The horrifying importance of domain knowledge

post by NancyLebovitz · 2015-07-30T15:28:38.728Z · score: 17 (23 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 238 comments

There are some long lists of false beliefs that programmers hold. isn't because programmers are especially likely to be more wrong than anyone else, it's just that programming offers a better opportunity than most people get to find out how incomplete their model of the world is.

I'm posting about this here, not just because this information has a decent chance of being both entertaining and useful, but because LWers try to figure things out from relatively simple principles-- who knows what simplifying assumptions might be tripping us up?

The classic (and I think the first) was about names. There have been a few more lists created since then.

Time. And time zones. Crowd-sourced time errors.

Addresses. Possibly more about addresses. I haven't compared the lists.

Gender. This is so short I assume it's seriously incomplete.

Networks. Weirdly, there is no list of falsehoods programmers believe about html (or at least a fast search didn't turn anything up). Don't trust the words in the url.

Distributed computing Build systems.

Poem about character conversion.

I got started on the subject because of this about testing your code, which was posted by Andrew Ducker.

238 comments

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comment by eternal_neophyte · 2015-07-30T17:31:38.841Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

LWers try to figure things out from relatively simple principles

If you only do this you are going to fail. This is why Aristotle got physics so badly wrong, right? Reasoning has to be a cyclical process of compressing complex realities into sets of simple principles and only then are you licensed to decompress those principles into making statements about reality.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-07-31T02:19:30.852Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Falsehoods programmers believe about time is another in the series.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-01T03:58:01.868Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you. That was there (plus some extras-- see the article now) in my original post at lj, but somehow it got lost as I was bullying the html to work here.

comment by btrettel · 2015-07-30T23:35:18.103Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Addressing common misconceptions is worthwhile, and lists are a good way to do it. You can find similar lists in the academic literature for many different subjects, e.g., here's an article about common misconceptions in thermodynamics. I've also mentioned math books listing counterexamples before. Many counterexamples address common misconceptions.

I like to create Anki cards for common misconceptions, to make sure I don't makes these mistakes myself. One issue with this is whether correcting specific cases causes my brain to recognize a more general case. I'm not sure it always does, but this is better than nothing. I try to include problem solving in my daily life partly as a way to make my beliefs propagate (e.g., I could realize that something is an example of a principle I have a card for).

Edit: Also, to be pedantic, many of the problems listed in the links above would most charitably be called approximations. Programmers might make these because of laziness, for example. Calling them false beliefs could be misleading as the programmer could know something is false but not care about corner cases.

comment by thakil · 2015-08-03T07:37:56.220Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So while many of these false beliefs are worth noting, it's worth thinking why programmers make these mistakes in practice. While it might be the case that names can include numbers, it's probably also going to be the case that the majority of numbers get into names via user error. Depending on the purpose of your database, it might be more valuable to avoid user error, than avoid a minority of users being excluded.

The reason I mention this is a lot of things in life are a study in trade offs. Quantum mechanics isn't very good at describing how big things work, and classical mechanics isn't very good at describing how small things work.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2015-07-31T18:30:18.686Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Weirdly, there is no list of falsehoods programmers believe about html (or at least a fast search didn't turn anything up).

A lot of programmers believe they can parse HTML with regular expressions.

comment by DanArmak · 2015-08-01T10:38:55.404Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

A lot of programmers believe they can parse HTML at all.

Go read the official W3C parser algorithm, I'll wait. First thing you'll notice is that there is no formal grammar - the spec is of the actual parser state machine. Then you notice each past-and-present HTML version has its own parser algorithm spec, and there is no official documentation on the differences between them, never mind rationale. Then you realize that HTML5 is now a "living spec", so the parser algorithm at that link occasionally changes, and past versions and changelogs are deliberately not published...

HTML is a parseable format like PHP is a programming language. There is no spec, there is only whatever bugs and quirks a particular browser version happens to contain.

(Oh, you thought browsers actually follow any of those published W3C specs? HAHAHAHAHA sob.)

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2015-08-02T01:32:38.199Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

HTML is indeed a turd of a standard.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-07-31T21:26:18.076Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hey, can we try not invoking the blasphemous things that dangle from the staked corpses o̭̙̥͚̘͍̠f dead universes?

comment by DanArmak · 2015-08-01T13:03:46.669Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If I were feeling snarky I'd add, "a lot of people believe they are programmers."

(To adapt a quotation, "Anyone can code. That doesn't mean anyone should.")

comment by TezlaKoil · 2015-07-30T15:50:34.287Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

From Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names:

anything someone tells you is their name is — by definition — an appropriate identifier for them.

There should be a list of false things people coming from common law jurisdictions believe about how choice of identity works on the rest of the globe.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-07-30T16:13:25.565Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure what's intended by "appropriate" there-- it might not be so much a claim about the law as a claim that it's a name the person wants to use and you shouldn't argue with them about it.

Even then, impersonation is an issue..

comment by fubarobfusco · 2015-07-31T03:16:32.783Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes a user puts something in a "name" field that they do not actually intend to be used to identify themselves.

They may be trying to get that string displayed to other users in a highlighted fashion. If someone puts "Wal-Mart Sucks" in the name field on a blog comment, it isn't because they seriously want to be identified by the surname of Sucks. They're just saying that Wal-Mart sucks, in a dramatic way.

They may be trying to break the system in one way or another. If someone puts their name as "Robert'; drop table students; --" then depending on the social and technical context they might be giving themselves a clever alias; or they might be trying to attack the database.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-07-31T07:33:41.887Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

All fair enough.

There's also the possibility of accidentally entering wrong characters-- I assume this is unlikely since people should know how to type their names, but people have to type their names so much that even a low chance of fumble-fingers is going to occur now and then.

comment by TrE · 2015-07-31T06:47:41.068Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Or their mom might be a hacker.

Incidentally, there are many cases where I don't care about my username at all and have to come up with something. I'd find it acceptable if they'd just give me a number and a password, or let me register just with a password (perhaps provided by them?), maybe plus e-mail.

comment by Bugmaster · 2015-08-06T01:13:17.716Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's worth noting that, yes, if you want your database of names/addresses/times/etc. to be fully robust, you need to essentially represent these items as unconstrained strings of arbitrary length (including zero).

However, in practice, most likely you're not building a fully robust database. For example, you are not solving the problem of, "how can I fully represent all of the marvelous variety of human names and addresses ?", but rather, "how can I maximize the changes that the packages my company is shipping to customers will actually be shipped to the correct customer ?".

The second problem is much more heavily constrained, because your database no longer holds arbitrary pieces of information; but rather, instructions to someone (or something) at the package shipping company. All you need to do is implement just enough complexity to make sure you can communicate to that agent. It is highly unlikely that the agent will accept arbitrary strings, because he needs to turn around and convert the strings to instructions for his fleet of delivery truck drivers, and -- not being omniscient -- he can't do that if the address says, "That one old guy who lives in the village over by the river".

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-06T01:55:13.188Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

he can't do that if the address says, "That one old guy who lives in the village over by the river".

As a nitpick -- yes, he can. In the third world it's not uncommon to NOT have a working system of usual addresses and locations are typically specified as town -- local landmark -- directions from that local landmark.

comment by Bugmaster · 2015-08-06T02:06:12.971Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Right, I was thinking in the context of our Western society. But in the third world, as you said, the opposite is true: an address like "123 Main St., Sometown Somecountry" simply does not work. So it is still not the case that you need to implement a fully general address database that covers all possible cases; you only need to cover the cases that you personally care about.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-06T03:22:21.117Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Of course, you're much less likely to be shipping a package to those kinds of third world countries, and even if you did, you'd have trouble making sure it gets delivered to its destination for other reasons.

comment by Jiro · 2015-08-03T16:12:15.440Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Also, there is a place where the sun rises in the west and sets in the east.

(Gur fha evfrf orpnhfr bs gur Rnegu'f ebgngvba, ohg rira va gur nofrapr bs gur Rnegu'f ebgngvba vg jbhyq evfr naq frg bapr n lrne orpnhfr bs ubj gur Rnegu'f nkvf cbvagf. Vs lbh ner pybfr rabhtu gb gur Abegu Cbyr, gur ebgngvba unf artyvtvoyr pbagevohgvba gb gur fha'f evfvat naq frggvat naq gur fha evfrf naq frgf cerggl zhpu bayl orpnhfr bs gur nkvf. Tb gb gur Abegu Cbyr, frr jurer gur fha evfrf, naq tb njnl sebz gur cbyr n fubeg qvfgnapr va n qverpgvba fhpu gung guvf cbvag vf gb gur jrfg.)

comment by deepakjnath · 2015-08-03T23:07:02.567Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A problem of believing something wrong could also be a problem of classification or problem of language. There is so much lost in translation and as far as a programmer is concerned they deal with a very formal language. So they are not as good at informal languages and nuances.

comment by LessWrong (LessWrong1) · 2015-08-01T18:14:20.116Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not a programmer, so my view may be a little bit skewed.. but this seems like a list of things that may or may not be correct (and I'd like to put things in a continuum, or percentages, or some other more practically observable other than a list) but it doesn't really get any further than that. How substantial many of the claims are?

I honestly doubt "programmers" get all these wrong. I'm not going to link to a post (I've seen some people replying with a post as if it's a substitute for actually saying what's wrong) or even say that "programmers" is a group too big and perhaps too inclusive to really have anything to say about them. I'll just link to esr's guide on hacking and ask the people who wrote the articles who they were dealing with. I doubt that the "hackers" being talked at esr's guide would do a thing like that. I'd also like to link to the suckless philosophy and ask if the "programmers" and software the writers were dealing with were really what what the suckless philosophy is completely at odds with.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-01T18:49:12.780Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You may be pointing out a problem with English. "Programmers" could simply mean more than one programmer, but there's an implication that all programmers have those problems or perhaps that the problems are pervasive.

I get the impression that these are mistakes that someone has seen (or made) at least once. Some of them may mostly be made by programmers who are beginners.

I agree that it would be nice to get percentages, even if there are large error bars. I think the main point of these lists is to warn programmers that they may need much more specific knowledge than they think they need. For what it's worth, the commenters on those lists are programmers, and I'm not seeing comments which say "That never happens!".

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-03T10:00:08.343Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If I ask most programmer or people of other domains whether all months have more than 27 days I think most of them would say, of course all months have more than 27 days. That if wednesday is the second of a month the following friday out to be the 4th of the months.

You actually need to know about the strangeness of september 1752 to know that there this one month in the calender who had less days. It had no days between the 2nd and the 14th.

Children get taught in school that minutes have 60 seconds and not that there a body that decides 18 months in advance whether the minute is supposed to have 59, 60, 61 or 62 seconds.

comment by Jiro · 2015-08-03T15:48:09.073Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is no different from asking someone the fastest route to get to the store and being told "go a mile down that road and take a left" even though the person didn't check to see if the road was temporarily blocked. If you ask someone directions, they're probably not going to add "unless the road isn't temporarily blocked" and "unless a meteor hit the store last night and I didn't know about it yet" and "unless there's a quantum fluctuation that will move all your molecules right next to the store".

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-04T07:40:19.946Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you ask someone directions, they're probably not going to add "unless the road isn't temporarily blocked"

In many cases Google Maps has disclaimers like that.

In programming you usually do care more about edge cases then you care in daily life.

comment by LessWrong (LessWrong1) · 2015-08-03T13:36:02.946Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The september 1752 example sounds like something you'll find on a trivia show. It's not really such a good example. It's the exception rather than the rule. When I read this I feel like I'm back in elementary school being the detail obsessed nerd.

I can't say anything about the minute example but seeing the trend is to take some obscure occurrence, pointing fingers and saying "how can you not know that?" and looking like a special snowflake to every regular person.

In practical terms, what are the merits of all those examples? Going back to the lists, some of them are probably bad design[1], like one example that a backup is a string of numbers 053901011991.html so let's not focus on them.

[1] What constitutes "bad design" may vary; some people could probably easily filter through many files like that using ls. Some people prefer minimalism, others don't feel compelled to use their processing power so sparingly, and would rather get the job done more quickly. (It seems like this has some time implications. If you have cleaner code, you can work with it more easily in the future, if you just want a task done and forget about it) So if I were to describe "bad design" in a way that holds some water, I would say that it hurts productivity.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-03T15:12:30.198Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The whole point of the list is that there are exceptions to rules that most people consider to be true in all cases.

If you program systems than you get bugs because of corner cases that you don't anticipate. You need domain knowledge to know all the corner cases.

Leap seconds manage to crash real world computer systems because their designers didn't handle them properly.

You don't want any software that has a calendar to crash simply because a user asks the system to show september 1752.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-03T15:22:22.352Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you program systems than you get bugs because of corner cases that you don't anticipate. You need domain knowledge to know all the corner cases.

Actually, the proper solution is to practice defensive programming, not trust the user input, and be generous with sanity checks. Failing gracefully is much easier when your software knows it's not in Kansas any more.

comment by HungryHobo · 2015-08-03T15:57:52.760Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Which sounds nice right up until a production system shuts itself down gracefully a few hours before a daylights saving time switch purely because of tests which turn out to be more picky than the actual thing they're supposed to be protecting.

Multi-byte characters can do surprising things to scripts designed to truncate logs written by someone who didn't take into account the maximum size of characters and chinese production server names.

A lot of a programmers day can end up being related to fixing bugs due to incorrect assumptions or failing to take edge cases into account and knowing lots of edge cases and handling a reasonable portion of them right away is far better than making the most restrictive possible assumptions off the bat.

You don't want to end up running into the Y2Gay problem: http://qntm.org/gay

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-03T16:03:04.788Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes it's the sanity checks themselves which fail to handle input that the system itself could handle fine.

Do you know that "the system" can handle that input fine? If you do, why did you sanity check reject it?

Sanity checks are just code -- you certainly can write bad ones. So?

You don't want to end up running into the Y2Gay problem

That post argues via mind-numbingly stupid strawmen (or should that be strawschemas?). Yes, you should try to be not stupid, most of the time, to the best of your ability. I agree :-/

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-01T23:37:26.218Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'll just link to esr's guide on hacking and ask the people who wrote the articles who they were dealing with.

Of course not. Many hackers are programmers, few programmers are hackers. People fitting esr's description are rare and cubicle peons with a keyboard and a screen are legion.

comment by ike · 2015-07-30T23:54:11.260Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Could you turn the tracking links into direct ones?

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-01T18:24:41.172Z · score: -4 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Gender. This is so short I assume it's seriously incomplete.

It also seems to amount to arguing that we should take people's delusions and hallucinations at face value, as long as those are about there gender. It's also interesting that these are the only type of delusions society is, currently, expected to play along with.

If a man shows up claiming to be both Jesus and John Lennon his beliefs won't be taken seriously and he is likely to be directed towards treatment aimed at curing him of his delusion. On the other hand, if a man shows up claiming to be a woman, we are expected to take him at his word, disregard any other evidence to the contrary, and accommodate this delusion in all kinds of unreasonable ways.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-02T02:22:41.510Z · score: 9 (17 votes) · LW · GW

When "a man shows up claiming to be a woman", what exactly -- in "beliefs pay rent in anticipated experiences" terms -- do you think this person is wrong about? What delusions do you think they have, that you can reduce to actual experiences? (Note that "X is a man" and "X is a woman" do not satisfy that last criterion, and part of the dispute here is over how we should define those terms.)

So far as I can tell, the people in question are not under the misapprehension that they have female anatomy or female chromosomes; they don't imagine that they are considered female by other people; they know that they bear male names; etc.

Psychologically, the typical person who "shows up claiming to be Jesus" is very unlike the typical "man who shows up claiming to be a woman". A well informed person would make quite predictions in the two cases about, e.g., their general level of rationality in other domains, their propensity to make testable predictions that turn out incorrect, etc.

You are evidently suggesting that we should treat these two cases alike, but they seem to me very different.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-02T04:51:06.835Z · score: -2 (12 votes) · LW · GW

When "a man shows up claiming to be a woman", what exactly -- in "beliefs pay rent in anticipated experiences" terms -- do you think this person is wrong about?

I could ask the same question about the man who claims to be Jesus. In both cases it's possible to "steelman" the claims to be unfalsifiable if one is so inclined, although at that point the claims are unfalsifiable and have no connection to reality and are mere free floating claims.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-02T13:49:10.095Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I could ask the same question about the man who claims to be Jesus.

You could ask it, but I think a correct answer would look quite different in the two cases.

I should preface this by saying that I am neither a psychiatrist nor a psychologist, and will welcome corrections from those who are. So, anyway, my understanding is that if someone thinks he's Jesus then either (1) he expects to have some super-Jesus-powers like performing miracles or offering teaching so supremely wise that following it will greatly improve anyone's life[1], and/or (2) his thinking in this area is so seriously disordered that it's a bit of a stretch to say that he actually "thinks" he's Jesus as opposed to merely saying it but not really understanding what that would mean.

[1] For the avoidance of doubt, I am not claiming that the actual Jesus (assuming there was one) had those superpowers; only that those superpowers are part of what is meant by "Jesus" in the context of someone claiming to be him. In case 1, his beliefs are falsifiable and will generally be falsified. In case 2, they are unfalsifiable but this isn't much of a steelman; the point is just that he's not thinking coherently.

What about the other case? Well, here my understanding is that (1) the people in question do not have falsifiable-and-will-be-falsified beliefs; they do not, e.g., think that their anatomy is different from what it actually is. And (2) their thinking in this area may differ from (e.g.) yours but it is not incoherent and they don't in any way resemble people undergoing schizophrenic episodes.

So, first of all: Do you disagree with me about this? If so, (a) on what points and (b) how do you suggest we go about determining which of us is nearer the truth?

Now, so far what I've said about transgender people has been purely negative -- I've said "no, they don't think X and don't have problem Y". Perhaps you disagree not about that but about what you (rightly or not, we'll see) expect me to say about what they do think. So let's proceed.

The model of gender they're working with goes something like this:

  • Gender is not simply a matter of anatomy or genetics or biochemistry.
  • What it actually is is a matter of social role-filling and self-perception.
  • Therefore, someone who is seen by others and themself as female is female.
  • This means that, e.g., there isn't a valid inference from "female" to "able to bear children" or "interested in having sex with men" or "not very strong" -- but there never was anyway; some people are infertile, some people have non-majority sexual preferences, some people are much stronger or weaker than average, etc.
    • It makes no difference to speak of to the perfectly valid statistical inference: if someone is female, they are much more likely to be able to bear children, much less likely to be able to lift very heavy weights, and so forth.

Do you think something in that is delusional, on a par with thinking you're both Jesus and John Lennon? It doesn't look that way to me. (As it happens, I think this is a better account of gender than any that makes gender a matter of anatomy or genetics or biochemistry, but at present I'm not concerned with defending that claim; the only relevant point is that it isn't crazy.)

In terms of this model, it's clear enough (I think) what someone means when despite having a Y chromosome they say "I am a woman". They mean: "I am much more comfortable thinking of myself as female than as male; I wish to occupy a female role in society, to use a traditionally female name, etc.". This would make little sense if "female" meant "possessed of a uterus" or "having two X chromosomes", but (see above) that isn't what it means in this context.

*

Finally: Let us suppose that all of the above is, in some way I'm failing to see, totally wrongheaded, and that in fact there is a Right Way to determine someone's gender, and that Right Way is a matter of looking at their chromosomes or something, and that we therefore really are talking about "men claiming to be women". There remains what seems to me a pretty clear distinction between someone in that position and someone claiming to be Jesus-the-son-of-God. Namely: in almost all contexts treating someone as a woman despite their male-typical anatomy and chromosomes is easy and harmless, and empirically it makes these people much less likely to kill themselves. (And no one has yet found anything else that does.) Whereas treating someone as the Son of God probably means, e.g., worshipping them, which is a much less reasonable thing to ask others to do.

I repeat that my primary disagreement with you on this point is about whether transgender people are really much like people who think they are Jesus; the point of the previous paragraph is just that even if I'm completely wrong about that, it doesn't follow that we should adopt the position I think you are suggesting we should.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-02T19:06:34.871Z · score: -3 (13 votes) · LW · GW

What it actually is is a matter of social role-filling and self-perception.

This is even more true about being a messiah or a famous rock star.

Do you think something in that is delusional, on a par with thinking you're both Jesus and John Lennon?

Yes, your asserting a definition that fails to cut reality at the joints (or at least is worse at it then the traditional definition) and then insisting that everyone else adopt it.

In terms of this model, it's clear enough (I think) what someone means when despite having a Y chromosome they say "I am a woman". They mean: "I am much more comfortable thinking of myself as female than as male; I wish to occupy a female role in society, to use a traditionally female name, etc.". This would make little sense if "female" meant "possessed of a uterus" or "having two X chromosomes", but (see above) that isn't what it means in this context.

I could just as easily steelman the Jesus and John Lennon guy as saying "I am much more comfortable thinking of myself as a son of God and famous rock star than as a typical human."

Namely: in almost all contexts treating someone as a woman despite their male-typical anatomy and chromosomes is easy and harmless

Not when they insist on say playing in women's sports and using women's bathrooms.

and empirically it makes these people much less likely to kill themselves.

No, empirically playing along with their delusions doesn't actually reduce their chances of killing themselves.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-02T21:38:59.100Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

That is even more true about being a messiah or a famous rock star.

But not about being a specific messiah or a specific famous rock star. If everyone treats me as a messiah then I am, I suppose, a messiah in some sense. But that doesn't make me Jesus.

a definition that fails to cut reality at the joints (or at least is worse at it than the traditional definition)

Would you like to justify that?

you're asserting a definition [...] and then insisting that everyone else adopt it.

It appears to me that I am doing the exact opposite. I am describing a definition and saying I don't think it's crazy on a par with believing oneself to be the son of God. I do, as I mentioned, think it's a reasonable definition, but I also said, in so many words, that I'm not at present trying to argue that anyone else should adopt it. Only that it's not completely crazy.

So I guess when you say "you" you either don't actually mean me, or aren't troubling to distinguish between me and the people I'm describing. So let's talk about those people; people who (let's suppose) really are asking everyone to use their definition which (let's suppose) doesn't cut reality at its joints as well as some other definition (what? you haven't said; but let's say something to do with chromosomes and anatomy and hormones).

I repeat: Are you seriously saying that that is on a par with thinking you are simultaneously Jesus Christ and John Lennon? Really? Adopting one definition of gender rather than another is as crazy as believing yourself to be two long-dead famous people, one of them actually a demigod?[1]

[1] "Demigod" is of course not an accurate description of what Christians think the founder of their religion to have been, but it's near enough for our purposes.

I could just as easily steelman the Jesus and John Lennon guy [...]

Except that what I said isn't (so far as I am aware) steelmanning; it is what the people in question actually say. Whereas I betcha Mr Jesus Lennon would react pretty angrily to being told all he meant was that he wanted to think of himself, and be thought of by others, as a son of God and famous rock star.

empirically playing along with their delusions doesn't actually reduce their chances of killing themselves.

That's not what I've heard. Would you be interested in telling me where your information comes from?

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-04T02:00:12.527Z · score: -5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

a definition that fails to cut reality at the joints (or at least is worse at it than the traditional definition)

Would you like to justify that?

So would you seriously argue that Bruce Jenner is closer to the "female" cluster then the "male" cluster?

comment by gjm · 2015-08-04T16:11:16.767Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I would seriously argue that "closer to" in this context can mean multiple things. For, e.g., medical purposes Jenner is much nearer the male than the female cluster. [EDITED because I'd got things the wrong way around in the previous sentence.] For some others it's the other way around; e.g., the only pictures I've seen I would classify as nearer "typical female" than "typical male". For some others it's more complicated. For some others I simply have no idea (I have never met Jenner nor heard her[1] voice).

It seems to me that the great majority of the interactions people have with one another are ones where the impact of gender is (for those of us with the good fortune not to be hypersensitive to such things) rather small, and in those cases a definition that requires me to call a person a man even though the person in question is called Caitlyn, is wearing a dress, and plainly considers herself[1] a woman seems to me to be doing a poor job at cutting reality at its joints, and I will take the alternative even if that needs some adjustment when I am prescribing drugs for them or contemplating having sex with them.

(The real problem, of course, is that reality doesn't exactly have joints and that so far as it does we're quibbling over which side of the cut a piece of cartilage belongs on. Er, my apologies to any transgender or intersex folks reading this; I would not compare you to a piece of cartilage in other contexts!)

[1] I have attempted to phrase things so as to avoid question-begging via pronouns etc., but here I couldn't find any way that wasn't awfully clumsy. Sorry about that.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-04T17:17:59.852Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For, e.g., medical purposes Jenner is much nearer the female than the male cluster.

Why do you believe this to be so?

comment by gjm · 2015-08-05T00:01:26.686Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Whoops. I don't; it was a typo, which I shall fix forthwith. [EDITED to add: well, not exactly a typo, but at any rate an error caused by lower brain functions failing to obey higher.]

(In principle you could have guessed this not only because it's fairly obviously wrong but also because it was followed by an "it's the other way around" that actually went the same way around.)

comment by Fluttershy · 2015-08-02T04:44:15.276Z · score: 4 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Regardless of whether or not you believe that e.g. trans people genuinely feel uncomfortable with their bodies for gender/identity reasons or other reasons, it seems like applying the principle of charity and taking others' claims about how they feel about their bodies at face value costs little.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-03T09:45:39.011Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

taking others' claims about how they feel about their bodies at face

That's a strawman. "How does one feel about one's body" is far away from what most people including the dictionary take as the definition of gender.

More generally do you think there little cost involved by letting a male prisoner who doesn't like to be among other male prisoners but likes to be around female prisoners to declare that he's female and then let society put him in a female prison?

comment by gjm · 2015-08-03T12:35:20.776Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

a male prisoner who [...] likes to be around female prisoners

So there are specific contexts in which taking people's expressed gender identity at face value would work badly. Fair enough. But as the saying goes, "hard cases make bad law"; the question "are there contexts where doing X works badly?" may be less appropriate than "in most contexts, does doing X work better than not doing X?". It could be that (1) letting allegedly transgender criminals get moved to different prisons on the basis of their "new" gender is a bad idea, but that (2) outside prison, taking allegedly transgender people at face value is generally much better than not.

Still, let's consider that example a little more carefully. It's certainly true that we would prefer not to have male criminals get themselves put in all-female prisons just by saying "I'm a woman now", because they might endanger the other inmates. So, you do two things. First, you don't let people switch gender simply by saying "I'm a ---- now". Perhaps, e.g., you (1) require an official diagnosis of gender dysphoria (this will eliminate some would-be abusers, but no doubt some will be convincing enough to pass this filter), (2) don't switch anyone into a [new gender] prison unless they've got as far as a course of hormone treatment (this will eliminate most remaining would-be abusers, I think), and (3) as I think is commonplace outside prison, you don't let them have that hormone treatment until they've lived for an extended period "as" their newly adopted gender. New name, new clothes, etc. (This is part of why #2 is an effective filter, though the effects of the hormones will be a bigger part.)

Second, you use the mechanisms that surely already exist for keeping prisoners safe from one another. For instance, surely some women are very dangerous to other women, and they are kept in solitary confinement or watched extra-carefully or something. So if, e.g., an apparently-male criminal abruptly declares "I'm a woman now" and gets through the filters above, maybe they have to put up with being treated as much more dangerous to (other) women than a typical woman in the prison they get sent to.

And of course if they do then (say) assault someone else, down comes the wrath of the law and the prison system on them, and their life thereafter is going to be really unpleasant. If they're calculating and controlled enough to convince a psychiatrist that they have a gender dysphoria they don't really have, and to put up with living as a woman and getting dosed with anti-androgens and oestrogens and whatnot, they're probably also capable of figuring out that actually harming anyone is liable not to be worth the trouble.

All things considered, I don't actually see much practical opportunity for abuse here -- and this is the example you picked.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-03T13:40:51.789Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

First, you don't let people switch gender simply by saying "I'm a ---- now".

I think that's what "applying the principle of charity and taking others' claims about how they feel about their bodies at face value" means.

Perhaps, e.g., you (1) require an official diagnosis of gender dysphoria (this will eliminate some would-be abusers, but no doubt some will be convincing enough to pass this filter),

That's not letting people define their own identities but letting experts define their identities. Fluttershy clearly spoke about letting people define their own identities. Don't let yourself get mindkilled because it's a political topic.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-03T14:18:05.119Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think that's what [...] means

I'm suggesting that applying that principle in general doesn't have to mean applying it exactly the same to imprisoned criminals.

(Similarly, I am in general strongly in favour of letting people communicate freely and privately with others, but if we choose to restrict and/or monitor the calls of people in prison then that makes some sense.)

That's not letting people define their own identities but letting experts define their identities.

It's intermediate between the two: letting people define their own identities but giving experts a veto in a case where the risk of abuse is especially severe. Again: a general principle of letting people define their own identities may need amendment when dealing with people we have locked up in the name of public safety, just as general principles of free speech and free association and so forth get amended when dealing with those people.

Don't let yourself get mindkilled because it's a political topic.

Thanks for the advice. I commend it to all. Do you have a particular reason to think I am getting mindkilled, beyond the fact that (1) I disagreed with you and (2) you think my arguments are weak? (You have disagreed with me and I think "X might have bad consequences if applied unaltered to dangerous criminals, so proposing X in general is wrong" is a terrible argument; should I conclude that you're getting mindkilled?)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-03T15:27:41.166Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have a particular reason to think I am getting mindkilled, beyond the fact that (1) I disagreed with you and (2) you think my arguments are weak?

Yes, that you fail to distinguish between the question of whether to let people self identify themselves and whether people in hormone therapy really change their gender.

The debate whether or not a XY transexual with no penis, a vagina and big boobs is female or male is a quite different question from the debate whether or not the act of identifying as female means that your gender is female.

I have the impression that the political nature of the subject prevents you from distinguishing the two issues and that you simply want to be pro-LGBT instead of engaging with detailed arguments that distinguish different questions.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-03T17:42:21.493Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

you fail to distinguish between the question of whether to let people self identify themselves and whether people in hormone therapy really change their gender.

Well, I may or may not be mindkilled but I'm certainly confused. The only mention I made of hormone therapy was to suggest that in the special context of prisoners wanting to move to a different prison on account of gender transition, being on hormone therapy might be a useful criterion for being demonstrably serious. (Not for being actually male/female. The point is that it is evidence of the sincerity of the prisoner's claim, which we need because in this situation insincere claims might otherwise be a problem.)

So far as I can see,

the debate whether or not an XY transsexual with no penis, a vagina and big boobs is female or male

simply hasn't come up in this discussion, or at least not the bit of it you and I have been engaging in. Accordingly, I have no idea how anything I've written can suggest that I'm failing to distinguish that debate from any other debate. I also don't think the question was ever quite

whether or not the act of identifying as female means that your gender is female.

although obvious that isn't a mile from what Fluttershy was saying.

So it looks to me as if there's a failure of communication here. Let me attempt to say clearly and explicitly what I think the issues are. My apologies for the length of what follows.

  • Underlying question #1: under what circumstances, if any, is someone who is anatomically/chromosomally/hormonally male "really" female?
    • I'm not sure this is the sort of question that has a definite answer. There are multiple somewhat defensible ways to use words like "male" and "female" and the answer could be different for them (even without bringing transgender into it; intersex conditions are pretty complicated).
  • Underlying question #2: how should we use terms like "male" and "female" in cases where there's divergence between those features and others such as the person's (expressed and/or internal) "gender identity"?
    • My own opinion is that we get a healthier and happier society by usually taking "gender identity" as having priority over anatomy, chromosomes, etc., and accordingly that if someone identifies as (say) male then in most contexts we should treat that person as male.
    • There are plenty of exceptions. Your example of prison might be one. So might competitive sports. So, for sure, might medical care.
  • Fluttershy's proposal was to answer question #2 with "according to expressed gender identity".
    • Fluttershy didn't say anything about difficult cases where there's ground to suspect that expressed and internal gender identity might differ (e.g., someone trying to exploit the system), where taking someone at their word might be more than averagely dangerous (e.g., when the person in question is a violent criminal), etc.
    • One possibility is that Fluttershy simply believes we should always, unconditionally, take everyone at their word on this issue. I think that is unlikely; in any case, if so then I disagree. (See above.)
    • Another possibility is that Fluttershy was proposing a general policy, which might need modification in unusual cases (e.g., prison), but stated it briefly without all the caveats that it might need.
    • My money is firmly on the second of these, and in particular I am fairly sure Fluttershy was not saying that the mere act of saying "I am a woman" makes someone a woman.
  • Your response, though, was to point to an unusual case as if it demonstrated the badness of Fluttershy's proposal.
    • If you were taking Fluttershy to be claiming that we should always, unconditionally, take everyone at their word, then I think that is a needlessly uncharitable interpretation, enough so that I will gently suggest you consider that I might not be the only person in this discussion vulnerable to politics.
  • I pointed out that "hard cases make bad law"; that the fact that a policy of always taking people at their word might work badly when the people in question are serious criminals is little objection to a more reasonable policy of generally taking people at their word, while being more cautious in some special situations -- like prisons.
  • I made some concrete proposals for safeguards one might apply in prisons. As you say, those safeguards mean that we would not be simply and naively taking prisoners at their word as soon as they say "I'm a woman". They do, however, go a considerable way towards accommodating transgender prisoners.
    • That doesn't mean that I regard the proposal with the safeguards as giving a sensible criterion in less dangerous situations. I don't.
  • One remark about the context for all this. Fluttershy was responding to a comment from VoiceOfRa which takes it for granted that what's going on with transgender people is (and I quote) "delusions and hallucinations", on a par with someone who believes himself to be simultaneously Jesus and John Lennon.
    • I suggest that it is not reasonable to take Fluttershy's comment as meaning that the whole debate here is between "a person's gender is whatever they have most recently said it is" and everything else, any more than it is to take VoiceOfRa's comment as meaning that the whole debate here is between "a person's gender is determined by their chromosomes and nothing else" (or whatever, in fact, VoR's position is; if he's made that clear, then I haven't seen it). One comment was a response to the other. And my comment was attempting to address both.

that you simply want to be pro-LGBT instead of engaging with detailed arguments that distinguish different questions.

Well, you're entitled to your impression. I confess I'm unsure how you got it. In particular, I don't see that you made any such detailed arguments; in fact, the principal point of my original comment was that you failed to distinguish between "what should we do in general?" and "what should we do for the more difficult and dangerous case of imprisoned criminals?".

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-03T18:09:09.911Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

My own opinion is that we get a healthier and happier society by usually taking "gender identity" as having priority over anatomy, chromosomes, etc., and accordingly that if someone identifies as (say) male then in most contexts we should treat that person as male.

I think the situation is a going to become bit more difficult if we confine out attention to the cases where gender/sex matters. Just declaring yourself to be a male/female/lizard overlord/banana is nothing particularly exciting and is likely to lead to shrugs or, at most, some eye-rolling. But once you demand some rights as a member of that particular group, the situation becomes much muddier.

As you point out, there are "plenty of exceptions" to the my-gender/sex-is-whatever-I-say approach. The interesting question is whether most circumstances where gender/sex matters turn out to be such "exceptions".

comment by gjm · 2015-08-03T20:04:13.024Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

A very reasonable question, but note that for a lot of transgender people gender matters to them even when nothing very dramatic rides on it. They want to be addressed as Alice rather than Alex, to wear women's clothes, and so forth, without being laughed at (or worse) for it, and even if those don't look to the rest of us like "circumstances where gender/sex matters" I'm pretty sure it's a different story when you're looking at it from the inside.

There are rights that accrue to people of one sex but not of the other (to play in one sports team rather than another; to use one bathroom rather than another; ...) but I'm really pretty sure no one goes through the angst and nuisance and embarrassment of gender transition so that they can use a different bathroom.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-03T20:19:53.170Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

for a lot of transgender people gender matters to them even when nothing very dramatic rides on it.

Yes, of course, but he issue is whether that imposes obligations on other people beyond politeness.

We can try to generalise that question beyond sex & gender: if you are weird, non-average, out of the mainstream -- to which degree should society bend and accommodate itself to your strangeness?

comment by gjm · 2015-08-03T20:59:06.878Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think politeness is a pretty big deal, and a large fraction of what transgender people want is basically politeness plus ordinary decency.

I confess it's not clear to me what "the issue" actually is here. VoiceOfRa was evidently annoyed or offended or something by that list of false/oversimplified things people believe about gender, but rather little of the list is actually about transgender people or involves what he describes as "a man claiming to be a woman" and as "delusions and hallucinations" and I don't know what sort of accommodation it is that VoR finds it irksome to be expected to make. (Perhaps he finds it irksome to be expected not to describe transgender people as crazy on the same level as someone who thinks he's simultaneously Jesus and Lennon.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-03T21:18:13.561Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I confess it's not clear to me what "the issue" actually is here.

Well, it looks to me that VoiceOfRa is mostly interested in equating gender self-identification with delusions and other mental disorders; you are arguing that transgender people might be a bit unusual, but are harmless and we can all live in peace; while I am curious about shifts in sociopolitical power and the transformation of "politeness and decency" into enforced mandatory attitudes.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-03T22:47:50.153Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Mandatory in what sense? You can say all the same things VoR does, point and laugh at anyone you see whom you think might be trans, etc., and not get into any sort of legal trouble in any country I know of.

"Politeness and decency" may be becoming socially mandatory, in the sense that if you say certain kinds of things then many people will think you're a bigot, but that's hardly a new phenomenon -- though of course the details shift over time; e.g., it's more acceptable than it used to be to be rude about Christians and less acceptable than it used to be to be rude about gay people.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-04T00:00:18.479Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Mandatory in what sense

Both in this sense and in this as well.

that's hardly a new phenomenon

Of course not. Intolerance is a perennial feature of human societies :-/

comment by gjm · 2015-08-04T14:11:17.668Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Both in this sense and in this as well.

OK, so the first one shows that if you run a business you can get into trouble for discriminating against certain traditionally-discriminated-against groups. And the second shows that in some parts of the business world, giving money to an anti-same-sex-marriage campaign can disqualify you from the role of CEO. I don't think these examples are good support for worrying about 'the transformation of "politeness and decency" into enforced mandatory attitudes', and I'll (too verbosely, sorry) explain why.

The first of these (which, unlike the other, involves actual legal mandatoriness) seems to me distinctly less dramatic than t.t.o.p.a.d.i.e.m.a., but I can see how you could describe it that way. But I can't help suspecting that what you disapprove of here may not be only enforced politeness-and-decency. Imagine a similar case where, instead of refusing to serve a same-sex couple, the business refused to serve a mixed-race couple. This would be illegal in the same way and would meet with the same sanction; and, I suggest, this would be equally a matter of legally enforced politeness-and-decency.

How would you feel about that case? Here's how I would feel about it, which not coincidentally is roughly how I feel about the same-sex case too. Freedom is important and, were it not for the consequences for others, I would like businesses to be free to operate however they want. However, there are consequences for others, which is why (to take a much less controversial example) in many jurisdictions a shop cannot legally sell what it claims are bread rolls suitable for human consumption that are actually full of metal shavings and strychnine. Some groups of people -- e.g., black people, women, gay people -- have traditionally been the object of suspicion and hatred and discrimination, and for each of these groups there are plenty of people who would love to discriminate against them. If such discrimination were legal, then people belonging to these groups might find themselves at a substantial systematic disadvantage; it's not like 5% of businesses would say "no blacks" and another 5% "no whites", 5% "no gay people" and 5% "no straight people"; the discriminations correlate. I think we are all better off if these groups are not systematically disadvantaged, and I'm willing to sacrifice a bit of freedom-to-discriminate for that. This argument works only in so far as there's enough prejudice (at least in some places; it tends to be localized) that the groups in question really do suffer substantial systematic harm. I think there still is, against all the traditionally-disfavoured groups, but maybe in 30 years that will change and we can make some of them not be protected classes any more.

If you feel that way about (say) black people (or, relatedly, mixed-race couples) but not about (say) gay people (or, relatedly, same-sex couples) then I think our disagreement is not about politeness and decency being socially mandatory, it's about whether there's more discrimination against one group than another or whether one group's interests matter more than another's.

The second example (Brendan Eich) concerns social rather than legal mandatoriness, and I think this is something that varies considerably between different bits of society. E.g., the owners of Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby have espoused attitudes exactly opposite to the ones you say are becoming mandatory and they are at no risk of being ousted for them. So I'm not sure that "enforced mandatory attitudes" is a good description; what's happening is that Mozilla's employees and most vocal advocates are a rather atypical segment of the population, and there are things they disapprove of more strongly than the population at large. And that companies are generally really keen for their CEOs not to be disapproved of by the people they need to be on their side. I bet there are businesses (ones serving very socially-conservative markets) in which an openly gay person would be at a big disadvantage if they wanted to be CEO.

(I'd guess that the Eich case is highly visible because it's atypical, in that they actually got as far as appointing him. I would hazard a guess that openly gay people, and major donors to anti-same-sex-marriage campaigns, are both underrepresented among CEOs, but that there's little outrage about this because those people are just quietly less likely to be appointed. There are relatively few black or female CEOs, too, and while some people are upset about this it isn't a cause celebre in the way the Eich case is.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-04T17:05:10.453Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think these examples are good support

They are not support, the are examples. I am not trying to persuade you to start worrying, I'm explaining my position.

what you disapprove of here may not be only enforced politeness-and-decency

Well, yes, of course. I've been trying to generalize the issue out of the intently-peering-at-the-genitals niche. Yes, I would feel similarly about a mixed-race couple.

If such discrimination were legal, then people belonging to these groups might find themselves at a substantial systematic disadvantage;

I think you are mistaken about that. There is a fair amount of literature on the topic, but let me make two brief points. First, baseless discrimination is market-inefficient. Even besides potential social backlash, if you refuse to serve a portion of your market and your competitor is fine with it, guess who has the advantage in the notoriously ruthless darwinian capitalist world. Second, take a look around. Imagine that it becomes legal for store owners to discriminate against, say, Indians and Pakistanis. What proportion of stores do you expect to put up signs "No Paks allowed" in their windows?

The second example (Brendan Eich) concerns social rather than legal mandatoriness, and I think this is something that varies considerably between different bits of society. E.g., the owners of Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby have espoused attitudes exactly opposite to the ones you say are becoming mandatory and they are at no risk of being ousted for them.

I'm not talking about the sign of the argument to the function, I'm talking about the nature of the function itself.

Owners of Chick-Fil-A do not (as far as I know) have an ideological litmus test that must be satisfied before allowing people to advance to high positions in the company. Mozilla, evidently, does. A great deal of the US academia, to pick a relevant example, does, too.

My concern is with intolerance, not with which particular sin is deemed worthy of excommunication and burning at the stake.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-04T17:37:55.661Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

They are not support, they are examples.

OK, understood.

Firstly, baseless discrimination is market-inefficient.

True, but (1) if the group you're discriminating against is a minority then the inefficiency may not be large and (2) if your other (potential) customers happen to approve of your discrimination then the gain in their custom may outweigh the loss in the others'.

You may recall the recent case of a pizza place -- was it called Memories Pizza? -- whose owners made the mistake of admitting on camera that they would be reluctant to cater for a hypothetical same-sex wedding. They got a lot of adverse comments. They closed up shop. They put up a page on GoFundMe or some such site. ... And then they got, I would guess, comfortably more money from donations in a few weeks than the profits their pizza restaurant could have produced in, say, a year.

What proportion of stores [...]

Understood; as I said, "This argument works only in so far as there's enough prejudice [...] that the groups in question really do suffer substantial systematic harm". I don't think the issue is that if it were legal then all the shops would put up "No members of group X" signs and members of group X would starve and freeze to death; it's more an Overton window thing. Some shops would put up those signs; lots of employers would quietly decline to hire people they thought were black/Jewish/female/gay/trans; it would be universally understood that discrimination against those people is normal; people would feel virtuous for being somewhat less prejudiced against them than average; and so members of the group in question would face a constantly harder life than the rest of us. A law saying "nope, not allowed to do that" about the most blatant kinds of discrimination, I think, reduces the subtler kinds too.

I could be wrong. You refer to a "fair amount of literature"; are there studies out there that investigate this and find that anti-discrimination laws don't have any such effect?

I'm not talking about the sign of the argument to the function, I'm talking about the nature of the function itself.

As you say, intolerance is perennial. It seems to me that what's changed over the last few decades is the sign (or phase, or something) of the argument, not the function. In other words, I really don't think what we're looking at is an increase in mandatory enforcement of politeness-and-decency, it's a change in what sort of thing counts as politeness-and-decency.

And if the victims of that now are (e.g.) the opponents of same-sex marriage, it seems clear to me that they have it a lot better than the previous victims did. Brendan Eich can't be CEO of Mozilla, apparently, but at least he can get married if he wants and no one is sending him to jail or forcing on him a course of chemical treatment designed to change his opinions. Life is more comfortable for opponents of same-sex marriage now than it was for gay people ten years ago, and vastly more comfortable than it was for gay people sixty years ago. So: yeah, intolerance is perennial, and its distribution is changing, but there's a good case to be made that there's less of it now and its consequences are milder than before.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-04T18:24:52.074Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I could be wrong.

To be wrong, first you need to take a falsifiable position :-)

I really don't think what we're looking at is an increase in mandatory enforcement of politeness-and-decency

Well, that's the issue in dispute here. It's a complex problem and requires analysis too serious for a few LW comments, but I don't think you can simply handwave it away. In the UK in particular the recent focus on criminalizing certain kinds of speech is quite troubling.

comment by hairyfigment · 2015-08-05T17:43:16.761Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know what you mean, nor do I care. The UK has always criminalized some kinds of speech and does not try to pretend otherwise.

(The USA has also always criminalized some kinds of speech. But I think this is because the Supreme Court lacked the real power to remove obscenity laws until after such laws had become "precedent".)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-05T17:59:14.188Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know what you mean, nor do I care.

So why did you reply to the comment, then?

comment by Vaniver · 2015-08-05T18:02:26.720Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Presumably to express disapproval of your making the comment?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-05T18:04:08.520Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For a "Fuck you" this seems rather underwhelming... :-/

comment by hairyfigment · 2015-08-05T18:07:14.106Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

To say that your example is a ridiculous one that reveals your status quo bias yet again.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-05T18:10:09.630Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

To say that your example is a ridiculous one

I don't believe I gave any examples when I mentioned "the recent focus on criminalising certain kinds of speech".

You seem to be majorly confused and angry.

comment by hairyfigment · 2015-08-05T17:40:28.097Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Owners of Chick-Fil-A do not (as far as I know) have an ideological litmus test that must be satisfied before allowing people to advance to high positions in the company.

I very strongly suspect they do, and I think you should assume that expressing the wrong political views can disqualify you for advancement in any given company. Though usually (I hope) this is less of a deliberate litmus test and more a requirement that "leaders" avoid "drama". Being feared or loved can be nice, but if your plan is to take people's money you want to be invisible.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-05T17:54:24.554Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

expressing the wrong political views can disqualify you for advancement in any given company

Advocating, maybe, but just "expressing", understood as a non-advertised relatively minor donation to a state referendum that was more or less 50-50?

Can you provide other examples of high-ranking corporate officers being forced out of the company in similar circumstances?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-07T11:00:31.940Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

They want to be addressed as Alice rather than Alex

There are actual woman who are happily want to be addressed as Alex.

People are quite free to want to be addressed in different ways. On the other hand there also a freedom to address someone in multiple ways.

By default we use pronouns via intuition. If a person seems male to us we use "he" is they seem female we use "she". Doing differently takes mental filtering. That carries a cognitive cost.

They want to be addressed as Alice rather than Alex, to wear women's clothes, and so forth, without being laughed at (or worse) for it

I don't think anybody should be laughed at for wearing a dress regardless of whether they identify as male or female.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-07T11:42:14.664Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There are actual women who are happily want to be addressed as Alex.

True enough, I didn't choose the best example male name. This seems about as relevant to anything else I was saying as the fact that "women who are happily want to be addressed as Alex" is ungrammatical is to anything else you are saying. I should have said "Alexander" or "Adam" or "Alfred" or something.

Doing differently takes mental filtering. That carries a cognitive cost.

Sure. Did I ever claim otherwise?

Suppose you meet someone who looks male to you. It turns out that actually the person is a woman, with two X chromosomes and a uterus and all. I'm guessing that once you discover that you'll refer to that person as "she" despite the small cognitive cost of doing so, and it probably won't even occur to you to think it an unreasonable imposition to be expected to do that. And the chances are that, actually, you won't insist on inspecting her chromosomes and reproductive organs before adopting the appropriate pronoun.

If your attitude is different in the case where a near-identical-looking person has XY chromosomes and was called "Alfred" when born but now goes by the name of Angela and considers herself to be female, even though the cognitive cost is exactly the same in the two cases, then I suggest that the cognitive cost is not the real objection.

I don't think anybody should be laughed at for wearing a dress

Neither do I, but apparently some people do.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-08T00:35:54.734Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think anybody should be laughed at for wearing a dress

Sorry, you don't have a right to do silly things and then demand not to be laughed at.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-10T10:10:47.392Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No one's demanding anything. I can't speak for ChristianKI, but I think that

  • no one should be laughed at for wearing a dress
  • people should not in general be forbidden to laugh at other people for wearing dresses

and I see no contradiction between those positions. (What there is is the possibility for values to clash; if people are free to laugh at one another, sometimes they will, even if I think they shouldn't. But there's no avoiding that sort of thing, other than by having no values at all.)

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-11T03:03:51.865Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

no one should be laughed at for wearing a dress

What meaning of "should" are you using there? Also why?

comment by gjm · 2015-08-11T10:00:44.135Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What I said was: "I think that no one should be laughed at [...]" and the meaning of "I think X should happen" is something like "my values prefer X to not-X".

Sometimes when I think X should happen I try to make it happen despite others' preferences. Usually I don't. (Just as: Sometimes when out of self-interest I want X to happen I try to make it happen despite others' preferences, and sometimes not.)

I wouldn't try to stop other people laughing at someone for wearing a dress, with the following kinda-exceptions. 1. I might gently suggest that they were being rude. 2. If the person laughing were some kind of official performing his or her duties, they might well have a stronger obligation not to be rude / discriminatory / etc., and if they were working for me in some sense (e.g., my employee; public servant in a country where I get to vote and pay taxes and so on) then I might require them to stop.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-12T07:25:19.994Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What I said was: "I think that no one should be laughed at [...]" and the meaning of "I think X should happen" is something like "my values prefer X to not-X".

What ethical theory is this based on?

I wouldn't try to stop other people laughing at someone for wearing a dress, with the following kinda-exceptions. 1. I might gently suggest that they were being rude.

I would suggest you'd be being an obnoxious jerk by doing so.

  1. If the person laughing were some kind of official performing his or her duties, they might well have a stronger obligation not to be rude / discriminatory / etc., and if they were working for me in some sense (e.g., my employee; public servant in a country where I get to vote and pay taxes and so on) then I might require them to stop.

Ok, so if I was an employer I'd do my best to avoid hiring you, and certainly not let you anywhere near a position where somebody might be reporting to you.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-12T08:37:55.524Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think it's based on any ethical theory, but the ethical theory to which I subscribe is approximately utilitarianism.

It occurs to me that there is an ambiguity about "I think no one should do X". Taken literally it means something like "I prefer a world in which no one does X", but of course one can imagine a lot of different sorts of world in which no one does X. The most probable such world is probably one in which everyone is prevented from doing X, but that isn't what I had in mind (and I think it's very seldom what anyone who says things like "I think no one should do X" has in mind).

you'd be an obnoxious jerk

Your opinion is noted. I'm not sure to what extent you're seriously stating your position, and to what extent you're attempting a sort of reductio ad absurdum (since "I would suggest you'd be being a jerk" is kinda symmetric with "I'd suggest they'd be being rude", etc.) -- but if you mean what you say, then apparently you think laughing at someone for their choice of clothes is less obnoxious than saying someone's being rude by doing that. I wonder why?

I'd do my best to avoid hiring you

I think I could have predicted that with some confidence a priori.

Less politically-motivated employers, however, might well prefer their employees not to behave in ways that predictably lose them customers and goodwill. If someone comes into your shop and you laugh at them, that is not likely to be good for the business. They might prefer their employees not to behave in ways that prevent effective teamwork. If one of your colleagues comes into work and you laugh at them, you're less likely to be able to work well together, which is also not good for the business.

(For the avoidance of doubt, I did not have in mind cases like the following: X is a software developer; X is sitting at his computer thinking about the design for some code, notices a news article in another window that includes someone wearing a dress, thinks they look silly, and laughs. That might or might not indicate opinions or attitudes I think they'd be better off without, but it's not likely to be rude or discriminatory and it's none of my business.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-12T17:18:00.829Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's very seldom what anyone who says things like "I think no one should do X" has in mind

I don't know about "seldom". For example, I have a feeling that many people who say "I think no one should be racist" do have in mind a world where others are prevented from being racist.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-12T21:56:41.537Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not my impression, for what it's worth, but it's probably difficult to tell. (What evidence, if any, would change your mind? E.g., if someone asked a lot of such people and they all said that wasn't what they had in mind, would you believe them?)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-13T14:26:46.965Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Evidence would change my mind. I'm not asserting an article of faith, but a claim about empirical reality. Yes, appropriate polls would count (subject to the usual caveat that poll results are REALLY sensitive to how exactly you formulate the questions). And, of course my position would need to be better delineated and firmed up before it becomes falsifiable, right now it's kinda wiggly and fuzzy :-)

comment by Jiro · 2015-08-12T15:47:19.938Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Less politically-motivated employers, however, might well prefer their employees not to behave in ways that predictably lose them customers and goodwill. If someone comes into your shop and you laugh at them, that is not likely to be good for the business.

However, that could end up being a tragedy of the commons when it comes to incentives. Each time an employer fires someone for something like this, it personally benefits the employer (since the employer gains in customers and goodwill). But it also creates incentives for more potential customers to reduce their threshold for taking offense, which harms shops in general (and everyone). The magnitude of that effect may mean that overall, we're better off if nobody fired such employees than if everyone did, but since the gain to the employer benefits the employer while the loss is to a generalized group, employers will not stop doing this on their own initiative.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-12T16:37:44.633Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yup, certainly possible. (How plausible? I don't know. Most people don't encounter many cases of people getting fired -- or nearly getting fired -- for being insensitive and don't get enough details of those cases to justify a change one way or another to their offence thresholds. It's not perfectly obvious, by the way, that having more cases like this creates an incentive to be more easily offended. It might go the other way: "No one is getting fired for being mean to us! We must make more fuss!")

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-12T09:26:01.249Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think it's based on any ethical theory, but the ethical theory to which I subscribe is approximately utilitarianism.

So do you have a calculation why laughing at someone for dressing in a funny way lowers total utility?

Your opinion is noted. I'm not sure to what extent you're seriously stating your position, and to what extent you're attempting a sort of reductio ad absurdum (since "I would suggest you'd be being a jerk" is kinda symmetric with "I'd suggest they'd be being rude", etc.) -- but if you mean what you say, then apparently you think laughing at someone for their choice of clothes is less obnoxious than saying someone's being rude by doing that. I wonder why?

The simple answer is because it's not rude. While the choice of clothing in question was funny.

Less politically-motivated employers, however, might well prefer their employees not to behave in ways that predictably lose them customers and goodwill.

I agree. I don't think this applies to the current example. For example, the "humorless corporate drone" type of employee is widely disliked.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-12T11:07:55.619Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

So do you have a calculation [...]

Only in the rather hazy sense in which I do for most other ethical questions. It goes something like this: if X wears a dress and Y laughs at X for it, X gets to feel insulted, belittled and maybe threatened, Y gets the satisfaction of laughing at someone they find risible, and anyone else around maybe gets encouraged to think ill of either X or Y. X's utility loss here looks a lot bigger than Y's utility gain. (From, e.g., my experiences of laughing at other people and being laughed at, and what I've heard of other people's.)

because it's not rude.

That seems obviously wrong. Maybe we just have a big disagreement as to values, but I'm wondering whether we mean different things by "rude" or are envisaging different scenarios?

humorless corporate drone

The mere fact of not laughing at someone wearing a dress doesn't make a person a humorless corporate drone

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-13T05:21:07.805Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Only in the rather hazy sense in which I do for most other ethical questions. It goes something like this: if X wears a dress and Y laughs at X for it, X gets to feel insulted, belittled and maybe threatened, Y gets the satisfaction of laughing at someone they find risible, and anyone else around maybe gets encouraged to think ill of either X or Y. X's utility loss here looks a lot bigger than Y's utility gain. (From, e.g., my experiences of laughing at other people and being laughed at, and what I've heard of other people's.)

That's a universal argument against all humor.

The mere fact of not laughing at someone wearing a dress doesn't make a person a humorless corporate drone

True, however, it goes a good way in that direction and applying your logic consistently certainly would.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-13T12:19:16.542Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It most certainly isn't a universal argument against all humour. It's an argument against laughing at people (in case it isn't clear, btw, what's mostly in view here is laughing at people in their presence) but that's very far from being all humour.

it goes a good way in that direction

I cannot recall a single instance in which I, or anyone else known to me, formed a bad opinion of a corporate representative because they didn't laugh at someone else. Still less, of course, specifically because they didn't laugh at someone for wearing a dress.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-14T05:12:33.482Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It most certainly isn't a universal argument against all humour. It's an argument against laughing at people (in case it isn't clear, btw, what's mostly in view here is laughing at people in their presence) but that's very far from being all humour.

Well look at the effect of the campus PC on campus comedy.

I cannot recall a single instance in which I, or anyone else known to me, formed a bad opinion of a corporate representative because they didn't laugh at someone else.

Can you recall all the exact reasons for your exact opinion level about any corporate representative, or anyone for that matter? Or, as seems likely, is that statement pure bullshit in Frankfut's sense?

comment by gjm · 2015-08-14T23:18:15.018Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

look at the effect of the campus PC on campus comedy

So you've completely changed the subject: originally you claimed that "we should generally not laugh at other people in their presence because they'll dislike it more than we like it" is a universal argument against all humour, and now you're saying that "campus PC" has made some comedians not want to perform at universities.

Can you recall all the exact reasons [...]

Nope. But I can, e.g., be pretty confident that my opinions about corporate representatives were never the result of thinking they were secretly alien lizard-men. And that I never thought ill of a corporate representative because they were too intelligent. Because those would be really weird reasons, and I would expect to remember having them.

pure bullshit in Frankfurt's sense

Nope. I don't do that. Your consistent disinclination to answer requests for clarification and evidence makes me wonder, though, whether perhaps you might be projecting a little when you ask me that question.

comment by Fluttershy · 2015-08-04T01:53:34.509Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, this discussion really took off! I mainly replied to VoiceOfRa's comment in order to encourage people to be nice to trans people in general, rather than to advocate any highly specific and well-thought-out position.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-05T17:30:04.194Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

rather than to advocate any highly specific and well-thought-out position.

In general I do practice the principle of charity on LW in the sense that I think that other people on LW try to advocate well-thought-out positions.

There no reason that there much to be gained by trying to speak on LW for a position in a way that isn't well-thought-out.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-04T02:24:00.653Z · score: -4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, your idea of what constitutes being "nice" to people is problematic to say the least.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-04T02:07:06.098Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

So there are specific contexts in which taking people's expressed gender identity at face value would work badly. Fair enough. But as the saying goes, "hard cases make bad law"; the question "are there contexts where doing X works badly?" may be less appropriate than "in most contexts, does doing X work better than not doing X?".

Except similar logic applies in every case where gender actually matters, e.g., which bathroom to use, can they participate in women's sports, etc. And in all other cases, the benefits are along the lines of, the deluded person feels better if everyone plays along with his delusion.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-04T16:21:07.552Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

similar logic applies

The logic here takes the form: If we treat this person as female, then such-and-such danger arises that wouldn't if we treated them as male; here's a course of action that attempts to balance mitigating the danger to others against the interests of the person in question.

The appropriate conclusion depends on how real and how severe the danger is. (Of course it needn't be danger as such, and I take it you wouldn't claim there's danger associated with letting male-anatomy people compete in nominally-all-female sporting competitions.)

ChristianKI's example concerned people deemed enough of a threat to others to need locking up in prison. This is an unusually dangerous and (probably) unusually dishonest population. Outside that context, the balance will be different.

in every case where gender actually matters

To transgender people "gender actually matters" much more of the time than you'd think. (How often does the state of your knee joints actually matter? If your knees are in good shape, hardly ever -- at least in that you hardly ever need to attend to it. But anyone who's had knee trouble can tell you that actually it matters all the time to them.)

the deluded person feels better if everyone plays along with his delusion

I notice that you have so far declined to answer my original question: What actual false beliefs (expressed in terms of anticipated experiences) does this person have, in your opinion?

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-04T16:39:57.868Z · score: -2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The appropriate conclusion depends on how real and how severe the danger is. (Of course it needn't be danger as such, and I take it you wouldn't claim there's danger associated with letting male-anatomy people compete in nominally-all-female sporting competitions.)

ChristianKI's example concerned people deemed enough of a threat to others to need locking up in prison. This is an unusually dangerous and (probably) unusually dishonest population. Outside that context, the balance will be different.

So do you support letting trans-"women" play on women's sports teams and use women's bathrooms? I notice, you avoided actually addressing the question.

To transgender people "gender actually matters" much more of the time than you'd think.

In the sense that people make implicit Bayesian deductions based on peoples gender all the time, this is true. Of course, for purposes of those Bayesian deductions trans-people are much closer to their biological then their claimed gender.

I notice that you have so far declined to answer my original question: What actual false beliefs (expressed in terms of anticipated experiences) does this person have, in your opinion?

That he's in the similarity cluster labeled "women" for one thing. Yes, you can steelman his position to be conpletely non-falsifiable if you want, I don't believe this is actually what most of them are claiming (as seen by the fact that they do insist on, e.g., using women's facilities, playing in women's sports, being celebrated as "female" CEO's.)

comment by gjm · 2015-08-04T17:58:06.567Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

So do you support letting trans-"women" play on women's sports teams and use women's bathrooms?

I think sports teams and sporting organizations should make their own decisions. I don't know what's actually best overall; I think transgender people are rare enough that it wouldn't make a big difference in practice to most . My guess is that the best policy for smaller informal sports teams and organizations is to let 'em in, that the best policy at the highest levels where a lot is at stake is to say women's teams/competitions are only for people who are anatomically female by some criterion or other, and in between I'm less sure but lean towards a let-'em-in policy in the absence of compelling evidence that it would do actual harm.

I think that if someone is generally presenting as female we should let them use women's bathrooms if they want to. The obvious objections to this seem to be (1) ewww (which I suggest is not an argument) and (2) that this introduces a danger to women from predatory men dressing up as women in order to sneak into their bathrooms. I find #2 unconvincing because when I try to imagine scenarios where there's an actual difference in the harm done I can't think of one that's actually plausible, and because whatever bathroom policy we adopt there are going to be trans people and they are going to need to use bathrooms, and there are obvious risks of harm from trans women trying to use men's bathrooms too.

Of course, for purposes of those Bayesian deductions trans-people are much closer to their biological than their claimed gender.

I don't think that's clear at all. As I've said before in this discussion, what counts as "closer" depends greatly on context, and for many purposes someone who looks more or less female, presents as female, and considers themself female is "closer" to stereotypical-female than to stereotypical-male whatever is in their chromosomes or their pants.

That he's in the similarity cluster labelled "women"

Someone in this situation is some way from the centre of either the "women" or the "men" cluster, regardless. It seems to me that in fact there is no such thing as the similarity cluster labelled "women" because (have I mentioned this already?) there are any number of similarity clusters corresponding to different notions of similarity, and different notions of similarity are called for in different contexts.

If you pick some particular notion of similarity based on (say) gross anatomy, sex chromosomes, hormone levels, and ability to beget and/or bear children, then indeed our hypothetical person is in the "men" rather than the "women" cluster. But do you really think there's a delusion there? If you ask, say, Bruce->Caitlyn Jenner "What chromosomes do you have?", the answer might be "It's none of your business" or "Who cares?" but it won't be "XX, of course, because I'm a woman".

It seems to me that the actual difference between you and, say, Jenner is a disagreement about what notion of similarity to use. How is that a delusion on a par with thinking you're Jesus?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-05T17:25:30.180Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think transgender people are rare enough that it wouldn't make a big difference in practice to most .

If the mere act of expressing that you want a different gender than the one you have changes your gender for societal purposes you are going to have a lot more "transgender" people when there are benefits to be gained.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-04T18:13:40.652Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think that if someone is generally presenting as female we should let them use women's bathrooms if they want to. The obvious objections to this seem to be (1) ewww (which I suggest is not an argument)

Let me reformulate this as an argument :-D

Imagine a gym, or an athletic club. A pre-op transsexual presenting as a female shows up and you direct him/her to the women's locker room and showers. Soon after that a group of very irate (biological, conventional, mainstream, cis, heterosexual, not-quite-sexually-liberated) women show up and demand to know what someone with a dick is doing in their showers staring at their tits. Your response?

comment by gjm · 2015-08-05T00:19:21.302Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"I understand that you find it upsetting, but our policy here is that trans people get to use the changing rooms corresponding to the gender they identify with. If Ms X was staring at your breasts, that was well out of order regardless of gender and I will be happy to speak to her about it and make it clear that that behaviour is unacceptable. If you are troubled by Ms X's genitals, then I can only suggest that you try to ignore them."

Maybe some of them leave and never come back, or set the lawyers on me. No one ever said that doing the right thing is guaranteed to be maximally profitable or keep you out of legal trouble.

Alternatively: "Oh, I think Ms X must have misunderstood our policy, which is actually that she should be using the women's toilets but that to avoid the kind of discomfort you're suffering -- for which I am very sorry -- our members are asked to use the changing rooms corresponding to their anatomy regardless of gender identity. I'll talk with Ms X and see that that's understood."

(The question I answered was about women's bathrooms -- where the partial nakedness is generally confined to individual cubicles -- rather than gym changing rooms where more difficult issues arise. I do, as it happens, prefer the first answer above to the second, but I think either is defensible.)

And of course the same argument goes the other way. The same pre-op trans woman turns up at the gym and you show her to the men's locker room and showers. Soon after that a lot of men come along and complain that there's a woman in their locker room staring at their dicks. (They may use a word more specific and ruder than "woman".) Now what?

The fundamental difficulty here is that gym changing facilities are designed on the assumption that people can be neatly partitioned into two groups, either of which is happy being naked around others in that group. This falls down in the presence of trans people, and doesn't cope too well with the existence of gay people. So any policy you adopt may have problems when someone of non-majority gender or sexuality turns up. The options are: close all the gyms; make them single-sex; provide changing facilities that let people isolate themselves while naked; exclude anyone whose appearance might disturb others; accept that some people are going to be disturbed from time to time. None of these is problem-free. Too bad.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-05T04:11:24.671Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I do, as it happens, prefer the first answer above to the second, but I think either is defensible

Which answer, do you think, a sufficiently representative poll of women would pick?

Would you also prefer the first answer in a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood? ;-)

None of these is problem-free.

I don't know. Speaking of solutions, two come to mind. One is to have a few individual showers/changing rooms. They are usually called "family rooms" and are lockable as the intent is that they are used by a single family, often with small kids. The other one is provide three kinds of changing rooms: male, female, and unisex (aka anything goes).

By the way, at least one gym that I know has five kinds of changing rooms: males over 18 only, males if you are or are accompanying someone under 18; the same pair for females, plus individual family rooms X-)

comment by gjm · 2015-08-05T09:21:16.481Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Which answer [...]

I think it depends a lot on your population of women (e.g., you might get very different answers in San Francisco or Cambridge -- either Cambridge, actually, but I'm thinking of the one in the UK -- than in Memphis or Tunbridge Wells). But questions of the form "how shall we treat members of this distrusted minority group?" may not be best answered by majority vote.

two come to mind

First is #3 in my list; drawback is space and hence cost. Second is one I hadn't thought of but should have; one drawback is space, another is that to make it work you presumably have to say that obviously-trans people must use these changing rooms which (1) is probably going to be unpleasant for them and (2) maybe make things a little too easy for potential assailants (as I remarked earlier, rates of sexual violence against trans people are high; suppose you're someone who would assault trans people, and suppose you find that the gym you attend has a special room that any teams person attending has to use and will take their clothes off in, where nobody else is likely to be...)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-05T14:39:15.753Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(1) is probably going to be unpleasant for them

Umm... how did you phrase it? Ah: "which I suggest is not an argument".

I find many things in life unpleasant but I do not consider it sufficient reason to demand that the world be rearranged according to my sensitivities.

If you want a more general rule: self-selection into a group should not generate any additional rights (at least without matching responsibilities).

maybe make things a little too easy for potential assailants

That strikes me a bit too paranoid. A changing room in a gym is not the middle of a dark forest. Unisex bathrooms are pretty common by now and I haven't seen any data about them encouraging sexual predators. If you are that concerned about safety, maybe install additional street lighting? And cameras! Don't forget about cameras! Only beneath the watchful eyes can you be secure!!

comment by gjm · 2015-08-05T15:30:21.749Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Umm... how did you phrase it?"

So when I said that "ewww" isn't an argument I was taking it to mean "I find contemplating X unpleasant" rather than "if X happens, people Y who experience it will find it unpleasant". The former is a much much weaker argument than the latter.

(I should, of course, have considered the latter as well, and I'm not sure why I didn't. If women at a gym find it unpleasant when someone who identifies as female but has male-looking anatomy uses their changing room -- which they well might -- that is a bad thing, and that fact does constitute an argument for not allowing that. I happen to think that the arguments the other way are stronger, but as I said before I think both sides are defensible.)

self-selection into a group should not generate any additional rights (at least without matching responsibilities).

In the case we're discussing here, the additional right comes with a perfectly matched additional responsibility. If access to a gym's changing rooms goes by expressed gender identity rather than anatomy, then identifying as female lets you into the women's rooms at exactly the same time as it bars you from the men's.

(One might argue that in fact someone with female identity but male anatomy should be allowed to use either to reduce the likelihood of their getting assaulted, or something. Members of unusually vulnerable groups sometimes get additional rights even if membership of the group is self-selected, and that's not obviously unreasonable. The additional rights are compensating for additional risks rather than additional responsibilities they people in question have taken on.)

Don't forget about cameras! Only beneath the watchful eyes can you be secure!!

Nice steelmanning of my position. No, wait, not steelmanning. The other thing.

But I'm a bit confused now about what your position is, because I think you've now said the following things:

  • A gym changing-room setup that seems to offer extra opportunities for sexual assault against trans people isn't a problem; the risk is very small.
  • A gym changing-room setup that makes trans people feel uncomfortable and stigmatized isn't a problem; no one should expect that the universe will be rearranged to accommodate their sensitivities.
  • A gym changing-room setup that lets trans women into the women's changing room is a problem, because [...]

and I'm not sure how to fill in that [...] at the end. "... because the (other) women may feel uncomfortable"? (But you just said that the fact that some people will feel uncomfortable shouldn't count for much in designing gym changing rooms.) "... because the (other) women may be at danger of assault"? (But you just said that we shouldn't worry about assaults in gym changing rooms.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-05T16:42:40.601Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

male-looking anatomy

A nitpick: it is not male-looking anatomy, it is male anatomy.

perfectly matched additional responsibility

Which responsibility? If I am of whatever gender I say I am, I can change genders at will. I am not "barred" from the other changing room any more than picking one door to walk through "bars" me from the other door.

Nice steelmanning

That didn't involve transmuting your position into either steel or straw. That was just me amusing myself :-) I did not mean to imply anything about your views on widespread surveillance.

But I'm a bit confused now about what your position

I don't have a well-developed position delineated by bright lines. Basically you have a conflict between two groups -- let's call them "trans" and "mainstream". Such a conflict is nothing unusual and, indeed, the entirely normal state of a human society. Typically such conflicts are resolved according the the balance of power between the groups -- the results vary from one side fully suppressing the other to an equally-unsatisfying compromise. Occasionally the stars align and it turns out that the conflict is easily fixable and can be "dissolved" in LW lingo.

In contemporary Western societies such conflicts are usually resolved politically which means that the sides wage a cultural war "for the hearts and minds". This kind of war uses propaganda as weapons. Accordingly, the war involves loud screaming about morals, justice, fairness, God's will, etc. etc. -- whatever is needed for the agitprop needs of the day. I tend to by very cynical about such agitprop.

Note, by the way, that a completely general answer to the there-is-a-tranny-in-my-shower problem does not exist. As you yourself observed, it all depends on the local culture. A good solution for the showers in San Francisco's Castro district is likely to be different from a solution for downtown Salt Lake City -- and that's even staying inside one country.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-05T20:38:45.318Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

it is male anatomy

What's visible to, and possibly disturbing for, the people in the changing room is what it looks like. I don't know, e.g., whether you would consider a post-op female-to-male transsexual person's anatomy male or merely male-looking, but I take it it would be about as disturbing in that context as a straightforwardly cis man's. So the relevant question is what it looks like.

I can change genders at will

I am pretty sure no one is in fact proposing that people be able to change their gender at will simply by saying "I'm a woman now". (Yeah, you could read Fluttershy's comment upthread that way, but I'm quite confident it wasn't so intended.)

I tend to be very cynical about such agitprop.

Good! But I can't help noticing that your cynicism has been deployed only in one direction in this discussion, even though (so it seems to me) there's plenty of moral-outrage agitprop coming from elsewhere.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-06T03:53:46.002Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I can change genders at will

I am pretty sure no one is in fact proposing that people be able to change their gender at will simply by saying "I'm a woman now".

No, you're proposing that anyone can change genders at will by saying "I'm a woman now" and make an attempt to look like the other gender, dress like the other gender and insist on being referred to by opposite gender pronouns and name (that's how you defined "presenting as the other gender" here). While this is technically slightly more then saying "I'm a woman now", it's only barely so.

And frankly, I doubt you'd refuse to take the word of someone who insisted that he was always a "she" but didn't bother with changing name, clothing, or appearance.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-06T09:27:02.504Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

While this is technically slightly more than saying "I'm a woman now", it's only barely so.

I think it's very importantly different. It means, for instance, that

  • it's not something you can just do on a whim
  • it requires actual inconvenience and commitment

both of which greatly decrease its utility to people wanting to ogle or assault women in public restrooms, gym changing rooms, etc. (The fact that it requires you to make yourself appear less "manly" probably also has that effect.)

And frankly, I doubt you'd refuse [...]

You may doubt whatever you please, I suppose.

(If someone declared themself female but made no sign of any attempt to "be" female beyond that declaration, I'd attempt to go along with their pronoun preferences but wouldn't, e.g., let them into any female-only premises I was responsible for. I don't think I would actually consider them female for any practical purposes, though further interactions might convince me that there was something more going on than a liking for feminine pronouns -- e.g., maybe the person is young, still living with and dependent on parents, and the parents are very strongly opposed. In such a case I still wouldn't let them into female-only premises but would be apologetic about it :-).)

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-07T01:42:02.728Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

it's not something you can just do on a whim it requires actual inconvenience and commitment

How so? The only things in that list that take any effort at all are dressing and looking like a women. The former isn't that hard, it's easy to get a dress, heck these days many women wear jeans and a T-shirt, or suites, or other "male clothing", so anything a men would normally wear could count as "female clothing". The latter also isn't that hard, see the existence of drag queens, or any number of comedians.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-07T09:20:55.230Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It looks to me as if you are mixing up a number of different things (what makes someone male or female, versus what constitutes sufficient evidence to treat them so in a given case; what I think their gender is, versus what I would treat it as in a given difficult situtation; etc. I will try to disentangle these things.

The position I am defending here is as follows. (Individual points numbered for cross-reference.)

[EDITED to stop LW's comment formatting messing up my numbers and to complete something I carelessly left unfinished after editing other bits.]

0. There is no single fact-of-the-matter about a person's gender in general, because different notions of gender are appropriate in different circumstances. 1. Of course, for the great majority of people all reasonable such notions coincide; the questions here are about cases where they diverge. 2. For most purposes the best notion of gender is largely a matter of (a) internal mind-state and (b) social role occupancy. 3. The relevant internal mind-state doesn't change rapidly; social role occupancy can in a sense change quickly but evidence of it accumulates more slowly. And of course anatomy and chromosomes and whatnot are even harder to change.

4. In many cases, if someone claims that their gender is not as it superficially appears, the best policy is to believe them. (Note: this is not only about trans people. There are people who are anatomically, chromosomally and hormonally female but look very much like men unless you take their clothes off.) 5. In many others (typically distinguished from those in #3 by the consequences being worse if you take them at their word and they're lying) the best policy is to require stronger evidence of 2a and/or 2b (e.g., legal name change; evidence of having been consistently self-describing as female for some time; testimony of a psychologist who has examined them). 6. In some others (e.g., medicine, major sporting contests) 2a and 2b may be pretty much irrelevant and the only important thing may be genes or gross anatomy.

7. Every possible policy will make some mistakes, with the boring exception that if you define gender by easily visible external features then the policy of using those easily visible external features will not make mistakes. (But either you can't execute that policy without looking in people's pants, or else you will classify some people with female internal anatomy and chromosomes as male.)

So. Can someone's gender, in my view, change on a whim? No (see #3). Can something they do on a whim suffice to make me treat them, at least provisionally, as of one gender rather than another? Yes, but only in "low-stakes" cases (see #4). Does this mean that if everyone thought as I do then our nations' women's restrooms would be flooded with men claiming to be women in order to assault or harass? No, because in higher-stakes cases I would be more cautious (see #5), and in any case the available evidence strongly suggests that even laws that straightforwardly let anyone use any restroom do not cause any increase in such crimes.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-08T00:22:23.758Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW
  1. There is no single fact-of-the-matter about a person's gender in general, because different notions of gender are appropriate in different circumstances.

So you agree that "gender" as distinct from "sex" doesn't correspond to anything, but for some reason you still want to use the term, presumably for some of the connotations it inherits from the latter. Generally, using a word that has no referent solely for its connotations is very bad reasoning.

  1. The relevant internal mind-state doesn't change rapidly; social role occupancy can in a sense change quickly but evidence of it accumulates more slowly. And of course anatomy and chromosomes and whatnot are even harder to change.

Except you have no way to directly observe internal mind-state, and you are arguing against relying on anatomy and chromosomes, that means in practice your policy amounts to relying on "social role". Of course, if you do observe internal mind state, e.g., by using sufficiently good brain scans or personality tests, you'd like find that most of the people claiming to be "trans" are clustered with their birth gender.

testimony of a psychologist who has examined them

I notice that this is the only item on your list that attempts to distinguish some notion of "innate gender" from all someone faking it out of whatever motive. Given the current state of the "science" of psychology, this doesn't strike me as particularly reliable.

So. Can someone's gender, in my view, change on a whim? No (see #3).

Given how you've explained your world view this doesn't appear to be the case. Rather, I suspect someone could easily change his "gender" on a whim and keep convincing you that the current gender is the real one provided you didn't remember your previous meeting.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-08T00:59:04.017Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

you agree that "gender" as distinct from "sex" doesn't correspond to anything

Nope. I think it corresponds to different things in different contexts. (So the rest of your paragraph is addressing an irrelevant strawman.)

in practice your policy amounts to relying on "social role"

To a great extent, yes. (Not entirely; we can often draw inferences about internal mind-state from externally observable behaviour, including things like what answers we get to questions about a person's gender.) You say that as if it's obviously a bad thing, but it's not obvious why.

Of course [...] you'd likely find that most of the people claiming to be "trans" are clustered with their birth gender.

I think it's very far from clear that we should expect that.

provided you didn't remember your previous meeting

That's quite a proviso. Take note also of point 5 and note its consequences for ability to change on a whim in cases where there's more at stake than what pronouns I use to refer to someone.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-08T01:32:18.288Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

you agree that "gender" as distinct from "sex" doesn't correspond to anything

Nope. I think it corresponds to different things in different contexts. (So the rest of your paragraph is addressing an irrelevant strawman.)

This is looking like a distinction without a difference.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-08T14:32:32.446Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The word "big" corresponds to different things in different contexts. (A big baby. A big skyscraper. A big problem.) Is "big" meaningless?

The majority of the population can be divided neatly into two fairly well defined groups according to anatomy, chromosomes, etc. We call that "sex". There are social and psychological differences that mostly go along with sex, but diverge in some cases. We call those "gender". In both cases, exactly which features we care about most will vary, which may change how some unusual people are classified. What's the problem?

(To be explicit: sex has ambiguous and intermediate and anomalous cases just as gender does. Example: If you have XY chromosomes but complete androgen insensitivity, then you are chromosomally male, your externally-visible anatomy is female, and internally you have some features of both and in particular no uterus.)

comment by Wes_W · 2015-08-08T01:10:20.349Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So you agree that "gender" as distinct from "sex" doesn't correspond to anything,

I'm pretty sure that ID cards and human interaction are territory, not map. Please don't do the "social constructs basically don't exist" thing, it's very silly.

The discussion of a hypothetical person who wants to change gender (but nothing else) every five minutes is giving me a vibe similar to when someone asks "how does evolution explain a monkey giving birth to a human?" It doesn't. That would falsify the model, much like our hypothetical person would falsify the "gender identity" model.

There exists a group of people who explicitly claim to have gender identities that are not stable over time, but this usually includes behaviors beyond requested pronouns.

Of course, if you do observe internal mind state, e.g., by using sufficiently good brain scans or personality tests, you'd like find that most of the people claiming to be "trans" are clustered with their birth gender.

Hey, an empirical disagreement! I think this research has in fact been done, I'll go digging for it later this evening.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-08T01:30:28.791Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm pretty sure that ID cards and human interaction are territory, not map.

So a man getting an ID card with a typo in the gender field makes him female?

The discussion of a hypothetical person who wants to change gender (but nothing else) every five minutes is giving me a vibe similar to when someone asks "how does evolution explain a monkey giving birth to a human?" It doesn't. That would falsify the model, much like our hypothetical person would falsify the "gender identity" model.

How about not "every five minutes", but whenever he feels like going to the women's bathroom to ogle/be generally creepy?

There exists a group of people who explicitly claim to have gender identities that are not stable over time, but this usually includes behaviors beyond requested pronouns.

Well, this fact itself seems like to should falsify gjm's model. Let's see what he says about it.

comment by Wes_W · 2015-08-08T02:45:30.608Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So a man getting an ID card with a typo in the gender field makes him female?

Legally, maybe so, at least until the error is corrected. You'd have to ask a lawyer to be sure.

ID cards are a physical object, which is not determined by biological sex, since as a question of legal fact one can get an ID card of one's self-identified gender if one jumps through the appropriate hoops, even without sex reassignment surgery. (At least that's how it works here in California. I have no idea how it works in other states or countries.)

This seems to me a counterexample to the claim that gender, as distinct from sex, doesn't correspond to anything. Social interaction is another: for example, women are much more likely to ask each other if they want old clothes before giving/throwing them away, and much less likely to get asked to be someone's Best Man at a wedding.

How about not "every five minutes", but whenever he feels like going to the women's bathroom to ogle/be generally creepy?

By far the dominant hypothesis here would be "you're lying", but failing that probably yes, gender identities aren't supposed to be able to work that way.

"Your gender is whatever you say it is" is a social norm, not a factual claim. Saying you're a woman doesn't make you a woman. People just don't generally assert it unless they actually want to be treated as a woman. Creeps, or other people lying for personal gain, seem exceptionally rare - probably because it's a giant hassle, and the institutions they'd want to take advantage of don't obey that norm anyway.

If transition ever became socially easy and stigma-free, we probably would need a different anti-creep mechanism.

I agree that genderfluid people might break gjm's model, although he seems to have some wiggle room as written. Of course, I don't know if this is a deliberate result of accounting for their existence, or a lucky accident.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-08T21:05:04.541Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Legally, maybe so, at least until the error is corrected. You'd have to ask a lawyer to be sure.

Ok, now I officially have no reason to care about Wes_W!gender.

"Your gender is whatever you say it is" is a social norm, not a factual claim.

So you agree this social norm has no factual basis to it.

Saying you're a woman doesn't make you a woman.

Good I'm glad we agree on this. Now, why are you trying to defend positions that rely on denying this claim?

People just don't generally assert it unless they actually want to be treated as a woman.

Yes, and creeps, or example, want to be treated as a woman with respect to which bathroom they enter.

comment by Wes_W · 2015-08-08T21:42:52.128Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Good I'm glad we agree on this. Now, why are you trying to defend positions that rely on denying this claim?

I'm not. I entered this discussion mostly to point out that you were equating "corresponds to social behavior" with "does not correspond to anything", which is silly.

It's worse than gender not corresponding to anything. Like in the standard example, it corresponds to multiple things, which don't necessarily agree.

ETA:

Yes, and creeps, or example, want to be treated as a woman with respect to which bathroom they enter.

Do they? I mean, as a theoretical problem, sure. But to my knowledge this is a vanishingly rare event.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-05T21:03:49.029Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am pretty sure no one is in fact proposing that people be able to change their gender at will simply by saying "I'm a woman now".

I don't know about that. You don't interpret common statements along the lines of "Only you have the right to decide your gender identity" or, in the negative form, "No one can tell you which gender you are" this way?

your cynicism has been deployed only in one direction in this discussion

The other direction, which I assume would have been represented by "God will burn you in hell forever, your freaks!" and/or "You need to be fixed and re-educated, this is for your own benefit" is strangely absent on LW :-) I doubt even VoiceOfRa would express the desire to go back to the ways of dealing with "sexual deviants" popular in the early and mid XX century.

More importantly, in my social circles (both meatspace and online) the left is the aggressor and tends to take the "If you're not with us you're against us. KILL!!!!" approach. If I were stuck in a small town in America's Bible Belt, for example, I would expect my emphasis to be different.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-05T22:09:11.772Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No, I don't interpret "only you have the right..." etc. that way. I would guess that people saying it usually mean something like this: your gender is whatever it is, it's reasonably stable over time, and it's not something other people can know by looking at you or doing medical tests; so people should beyond what you say. But if you change your professed gender every five minutes no one is going to believe you are sincere and take you seriously.

even VoiceOfRa

Well, he seems to me to be quite far in "the other direction".

in my social circles [...] the left is the aggressor

Here on LW, it seems to me the nearest thing to aggression on this topic has been VoR ranting about delusions, hallucinations, "trannies", etc., etc. There's some very aggressive "social justice" out there, for sure, but it's pretty much completely unrepresented on LW, whereas neoreaction is alive and well here even though there aren't very many neoreactionaries.

[EDITED to fix the typo mentioned two comments downthread.]

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-05T23:48:38.507Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

the nearest thing to aggression on this topic has been VoR ranting

Rants are not aggression but free speech :-) Confusing the two is a common mistake/tactic :-P

neoreaction is above and well here

I think that used to be true, but is no longer true. As far as I can see, VoiceOfRa is the lone neoreactionary actively posting.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-06T09:05:58.642Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Rants are not aggression but free speech

So is "God will burn you in hell for ever". So is "You are a bigot and I hope no one buys anything from your bakery". So is "If you're not with us you're against us". Or (I think more accurately) all of these are both aggression and free speech.

If mere ranting doesn't count as aggression, what is it that "the left" has been doing in your social circles lately? Issuing death threats?

As far as I can see, VoiceOfRa is the lone neoreactionary actively posting

Maybe no one else here explicitly identifies as nrx. (For that matter, I don't know whether VoR actually does.) But when topics come up of the sort where neoreactionaries and social-justice enthusiasts tend to disagree dramatically, I see none of the characteristic tropes of the SJ movement (anything a member of an Oppressed Group says about their situation must be accepted unquestioningly; anything that talks about "men" and "women" is perpetuating the gender binary and therefore bad; mumble mumble patriarchy burble; etc.) and plenty of those of neoreaction (take for granted that black people are less intelligent than white people and women less intelligent than men; treat homosexuality, transgender, etc., as instances of deviance that we should be working against, etc.). Comments that (explicitly) even contemplate the possibility that the social conservatives might be wrong on this stuff get lots of disagreement and usually (on balance) negative karma. Comments that agree with the nrx position on this stuff get less disagreement and usually (on balance) positive karma.

Maybe it's mostly plain ol' social conservatism, with only a tiny fraction of nrx. But whatever it is, there's more of it than there is of the "social justice" that lies at the other end of one political spectrum. I certainly don't see any possible way that "the left is the aggressor" here on LW; am I missing something?

(Of course "above and well" was a typo -- I was posting from a mobile device and not paying enough attention to its autocompletion. I'll fix it.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-06T15:57:31.614Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Your arguments are getting... sloppy. Keep in mind that we are taking a stroll through a mindkill minefield, so a modicum of care is advised :-) Look:

You countered the statement that "rants are not aggression but free speech" by pointing out that the Venn intersection of aggression and free speech is not null. That is true, but not a counterargument.

You said that "neoreaction is alive and well here" and when I pointed out that no, it is not, you countered by saying that SJWs do not thrive on LW. Again, true, but not a counterargument.

You put in the same list things like "take for granted that black people are less intelligent than white people and women less intelligent than men". One of these two is a very well-supported position with lots of research behind it, a position that a great many people tried to knock down for decades, and yet they did not succeed. The other position I never heard anyone express on LW (are you sure you not confusing means and variances, by any chance?).

So. Back to the topic. I have a very low opinion of the somewhat fashionable approach that the exposition of views you don't agree with constitutes aggression (or a "microaggression"). Rants are rarely aggression, but ad hominem attacks often are. It's a good thing that LW has strict community norms about ad hominem.

Note, by the way, that I did not say that the left is aggressive on LW -- I consider LW to be reasonably balanced and it is not really a political battleground anyway. I disagree that LW has a "conservative" tilt, I think it has an "against the stupid" tilt and if you think this makes LW more conservative, well... X-)

Of course, the whole discussion of LW being less or more something critically depends on the coordinate system in which you are looking at the issue.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-06T21:42:59.611Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

we are taking a stroll through a mindkill minefield, so a modicum of care is advised

I do agree. I am not sure I agree about which of us is being sloppier :-).

You countered the statement that "rants are not aggression but free speech" by pointing out that the Venn intersection of aggression and free speech is not null. That is true, but not a counterargument.

I think you misunderstood my point, but maybe what happened is that I misunderstood yours and so my comments weren't such as to make sense to you. So let me be slower and more explicit and see if that helps.

Of course rants are (in the relevant sense) speech, and if we value free speech then we should want not to forbid rants. However, that doesn't stop them being aggression too; you offered no grounds other than rants' being speech for thinking they shouldn't be classified as aggression, and my best guess -- perhaps wrong? -- was that you were suggesting that if they are free speech then they can't also be aggression. Hence the counterexamples.

Perhaps in fact you hold that something else stops rants from being aggression. If so, what and how? (It seems clear to me that some of the comments VoiceOfRa has made are aggression, but maybe we have different criteria for aggression or something.)

you countered by saying that SJWs do not thrive on LW. Again, true, but not a counterargument.

Again, I think you misunderstood my point. I think the fault is mine; I wasn't as clear and explicit as I could have been. So, again, let me try again more slowly and clearly and see if that helps.

First of all, the context is relevant. I'd taken your statement that "the left is the aggressor" (for what I think were good reasons but apparently wrongly given your other comments since) to be describing LW as well as your other social circles. So it went like this: "The left is the aggressor." "For sure there's aggressive leftism out there, but here on LW there's basically none of that but there is aggressive rightism." "Nah, there are hardly any neoreactionaries on LW these days." To which I replied by comparing how near LW gets to SJ and NRx and what the reactions tend to be.

So (1) I wasn't only saying that SJWs don't thrive on LW, I was comparing SJ and NRx; and (2) that wasn't meant to be a response to your "hardly any neoreactionaries any more" statement in isolation, but in the context of what I thought was a discussion of whether "the left is the aggressor" on LW.

(Which, again, may in fact not have been the discussion you thought we were having, but I hope that on reflection it's obvious how I came to take it that way.)

The other position I never heard anyone express on LW (are you sure you not confusing means and variances, by any chance?)

Elsewhere in this thread I posted a link to one recent discussion in which the topic came up. Someone else made much the same mean-versus-variance comment, but the discussion in question was about a specific role that isn't very tail-y and for which I'm pretty sure a difference in variance alone clearly couldn't have the required effect.

the somewhat fashionable approach that the exposition of views you don't agree with constitutes aggression

Is anyone here saying or implying that? I certainly don't intend anything of the kind, and I gravely doubt that anyone seriously thinks what you say they do. I think some people do think that (1) the exposition of the opinion that such-and-such a group's members are inferior, evil, crazy, etc., constitutes aggression, and (2) exposition of such opinions using needlessly pejorative terms constitutes aggression. Of these, I'm ambivalent about #1 and agree with #2.

So, e.g., when VoiceOfRa characterizes transgender people as suffering "delusions or hallucinations", that's certainly #1 and probably #2. It seems pretty aggressive to me. When he suggests that it's unreasonable to treat those "delusions or hallucinations" any more generously than those of someone who thinks he's simultaneously Jesus and John Lennon, that seems pretty aggressive to me. When he calls them "trannies" (er, actually "trannys" but never mind) that's certainly #2 rather than #1 and it's hard to see how it's not being deliberately rude; again, in my book that's aggression. Etc.

Of course this is all much milder aggression than, say, beating the people in question up with a baseball bat. But it's pretty aggressive, and it seems to me much more aggressive than anything I've seen from "the left" on LW lately, and I think all those comments are currently sitting with positive karma. Which is one reason why I think that LW currently leans right (to which I don't object, for the avoidance of doubt, even though that happens not to be my own leaning) and that here it's much nearer the truth to say "the right is the aggressor" than "the left is the aggressor".

(Note 1: Again, I do appreciate that you've indicated that your comment about leftist aggression wasn't in fact intended to apply to LW. I'm just explaining where my comments were coming from. Note 2: I am not claiming that LW's participants lean right; past surveys have suggested not, and I would guess not. But if we weight by actual participation in politically loaded discussions, I think that's the way it goes. I have the impression that one or more right-leaning LWers have a very deliberate policy of trying to make things unpleasant for left-leaning LWers; if so, that may be a partial explanation.)

I disagree that LW has a "conservative" tilt, I think it has an "against the stupid" tilt

I think it has both. As someone who has been heavily downvoted (I think by exactly two people, one much more than the other) in recent politically-fraught discussions, I am curious: Do you think my comments in this thread are stupid? Do you think they are stupider than comments with a different sociopolitical leaning that have been upvoted?

(I take it you have sufficient brain to distinguish "stupid" from "in disagreement with my politics", but I will explicitly remind you of your own caution about mindkill minefields.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-07T16:10:03.802Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

On aggression (with apologies to Konrad Lorenz):

I was hoping to avoid getting into the definitions debate, but that looks inescapable now. We seem to understand aggression differently.

First, let me point to tension in your position. On the one hand you say that "It seems clear to me that some of the comments VoiceOfRa has made are aggression" and "When he suggests that it's unreasonable to treat those "delusions or hallucinations" any more generously than those of someone who thinks he's simultaneously Jesus and John Lennon, that seems pretty aggressive to me." On the other hand, you strongly deny that the exposition of one's views (presumably, even on controversial topics) is aggression, saying that "I certainly don't intend anything of the kind, and I gravely doubt that anyone seriously thinks what you say they do."

I see problems in this position of yours. You might be able construct a definition of "aggression" which twists and turns enough to accommodate you, but I suspect it will be neither a good nor a robust definition.

For example, you think that considering transsexuals to be mentally ill is "aggression". Or is it aggression only if you call them crazy (a "needlessly pejorative term"), but if you, following DSM-IV, diagnose them with a Gender Identity Disorder that's not aggression any more?

I can't make sense of your position, it does not look consistent to me.

Re women's IQ:

The case with the lab manager's resume has a lot of confounding factors (other than IQ) in play. Hiring managers are often more concerned with whether the new hire will get pregnant and go on maternity leave than with IQ, for example. And, well, this is an empirical question, there is a lot of data about the IQ of men and women.

Re LW tilts:

You say that "I think that LW currently leans right" but that critically depends on where you zero point is :-) I suspect that LW actually doesn't tilt anywhere politically -- most people here don't care (some "naturally" and some explicitly to avoid mindkills). It is not a useful exercise to assign a political tilt to LW -- that's not what this place is about.

Re "Do you think my comments in this thread are stupid?":

LOL. I have actually been upvoting your comments in this subthread back to zero because we are having a very nice polite conversation and ideological downvotes are not welcome in it (and are quite silly, anyway).

But to be explicit -- no, I don't think so at all. If if did, this conversation wouldn't exist.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-07T17:59:59.488Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What I strongly disagreed with is the following claim (your description of an allegedly "fashionable approach" which you may or may not have been ascribing to me)

that the exposition of views you don't agree with constitutes aggression

It sometimes happens that an exposition of some view or other constitutes aggression-as-I-understand it. It sometimes happens that it doesn't. Whether I agree with the view has nothing to do with whether a given exposition of it constitutes aggression.

If you'd instead said that some people think "that sometimes an exposition of a particular view can constitute aggression" then I wouldn't have disagreed with it. Perhaps that's what you actually meant to say some people think -- but in that case I suggest that you said it very badly. (Perhaps from a desire to make those people sound sillier?)

you think that considering transsexuals to be mentally ill is "aggression"

No, I don't, and I respectfully suggest that you retrace whatever mental steps led you to think I think that looking for errors.

I think that calling them (not merely considering them) delusional and hallucinating (not merely mentally ill) is "aggression". You can consider anyone you like anything you like and it will not constitute aggression; how could it. And "mentally ill" is a very broad category, covering e.g. things like depression and anxiety as well as outright craziness.

And: yes, words like "crazy" and "delusional" and "hallucinating" are pejorative in ways in which e.g. "suffering from gender identity disorder" is not, which makes statements that use the former terms more aggressive than otherwise similar ones that use the latter.

So I think the tension and inconsistency you perceive in my position is the result of misunderstanding it. (There might of course be tensions or inconsistencies even when it's correctly understood; maybe we'll find out.)

confounding factors (other than IQ)

True. I'm sure hiring managers are rarely concerned with IQ as such at all. But they do care about competence in the job, and that's the scale on which they rated applicants called "Jennifer" 0.7 points lower (out of 5) than otherwise identical applicants called "John". I personally would not classify "unlikelihood of disappearing on maternity leave" under the heading of competence; would you expect university science faculty hiring a lab manager to do so?

that critically depends on where your zero point is

Yup. That's a large part of why I am not bothered by LW (in my perception) leaning right.

It is not a useful exercise to assign a political tilt to LW -- that's not what this place is about.

You may recall that I was only talking about this because I thought you were implying that politlcally-motivated aggression on LW tends to come from "the left". I don't at all mind LW's tilting rightward (if indeed it really does).

I don't think [that gjm's comments are stupid] at all

I'm pleased to hear it! But you will find that in any political thread my comments (which I'm fairly sure are not generally any stupider than they are in this one) attract more than averagely many downvotes even when (as it seems to my of-course-perfectly-unbiased judgement) they are conspicuously reasonable and not-stupid. So do comments from other people with political leanings resembling mine. And that's part of what I mean by saying that LW has a conservative, not merely and anti-stupid, tilt.

I think that particular phenomenon is due to a very small number of users -- in my less charitable moments I suspect one with intermittent sockpuppets. But it's there, and I think it affects the overall flavour of discussion on LW, even if that's not what LW should be about. And, more generally, I think the left and the right have their characteristic unpleasantnesses, and those of the left are (1) largely absent and (2) heavily criticized and downvoted when they show up, whereas those of the right are (1) distinctly more common and (2) generally approved by the LW community, so far as one can tell from replies and karma.

(Again: I'm not saying there's anything very terrible about that. And LW is indeed distinctly less unpleasantly political than many other venues.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-07T18:25:35.062Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you'd instead said that some people think..

That would have been fairly useless. The phrase "some people think.." can be followed by pretty much anything at all and still be true.

I am still confused by your understanding of aggression -- right now it seems to me that it means just being impolite. Let's take Alice who may or may not have some issues. Bob says "She is mentally ill". Charlie says "She is delusional and hallucinating". Duncan says "Man, she's just batshit crazy". Is it you position that Bob is fine, Charlie is mildly aggressive, and Duncan is highly aggressive?

I find it strange that you pay so much attention to the form and relatively little to the content.

that's part of what I mean by saying that LW has a conservative, not merely and anti-stupid, tilt.

Let's get a bit more precise. Does LW as a whole have such a tilt, or does your karma have such a tilt? I think you're extrapolating your personal situation a bit too much.

whereas those of the right are (1) distinctly more common and (2) generally approved by the LW community

Think of LW as a place of refuge, a "safe zone" to use an SJ term :-D A neo-reactionary who wanders into a wrong Tumblr neighbourhood will get a lot of detailed descriptions of how exactly he should die in a fire :-/

comment by gjm · 2015-08-07T23:41:47.565Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That would have been fairly useless.

From my perspective, the dilemma you face is that you could say "a lot of people think that expressing opinions that disagree with theirs constitutes aggression", which would be non-content-free but ridiculous, or you could say "some people think that some expressions of opinion constitute aggression", which would be true but almost content-free; I'm having trouble figuring out what you could have meant that would be contentful but in any way plausible.

it seems to me that [aggression] means [to gjm[ just being impolite.

They're closely related. Aggression is (among other things) one variety of impoliteness. (In ordinary social contexts. If you're facing an opponent in a boxing ring, aggression isn't impolite.)

Alice [...] Bob [...] Charlie [...] Duncan

Is A listening to B, C, and D? Or are they saying this in some venue that records what they say, where A might come across it later? Or perhaps not A but some of her friends and family?

If not, I don't think I'd call their comments aggressive at all. So let's suppose B, C, and D know that their comments are likely to be heard by A. Then yeah, all else being equal I would say B<C<D in aggression.

I find it strange that you pay so much attention to the form and relatively little to the content.

I find it strange that you say that, for two reasons. Firstly, there most certainly is a difference in content between what B, C, and D are saying. (And, referring back to the original discussion, between "Transgender people suffer from gender identity disorder, which I classify as a mental illness" and "Transgender people are delusional and hallucinating".) Just as there is a difference between "Lumifer has some unusual political opinions" and "Lumifer is a fascist". (Note for the avoidance of doubt: I do not think you are a fascist and have no idea how usual your political opinions are.)

Secondly, there's a lot of information in the form. The difference between "Joe has difficulty understanding some things" and "Joe is a fucking moron" is largely one of form, and mostly what it indicates is hostility. Similarly, it's easy enough to see how someone could express opinions about transgender people quite similar to VoiceOfRa's with a much less hostile tone. That would (as I use the word) be less aggressive. It would be less likely to make any trans people reading LW feel attacked; less likely to make them expect that if their trans-ness became known they'd be met with hostility and contempt.

LW as a whole [...] or your karma [...]?

I tried to make it clear that I'm well aware of the difference (acknowledging that my judgement of my own comments is far from impartial; citing what happens to other leftish-leaning comments; "part of what I mean". Did I really fail so badly? (Or: did I succeed but do you think I'm disastrously self-deceiving or something?)

Think of LW as a place of refuge

See, this is why I find it odd that you say LW doesn't lean right. Because providing a "safe place" for neoreactionaries would, I think, generally be regarded -- even by people who consider themselves right-wing -- as evidence of either (1) rightishness or (2) fanatical refusal to make anyone unwelcome on account of their sociopolitical views. And if you think it's #2, then I invite you to imagine the roasting that the residents of that "wrong Tumblr neighbourhood" would get if they turned up on LW.

comment by Jiro · 2015-08-10T14:42:47.412Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

you could say "a lot of people think that expressing opinions that disagree with theirs constitutes aggression", which would be non-content-free but ridiculous

How about "a lot of people alieve that expressing opinions that disagree with theirs constitutes aggression"?

comment by gjm · 2015-08-10T15:14:15.711Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, "alieve" is certainly much more credible than "believe" here, and I bet it's close to what I think Lumifer meant. It rather makes nonsense of his description of doing so as a "somewhat fashionable approach", though.

(I in fact suspect that Lumifer knows perfectly well that that description is not reasonable, but found it rhetorically convenient. Which is one reason why I've been slightly bloody-mindedly querying what he meant on the assumption that the description is reasonable :-).)

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-08T01:53:54.738Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

See, this is why I find it odd that you say LW doesn't lean right. Because providing a "safe place" for neoreactionaries would, I think, generally be regarded -- even by people who consider themselves right-wing -- as evidence of either (1) rightishness or (2) fanatical refusal to make anyone unwelcome on account of their sociopolitical views.

I would like to point out the asymmetry hidden by the word "safe space". A space is Neoreactionary-hostile if it actively censors their posts and deletes their accounts, a space is SJW-hostile if it fails to censor and delete the accounts of all other view points.

This reminds me of the old Cold War era joke:

An American and a Russian are discussing their respective countries. The American says "In America there is free speech, anyone can go up to the White House, yell 'down with Reagan' and everything will be OK". The Russian replies "Well in Russia we also have free speech, anyone can go up to the Kremlin, yell 'down with Reagan' and everything will be OK".

comment by gjm · 2015-08-08T08:59:22.678Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A space is Neoreactionary-hostile if [...], a space is SJW-hostile if [...]

That would indeed be an amusing and silly asymmetry. However, you just made it up; it is neither what I said nor what I meant.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-08T01:37:59.015Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

And if you think it's #2, then I invite you to imagine the roasting that the residents of that "wrong Tumblr neighbourhood" would get if they turned up on LW.

Well this tumblr-style struggle session against gwen's "transphobia" has rather disturbingly many upvotes for the PC-brigade.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-08T09:13:45.528Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Three years ago. I wonder how many of the people who upvoted those comments have since left LW because it's an unpleasant place to be for anyone with "progressive" social opinions.

(FWIW, I have no recollection of that particular incident and I hope I didn't upvote the boo-isn't-gwern-awful comments. I think they were obnoxious, but I don't see any reason why the right treatment for being obnoxious on IRC should be being crucified on LW.)

That particular thread was actually surprisingly civil and even occasionally productive, it seems to me on skimming through it now. I can't help thinking a similar thread today would be more acrimonious.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-08T21:11:57.168Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

FWIW, I have no recollection of that particular incident and I hope I didn't upvote the boo-isn't-gwern-awful comments.

You do realize you can check by looking at whether the thumbs up is colored green. Also, how about the "gwen must repent of his crimethink and confess his sins" comments?

That particular thread was actually surprisingly civil and even occasionally productive,

You have a very bizarre notion of civil.

I can't help thinking a similar thread today would be more acrimonious.

To use your "speech as violence" analogy, it would only be more acrimonious in the sense that a mass beating where the target doesn't even bother to defend himself is "less acrimonious" than a fight where he does. [Edit: fixed last sentence.]

comment by gjm · 2015-08-08T21:57:27.944Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

you can check

D'oh, so I can. ... It would appear that I neither upvoted nor downvoted anything in that thread (although I haven't followed any of the "continue this thread" links on very deeply nested comments). My guess is that I never saw it.

how about the "gwern must repent of his crimethink and confess his sins" comments?

I'm not sure what you mean by "how about", but if you mean did I upvote them: no, as I say, I don't appear to have upvoted or downvoted anything in that discussion.

You have a very bizarre notion of civil.

Perhaps. (But note that "surprisingly civil" doesn't mean "perfectly civil".)

it would only be more acrimonious in the sense that [...]

I either don't understand what you're saying, or don't have any idea on what grounds you say what you're saying. (The latter if you mean that nowadays LW is so supersaturated with progressivism that gwern wouldn't bother to defend himself. The former if you mean something else.)

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-11T03:38:06.801Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I either don't understand what you're saying, or don't have any idea on what grounds you say what you're saying. (The latter if you mean that nowadays LW is so supersaturated with progressivism that gwern wouldn't bother to defend himself. The former if you mean something else.)

I made a typo. See the edited version.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-11T10:02:04.721Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

OK, that makes more sense, but still not very much. gwern did defend himself. Maybe not in the way you'd prefer, but he did defend himself.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-12T07:27:03.347Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

He begged for mercy, that's very different than defending oneself.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-12T08:26:32.462Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

He didn't "beg for mercy". He (1) criticized the person who reported what he'd done for breaking IRC norms by posting bits of logs; (2) agreed that what he said was unpleasant and rude; (3) explained why he thought he shouldn't be expected to ensure that he doesn't do it again.

I'm sure you'd prefer him to have said that it's perfectly reasonable and correct to describe trans people in the way he (jokingly) did, but if we take him at face value (which I see no good reason not to) then he doesn't think it is (or at least didn't at the time). None the less, I don't see how his response can be categorized as "begging for mercy".

(In particular, I don't think anyone threatened him with anything and I don't think he made any kind of request for such threats not to be carried out. In which case, he certainly didn't literally beg for mercy or even ask for it. I suppose it's possible that you're using the term extremely broadly, to cover any response more temperate than "I am completely in the right and the rest of you can go fuck yourselves", but I don't think that's how the rest of the world uses "beg for mercy".)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-08T01:04:19.858Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Or are they saying this in some venue that records what they say, where A might come across it later?

Well, they are saying this on the 'net. That qualifies, right? But they are not addressing Alice directly. It's third-person, not second. Alice might or might not stumble on their remarks.

B<C<D in aggression

Yes, but will you call Charlie "aggresive"? Duncan?

And let's throw in a parallel example. As you well know, Christians expect atheists to burn in hell forever. Would there be an "aggressive" and a "non-aggressive" way of pointing this out on the 'net? Still talking in third person, not saying "you".

there most certainly is a difference

It's a difference is specificity. "Delusional and hallucinating" is a specific kind of "mentally ill". Unless you are talking metaphorically, I don't see why a specific description would be more aggressive than general. If I believe, for example, that Alice is a schizophrenic, both sentences -- "Alice is mentally ill" and "Alice is a schizophrenic" sound very similar to me from aggression point of view.

and mostly what it indicates is hostility

Is "hostile" necessarily "aggressive"? These are somewhat different things to me.

I also notice that you haven't mentioned the word "intent" yet. Do you think intent matters?

I invite you to imagine the roasting that the residents of that "wrong Tumblr neighbourhood" would get if they turned up on LW

Ah, but that's the consequence of a the anti-stupid tilt :-) Neo-reactionaries, by and large, are not stupid at all. You may object to their value system, but they are capable of reason. Most of the inhabitants of the relevant Tumblr neighbourhoods are stupid and prone to form large screaming lynch mobs. There are good reasons why LW would reroute them to the woodchipper :-)

comment by gjm · 2015-08-08T15:00:05.904Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Christians expect atheists to burn in hell for ever.

Some Christians do. I know some [EDITED: previous word was "one" before; don't know why I did that] who don't. Anyway: yes, there are more and less aggressive ways for someone who believes that to say it. Of course however you say it it's a much much nastier thing than anything VoR has ever said about transgender people ("these guys are likely to suffer worse torture than a million Auschwitzes, and it will be exactly what they deserve"), and contrariwise in many cases the person saying it will only half-believe it and will be deliberately avoiding thinking about it too much. But yeah, there's a huge difference between "unfortunately temporal sin has eternal consequences, and the only way to escape eternal damnation is to put one's faith in Christ" and "those godless suckers are going to burn in hell, and I look forward to watching them do it", and again a large part of the difference is that the latter seems hostile and the former (if sincere) doesn't.

Is "hostile" necessarily "aggressive"?

The two aren't quite equivalent (e.g., I think you can be hostile purely inwardly, whereas aggression is necessarily an outward action) but they're closely related.

I don't see why a specific description would be more aggressive than general.

It wouldn't be. If someone is acting oddly, then "Alice is suffering from depression" would be not at all aggressive and "Alice is fucking crazy" would be (if expected to reach Alice's ears) quite aggressive.

you haven't mentioned the word "intent" yet

Should I have? Yes, in general intent matters; to take an extreme example, if I am a speaker of a foreign language and some perfectly innocuous sentence in that languge happens to sound exactly the same as "I'm going to kill Lumifer and eat his brains" then there's nothing aggressive about my saying that (unless e.g. I know full well how it sounds and say it with the intention that you should hear it and be intimidated, while preserving plausible deniability for me).

(Hostility implies intent, doesn't it? It's not as if nothing I have said so far addresses the question of whether intent is relevant.)

I'm pretty sure there are circumstances where it doesn't matter whether something was intended aggressively but only whether its effect is the same as if it had been. But for the purposes of determining, e.g., whether "the left is the aggressor" here on LW, the actual intent is more important. Of course the effect may be easier to determine than the intent.

Most of the inhabitants of the relevant Tumblr neighbourhoods are stupid

I think you're probably right that neoreactionaries tend to be intelligent. I don't think Tumblr-SJWs are at all uniformly stupid, though (in fact my guess is that they're less stupid than the population average in terms of raw brainpower), and I know some people who are both very clever and quite Tumblr-SJW-y. I think LW would probably route them to the woodchipper almost as directly as it would the stupid ones.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-10T15:31:59.284Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I know some people who are both very clever and quite Tumblr-SJW-y. I think LW would probably route them to the woodchipper almost as directly as it would the stupid ones.

And why do you think this would be the case? Purely because of the ideological bias?

I think one of the defining characteristics of Tumblr-SJW-y people is that they are highly aggressive, both by your and my definitions. I suspect that it is their intolerance which would make them not welcome here.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-12T09:50:44.672Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect that it is their intolerance which would make them not welcome here.

Not just that. It's their intolerance backed by no rational arguments and lots of anti-epistemology.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-12T15:39:30.992Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's a veritable embarras de richesses as to why they wouldn't do well here :-D

comment by gjm · 2015-08-10T22:54:45.950Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Some are highly aggressive and would get flayed for that here. Some are not at all aggressive ... and would also be made very unwelcome here, I think. Still, at this point we're just trading conjectures...

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-07T01:50:43.342Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think some people do think that (1) the exposition of the opinion that such-and-such a group's members are inferior, evil, crazy, etc., constitutes aggression, and (2) exposition of such opinions using needlessly pejorative terms constitutes aggression. Of these, I'm ambivalent about #1 and agree with #2.

So do you claim that crazy people don't exist? Or that they do but we shouldn't point this fact out? In any case you don't seem overly concerned by the general social aggression against people who think they're Jesus.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-07T08:46:00.391Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

So do you claim that crazy people don't exist?

Of course not.

Or that they do but we shouldn't point this fact out?

I generally prefer to leave that to the psychiatrists. But: 1. calling someone crazy is a more aggressive act when they are not in fact crazy than when they are, and 2. even when they are, yes, there is something aggressive about it. I did not say (and do not believe) that aggression is always wrong.

the general social aggression against people who think they're Jesus.

Actually, I'm not sure I've seen any. Perhaps because those people are (1) extremely rare and (2) usually confined in mental institutions because their thinking is sufficiently generally and seriously disordered that they can't well cope with life in the world at large. Transgender people are much more common and are generally about as capable of rational thought as the rest of the population.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-08T00:33:06.197Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, I'm not sure I've seen any. Perhaps because those people are (1) extremely rare and (2) usually confined in mental institutions because their thinking is sufficiently generally and seriously disordered that they can't well cope with life in the world at large. Transgender people are much more common and are generally about as capable of rational thought as the rest of the population.

Transgender people are less then .01% of the population. Also being transgender the the currently fashionable form of insanity, if you go back 50-60 years you'd see even fewer "transgender" and a lot more Messiahs.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-08T15:09:39.119Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Transgender people are less than .01% of the population.

What percentage of the population would you guess is made up of people who think they are Jesus?

Incidentally, more recent studies tend to find much higher proportions of transgender people, which presumably is not unrelated to what you describe as its being "the currently fashionable form of insanity". I don't think you get to claim both <0.01% and that it was a lot fewer 50 years ago.

comment by Tem42 · 2015-08-10T05:27:44.446Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Terminology note: If I understand what is going on here, VoiceOfRa is probably using transgender to mean people who want to change male-to-female or female-to-male, and are making a serious attempt at it (sexual reassignment surgery, hormone therapy, or the like). This is not an uncommon usage, but is not the most precise usage; this would more specifically be referred to transsexual.

This may be relevant because the stats quoted appear to apply specifically to transsexuals, not to the larger class transgender (which includes anyone who feels that that their cis-gender does not apply to them). This is true regardless of whether you believe that either or both classes are delusional.

I am not certain if gjm intends to refer to transgender or transsexual folk in eir arguments.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-10T10:17:10.475Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Given that VoR has referred to the same people as "men claiming to be women", "trannies", "transgender people", "people who are claiming to be 'transsexual'", and "trans-'women'", I think it's reasonable to guess that he isn't being super-careful about terminology.

I've been trying to make what I say broadly enough applicable that it applies to all trans people, except when replying to specific claims about a smaller group. I don't guarantee that I've been careful enough every time.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-11T02:58:42.239Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(which includes anyone who feels that that their cis-gender does not apply to them)

How is that at all a workable definition? It strikes me as sufficiently vague that it could potentially apply to anyone with a little shoehorning. Is a boy who doesn't want to play sports as much as the other boys "transgender", probably not, but with a little creativity a school councilor who feels like being "progressive" could probably make argue that he is.

comment by Tem42 · 2015-08-11T04:40:17.748Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How is that at all a workable definition?

I don't really care if it is workable. I was just clarifying what the statistics you two were using applied to. You can also have statistics on people who believe that they are Jesus, regardless of whether that is workable.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-12T09:49:14.297Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You can also have statistics on people who believe that they are Jesus, regardless of whether that is workable.

That's a perfectly workable definition, assuming you restrict to people who go around expressing this belief.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-07T10:28:59.561Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(2) usually confined in mental institutions because their thinking is sufficiently generally and seriously disordered that they can't well cope with life in the world at large.

The fact that society does confine someone to a mental institution is a strong statement.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-07T11:42:51.493Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Would you care to elaborate?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-06T09:38:53.349Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I see none of the characteristic tropes of the SJ movement (anything a member of an Oppressed Group says about their situation must be accepted unquestioningly

You don't need to be neoreactionary to not agree with that claim. I would guess >75% of the public don't agree with that claim.

take for granted that black people are less intelligent than white people and women less intelligent than men

I don't think anybody here argued lately that the average woman is less intelligent than the average man. I also doubt that's standard nrx.

Comments that (explicitly) even contemplate the possibility that the social conservatives might be wrong on this stuff get lots of disagreement

It's quite easy to get lots of disagreement on LW by saying things about IQ that are not in line with the academic research about the subject. Quite a few people on LW actually read relevant research papers. Don't confuse pro-science with nrx.

On the other hand I haven't seen strong disagreement with people who question whether "homosexuality is a deviance that should be worked against".

Opinion that are by the admission of the author not well thought out deserve to be challenged. If you don't challenge badly thought out opinions on charged topics you don't get high quality discourse.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-06T13:11:48.422Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You don't need to be neoreactionary to not agree with that claim.

Of course! I wasn't saying that everyone on LW is neoreactionary. I was saying (1) I don't see SJ-isms and (2) I do see NRx-isms.

I don't think anybody here argued lately that the average woman is less intelligent than the average man.

In the lengthy discussion that started from this comment, there were a number of people (who were not all VoiceOfRa, though one of them was with a different username) arguing that it's credible that rating a prospective employee's likely competence much higher if the name on the application is John rather than Jennifer (with no other differences) is not evidence of prejudice, because being named John rather than Jennifer could be good evidence of a substantial difference in competence (even given the other information in the application indicating equal ability).

I don't know how to interpret that other than as men being more competent than women. (Not quite the same thing as intelligence but closely related. The job in question was as a lab manager in a university science department.)

And, guess what?, VoiceOfRa (operating at that time under the name of Azathoth123) was in fact saying in so many words that women are less intelligent than men. (Not, however, simply taking it for granted that everyone knows they are, so my description above isn't perfectly accurate. Sorry.)

Don't confuse pro-science with nrx.

Don't worry; I'm not.

Opinions that are by the admission of the author not well thought out deserve to be challenged.

I agree (with the caveat that if the author admits they're not well thought out, then "challenge" isn't exactly what's called for -- the author already knows they might be wrong -- but something more like analysis and critique) but I think you may be misunderstanding my point. I'm not saying "waaaah, leftist comments get challenged". I'm saying "moderately leftist comments get sharp disagreement and downvotes; immoderately rightist comments get less disagreement and fewer downvotes; therefore it doesn't seem right to categorize LW as a place where 'the left is the aggressor'".

So, in particular, I was not and am not saying (1) that it's bad that "progressive" comments get challenged, nor (2) that it's bad that they get downvoted, nor (3) that it's bad that "conservative" ones get a more positive reception. (As it happens I think 1 is good, 2 is bad in that the downvoting seems rather indiscriminate, and 3 is more or less neutral.) I just think 1,2,3 are clearly true and hard to reconcile with Lumifer's explanation of his own choice of what to take issue with, as being because "the left is the aggressor" in his circles.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-07T06:38:14.640Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know how to interpret that other than as men being more competent than women.

That boils down to not understanding statistics which is something for which you can get downvoted on LW.

You don't need a general difference in intelligence for the average person in a given hiring poll with gender A being more capable than the average person in the same hiring poll with gender B.

The job in question was as a lab manager in a university science department.

Whether or not men are on average smarter than woman has nothing to do with a particular job. It's a general statement.

with the caveat that if the author admits they're not well thought out, then "challenge" isn't exactly what's called for -- the author already knows they might be wrong

No, if someone posts rubbish the fact that they know they post rubbish doesn't mean they deserve less challenge.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-07T08:41:27.800Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

That boils down to not understanding statistics

We can turn this into a mathematical-skill pissing contest if you like; for what it's worth, I don't much favour your chances. If you're talking about means versus variances: this is only a large effect when you're hiring from the tails of the distribution, and a lab-manager post doesn't require really exceptional ability in any domain.

has nothing to do with a particular job

The point of my specifying the job is that it's a job on which performance is (1) likely to be a matter of general competence in some broad sense, rather than specialized skill that, e.g., men might be much more likely to spend a long time learning for some cultural reason, and (2) sufficiently related to general intelligence that if someone holds that men are systematically better at it, it's reasonable to guess that this indicates they think men are smarter.

the fact that they know they post rubbish

Knowing you're posting rubbish is not the same thing as posting something you know isn't well thought out. The comment I guess you have in mind here is not "rubbish", and its author's acknowledgement neither says nor means "I know I was posting rubbish". (If we truly adopted a standard saying that every comment on LW needs to be carefully thought through and made watertight before posting, then "who should 'scape whipping?".)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-07T09:46:30.291Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If you're talking about means versus variances: this is only a large effect when you're hiring from the tails of the distribution, and a lab-manager post doesn't require really exceptional ability in any domain.

I'm not even talking about that. People who apply for a job aren't randomly drawn from the general population. There no reason to assume that the average of the subset with applies for a job is the same as for the general population,

comment by gjm · 2015-08-07T12:05:33.260Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

True enough. So, tell me: Do you think it credible that (1) there is little overall difference in the distribution of lab-managerial competence between men and women, but (2) among undergraduates applying for lab-manager positions there is a big enough difference between the competence of men and the competence of women to make it rational to rate the former 0.7 points above the latter on a 5-point scale given applications identical in every respect other than the name? (You can find the information the raters were given here; it's fairly brief but far from content-free.)

If so, what sort of differences do you think would do this? How big would they need to be, in your judgement?

[EDITED to fix a trivial typo.]

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-07T09:49:06.426Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(If we truly adopted a standard saying that every comment on LW needs to be carefully thought through and made watertight before posting, then "who should 'scape whipping?".)

Especially on politics I would expect that people post what they consider to be carefully thought out or otherwise explicitly say that they haven't thought it through in the same post.

I accept that sometimes people think they have put careful thought into an issue but still end up wrong, but not even having the standard of careful thought before posting is bad.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-07T11:55:22.830Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

not even having the standard of careful thought before posting is bad.

I too would like to see more careful thought before posting, but that isn't the same as saying that any comment not fully thought through before posting is "rubbish".

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-06T16:11:56.464Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

and hard to reconcile with Lumifer's explanation

You are making the assumption that my circles and LW are the same thing, I am not sure on which basis. I do hang out on LW, but not only here. And I did mention meatspace, too.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-06T21:04:10.677Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

G: "I notice that although the sort of agitprop you complain of comes from all sides here on LW, you're only complaining about one of them."

L: "That's because in the circles I move in, the left is always the aggressor."

G: "Well, here on LW there seems to be distinctly more right than left."

L: "Oh, I wasn't talking about LW."

... Then what was the relevance of your original response?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-06T21:10:03.096Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Huh? You asked about me. I answered about myself. There is no narrowly-specialised clone of me for which LW is the entire world.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-07T00:22:05.044Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

At least one of us is failing to understand the other, because I'm having trouble how that comments relates to anything I said. Unless you think I was taking "in the circles I move in" to mean "in LW, and only LW". I wasn't; but I was taking them to include LW.

To be more explicit, again: if you do something in LW and explain it by saying "in the circles I move in, X is true" then I don't see how that's a useful explanation unless you're saying that (1) LW is among the circles you move in and (2) it resembles the others in that X is true there.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-07T15:38:09.583Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

To be more explicit, again: if you do something in LW and explain it by saying "in the circles I move in, X is true" then I don't see how that's a useful explanation

OK, let me reformulate things this way. Let's say there is a variable s (which stands for snark) defined on the [-1..1] interval so that when it is at -1 the snark is entirely directed at the left wing, when it's at 1 it is entirely directed at the right wing, and the intermediate values determine the proportions in which both left and right get snarked. This variable s is a function of two other variables: the subject who's doing the snarking and the location in which the snarking takes place.

You assume that s is predominantly a function of location. This is not true in my case. For me, s is predominantly a function of the subject (me) and the influence of location is secondary.

In other words, the direction of my snark is heavily influenced by things that are happening outside LW, even though the snark which you observe happens at LW.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-07T17:15:18.827Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

the direction of my snark is heavily influenced by things that are happening outside LW, even though the snark which you observe happens at LW.

I suggest that this is unwise; snark on LW won't do anything to repair the opinions or attitudes of people elsewhere. If one place is Too Green and another Too Blue, then someone who frequents both does no favour to the place that's Too Green by complaining about bluism there merely because they're annoyed by the excessive bluism in the other place.

(Of course, you might not be able to help it; or you might not care. Fair enough, in either case. But if you do happen to care about the quality of discourse at LW and happen to be able to overcome your annoyance at overzealous progressives elsewhere, I suggest that you would do better to match the snark to the venue.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-07T17:19:26.450Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I suggest that this is unwise

I think you're confusing me with this guy.

But if you do happen to care about the quality of discourse at LW

I think you're confusing the quality of discourse with political tilt. The former is not a function of the latter. Besides, as I mentioned in another comment, how you see the tilt depends on where you set your zero point. I do not consider LW to have a conservative tilt.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-07T23:11:29.476Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're confusing the quality of discourse with political tilt.

Why do you think that? I'm not suggesting that you match your snark to the venue because that would push LW politics in "my" direction. (At least, I don't think I am.) I'm suggesting that you do it because it will tend to improve the quality of discussion at LW. I would make the same suggestion if we were in some left-leaning place where you were complaining at all the conservatives because you were annoyed by all the neoreactionaries elsewhere.

But if, as seems to be the case, you don't share my perception that LW has a lot more right-wing nastiness than left-wing nastiness, then fair enough.

Anyway, it's pretty rude of me to be trying to tell someone else whom he should be snarking at. Sorry about that.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-07T23:42:46.072Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

At least, I don't think I am.

Well, that would be a straightforward uncharitable reading :-D

because it will tend to improve the quality of discussion at LW

Why do you believe this to be so?

comment by gjm · 2015-08-08T00:48:48.957Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Why do you believe this to be so?

Reason 1: Because I think that there's some chance (maybe not very large) that if an LW denizen is wrong about something and gets snarked at, it may be what they need to improve; and that for any given quantity of snark this effect will be larger if the snark is aimed at a larger deserving subpopulation of LW; so that if there are more people wrong in way A and fewer wrong in way B, snarking about A is more likely to do good than snarking about B.

And, in the present instance, for reasons already discussed I think LW has more people in need of anti-far-right snark than people in need of anti-far-left snark.

(Of course -- I repeat myself -- if you're snarking just for the fun of snarking then you needn't care about that. And perhaps the chances of any good ever coming of snarking at anyone are negligible.)

Reason 2: Because if LW is welcoming to people in group A and hostile to people in group B, these groups playing roughly symmetrical roles on opposite ends of some spectrum, there is a risk of a positive-feedback loop that pushes LW further and further in the A direction and away from the B direction until it becomes severely and unfixably partisan, which (as you have already remarked) is not how LW is supposed to work and (as you haven't remarked but I think is true) makes LW a less interesting and useful place by decreasing its intellectual diversity.

And, in the present instance, for reasons already discussed I think LW is welcoming to rightists and hostile to leftists. If so, then shifting that balance a bit would reduce the danger.

(How real is the danger? I don't know. Maybe less real since the More Right folks left LW. Still there, though, I think.)

(An important note that perhaps I should have written some time ago: all this left/right stuff is of course a crude but useful one-dimensional simplification of reality and if taken too seriously raises the risk of the kind of us-versus-them thinking that we're all too familiar with. And the axis we're really looking at here doesn't exactly correspond to the usual left/right political axis -- it's much more concerned with social, and less with economic, issues. Please be assured that I understand all this and am using terms like "left" and "right" only as a convenient shorthand.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-08T01:18:15.813Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

so that if there are more people wrong in way A and fewer wrong in way B, snarking about A is more likely to do good than snarking about B.

I am sorry, my life's purpose is not to bring balance to the universe, one forum at a time. I am not in the re-education business.

for reasons already discussed I think LW has more people in need of anti-far-right snark than people in need of anti-far-left snark.

Well, go for it :-) As I already noted, I don't think so.

there is a risk of a positive-feedback loop that pushes LW further and further in the A direction and away from the B direction until it becomes severely and unfixably partisan

Given that NRx used to inhabit LW and then almost all of them went away while LW stayed as it is, I consider this risk negligible. Unless, of course, direction A is leftward :-D

Also, don't forget that LW is populated mostly by Americans. From the European point of view, both US Democrats and US Republicans are right-of-centre.

And the axis we're really looking at here...

I don't know which axis are we looking at. Is there an axis at all or you just dont' like a particular thought cluster?

comment by gjm · 2015-08-08T14:38:51.163Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

my life's purpose is not to bring balance to the universe, one forum at a time.

Fair enough! As I said: you aren't obliged to care about this stuff.

I don't know which axis are we looking at.

Take one of those political questionnaires. Throw out all the questions about economics and foreign policy, and keep the ones about social issues. Administer the questionnaire to a representative sample of Americans and Western Europeans. Take the first principal component. That axis.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-10T15:27:05.069Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So, basically morals, especially sexual morals? An axis with libertines at one extreme and puritans at the other?

I assume we're throwing out "social" issues which are just economics in thin disguise, right?

comment by gjm · 2015-08-10T22:51:50.419Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

basically morals

I wouldn't put it that way because there's a lot of ethics in economics and foreign policy, and because there are other areas of morality where the "social left" are the puritans (e.g., meat-eating and pollution).

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-11T00:48:02.827Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

there's a lot of ethics in economics and foreign policy

Funny :-/ I think there's close to zero ethics in economics and foreign policy (there is some in handwringing and propaganda around them, though).

Is your axis one of Haidt's five moral axes or it's something different? I am still not quite sure how do you see it.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-11T10:04:18.033Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wow. I wonder what you mean by ethics, then. A change in economic or foreign policy may put many thousands of people out of or into work, it may result in lots of deaths if there's a war -- how can these not be ethical matters?

Is your axis one of Haidt's five moral axes

No, I don't think so.

I am still not quite sure how do you see it.

I'm sorry about that. I've tried giving handwavy qualitative descriptions. I've told you how to identify it statistically. I'm really not sure there's much more I can reasonably be expected to do.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-11T14:43:41.927Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Wow. I wonder what you mean by ethics, then. A change in economic or foreign policy may put many thousands of people out of or into work, it may result in lots of deaths if there's a war -- how can these not be ethical matters?

Interesting. Our minds work sufficiently differently so that we hit minor misunderstandings on a very regular basis :-/

When I said "close to zero ethics in economics and foreign policy" I meant that decisions in this spheres are not driven by ethical considerations. Once you take out things like naked self-interest, desire for money and/or power, the necessity to keep up appearances, etc. the remaining influence of ethics, IMHO, is very small.

You, on the other hand, said "there's a lot of ethics in economics and foreign policy" meaning that decisions in that sphere have meaningful consequences which we can evaluate ethically. That's certainly true, but under this approach I can say that there is a lot of ethics in earthquakes. An earthquake "may put many thousands of people out of or into work, it may result in lots of deaths", but is it an ethical matter?

comment by gjm · 2015-08-11T17:17:42.540Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No one (so far as we know) chooses whether there are to be earthquakes.

People do choose whether to start wars, increase or decrease minimum wages, levy new taxes, etc. (Governments choose directly; in democracies, their electorates choose indirectly.)

I don't know to what extent people in government are thinking ethically when contemplating foreign and economic policy, though they frequently claim they are. I am fairly sure that when I vote, I am greatly influenced by my estimates of the candidates' parties' likely foreign and economic policy, and that I am thinking in ethical terms about what policies would be best.

Of course I may be fooling myself about that, and the politicians may certainly be lying about what drives their policies. But the same is true on "social" issues. I don't know of any reason to be more confident that (say) abortion policy is really more driven by politicians' or voters' ethics than (say) taxation policy.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-11T17:55:25.063Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know to what extent people in government are thinking ethically when contemplating foreign and economic policy, though they frequently claim they are.

You can examine their decisions ("revealed preferences") and check whether they require ethical imperatives as an explanation or they can perfectly well be explained without considering ethics.

I appreciate that this is not a trivial exercise (e.g. distinguishing between "we cannot ethically do that" and "we cannot do that for the sake of keeping up appearances" is going to be difficult), but so is much of real-life analysis.

comment by Jiro · 2015-08-06T15:03:33.081Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know how to interpret that other than as men being more competent than women.

I do. Men have a higher variance than women and the employer only hires from the tail end.

(You can say that that still counts as men in a subgroup being more competent, of course, but it's not what we normally mean by "men are more competent than women".)

comment by gjm · 2015-08-06T15:45:17.938Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

the employer only hires from the tail end

That would be plausible if hiring, say, professors, but this was for a lab manager job. Not very tail-y.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-07T01:47:12.838Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think anybody here argued lately that the average woman is less intelligent than the average man.

Given how different the distributions are, it's hard to say (and not very meaningful) which has the higher average. It might even depend on which average you use.

comment by Username · 2015-08-14T22:15:31.045Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As far as I can see, VoiceOfRa is the lone neoreactionary actively posting.

He isn't. Neoreactionaries are normal people.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-14T23:35:32.848Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Neoreactionaries are normal people.

Ouch! No need to be mean :-P

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-08-14T21:01:30.106Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As far as I can see, VoiceOfRa is the lone neoreactionary actively posting.

Well, Jiro is posting from similar political position too (but I'm not sure either of them identifies as neoreactionary).

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-08-14T20:53:47.928Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think that used to be true, but is no longer true. As far as I can see, VoiceOfRa is the lone neoreactionary actively posting.

IIRC he doesn't identify as a neoreactionary. Anyway, Jiro also posts from similar positions.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-06T03:55:16.331Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"You need to be fixed and re-educated, this is for your own benefit"

That's a separate question that touches on a whole bunch of other issues. It's related to the question of what the proper way of dealing with the guy who insists he's Jesus is.

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-08-14T20:48:25.680Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Umm... how did you phrase it? Ah: "which I suggest is not an argument".

Read it as "is probably going to make them (and possibly their friends) less willing to spend money in my gym".

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-15T02:23:40.729Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That translation applies just as well to gjm's original statement.

comment by Jiro · 2015-08-04T22:05:54.659Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"You'd allow a lesbian in the room who is excited by staring at your tits. The correct course of action in that case is to just prohibit the staring, rather than to prohibit the person's presence in the room. Do that here too."

(Although now that I think of it that might not work because the same reasoning means they should allow ordinary men in the room too.)

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-04T23:34:56.838Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The correct course of action...

You are not talking to LW. You are talking to, let me remind you, "a group of very irate (biological, conventional, mainstream, cis, heterosexual, not-quite-sexually-liberated) women". You try telling them to think of the dick-owner as a lesbian and in the best case neither them nor any of their friends set foot in you gym ever again. In the worst case you'll find yourself talking to cops in the near future and to a large bunch of lawyers soon after that.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-05T00:25:54.048Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, like I said elsewhere dealing with homosexuals is a separate problem here. There are ways to solve it as well, the PC-minded won't like them either.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-04T21:33:53.447Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

The obvious objections to this seem to be (1) ewww (which I suggest is not an argument)

It makes the women uncofortable. This is the same type of argument you're using that we should endulge the tannys' delusions and there are many more actual women than trannys (by four orders of magnitude and that's assuming current claims are taken at fase value), so do the utility calculation.

and there are obvious risks of harm from trans women trying to use men's bathrooms too.

First, see my comment above about the relative numbers of the two groups. Also, the harm to trans "women" is lower since most men aren't interested at gawking at (or harrasing, etc.) fake "women". The ones who are tend to be gay, which is potentially a sepertate problem, but one that we have either way.

Iand for many purposes someone who looks more or less female,

So is a lion with stripes painted on it a tiger?

presents as female, and considers themself female is "closer" to stereotypical-female than to stereotypical-male whatever is in their chromosomes or their pants.

You do realise this is an empirical question and not just a piece of attire you can where to be "pro-trans"?

Someone in this situation is some way from the centre of either the "women" or the "men" cluster, regardless. It seems to me that in fact there is no such thing as the similarity cluster labelled "women" because (have I mentioned this already?) there are any number of similarity clusters corresponding to different notions of similarity, and different notions of similarity are called for in different contexts.

This is not an argument, it's an appeal to nihilism. Yes, you can arbitarily define a set and declare it a "similarity cluster", that doesn't make it so. This is similar to the psychiatric patient I mentioned above who defined the set consisting of himself, Jesus, and John Lenon, and declared it a similarity cluster.

If you pick some particular notion of similarity based on (say) gross anatomy, sex chromosomes, hormone levels, and ability to beget and/or bear children, then indeed our hypothetical person is in the "men" rather than the "women" cluster.

Not to mention physical strength, a bunch of psychological traits, etc.

But do you really think there's a delusion there?

Honestly, in this case there is probably less delusion and more BS (in the sense of the saying things without caring for their truth value) for the sake of getting another 15 minutes of fame.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-05T00:55:38.467Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

four orders of magnitude

I think you're doing the wrong calculation, in two ways.

  • The only (cis-)women being made uncomfortable by sharing bathroom facilities with a trans woman are the ones actually sharing the bathroom facilities, so the relevant ratio is not 10000:1 but more like 10:1 (the actual number depending on the size of the bathroom).
  • When you do an expected-utility calculation you need to look at the utilities as well as the probabilities. A (cis-)woman in a women's bathroom at the same time as a trans woman may feel uncomfortable. A trans woman in a men's bathroom at the same time as a bunch of (cis-)men may be assaulted.

Also, the risk of harm to trans "women" is lower since most men aren't interested in gawking [...]

The rate of sexual assault of trans people is very high.

So is a lion with stripes painted on it a tiger?

I wrote a sentence of the form "For many purposes someone with characteristics A, B, and C is more like X than Y". You interrupted after "A" to ask a question that assumes I wrote "For many purposes someone with characteristic A is more like X than Y". This is not the way to have a rational discussion.

(I bet there are in fact contexts in which a convincingly made-up lion should be treated as a tiger. E.g., if you're training a computer vision system. Of course this is far-fetched and irrelevant, but that's what you get for pretending I wrote something I didn't.)

You realise this is an empirical question

I have tried repeatedly to get you to turn your claims into actual empirical ones and you have so far not obliged, preferring to handwave about "the similarity cluster" even though it's obvious that a key point is that there are different notions of similarity around.

It looks to me as if I have consistently been careful to distinguish between empirical questions, questions of definitions, and questions of what policies to adopt. And if my aim here were to signal as loudly as possible my allegiance to the Blue rather than the Red tribe, I would be responding in a very different way to your repeated use of needlessly provocative terminology. (Which, now that you bring the topic up, looks a lot like signalling your allegiance to a different tribe...)

This is not an argument, it's an appeal to nihilism.

It would be if I went on to say "... so any notion of similarity is as good as any other", but I didn't and won't because I don't believe that. On the contrary, what I have repeatedly said is that what notion of similarity is best depends on context. There are plenty of possible notions of similarity that would be very bad in any halfway plausible context. It's my opinion that for many purposes a purely anatomical notion of gender-similarity (is that what you favour? I've asked before but you still haven't said) works less well than a more social and psychological one. (Not only because it makes people whose internal sense of their gender and external anatomy differ happier, though that's a bonus. Also because in most interactions perceived gender -- one's own and others' -- makes much more difference than anatomy, chromosomes, hormones, etc.)

in this case there is probably less delusion and more BS

What is your evidence for that? Anyway, I wasn't referring only to this case (I take it you mean Jenner's) but asking generally: do you really think that trans people are generally deluded about what anatomy they have, how strong they are, whether they are biologically capable of bearing children, etc.?

In the case of every trans person I know enough about to tell, the answer is: no, of course they are not deluded about that; they know the answer and hate it. (Or, in some cases: no, they aren't deluded about it; they knew that they didn't have the anatomy that felt right to them, and took steps to make their anatomy more like that, and now it's nearer.)

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-05T05:19:20.483Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The only (cis-)women being made uncomfortable by sharing bathroom facilities with a trans woman are the ones actually sharing the bathroom facilities, so the relevant ratio is not 10000:1 but more like 10:1 (the actual number depending on the size of the bathroom).

No, because if it becomes a social norm that any man who makes a superficial attempt to appear as a women, claims to be a woman and "presents as a woman", whatever that means, can use the women's bathroom, a lot more men are going to be claiming to be "transwomen" just for that purpose.

I wrote a sentence of the form "For many purposes someone with characteristics A, B, and C is more like X than Y". You interrupted after "A" to ask a question that assumes I wrote "For many purposes someone with characteristic A is more like X than Y". This is not the way to have a rational discussion.

Well, in this case B was something that doesn't seem to parse as anything beyond a restatement of A (with some steelmanning applied), and C is just a restatement of my assertion that the person is some combination of deluded or BS'ing.

What is your evidence for that? Anyway, I wasn't referring only to this case (I take it you mean Jenner's) but asking generally: do you really think that trans people are generally deluded about what anatomy they have, how strong they are, whether they are biologically capable of bearing children, etc.?

They're deluded about something. To the extent they're making a falsifiable claim at all.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-05T09:44:43.473Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

a lot more men are going to be claiming to be "transwomen" just for that purpose.

The people cited in this article say you're wrong about that. (The article is on a site that makes no particular pretence of neutrality or objectivity, and the author likewise doesn't, but the reports they've collected from representatives of police departments etc. in places where such rules have been introduced are evidence regardless.)

B was [...] and C is just [...]

B is not just a restatement of A; one is a matter of bodily appearance, one is a matter of clothing, given name, preferred mode of address, etc.

C is not a restatement of your assertion that the person is deluded or bullshitting, it is a restatement of what you explain that way (namely that they consider themself female).

Here is a thought experiment (important note: it is intended as an informative thought experiment, not a claim about what is actually happening in the brains and bodies of trans people). Imagine that after a few decades of scientific advancement it becomes possible to transplant brains into different bodies, even somewhat differently shaped bodies. Your brain is transplanted into a woman's body and given no more changes than are necessary to wire up the different bits of anatomy. Are you now a woman? If you say yes: Your brain is now transplanted into a chimpanzee's body with, again, minimal necessary changes. Are you now a chimpanzee?

I suggest that in the second case you're clearly still you and clearly not actually a chimpanzee, for most purposes. If you agree, then I think you should agree with me that what you are depends on internal "mental" factors as well as anatomy and external appearance. This suggests to me that the best answer in the first case is probably that you are still a man. What factors actually make you so? They seem like exactly the sort of factors that might in fact be different in trans people as compared with cis people of similar external anatomy.

(Actually, I think the best answer in the first case is that you get to choose whether you're a man or a woman. Again, I am not claiming that this case is precisely analogous to that of trans people, but it's suggestive.)

They're deluded about something.

Remember the context here: we're looking at your statement that they're wrong about what "similarity cluster" they're in. If you define similarity in anatomical or chromosomal terms, do you really think typical trans people are deluded about their anatomy or chromosomes?

There seems something very unsatisfactory about being sure they're deluded about something, but unable to say clearly what it is they're deluded about. (Not necessarily wrong; I can imagine situations in which it's reasonable to be sure someone is wrong about something but unsure what. But unsatisfactory.)

comment by Jiro · 2015-08-05T15:17:36.644Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The answer is that the group of things that we typically mean by "are you a chimpanzee" is not the same as the group of things that we typically mean by "are you a woman". The chimpanzee version contains more things that depend on the mind than the woman version.

Imagine a different version where we transplant your brain into the body of someone with red hair. In that case, you would indeed be a redhead.

Also, imagine that (assuming you're not Chinese) we transplanted your body into a Chinese person's body. Are you then Chinese? It is plausible that you aren't Chinese in this situation--but unlike in the woman example, that does not extend to thinking that a "transracial" person in a non-transplant situation is a real thing.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-06T03:35:38.458Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The people cited in this article say you're wrong about that. (The article is on a site that makes no particular pretence of neutrality or objectivity, and the author likewise doesn't, but the reports they've collected from representatives of police departments etc. in places where such rules have been introduced are evidence regardless.)

Well, first they might have been selectively collecting them, if not engaging in worse fraud. Second these policies have been in place for less than two years, it takes time for perverse incentives to manifest. The more general problem is that left-wingers are notorious for creating policies with glaring perverse incentives and then refusing to believe anyone would actually behave so as to take advantage of them. Do you also believe that almost no one avoids getting a job so as not to loose welfare benefits or that the policy of "listen and believe" hasn't lead to many false rape accusations?

B is not just a restatement of A; one is a matter of bodily appearance, one is a matter of clothing, given name, preferred mode of address, etc.

C is not a restatement of your assertion that the person is deluded or bullshitting, it is a restatement of what you explain that way (namely that they consider themself female).

Ok, so also give the striped lion a collar saying "I'm a tiger".

Here is a thought experiment (important note: it is intended as an informative thought experiment, not a claim about what is actually happening in the brains and bodies of trans people). Imagine that after a few decades of scientific advancement it becomes possible to transplant brains into different bodies, even somewhat differently shaped bodies. Your brain is transplanted into a woman's body and given no more changes than are necessary to wire up the different bits of anatomy. Are you now a woman?

In that case there is an important difference, namely the structure of my brain and my personality, behaviors etc., are in male rather than female cluster.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-06T09:20:11.439Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

they might have been selectively collecting them, if not engaging in worse fraud.

Sure. So might anyone quoting anyone about anything. What would fraud look like here? It would mean that actually there are a bunch of cases of sexual assault by trans people, or people pretending to be trans, in public restrooms. It shouldn't be too hard to find some, if so. Please feel free, and I will of course update my opinions in response to whatever you find.

these policies have been in place for less than two years

The first few days listed in the article itself: 2008 in Colorado; 2011 in Connecticut; 2007 in Iowa; 2005 in Maine; 1997 in Massachusetts.

left-wingers are notorious for creating policies with glaring perverse incentives [...] that almost no one avoids getting a job so as not to lose welfare benefits [...]

Well, as it happens, the only example personally known to me at present of someone who contemplated getting a job and changed their mind because of the impact on benefits did so because of changes to the tax and benefit structure introduced by a right-wing government, and the incentives were much better aligned before that government made the change.

Of course one anecdote isn't much evidence for anything. The general point here is that it's by no means only left-wing governments that create policies with perverse incentives. (Famous examples: "Abstinence-only" sex ed in schools doesn't stop kids having sex, but it does make them more likely to get pregnant when they do. Restricting the availability of contraception increases the incidence of abortion and single-parent families, both of which the opponents of contraception usually say they're more strongly opposed to.)

In any case, what exactly is your argument here? It surely can't be "Allowing trans people to use public restrooms corresponding to their new gender is a policy brought in by left-wingers; policies brought in by left-wingers often have perverse incentives and do harm; therefore this policy has perverse incentives and if you think it won't do harm then you're wrong", but what is it?

OK, so also give the striped lion a collar saying "I'm a tiger".

Let's continue that discussion when you're prepared to engage seriously with what I'm saying. (If you genuinely can't see highly relevant differences, let me know and I'll point some out.)

the structure of my brain and my personality, behaviours etc., are in male rather than female cluster.

OK. So if a trans person's brain structure, personality, behaviours, etc., were found to be nearer typical-female than typical-male, would you then consider them something other than deluded/hallucinating/bullshitting? What sort of differences in brain structure would be most relevant? (Brain structure is kinda hard to explore, beyond the very coarsest features; what if we couldn't tell about brain structure but their personality and behaviours were "more female than male"?)

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-08T01:24:20.101Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What sort of differences in brain structure would be most relevant?

Ones that correspond to the large observable differences in behavior between men and women.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-08T14:35:35.179Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

OK. In most cases, so far as I am aware, we have no idea what brain structure differences those are (or indeed whether they are differences in brain structure rather than, e.g., the behaviours in question being learned or a consequence of hormonal differences). What if the person's behaviour is much nearer typical-female than typical-male in these respects?

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-08T20:59:28.121Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What if the person's behaviour is much nearer typical-female than typical-male in these respects?

Well in the most prominent cases, e.g., Bruce Jenner, this does not appear to be the case. Now are you willing to admit that he's wrong about his claimed gender?

comment by gjm · 2015-08-08T22:05:16.551Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

this does not appear to be the case

I regret that I don't find "VoiceOfRa doesn't find Jenner's behaviour sufficiently feminine" a very strong argument. I haven't myself paid much attention to the Jenner case; would you care to be more explicit about what you have in mind?

Now are you willing to admit that he's wrong [...]?

Why should I do that? Unless I've completely lost the thread here (which I'm pretty sure I haven't) what we're discussing here is your criteria for determining someone's gender, not mine.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-11T02:53:04.453Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't myself paid much attention to the Jenner case;

Well, you were making assertions about it with rather a lot of confidence up thread.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-11T09:46:51.887Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Please give two examples.

(I thought I'd carefully avoided making assertions that go beyond my knowledge, but maybe I slipped up and said more than I meant to or wasn't clear about what I was saying.)

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-07T01:32:02.702Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, as it happens, the only example personally known to me at present of someone who contemplated getting a job and changed their mind because of the impact on benefits

Unless you regularly interact with the type of people who live in underclass ghettos, or the class of people sometimes called "white trash", it's not surprising that you personally haven't met people like this.

(Famous examples: "Abstinence-only" sex ed in schools doesn't stop kids having sex, but it does make them more likely to get pregnant when they do. Restricting the availability of contraception increases the incidence of abortion and single-parent families, both of which the opponents of contraception usually say they're more strongly opposed to.)

Setting aside the validity of these examples, I note that none of them are actually examples of incentives.

Let's continue that discussion when you're prepared to engage seriously with what I'm saying.

I am engaging seriously. I merely applied your epistemology to a slightly different domain and suddenly it becomes clear how silly it is.

OK. So if a trans person's brain structure, personality, behaviours, etc., were found to be nearer typical-female than typical-male, would you then consider them something other than deluded/hallucinating/bullshitting? What sort of differences in brain structure would be most relevant? (Brain structure is kinda hard to explore, beyond the very coarsest features; what if we couldn't tell about brain structure but their personality and behaviours were "more female than male"?)

Frankly, I have a hard time believing that something would mess up the development of precisely the sexual characteristics expressed in the brain.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-07T09:33:30.467Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Unless you regularly interact with [...]

Could you briefly describe your own interactions with that segment of the population?

I note that none of them are actually examples of incentives.

I'd say they're about as much so as your example of alleged-rape-victim policy. (E.g., if you teach teenagers that they must be sexually abstinent and make it clear that any sexual non-abstinence is disapproved of, you intend to give an incentive not to have sex, but you also give an incentive not to have contraceptives, and then when other deeper-rooted incentives lead them to have sex after all they do it unprotected.)

I merely applied your epistemology to a slightly different domain

Nope, you applied a straw-man version of my epistemology to a very different domain.

Frankly, I have a hard time believing [...]

Noted. I don't see why that should make it impossible to answer my questions.

(It seems to me that all kinds of individual things in the brain can get messed up, so it would be rather unsurprising if individual things related to sex/gender did; and that since a lot of sex-related things are surely controlled together (after all, in typical men and typical women they go together) it would not be surprising if they could go wrong together.)

[EDITED to fix a trivial typo.]

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-08T00:08:19.494Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Could you briefly describe your own interactions with that segment of the population?

Not much either, which is why I don't cite my experience as evidence.

it would not be surprising if they could go wrong together.)

Agreed, and they sometimes do. However when they go wrong together, they effect both brain and body.

comment by gjm · 2015-08-08T00:53:00.166Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

when they go wrong together, they affect both brain and body

Sorry, I wasn't clear. I was conjecturing that there may be single changes in brain development that affect multiple sex-related things in the brain; if so, it would be unsurprising for those things to go wrong together even without changes elsewhere in the body.

Should I take it that you don't intend to answer the questions I asked at the end of the great-great-grandparent of this comment? Of course you're under no sort of obligation to answer any questions at all, but I do find it quite interesting how consistently unwilling you are to clarify your statements and opinions in this discussion.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-02T05:02:39.824Z · score: -3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Would you apply the same logic to someone who claims Jesus talks to them? What about the person claiming to be Jesus?

comment by Username · 2015-08-01T22:43:29.600Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Eh. In some subcultures people use that word in their own way. The more options you offer, the more people of various subcultures will be your clients.

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2015-08-02T01:27:02.639Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What's the expected ROI for making all this effort to accommodate a tiny minority? And what of the ethical implications concerned with enabling what could very well be a mental illness?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-02T14:56:42.859Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

How large is the investment ? Do websites need to have a gender field? Not including one would be a slight saving. It might make sense to just have an optional title field.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-03T14:58:30.742Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Knowing gender means that it's possible to use the proper pronoun. Having a lot of demographic information is also useful to understand user behavior better. You can show women different ads then men.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-03T19:31:40.025Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You could ask for preferred pronouns, and possibly take the risk of having a text field for pronouns that aren't on your list.

I have no idea whether you'd do better with ads that are targeted to preferred title and pronouns rather than to stated gender, but you might.

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2015-08-02T14:59:48.314Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Now you're thinking with portals!

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-02T15:32:32.336Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

?

comment by eternal_neophyte · 2015-08-02T18:36:56.461Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Meaning it's a good solution that's easy to miss.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2015-08-01T18:42:35.991Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

On the other hand, there's a lot of hormonal and developmental variation among people, even if a large majority fall into two groups.

comment by IffThen · 2015-08-06T04:30:57.867Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You seem to be equivocating on gender and sex (something the list warned you about!). Gender roles are social constructs... so yes, obviously, whatever we do, we will be taking people's (socially approved) "delusions and hallucinations" at face value. Whether you are delusional in believing that "this bathroom is a special place for men" or "dresses are special clothes for women", these delusions are socially perpetuated, and change based on society. So it may happen that (to take the programmer list as an example), on Facebook there are 5 (or 50) socially appropriate genders. It may happen that in the PS bathroom there are two appropriate genders. You can see why taking the PS list as equal to the FB list would be suboptimal :-)

Moreover, it is silly to argue that people seeking to change the social order by claiming a third gender are as insane as people that we would commonly define as delusional and hallucinating... So I assume that you are using bombastic language to grab our attention. Is your argument actually that you feel bad about social change, and want us to stop doing it?

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-06T07:59:13.309Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

You seem to be equivocating on gender and sex

That's because the distinction doesn't actually exist. In particular, to the extent gender refers to a real concept and not an pure XML tag, it refers to what is commonly called sex.

So it may happen that (to take the programmer list as an example), on Facebook there are 5 (or 50) socially appropriate genders.

Most of them are nothing more than ways for narcissists to signal their special-snowflakeness.

You can see why taking the PS list as equal to the FB list would be suboptimal :-)

Yes, the optimal solution would be for the FB list to match the PS list.

Moreover, it is silly to argue that people seeking to change the social order by claiming a third gender are as insane as people that we would commonly define as delusional and hallucinating

Since you appear to be new here, let me explain the local social norms. Around here people are expected to provide arguments for their positions. In case you're not aware repeating the opponents possession prefaced with "it is silly to argue" is not an argument.

comment by IffThen · 2015-08-06T18:23:10.804Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Since you appear to be new here, let me explain the local social norms. Around here people are expected to provide arguments for their positions.

Okay... People who are seeking to change social norms in general are not usually considered insane in the same way as someone who is making claims that their sensory input is showing them something different from everyone else.

For example, social norms would not allow women to walk topless outside except in exceptional situations, even where it is legal. This is often a problem... for example, even the edge case breastfeeding mothers are marginalized; more generally, bare-chested women as a class are marginalized. Changing this social norm would require changing gender norms. Generally, advocating for this change is acceptable, although not always respectable.

However, I do not think that you really care about gender norms. I think that you are specifically worried that adding further gender categories is a form of pandering to people who want to increase static without increasing signal; that is, the information that someone does not identify as traditionally female does not appear to be useful information to you, and therefore you view this as needless static.

Let me know if I am wrong.

However, if we are looking at domain knowledge as something worth exploring to allow you to interact with other people, as in the examples given for coders, you can see how awareness of this could be very important. After all, many people of non-standard genders feel more strongly about those identities than they do about religion, so you might reasonably view a basic knowledge of these views as equally important as knowing the basics of major religions.

If you are uncomfortable with this, you might simply avoid people who identify with non-standard genders. However, I would suggest that you can more profitably communicate with people of non-standard genders than with people who are hallucinating.... However, my personal sample size of interactions with people who are hallucinating/delusional in a psychological sense is fairly small, so I could be wrong.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-06T23:52:32.026Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For example, social norms would not allow women to walk topless outside except in exceptional situations, even where it is legal. This is often a problem... for example, even the edge case breastfeeding mothers are marginalized;

That can fall under the "exceptional situation" exemption when there is a reasonable reason for them to be breast feeding in public.

more generally, bare-chested women as a class are marginalized.

There's a very simple solution for them: cover up their breasts. I don't see why this is a problem.

However, if we are looking at domain knowledge as something worth exploring to allow you to interact with other people, as in the examples given for coders,

That would require that the "domain knowledge" be actual knowledge and not BS.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-06T16:30:07.002Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That's because the distinction doesn't actually exist.

Surely it does. One is a classification system based on biology, the other is a cultural template determined by the local culture.

You can argue that they match most of the time, or even that they should match all the time, but in contemporary usage the words "sex" and "gender" clearly have distinct meaning.

comment by IffThen · 2015-08-06T20:49:46.541Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There are two things here, if we care to stick to the discussion of edge cases (which is theoretically the point of this thread...)

The first is sex, in which case we should be talking about things like Turner's syndrome and XYY syndrome; sex is not binary. It is only usually binary.

The second would be coming up with a definition of gender, and seeing if it matches our definition of sex. It is safe to say that 1) the use of 'gender' to mean the same as 'sex' is within the usual range of common usage, and 2) completely wrong under certain 'domains' (sociology, anthropology, a number of personal vocabularies, etc.).

That's because the distinction doesn't actually exist.

This seems to be saying that those domains are making a mistake in making this distinction -- something that is hard to defend without knowing something of those domains. This is particularly hard to defend without making very strong definitions, and it is very hard to get strong definitions that we will agree on.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-06T23:56:01.184Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The first is sex, in which case we should be talking about things like Turner's syndrome and XYY syndrome

Yes, and nearly all those cases do in fact cluster with one of the two "standard" genders. And the very rare exception to this are generally not the people who are claiming to be "transsexual".

The second would be coming up with a definition of gender, and seeing if it matches our definition of sex.

You can come up with whatever definition you want, I don't see why I should are about IffThen!gender.

comment by IffThen · 2015-08-06T21:17:04.721Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

That's because the distinction doesn't actually exist. In particular, to the extent gender refers to a real concept and not an pure XML tag, it refers to what is commonly called sex.

This is an interesting claim. Things that are often lumped into 'gender' includes things like dress, pronouns, and bathrooms, and these things are very important to people. Maybe they shouldn't be, but they are.

You are very unclear as to what you are suggesting. One obvious interpretation is that caring if you wear a dress or a tie is the same as hallucinating, and we should stop doing it. This is an interesting claim... and potentially a very useful one. I would support this. I would also support unisex bathrooms and gender neutral pronouns. So we might not disagree at all.

But it is also possible to interpret your claim as saying that non-standard genders are less valid than standard ones, even when the standard ones are arbitrary or harmful. This is harder to defend -- in fact, no one defends this as a general theory except extreme moral relativists (the claim that 'woman are not worthy to vote' is generally not held to be true based on the culture you are in, but to have a higher reasoning behind arguments for and against; in case it is not obvious, voting was assigned as a gender role; a voting woman would be outside of either standard gender for much of our history). Obviously this is an extreme example, but you can see that gender matters; if in your life you find that the only reason that gender matters is whether or not your bathroom has an urinal or not, this is very good for you.

(It is also possible that you believe that we currently have developed the perfect gender roles, and any change would be a worsening of conditions. This is sufficiently different from my own view that I am not willing to spend my time debating it unless you give me some sort of compelling evidence up front.)

I think that this is sufficient for you to see why I claim that you are equivocating on gender and sex. I'm fairly certain that what you actually want to claim is something much less strong, simply that using made-up pronouns and complaining about what bathroom you are assigned is annoying at best, and perhaps a sign of a personality disorder. In this case, you might want a very different list than the one provided.

Others have already mentioned the benefits of commercial sites pandering to their clients, so I needn't elaborate.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-06T23:47:46.129Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

But it is also possible to interpret your claim as saying that non-standard genders are less valid than standard ones

Well they are, although "less valid" is a rather strong understatement.

'woman are not worthy to vote'

You do realize that that's a moral claim. In order to evaluate it in a utilitarian framework, one could look at, for example, whether women having the vote leads to better or worse policy outcomes. I think this is certainly a debatable position either way and certainly is far from obvious. Heck it might even depend on other properties of the society.

I'm fairly certain that what you actually want to claim is something much less strong

In other words, my position is outside the range of positions you're used to encountering, and you're desperately hoping I back-peddle so you don't have to think of arguments against it, in the process have to question the axioms of your philosophy.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-08-06T04:40:51.605Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Gender roles are social constructs...

Partially. You can't just ignore the biological basis and declare gender roles to be arbitrary -- they are not.

comment by IffThen · 2015-08-06T18:08:13.454Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

True - but in the context of the top post, you can and should be looking at cases where gender roles are non-traditional. After all, this is a post about edge cases and overgeneralized beliefs. Gender roles are an excellent example of arbitrary rules being over applied. This applies both to cases when we are dealing with other members of our own culture, and with members of other cultures.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-08-03T10:17:08.084Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not all systems of gender are about individuals asserting their gender. In nonwestern contexts you also have other ideas of gender that are society based.

comment by LessWrong (LessWrong1) · 2015-08-06T05:50:52.288Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Meh. I've always thought the gender stuff and many others (not getting into them) are borderline insane, which is why I usually avoid that if possible.

I might be overly cynical but the world runs in it's own way. I'd like to be treated in a certain way but I can hardly blame people for not treating me the way I'd like tp. Nobody owes you anything so you can't ask them to pay their debt. At the end of the day all you can really do is work on yourself and that's it.

comment by VoiceOfRa · 2015-08-06T08:06:04.111Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've always thought the gender stuff and many others (not getting into them) are borderline insane, which is why I usually avoid that if possible.

I can understand the sentiment, but history has shown that if insanity is not confronted it expends in both power and depth.

comment by LessWrong (LessWrong1) · 2015-08-07T11:13:36.453Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The problem is that it's a two-way street. What you see is not what I see, and if person X is claiming A, I myself might be seeing D instead. Reality-wise, we would probably have to check their genes, but that's less practical. So instead people go to their intuition and just call them whatever they think fits.

It's also a pretty big offense to call a woman a man, and vice-versa, so there's still risk in that.