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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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