic contributions to African charities.

There are individuals who comment on LW and who are avowed racists.

There are individuals who comment on LW and who obsess over optimizing their philanthropic contributions to African charities.

I'm not sure these are the same individuals.

Just because there are infinitely many even numbers, and infinitely many primes, does not mean there are infinitely many even primes. Just because the most common given name in the world is Muhammad, and the most common surname is Wang, does not mean that the typical human being is named Muhammad Wang. Just because Brooklyn has a notably unusual number of wild parrots for a northerly place, and a notably unusual number of Hasidim, does not mean that there are any Hasidic parrots in Brooklyn.

Comment author: ESRogs 06 January 2014 08:00:20PM *  22 points [-]

In the section you quoted, 'racist' seemed to include anyone who entertains ideas about the existence of average group differences in psychological traits. By that criterion I'd bet there are many LWers who fall into the intersection of those categories. I am certainly one of them.

Comment author: Apprentice 06 January 2014 09:49:39AM 10 points [-]

Fair enough, I may have been overgeneralizing from my own experience. I read HBD blogs and effective altruism blogs and I have a monthly donation to GiveWell which I aim to increase as my income rises. I'm surely not the only person for whom this is true but maybe there aren't that many of us.

Comment author: gothgirl420666 06 January 2014 03:09:07AM 9 points [-]

Would it actually be intellectually inconsistent if someone was both racist and donated heavily to African charities? Honest question.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 06 January 2014 05:39:30AM 38 points [-]

"there are differences that are demarcated by ethnicity" and "it sucks when people suffer" seem orthogonal to me.

Comment author: Apprentice 06 January 2014 02:22:14PM 24 points [-]

Let me have a go at this.

Fellow effective altruists! It is your moral duty to familiarize yourselves with biological realities, many of which are relevant to deciding the morally optimal course of action. For example, "findings from twin studies yield heritability estimates of 0.50 for prosocial behaviours like empathy, cooperativeness and altruism". (source) Please take this into account when deciding whether to have children.

Fellow HBDers! It is your moral duty to take up the white man's burden and donate to GiveWell today. If giving money directly to poor people in Kenya doesn't seem paternalistic enough then go for the deworming options.

Have I successfully alienated everyone yet?

Comment author: Moss_Piglet 06 January 2014 06:10:37PM 17 points [-]

Actually, that was pretty good; pithy and introduces actual object-level issues to debate rather than abstract ideological concerns.

Please take this into account when deciding whether to have children.

This is pretty important actually; you see a lot of EA talk around here which basically assumes children are fungible ("If I don't have any kids, but spend the money to save n African kids then I'm in the clear!") without taking into account that those n kids will likely need > 2n kids-worth of aid themselves in a few decades and you've squandered the human capital which would otherwise be able to support them.

If effective altruists can justify having a well paying full-time job for charity, why not raising morally-upright intelligent kids to be successful as well? It's a lot tougher to do emotionally and financially, but comparing one-time payouts to investments with reliable returns seems like a no-brainer.

Fellow HBDers! It is your moral duty to take up the white man's burden and donate to GiveWell today. If giving money directly to poor people in Kenya doesn't seem paternalistic enough then go for the deworming options.

You'd probably do better with a hook about condom distribution / vaccination; they're still very cheap ways to save a lot of lives, but also avoid compounding the population issues there by slightly reducing overall fertility. It doesn't make sense to "help" in a way which creates even more people in need of help further down the line unless you're actively aiming to enforce dependency.

Direct monetary handouts are a bad idea even ignoring time preference issues, simply because even relatively well-governed African countries like Kenya are institutionally corrupt to a degree it is difficult to picture without going there. A friend of mine just got back from an anthropological study in East Africa and it's really hard to believe. Giving aid in GM seed grains (thinking more Borlaug than Monsanto here) mosquito nets or condoms makes a lot more sense than sending cash electronics or herd animals (yup, an actual thing).

Comment author: Apprentice 06 January 2014 07:39:38PM 5 points [-]

We probably agree on a lot but I'd encourage you to check out GiveWell's report on GiveDirectly. If there are particular fertility-affecting charities you'd like to recommend I'm happy to listen.

Comment author: drethelin 06 January 2014 05:00:02AM 27 points [-]

Of course! Racism is evil and charity is good! If you try to mix them you get an explosion.

Comment author: shokwave 06 January 2014 06:30:47AM 9 points [-]

Not necessarily, and in the case of "avowed racists of Less Wrong" almost certainly not. The "biological realism" concept is that there are genetic and physiological differences split so sharply along racial lines ("carves reality at its joints") that it is correct to say that all races are not born equal. Proponents of this concept would claim it is obviously true, and they would also be called racists. These people could donate heavily to African charities out of sympathy for what is, in their eyes, the "bad luck" to be born a certain race, and it would be consistent.

(I believe that biological realism is the main form of racism amongst LW posters, but I have nothing to back this assertion up except that I recall seeing it discussed)

Comment author: buybuydandavis 07 January 2014 07:51:34AM 8 points [-]

but of sympathy for what is, in their eyes, the "bad luck" to be born a certain race

Or more to the point, sympathy for people with greater challenges than others, and finding that African charities, by targeting Africans, are more likely to target people with those challenges.

Comment author: bramflakes 06 January 2014 03:16:25AM 6 points [-]

Depends on the type of racist.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 06 January 2014 08:51:04AM 11 points [-]

No. A person may donate heavily to cure rare diseases in cute puppies without believing that puppies should have the vote.

It wasn't my point that the racists and the donors are non-overlapping, though — rather that they are not necessarily overlapping, and that the overlap — if it exists — should not be taken as defining the whole population. (Which is what the "But they're racists who ..." statement does.)

There are probably people named Muhammad Wang, after all; just not very many of them.

(I don't think there are any Hasidic parrots, though.)

Comment author: bramflakes 06 January 2014 02:10:26AM *  22 points [-]

The homepage says:

Less Wrong is an online community for people who want to apply the discovery of biases like the conjunction fallacy, the affect heuristic, and scope insensitivity in order to fix their own thinking.

Less Wrong users aim to develop accurate predictive models of the world, and change their mind when they find evidence disconfirming those models, instead of being able to explain anything.

So this person acknowledges their own biases, notes that some otherwise perfectly reasonable and in their opinion "Rational" people believe in HBD, and then (as far as I can tell) doesn't make any effort to investigate whether they might actually be true?

This is what motivated cognition looks like. If someone cannot change their mind because (sorry for the bluntness but there's no other way I can describe my impression in under a paragraph) their feelings might be hurt, and they are actively working against resolving this inner conflict, then they should not be in a rationalist community.

Comment author: benkuhn 06 January 2014 02:41:49AM *  17 points [-]

Really? Do you really think everyone who comes off as irrational based on a blog post of theirs that you read shouldn't be here? (There would be nobody left for you to talk to!) Or are you annoyed at this particular person because they said mean things about a group that contains you?

"This is what motivated cognition looks like. If someone cannot take criticism of their in-group without launching an ad-hominem attack on the critic, then they should not be in a rationalist community."

That sword cuts both ways.

Comment author: bramflakes 06 January 2014 02:56:41AM *  17 points [-]

Okay disclaimer - reading it did make me feel a little annoyed. Partly due to their writing style, partly due to me identifying with the specific subgroup of LW they're talking about, and partly on principle.

Really? Do you really think everyone who comes off as irrational based on a blog post of theirs that you read shouldn't be here?

No but when it's so clear-cut as in this case, yes.

If someone point-blank does not want to talk at the object-level about some controversial topic, and makes many veiled comments about what kind of nasty group I must belong to in order to entertain such beliefs, and has made it very clear they are happy to withdraw from the entire community surrounding it, what exactly am I supposed to do other than say "here's the door, have a nice day"?

Comment author: komponisto 07 January 2014 06:00:19AM 19 points [-]

what exactly am I supposed to do other than say "here's the door, have a nice day"?

Like you, I think that the linked blogger's position, as stated, is completely incompatible with the purpose of this community, but I think the point being made by some here is that steelmanning their criticisms, on the off-chance that their reaction might have been triggered by something legitimately criticism-worthy, is an option.

Comment author: bramflakes 07 January 2014 03:21:01PM 8 points [-]

Note to self: start steelmanning more.

Comment author: bogus 06 January 2014 03:02:14AM 10 points [-]

Really? Do you really think everyone who comes off as irrational based on a blog post of theirs that you read shouldn't be here?

There's irrationality and then there's faith-based epistemic insanity. This person actually states that he cannot accept any perceived challenge to their preferred theories. Seriously, read the blogpost. He/she is as rational as the most extreme Christian fundamentalist. Do you really think such folks could ever be productive contributors to this site?

Comment author: ThrustVectoring 06 January 2014 03:07:06AM 9 points [-]

Do you really think such folks could ever be productive contributors to this site?

They can be, but it's not worth trying to seek them out. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't lukeprog have pretty serious Christian beliefs at one point?

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 06 January 2014 08:15:42PM 6 points [-]

he cannot accept any perceived challenge to their preferred theories

I find your mismatched pronouns painful.

Comment author: Vulture 06 January 2014 07:05:27PM *  11 points [-]

rewarding the “ability” to entertain any argument “no matter how ‘politically incorrect’” (to break out of some jargon, “no matter how likely to hurt people”) results in a system that prizes people who have not been socially marginalized or who have been socially marginalized less than a given other person in the discussion

To paraphrase: Our community is exclusionary in the sense that its standards for what constitutes an information hazard (and thus a Forbidden Topic) are as stingy as possible, which means that it can't be guaranteed safe for people more vulnerable to psychological damage by ideas than the typical LessWrong crowd.

It's possible that this problem could be resolved with a more comprehensive "trigger warning" tagging system and a filtering system akin to tumblr savior. Then there could be a user preference with a list of checkboxes, e.g.

Hide comments and posts about

[ ] Race

[x] Gender

[ ] Sexual Violence

etc.

This could also double as protection for people who want to participate in LessWrong but have, for example, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder which could be triggered by some topics.

Comment author: byrnema 06 January 2014 03:30:39AM *  14 points [-]

I don't know if the things that bother this feminist would also bother me, but I've been reading Less Wrong for several years and I'll say that with some delicate issues, Less Wrong is like a bull in a China shop. In some investigations, it's like trying to determine if there is life on a planet by bombing it. I just avoid these topics entirely.

Comment author: CellBioGuy 06 January 2014 03:47:28AM *  13 points [-]

Sometimes I like to drop in and just marvel at the trainwreckiness. It gets too tangled for me to even think about trying to point out the multiple failures and lacks of context and utter-missings-of-the-point.

EDIT: Including some moderate such tangles in several places below in this very thread...

Comment author: fubarobfusco 06 January 2014 02:14:03AM 8 points [-]

Here's the bit I hope folks will read and think about:

An example: I cannot in good faith entertain the argument that high-scarcity societies are right in having restrictive, assigned-sex-based gender roles, even if these social structures result in measurable maximized utility (i.e. many much kids). [...] This is because respect for said arguments and/or the idea behind them is a warning sign for either 1) passively not respecting my personhood or 2) actively disregarding my personhood, both of which are, to use some vernacular, hella fucking dangerous to me personally.

This is, yes, a signaling argument.

It is an argument that if you signal that it's A-OK for your friends and associates to waver on whether certain humans are to be treated as full persons (as opposed to baby-making machines, slaves, marks, or maybe food), then those certain humans are pretty likely to get the hell away from you and your friends and associates. Especially given the alternative of hanging out with people who clearly (and expensively) signal the opposite.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 06 January 2014 02:43:47PM *  16 points [-]

The problem is how specifically we define what "treating as full persons" means. Because, you know, one gets internet activist points for exaggerating and taking offense.

For example, if the article about Asch's conformity experiment says that women conformed more to the social pressures... well, if a wrong person said this at the wrong moment, they could easily get accused of not treating women as full persons. Also anyone who would try to defend them.

Comment author: ThrustVectoring 06 January 2014 03:03:20AM 9 points [-]

It's why you can hardly ever get honest answers to questions like "would you sleep with a member of the same sex for a million dollars."

If it came down to actually making the choice, I'm pretty sure most straight men would sleep with a man for a million dollars. Only the naive are going to admit to it when it's a hypothetical, though, because the hypothetical question leaks information about your character. Choosing between a million dollars and your hetero-normal reputation is one thing -- choosing between saying that you'd take the million dollars and saying that you're too hetero-normal to do so is another.

Comment author: Lumifer 06 January 2014 10:26:36PM 9 points [-]

It's why you can hardly ever get honest answers to questions like "would you sleep with a member of the same sex for a million dollars."

Probably because it's a trap :-D

Comment author: CronoDAS 08 January 2014 04:21:43AM 2 points [-]

would you sleep with a member of the same sex for a million dollars

Which sex acts, exactly, would I be expected to perform? I may have difficulty sustaining an erection under the circumstances... ;)