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Selecting optimal group projects and roles

2 Post author: calcsam 06 August 2011 05:50PM

Related to: Designing Rationalist Projects, Committees and Leadership

As I mentioned in the above posts, Latter-day Saints communities organize committees to accomplish specific tasks, like serving the outside community or making sure new members get friends.

The question is, what tasks should rationalist communities organize committees or assign individuals to accomplish?

The easy answer: whatever its members want. But there are some collective roles and activities which are better for community-building than others.

Consider the following jury-rigged contraption, which I'll call Bhagwat’s community-building ratio:

  • group project goodness = U(project) / E(social friction),

that is, task goodness equals task utility divided by the expected amount of resulting social friction. For example:

Learning PUA:

  • U(task): medium. Many LW-goers do express a desire to improve social skills.
  • E(social friction): high. This seems to alienate many (most?), though not all, women. And LW meetups need more women, both to function better now and because it would facilitate future meme propagation.

Rejection therapy:

  • U(task): medium-to-high. This also helps to improve social skiils, especially assertiveness. More simple and widely applicable than PUA; easy to do without a mentor.
  • E(social friction): low. This is a multi-gender activity.

So rejection therapy would likely make a better group task then PUA.

What are the most high-utility, low-social-friction tasks?

The lowest-hanging fruit I know of is to make people feel welcome.[1]

Whenever someone comes to the group for the first time, the group leader should make sure to meet them personally and make them feel welcome. They should get their contact info and afterwards send them a brief e-mail/text, sincerely thanking them for coming.

As people are starting to come for the first few weeks, the group leader should get to know them personally and understand what they’re looking for and why they came. Maybe there’s a particular book or Less Wrong sequence they would like. Maybe they’re trying to improve some skills and would appreciate follow-up. Maybe there’s some skill they know that other Less Wrongians want to learn – and they could teach them!

If you’re able to personalize their experience, you will improve your score on Bhagwat’s Law of Commitment: “The degree to which people identify with your group is directly proportional to the amount of stuff you tell them to do that works."

This task is fairly delegatable. The main requirement is good social skills – you need to be able to have a reasonable conversation with anyone, and the ability to express gratitude sincerely. Otherwise, people might come off as insincere or weird, and that would create social friction.

What are the benefits?

The first three church units I served in were mediocre at befriending new attendees and integrating new members; the last church unit was excellent. Around seventy percent more people joined this last church unit; and of those who joined, retention rates were around 80 to 90 percent, compared to 50 percent elsewhere.

Small Mini-groups

As Less Wrong meetup membership in a given area becomes reasonably dense, and meeting size expands, subgroups can form around common interests.

An Improving Social Skills group. Or an Actually Learning in College group. Or a startup where a bunch of LW people work together…wait, somebody is already doing that.

Mini-meetings would also be good for introducing people to the Less Wrong community. People coming for the first time are generally more comfortable in smaller environments. Latter-day Saint churches with 50-100 weekly attendance grow three or four times faster than churches with 200+ weekly attendance, according to a statistic I read somewhere and can't track down.

There’s a final benefit to having clearly-defined roles held by community members.

All groups, as they evolve, give individuals distinct roles. Class clown, teacher’s pet, whatever. If these roles are positive, people’s identification with and commitment to the group will increase. They will know that the group needs them.

Most people in Latter-day Saint communities have specific, definite roles because of their calling – perhaps they are teaching a class every Sunday, or are responsible to visit a particularly troubled family. This is an unambiguous way to tell them, “We need you.”

The same could be true in rationalist communities.



[1] In Latter-day Saint communities, this is primarily done by the Missionary and Fellowship committees described in my last post.

 

Comments (28)

Comment author: printing-spoon 07 August 2011 03:10:29AM *  11 points [-]

I'm not sure we need to put more effort into making new users feel welcome. It's a priority for churches because their entire business model depends on generating warm, fuzzy feelings in their members. Responding "Welcome to LessWrong!" to a new user's first comment is fine, IMO.

group project goodness = U(project) / E(social friction),

Why is social friction an expectation, but not utility? Why division instead of subtraction? This equation should have been a sentence. I also don't see why you've singled out "social friction" as the biggest drawback for community-building projects.

Comment author: Alexei 06 August 2011 08:27:02PM 3 points [-]

Latter-day Saint churches with 50-100 weekly attendance grow three or four times faster than churches with 200+ weekly attendance, according to a statistic I read somewhere and can't track down.

This could be easily explained by a limited number of people who would be interested in that church. Probably, after you get to 200, you've reached out to most of the people you could, so the growth rate slows down.

To check this: split a church with 200 attendees into two churches with 100 attendees each, and see if their growth rate improves.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 07 August 2011 07:23:05AM 3 points [-]

Lending support to the theory that it's 'just' a matter of size: Dunbar's Number, which is 150-ish for humans.

Comment author: printing-spoon 07 August 2011 01:47:55PM 0 points [-]

With margin of error 60-ish

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 07 August 2011 02:08:32PM 3 points [-]

In the sense that we don't know what the actual average is for humans, or in the sense that the bell curve for Dunbar's number for individuals is rather flat?

Comment author: calcsam 07 August 2011 01:50:48AM 0 points [-]

This could be true, but I don't think so. In my experience, church size is much more strongly influenced by other factors, like how leadership draws the boundary lines between church units, and which geographic area people who are already current members decide to move into. That said, you have the perfect test.

Comment author: JoeW 07 August 2011 07:42:02AM 7 points [-]

I appreciate these ideas and the fact that this isn't just armchair analysis but draws on some evidence. (Yes, ok, anecdotal evidence isn't great quality, but I find I trust it more than theory alone.)

I thought I'd add, though, that PUA doesn't just alienate (some/most) women. I'm a man and the attitudes I've stumbled over here re. PUA, gender and privilege in general are sufficient to deter me from engaging more actively with this community. Just sayin', as I don't recall seeing many men register a dislike or discomfort on those grounds, and that silence itself is part of the problem IMO (lack of visible disapproval will be taken as ubiquitous endorsement.)

Apologies for picking on a small point which is not central to your ideas. I like that your ideas are intended to arrive at tangible implementable suggestions, too.

Comment author: lessdazed 07 August 2011 03:15:25PM *  4 points [-]

Ideally you would provide links to examples, and even more importantly, links to similar cases of discussing the same topic that do not alienate you.

Suppose I said I was alienated by the way money and wealth is discussed here. It would then be helpful for me to give examples of problematic discussions, as well as the most blunt and relatively uncensored sort of similar discussion that does not offend me. The first shows that the problem is real, the latter is necessary to show appeasing me is worthwhile - were I caricature of a Marxist offended merely by the use of the word "dollar", people would be right to decide accommodating me would take too much effort and there are too few with similar taboos for that to be worthwhile.

One particular point to take note of is the difference between being offended by what is discussed and how it is discussed, another is how people are often offended by symbols. Regarding the first point: some people are relatively more offended than others by hypotheticals, likewise for assertions. I'm not particularly interested in avoiding topics because subjects offend people. When I was younger my mother would always change the radio station when there was a song with rape as a topic in it, no matter how anti-rape the song. That's not the type of approach to contentious subjects a website for mature rationalists should take. To be alienated by actually pro-rape songs would be a different story.

Regarding the symbol point, I have found that people mean different things by PUA, sufficiently so that tabooing the word would often be useful. Though writers are responsible for trying to make their meaning clear, whenever readers offended by the acronym are not relating to meanings actually occurring in the writer's minds, they are guilty of being wrong, irrespective of their utility function. The eeny, meeny, miny, moe case comes to mind:

Plaintiffs-appellants Louise Sawyer and Grace M. Fuller are sisters and African Americans. Plaintiffs arrived at the departure gate for a Southwest Airlines (Southwest) flight from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Kansas City, Missouri. Because plaintiffs checked in less than ten minutes prior to departure, they were placed as priority-standby passengers on Southwest's next flight to Kansas City. After all non-standby passengers boarded the airplane, plaintiffs were allowed to board. While plaintiffs looked for open seats, a flight attendant announced: "Eenie, meenie, minie, mo, pick a seat, we gotta go."

Plaintiffs claimed that the announcement referred to a nursery rhyme with a racist history, and was directed specifically at them as African Americans because they were the only passengers in the aisle and who had not found seats. Plaintiff Fuller, who is epileptic, claimed that she suffered a petit mal seizure during the flight as a result of the announcement. She also claimed that she suffered a grand mal seizure that evening at home, leaving her bedridden for several days. Plaintiff Sawyer did not allege any physical symptoms, and like plaintiff Fuller, she did not seek any psychiatric or psychological counseling.

Southwest's flight attendant characterized the comment as a general announcement to all passengers, and denied that it was directed solely at plaintiffs. She also denied any knowledge of a racist version of the nursery rhyme, and claimed that she had previously used the same rhyme as humor and to meet departure schedules.

Plaintiffs sued Southwest for violation of their civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and for intentional infliction of emotional distress under Kansas law. Additionally, plaintiff Fuller sued for negligent infliction of emotional distress under Kansas law. The district court entered summary judgment for Southwest on the emotional distress claims. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Southwest on plaintiffs' claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

In one sense, I am more sympathetic to people offended by "PUA" than by PUA, but in another sense, I am more sympathetic to people offended by PUA than by "PUA".

Comment author: CuSithBell 08 August 2011 03:18:20PM *  1 point [-]

This post, for instance, comes off as hostile and dismissive, not a message from someone who is sympathetic to the concerns expressed or willing to examine the matter under discussion. That's probably not your intent?

In terms of PUA discussion here, off the top of my head I've seen it expressed that:

  • If you get someone to cheat on their partner, then they were in an unhappy relationship and therefore there's no problem.

  • "Manipulation" is a useless term, and there's no use trying to distinguish if some methods of obtaining sex are problematic WRT consent. (Notable because I haven't seen this same sentiment expressed on, say, CEV posts, so I expect it to be motivated by sex / politics.)

  • Women don't like explicit discussion of social reality (and this is the only possible objection to PUA discussion here).

Comment author: wedrifid 08 August 2011 05:56:04PM *  6 points [-]

In terms of PUA discussion here, off the top of my head I've seen it expressed that:

If you get someone to cheat on their partner, then they were in an unhappy relationship and therefore there's no problem.

Where? And was it systematically rejected or accepted as a reasonable general conclusion?

Women don't like explicit discussion of social reality (and this is the only possible objection to PUA discussion here). (emphasis added)

This does not sound like something that would be accepted by the lesswrong community (including PUA advocates) as anything but plainly false. I expect instances of this claim to be significantly subzero in votes.

Links would be useful.

Comment author: lessdazed 08 August 2011 09:19:33PM 2 points [-]

I think reading charitably leads to a less plausible but still not too unlikely somewhat legitimate purpose served by the examples as they are written.

Saying what the most extreme thing was that has been expressed without being totally shouted down sets an outer bound for what is considered normal, and adjusting inward from that would give a decent approximation of the most important thing we want to know: what mainstream LW thinks.

Nonetheless, it is bad form if so, as it is an attempt to use the dark art of the anchoring bias by starting from the most extreme thing not shouted down.

I expect instances of this claim to be significantly subzero in votes.

Likewise, but some posts are "hot topics" garnering many pluses and minuses - I've had a few and noticed that. Others conservatively plod along, never worth an upvote. It would be good to know not just the net vote but the numbers in each direction, knowing the net vote would be very important but it wouldn't tell us all we want to know. A position enthusiastically supported by a large minority and opposed by a slightly larger majority is still mainstream.

The next step is clearly links, to judge what exactly we are talking about. Are we keeping slaves to pick our cotton, or are we failing to study the etymology of each word we use to ensure it has a non-racist history before we utter it? Or, where in the middle of those two extremes are we, approximately?

Comment author: wedrifid 09 August 2011 12:51:19AM *  1 point [-]

Saying what the most extreme thing was that has been expressed without being totally shouted down sets

Is that even the case here? I haven't seen the claims in question made at all, whether downvoted or not. I refrained from replying with "I don't believe you" out of politeness and because I know that I don't have an exhaustive and perfectly indexed database of all lesswrong comments stored in my brain. All I can know is that the claims are blatant straw men to the extent that they are presented as memes actually present in lesswrong culture. So I predict with some confidence that even if they do actually exist in comments that they are treated as trolling.

Comment author: lessdazed 09 August 2011 01:29:15PM *  2 points [-]

I don't have an exhaustive and perfectly indexed database of all lesswrong comments stored in my brain.

I'm likewise handicapped, so I have just googled "site:lesswrong.com cusithbell pua", as I thought it likely that the claim, upon being seen, would be responded to.

It's quite telling that the implication of the post is that "women don't like explicit awareness of social reality", rather than the (more accurate) "women don't like PUA".

This was something CuSithBell did see and not construct as a straw man, but it is something someone else constructed as an interpretation of what she read.

An OP said:

Gender ratio matters: It is no secret that rationalism suffers from a paucity of women...There is no easy answer here, but it is important to address this factor as early as possible...Work hard to find interested women, and be careful in the presence of newcomers when trying to sanely explicitly discuss hot-button gender topics

The heavily upvoted reply:

I'm a little surprised to see the issues of LWers interacting with women reduced to "being careful when discussing explicit awareness of social reality" ... with a link to PUA stuff.

1) PUA stuff is hardly the only example out there of "explicit awareness of social reality".

2) It's quite telling that the implication of the post is that "women don't like explicit awareness of social reality", rather than the (more accurate) "women don't like PUA".

...

The post linked to includes:

I was struck how often different authors remarked on the unintended side benefits of their training: better relationships at work, better interviewing skills, more effective negotiations, more non-pickup social fun, better male friendships, more confidence, etc. These guys were able to make major strides in areas that I've struggled to improve at all in... without even bloody intending to! This struck me as an something worth taking very seriously!

I find it alarming that such a valuable resource would be monopolized in pursuit of orgasm; it's rather as if a planet were to burn up its hydrocarbons instead of using them to make useful polymers. PUA ought to be a special case of a more general skill set, and it's being wasted.

The mention of PUA drags along several associations that I want to disavow (think anything obviously "Dark Arts"). I considered omitting the fact that much of the intellectual heritage of this idea is the PUAers to avoid these associations, but I couldn't think of another way to tie it together. This idea owes its genesis to the PUA community, but the product is not intended to be its exact replica. Undesirable elements need not be ported from the old system to the new.

The commenter later says:

Yes -- and I find that the "Women hate the dark arts because they can't deal with reality" trope is a very common one (perhaps less common on LW, but common in general). It may be that the OP didn't intend to imply that, but it may also not be an unreasonable implication to draw given the frequency the argument is made.

I'm going to temporarily limit my editorialization to the framing of the quotations due to time constraints.

So I predict with some confidence that even if they do actually exist in comments that they are treated as trolling.

There was a third alternative: someone else interpreted quite uncharitably, it is arguable whether that interpretation identified the most likely implication of an actual comment, and unarguable that fairly probable benign interpretations exist, but the cited claim did in fact play a prominent role in the discussion and is certainly not CuSithBell's straw man.

Comment author: wedrifid 09 August 2011 10:16:59PM *  1 point [-]

I'm likewise handicapped, so I have just googled "site:lesswrong.com cusithbell pua", as I thought it likely that the claim, upon being seen, would be responded to.

It's quite telling that the implication of the post is that "women don't like explicit awareness of social reality", rather than the (more accurate) "women don't like PUA".

CuSith responding as though such claims were made here is something that is in my mental database. It is the claims themselves that I hadn't seen.

There was a third alternative

(That's not a third alternative in any false-dichotamy sense - it's a subset of "not existing". I do agree that it is worth mentioning and making more distinct!)

someone else interpreted quite uncharitably, it is arguable whether that interpretation identified the most likely implication of an actual comment, and unarguable that fairly probable benign interpretations exist, but the cited claim did in fact play a prominent role in the discussion and is certainly not CuSithBell's straw man.

This seems likely and it is also something I consider a real problem. The commenter that you left nameless is no doubt well meaning, as is CuSith. Yet via "interpretation" mentioned by the unnamed then some added overgeneralizations by CuSith we end up with a rather brutal false accusation directed at lesswrongians. That's just not-ok. Even though it is not malicious or even dishonest (beyond typical creative exaggeration) it is negligent and a harsh enough misrepresentation that it could legitimately be considered offensive.

A lot of conflict could be avoided if allegations about beliefs and expressions thereof were backed up by links or citations. Then we could actually tackle any remaining offensive beliefs or misconceptions rather than getting worked up over Chineese Whipsers! (Is that term considered politically incorrect yet or is China too 'outgroup' to have gained careful-word-use privileges? If I used the variant 'broken telephone' would people still understand the meaning?)

Comment author: lessdazed 10 August 2011 12:14:23AM 0 points [-]

One stopgap solution would be to have a standardized response for accusations like that.

"You accused but did not provide evidence, which does not show supporting evidence does not exist, though it is evidence supporting evidence does not exist, so your unsubstantiated argument makes me think your position less likely to be true than I had originally."

YABDNPE

I think we need to think seriously about how to think about interpretations. Right now, I think most people (I might be projecting) try to first figure out what was most likely meant, and then adjust that a bit as their duty of reading others charitably, and take the output of that as their tentative interpretation.

I think we should break it down. We should automatically produce a most charitable interpretation we can think of, as well as a distinct estimate of the most likely original intent, and we should be well-calibrated to accurately estimate the chance that the circumstance has an explanation unlike any we're thinking of. As important features of interpreting charitably, we need to 1) bear in mind that others' charitable readings are according to different value sets than ours and 2) bear in mind our imaginations that are attempting to come up with most charitable interpretations with is limited.

An example of 1) would be for the woman who sued the airline over its flight attendant using a variant on a popular nursery rhyme that has an original racist, if obscure, version. For me, judging favorably means seriously considering how she might not believe a word of the philosophy underlying her case, and just have made it in an attempt to get money. For others, my saying this might sound indicting - how dare you accuse her of dishonesty and greed! To me, actually believing she had been wronged would be more unflattering.. This is very important if we try to foster a community of charitable interpretation by perhaps addressing others' possible non-charitable interpretation but not accusing others of poor interpretation..

I think it corrects for why political correctness can become a lost purpose: to ensure we don't wrongly think unduly badly of others, a system of criticizing people who appear to do so is put in place that encourages us to call out people when a plausible, if perhaps unintended, interpretation of their words is that they judge people unfairly.

The solution of judging others favorably can't survive as a meme by slapping down other modes of interpretation, if it tries it will be subverted, so it will take positive good will and praise, not condemnation, to spread it.

Item 2) deals with unknown unknowns, the argument from ignorance we tell ourselves. Smart people who are used to being right are vulnerable to not seriously realizing they might be wrong, or that though they can't think of how something could be, it actually is.

To correct for that, I propose this.

Something somewhat similar to "This post, for instance, comes off as hostile and dismissive, not a message from someone who is sympathetic to the concerns expressed or willing to examine the matter under discussion. That's probably not your intent?" could be an ideal. It might be productive if people were used to beginning certain posts with: here is what I think is the most likely interpretation, although this is not an accusation, because I also think other interpretations are fairly plausible given the context, how I usually agree with you, etc.

Comment author: CuSithBell 10 August 2011 01:11:59AM 1 point [-]

I discuss this in greater depth in this reply. I hope this clarifies my position! I don't believe that LW-majority-position is misogynistic, self-serving nihilism (probably something more along the lines of happy-fun-times-nihilism). I do think that some of these topics can be dangerous-like-politics, and that this danger manifests as I describe in the other post.

Comment author: calcsam 10 August 2011 06:57:28AM *  0 points [-]

This thread illustrates my point.

Comment author: lessdazed 08 August 2011 03:42:54PM *  2 points [-]

This post, for instance, comes off as hostile and dismissive

I'd like to think different parts of it come off differently. To be specific, I hope it's the mostly just last line of the post that gives that impression.

To a large extent I am dismissive, but not of the topic or its importance, I just despise vague and nebulous criticism in general, and I saw it in "the attitudes I've stumbled over here re. PUA, gender and privilege in general".

"Manipulation" is a useless term

Something like this, or different?

I'm confused as to how it would naturally come up discussing CEV, such that its absence would be noteworthy. In my mind, the significant problems for CEV crop up before the subject of manipulation would arise, specifically, I'm thinking of how as an updating agent who is human I am a different person with different anticipations about the future if I first read page 30 in a book and then page 45, than if I had read page 45 and then 30. This seems to de-cohere extrapolated volition even under optimal circumstances of being changed (i.e. being reasoned with rather than have my brain hacked directly). Since the most benign influences are so problematic, I haven't seen reason to extensively consider unwilling updating in that context.

If you get someone to cheat on their partner, then they were in an unhappy relationship and therefore there's no problem.

Women don't like explicit discussion of social reality (and this is the only possible objection to PUA discussion here).

These views, if held, disturb me. Your post differs from the one I was perhaps too scornful of insofar as yours takes a real stand on issues, and names some specific opinions with which I can agree or disagree!

It's still not quite perfect, because I haven't seen those views expressed, not that I've looked for them, so links would be nice, but you have provided the basis for a legitimate conversation about the issue by taking it from "attitudes around here are off-putting" to "Here are some views I oppose. Can we agree to oppose them? Can we get an idea of their prevalence on LW?" It's not passive aggressive!

Comment author: CuSithBell 10 August 2011 01:06:36AM *  1 point [-]

PUA is obviously a very 'political' topic on LW, and I expect that many readers / posters have initial reactions along the lines of "this is icky and I don't care to examine any further", "it is obviously bad to try to 'fake' charisma if you're not inherently charismatic like me", "anyone who has a problem with this hates me personally"... that sort of thing.

I don't necessarily think these or the comments in my earlier post are majority positions on LessWrong. I do think that there is a problematic component to some aspects of PUA (some areas of the field are overtly misogynistic, some techniques are problematic WRT consent), but the most common issue I've seen here is in failing to acknowledge that these are real problems. So it's less "these are what LW believes about PUA", and more "there are some dangerous meme-strains related to PUA that we should be careful about, and here are some ways in which they have struck".

"Manipulation" is a useless term

Something like this, or different?

Here is one relevant discussion. This is more specifically the sort of thing I'm talking about.

I'm confused as to how it would naturally come up discussing CEV, such that its absence would be noteworthy.

It seems that manipulation is, approximately, influence that you "would prefer not to go along with" in a CEV-ish sense. I would expect that a generally held belief that this is a useless distinction would motivate criticisms of CEV along the same lines. The specificity of the confusion seems too conveniently self-serving.

If you get someone to cheat on their partner, then they were in an unhappy relationship and therefore there's no problem.

This was, admittedly, a one-off remark that was denounced by none other than Eliezer ("A few seconds of thought should convince you this is obviously false", or something, but I can't seem to find the link).

Women don't like explicit discussion of social reality (and this is the only possible objection to PUA discussion here).

The discussion you found in another comment, this'n is the one I had in mind. The original post was edited, however, initially it said something much closer to what clarissethorn is reacting to.

This comment thread features a few posts wherein it seems I or someone else will say "this isn't about explicit analysis" and the response will be "of course not, but really it is."

So, uh. In conclusion? I think that these are views / traps that have at least a small but non-negligible presence here, that are difficult to think rationally about, that we should be aware of, denounce, and oppose rather than deny when we're discussing PUA and explicit social reality (which is a thing that we should do).

I apologize for the long and rambling post, I hope I have expressed myself clearly and accurately. And I apologize as well if I am mistaken! I realize that the emotional coloration of the facts effects me as well, but I don't think I'm completely deluded about this. I'm glad we can have a reasonable meta-discussion about this! Thanks.

Comment author: lessdazed 10 August 2011 02:21:46PM *  5 points [-]

"Manipulate" isn't a useless term. "Manipulatory" is a useless category, or as the other guy said, not a "natural kind".

I communicate, you influence, he manipulates.

Things should be called "manipulatory" because they are bad, things should not be called "bad" because they are manipulatory.

Like, for example, "with women, you have to pretend that they don't have cheat codes (unlike with us tough-minded rational men)", or "bayes tells us we should all bang hot chicks".

A google search for each of those phrases only found your comment; you should provide links.

Untruths differ in plausibility, and it is expected that someone "taking sides" in an argument speak dishonestly to put one side in the best light. The reason I feel almost no negative reactions to your statements like this while others such as wedrifid does is not that I think them more plausible than he does, but that I think they are transparently exaggerations by an advocate. You have broken free of something like the uncanny valley, such that I think your statements barely imply they are what a neutral observer might think. I say this to be upfront because you might not think this a respectful reason for not feeling disagreement. That last sentence doesn't say what I want it to but I can't figure out how to say what I mean, I hope you can figure it out.

some areas of the field are overtly misogynistic, some techniques are problematic WRT consent

1) People mean different things by "the field of PU", so it's helpful to be explicit and at least name the area. 2) Techniques don't have the property of being problematic, being problematic is a relationship between the technique and a value system. If you aren't trusted by someone to know their value system, and they don't know your value system, those kinds of accusations are of limited use, so the technique should be explicitly described, its problem explained (if it isn't obvious), and its link to PUA established. All of this can be done by providing a citation, so the work is in finding it, but it spares you the trouble of having to paraphrase it accurately. At least name the technique.

I think your generalizations about PU are useful and better than nothing or even most things for an understanding of it, but not great, with about the same relationship to PU that PU has to women.

I think I'm fairly tolerant of your intolerance of intolerance, as well as PUA's intolerance. This might make me inconsistent, as against other guys who are intolerant of intolerance of intolerance, though I doubt it. But I don't have a problem with the community's relationship with PUA (I consider myself part of this community and not that one, rather than the other way around, or neither, or both), it's good enough by my value system, and I feel motivated to defend that value system much more than PU.

It seems that manipulation is, approximately, influence that you "would prefer not to go along with" in a CEV-ish sense.

What you prefer is a property not just of you, but of your environment. What you'd prefer to prefer is a property not just of you, but of your environment. What you'd prefer to prefer to prefer...If I'm looking at a hungry kitten, I have different preferences than if I'm in a crowded bus, or reading a paper about meta-morality. To privilege where I happen to be seems arbitrary, in any case it means my CEV from minute to minute would be subject to vast swings due to the butterfly effect (I think).

I have said (in a comment elsewhere in the internet that I can't find) that there is a continuum - but not one with influence and manipulation as its poles. Rather, to get one's interlocutor's molecules into a state accepting a proposition, there is a continuum between influencing someone with level speech and feeding them to a child and teaching the child the proposition is true, and that these aren't different in kind. Manipulation with drugs or body language or torture or verbal intonation etc. are each more to the middle of that scale, some practically next to influence! So I, for one, can't be said to ignore an important difference between influence and manipulation except when convenient for political purposes, whatever else one might say about me!

I think the answer has to do with fully understanding the nature of hypothetical alternatives, and very little to do with understanding utility functions. I don't know how to do it, but the present is a single place and the best hope for non-arbitrariness, however difficult it is to make it non-arbitrary from a moral perspective. Utility functions are maps of map-makers, ignorance compounded upon ignorance, not a platonic form to aspire to. Somehow reality has to be specially important, the reality in which I'd pay the same to save 1,000 birds as 1,000,000, etc.

Like, for example, "with women, you have to pretend that they don't have cheat codes (unlike with us tough-minded rational men)"

It's not obvious that what you added in the parentheticals is actually meant, though it may be. Imagine the following conversation:

PUA: "With women, you have to pretend that they don't have cheat codes." LW Feminist: "Women and men are equally rational!" PUA:"I'm not bisexual!" LWF:"I didn't say you were!" PUA:"Well I didn't say women were less rational than men!" LWF:"You implied it by only mentioning the rationality, or lack of it, in women!" PUA:"You implied it! I'm talking about how to use social cues and biases to sleep with people. People, meaning women!"

I recently figured out how to keep dog owners from picking up their dogs or pulling them away from me when I'm out walking my pit bull. I had been having little luck at all with "He's friendly." "He doesn't bite, he's never bitten anyone!" etc. Yet my new method, inspired by PUA, almost never fails. I say "Is your dog friendly?" while holding back my dag as if I were protecting him. This works astoundingly well, even with people walking tiny yorkies! Now my dog can get to have social interactions with nearly all other dogs we come across. I change the other person's frame of reference from "Is that large-jawed monster going to eat my dog/me?" to "Is my dog qualified to interact with that dog, or is its personality not good enough?" If I make it all about whether or not they are good enough, so they forget to ask themselves if I am good enough, is this wrong? How would speaking by uttering reassurances or choosing not to speak be more neutral than using the "dark arts"? Saying nothing isn't doing nothing, and something must be done, and being as underhanded as I am, no more no less, is working out for me.

Comment author: lessdazed 08 August 2011 09:07:30PM 0 points [-]

I don't think this post deserves being downvoted. Granted that the absence of links is a big flaw, the previous somewhat similar post didn't even make any specific claims at all, and I am heavily inclined to overlook even severe weaknesses in rough drafts when they improve greatly upon the old drafts. This counteracts perfectionist tendencies, encourages social discussion at a rawer stage of thought in which disagreement is suborned to dialogue, gives opportunities to say "oops", and generally gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling (halo alert! There are advantages to having high standards, the coin of LW that it would behoove us not to debase).

I will nonetheless add a criticism that hasn't been raised before. The phrasing "Women don't like" is problematically equivocal, not just for the original speakers, but for those citing them. If one means to say (or to say that someone said) "All women X", or "most women X", or "women X more than men X, etc., one should be clear.

If one intends to say that the original speaker was using equivocation (for instance, by not modifying "women" with "Some" or "More so than men", the speaker may have been (inadvertently?) saying something true in a restricted interpretation but false and overly stereotyping in an expansive plausible interpretation. Those citing such cases should explicitly label the problem rather than faithfully transposing the equivocations present.

Comment author: taryneast 08 August 2011 10:13:44AM *  0 points [-]

In countering prejudicial thought, I don't think it's necessary to provide a counter-example. Sure - it may help... but it's not necessary.

If we were talking about racism, for example, and said "I don't agree with the fact that you keep these people in bondage to pick your cotton for you" then it would not be necessary to point to a healthy working community of black people by comparison. The pointing-out of the problem (and the pointer-outer's opinion of it) is sufficient in and of itself.

As to PUA - yes, I agree, there are good and bad aspects of it... and perhaps we should indeed taboo the word and instead discuss whether we agree or disagree with certain sub-topics that fall under the umbrella term instead.

Comment author: lessdazed 08 August 2011 01:19:50PM 4 points [-]

If you want me to reflect on some things I've said or done to see if they are consistent with my morality, you have to point them out, like you just did above (although I happen not to be enslaving any cotton-pickers at this time). Likewise if you want me to change my values, you would have to be specific about where the incongruency is.

If, on the other hand, the claim is that the group (or just I) should or could change expressed attitudes and/or language to accommodate you, if you don't say what is permissible under your values, we can't reasonably decide whether or not to change and impose those costs on ourselves since we have no idea what change would entail or what the costs would be. Some people believe (or at least claim in court) that it is the responsibility of a corporation to compensate customers whenever its employees fail to vet memetic fragments such as children's nursery rhymes in their normal use of English for purity of origin, and customers are emotionally distressed, as part of their civil rights. I don't care to be so careful, and I'm honestly not sorry about it.

I agree that for the first type of thing, it's not necessary to say what your standards are, so long as you provide specific examples of how things violate my standards. It would still be helpful. You could actually demonstrate general insanity or unreasonableness in any number of ways, and I'd still listen if you did a good job of articulating and enumerating problems according to my values. However, the less you show we share values, the more work that will be for you. For some people I know who have values like mine, a simple "X was racist" will do to make me think that X violated my values. Each plaintiff in the case I linked to could also convince me of the same thing, but she'd have to show that she understood what I think reasonable and unreasonable, which might be hard as she wouldn't easily be able to do that by noticing what she thought about X.

I agree, there are good and bad aspects of it

I didn't mean that at all. I meant that there isn't any single it. When different people use the term, they mean to convey different things. It's like "democracy", or "feminism", or "slovenly".

certain sub-topics that fall under the umbrella term instead.

People may legitimately disagree about which sub-topics fall under the umbrella term. That's why it's useful not to use it, and even more useful not to be offended by the term itself, even if one must be offended by some ideas sometimes intended by it.

Comment author: taryneast 08 August 2011 09:58:01PM -2 points [-]

If you want me to reflect on some things I've said or done to see if they are consistent with my morality

All agreed but... sometimes I might not know you or your morality and can therefore not reflect upon it for you. but if I know that, say, you've said something that pattern-matches with something that I know to generally be following (as an example) a racially prejudiced worldview..

What you seem to be asking for is for me (and everyone else) to know you well enough to to know why something would be a contradiction in your own set of moral rules. I don't know you that well. I can only point at the the thing that seems to be prejudicial.

I think this is kinda what I was trying to get at. Sometimes... we can see the problem, but while we don't have a solution, we can at least point at the problem in the hopes that you can figure the solution out.

...anyways. Not sure where that leaves the discussion...

Comment author: lessdazed 08 August 2011 10:53:42PM 5 points [-]

I know that, say, you've said something that pattern-matches with something that I know to generally be following (as an example) a racially prejudiced worldview.

There seems to be a tension between pattern matching and judging others favorably/reading their words charitably. How can we resolve this?

What you seem to be asking for is for me (and everyone else) to know you well enough to to know why something would be a contradiction in your own set of moral rules.

The whole point of me asking you to point to something you consider not a violation of morality, as well as something that you consider immoral, is so I can see your reasonableness and you can use your own judgement as a proxy, and we can work with that. If you refuse to give me an example of something that would not be sexist, I can't really assume about anything having to do with gender that you don't consider it sexist, and consequently your statements that something "is sexist" won't be meaningful to me. Hypothetically.

Sometimes... we can see the problem, but while we don't have a solution, we can at least point at the problem in the hopes that you can figure the solution out.

Exactly. We can point at statements made and judge whether or not they are mainstream at LW, acceptable at LW, unwelcome at LW but not worthy of reflexive opposition and being shouted down. We can discuss how to tolerate minority beliefs that the majority here believes are wrong. We can point at people's statements and ask them what they meant, or if they have changed their minds. We can identify misunderstandings so that no one is deluded into thinking their enemies are innately evil.

We can point at a problem, if we see a problem. Please point.

Comment author: taryneast 09 August 2011 01:00:12PM 2 points [-]

There seems to be a tension between pattern matching and judging others favorably/reading their words charitably. How can we resolve this?

I'm not sure at all how to resolve it... or if a resolution is even really possible. The problem I see is that we cannot control how another person is going to pattern-match on our own ideas. We can try thinking about potential bad-patterns is might accidentally match to. But that takes a lot of extra work on our part, and still won't reach everybody.

Still, I think it's worth considering for some thing that have already been proven to be controversial (and easy to misinterpret), such as the field of PUA.

I can tell you what he default pattern is there. As a woman, PUA matches as "these people are trying to manipulate my own flaws to get me to sleep with them." along with "They don't care about me, just the "score""... neither of which is appealing to a woman and makes her feel uncomfortable in the presence of people that say they are a part of that scene.

now - these patterns may or may not have validity... but if we want to attract more women to the group.. we'd be wise to either not talk about the things that match awful patterns such as these, or do as you suggested and taboo the words that auto-match against them, and instead talk specifically about the non-awful aspects of the field (eg self-confidence or social-skills building exercises) - especially where they have gender-balanced benefits.

Anyway - this is a long-winded way of again saying that I agree with you entirely.

Comment author: lessdazed 09 August 2011 01:37:23PM *  2 points [-]

I think it is important to be careful, whenever doing something out of a sensitivity to prejudice and discrimination, to keep track of what trying to achieve that end impels us to do.

If we find that a regime designed to be sensitive, encourage open dialogue, and avoid prejudice leads us to systematically eschew charitable interpretation in favor of most probable or even uncharitable interpretation (as part of communal policing against insensitive, dialogue-closing, and prejudicial statements), then the regime has become a lost purpose, and a harmful ugh field.

Comment author: JoeW 27 August 2011 03:30:38AM 0 points [-]

As the originator of the unqualified unreferenced unspecific comments, I wanted to add that I've been silent here as I tried to marshal some thoughts in ways that would be more helpfully qualified, referenced and specific.

So far this seems beyond me, as to do it justice would require (IMO) also tackling the issue of privilege, which I'm told has also not generally been considered effective or productive when attempted here. (Deleted - an attempt to briefly define a "privilege bias" which clearly I need a good deal more research and think time on.)

Anyway, I acknowledge the inadequacies of my original comment in terms of being able to say anything very useful in response to them, and agree it deserves more than I have so far been able to contribute. I'll see what I can do.