My new rationality/futurism podcast

post by James_Miller · 2016-04-06T17:36:51.509Z · score: 13 (18 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 158 comments

I've started a podcast called Future Strategist which will focus on decision making and futurism.  I have created seven shows so far:  interviews of computer scientist Roman Yampolskiy, LW contributor Gleb Tsipursky, and artist/free speech activist Rachel Haywire, and monologues on game theory and Greek Mythology, the Prisoners' Dilemma, the sunk cost fallacy, and the Map and Territory.  

 

If you enjoy the show and use iTunes I would be grateful if you left a positive review at iTunes.  I would also be grateful for any feedback you might have including suggestions for future shows.  I'm not used to interviewing people and I know that I need to work on being more articulate in my interviews.

 

158 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2019-12-11T20:33:54.948Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been enjoying your podcast, and I'm curious how you (and some other academics I've heard or read online) are able to publicly take various "politically incorrect" positions. Is "cancel culture" not as bad in academia as it seems from news reports, or does it vary from place to place perhaps?

comment by James_Miller · 2019-12-15T02:12:58.264Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Most academics don't take politically incorrect positions. If you don't have tenure doing so would be very dangerous. If you do, it could make it much harder to move to a higher ranked school, but it is very difficult to fire tenured professors for speech. One way to move up in academics is to take staff positions as a dean, provost, or college president. Taking politically incorrect positions likely completely forecloses this path.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2019-12-15T22:52:52.307Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for this explanation. I take it that you do have tenure then, because you're a Professor of Economics? Did you personally have to be more politically correct before you got tenure? If so, is it still possible for someone who is not very left-leaning to hide their politically incorrect beliefs and get tenure these days?

Do you think political correctness / virtue signaling in academia is getting worse at a pretty fast pace, as it seems from news reports? How bad [LW · GW] do you think it will get before the trend stops or reverses itself?

comment by James_Miller · 2020-01-03T23:21:12.971Z · score: 13 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was initially denied tenure but appealed claiming that two members of my department voted against me for political reasons. My college's five person Grievance Committee unanimously ruled in my favor and I came up for tenure again and that time was granted it. I wrote about it here: https://www.forbes.com/forbes/2004/0607/054.html#d70ce6c6e9f1

Yes, in many fields you could hide your politically incorrect beliefs and not be harmed by them so long as you can include a statement in your tenure file of how you will work to increase diversity as defined by leftists.

I think it is getting worse in that people who have openly politically incorrect beliefs are now being considered racist. I don't see the trend reversing unless the economics of higher education change.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2020-01-04T01:08:34.998Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don’t see the trend reversing unless the economics of higher education change.

How is the economics of higher education causing the trend? Have you written about this anywhere? I've been trying to understand the underlying dynamics that's driving the leftward trend in academia and have not been able to find much online. (The same trend exists in journalism, K-12 education, etc., but that could perhaps all be explained by academia producing graduates who are increasingly left-wing.) It seems like while LessWrong has been trying to "raise the sanity waterline", the bigger trend in society is increasing bias (towards the political left, especially among elites), which I think we should probably pay more attention to, because it seems likely to affect our x-risk efforts sooner or later. (Arguably it already is.)

comment by Wei_Dai · 2020-01-06T05:13:22.045Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I’ve been trying to understand the underlying dynamics that’s driving the leftward trend in academia and have not been able to find much online.

Since I wrote that, I came across Why Are Professors Liberal? with Neil Gross (a talk based on his 2013 book) which presents evidence that at least as of 2013, professors were mostly liberal due to self-selection: liberals tended to see academia as a suitable career choice more than conservatives (possibly due to some historically contingent reasons which then became self-reinforcing).

But since that book/video was released, the leftward trend in academia has accelerated, which I still haven't found a great explanation for, but my guess is that it's due to a combination of (1) increasing virtue signaling [LW · GW] makes academia seem even less suitable for those who aren't left leaning and (2) more explicit or barely concealed discrimination based on ideology.

comment by James_Miller · 2020-01-14T23:24:40.826Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My economics department is hiring a macroeconomist this year. A huge number of applicants are submitting statements of teaching and diversity in which they describe how if hired they will promote diversity in their teaching.

comment by James_Miller · 2020-01-04T03:32:16.340Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

As the left have taken over most colleges, I think that only thing that could stop them would be if colleges faced tremendous economic pressure because, say, online education or drastic cuts in government funds threatened the financial position of the colleges and they were forced to become more customer oriented, more oriented to producing scientific gains or to enhancing the future income of their students. Right now, elite colleges especially are in a very comfortable financial position and so face no pressure to take actions their leaders would consider distasteful which would include becoming more open to non-leftist views. I haven't written on this.

I agree with you on x-risks. I think one of our best paths to avoiding them would be to use genetic engineering to create very smart and moral people, but most of academia hates the possibility that genes could have anything to do with intelligence or morality.

comment by Fluttershy · 2016-04-06T22:11:58.374Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just listened to the episode on the sunk cost fallacy, and really liked the audio/recording quality, and the stories and examples of how others can be irrational. Since you asked for feedback, though, one thing I noticed was that between 3:45-4:30, the moral of the stories was presented from a framing of "if you did X, you would have been wrong/irrational". This framing is probably not too aversive to most rationalists, but might be a bit more uncomfortable for more socially sensitive individuals to listen to.

Good job on the podcast overall. I gave you 5 stars :)

comment by James_Miller · 2016-04-06T22:28:44.994Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, and good point.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-04-07T16:07:33.086Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think it would be good to have a bit of text that goes along with every post that lists information such as the websites that are mentioned. When listen to the podcast with Rachel Haywire it would have been nice to have a link to her website. It would also be good for SEO purposes for the people that you interview.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2016-04-12T23:14:32.458Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Hi, Eugine.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-04-07T17:22:53.433Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Map and Territory

I'm not sure whether it's good to speak about that topic in such binary terms. Korzybski speaks about consciousness of abstraction when he came up with "the map is not the territory".

If you have an issue like "The amount of autism increased" you have multiple layers.
1) The reality of what happens in humans in physical reality
2) How many fit into the cluster that motivates the label of autism?
3) How many fit into the operationalized concept that's written into the DSM? 4) How many people actually get diagnosed with autism?

For rational thinking it's often very useful to keep more than two layers apart at the same time.

In the interview with Rachel Haywire for example you discuss the statistic whether 1 in 5 college woman are raped by just focusing on two layers. The number of 20% of college woman and then the physical reality. Given the kind of definition that used frequently by the advocates that every act of sex where the woman didn't explicitely consent is rape, I don't have any trouble believing the 20%. I think that's an instance where conscious of abstration is very important and simply thinking in terms of physical reality and one mental map and the extend to which that map is accurate leads to bad thought.

It leads to the reasoning error that you two conclude that advocates don't really believe in that number. I did have discussions on facebook with a LW-affiliated people who does believe the number and think that the indicience rate in her circle of friends is higher than that (and even with a more straightforward definition of rape).

comment by James_Miller · 2016-04-07T23:43:41.915Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not sure whether it's good to speak about that topic in such binary terms.

I have found it personally useful because it reminds me of the difference between what's going on in my brain and the rest of reality. But I agree with you that it's not binary when the issue is, as with autism, human brains.

Given the kind of definition that used frequently by the advocates that every act of sex where the woman didn't explicitely consent is rape, I don't have any trouble believing the 20%

Yes, but they are using words in ways that would confuse people not familiar with academic speak.

I did have discussions on facebook with a LW-affiliated people who does believe the number and think that the indicience rate in her circle of friends is higher than that (and even with a more straightforward definition of rape).

Really, if the definition is the legal one?

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-04-08T11:03:30.626Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

But I agree with you that it's not binary when the issue is, as with autism, human brains.

I think nearly always when you have operationalized scientific vocabulary you have more than two significant layers. Whether you speak about questions like changes in unemployment, genetic effects on illnesses or IQ, the layer between the common understanding of the term and the operationalized version is there.

Economics quesitons such as "Did China's GDP rise" or "Did inflation rise?" simply boil down to more than two layers. People who are not conscious of the different layers and who only distinguish between the binary of what's in their head and what's out there can make reasoning mistakes. As an economist I wouldn't expect you to make those reasoning mistakes about China's GDP or inflation as you are trained to reflect about those concepts but people who aren't trained in economics frequently make mistakes because they are not conscious of the abstractions and you might make the mistake in other areas where you aren't trained to reflect about the area in you try to reason with the binary model in those areas as default.

Yes, but they are using words in ways that would confuse people not familiar with academic speak.

In the podcast you stated that you don't think those people believe in their own numbers. It's also not simply academic speak given that there are enough awareness course to teach every college student what the term is supposed to mean. Yesterday I put a bounty on Skeptics on the question. A new answer comes to the conclusion that it if you count incapacitated sexual assault than you get near the 1 in 5 statistics.

Really, if the definition is the legal one?

I ask Kendra to outline her position herself.

comment by James_Miller · 2016-04-08T23:26:54.206Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for asking Kendra to answer here and for posting the question on Skeptics.

comment by James_Miller · 2016-04-11T15:34:23.461Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here is a YouTube video on the 1 in 5 statistic: Are 1 in 5 Women Raped at College?

comment by Kendra · 2016-04-08T10:22:01.294Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I haven't listened to the podcast, Christian summoned me here since I am the person he's mentioning.

I take it the claim is roughly that people who make an effort to tackle sexual violence don't actually believe the percentage of women on campus who've experienced sexual violence is around 20% and think it's lower (while the 20% is just a belief in belief).

In arguments I usually go with numbers like one third or one sixth of women (all women, not only campus aged ones) have been raped, because those are what the statistics usually say. Personally, while I find it a lot more plausible now, those numbers have seemed unbelievably low to me for a long time.

Now to the actual claim: I think you should keep in mind that activists are strongly selected for having experienced sexual violence themselves. Even people who aren't activists are likely to end up in environments where other people are much more likely to have experienced sexual violence. (I'm happy to elaborate if you're interested) Humans often end up within a group of people who are very similar to themselves, even if it's not consciously, this isn't special to sexual violence. Thereby I think it's not at all surprising that activists believe in a much higher number than 20%, even if the real number were lower than that.

You're talking about 'the' legal definition of rape, but I don't know what you're referring to, since laws heavily differ by countries, even within the developed world. In my (developed) country the law is unusually lax about rape (essentially lack of consent isn't covered as rape, there needs to be an additional threat of violence to count as rape), this is different e.g. in the UK.

comment by Viliam · 2016-04-09T21:58:08.802Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I take it the claim is roughly that people who make an effort to tackle sexual violence don't actually believe the percentage of women on campus who've experienced sexual violence is around 20% and think it's lower (while the 20% is just a belief in belief).

Once I was at a lecture about violence against women, where the lecturer told us that 20% of women are victims of domestic violence. I asked her if she knows in which country and approximately which decade was this research done; suggesting that the results for e.g. Sweden could be different than for e.g. Afghanistan, and also maybe the results now could be different from e.g. half century ago.

She said that the research was replicated many times, and that no matter which country, or which year -- or even which definition of domestic violence was used! -- the results are always 20%. Somewhat ironically, after hearing about so much successful replication, my faith in the research actually decreased.

Maybe "20%" is some psychological attractor, where all values smaller than half naturally converge.

I also read somewhere an explanation (but haven't verified it) that the number of rapes at campus was achieved by surveying students in the first grade, adding together the results for "rape" and "attempted rape", and then multiplying the result by five (for five years of study). If that's true, even ignoring the "attempted" part, I think the linear approximation is wrong.

First, it ignores the possibility that some factors could make being raped more likely in some parts of the population (such as binge drinking, or choosing violent boyfriends, or maybe just being in a really horrible campus), so being raped at grade X may overlap strongly with being raped at grade Y, and R(X ∪ Y) < R(X) + R(Y). Second, this approach multiplies the Lizardman’s Constant by five, which coincidentally already provides the result of 20%.

I don't want to depreciate a serious issue, but I really wish that people doing research would start taking methodology more seriously.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-09T23:59:07.985Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

She said that the research was replicated many times, and that no matter which country, or which year -- or even which definition of domestic violence was used! -- the results are always 20%.

Did it occur to you that she was just lying?

comment by Viliam · 2016-04-11T10:00:28.772Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess lying is one option, believing a liar is another option, and... well, are there any realistic options beyond that? (Maybe something in between, like suspecting an information, but deciding to suppress the feeling in the name of the greater good and being on the right side of history.)

But how do I distinguish between these two options, in real time? Ask "hey, lady, it occured to be that you are either lying or stupid -- and because I don't want to uncharitably accuse you of something that you are not, could you please help me solve this dilemma?" I don't suppose that would work.

I tried communicating with mindkilled people in the past, it didn't go well. (I get accused of something; they congratulate themselves for disarming an evil person.) Now I usually suppress the urge.

If there is a forum where people could rationally communicate this kind of concerns, I don't know about it. Christina Hoff Sommers try to address the problem of fake statistics in her book, in return she got her Wikipedia page vandalized. I don't expect to do better.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-11T16:38:11.872Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess lying is one option, believing a liar is another option, and... well, are there any realistic options beyond that?

Sure. There is a very popular option of "I will look only here, I will not look there and even if I accidentally glance over there, I will quickly avert my gaze and feel guilty about my transgression".

Deliberate ignorance combined with cherry-picking evidence can get you very very far.

But how do I distinguish between these two options, in real time?

If only there were some way to think about the two options in something like probabilities... :-)

I tried communicating with mindkilled people in the past, it didn't go well.

You mean to tried to deconvert them? No surprise it didn't go well.

Note that the aims of the conversation can be quite limited, though. It's up to you to define your goals and they don't have to be "convince that person that her belief is wrong".

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-04-11T13:20:22.891Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I tried communicating with mindkilled people in the past, it didn't go well. (I get accused of something; they congratulate themselves for disarming an evil person.) Now I usually suppress the urge.

I don't think she's mindkilled. Basically in this case you both haven't read the literature but she's in a position where she's not willing to admit to ot having read the research because that means she would lose status.

A good question might be: "Then how does it come that Louis Harris et al only found 2% of woman to have been raped?"

If there is a forum where people could rationally communicate this kind of concerns, I don't know about it.

Skeptics.Stackexchange is a good forum for this purpose. I think it makes sense to open questions there whenever I can boil down the claim to a specific form.

My question Is a woman who dresses sexually suggestively more likely to get raped? for example also produced good answers.

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-04-11T17:48:36.984Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's just as likely that she heard that statistic many times and assumed that this must be because there were many studies with that result.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-11T17:52:10.005Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"She said that the research was replicated many times, and that no matter which country, or which year -- or even which definition of domestic violence was used! -- the results are always 20%" -- that's doesn't sound like a vague assumption to me. That sounds like she's being very specific.

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-04-11T17:55:35.229Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I guess you can call it lying if you want, but that is a thing people do very frequently without thinking about or considering that they are lying, namely making very precise statements when in fact there is something vague in their minds.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-11T17:59:02.558Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

People lie (defined as intent to mislead) frequently, yes :-/

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-04-11T13:15:58.629Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't want to depreciate a serious issue, but I really wish that people doing research would start taking methodology more seriously.

It seems to me that the woman with whom you were speaking likely wasn't well versed in the research. Why do you think the conversation to her tells you much about whether the people doing the reserach take methodology seriously?

comment by Viliam · 2016-04-12T07:48:32.363Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I may be influenced too much by Who Stole Feminism?. By the way, the lady was a university professor, and is considered a local expert on the topic (that's why she was giving the lecture), so even if she merely doesn't know the research in the area she specializes on, that's disappointing.

EDIT: I recommend reading the book. It is an attempt to trace back to the origins of some famous research, and the results are quite sad. :(

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-04-12T10:38:17.157Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

so even if she merely doesn't know the research in the area she specializes on, that's disappointing.

Be careful to not confuse the quest about seeking truth with beliefs about the capabilites of individual people.

Another interesting counterquestion would be: Do you really mean that there is no country that ever started a policy that reduced the amount women are victims of domestic violence? What does that say about the job that feminist activists do, when they don't have any effects on the problem?

I recommend reading the book

Why do you consider it to be a good investment of time?

comment by Viliam · 2016-04-12T20:57:38.183Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think the book gives some insight into how popular myths are created in feminism. If you are interested in the topics feminists talk about, this could make you update probabilities of their statements. Otherwise, it can be interesting in general how easily a completely fabricated stuff or misinterpreted research can become "common knowledge".

If you are against feminism, it gives you some argument-soldiers.

If you support feminism, then it's like reading about scientific fraud, and realizing that it includes a few things you believe.

comment by gjm · 2016-04-13T00:02:52.134Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

There appears to be some reason to doubt the intellectual honesty of the book (e.g., CHS complains that feminists say X was in favour of wife-beating and quotes something X said that points the other way ... but it turns out she cut X off in mid-sentence and actually the full sentence is advocating wife-beating).

That doesn't stop it being a useful source of things that might be wrong with contemporary feminism, but I think I'd want to check anything she said before believing it. That's not a bad idea for any book on an inflammatory topic, but it does mean that reading it mightn't be a very efficient way of acquiring correct knowledge about contemporary feminism.

comment by Viliam · 2016-04-13T07:09:12.399Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, her meta-point is that no one checks sources anymore. So someone makes up a fact, or quotes a fictional research proving the fact, someone else quotes that in their book, yet another person quotes the previous book... and soon "everyone knows" it.

And if someone checks the sources, they usually don't go beyond "the book A cited book B, and the book B really contains it, so everything is okay" (while the problem is that the book B quotes an organization that denies ever making that kind of research, or the book B makes the opposite conclusion than the original research).

comment by gjm · 2016-04-13T09:23:01.424Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

her meta-point is that no one checks sources anymore.

Sure. But making that point by falsifying your own sources doesn't seem to me like good practice. Though I guess it does then enable you to say with complete confidence that at least one book purporting to be feminist doesn't treat its sources well.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-04-13T21:06:12.858Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, her meta-point is that no one checks sources anymore.

There no golden point in history where people used to carefully check their sources. If anything the people I discuss with are more likely to check their sources because the internet makes it much easier than it used to be.

In this case you seem to advocate an approach of being against the feminist tribe because there are people in that community who believe in myths. I on the other hand advocate to simply be in the pro-primary-source-checking-in-a-collaborative-way tribe. That's why I have a skeptics.stackexchange T-shirt.

comment by Viliam · 2016-04-14T07:27:27.237Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In this case you seem to advocate an approach of being against the feminist tribe because there are people in that community who believe in myths.

Only if you also consider telling people about bad or fake scientific research "being against the scientist tribe". Under that definition, many people on LW would be against the scientist tribe.

And it's not just random people in that community who believe in myths. It often includes people teaching the topic at universities. I wouldn't expect an average person to have correct beliefs about things, but I expect better from people who pretend doing science. (Unless it is a pseudoscience or "sacred science".)

If skeptics.stackexchange works for you, okay. (To verify that, I would have to read the book again, list the specific claims, and then either look at what stackexchange already said about them, or ask the question if it wasn't asked before.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-04-14T13:28:42.789Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And it's not just random people in that community who believe in myths. It often includes people teaching the topic at universities.

It's not like that's different in a science like proper biology. You have always some issues that people care deeply enough to read the primary sources and some issues that are just fun to talk about and where myths get passed around.

There are scientistis like Feymann who don't simply believe others that they should brush their teeth but few people care about primary sources on that level.

To verify that, I would have to read the book again, list the specific claims

The main problem with just reading the book is that it simply presents the viewpoint of one person and as gjm suggests a person with an agenda. A book has no dynamic mechanism for checking-and-balancing itself.

Skeptics has a mechanism where multiple people look at answers and vote on them. It's not perfect but it's a better to form my opinion than reading an opinionated book by one side of a conflict.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-04-13T20:57:24.453Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you are interested in the topics feminists talk about, this could make you update probabilities of their statements.

As I said above, my general heuristic is to post questions that are clear enough that one can think about probabilities to skeptic.stackexchange.

How would reading that book improve on that heuristic?

comment by Viliam · 2016-04-14T07:17:12.821Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have no idea how good results you get from the skeptic.stackexchange; whether people there track the citations to their original sources, and whether all questions get answered. If that works okay, then I guess the book can only point you towards some questions you wouldn't ask otherwise.

comment by James_Miller · 2016-04-08T17:19:23.806Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

You're talking about 'the' legal definition of rape, but I don't know what you're referring to, since laws heavily differ by countries

This is certainly true, so I would say by the common law definition or by the jurisdiction which the victim was in.

Do you think that activists believe that 20% or more of women who attend college in the United States are raped while in college? If this is true, shouldn't activists support shutting down most colleges?

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-04-09T21:40:43.162Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If this is true, shouldn't activists support shutting down most colleges?

Only if they believe the situation outside of colleges is different.

comment by vision5 · 2016-04-27T03:24:46.140Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And look what's happening in places where an actual rape culture develops, e.g., the parts of Europe most affected by the migrant crisis. Ok, many feminists are doing the best to deny what's going on so as not to be "Islamophobic", but aside from that. Politicians are advising women to dress extremely modestly and not go out alone at night without male escort. Swimming pols are creating women only hours, trains are acquiring women-only cars.

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-04-09T23:09:25.842Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Shouldn't activists support shutting down most colleges?"

When most people supported the social norm, "no sex until marriage," do you think that 20% of women attending college were raped while in college?

Maybe those activists should just support the restoration of that social norm.

comment by gjm · 2016-04-11T12:55:04.640Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know what fraction of women attending college are victims of rape there now -- for reasons already aired by others in this thread, the figures often quoted don't seem terribly trustworthy. But I doubt that an official no-sex-before-marriage norm, as such, makes much difference.

Explicit social norms of this kind notoriously make less difference than you might think. (Warning: most of the things below are single studies which could be wrong or misleading in all kinds of ways; but I know of no reason to expect them all to be wrong in the same direction.)

But I bet a no-sex-until-marriage norm was quite effective in making it harder for women to say they'd been raped. Not for the stranger-leaping-out-of-a-bush sort of rape. But for the sort that I think is much more common on college campuses, where someone gets you too drunk to resist or slips drugs into your drink or just declines to stop when you say "look, this feels very nice but I really don't want to go any further" -- well, with those social norms in place you can't tell that sort of story without getting labelled a Bad Girl, in which case you lose even if your story is believed.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-04-11T13:21:36.034Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Maybe those activists should just support the restoration of that social norm.

Why do you think it would be easier to establish that norm than the "Yes means Yes"-norm?

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-04-11T15:53:00.516Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think it would be easier, but I think it might be more beneficial if it worked.

I don't know how accurate that statistic really is, but my understanding is that it is a measure (accurate or not) of the number of women who say they had sex in college without consenting to it. The 20% figure is credible to me, taken as measured in that way, and might be accurate, even though I would also not be surprised if the true figure is only 10%.

I would guess, however, that the following situation makes at least some contribution to that situation. A man and a woman have sex. Neither of them mention it explicitly. No one says, "do you want to have sex?" or anything like that. But both of them make positive behavioral contributions, and a reasonable person, judging from the behavior alone, would assume that both are consenting.

Then, the woman feels bad afterwards. This surely does happen in real life, for many reasons. Now as Katja Grace mentioned in a recent post, frequently we do not know our own desires directly, but infer them from signs. So it is perfectly possible for the woman in this situation to reason, "look, I feel bad about this, and although I was cooperating physically, I never actually said I wanted it. So I likely did not give real consent."

You could say that we could repair this situation by requiring that people actually mention it and say yes.

That would repair the situation, in the sense that the woman would no longer be able to complain that she had sex without consenting. But notice that when she felt bad, that probably had little to do with whether or not she explicitly said yes: she could feel bad even if she did. And the yes-means-yes policy would do nothing to fix this.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-04-11T20:47:18.032Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And the yes-means-yes policy would do nothing to fix this.

The question isn't about yes-means-yes as policy but yes-means-yes as cultural value.

No one says, "do you want to have sex?" or anything like that.

The fact that you don't know anyone who practices explicit consent doesn't mean that nobody practices explicit consent.

In the BDSM community it's standard to have explicit consent. Having sex with a person who's tied up without being explicit about bondaries beforehand is seen there as bad.

In Tantra they consigrate sexual sex before those acts are happening. That's also an explicit act.

Wheel of consent would be another model of how sex works where people engage in explicit consent.

That's three communities who thought about how to make sex work well that all value explicit consent and where people explicitely communicate about it.

Many guys who hasn't thought much about how sex is supposed to work and who take their ideas about the nature of sex from porn on the other hand likely doesn't explicitely communicate about it at the moment. Yes-means-Yes activism is supposed to work against that trend.

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-04-11T21:03:43.446Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I did not say that no one practices explicit consent. My statement was in the context of an example.

comment by ChristianKl · 2016-04-11T21:12:33.548Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay then I don't understand the main point.

"No sex without explicit consent before marriage" seems to be a lot less restrictive then "No sex before marriage".

I can't see how you find the second a good norm but don't like the first norm.

comment by gjm · 2016-04-11T16:38:42.028Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your argument here appears to be more or less as follows. (I admit I am presenting it unkindly.)

  • Sometimes people have sex and regret it.
  • That would happen less if they had a lot less sex.
  • People who care about reducing rape should really be trying to reduce all sorts of bad sex.
  • Therefore they should advocate for social norms that make having sex more difficult and more fraught with undesirable consequences, so that people will have less sex and therefore less bad sex.

It may well be true that (if it were possible) reestablishing a strict no-sex-before-marriage norm would result in less bad sex. But that seems like a very inadequate reason to think that it would be a good thing, even for people who are exceptionally concerned about reducing the incidence of rape.

It's not clear to me whether you're really intending here to advocate for a return to no-sex-before-marriage norms, or whether this is intended to be a reductio ad absurdum of (some) anti-rape activists' positions: "These people want a strict consent culture, which would probably reduce rape but only at the cost of making sex more awkward for everyone. That would be the same sort of tradeoff as switching to a strict no-sex-outside-marriage culture. Maybe its silliness will be more obvious in the latter context."

If the former, I think I've already said enough to make it plain why I am not convinced. If the latter, I will add that the ratio of bad sex avoided to good sex prevented seems very different in the two cases.

(Of course someone who holds that there is really no such thing as good sex outside marriage will disagree. And of course I agree that someone whose position that is will probably want a strict no-sex-outside-marriage culture. But that's rather obvious and doesn't seem relevant to the rest of the discussion here.)

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-04-11T17:10:50.538Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

In the first place, I agree with Lumifer that in practice people cannot (or will not) return to a previous norm. So any actual way of addressing problems is going to be something different. So I am not "advocating" the old norm in the sense of trying to bring it about. I don't think anyone can do that. But I am suggesting that were it possible, it might be better.

It seems to me certainly true, even if not PC, that one reason that women are more likely to feel bad in the cases under discussion, is that a stable situation is more important to women than to men, so that men are on average more comfortable with casual sex than women are. This is presumably biological: women want help raising their children, while a man in principle will have more children by having as much sex as possible. I think that this has consequences for this discussion.

Let's say some potential sex might turn out to be good or might turn out to be bad. The above reason suggests that outside of marriage it will be more likely to turn out bad from the woman's point of view, than from the man's point of view. It might turn out bad even within marriage, but it would reasonable to think that there will less inequality (in the amount of bad sex from the point of view of each.)

It seems to me possible that the greater equality there might indeed be an adequate reason for preferring the no-sex-before-marriage norm, and the strict consent culture attitudes and arguments are suggestive in this regard. The word "rape" is extremely negative: traditionally people understood it to mean a violent attack on someone. If the word is applied to a situation where consent is imperfect or not completely clear, but in fact there is no such violence or threat of violence, the implication is that the outcome is still extremely bad. I think people would admit, if asked explicitly, that the violent case is worse. But even without the violence, they are saying, it is still very bad.

I am inclined to agree that the situation is very bad: it could cause a woman emotional trauma for a very long time, for example. Compare the good that people get out of non-marital sex: it's pleasant, it can strengthen friendships, and so on. But a single occasion is likely not going to affect your life for months or years. That suggests to me that even a low ratio of the bad cases (admittedly I am talking about cases somewhat lacking in consent) to good cases is not worthwhile: it might be better for women if you simply have no non-marital sex at all.

Of course, as I said, I was talking about cases where there might be some lack in consent. But this might not be the most relevant factor. If you just have "bad sex", even if there is strict consent, the woman may be emotionally affected in very similar ways, as I pointed out above. If we admit that this situation is extremely bad for her, this again might be a reason to prefer to completely avoid non-marital sex, even in comparison with a strict consent culture.

comment by gjm · 2016-04-11T20:38:46.902Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am not "advocating" the old norm in the sense of trying to bring it about. [...] But I am suggesting that were it possible, it might be better.

OK. (That is "advocating" in the sense I had in mind, but I appreciate the distinction you're making.)

it might be better for women if you simply have no non-marital sex at all.

Well, anything might be true. Let's have a look at how plausible that is. On the one hand, you have the benefits of being permitted to have sex: in particular, (1) the actual sex, which available evidence suggests most people -- women as well as men -- consider a very major benefit, and (2) the ability to be better informed before embarking on the (nominally) lifelong commitment of marriage. On the other hand, you have (3a) the fact that some freely-chosen sex will turn out to be bad, and if you can't make that free choice you avoid the bad as well as the good, (3b) the hope that this will reduce opportunities for what is sometimes called "date rape" -- i.e., nonconsensual sex in contexts where consensual sex might have been a live option -- and (4) the hope that it will also somehow reduce the incidence of stranger-rape.

The fact that people -- women as well as men -- do in fact choose to have sex outside marriage suggests that they feel #1 outweighs #3{a,b}, and for what it's worth that seems fairly obviously true to me. (Though I happen to be male and hence, as you say, may be inclined to give #1 more weight relative to #3 than it deserves.) #4 seems to me like no more than a pipe dream: I see no reason to think that stranger-rape would be any rarer on account of a "no sex before marriage" norm (it's not like we don't have a "no rape" norm now, after all), and in so far as rape is about sex rather than power, misogyny, etc., having a larger number of sexually frustrated young men around seems likely to make the problem worse. Even #3b seems pretty doubtful to me unless those social norms go far enough beyond "no sex before marriage" to rule out situations in which rape could happen. (E.g., if it were viewed as monstrous for a man and a woman who are not married ever to be alone together.) And then there's #2, whose benefit I've no idea how to estimate but seems likely to be a big deal.

(For the avoidance of doubt, in suggesting that #2 is a big deal I am not intending to imply that sexual compatibility is the only important thing, or even the most important thing, in a marriage. But it is certainly a thing.)

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-04-11T21:08:11.100Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you have some valid considerations here, but it is only a part of the picture, and I think the no non-marital sex idea is more reasonable than you are suggesting.

But I'm going to excuse myself from this discussion; I think bringing it up on LW was a mistake on my part.

comment by gjm · 2016-04-11T21:46:29.845Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

OK; no problem. It was interesting.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-11T17:22:11.923Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're denying agency to women.

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-04-11T17:24:56.539Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, I'm not. Where do you think I denied that women are agents?

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-11T17:45:21.686Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Because you're making decisions for them. In particular, "...is not worthwhile: it might be better for women if you simply have no non-marital sex at all".

Besides, it's funny how in the scenario where two people got drunk and woke up in one bed in the morning, one of them (hint: the one who has agency) is the rapist and the other (hint: the one without agency) is the victim.

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-04-11T17:51:54.481Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am not making decisions for them. You might be mistaken about the best route to work in the morning. That does not mean that you are not an agent or that you do not decide which route to take, or that I am "making decisions for you" if I notice that you are mistaken.

I am not the one who decided who is called a rapist in your scenario; in fact, I suggested (even if it was between the lines) that the term "rape" in that scenario does not fit very well at all.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-11T17:57:31.465Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am not making decisions for them.

In this case I don't understand what do you mean when you say "it might be better for women".

You might be mistaken about the best route to work in the morning

Yes, and when someone says "it might be better for all commuters to just take public transportation", the implication is that each commuter is incapable of making his own choices "correctly" and that taking the ability to make the choice away from her would be of net benefit to the society.

But if you want I can replace the word "agency" with another word: "freedom".

I am not the one who decided who is called a rapist in your scenario

Your whole line of argument is built around the asymmetry between men and women.

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-04-11T18:02:01.814Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"It might be better for women" in the same sense that "it might be better for you" to take a different route in the morning.

And no, that doesn't mean that anyone in particular is incapable of making their choices correctly. It does mean that some people make mistakes sometimes, and that is a thing that happens. But there is nothing impossible about the situation where a custom of using only public transportation would be better for society overall: if that were true, it surely does not mean anyone is not an agent.

There are many asymmetries between men and women. But both of them are agents, and that has nothing to do with calling anyone a rapist.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-11T18:06:38.731Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

it surely does not mean anyone is not an agent

It means that taking the agency away would be a good thing (net benefit to the society).

But let's get explicit. Are you saying that -- if it were possible -- forbidding premarital (and extra-marital, presumably) sex would be a good thing? And that if you had a button to push which would make it so, you would push that button?

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-04-11T18:50:33.755Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

First of all, the existence of a social norm is different from a law, and we were discussing the former, not the latter. It's true that if you have reason for a social norm, you might have reason for a law. But it may be that the norm would be overall beneficial, and the law overall harmful.

If having a norm or a law against something means that people are not agents, then people are not agents because there is a law against murder. So obviously that does not follow. If you want to call that "taking away agency," you can, but people are still agents.

Are you saying that society would be better off overall without any norms or laws? And would you push a button to bring about that state of affairs?

To push the button in your scenario I would have to be very certain that it would be beneficial overall, including the fact that I was pushing a button like that. I am not that certain, so I would not push it.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-09T23:55:48.452Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

When most people supported the social norm, "no sex until marriage,"

And when was that?

do you think that 20% of women attending college

In those time women did not attend colleges. The triple K (Kinder, Küche, Kirche) were expected to be enough for them. Social norms, y'know...

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-04-10T02:38:21.212Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not as many women attended college, but some did. I actually mentioned that as I was writing the comment and then deleted it, since it isn't relevant -- you could reinstitute one of those norms without the other.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-10T02:54:15.773Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

you could reinstitute one of those norms without the other.

Actually, I don't think you can reinstitute any of these norms, together or separately.

comment by entirelyuseless · 2016-04-10T16:45:01.636Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree. (We are using could/can in two different ways, and each statement is true.)

comment by Viliam · 2016-04-15T19:31:40.188Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Unlike "Rational"Wiki, skeptics.stackexchange doesn't promote "snarky point of view", so the personality type that enjoys making fun online of their political opponents wouldn't be attracted there. (I'd go even further and say that unlike Wikipedia it doesn't try to recruit people with specific political opinions, so it should be more balanced.) It probably isn't perfect, but nothing is.

My concern would be simply too many questiong and not enough contributors, so there is a high risk of the specific question failing to attract any answer, or only getting one or two answers, in which case the opinion of the random person who posted the answer could be unrepresentative.

(I only had experience with the programmers' stackexchange, and there many upvoted answers are great, and I also got some karma for answering other people's question. But when I asked questions, they were often unanswered, or only received one wrong answer. My hypothesis is that the difficulty of question correlates negatively with the number of answers. Also the gamification aspect of getting karma for good answers is good at encouraging people to answer questions, but if people get into too competitive mindset, it may discourage them from answering more complex questions, because that gets them less karma per unit of time: both because answering a complex question takes more time, and because there will be less people voting on the complex question.)

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-15T05:11:18.399Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If the resulting encounter doesn't become part of a relationship ... they feel seriously emotionally hurt.

That, Eugene, is bullshit. It could happen, but it doesn't have to happen.

Women do tend, on the average, to get more emotionally involved around sexual matters than men. On the average, and relatively to men. Women are also more pragmatic around sexual matters than men.

The idea that a woman will necessarily "feel seriously emotionally hurt" if she sleeps with someone and it doesn't lead to "till death do us part" is just plain wrong and obviously so.

comment by gjm · 2016-04-12T19:24:53.861Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

there were a lot fewer instances of women getting that drunk

That might well be true, but I doubt it was because of the no-sex-before-marriage rule.

comment by SquirrelInHell · 2016-04-09T02:13:34.573Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I tried the episode about sunk cost fallacy, praised by Fluttershy, but I triggered so much on your overuse of the word "should" that I couldn't continue.

I am very aversive to this, since I realised that "should" is not a reason to do anything (and taking this further, doing things because of "reasons" runs cross to consequentialism).

Take a look at what Nate says about this, which is not exactly my point but close enough: http://mindingourway.com/should-considered-harmful/

comment by James_Miller · 2016-04-09T04:08:27.988Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the feedback. It had never occurred to me that I over use this word, and I will try to be mindful of it in the future.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-13T04:27:20.612Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

many of whom were never taught about the consequences of sex.

And what are the consequences of sex? Do tell.

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-13T01:54:38.843Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

an epidemic of girls falsely believing that they can have sex without emotional consequences, finding out the hard way that this is not the case

So, would you be willing to put some numbers on that? Percentages of girls? percentages of sexual encounters? How these percentages changed compared to, say, ancient times like the 1970s or 80s?

'Cause, y'know, the sexual revolution happened in the 1960s, that was a loooong time ago...

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-13T01:37:05.333Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Who are "they" and are you talking about isolated cases or you think there's a rape epidemic in contemporary society?

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-13T00:58:17.084Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

What are you revealing them based on?

Actual behaviour. Repeated actual behaviour while being quite aware of the consequences.

many of them feel

What, you believe SJW's "statistics" now about who feels what? X-)

comment by Lumifer · 2016-04-12T23:26:39.527Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Depends on how much alcohol is involved

You did specify "very drunk".

Except these hook-ups do not make people happy, as judging by the subsequent developments.

Revealed preferences say otherwise.

And anyway, Eugene, aren't you forgetting the great enabler of the sexual revolution: the Pill? It was (and is) a much much important reason why women don't feel obliged to find one male and stick to him for the rest of their lives. They might prefer to, of course, but they mostly they don't have to.