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

post by Apprentice · 2014-01-06T00:16:09.532Z · score: 26 (74 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 883 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

883 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2014-01-06T23:53:53.544Z · score: 90 (90 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

If this surprises you, update your model.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-07T08:24:46.762Z · score: 60 (64 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

EDIT: Seems like you already know this.

comment by CronoDAS · 2014-01-08T18:54:21.160Z · score: 22 (22 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-07T16:56:44.771Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

Upvoted for that.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-07T21:08:16.546Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Mirzhan_Irkegulov · 2015-01-02T20:44:37.876Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Possible defence: criticizing specifically people and organizations of similar views can be more cost-beneficial. If you write a giant article entreating people of similar-but-not-identical position, and that article tweaks their views and massively increases their instrumental rationality, it's much better, than if you write dozens of articles addressed at your political enemies, most of whom will never read it or will never get convinced. For example, you have communist friends who are mostly correct on social issues, but are completely wrong on dialectical materialism, their organizations are polluted with death spirals, their discussions are counter-productive because of wrong usage of words, etc. It would still be more productive to direct them to LessWrong, to explain reductionism, to teach them how to use words and reasoning, how to avoid cognitive and organization failure modes, than to try to bring neo-nazis, Christian fundamentalists, New Agers or even generic consumerist Philistines up-to-date from scratch.

This of course assumes that writing a giant critical article is actually a productive way to change someone's mind. Obviously, hateful feminist anti-LW/anti-nerd rants are doing a bad job of convincing us in their points, because most of those writers have never read Dale Carnegie, let alone Cialdini. But they write angry rants anyway, because that's how they get, as Russians say it, “the feeling of fulfilled duty”, a warm fuzzy.

comment by pgbh · 2014-01-08T04:08:07.733Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by hyporational · 2014-01-09T04:27:11.981Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-09T07:20:10.896Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-07T04:57:15.503Z · score: 5 (15 votes) · LW · GW

Update: Likely that feminist-inclined LWers are less likely to comment/vote and more more likely to take surveys.

Meta-update: This hypothesis ruled highly-improbable based on more data from Yvain.

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2014-01-09T00:06:17.579Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Among lurkers, the average feminism score was 3.84. Among people who had posted something - whether a post on Main, a post in Discussion, or a comment, the average feminism score was 3.8. A t-test failed to reveal any significant difference between the two (p = .49). So there is no difference between lurkers and posters in feminism score.

Among people who have never posted a top-level article in Main, the average feminism score is 3.84. Among people who have posted top-level articles in Main, the average feminism score is 3.47. A t-test found a significant difference (p < .01). So top-level posters were slightly less feminist than the Less Wrong average. However, the average feminism of top-level posters (3.47) is still significantly higher than the average feminism among women (3.1).

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-09T04:25:32.356Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I update in the direction that the model of people I form based on LW comments is pretty inaccurate.

comment by Alejandro1 · 2014-01-11T03:25:41.449Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

My conclusion is that most posters in LW have conventionally liberal views (at least on social issues) but many of them refrain from participating in the periodic discussions that erupt touching on these issues. Some possible reasons for this: i) they hold these opinions in a non-passionate way that does not incline them to argue for them; ii) they are more interested in other stuff LW has to offer like logic or futurism and see politics as a distraction; iii) they mistakenly believe their opinions are unpopular and they will suffer a karma hit.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-11T07:39:46.600Z · score: 8 (16 votes) · LW · GW

iv) they absorbed these views from their surrounding culture and don't actually have good arguments for them.

comment by Alejandro1 · 2014-01-11T23:55:26.877Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I agree that this is a very plausible possibility as well. However, IADBOC for two reasons.

First, a large part of views like "feminism" and "social justice" are plausibly terminal values. These terminal values are probably absorbed from the surrounding culture, but it is not clear how they could be argued for against someone who held opposite values. In addition, for the descriptive components of these views, "most people hold them absorbed from general culture and can't argue for them" is not correlated with "unjustified, untrue beliefs". The same description would apply to most ordinary scientific beliefs held by non-experts.

comment by tut · 2014-01-20T15:17:59.470Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"most people hold them absorbed from general culture and can't argue for them" is not correlated with "unjustified, untrue beliefs"

But is, as Yvain has explained on his blog, more likely to be associated with true or at least reasonable beliefs. Reasonable beliefs are more likely to become commonly accepted beliefs, and most people who hold commonly accepted beliefs absorbed them from general culture and have never seen a need to make sound arguments for them.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-21T07:09:08.512Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Observe that this argument applies even more strongly to beliefs that have lasted a long time. In particular it applies much more strongly to religion.

comment by tut · 2014-01-21T11:10:51.258Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that that is an important distinction. Most of the effect I was talking about is that it is easier for something reasonable (something with a relatively large probability of being true) to make the jump from controversial belief to generally accepted belief. Once something is generally accepted and people stop arguing about it, there is no strong mechanism rejecting false beliefs.

To the contrary, new beliefs can seem more reasonable by being associated with previously accepted beliefs, so beliefs in clusters of strongly held beliefs such as religions and certain ideologies are less likely to be true than the first belief in the cluster to become generally accepted.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-22T00:00:22.255Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Once something is generally accepted and people stop arguing about it, there is no strong mechanism rejecting false beliefs.

Memetic evolution. The fact that a belief has survived for a long time, and survived the rise and fall of civilizations, is evidence in it's favor.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-12T18:59:51.146Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

First, a large part of views like "feminism" and "social justice" are plausibly terminal values.

Disagree here. Unless your terminal values include things like "everyone believing X regardless of it's truth value" or "making everyone as equal as possible even at the cost of making everyone worse off", the SJ policy proposals don't actually promote the terminal values they claim to support. One could equally well claim that opposition to cryonics is based on terminal values.

In addition, for the descriptive components of these views, "most people hold them absorbed from general culture and can't argue for them" is not correlated with "unjustified, untrue beliefs". The same description would apply to most ordinary scientific beliefs held by non-experts.

Or for that matter religious views by non-theologian theists.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-02-04T23:36:08.755Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Your model of Feminism/SJ differs from mine. Most of the cluster of my-model-of-SJ-space consists of the terminal value "people should not face barriers to doing what they want to do on account of factors orthogonal to that goal" (which I endorse).

My model of SJ also includes (as a smaller component) the terminal value "no one should believe there are correlations between race/sex/gender and any other attribute or characteristic", which I don't endorse.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-02-05T06:33:22.115Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"people should not face barriers to doing what they want to do on account of factors orthogonal to that goal"

What kind of factors count as "orthogonal to that goal"? If my goal is to become a physicist, say, does the fact that I'm not very intelligent count as an "orthogonal factor"? If the answer is no, then this is one form of my claim of them trying to make everyone as equal as possible even at the cost of making everyone worse off.

If the answer is yes, the question arises what they're objection is to some disciplines having demographics that differ from the general population. Given that they tend to take this as ipso facto evidence of racism/sexism/etc. this shows that denial of correlations between race/sex and other attributes is in fact much more central to their belief system then you seem to think.

BTW, the other form of my claim can be seen in the following situation: You need to choose between three candidates A, B and C for a position, you know that A is qualified and that one of B or C is also qualified (possibly slightly more qualified then A) but the other is extremely unqualified (as it happens B is the qualified one but you don't know that). However, for reasons beyond either A or B's control it is very hard to check which of B or C is the qualified one. Does hiring A, even though this is clearly unfair to B, count as "creating a barrier orthogonal to the goal"?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-02-05T06:48:39.439Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If my goal is to become a physicist, say, does the fact that I'm not very intelligent count as an "orthogonal factor"?

No.

If the answer is no, then this is one form of my claim of them trying to make everyone as equal as possible even at the cost of making everyone worse off.

If "they" believe that. If you know of a large number of people who believe this, I am not aware of them.

Does hiring A, even though this is clearly unfair to B, count as "creating a barrier orthogonal to the goal"?

Hiring isn't creating the barrier; the barrier - the inability to determine which candidate is qualified - is already there.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-02-05T06:58:34.631Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If my goal is to become a physicist, say, does the fact that I'm not very intelligent count as an "orthogonal factor"?

No.

Did you mean to say "Yes" and get confused by the double negative? (That would be more consistent with the rest of your comment.)

If the answer is no, then this is one form of my claim of them trying to make everyone as equal as possible even at the cost of making everyone worse off.

If "they" believe that. If you know of a large number of people who believe this, I am not aware of them.

I never said they believed that, at most they alieve that. My claim is that is what you get if you try to steel man their position as based on terminal values rather than factual confusion.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-02-05T12:50:26.619Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Confused: There doesn't appear to be a double-negative.

If you're not very intelligent, that is relevant to your physicist aspirations. It is not orthogonal.

I do not understand how your description is a steel man. It may be an attempt to extrapolate instrumental values from a certain set of terminal values, but that doesn't help us in our matter-of-fact disagreement about the terminal values of the SJ cluster.

If you want to steel man social justice, substitute the entire works of John Rawls.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-02-06T06:52:47.113Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Confused: There doesn't appear to be a double-negative.

Sorry, my mistake.

If you want to steel man social justice, substitute the entire works of John Rawls.

The part of his work that I have read, consisted of him making a social contract-type argument saying that since the contract must be made before risk preferences, i.e., whether one is risk averse to risk loving are assigned, we should treat everyone as maximally risk averse. There was also some talk about utility that mostly consisted of him misunderstanding the concept. This did not leave me particularly inclined to read the rest.

comment by therufs · 2014-03-27T13:44:34.517Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

trying to make everyone as equal as possible even at the cost of making everyone worse off.

Could you talk a little more about/give an example of what you have in mind here?

comment by TheOtherDave · 2014-01-11T04:58:59.151Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In my case it's something similar to (ii)... I often feel that arguing in favor of my views will not be a useful contribution to the discussions that periodically erupt on these issues, so I don't. (Sometimes I do.)

comment by Erdrick · 2014-01-07T07:33:04.694Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Possible, but I suspect the "Why our kind can't cooperate" both has a stronger effect and is more likely.

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-08T15:07:57.681Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed. I weep to imagine what the author of the linked article would think of us if she decided to check out the discussion her piece had inspired.

comment by Alexei · 2014-01-08T18:58:54.217Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Would love to see these numbers broken down by gender.

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2014-01-09T00:12:09.706Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Alexei · 2014-01-09T00:20:23.330Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2014-01-09T00:26:45.524Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by gjm · 2014-01-09T00:38:21.653Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps what he expected was for men to call themselves more feminist than women, for some sort of signalling reasons (of course anon survey responses aren't much use for signalling, but maybe the idea is that people get into the habit of describing themselves in particular ways and then continue to do so for consistency even in contexts where there's no signalling benefit.

comment by hyporational · 2014-01-09T04:57:13.702Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

anon survey responses aren't much use for signalling

They are if you signal for the group and expect other people do the same.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-10T20:29:49.645Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-11T02:23:50.864Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

Do you mean that this specific demographic difference is "weird" on the internet relative to real life?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-10T20:14:44.931Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

on a 1 to 100 scale averaged 52.5, which on my 1 to 5 scale corresponds to a 3.1

I'm not sure about that. To my System 1, “50/100” means ‘mediocre’, whereas “3 stars (out of 5)” means ‘decent’.

comment by bramflakes · 2014-01-07T15:29:23.143Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Offtopic, but ETA on the survey results being published?

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2014-01-09T00:06:56.849Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Probably before the end of this month.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-12T16:07:22.436Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Probably

How big is the probability?

comment by Multiheaded · 2014-01-09T10:51:45.536Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If this surprises you, update your model.

Updating to "LW is somehow the inverse of Western populations in general, among which support for feminist policies tends to be far more widespread than support of feminism-as-identity."

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-08T23:09:54.749Z · score: -8 (18 votes) · LW · GW

So the average Less Wronger is about 33% more favorably disposed towards the feminist movement than the average woman (who herself is slightly more favorably disposed than the average man).

Or the average Less Wronger knows that supporting feminism is the correct response to such a question and answers accordingly.

Saying you agree with feminism is easy. Being a feminist is incredibly hard. If a man at a LW meetup said something objectifying, misogynist, or racist, would another male LWer call them out for it? Such behavior is absolutely essential to create a space that women feel permitted to inhabit (consistent objectification is one of the main reasons programming as an industry remains a boy's club and a great deal of feminist agitation has been leveled against this), but as we all know dissenting is hard, and while I'm sure every self-identified feminist man would feel uncomfortable in such a situation, I doubt most of them would speak up.

Even without explicit deception or implicit social desirability bias, it's entirely possible to think oneself a feminist and still do and say things that would be entirely off-putting to the author of this piece. It's possible to identify as a feminist but refuse to acknowledge a variety of oppressions. It's possible to identify as a feminist but appoint yourself gatekeeper of acceptable feminist politic -- imagine the irony of a "feminist" man telling a woman what feminism is! Yudkowsky himself is in this category, since he thinks himself skilled enough in feminism to entirely dismiss sex-radical feminism, lesbian separatist feminism, and virtually all radical strains of feminism (as per http://hpmor.com/a-rant-thereof/, spoilers HPMOR ch. 93). I wouldn't attempt to discuss probability theory with any MIRI researcher without having a strong grasp over at least the key texts I can discern the relevance of, but I'm willing to predict with 95% confidence that Yudkowsky has never read a Dworkin book. (http://predictionbook.com/predictions/22850)

Feminism, feminist theory, critical race theory, and social justice in general are not something humans automatically get correct. They cannot be intuitied. They come from a space of questioning deeply held beliefs and holding those beliefs up to the highest possible ethical considerations. It is absolutely foolish to believe that it is possible to intuit these concepts, but arguments about feminism or anti-racism on Less Wrong commonly come to a feminist stating some widely-accepted notion from feminist theory or feminist psychology, and a LWer stating that the notion must be false because of some intuition.

This sort of dismissal and appeal to intuition comes from male or white privilege. It is male privilege that convinces men that the things they think are correct by default, especially the things they think about matters pertaining to gender. This is a dangerous and insidious bias that persists deep into the feminist education of men; most men who think themselves feminists have not trained themselves to realize this bias and still engage in easily identified behavior ("mainsplaining") caused by it.

Really, this is what the author of the linked article is commenting on: the reality of the LW environment being simply uncomfortable for women to inhabit. I've tried to introduce LW to several of my friends, partners, and comrades, as I believe its lessons to be useful, but nearly all of the people without male privilege have been turned away by it.

For LW to be actually feminist (instead of merely claiming to support feminism), it must be an unsafe space for discussions that probabilistically trigger response modes corresponding to male privilege or the oppression of women. It must be unsafe to say objectifying or misogynist things. It must be unsafe to discuss the oppression of social groups as an abstract intellectual concept rather than as a lived reality by the majority of humans. Attempting to discuss such issues dispassionately is a sign of privilege, and insisting that they be discussed dispassionately is an act of oppression. It's impossible to be dispassionate about a boot on your own face. It's irrational to attempt to be calm when the hot iron approaches your face. We're rationalists, not straw vulcans.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-01-09T02:58:59.900Z · score: 13 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Attempting to discuss such issues dispassionately is a sign of privilege, and insisting that they be discussed dispassionately is an act of oppression.

Fine, then let me be passionate. You know what your atttitude reminds me most of? Those assholes in my old Greek highschool decades ago, or those assholes in the Greek media as far back as I remember, those assholes in the Greek society in general, who keep raging about how Jews/Germans/Americans/Turks/Slav Macedonians are oppressing us Greeks, those people who call it treason to have any different opinion on any "national issue"}, those people who call "toadies of foreigners" anyone who doesn't hate Jews/Germans/Americans/Turks/Slav Macedonians (who are after all oppressing us so very much that it should be actively unsafe to defend such people.)

If one defends such oppressors, they should be dragged to the courts, or beaten up, or perhaps stabbed to death. That's how the Greek establishment ensures the "unsafe" space for open discourse of issues that you also seem to be advocating for anyone who doesn't toe your favoured positions.

It must be "unsafe" to have a different opinion? Fuck you and your fascism. Fuck all the ways you use to justify your oppression. Every damn oppressor in the history of the world knows how to plays the role of the poor victim.

You think it so very advanced and so very progressive to HATE, HATE, HATE the oppressor? Well, Greek schoolchildren spent years learning such, and the result is that they end up electing Neonazis to the parliament when they grow up.

A true progressive like me is that one person in a hundred who wants to improve everyone's lives, rather than spent his time moaning about the damn privileged oppressors of another race/religion/tribe/nation/gender, and who think that by blaming other people his life will miraculously become better.

I hope you liked the passion in the above, since after all being dispassionate is supposedly a sign of privilege.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-09T14:05:06.165Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

imagine the irony of a "feminist" man telling a woman what feminism is

Why? Does being born with a wrong chromozome prevent a person from understanding feminism?

A few lines sooner, you said "Being a feminist is incredibly hard." Is it hard only for men, or also for women? If it is also hard for women, then wouldn't a man who succeeds somewhat in being a feminist be qualified enough to tell women what feminism is?

Read the following sentence and try to think what is wrong about it:

imagine the irony of a "mathematician" woman telling a man what mathematics is

You know, there used to be people who believed it to be just as self-evident as what you said.

By the way, some feminists do disagree with other feminists, so even disagreeing with some feminists does not contradict being a feminist.

the reality of the LW environment being simply uncomfortable for women to inhabit.

So how do you explain the women who are here? I guess they must be white or otherwise inferior...

I've tried to introduce LW to several of my friends, partners, and comrades, as I believe its lessons to be useful, but nearly all of the people without male privilege have been turned away by it.

Nearly all of my friends, regardless of their gender, were not interested in LW. I would guess that even most of your male friends weren't.

It must be unsafe to say objectifying or misogynist things.

Let's add misandrist things to the list. Oops, now your comment would violate the rules...

(yeah, yeah, I get it; I didn't read Dworkin, therefore I am using completely wrong definitions, and furthermore I am a white man which means I can't understand anything)

At this point probably the best option would be to start a new rationalist site with the following rules:

  • all members are assumed to be "white male" (WM), unless personally verified by moderators;

  • a WM user is not allowed to see non-WM user's username, only their comment; unless the non-WM user flagged their comment as "private", in which case WM user sees nothing;

  • any non-WM user can delete any comment made by a WM user; maybe even trusted WM users can delete any comment made by a WM user.

I guess this would be enough for a version 1.0; in version 2.0 you can add intersectionality and more complex rules of evaluating privileges. There are probably many people believing that this is a good way to have discussions, so you could cooperate with them to create this necessary software.

comment by therufs · 2014-03-27T14:29:31.526Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Being a feminist is incredibly hard.

In the same way being a rationalist is hard (i.e., it's cognitively difficult.)

If a man at a LW meetup said something objectifying, misogynist, or racist, would another male LWer call them out for it?

My mental model says yes, and I have actually seen it happen twice.

I doubt most of them would speak up

I think this is strictly correct, but I predict better outcomes in the case where one person says to the offender "Hey, that's out of line" than when everyone in the room castigates the offender in unison.

imagine the irony of a "feminist" man telling a woman what feminism is!

Maybe you meant "what oppression is"? (And maybe that would be a helpful distinction to make in general.)

arguments about feminism or anti-racism on Less Wrong commonly come to a feminist stating some widely-accepted notion from feminist theory or feminist psychology, and a LWer stating that the notion must be false because of some intuition.

Do you have some examples for this?

I generally agree that there are problems with how SJ issues are addressed around here, but my experience as an Actual Female On LW doesn't correspond to the picture you are painting of it being a bunch of intellectually snobby dudebros.

comment by knb · 2014-01-06T17:27:56.279Z · score: 64 (84 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by JQuinton · 2014-01-06T22:15:54.398Z · score: 29 (31 votes) · LW · GW

Only 3% of LWers surveyed described themselves as conservatives.

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

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

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-06T22:20:48.955Z · score: 27 (27 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by randallsquared · 2014-01-07T03:36:12.958Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-07T00:12:57.226Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I think futurism is anti-conservative.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2014-01-07T21:05:06.582Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

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


FAI is a conservative position.


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

comment by Sophronius · 2014-01-07T13:53:13.209Z · score: 4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

There is a big difference between what sex you are and what beliefs you profess: The first should not be determined by how rational you are, while the second very much should. There should be nothing surprising about the fact that more intelligent and more rational people would have different beliefs about reality than less intelligent and less rational people.

Or to put it another way: If you believe that all political affiliations should be represented equally in the sceptic/rationalist community, you are implicitly assuming that political beliefs are merely statements of personal preference instead of seeing them as claims about reality. While personal preference plays a role, I would hope that there's more to it than that.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T15:43:57.866Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

There is a big difference between what sex you are and what beliefs you profess: The first should not have anything to do with how rational you are...

Why not? Men and women are different in many ways. Why did you decide that a disposition to rationality can't possibly depend on your sex (and so your hormones, etc.)?

comment by Sophronius · 2014-01-07T16:04:45.611Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's in reply to Quinton saying that there should be no masculine and feminine types of rationality. In other words, whether you are a man or a woman should not determine what the correct/rational answer is to a particular question (barring obvious exceptions). This is in stark contrast to asking whether or not political affiliation should be determined by how rational you are, which is another question entirely.

In other words: Just because correct answers to factual questions should not be determined by gender does not mean that political affiliation should not be determined by correct answers to factual questions.

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-07T20:06:22.118Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think political differences come down to values moreso than beliefs about facts. Rationalism doesn't dictate terminal values.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-08T09:27:34.245Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I think political differences come down to values moreso than beliefs about facts.

Sometimes it is difficult to find out what is the different value and what is essentially the same value but different models.

For example two people can have a value of "it would be bad to destroy humanity", but one of them has a model that humanity will likely destroy itself with ongoing capitalism, while the other has a model that humanity would be likely destroyed by some totalitarian movement like communism.

But instead of openly discussing their models and finding the difference, the former will accuse the latter of not caring about human suffering, and the latter will accuse the former of not caring about human suffering. Or they will focus on different applause lights, just to emphasise how different they are.

I probably underestimate the difference of values. Some people are psychopaths; and they might not be the only different group of people. But it seems to me that a lot of political mindkilling is connected with overestimating the difference, instead of admitting that our values in connection with a different model of the world would lead to different decisions. (Because our values are good, the different decisions are evil, and good cannot be evil, right?)

Just imagine that you would have a certain proof (by observing parallel universes, or by simulations done by superhuman AI) that e.g. a tolerance of homosexuality inevitably leads to a destruction of civilization, or that every civilization that invents nanotechnology inevitably destroys itself in nanotechnological wars unless the whole planet is united under rule of the communist party. If you had a good reason to believe these models, what would your values make you do?

(And more generally: If you meet a person with strange political opinions, try to imagine a least convenient world, where your values would lead to the same opinions. Even if that would be a wrong model of our world, it still may be the model the other person believes to be correct.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T14:33:22.991Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I agree, though I'll add that what facts people find plausible are shaped by their values.

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-08T14:26:04.264Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Just imagine that you would have a certain proof (by observing parallel universes, or by simulations done by superhuman AI) that e.g. a tolerance of homosexuality inevitably leads to a destruction of civilization, or that every civilization that invents nanotechnology inevitably destroys itself in nanotechnological wars unless the whole planet is united under rule of the communist party. If you had a good reason to believe these models, what would your values make you do?

Perfect information scenarios are useful in clarifying some cases, I suppose (and lets go with the non-humanity destroying option every time) but I don't find them to map too closely to actual situations.

I'm not sure I can aptly articulate by intuition here. By differences in values, I don't really think people will differ so much as to have much difference in terminal values should they each make a list of everything they would want in a perfect world (barring outliers). But the relative weights that people place on them, while differing only slightly, may end up suggesting quite different policy proposals, especially in a world of imperfect information, even if each is interested in using reason.

But I'll concede that some ideologies are much more comfortable with more utilitarian analysis versus more rigid imperatives that are more likely to yield consistent results.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-07T20:22:41.678Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm always a little suspicious of this line of thinking. Partly because the terminal/instrumental value division isn't very clean in humans -- since more deeply ingrained values are harder to break regardless of their centrality, and we don't have very good introspective access to value relationships, it's remarkably difficult to unambiguously nail down any terminal values in real people. Never mind figuring out where they differ. But more importantly, it's just too convenient: if you and your political enemies have different fundamental values, you've just managed to absolve yourself of any responsibility for argument. That's not connotationally the same as saying the people you disagree with are all evil mutants or hapless dupes, but it's functionally pretty damn close.

That doesn't prove it wrong, of course, but I do think it's grounds for caution.

comment by Emile · 2014-01-07T20:40:42.528Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

How about different factions (landowners, truck drivers, soldiers, immigrants, etc.) all advocating their own interests? Doesn't that count as "different values"?

Or, more simply, I value myself and my family, you value yourself and your family, so we have dufferent values. Ideologies are just a more general and complicated form.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-07T20:46:29.263Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it depends what you mean by values. I was mainly discussing Randy_M's comment that rationalism doesn't dictate terminal values; while different perspectives probably mean the evolution of different value systems even given identical hardwiring, that doesn't necessarily reflect different terminal values. Those don't reflect preferences but rather the algorithm by which preferences evolve; and self-interest is one module of that, not seven billion.

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-07T20:44:52.033Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, I think people can be persuaded on terminal values, although to an extent that modifies my response above; rationality will tell you that certain values are more likely to conflict, and noticing internal contradictions--pitting two vales against each other--is one way to convince someone to alter--or just adjust the relative worth of--their terminal values. Due to the complexity of social reality I don't think you are going to find too many with beliefs that are perfectly consistent; that is, any mainstream political affiliations is unlikely to be a shinning paragon of coherance and logical progression built upon core principles relative to its competitors. But demonstrate with examples if I'm wrong.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-07T20:49:45.236Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If you can persuade someone to alter (not merely ignore) a value they believe to have been terminal, that's good evidence that it wasn't a terminal value.

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-07T21:04:07.690Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This is only true if you think humans actually hold coherent values that are internally designated as "terminal" or "instrumental". Humans only ever even designate statements as terminal values once you introduce them to the concept.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-07T21:29:19.939Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think we disagree.

To clarify, I suspect most neurotypical humans may possess features of ethical development which map reasonably well to the notion of terminal values, although we don't know their details (if we did, we'd be most of the way to solving ethics) or the extent to which they're shared. I also believe that almost everyone who professes some particular terminal (fundamental, immutable) value is wrong, as evidenced by the fact that these not infrequently change.

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-08T15:45:52.188Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If terminal values are definitionally immutable, than I used the wrong term.

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-07T14:20:57.182Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"The first should not have anything to do with how rational you are, while the second very much should. " What does should mean there, and from where do you derive it?

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-08T01:16:50.570Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Would you predict that the average IQ among LW census responders who self label as conservatives is lower? If so, how strong would you predict the effect to be?

comment by Sophronius · 2014-01-08T19:12:29.720Z · score: -4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Hmmm, interesting question. If you were to ask about conservatives versus progressives in general, I would say yes: The fact that bible-thumping Christians are far more likely to be conservative alone is enough to skew the average downwards. But the people who partake in the Less Wrong census and identify as conservative are a very different demographic, most likely.

All in all, I would have to say yes: I think it is much more likely that those 3% of Less Wrongers identify as conservatives because they are the kind of people who fail to apply rationality to their politics (and therefore have lower IQ) than it is that they identify as conservative because they are free and independent thinkers who are willing to go against the consensus opinion on this website (higher IQ).

comment by Dias · 2014-01-14T01:01:11.760Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Care to give odds? There is a narrow opportunity for betting (until Yvain releases results).

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-08T03:10:16.274Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

There is a big difference between what sex you are and what beliefs you profess: The first should not be determined by how rational you are

But it might affect how rational you are.

comment by Sophronius · 2014-01-08T11:32:52.917Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It's possible.

Why are you bringing it up, though? As an aspiring rationalist, I believe it should be possible in principle to discuss whether one sex is more rational than the other, on average. However, it makes me feel uncomfortable that a considerable number of people here feel the need to inject the topic into a conversation where it's not really relevant. If I were a woman, I can imagine I would feel more hesitant to participate on Less Wrong as a result of this, and that would be a pity.

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-08T15:47:19.719Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's an interesting topic, the moreso because it is taboo, and not exactly tangential to the subject, I think.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2014-01-08T17:12:15.128Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Compare with Cosma Shalizi on the heritability of IQ (emphasis mine):

So: Do I really believe that the heritability of IQ is zero? Well, I hope by this point I've persuaded you that's not a well-posed question. What I hope you really want to ask is something like: Do I think there are currently any genetic variations which, holding environment fixed to within some reasonable norms for prosperous, democratic, industrial or post-industrial societies, would tend to lead to differences in IQ? There my answer is "yes, of course". I've mentioned phenylketonuria and hypothyroidism already, and many other in-born errors of metabolism also lead to cognitive deficits, including lower IQ, at least in certain environments. [...]

I suspect this answer will still not satisfy some people, who really want to know about differences between people who do not have significant developmental disorders. Here, my honest answer would be that I presently have no evidence one way or the other. If you put a gun to my head and asked me to guess, and I couldn't tell what answer you wanted to hear, I'd say that my suspicion is that there are, mostly on the strength of analogy to other areas of biology where we know much more. I would then — cautiously, because you have a gun to my head — suggest that you read, say, Dobzhansky on the distinction between "human equality" and "genetic identity", and ask why it is so important to you that IQ be heritable and unchangeable.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-08T21:10:49.714Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Here, my honest answer would be that I presently have no evidence one way or the other.

At this point I would have to conclude that the guy is either very deliberately blind or is lying through his teeth.

He, of course, knows very well what the consequences for his career and social life would be were he to admit the unspeakable.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2014-01-08T23:44:02.465Z · score: 6 (14 votes) · LW · GW

You're wrong.

First, about the consequences: the theatrics of the "unspeakable" are getting a little tiresome. Shalizi is a statistics professor at Carnegie-Mellon. The Mainstream Science on Intelligence was signed by 52 professors and included very clear statements about interracial IQ differences, lack of culture bias, and explicit heritability estimates. I would ask you to name the supposedly inescapable and grave "consequences for career and social life" these 52 professors brought on their heads.

Second, about the subject matter: this quote comes at the end of a long post in which Shalizi challenges the accepted estimates of IQ heritability, and criticizes at length the frequent but confused interpretation of heritability as lack of malleability. In his next post on the subject, he criticizes the notion of a single g factor as standing on a shaky ground, having been inferred by intelligence researchers on the basis of factor analysis that is known to statisticians to be inadequate for such a conclusion. Basically, Shalizi criticizes the statistical foundations employed by IQ researchers as being statistically unsound, and he carries out this critique on a much deeper technical level than what normally makes it into summaries, popular books and blog posts. On the face of it, this isn't a completely ridiculous idea: we know that much of psychology and medicine routinely misuses statistics in ways that make experts wince, although we might also expect IQ researchers to have their statistical shit together much more decisively than your average soft-psychology paper.

There have been replies to Shalizi's critique on the same technical level, and further debates. Frankly, most of this goes over my head. I know just about enough basic statistics to understand most of Shalizi's critique but not assess it intelligently on my own, and certainly not to follow the ensuing debate. I doubt, however, that your dismissal of Shalizi's honesty is based on a solid understanding of the arguments in this debate about statistical foundations of IQ research.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T00:56:09.101Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

You're wrong.

That flat and unconditional statement seems to be mismatched with your sentence a bit later:

Frankly, most of this goes over my head.

Given that you say you lack the capability to "assess it intelligently on my own" and given that I don't see the basis on which you decide I am statistically incompetent, I am rather curious why did you decide that I am wrong. Especially given that I was talking about my personal conclusions and not stating a falsifiable fact about reality.

P.S. Oh, and the bit about consequences for career? Try Blits, Jan H. The silenced partner: Linda Gottfredson and the University of Delaware

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2014-01-10T11:03:26.762Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

You're wrong because your conclusion that Shalizi was either blind or lying rested on two premises: one, that heritability in racial IQ differences has been proven, and two, that for Shalizi to admit this fact would be uttering the "unspeakable" and would carry severe social and career-wise consequences. I wrote a detailed explanation about the way Shalizi challenges the first premise on statistical grounds, in the field where he's an expert (and in a way that's neither blind nor dishonest, albeit it could be wrong). I gave an example that illustrates that the second premise is wildly exaggerated, especially when applied to an academic such as Shalizi. That's why you are wrong.

Your response was to twist my words into a claim that you are "statistically incompetent", where in fact I emphasized that Shalizi's critique was on a deep technical level, and that I myself lacked knowledge to assess it. That is cheap emotional manipulation. You also cited a paper about Gottfredson that wasn't relevant to what I said. Given this unpromising situation, I'm sure you'll understand if I neglect to address further responses of that kind.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-10T15:43:06.038Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I wrote a detailed explanation

How could you possibly do that for a subject about which you said that "most of this goes over my head"?

Your response was to twist my words into a claim that you are "statistically incompetent", where in fact I emphasized that Shalizi's critique was on a deep technical level, and that I myself lacked knowledge to assess it.

Short memory, too. Your words: "I doubt, however, that your dismissal of Shalizi's honesty is based on a solid understanding of the arguments in this debate about statistical foundations of IQ research."

I'm sure you'll understand if I neglect to address further responses of that kind.

Oh, I'm the understanding kind :-P

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-01-09T02:11:19.354Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That's a locked-up paper printed in a journal operated by a political advocacy group.

Linda Gottfredson doesn't seem to have been "silenced", though. (But I have a libertarian, rather than a left/right partisan, view on that concept. Someone who takes grants from wealthy ideological supporters instead of from government institutions is not thereby silenced; on the contrary, that would seem pretty darn liberating.)

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T02:18:56.103Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The "Look Inside" button will give you the first two pages. I am not sure why the publisher of the journal is relevant unless you're going to claim the paper is an outright lie.

comment by hyporational · 2014-01-09T06:54:57.529Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I am not sure why the publisher of the journal is relevant unless you're going to claim the paper is an outright lie.

It's evidence. Are you advising to ignore it? Argument from authority is fallacious but reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T15:45:38.202Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It's evidence.

It's evidence of what? That the paper fits well with the ideological orientation of the journal? Sure, but I'm not interested in that. Is it evidence that the paper incorrectly describes the relevant facts? I don't think so.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-01-09T02:51:37.699Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I see. Thanks for the pointer.

The paper is from 1991 and seems to be about something that happened between 1988 and Gottfredson receiving a full professorship from U. Delaware in 1990? I'm not clear on the story there. But so far I'm not seeing silencing — just controversy and a question of whether the governors of an institution would choose to associate with a particular wealthy donor.

But again, I'll admit I'm coming from a libertarian background — I see a big difference between what I'd call silencing (e.g. violence or threats of violence to get someone to stop speaking their views) and withdrawing association (e.g. choosing not to cooperate with someone on account of their views). The former is really scarily common, especially in online discourse today, so I'm kinda sensitive on that. :( That's all complicated again by it being a government university involved, but except in really politicized cases that usually doesn't affect the way the institution operates internally all that much.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T03:02:10.750Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

a question of whether the governors of an institution would choose to associate with a particular wealthy donor.

Not quite. My reading is that Gottfredson was explicitly prohibited from accepting funding coming from the Pioneer Fund.

I agree that this is not true silencing, but I do not wish to defend the title of the article, anyway. It's just a result of a quick Google search for "consequences" to holding, um, non-mainstream views on race and intelligence.

Here is another example.

comment by satt · 2014-01-09T06:33:25.282Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

He, of course, knows very well what the consequences for his career and social life would be were he to admit the unspeakable.

What you & Anatoly_Vorobey have quoted is talking about heritable IQ differences between individuals ("who do not have significant developmental disorders"). Is it possible you're conflating that with talking about heritable IQ differences between races or sexes?

That you use the word "unspeakable" suggests you are, as does the fact that your two cases of scientists suffering career consequences (Gottfredson & Cattell) are cases where they suggested genetic racial differences as well as genetic individual differences. (In fact, if I remember rightly, both went further and inferred likely policy implications of genetic racial differences.)

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T15:49:56.001Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What you & Anatoly_Vorobey have quoted is talking about heritable IQ differences between individuals ("who do not have significant developmental disorders"). Is it possible you're conflating that with talking about heritable IQ differences between races or sexes?

That's a good point, I think the two issues got a bit conflated in the discussion here.

However I can't but see it as a reinforcement of my scepticism. My impression is that the partial heritability of IQ in individuals is well established. At most you can talk about doubting the evidence or not believing it or something like that. Shalizi says he "has no evidence" which is not credible at all.

comment by satt · 2014-01-10T09:33:07.873Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

However I can't but see it as a reinforcement of my scepticism.

Yes, I think it supports your dim view of what Shalizi wrote. I also think it detracts from your implication that he's simply evading saying the "unspeakable", since heritable IQ differences between individuals are a much less contentious topic than heritable racial (or sexual) IQ differences.

comment by Sophronius · 2014-01-08T19:26:09.656Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

As reasonable as that person sounds, I feel the need to point out that IQ differences between race has little or nothing to do with IQ differences between sexes (and even less with rationality, but I guess we gravitated away from that). Even if there is a "stupid gene", to phrase it very dumbly, there is still no reason to believe that someone with 2 X chromosomes would inherit this gene while someone with the same parents but with a Y chromosome would not.

If you (or anyone) want to argue that women naturally have lower IQ than men, I would go with an argument based on hormones instead. Sounds much more plausible to me.

comment by hyporational · 2014-01-09T07:00:19.023Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If you (or anyone) want to argue that women naturally have lower IQ than men, I would go with an argument based on hormones instead.

Where do you think the differences in hormone levels come from?

comment by Sophronius · 2014-01-09T11:20:15.304Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Food, genes, certain types of activity such as sports and competitiveness in general, the environment you grow up in, being in a position of authority, to name some factors that influence hormone production.

It's certainly not just the gender divide. If you think that testosterone makes men smarter than women on average, you would also have to accept the conclusion that women with more testosterone than men will be smarter than men on average. All other things being equal, of course.

comment by hyporational · 2014-01-09T11:44:46.976Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Testosterone levels in men and women are in completely different ballparks, and there is no overlap in healthy individuals of the different sexes beyond puberty. This would make me think the difference is mainly genetic.

I'm not arguing for anything beyond this point, so we don't have to go there.

comment by Sophronius · 2014-01-09T12:21:11.481Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I stand corrected on the testosterone levels: The difference is indeed greater than I thought. I will accept that the difference is mainly, but certainly not solely, genetic.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2014-01-08T20:56:58.631Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

You are absolutely correct on the facts, and in a saner world I could leave it at that, but you seem to have missed an unspoken part of the argument;

The common factor isn't genetics per se but rather an appeal to inherent nature. Whether that nature is the genetic legacy of selection for vastly different ancestral environments or due to the epigenetics of sexual dimorphism is very important in a scientific sense but not in the metaphysical sense of presenting a challenge to the ideals of "equality" or the "psychic unity of mankind."

When Dr Shalizi writes the rhetorical question "why it is so important to you that IQ be heritable and unchangeable?" in the context of "'human equality' and 'genetic identity'" his tone is not that of scientific skepticism of an unproven claim but rather an apologetic defense of an embattled creed. Really, why is it so important to you what the truth is? After all, we don't have any evidence to suggest that the doctrines are wrong, so why not just repeat the cant like everyone else? Who else but a heretic would feel need to ask uncomfortable questions?

For the most part, scientists writing against the hereditarian position don't bother debating the facts anymore; now that actual genetic evidence is starting to come out they know it'll just make them look foolish in a few years, and the psychometric evidence has survived four decades of concentrated attack already. It's all about implications and responsibility now, or in other words that the lie is too big to fail. It's hardly important to them if the truth at hand is a genetic or an hormonal inequality, they just want it to go away.

comment by satt · 2014-01-09T07:27:39.516Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

When Dr Shalizi writes the rhetorical question "why it is so important to you that IQ be heritable and unchangeable?" in the context of "'human equality' and 'genetic identity'" his tone is not that of scientific skepticism of an unproven claim but rather an apologetic defense of an embattled creed. Really, why is it so important to you what the truth is?

I read Shalizi differently, as asking something like, "Really, is it because you care about the truth qua truth that you find this particular alleged truth so important?" Far from apologetic, he is — cautiously, because there is a counterfactual gun to his head — going on the offensive, hinting that the people insistently disagreeing with him are motivated by more than unalloyed curiosity. It is not, of course, dispassionate scientific scepticism, but nor is it a defensive crouch.

My interpretation could be wrong. Shalizi isn't spelling things out in explicit, objective detail there. But my interpretation rings truer to my gut, and fits better with the fact that his peroration rounds off ten thousand words of blunt and occasionally snarky statistical critique.

comment by Sophronius · 2014-01-08T21:40:29.733Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I think you misinterpret Dr Shalizi, and do him a disservice. I think his answer is perfectly reasonable from a bayesian point of view. Basically, I see three common reasons to spend time researching difference between races:

A) People who are genuinely interested in the answer, for pragmatic or intellectual reasons
B) People who are a racist and want to hear a particular answer that fits their preconceived views
C) People who are trying to be controversial/contrarian/want to provoke people

Certainly there are people who are genuinely curious towards the answer, purely for intellectual reasons (A). I am somewhat interested myself. However, the fact of the matter is that many others are interested purely for racist reasons (B). Many racists aren't open in their racism, and as such mask their racism as honest scientific inquiry, making B indistinguishable from A. Showing interest in the subject is therefore Bayesian evidence for B as much as it is for A. Even worse is the fact that everyone knows that everyone realizes this on an intuitive level, which causes most As to shut up for fear of being identified as Bs, while Bs continue what they are doing. This serves to compound the effect. Meanwhile, Cs arise expressly because it is a hot button topic. As a result it is entirely rational to conclude that someone who is constantly yelling about race and inserting the subject into other conversations is more likely to be a racist on average than others. And of course, it's incredibly frustrating if you are an A and just want an honest conversation about the subject, which is now impossible (thanks, politics!).

I think Shalizi deals with this messed up situation admirably: Making clear what he believes while doing everything to avoid sounding controversial or giving fuel to racists. Of course this doesn't work very well because people who call others racist fall into two categories themselves:

D) People who are genuinely worried about the dangerous effects of racist claims.
E) People who realise they can win any argument by default by calling the other a racist

And people who fall under category E do not, of course, care about the truth of the matter in the slightest.

Kind of tempted to write a top-level post about this, now. Hmm...

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-09T14:16:24.703Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I think that the fact that there is a debate and that the "good guys" use name-calling instead of scientific arguments, increases also the number of people in the group A.

It's a bit like telling people not to think of an elephant, and then justify it by saying that elephant-haters are most obsessed about elephants, therefore thinking of an elephant is an evidence of being an evil person. Well, as soon as told everyone not to think of an elephant, this stopped being true.

comment by Sophronius · 2014-01-09T17:07:45.179Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, it is more like not being allowed to talk about the elephant (...in the room. See what I did there?). Not talking about a subject is much easier than not thinking about it. And because everybody knows that talking about the elephant will cause you to be called an elephant hater and nothing good whatsoever will come of it in 95% of cases, the only people who continue to talk about elephants are people who care so strongly about the subject that they are willing to be called an elephant-hater just so that they can be heard. So that leaves people who either really hate elephants, and people who really can't stand being told that they're not allowed to say something (and super-dedicated elephant scientists I guess, but there's not very many of those).

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-09T21:24:43.321Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The most difficult part of not talking about the elephant is when someone suddently says: "There is no elephant in this room, and we all know it, don't we?" Interpreting the rule as forbidding to talk about the elephant, but not about the absence of the elephant.

Specifically, if there is a rule against mentioning genetic differences -- and the goal is to avoid the discussion about genetics, not to assert that there are no differences -- the rule should equally forbid saying that there are genetic differences, and that there aren't genetic differences.

The rule should make very clear whether its intent is to 1) stop both sides of the debate, or 2) stop only one side of the debate, letting the other side win. Both options make sense, but it is difficult to follow when it is not sure which of these two options was meant.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-08T21:48:03.310Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Showing interest in the subject is therefore Bayesian evidence for B as much as it is for A.

In the same sense that showing interest in medicine is Bayesian evidence for me wanting to poison my neighbors.

comment by Sophronius · 2014-01-08T22:15:59.245Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'd say that the percentage of people showing interest in medicine that want to poison their neighbour is rather lower than the percentage of people talking about genetic differences between race being racist.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-10T02:38:08.145Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

That depends on the definition of "racist" used.

comment by Anatoly_Vorobey · 2014-01-08T21:00:25.527Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, Shalizi was talking about something completely different, but his attitude was similar to yours. He was saying: "sure, I could imagine that it might be so (that there might be a heritable difference), but why are you so invested in believing in that? Why do you fight for it so much?". I meant for my quotation to bolster your case.

comment by Sophronius · 2014-01-08T21:19:03.391Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ahhhh, you're right, I completely misunderstood your intent. In that case we are in agreement.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-10T02:01:19.456Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Why are you bringing it up, though?

It affects your argument that there is something wrong with having a skewed gender balance here.

comment by chaosmage · 2014-01-07T13:27:01.960Z · score: 4 (22 votes) · LW · GW

LW is a US-centric site. When I saw the option, I assumed it meant the US interpretation of the "conservative" label, which (from Europe) seems impossible to distinguish from batshit crazy.

I like to see myself as somewhat conservative, but I even more like to see myself as not batshit crazy.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T11:39:12.951Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The definition given in the survey was “Conservative, for example the US Republican Party and UK Tories: traditional values, low taxes, low redistribution of wealth”.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-08T03:08:30.448Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

LW is a US-centric site. When I saw the option, I assumed it meant the US interpretation of the "conservative" label, which (from Europe) seems impossible to distinguish from batshit crazy.

As a US conservative, I can assure you the feeling is mutual, BTW.

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-08T15:50:56.287Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure what you mean by that. You feel European conservativism is crazy? You feel the interpretation of US conservatism is crazy? You feel US conservatives are functionally identical to crazy, if not actually so?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-10T01:47:29.005Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I meant that all the mainstream European parties seem crazy.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T11:37:06.874Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by arundelo · 2014-01-07T00:22:39.379Z · score: -12 (24 votes) · LW · GW

[R]eality has a well-known liberal bias.

-- Stephen Colbert

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-07T01:14:10.868Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So does Stephen Colbert

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-06T19:27:27.804Z · score: 22 (24 votes) · LW · GW

something like 80% of LWers are liberals/socialists

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

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

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-06T23:16:27.359Z · score: -7 (21 votes) · LW · GW

There's one of his best articles:

http://lesswrong.com/lw/dr/generalizing_from_one_example/

It starts rather well - discussing an interesting study by Galton. High brow, sophisticated style, almost convincing impression of an upper class liberal person, up until he gets to the issue that for some reason actually interests him - rationalizing the views of PUA community on women. I say rationalizing because, of course, mind projection fallacy would affect opinions of PUA on women just as much as it affects opinions of women on women, but of course it is only the latter in which the fallacy is noticed.

This by the way is a great example of how cognitive fallacies are typically used here.

I'm not the least bit surprised that he would also support eugenics via sterilization. edit: or express sympathy towards it, or the like.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-01-08T12:17:42.514Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Yvain has told you in the past the following:

Could you do me a BIG FAVOR and every time you write "Yvain says..." or "Yvain believes..." in the future, follow it with "...according to my interpretation of him, which has been consistently wrong every time I've tried to use it before"? I am getting really tired of having to clean up after your constant malicious misinterpretations of me.

So everyone should be aware that whenever Dmytry/private_messaging claims Yvain said something, that's almost always wrong according to Yvain's own view of what Yvain said.

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-12T11:30:25.691Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The original quote from Yvain was

I suppose the difference is whether you're doing the Intel attack now, or in a hypothetical future in which Intel is making brain simulators that seem likely to become AGI. As someone else mentioned, if we're talking about literally THEY ARE BUILDING SKYNET RIGHT NOW, then violence seems like the right idea."

Emphasis mine. In this original quote, in the hypothetical future, where Intel is building brain simulations that seem likely to become artificial general intelligence, he supports violence. As clear as it can be.

His subsequent re-formulation to make himself look less bad was:

Even Yvain supports violence of AI seems imminent". No, I might support violence if an obviously hostile unstoppable SKYNET-style AI seemed clearly imminent

Now, the caveat here is that he would use brain simulators built in the hypothetical future by Intel to be an example of "an obviously hostile unstoppable SKYNET-style AI" , a clear contradiction (if it was so obvious Intel wouldn't be making those brain emulations)

comment by jsalvatier · 2014-01-07T00:53:35.212Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think he does...

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-07T01:35:55.268Z · score: -8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. In all fairness I'm not quite sure what he means by eugenics. Historically, the term is virtually never applied to non-coercive measures (such as e.g. IQ cut-off at sperm banks).

comment by jkaufman · 2014-01-07T14:02:14.210Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

From this comment:

"Even though I like both basic income guarantees and eugenics, I don’t think these are two things that go well together – making the income conditional upon sterilization is a little too close to coercion for my purposes. Still, probably better than what we have right now."

comment by pragmatist · 2014-01-06T21:28:15.748Z · score: 15 (19 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2014-01-06T18:40:15.112Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

something like 80% of LWers are liberals/socialists

I did not know that, thanks!

comment by knb · 2014-01-06T19:08:16.121Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2014-01-06T19:09:07.293Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, that sounds much more reasonable.

comment by solipsist · 2014-01-06T02:19:06.019Z · score: 53 (69 votes) · LW · GW

Apposite criticism. Most worrying excerpt:

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

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

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

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-01-06T09:44:01.078Z · score: 36 (42 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-06T15:03:28.175Z · score: 20 (30 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-07T01:41:04.764Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by asr · 2014-01-07T02:02:23.359Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-07T02:42:42.602Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by Emile · 2014-01-07T06:50:18.610Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-08T23:02:55.624Z · score: -4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I have a hard time believing that a policy that led to some issue only being discussed in emotionally charged terms would be a net good for society.

But you're also a white man and have an obvious lack of experience in this situation that functions as an unknown unknown. You'd be wise to be conservative in your conclusions.

As a white man myself, I feel it's entirely reasonable to refuse to dispassionately discuss the matter of a boot on one's own face. There are some situations in which case it is entirely appropriate to react with the deepest of passions.

If the iron approaches your face, and you believe it is cool, and it is hot, the Way opposes your calm.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-09T14:27:58.809Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As a white man myself...

As a white man (according to your own beliefs) you can't understand how women or non-whites feel, so please stop appropriating their cause and speaking for them.

There are people on LW who aren't white or male, so (according to your own beliefs) you should let them talk, instead of talking from your ignorant position of white male privilege about what you think is better for them. That's mansplaining, right?

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-09T00:23:08.543Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

This is a hot iron approaching my face. YOU ARE TELLING ME MY THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS ARE ILLEGITIMATE. That is literally the first step to dehumanizing and murdering me. I can either follow your advice and tell you to fuck off, or I can try to address this disagreement in a reasonable way. Which do you think will go better for me? Which do you think will go better for you? I for one don't think the adversarial approach of many feminist and pro queer writers is sane. You really should not declare the people you think are extremely powerful and controlling the world to be your sworn enemies. Feminism literally cannot win any victories without the consent of men.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-15T04:53:04.171Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've got a lot of sympathy for your situation-- I spent a lot of time freaking out about the complex emotional abuse that anti-racists/certain kinds of feminists go in for.

Still, I found it useful to learn something about assessing the current risk level of an attack just so I don't go crazy-- they've spread a lot of misery and they may eventually be politically dangerous, but they aren't imposing the sort of immediate visceral threat you're reacting to.

We haven't begun to see the next stage of the fight (or at least, I haven't seen anything I'd call effective opposition to the emotional abuse), but I recommend steadying yourself as much as possible.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-09T02:42:16.262Z · score: -8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

YOU ARE TELLING ME MY THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS ARE ILLEGITIMATE.

Sometimes this is the case. Once you've realized this, try not to let it bother you too much. What's true is already so; denying it doesn't make it go away, and shouting on the Internet won't make it go away either.

That is literally the first step to dehumanizing and murdering me.

If you're worried about this, you're either a totally normal oppressed persyn, or a paranoid white dude.

If you're a white dude, you should stop appropriating very real fears that plenty of people face on a daily basis. That's just bad taste.

I for one don't think the adversarial approach of many feminist and pro queer writers is sane.

Assuming you're a white dude, it's really not your place to tell feminists or queer activists how to do what they do.

Do you see how your privilege has you assuming that you 1. know best and 2. should tell other people how to exist? Not to mention the fact you apparently think men are somehow necessary for feminist collective action.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2014-01-06T03:23:51.584Z · score: 17 (29 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-06T08:51:52.148Z · score: 15 (29 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-06T13:34:45.675Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Lurker · 2014-01-06T18:31:43.945Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-07T04:49:43.433Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

A lot of this content is concentrated among the users who eventually created MoreRight. Check out that site for a concentrated dose of what also pops up here.

comment by hyporational · 2014-01-09T05:39:06.822Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Politics, eh? I'm confused.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2014-01-06T18:40:36.275Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This guy was a pretty big poster on LW, I think. Best example I can come up with, I'm sure there are better ones.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq5vRKiQlUQ

comment by Emile · 2014-01-06T21:28:37.239Z · score: 18 (20 votes) · LW · GW

But but ... he posted a link to that (or some other video of him ranting at the camera), and then was downvoted to oblivion and demolished in the comments, while whining about how he was being oppressed.

Things like that don't seem remotely mainstream on LW, do they? (I don't read all the big comment threads ...)

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2014-01-06T22:48:39.124Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, okay. For some reason I thought he was fairly respected here.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-07T08:42:59.585Z · score: 32 (36 votes) · LW · GW

A lie repeated a hundred times becomes available.

If we keep telling ourselves that LW is full of horrible stuff, we start believing it. Then any negative example, even if it happens once in a while and is quickly downvoted, becomes a confirmation of the model.

This is a website with hundreds of thousands of comments. Just because a few dozen of the comments are about X, it doesn't prove much.

EDIT: And I think threads like this contribute heavily to the availability bias. It's like an exercise in making all the bad things more available. If you use this strategy as an individual, it's called depression.

Just imagine that once in a while someone would accuse you of being a horrible human being, and (assuming they had a record of everything you ever did) would show you a compilation of the worst things you have ever did in the past (ignoring completely anything good you did, because that's somehow irrelevant to the debate) and told you: this is you, this is why you are a horrible person! Well, that's pretty much what we are doing here.

comment by hyporational · 2014-01-09T05:47:23.392Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It's like an exercise in making all the bad things more available. If you use this strategy as an individual, it's called depression.

That was awesome!

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-07T20:38:07.441Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The dark secrets thread like a year ago was one of my favorite threads to read

comment by Benquo · 2014-01-07T22:06:16.824Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Any key words I should use to find that one?

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-07T22:18:42.609Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

http://lesswrong.com/lw/9kf/ive_had_it_with_those_dark_rumours_about_our/

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-10T20:49:32.368Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This one too, and maybe some other one I can't think of at the moment.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-06T21:14:49.394Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

A pretty minor poster, but there was someone who was a fan of his who posted a lot of links to him for a while. I think he's gotten worse.

comment by hyporational · 2014-01-09T05:50:48.152Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

And thus, more entertaining.

comment by Dentin · 2014-01-07T17:21:20.788Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That guy is funny. Definitely not someone who would be well respected here. His model of the world is broken and he's trying to make the world fit his model, instead of the other way around.

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2014-01-07T19:26:47.247Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In one of his videos there's a part where he argues that cigarettes are actually good for you. LOL

comment by Dentin · 2014-01-07T17:19:57.957Z · score: 8 (18 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-08T13:55:37.343Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

  • Any and all neoreactionary stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-08T16:31:23.134Z · score: 20 (26 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-08T16:47:24.739Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I even don't think that having a white male majority at this moment is some failure of a LW community

There are other options. I think there exist possible worlds where LW is less-offputting to people outside of the uppermiddleclasstechnophilewhitemaleosphere with demographics that are closer to, but probably not identical to, the broader population. Like you said, there's no reason for us to split the world into all-or-nothing sides: It's entirely possible (and I think likely) that statistical differences do exist between demographics and that we have a suboptimal community/broader-culture which skews those differences more than would otherwise be the case.

Edit: I had only skimmed your comment when writing this reply; On a reread, I think we mostly agree.

comment by thelomen · 2014-01-10T11:26:45.137Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T14:25:33.317Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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

I can't see this as part of the problem. You don't have to discuss it, but I'm bewildered that it's on the list.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-08T14:41:35.926Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I should probably have generalized this to "community-accepted norms that trigger absurdity heuristic alarms in the general population".

Again, there should be a place to discuss that, but it shouldn't be the same place that's trying to raise the sanity waterline.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-08T15:37:01.930Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-08T16:50:47.788Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My vague recollections of LW-past disagreements, but I don't have any readily available examples. It's possible my model is drawing too much on the-rest-of-the-Internet experiences and I should upgrade my assessment of LW accordingly.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-08T17:16:46.728Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I am specifically talking about LW. With respect to the usual 'net forums I agree with you.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-08T16:54:51.096Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW
  • The stronger forms of evolutionary psychology and human-diversity stuff. High confidence that most/all demographic disparities are down to genes. The belief that LessWrong being dominated by white male technophiles is more indicative of the superior rationality of white male technophiles than any shortcomings of the LW community or society-at-large.

  • Any and all neoreactionary stuff.

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

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

I don't mind #3, in fact the discussions of futurism are a big draw of LessWrong for me (though I suppose there are general reasons for being cautious about your confidence about the future). But I would be very happy to see #1, #2, and #4 go away.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T10:17:49.713Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I find stuff like “if you don't sign up your kids for cryonics then you are a lousy parent” more problematic than a sizeable fraction of what reactionaries say.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T10:32:11.158Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What if you qualified it, "If you believe the claims of cryonicists, are signed up for cryonics yourself, but don't sign your kids up, then you are a lousy parent"?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T10:37:30.423Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I would agree with it, but that's a horse of a different colour.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-01-11T15:23:34.030Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

In discussing vaccinations, how many people choose to say something as conditional as "if you believe the claims of doctors, have had your own vaccinations, but don't let your kids be vaccinated, then you are a lousy parent"?

No, the argument is that you should believe the value of vaccinations, and that disbelieving the value of vaccinations itself makes your parenting lousy.

Well, I think Eliezer feels the same about cryonics as pretty much all the rest of us feel about vaccines -- they help protect your kids from several possible causes of death.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-11T15:43:18.640Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

No, the argument is that you should believe the value of vaccinations, and that disbelieving the value of vaccinations itself makes your parenting lousy.

Which is pretty much the same argument as saying that you should baptize your children and that disbelieving the value of baptism itself makes your parenting lousy.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-01-17T02:46:33.665Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If the belief-set you're subtly implying is involved were accurate, then it would be.

However, I think we have a "sound" vs "sound" tree-falling-in-the-woods issue here. Is "lousy parenting" a virtue-ethics style moral judgement, or a judgement of your effectiveness as a parent?

Taboo "lousy", people. We're supposed to be rationalists.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-01-11T16:00:07.875Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Which is pretty much the same argument as saying that you should baptize your children and that disbelieving the value of baptism itself makes your parenting lousy.

Exactly, it all depends on the actual value of the thing in question. I believe baptism has zero value, I believe vaccines have lots of value, I'm highly uncertain about the value of cryonics (compared to other things the money could be going to).

A person is expected to say such about X if they believe X has lots of value. So why is it so very problematic for Eliezer to say it about cryonics when he believes cryonics have lots of value?

It's impolitic and I don't know how effective it is in changing minds. But then again it's the same thing we say about vaccinations, so who knows: perhaps shaming parents does work in convincing them. I'd like to see research about that.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-11T17:18:20.399Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

perhaps shaming parents does work in convincing them

My prior is that the results will be bi-modal: some parents can be shamed into adjusting their ways, while for others it will only force them into the bunker mindset and make them more resistant to change.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-11T07:30:46.988Z · score: -1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

LessWrong could easily be three communities:

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

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

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

I'm not sure that would work. After all, Bayes's rule has fairly obvious unPC consequences when applied to race or gender, and thinking seriously about transhumanism will require dealing with eugenics-like issues.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T10:11:40.270Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure that would work. After all, Bayes's rule has fairly obvious unPC consequences when applied to race or gender,

“rather than applying to particular issues”

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-11T21:01:26.453Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

That would simply result in people treating Bayesianism as if it's a separate magisterium from everyday life.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-13T13:45:01.325Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Think of it as the no-politics rule turned up to 11.The point is not that these things can't be reasoned about, but that the strong (negative/positve) affect attached to certain things makes them ill-suited to rationalist pedagogy.

Lowering the barrier to entry doesn't mean you can't have other things further up the incline, though.

comment by Error · 2014-01-13T19:35:01.314Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Datapoint: I find that I spend more time reading the politically-charged threads and subthreads than other content, but get much less out of them. They're like junk food; interesting but not useful. On the other hand, just about anywhere other than LW, they're not even interesting.

(on running a memory-check, I find that observation applies mostly to comment threads. There's been a couple of top-level political articles that I genuinely learned something from)

comment by Dentin · 2014-01-07T17:14:53.367Z · score: 10 (16 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-06T18:22:59.596Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Can you provide some links? I haven't followed what you've said previously about this.

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-06T19:22:33.172Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Most of the previous threads on the topic, every time one of these posts comes around. You could find them by much the same process as I could. The HBD fans put me off for a few months.

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-06T20:21:45.653Z · score: 4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

"Fan" is a funny word in this contex. It brings to mind people who go around shouting "Yea, Diversity!" non-ironically. Except, there are people who more or less do that, it isn't the HBD crowd, and in fact diversity boosters don't even really believe in it.

Edit: Sorry, missed the correct coment to reply to.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-06T21:31:12.995Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

My impression is that the HBD fans are a pretty small minority here. What were your impressions?

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-06T22:22:40.076Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Small but noisy. They add their special flavour to the tone though, as one of the few places outside their circle of blogs that gives them airtime (much like the neoreactionaries they cross over with).

I wonder if the people in the subthread below going "we may be racists, but let's be the right sort of racists" understand that this doesn't actually help much.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-07T04:38:08.323Z · score: 9 (27 votes) · LW · GW

Small but noisy. They add their special flavour to the tone though, as one of the few places outside their circle of blogs that gives them airtime (much like the neoreactionaries they cross over with).

Rather we support our beliefs with rational arguments, the HBD-deniers don't bother presenting counter arguments (and when they do they tend to be laughably bad) but instead try to argue that it's somehow immoral to say and/or believe these things regardless of their truth value.

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-01-11T08:23:40.384Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've not really followed you, but I've never once seen you make an argument or even explain what you want. If you tell me something y'all want that you could plausibly achieve without the aid of low-status racists, perhaps I'll try to put y'all in a separate category.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2014-01-11T09:12:17.168Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'd like people to stop trying to suppress science because of nothing but ideological principles, like the creationists, and let the scientists get on with stuff like finding a cure for Alzheimer's.

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-01-11T09:39:50.138Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'll give you two-to-one odds that Derbyshire has not found a promising line of research for an Alzheimer's cure.

comment by Apprentice · 2014-01-06T22:53:47.677Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I wonder if the people in the subthread below going "we may be racists, but let's be the right sort of racists" understand that this doesn't actually help much.

This could do with some clarification - doesn't help whom with what? And, by contrast, what would help?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T10:19:40.837Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Let's see the results of the survey when they come out.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-07T04:35:17.223Z · score: 3 (23 votes) · LW · GW

I'm a white man who's done handsomely in the privilege lottery and I find quite a lot of LW utterly offputting and repellent

Why? If the answer is, as appears to be the case from context, that we say true things that make you feel uncomfortable, well I recommend treating your feeling of discomfort with the truth rather than the people saying it as the problem. This is a community devoted to rationality, not to making you feel comfortable.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-10T20:52:45.589Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Truth isn't enough.

comment by bramflakes · 2014-01-06T02:33:03.747Z · score: 11 (21 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-01-06T07:51:58.667Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

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

Aye !

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

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

comment by bramflakes · 2014-01-06T12:04:19.992Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I'm thinking about the very low prior odds for them coming up anything unique.

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-01-06T13:03:57.571Z · score: 22 (26 votes) · LW · GW

In my experience, reading blogs from minority representants (sensible ones) introduces you to different thought patterns.

Not very specific, huh ?

Gypsies are the most focused on minority in my country. The gypsy blogger, who managed to leave her community, once described a story. Her mother visited her in her home, found frozen meat in her freezer, and started almonst crying: My daughter, how can you store meat at home, when people exist, who are hungry today ? (Gypsies are stereotypically bad at planning and managing their finances, to the point of selfdestruction. But before this blog, I did not understand, it makes them virtuous in their own eyes.)

This blog was also enlightening for me.

Would not it be nice to have such people interacting in LW conversations, instead of just linking to them ?

Especially for people intending to program friendly AI, who need to understand the needs of other people (although I doubt very much AI will be developed or that MIRI will ever really start coding it. Plus I do not want it to exist. But it is just me.)

comment by asr · 2014-01-06T14:53:53.366Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Would not it be nice to have such people interacting in LW conversations, instead of just linking to them ?

Yes. It would be nice. I am genuinely uncertain whether there's a good way to make LW appealing to people who currently dislike it, without alienating the existing contributors who do like it.

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-01-06T16:04:01.446Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe I am naive, but, how about explicitly stating, by some high status member, that we would be very happy if they contributed here ?

Eliezer wrote the same thing about women. http://lesswrong.com/lw/ap/of_gender_and_rationality/ It was not exactly "Women, come, please" but it was clear they would be welcome to participate. It might have helped. Or maybe the increased percentage in the census result was due to something else ? How would I know...

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-01-06T16:07:23.924Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

And note that Eliezer did not forbid pick-up art discussion and whatever You guys hold dear.


I could try and write a similar post as was that about women, but I am a small fish in this pond.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2014-01-06T17:41:12.068Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If you want to increase your fish-size, articles / comment threads which generate lots of upvotes are a good way to do it. And since your fish-size is small already there's not much to lose if people don't like it.

comment by Emile · 2014-01-06T21:33:51.434Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I could try and write a similar post as was that about women

Please do! It would be worth a try (though I'm not totally sure what kind of post you want to write...)

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-06T14:37:01.543Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Especially for people intending to program friendly AI, who need to understand the needs of other people (although I doubt very much AI will be developed or that MIRI will ever really start coding it. Plus I do not want it to exist. But it is just me.)

The plan to write an AI that will implement the Coherent Extrapolated Volition of all of humanity doesn't involve talking to any of the affected humans. The plan is, literally, to first build an earlier AI that will do the interacting with all those other people for them.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-01-09T19:23:06.600Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That link only explains the concept of CEV as one possible idea related to building FAI, and a problematic one at that. But you're making it sound like CEV being the only possible approach was an opinion that had already been set in stone.

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-09T23:19:41.557Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

As far as I understood, it was still the plan as of quite recently (last coupla years). Has this changed?

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2014-01-10T09:27:30.333Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

AFAIK, it's one idea that's being considered, but I don't think there's currently enough confidence in any particular approach to call it The Plan. "The Plan" is more along the lines of "let's experiment with a lot of approaches and see which ones seem the most promising"; the most recent direction that that plan has produced is a focus on general FAI math research, which may or may not eventually lead to something CEV-like.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-06T14:50:20.680Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

although I doubt very much AI will be developed or that MIRI will ever really start coding it. Plus I do not want it to exist.

Could you elaborate on why you think that way? It's always interesting to hear why people think a strong AI or Friendly AI is not possible/probable, especially if they have good reasons to think that way.

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-01-07T18:46:24.491Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I respond to your guestion for the fairness sake, but my reasons are not impressive.

  1. Most of it is probably a wishful thinking, driven by my desire not to have the powerful AI aronud. I am scared at the idea.
  2. The fact that people have felt AI is near for some time and we still do not have it.
  3. Maybe the things which are essential for learning are the same which make human intelligence limited. For instance forgetting things.
  4. Vague feeling, that biologically based inteligence is so complex, that computers are no match.
comment by JQuinton · 2014-01-07T22:25:05.035Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think that AI is inevitable, but I think that unfriendly AI is more likely than friendly AI. This is just from my experience in developing software even in my small team environment where there are less human egos and tribalism/signaling to deal with. Something that you hadn't thought of is always going to happen and a bug will be perpetuated throughout the lifecycle of your software. With AI, who knows what implications these bugs will have.

Rationality itself has to become much more mainstream before tackling AI responsibly.

comment by WalterL · 2014-01-07T22:07:19.553Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm a programmer, and I doubt that AI is possible. Or, rather, I doubt that artificial intelligence will ever look that way to its creators. More broadly, I'm skeptical of 'intelligence' in general. It doesn't seem like a useful term.

I mean, there's a device down at the freeway that moves an arm up if you pay the toll. So, as a system, its got the ability to sense the environment (limited to the context of knowing if the coin verification system is satisfied with the payment), and affect that environment (raise and lower arm). Most folks would agree that that is not AI.

So, then, how can we get beyond that? It is a nonhuman reaction to the environment. Whatever I wrote that we called "AI", would presumably do what I program it to (and naught else) in response to its sensory input. A futuristic war drone's basket is its radar and its lever is its missiles, but there's nothing new going on here. A chat bot's basket is the incoming feed, and its lever is its outgoing text, but it's not like it 'chooses' in any sense more meaningful than the toll bot's decision matrix, what it sends out.

So maybe it could rewrite its own code. But if it does so, it'll only do so in the way that I've programmed it to. The paper clip maximizer will never decide to rewrite itself as a gold coin maximizer. The final result is just a derived product of my original code and the sensory experiences its received. Is that any more 'intelligent' than the toll taker?

I like to bet folks that AI won't happen within timeframe X. The problem then becomes defining AI happening. I wouldn't want them to point to the toll robot, and presumably they'd be equally miffed if we were slaves of the MechaPope and I was pointing out that its Twenty Commandments could be predicted given a knowledge of its source code.

Thinking on it, my knee jerk criteria is that I will admit that AI exists if the United States knowingly gives it the right to vote. (Obviously there's a window where AI is sentient but can't vote, but given the speed of the FOOM it'll probably pass quickly), or if the earth declares war (or the equivalent) on it. Its a pretty hard criteria to come up with.

What would yours be? Say we bet, you and I, on whether AI will happen in 50 years. What would you want me to accept as evidence that it had done so (keeping in mind that we are imagining you as motivated not by a desire to win the bet but a desire that the bet represent the truth)?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-08T00:19:48.619Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

More broadly, I'm skeptical of 'intelligence' in general. It doesn't seem like a useful term.

People here have tried to define intelligence in more strict terms. See Playing Taboo with “Intelligence”. They define 'intelligence' as an agent’s ability to achieve goals in a wide range of environments.

It seems your post seems to be more about free will than intelligence as defined by Muehlhauser in the above article. Free will has been covered quite comprehensibly on LessWrong) so I'm not particularly interested debating about it.

Anyway, if you define intelligence as the ability to achieve goals in a wide range of environments then it doesn't really matter if the AI's actions are just an extension of what it was programmed to do. Even people are just extensions of what they were "programmed to do by evolution". Unless you believe in magical free will, one's actions have to come from some source and in this regard people don't differ from paper clip maximizers.

What would yours be?

I just think there are good optimizers and then there are really good optimizers. Between these there aren't any sudden jumps except when the FOOM happens and possibly from unFriendly to Friendly. There isn't any sudden point when the AI becomes sentient and the question how well the AI resembles humans is just a question of how well the AI can optimize towards this.

Say we bet, you and I, on whether AI will happen in 50 years. What would you want me to accept as evidence that it had done so.

There are already some really good optimizers, like Deep Blue and other chess computers that are far better at playing chess than their makers. But you probably meant when AIs become sentient? I don't know exactly how sentience works, but I think something akin to the Turing test that shows how well the AI can behave like humans is sufficient to show that AI is sentient, at least in one subset of sentient AIs. To reach a FOOM scenario the AI doesn't have to be sentient, just really good at cross-domain optimization.

comment by WalterL · 2014-01-08T03:53:19.810Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm confused. You are looking for good reasons to believe that AI is not possible, per your post two above, but from your beliefs it would seem that you either consider AI to already exist (optimizers) or be impossible (sentient).

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-08T04:04:53.126Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't believe sentient AIs are impossible and I'm sorry if I gave that impression. But apart from that, yes, that is a roundabout version of my belief - though I would prefer the word "AI" be taboo'd in this case. This doesn't mean my way of thinking is set in stone, I still want to update my beliefs and seek ways to think about this differently.

If it was unclear, by "strong AI" I meant an AI that is capable of self-improving to the point of FOOM.

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-01-11T08:36:25.994Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I would pick either some kind of programming ability, or the ability to learn a language like English (which I would bet implies the former if we're talking about what the design can do with some tweaks).

comment by Multiheaded · 2014-01-09T10:36:08.494Z · score: 7 (15 votes) · LW · GW

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

Thinkers - including such naive, starry-eyed liberal idealists as Friedrich Hayek or Niccolo Machiavelli - have long touched on the utter indispensability of subjective, individual knowledge and its advantages over the authoritarian dictates of an ostensibly all-seing "pure reason". Then along comes a brave young LW user and suggests that enlightened technocrats like him should tell people what's really important in their lives.

I'm grateful to David for pointing out this comment, it's really a good summary of what's wrong with the typical LW approach to policy.

(I'm a repentant ex/authoritarian myself, BTW.)

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-09T12:59:08.751Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm having trouble wrapping my head around that. Could you give an example?

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-06T02:51:38.559Z · score: 7 (23 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by Bakkot · 2014-01-06T03:44:58.112Z · score: 25 (29 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Emile · 2014-01-06T12:51:39.238Z · score: 28 (36 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-01-06T03:40:56.196Z · score: 12 (24 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-06T09:07:44.929Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

But so far, it mostly just sounds like rich programmers signalling at each other.

My LW reading comes out of my Internet-as-television time, and so does Hacker News. The two appear very similar in target audience.

comment by John_Maxwell_IV · 2014-01-07T07:34:50.106Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Out of curiousity, what sites come out of your Internet-as-non-television time?

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-07T08:15:18.219Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I live in my GMail. Wikipedia editing, well, really it's a form of television I pretend isn't. The rest is looking for something in particular.

comment by John_Maxwell_IV · 2014-01-08T01:39:00.554Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

So what do you consider a high-value use of your free time?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-06T07:15:02.517Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-06T17:28:27.288Z · score: 5 (13 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by John_Maxwell_IV · 2014-01-07T07:41:40.519Z · score: 7 (15 votes) · LW · GW

The entire point is to have high-value discussions.

Feminism and possible racial differences seem like pretty low-value discussion topics to me... interesting way out of proportion to their usefulness, kind of like politics.

comment by bogus · 2014-01-07T07:52:48.261Z · score: 4 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Feminism and possible racial differences seem like pretty low-value discussion topics to me...

That's an incredibly short-sighted attitude. Feminism and race realism are just the focus of the current controversy. I'm pretty confident that you could pick just about any topic in social science (and some topics in the natural sciences as well - evolution, anyone?) and some people will want to prevent or bias discussions of it for political reasons. It's not clear why we should be putting up with this nonsense at all.

comment by John_Maxwell_IV · 2014-01-08T01:38:04.421Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

My argument is: (1) Feminism and race realism are interesting for the same reasons politics are interesting and (2) they aren't especially high value. If this argument is valid, then for the same reasons LW has an informal ban on politics discussion, it might make sense to have an informal ban on feminism and race realism discussion.

You don't address either of my points. Instead you make a slippery slope argument, saying that if there's an informal ban on feminism/race realism then maybe we will start making informal bans on all of social science. I don't find this slippery slope argument especially persuasive (such arguments are widely considered fallacious). I trust the Less Wrong community to evaluate the heat-to-light ratio of different topics and determine which should have informal bans and which shouldn't.

"some people will want to prevent or bias discussions of it for political reasons" - to clarify, I'm in favor of informal bans against making arguments for any side on highly interesting but fairly useless topics. Also, it seems like for some of these topics, "people getting their feelings hurt" is also a consideration and this seems like a legitimate cost to be weighed when determining whether discussing a given topic is worthwhile.

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-06T15:43:35.834Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

And in the African malaria case, being inclusive would obviously hurt our problem-solving capability.

Maybe I'm being dense, but I don't see why this is obviously true.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-06T17:14:12.240Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

There's obviously a level of exclusivity that also hurts our problem-solving, as well. At some point a programmer in the Bay Area with $20k/yr of disposable income and 20 hours a week to spare is going to do more than a subsaharan african farmer with $200/yr of disposable income, 6 hours a week of free time, and no internet access.

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-06T19:23:35.403Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see how it would actually hurt our problem-solving, though, if we were to try to solicit input from people who don't have the leisure time or education to provide it. It would be a phenomenal waste of resources, to be sure, but aside from that I don't see how it would harm the community.

comment by Ishaan · 2014-01-08T20:13:53.073Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

I hesitate to suggest this, but I've noticed most of the "sensitive but discussed anyway" issues have been on areas where socially weaker groups might feel threatened by the discussion. Criticism of socially strong groups is conspicuously absent, given that LW demographics are actually far-left leaning according to polls.

If the requirement that one must be dispassionate would cut in multiple directions simultaneously (rather than selectively cutting in the direction of socially marginalized groups) then we'd select for "willing to deal intellectually with emotional things" rather than selecting for "emotionally un-reactive to social problems" (which is a heterogeneous class containing both people who are willing to deal intellectually with things which are emotionally threatening and people who happen to not often fall on the pointy end of sensitive issues)

The reason I hesitate to suggest it is that while I do want an arena where sensitive issues can be discussed intellectually without driving people away, people consciously following the suggestion would probably result in a green-blue battleground for social issues.

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-08T22:18:15.077Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There's lots of talk about religion which is almost the definition of a socially strong group.

comment by Ishaan · 2014-01-09T00:35:13.807Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Well sure, but that doesn't count because we're pretty much all atheists here. Atheism is the default position in this social circle, and the only one which is really given respect.

I'm talking about criticisms of demographics and identities of non-marginalized groups that actually frequent Lesswrong.

If we're allowed to discuss genetically mediated differences with respect to race and behavior, then we're also allowed to discuss empirical studies of racism, its effects, which groups are demonstrated to engage in it, and how to avoid it if we so wish. If we're allowed to empirically discuss findings about female hypergamy, we're also allowed to discuss findings about male proclivities towards sexual and non-sexual violence.

But for all these things, there's no point in discussing them in Main unless there's an instrumental goal being serviced or a broader philosophical point being made about ideas...and even in Discussion, for any of this to deserve an upvote it would need to be really data driven and/or bringing attention to novel ideas rather than just storytelling, rhetoric, or the latest political drama.

Reactionary views, being obscure and meta-contrarian, have a natural edge in the "novel ideas" department, which is probably why it has come up so often here (and why there is a perception of LW as more right-wing than surveys show).

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-09T14:42:41.174Z · score: 10 (16 votes) · LW · GW

If we're allowed to discuss genetically mediated differences with respect to race and behavior, then we're also allowed to discuss empirical studies of racism, its effects, which groups are demonstrated to engage in it, and how to avoid it if we so wish. If we're allowed to empirically discuss findings about female hypergamy, we're also allowed to discuss findings about male proclivities towards sexual and non-sexual violence.

Speaking for myself, I would be happy to see a rational article discussing racism, sexism, violence, etc.

For example, I would be happy to see someone explaining feminism rationally, by which I mean: 1) not assuming that everyone already agrees with your whole teaching or they are a very bad person; 2) actually providing definitions of what is and what isn't meant by the used terms in a way that really "carves reality at its joints" instead of torturing definitions to say what you want such as definining sexism as "doing X while male"; 3) focusing on those parts than can be reasonably defended and ignoring or even willing to criticize those part's that can't.

(What I hate is someone just throwing around an applause light and saying: "therefore you must agree with me or you are an evil person". Or telling me to go and find a definition elsewhere without even giving me a pointer, when the problem is that almost everyone uses the word without defining it, or that there are different contradictory definitions. Etc.)

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-09T21:19:41.252Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Some of my favorite feminist articles are the ones demonstrating actual statistical effects of irrational biases against women, such as http://www.catalyst.org/file/139/bottom%20line%202.pdf talking about women being undervalued as board members, or the ones talking about how gender blind audition processes result in far more women orchestra members.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-09T21:30:16.591Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

For the record, I completely support anonymous evaluation of orchestra members, and many other professions. And students, etc.

This is how quickly I update in favor of feminism when presented rationally. :D

More meta: This is why I think this kind of debate is more meaningful.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-09T23:26:26.291Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Do the results of the blind tests give you some reason to think there might be harder-to-quantify irrational prejudice against women?

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-10T10:07:13.466Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Yes.

That alone doesn't imply agreement with any specific hypothesis about what exactly causes the prejudice, nor with any specific proposal how this should be fixed. That would require more bits of evidence.

In general, I support things that reduce that prejudice -- such as the blind tests -- where I see no negative side-effects. But I am cautious about proposals to fix it by reversing stupidity, typically by adding a random bonus to women (how exactly is it quantified?) or imposing quotas (what if in some specific situation X all women who applied for the job really were incompetent? just like in some other specific situation Y all men who applied could be incompetent).

Also, there are some Schelling-point concerns, e.g. once we accept it is okay to give bonuses on tests to different groups and to determine the given group and bonus by democratic vote or lobbying, it will become a new battlefield with effects similar to "democracy stops being fair once people discover they can vote themselves more money out of their neighbors' pockets". It would be nice to have some scientists discover that the appropriate bonus on tests is exactly 12.5 points, but it is more like real world to have politicians promising bonus 50 points to any group in exchange for their vote, of course each of them having "experts" to justify why this specific number is correct. -- And I would hate to have a choice between a political party that gives me -1000 points penalty and a political party that gives me +1000 points bonus, which I would consider also unfair, and in addition I might disagree with that party on some other topics. And given human nature, I would not be surprised inf those -1000 and +1000 parties become so popular among their voters that another party proposing to reset the bonuses back to 0 would simply have no chance.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-10T17:24:13.538Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

One thing I would like to see-- and haven't-- in regards to opposition to prejudice is work on how to become less prejudiced. That is, how to see the person in front of you accurately, even if you've spent a lot of time in an environment which trained you to have pre-set opinions about that person.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-10T19:40:10.721Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Information about an individual screens off information about the group. At least it should. Let's assume partial success, which is better than nothing. So the key is to get information about the individual. I would just try talking to them.

I guess the failure of usual anti-prejudice techniques is assuming that all opinions about a group are wrong, i.e. not a valid Bayesian evidence. (Of course unless it is a positive opinion about a minority, in which case it hypocritically is okay.) They try to remove the participants' opinion about a group in general; usually without any success.

I would rather assume that an opinion about the group may be correct, but still, any given individual may be different than the average or the stereotype of their group. Which can easily be demonstrated by letting participants talk about how they differ from the average or the stereotype of various groups they could be classified into. For example, unlike a typical man in my society, I have long hair, I don't like beer, and I am not interested in watching sport on TV. At this moment, the idea of "the person is not the same as (my idea of) the group" is in near mode. The next step is getting enough specific information about the other person so that the general image of "a random member of group X" can be replaced with some other data. (Depends on situation; e.g. in a group of children I would give many yes/no questions such as "do you have a pet?" and let them raise their hands; and then also they would ask questions. Each bit of information that differs from the assumption, if noticed, could be useful.)

Of course the result could be that people change their opinion about this one specific person, and yet keep their prejudice about their group. Which is an acceptable result for me, but probably not acceptable for many other people. I would reason that a partial success which happens is much better than an idealistic solution that doesn't happen; and that accepting one exception makes people more likely to accept another exception in the future, possibly weakening the prejudice. But on the other hand, if the original opinion about the average of the group was correct, then we have achieved the best possible result: we didn't teach people bullshit (which could later backfire on us) and yet we taught them to perceive a person as an individual, different from the average of the group, which was the original goal.

comment by taelor · 2014-01-10T07:40:32.242Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Here's some empirical research on the actual causes of the pay gap. Executive Summary: The majority of the burden of child rearing still falls on women, and this can be disruptive to their careers prospects, especially in high paying fields like law and bussiness management; childless women and women who work in jobs that allow for flexible hours earn incomes much closer to parity.

comment by hairyfigment · 2014-01-11T09:01:00.956Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Side note: I can't really tell, but some evidence suggests the total time spent on childcare has increased in the past 40-50 years. Now, when I look at people raised back then and try to adjust for the effects of leaded gasoline on the brain, they seem pretty much OK. So we should consider the possibility that we're putting pointless pressure on mothers.

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-14T20:42:53.613Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Who is the we there? I'm not declaiming responsibility, but interested in who these women feel is pressuring them. I'd wager it's largely a status competition with other women.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-10T10:13:21.818Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

As you said, "much closer to parity". There are probably multiple causes, each responsible for a part of the effect. And as usual, the reality is not really convenient for any political side.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T01:02:27.157Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I'm talking about criticisms of demographics and identities of non-marginalized groups that actually frequent Lesswrong.

The Cathedral, to use Moldbug's terminology, is certainly a non-marginalized group and LW is full of its adherents.

comment by Ishaan · 2014-01-09T02:19:28.227Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed, but we devote plenty of time to criticizing it, don't we? (Both reactionary criticism, and the more mainstream criticisms of the media/academia culture)

But the thing about the reactionary lens, especially Moldbug, is at the end of the day they side with the people in power. Moldbug even explicitly states as much. A central theme of his work is that we shouldn't keep elevating the weaker and criticizing the stronger, thus creating endless revolution. "Formalism" essentially means "maintaining the status quo of the current power heirarchy". The only exception to this is the Cathedral itself - because it is a power structure which is set up in such a way that it upsets existing heirarchies.

So the moldbug / reactionary ideology , at the core, is fundamentally opposed to carrying out the criticism which I just suggested against anyone who isn't part of "the cathedral" which keeps shifting the status quo (hence the meta contrarianism). It is an ideology which only criticizes the social critics themselves, and seeks to return to the dominant paradigm as it was before the social critics entered the scene.

I'm saying we need more actual real contrarianism, not more meta contrarianism against the contrarians. It is useful to criticize things other than the Cathedral. I'm being a meta-meta-contrarian.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T02:26:06.586Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm saying we need actual real contrarianism, not meta contrarianism against the contrarians. I'm being a meta-meta-contrarian.

I think I'm a bit confused now.

Let's say Cathedral is mainstream. Then Moldbug is a contrarian. Then Yvain's anti-reactionary FAQ is contrarian against a contrarian. Are you saying we need more stuff like Yvain's FAQ?

Or do you want some actual direct criticism of an existing power structure, maybe something along these lines?

comment by Ishaan · 2014-01-09T03:08:39.510Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

So the contrarian food chain goes

Mainstream America (bulk of the American population)

-> radical egalitarian critique of mainstream america (feminists, anti-racists, the Left, moldbug's "Cathedral")

-> Reactionary critique of egalitarian movements (Moldbug, Manosphere, human biodiversity, Dark enlightenment)

-> Critique of Reactionary anti-egalitarian stances (Yvain, this post).

I'm advocating good old-fashioned contrarianism - stuff like radical egalitarianism, sex positivism, etc.

(No, obviously, not along those lines - but yes, that link is at the correct level of contrarianism.)

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T03:19:20.277Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

OK. Let me try to sort this out.

We start with a base. You are saying this is the mainstream US which you understand to be conservative. So, level 0 -- US conservatives -- mainstream.

Level 1 is the Cathedral which is contrarian to level 0 and which is US liberals or progressives.

Level 2 are the neo-reactionaries who are contrarian to level 1 (Cathedral)

Level 3 is Yvain's FAQ which is contrarian to level 2 (Reactionaries).

So we are basically stacking levels where each level is explicitly opposed to the previous one and, obviously, all even layers are sympathetic to each other, as are all odd layers (I find the "meta-" terminology confusing since this word means other things to me, probably "anti-" would be better).

And what you want more of is level 1 stuff -- basically left-liberal critique of whatever stands in the way of progress, preferably on steroids.

Do I understand you right?

EDIT: LOL, you simplified your post right along the lines I was extracting out of it...

comment by Ishaan · 2014-01-09T03:35:18.482Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I don't mind hearing from any level, as long as things are well cited.

-I've sort of gotten bored with level 0, but that could change if I see a bunch of really well done level 0 content. I just don't often see very many insightful things coming from this level.

-Level 2 holds my interest because it's novel. When it's well cited, it really holds my interest. However, it seldom is well cited. That's okay though - the ideas are fun to play with.

-Level 1 is the level I agree with. However, because I'm very familiar with it and its supporting data, and I hate agreeing with things, it has to work a lot harder to hold my interest.

My perception is that level 2, for reasons described, gets more attention than it merits. The shock value, twisty narrative, and novelty of it make it more interesting to people like me, who like reading compelling arguments even if they don't completely agree. However, it drives away people who are emotionally affected and/or perceive that have something to protect from what would happen if those viewpoints were to gain traction.

I was suggesting that maybe increasing good level one posts, which weren't boring, echo-chamber-ish and obviously true to to most people on Lesswrong, would remedy this. (I'm taking the LW poll as indications that most LWers, like me, agree with Level 1)

Edit: Even layers are not necessarily sympathetic to each other, even if they are ideologically aligned. Mainstream conservatives would likely not be sympathetic to reactionary's open racism/sexism etc, and the impression I get is that reactionaries think mainstream conservatives are fighting a losing battle and aren't particularly bright. There's really only one Odd Layer, practically speaking, since Yvain is the only person on hypothetical layer 3.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T03:57:07.693Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Hm. I understand you now. However I carve reality in a somewhat different way -- we see joints in the territory in different places.

First I would set up level zero as reality, what actually exists now -- all the current socio-econo-politco-etc. structures. And then one dimension by which you divide people/groups/movements would be by whether they are more or less content with the current reality or whether they want to radically change it.

Another dimension would be the individual vs. group/community/state spectrum, anarchists being on one end and fans of a totalitarian state on the other.

You can add more -- say, egalitarianism vs.some sort of a caste system -- as needed.

Getting back to your wishes, I think we have a bunch of socialists here who on a regular basis post critiques of the status quo from the left side (e.g. didn't we have a debate about guaranteed basic income recently?). On the other hand they do lack in sexiness and edginess :-)

comment by pragmatist · 2014-01-09T14:12:42.724Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Getting back to your wishes, I think we have a bunch of socialists here who on a regular basis post critiques of the status quo from the left side (e.g. didn't we have a debate about guaranteed basic income recently?).

I didn't witness this debate, so maybe you're right that the advocates for the guaranteed minimum income were in fact socialists. I'd like to note, though, that the idea of a guaranteed basic income has had some currency in libertarian circles as well, advocated by (among others) Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. So I wouldn't take support for this policy as very strong evidence of a socialist political orientation.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T15:29:25.053Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I mentioned socialists because a significant part of LW self-identifies as socialist (see Yvain's surveys). That, of course, is a fuzzy term with many possible meanings.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T10:41:19.306Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But the survey didn't just say “Socialist”, it said “Socialist, for example Scandinavian countries: socially permissive, high taxes, major redistribution of wealth”.

comment by Ishaan · 2014-01-09T07:41:12.792Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

sexiness and edginess

Hehe I'll give you that coherently expressing edgy views is part of what keeps me reading despite fairly strong disagreement...outside view, that's not actually a point in its favor, of course - as a general heuristic, the boring and conventional people are right and the edgy internet subculture is wrong, even if wrong in novel ways!

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T15:43:49.147Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

as a general heuristic, the boring and conventional people are right and the edgy internet subculture is wrong

I don't think that's a particularly useful heuristic. I'd like to offer a replacement: people who actually did something in reality or who point to something existing and working are right more often than people whose arguments are based on imagination and counterfactuals.

comment by Ishaan · 2014-01-09T03:43:58.340Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, sorry for the real time simplification! I realized I was writing spaghetti as soon as I looked it over.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-09T04:26:27.453Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Not a problem, untangling spaghetti (in limited amounts) is fun.

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-01-06T08:08:11.807Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I have no idea what could be done about it.

Maybe invite blacks or other members of marginalized communities explicitly ?

Some time ago, Eliezer wrote a post, which made it clear he would be glad to see more women on LW. I thing his article was well written. Did any of You guys, the opponents of crazier versions of feminism, feel annoyed by that ? Later, there were other efforts to drag women here. (It does feel flattering, I tell You). Now, the percentage of LW women has grown slightly (lazy to look up the census result), athough we are still a minority.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-06T15:33:50.027Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

the percentage of LW women has grown slightly (lazy to look up the census result)

It grew from 3% in 2009 to 8.9% (cis) + 1.3% (trans) in 2012.

comment by jsalvatier · 2014-01-06T23:55:39.454Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

1.3% trans! That's super cool

comment by VAuroch · 2014-01-09T07:50:02.321Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Given that a large part of LW is drawn from the Bay Area, which IIRC has significantly higher trans density than the at-large 1%, that's actually under where I would expect.

Wait, 1.3% trans women. Depending on the number of trans men, that may be much closer to representative of the broader likely-to-encounter-LW population. (Which I'd expect to have 2x-5x as many trans people as the general population.)

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T10:47:27.412Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

From the 2012 survey results:

GENDER:
M (cis): 1021, 86.2%
F (cis): 105, 8.9%
M (trans f->m): 3, 0.3%
F (trans m->f): 16, 1.3%
Other: 29, 2.4%
No answer: 11, 0.9%

Previously discussed here.

comment by VAuroch · 2014-01-12T01:44:03.064Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

OK, still lower than I would expect, then. Somewhat disappointing.

comment by hyporational · 2014-01-09T06:18:54.613Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think simple invitations are going to make much difference.

If some marginal group didn't drift here spontaneously because they're inherently interested in the community, then we must provide them other incentives. Unfortunately this might mean privileging them some way, which to be honest I usually find so unjust and contrary to truth seeking it pisses me off.

Perhaps there are benign forms of such privileging, but none are cognitively available to me at the moment.

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-01-10T17:46:57.485Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What if they visit the website and feel hesitant, whether the atmosphere is welcoming enough for them, considering all the HBD staff ? I do not imply we should censor HBD away, I am interested in it too. If there is some thruth to it, we will have to face it sooner or later anyway, taking into account all the DNA sequencing projects etc. In the world outside, I got yelled at for my interest a couple time, it is my interest to have clear discussion here, so that I know, where things stand. But, anyway, regardless of nature or nurture, all the data agree, there is a significant portion of intelligent individuals in all marginalised groups, and LW would very much benefit from them. If I only could express something like that, and not sound creepy... Some analogy of this: http://lesswrong.com/lw/ap/of_gender_and_rationality/

comment by bogus · 2014-01-06T02:29:52.096Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

You are positing that folks who are affected by some issues would not participate in frank, dispassionate discussion of these same issues... why exactly? To preserve their ego? It seems like a dubious assumption.

comment by Ishaan · 2014-01-08T18:18:33.932Z · score: 20 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Anecdote time:

I'm currently dispassionate about racial issues, and can (and have) openly discussed topics such as the possibility that racial discrimination is not a real thing, the possibility that genetically mediated behavioral differences between races exist, and other conservative-to-reactionary viewpoints. Some of those discussions have been on lesswrong, under this account and under an alt, some have been on other sites, and some have been in "real life".

Prior to the age of ~19, I would have been unable to be dispassionate about issues of race and culture. I would understand the value of being dispassionate and I would try, but the emotions would have come anyway. Due to my racial and cultural differences, I've fended of physical attacks from bullies in middle school and been on the receiving end of condescending statements in high school and college, sometimes from strangers and people whom I do not care about and sometimes from peers who I liked and from authority figures who I respected. When it came from someone i liked/respected, it hurt more.

The way human brains work, is when a neutral stimuli (here, racist viewpoints) is repeatedly paired with a negative stimuli (here, physical harm and/or loss of social status), the neutral stimuli can involuntarily trigger pre-emptive anger and defensiveness all on its own. If your experience of people who posited Opinion X was that they proceeded to physically attack you / steal your things / taunt you openly in a social setting, you too would probably develop aversive reactions to Opinion X.

--

EDIT: just read the linked post. It independently echoes my account:

This is because respect for said arguments and/or the idea behind them is a warning sign for either 1) passively not respecting my personhood or 2) actively disregarding my personhood, both of which are, to use some vernacular, hella fucking dangerous to me personally.

--

The above is an explanation as to why it happens and how it is. I'm not saying it's justified, or that it aught to be that way. I made a conscious effort to fight down the anger and not direct it at people who were clearly not trying to physically harm me or lower my social status in a group. I think others should do the same.

For an extreme example, in the past an authority figure made a racial joke at my expense in the presence of other students who had previously physically taunted me, thereby validating their behavior - and I took care to not direct the anger at the authority figure (who was simply ignorant of the social status lowering effect of the joke, not maliciously trying to harm me). For a tamer example, I've never actually ended a friendship with someone for espousing certain views - I've only been angry and forced myself not to say anything until after calming down.

Currently, I don't feel emotionally angry at all when faced with those views, and i think every one else should strive to that. However, that doesn't mean that people who haven't faced this sort of thing are allowed to simply expect that people who have faced it will have that sort of emotional control. I'm pretty sure I'm an outlier with respect to unusually good emotional control (globally, if not on LessWrong) - most people can't do it. It also really helps that my current social bubble has less of that sort of thing.

That said (and this is where I disagree with the linked poster) I don't think it's a good idea to censor views for the sake of not triggering anyone's emotions. Dispassionate discussion of a topic unpairs the neutral stimuli with a negative stimuli - in fact, I would go so far as to recommend that people who are psychologically similar to myself (intellectually curious, emotionally stable) who have been hurt by racism should spend time talking on the internet to white nationalists and reactionaries, and people who have been hurt by sexism should spend time talking to pua's / redpill / the "manosphere". Talking about charged topics in settings where people are powerless to actually hurt you is a great way to remove emotional triggers.

That said, the small but vocal prevalence of meta-contrarian, reactionary ideology on LW has probably driven away a lot of smart people. There's even dirty tactics at play here - such as the down-voting of every single comment of anyone who explicitly expresses progressive views or challenging reactionary views. I myself am on the receiving end of this nonsense - every post is systematically downvoted by exactly -1 ever since I mentioned some biological evidence about sexual orientation that could be construed as liberal. I think our kind is so partial to contrarians that we actually give people a pass from the downvote simply because they went against the grain even when the actual ideas aren't especially insightful. Remember, well-kept gardens die by pacifism - reactionary ideas are fine if they are supported by real evidence and logic of the same standard you would hold if someone espoused a common viewpoint which is fairly obvious and popular. If it reads like pseudo-intellectual fluff, it probably is. Don't go easy on it just because it's contrarian.

comment by Alejandro1 · 2014-01-10T22:09:21.286Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I found this one of the most enlightening posts in this overheated thread and encourage you to expand it into a top-level post.

comment by Ishaan · 2014-01-10T23:46:21.036Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If I were to expand this post at a future time, which ideas specifically do you find enlightening / would you say should be expanded? Are there any portions that you think should be slimmed or removed altogether?

Another thing to think about is how to talk about this productively without triggering similar over-heating...although this post wasn't actually too controversial, so maybe that's a good sign on that front?

comment by Alejandro1 · 2014-01-11T02:55:38.541Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If I were to expand this post at a future time, which ideas specifically do you find enlightening / would you say should be expanded? Are there any portions that you think should be slimmed or removed altogether?

What I think LW could benefit from is an explanation "from the inside" of what leads some people of disprivileged groups to be sensitive to the expression of certain opinions, to ask for "safe spaces" and talk of "triggers", et cetera. I think you have an evenhanded position that on one side does not ask LW to censor or discourage dispassionate discussions of these opinions, but at the same time enables those who profess them to understand the unintended effects their words can have. Thus the well-intentioned among them (and I am sure there are some, though I share your indignation at those who are not and use underhanded tactics like mass-downvoting) will hopefully be more cautious in their choice of words, and also perhaps realize that requests for "safe spaces" are not necessarily power plays to squash controversy.

I think the last paragraph (except for the first sentence) is the part that could be slimmed or removed; you have registered your protest against mass downvoting and doing it again in a post would distract from the main topic.

Another thing to think about is how to talk about this productively without triggering similar over-heating

Indeed, writing a top-level post about this in a way that does not cause a flamewar is a daunting, perhaps impossible task. I fully understand if under consideration you prefer not to do it.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-09T14:51:40.185Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Dispassionate discussion of a topic unpairs the neutral stimuli with a negative stimuli

This is probably not a good argument on LW, but a large part of psychoanalysis is built on this.

Also desensitization therapy in CBT, but they would recommend starting with very small dozes of the stimuli. (And I think LW would be at the lower end of the scale.)

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2014-01-06T03:07:08.960Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

You are positing that folks who are affected by some issues would not participate in frank, dispassionate discussion of these same issues... why exactly? To preserve their ego? It seems like a dubious assumption.

This doesn't really seem like a dubious assumption to me, practically everyone is more motivated to preserve their ego than to think rationally.

http://imgur.com/ZaYq9Y5

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-06T02:55:16.252Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

hard to be frankly dispassionate when you're affected by an issue. That tends to encourage self-serving passion.

comment by bogus · 2014-01-06T03:12:36.058Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

hard to be frankly dispassionate when you're affected by an issue. That tends to encourage self-serving passion.

Oh, that's quite right. But the original question here is whether they'll even want to join the conversation at all. To me, it's not at all clear why they wouldn't. (And I see this as a mixed bag from a goals perspective, for reasons others have pointed out.)

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-06T09:09:11.673Z · score: 14 (18 votes) · LW · GW

Because life, of which the Internet is a subset, of which LW is a subset, is full of blowhards who will tell you all about your problems and how you should solve them while clearly not having a trace of a clue about the topic, and life is too short to go seeking them out.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-01-06T09:21:24.847Z · score: 39 (49 votes) · LW · GW

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

Different evidence accrues to people with different experiences.

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

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

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

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

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

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-06T15:02:47.111Z · score: 15 (23 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-01-06T15:49:13.333Z · score: 35 (43 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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


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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-06T16:30:27.603Z · score: 26 (26 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-06T17:47:15.344Z · score: 18 (24 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-07T00:58:52.926Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by Bakkot · 2014-01-07T00:40:37.996Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I strongly suspect that people who make the claim "no amount of evidence could convince me of not-X" have simply absorbed the meme that X must be supported as much as possible and not the meme that all beliefs should be subject to updating. I very much doubt that expressing the above claim is much evidence that the claim is true. And it's hard to absorb memes like "all beliefs should be subject to updating" if you are made to feel unwelcome in the communities where those memes are common.

comment by hyporational · 2014-01-09T07:31:12.519Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T11:12:49.438Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

Exactly. Reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-01-11T19:11:20.316Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Let me try to unpack it a bit:

People who do not claim a named gender-related political identity (like "feminist" or "MRA") nonetheless typically explicitly teach and reinforce ideas about gender ... and get defensive about them in pretty much the same way that people get defensive about political ideas.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-06T15:32:27.523Z · score: 18 (18 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-06T18:48:41.568Z · score: 19 (21 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the more common negative reaction to LW is moderate revulsion

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

just inviting more women isn't going to solve it

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

comment by ESRogs · 2014-01-06T19:47:50.845Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-07T09:24:23.356Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-08T02:54:43.539Z · score: 10 (20 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by ESRogs · 2014-01-08T00:22:50.213Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ah that makes sense. Maybe also because it was worded as a response to a particular tribe (ours), it may have been natural to assume that it was positioned as coming from a particular other tribe.

comment by jsalvatier · 2014-01-06T23:34:17.968Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-08T04:08:13.216Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

Math. Conservatives are 3%.

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

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

comment by michaelkeenan · 2014-01-08T05:16:36.015Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-06T12:35:33.829Z · score: 15 (27 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-06T17:12:43.597Z · score: 13 (17 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-06T17:45:55.433Z · score: -2 (14 votes) · LW · GW

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

True, but evidently it's still a stretch locally.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-06T22:31:18.675Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

There are various countries in Africa where a majority of the population thinks that it's a good idea to punish homosexuality with death.

If you want diversity in moral opinions than you should create an environment where someone from such a country can freely talk about his morality.

I have a much better understanding of the moral position of a third wave feminist than I have and understanding of the position of someone with mainstream Ugandian morality.

I think I understand the third wave feminist even better than someone from China.

If you would want to someone represent the majority of humanity it makes much more sense to specifically write post arguing conversative positions that appeal to the majority of the world population than to try to be more accommodating to social justice warriors as there aren't that many social justice warriors in the world.

But I wouldn't advocate going down that road but instead advocate that people focus on the quality of arguments.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-01-06T13:15:12.784Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by RowanE · 2014-01-07T10:53:00.318Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see where those who disagree with local memes are being accused of insanity, and not noticing something like that scares me. Could you please point out where it's happening?

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-07T11:16:35.138Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

http://lesswrong.com/lw/jfr/link_why_im_not_on_the_rationalist_masterlist/aakh - found with a quick Ctrl-F for "insan".

comment by RowanE · 2014-01-07T17:34:17.789Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, well that actually looks fine and I think I agree with it. I was worried the comment you were replying to implied some stuff that was invisible to me due to biases.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-08T02:53:24.824Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Well, in several places Eliezer uses "insane" and synonyms to mean irrational (according to his view). Search for "people are insane".

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T16:06:55.640Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Another example

comment by RowanE · 2014-01-07T17:37:13.791Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

That post is at negative karma, and is about US conservatives rather than about people who disagree with local memes.

comment by satt · 2014-01-09T04:21:05.757Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

To be fair to Lumifer, that comment now has zero karma, and US conservatives plausibly are a group of "people who disagree with local memes", given that they're in a tiny minority here (about 2%; in the 2012 survey there were 20 self-identified US conservatives, out of 1001 responses giving both a country and a political alignment).

comment by hyporational · 2014-01-09T07:38:52.813Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by JTHM · 2014-01-07T18:41:16.139Z · score: 6 (22 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

Source

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

Now consider gender (same source as above):

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

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

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

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-08T10:03:09.815Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by Jiro · 2014-09-29T19:49:15.158Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(Reply to old post.)

That would allow a "getting out the vote in the white sector of town" sort of abuse, where either

  1. Someone deliberately invites group X because it's correlated with group Y, which they really want to invite but which they're not supposed to, or
  2. Someone invites group X without any deliberate intentions of doing so to increase the population of Y, but they happen to be a Y themselves and memetic evolution has led Y to adopt that as a strategy for spreading.
comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-12T09:01:40.754Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The difference between 55% and 44% seems unimportant, because we don't use majority voting in LW anyway.

At first I agreed, but, well...

comment by pgbh · 2014-01-08T05:10:46.387Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Consider these two theories:

Liberal politicians promote the well-being of minority groups because they want their votes. This constitutes a naked power grab.

Minority groups vote for liberal politicians because they expect them to promote their well-being. This constitutes democracy working as intended.

How would you tell which of these theories is true?

comment by JTHM · 2014-01-08T07:37:30.053Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I have said nothing of the left promoting the well-being of minorities, and I have said nothing of why minorities support the left. I have said that the left tries to place left-leaning demographics in positions of power and influence (which is not always the same thing as actually helping those demographics, although helping them may be a side effect), and that leftists try to populate their social circles with those same demographics. Obviously, the right tries to place right-leaning demographics in positions of power and influence as well. For that matter, anyone who identifies with faction X tries to place likely X-ists in positions of power and influence. However, an attempt to do such a thing rarely feels like a power grab from the inside, regardless of your political orientation. Inside the mind of a leftist, a power grab of this form feels like promoting the noble cause of diversity.

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-08T05:55:26.711Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

in what way are those theories exclusive of each other?

comment by pgbh · 2014-01-08T14:29:18.554Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

His claim, to my understanding, is that the first theory completely explains the interaction between minorities and liberal politicians.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-01-07T21:55:54.891Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I hear you saying that women and men are measurably different in their political and social views; and that whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are likewise different in their views.

(I broadly agree, although I think you exaggerate on the political-party issue specifically — and indeed to the point of logical inconsistency. You note that 45% of men voted for a center-left candidate, and then say that "women support the left and men do not". These statements are logical contraries) and cannot both be true.)

However then I hear you saying that there is more intellectual diversity among "an exclusively middle class white male group" than among a demographically diverse group. This statement is a direct contradiction of your (correct) point that different demographic groups are measurably different in their views.

Of course, you've read my above comment and so you already know that I think there is a good reason that reasonable people from different backgrounds can arrive at different views; namely that they are in possession of different information about the world.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T22:12:17.980Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

With a bit more charitable interpretation, I think what we are talking about here is within-group variability vs between-group differences.

comment by JTHM · 2014-01-08T00:54:58.304Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

There would likely be more intellectual diversity among a demographically diverse group randomly selected from the general population than there would be among a homogenous group randomly selected from one demographic within that population. However, if the demographically homogenous group was comprised of specialists of diverse fields of study, they would likely be more intellectually diverse than the demographically diverse group selected from the general population.

What I said was, "There is likely to be more intellectual diversity between an exclusively middle class white male group comprising a physicist, a lawyer, a mathematician, a programmer, a chemist, a politician, an economist, and a businessman than there is between a demographically diverse group of eight people randomly selected from the general population." Please pay attention to the bits in bold.

And the qualities of supporting the left or right are not binaries, they are things that come in degrees, like a thing being hot or cold. When I say, "women support the left and men do not," I mean that more women than men support the left and more men than women support the right. Taken completely out of context, I suppose "women support the left and men do not" could indicate that I meant every woman supports the left and every man supports the right, but that is obvious nonsense. You are twisting my words to fit the most absurd possible interpretation.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T11:19:46.113Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Again, the cry of "Diversity!" is invoked for those trying to add women to a group, and rarely for men.

Men are already overrepresented on LW.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-06T16:53:43.565Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-01-06T17:58:07.749Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The comment you're replying to actually doesn't discuss that idea at all. Did you attach this reply to the wrong comment?

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-06T22:35:39.663Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

You start by setting the goal of the post as arguing in favor of diversity. The fact that you don't discuss what that idea means is the point of my post.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-01-07T07:58:17.704Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, I see what you mean. I think you're linking this comment to the original post more strongly than I meant. By calling it "tangential" I meant to distance it a bit, since it wasn't an argument for particular tactics towards getting diversity (e.g. "having norms that prevent certain views from being expressed", as you put it). Rather, it was an explication of why diversity might be desirable to have.

I take the opposite of diversity to be something like unanimity. A reason to seek diverse views rather than unanimous ones is that diverse views carry more information. They've got a bunch of wrong ideas too, of course; but their errors are less correlated than those of a unanimous population.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-08T01:05:52.535Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see anyone on lesswrong arguing that lesswrong should have more unanimity. To me that seems like a strawman.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-08T03:16:47.936Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Well here for instance.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T10:53:01.478Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Which is currently downvoted below threshold.

comment by Apprentice · 2014-01-11T12:18:53.587Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Chris' comment has, to be sure, around 18 downvotes but it also has around 14 upvotes, so many people probably agree with him.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T23:31:15.563Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe showing (upvotes - downvotes) by default and upvotes/(upvotes + downvotes)*100% on mouseover isn't the optimal way to do it. (Also, this means that “The difference between 55% and 44% seems unimportant, because we don't use majority voting in LW anyway” isn't fully true.)

comment by Apprentice · 2014-01-12T08:30:14.433Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Good point on majority voting. It matters a lot whether a comment has 18 upvotes and 14 downvotes or 14 upvotes and 18 downvotes. So a relatively narrow majority on polarized subjects can give you important control over the conversation.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-12T09:52:33.710Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

a relatively narrow majority on polarized subjects can give you important control over the conversation.

The proper way to fix this is to agree to downvote all mindkilled comments regardless of whether they "support our side".

If we cannot agree on this norm... goodbye rationality.

If we can agree on voting on comments by criteria other than "my tribe or the other tribe", then we have a chance for a meaningful discussion.

Specifically:

Someone posts a comment promoting tribe X, without any rationalist merit. -- Proper reaction: downvote.

Someone posts a comment suggesting we need to discourage members of tribe X from participating on LW. -- Proper reaction: also a downvote.

comment by jsalvatier · 2014-01-06T23:24:17.316Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Seems obviously true.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-06T08:00:47.298Z · score: 37 (47 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by moridinamael · 2014-01-06T12:45:19.078Z · score: 38 (40 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-06T14:56:56.288Z · score: 13 (19 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by bramflakes · 2014-01-06T16:56:02.901Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-07T16:53:54.995Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-07T20:21:59.818Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-13T07:22:10.006Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

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

What do you mean by this? Technology that raises IQ in the next generation or the existing people. The latter is far from our abilities, the former would not help us at all when it comes to the perception of eugenics friendliness.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-07T05:39:02.442Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

What does [Edit: raising IQ] have to do with HBD?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T02:42:52.359Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If IQs can be raised then one aspect of HBD becomes less important.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-08T03:41:24.314Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Depends on how hard it is and whether how far they can be raised depends on their "natural" value.

comment by Mestroyer · 2014-01-06T08:12:19.579Z · score: 11 (21 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-06T19:32:51.067Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-06T22:00:42.109Z · score: 15 (23 votes) · LW · GW

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

...

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

:-D

comment by Mestroyer · 2014-01-08T03:48:18.542Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

(*Colloquial sense of "no one")

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By the way I didn't downvote you.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T07:28:27.631Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-08T06:50:43.499Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by Mestroyer · 2014-01-08T07:05:24.967Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Meat used as part of a throwaway metaphor doesn't trigger that sort of thing.

When I hear the word, 1-3 images of tortured animals usually briefly cross my mind, and I know there are much more emotional vegans than me. Speak for yourself. And even if torture mindkills some people, like I said, you can't properly discuss some important topics without it, so if it spawns 1000-post threads that aren't worth reading, too bad. (When I've used torture thought experiments so far, it hasn't.)

Edit: Actually, I probably would stop talking about torture if every time I did it spawned a1000-post thread that wasn't worth reading. But if that was what LessWrong was like, I would probably leave. Or if it was in every other respect the same (an implausible counterfactual), stay, but not enjoy it nearly as much.

comment by lmm · 2014-01-26T10:35:52.531Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Torture as an example seems like a bad idea in the same way that the Reagan/Quaker/Pacifist question is a bad example - it's political, it draws one's attention away from the actual argument.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-06T21:29:52.774Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Re: trolley problems and torture:

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

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

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

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

comment by knb · 2014-01-06T16:49:27.468Z · score: 8 (24 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T02:43:52.521Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

That post struck me as ignoring any advantages divorce might have (like getting out of bad marriages) for women.

comment by knb · 2014-01-08T04:05:32.387Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It seems clear to me that the post was not about weighing the pros and cons of divorce in total (something which would take a lot more than a short post). The post makes a more abstract point about the way incentive changes can have large impacts even without people coordinating to deliberately change behavior. That seems like a very appropriate topic for Less Wrong.

comment by Ishaan · 2014-01-08T18:55:00.036Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I believe that the "problem" is that Lesswrong loves contrarians.

If a smart-sounding article espousing conservative opinions on social issues appears, most lesswrongers will disagree but be interested in reading anyway because it's novel and there is a dearth of smart conservative opinions in the world, and the exciting chance to "actually change their mind" looms.

If a smart-sounding article espousing liberal opinions on social issues appears, most lesswrongers will agree but be disinterested in reading because they've heard it all before, and it's preaching to the choir, and it's political and mind-killing, etc.

This reversal of traditional attitudes to disagreement has its merits, but we're seeing the downsides too. (one of the many reasons I advocate having separate feedback buttons for agreement, interest, and quality assessment)

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-09T15:17:19.934Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't this problem gradually fix itself? For example, at the beginning I was interested in Moldbug's articles, but these days I just consider them boring. I have already heard the big picture; there is now nothing new, just reiterating what was already said; the lack of evidence or even clear explanations is very annoying, and I have already given up hope that it could be improved.

These days, if someone says something seemingly smart like "Cthulhu always swims left", my first though is: give me a definition of what the hell do you even mean by this, then give me an evidence that it really happens, and if you don't give any of it (which is my expectation based on previous experience) then just please shut up because you're wasting my time.

Speaking for myself, the neo-reactionaries had their chance (which I consider to be a good thing -- because I learned a few interesting things), and they wasted it.

comment by Ishaan · 2014-01-09T18:43:50.751Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Doesn't this problem gradually fix itself?

I'm not sure, but my personal experience does mostly mirror yours. LW is not a stable group, though - there's a cycle of users entering and leaving, and the total number of active people at any given time is quite small.

comment by bogus · 2014-01-06T08:29:00.429Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-13T07:16:00.186Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-13T15:20:36.496Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by jaime2000 · 2014-01-14T13:38:47.317Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-07T00:29:46.778Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Prismattic · 2014-01-08T02:50:39.380Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

I don't really like trolley problems either, but I don't think they can be waved away. When programming a self-driving car's decision algorithm for reacting when a car full of people skids in front of it while there is a single pedestrian on the sidewalk where it would have to swerve, you are essentially dealing with a real -world trolley problem.

comment by CronoDAS · 2014-01-08T05:04:03.378Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Better to hit the other car rather than the pedestrian. The people in the car are protected by a lot of metal and will tend to suffer much less damage.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-08T23:32:29.710Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Your examples remind me of this thread on suicide, which is the most distressing thing I've read on less wrong. (Though it is not exactly an example of "low empathy.")

comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-09T18:22:24.496Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This puzzles me. Would you elaborate on the reasons why you found it distressing?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-09T22:02:48.386Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I thought it could actually encourage another suicide. Suicidal feelings are ubiquitous, and the actual act is not that uncommon. When it's committed it's often a very disproportionate response to misfortune, or even to a mad self-hating inner monologue. I think the sober discussions that take place here about when misogyny, murder, or torture are warranted are mostly in bad taste, but I find it implausible that they will cause a harm worse than offense. Not so for a sober discussion of when suicide is warranted (even though it is not "offensive" in the same sense!).

comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-09T22:10:19.052Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you. Well, no wonder I was puzzled, since this sentiment is thoroughly alien to me. When I hear of a suicide, my first thought and feeling are: "I'm glad his/her suffering is over".

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-10T00:33:26.326Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I'm surprised you call it "thoroughly alien," I would have thought my position is thoroughly non-weird, even cliched. You really think nobody ever made a mistake by killing themselves? I won't try to tell you otherwise, but you must know that that's not a typical opinion.

comment by shminux · 2014-01-06T07:15:47.980Z · score: 36 (42 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-06T02:33:46.891Z · score: 36 (82 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

Some choice quotes:

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

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

comment by Manfred · 2014-01-06T06:28:12.221Z · score: 29 (43 votes) · LW · GW

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

[later]

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

throws hand in air

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-07T03:05:38.733Z · score: 14 (18 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by CronoDAS · 2014-01-08T04:41:09.631Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

"the Constitution is not a suicide pact."

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

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

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-07T03:33:43.862Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Or in the legal arena: "the Constitution is not a suicide pact."

Completely tangentially, what does this mean?

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T04:09:02.804Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

what does this mean?

In theory it means that it's better to NOT follow the (established / agreed-to) rules when it clearly leads to major negative consequences.

In practice it usually means "We really want to do this and we're not going to have mere laws stand in our way".

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-07T04:47:50.441Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Got it, thanks. It's a nice pithy way of phrasing it.

comment by bogus · 2014-01-06T02:48:01.647Z · score: 21 (33 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Manfred · 2014-01-06T06:09:04.664Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by bogus · 2014-01-06T06:35:28.071Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

But LessWrong isn't about political discussion ...

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

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

comment by falenas108 · 2014-01-06T06:57:39.913Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

They're showing no appreciation at all for the benefits of open discussion.

Yes, creating a safe space does prevent an entirely open discussion. So downvoting to oblivion people to talk about the merits of killing everyone in Asia, or the validity of Christianity. As a community, we have decided that there are certain discussions we don't want to have, and certain topics we don't want to discuss.

Not all safe spaces are equal. A safe space for a support group for trans folk would have a different meaning for a safe space for African Americans. I think Less Wrong could have its own version of a safe space, with the spirit behind the rules being something like "don't say/advocate for violence against others, don't be needlessly rude, don't use personal attacks."

comment by bbleeker · 2014-01-06T12:42:09.137Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

don't say/advocate for violence against others, don't be needlessly rude, don't use personal attacks.

But those already are the rules on LW......aren't they?

comment by falenas108 · 2014-01-06T15:43:30.705Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, in theory. This leads to two things:

1) We already do have a kind of safe space in theory, it's mostly the name "safe space" that turns people off more than the actual idea.

2) We're doing part of that wrong, because it was people advocating ideas that would be dangerous to the OP that turned her off from LW in the first place.

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-06T15:54:19.883Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I think you are covering a lot of distance by stretching "don't advocate violence" into "don't say anything that someone feels the widespread adoption of could be potentially dangerous."

comment by falenas108 · 2014-01-06T16:33:50.550Z · score: 3 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Actually, this is something I've been a bit confused about the whole time. What posts is she talking about? The OP says Yvain's posts, but from the substance of the article the article it sounds like she's talking about reactionaries.

Considering the much higher than average rate of homocide towards trans people based on todays standards, a reinforcement of gender roles would almost certainly increase that rate.

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-06T15:29:20.665Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-06T03:05:42.158Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-06T03:40:10.910Z · score: 24 (40 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by bogus · 2014-01-06T03:50:39.604Z · score: 18 (22 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-06T03:54:34.731Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by pgbh · 2014-01-08T05:26:36.242Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Using words like this to describe ideas you don't like seems distasteful, and in fact similar to what the blogger was originally complaining about.

comment by V_V · 2014-01-06T18:42:28.119Z · score: 16 (22 votes) · LW · GW

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

It got worse.

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

Link

comment by jkaufman · 2014-01-15T13:18:25.378Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Knowing nothing about this, "who didn't happen to have" looks unfair. Membership in Atheism+ wasn't distributed randomly, so it's possible people who chose not to join have different views on women.

comment by falenas108 · 2014-01-06T06:14:13.671Z · score: 8 (24 votes) · LW · GW

As far as Atheism+ goes, it's an organized group spearheaded by people like Rebecca Watson who are outraged -- outraged -- at the behavior of atheists being insufficiently pro-woman and pro-social justice.

When women in the atheist movement still get sexually harassed by public figures, get rape and death threats, and when having a "no sexual harassment" policy creates a firestorm, all from other people within the atheist movement, the movement does need to be more pro-women and more pro-social justice.

(Link to a blog that has a source for all the incidents I'm talking about, plus a few more http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/08/30/atheism-plus-and-some-thoughts-on-divisiveness/)

Watson's response to Dawkins comes after he gave a response to her ridiculing her for feeling uncomfortable about getting asked out on an elevator.

And as for the mission statement, I don't think there's a problem with countering misogyny, racism, homo/bi/transphobia, or ableism. That sounds like a good thing. You may disagree with what they label as x-phobia, but the discussion should be about what is x-phobic, not whether we should care about x-phobia.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-08T11:13:34.181Z · score: 9 (15 votes) · LW · GW

When women in the atheist movement still get sexually harassed by public figures, get rape and death threats, and when having a "no sexual harassment" policy creates a firestorm, all from other people within the atheist movement, the movement does need to be more pro-women and more pro-social justice.

False dilemma.

Social justice warriors are not the only kind of people on this planet who care about safety and well-being of other people. Also, feminists sometimes send death threats, too.

The sexual harassment by public figures certainly has to stop, the perpetrators have to be punished: legally when possible, and removed from positions of power within the community.

Giving more power to feminists and social justice warriors is not the only way to do this. It is one of the possible solutions, but not the only possible solution.

comment by falenas108 · 2014-01-08T14:45:24.841Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

As Nancy said, what other movement that you could see becoming active in the atheist movement that supports this?

And yes, they send death threats too. But at a ridiculously lower rate than is currently done, considering many popular female bloggers say they get death/rape threats every time they say something controversial.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T14:29:29.652Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The problem is that there doesn't seem to be a strong movement for Maintaining Decent Treatment for All People.

I'm concerned that it's really hard to get people to do political things unless there's some excessive opposition to a defined group.

comment by bogus · 2014-01-08T20:04:47.094Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

The problem is that there doesn't seem to be a strong movement for Maintaining Decent Treatment for All People.

Well, usually that doesn't fall under the rubric of a political movement at all. We just call it civility - a core moral value of any physical community where people seek to be protected from bodily harm and thrive in a nurturing environment.

If there is any political question here, it's who or what should be included under "people". Folks who are similar enough to you in e.g. culture that you can intuitively trust them? Any Homosapien's? Any Hominidae (i.e. including other Great Apes)? Other animal species on a case-by-case basis, such as dolphins and whales? Robots and other man-made intelligences? Corporations?

But it's quite unclear how deferring to the so-called "social justice movement" would be helpful in approaching these hard questions. It seems that their "politics" is much too simplistic, so they just ignore them.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T22:39:22.779Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You've underestimated what a Maintaining Decent Treatment for All People Movement would cover.

It might be pacifist. It would certainly be very cautious about war. It would be pro-refugee.

And push for a rational justice system. civil behavior by police, and good prison conditions.

Oppose domestic violence, and be emphatic that this applies to men, women, and children.

Oppose bullying, both in schools and workplaces.

I'm not sure I've included all the major categories.

A lot of this isn't being done reliably, and some of it faces a lot of opposition

I'm not going to say that the social justice movement is the only source of valuable information, but it's done some good work in pointing out that there's violence which isn't taken seriously-- for example, violence against trans people.

For another source (overlapping SJ, I think), check out work being done by whores for them to be treated as normal parts of civil society.

There's a lot of work to be done even if you aren't worried about apes and dolphins.

comment by bogus · 2014-01-09T00:50:26.428Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sure, and political/social movements exist which pursue all of these goals. But the underlying moral principle is very much not a matter of ideology or any political "plank", even though 'left-wing'- or 'progressive'- leaning folks are perhaps more likely to care about it in a political sense. Jonathan Haidt is of course very clear on this, and the general idea is older than Haidt's work - check out George Lakoff's Moral Politics or Jane Jacobs's Systems of Survival.

This is probably one reason why the so-called "SJ movement" went so clearly astray in trying to piggyback on any and all of these quite diverse causes, and somehow join them all in some kind of 'big tent' movement. It doesn't work like that - 'big tent' organizations are always a result of coalition-forming within existing civic institutions and processes. Movements need more flexibility, as well as a stronger commitment from their participants.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-13T02:43:10.282Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't know whether anyone noticed my list is basically libertarian. It's a very challenging agenda, but it just covers allowing freedom and protection from violence. It doesn't cover ongoing help for people who can't fully take care of themselves.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-08T16:43:29.965Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

A meta solution would be to start this movement. Which would be extremely difficult on a scale of society, but perhaps easier within a community.

As an outsider, I have no idea how large the "people who frequently go to atheist meetups and already mostly know each other" group is. Perhaps five or ten of them could start this kind of a movement inside that community.

comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-06T19:22:39.643Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

and when having a "no sexual harassment" policy creates a firestorm

Wasn't it rather the adoption of this as an explicit policy that created trouble? And that's not surprising, because it suggests that the problem is prevalent in the group to an extent that makes the explicit policy needed, which insinuation will naturally offend some members of the group.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-07T04:57:14.957Z · score: 4 (12 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think there's a problem with countering misogyny, racism, homo/bi/transphobia, or ableism. That sounds like a good thing. You may disagree with what they label as x-phobia, but the discussion should be about what is x-phobic, not whether we should care about x-phobia.

The problem is that this derails the discussion into arguing whether Y is x-phobic rather than whether Y is bad.

comment by falenas108 · 2014-01-07T05:45:06.750Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

That's true, let me add to my statements:

I think the mission statement is a good thing. But, I agree how the policy is carried out (e.g. crying "That's racist!" and nothing more) is ineffective.

Alternative: If somebody says something x-phobic, the response should be something along the lines of "Saying X is harmful to group Y because...."

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-06T13:14:53.243Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

asked out

Asked into someone's hotel room, actually.

comment by bogus · 2014-01-06T06:48:12.468Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

[Retracted] You're citing a blogpost from August 2012 for the claim that these bad things "still occur today"? I'm no fan of the atheist movement, and I agree that its proponents can be occasionally lacking in basic kindness and social graces (as do many others, who refuse to self-identify as 'atheists' for this very reason). But still, you're not providing much evidence for your claim here. [/Retracted]

Edited to add: Apparently you only meant to refer to the time 'Atheism+' was actually getting off the ground - the "elevatorgate" controversy and whatnot. If so, I misinterpreted your comment, for which I apologize - but that would make your point rather trivial, since ThrustVectoring was clearly objecting to "Atheism+"'s continued [assumed to be detrimental] influence on the atheist movement.

comment by falenas108 · 2014-01-06T07:32:27.006Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

That was an article justifying the creation of atheism+. This was a discussion of why there was a problem in the atheist movement that lead to its creation.

comment by gjm · 2014-01-06T08:08:51.750Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is the quoted "still occur today" in bogus's comment a fabricated quotation, a quotation of something you've since edited away, or a quotation of something I'm being too blind to see?

(If it's the second of those, you probably ought to indicate the fact somehow.)

comment by falenas108 · 2014-01-06T08:50:32.118Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I definitely think it still does, but I haven't said anything about that in this thread so far.

I guess you could interpret my use of the present tense in the first post I made as still happening today? But that was supposed to be talking about when Atheism+ was created.

EDIT: Having a sexual harassment policy is standard now. The other two I mentioned...still a problem.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-13T07:28:14.949Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-06T07:44:40.508Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by falenas108 · 2014-01-06T05:58:03.357Z · score: 2 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Here's my view:

Having a policy of not permitting people to say overtly racist, misogynist, or queerphobic things because they're wrong* isn't any worse than shutting down talking about religion because it's wrong. We have agreed this is a topic we're not interested in discussing any more, and it does not have a place on Less Wrong.

*Of course, people will have different views on what qualifies for this. And that's an entirely different discussion, that I don't want to get into today.

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-06T15:27:00.567Z · score: 20 (20 votes) · LW · GW

Except that the broad umbrella of ideas which even a reasonable person might construe to be "racist, misogynist, or queerphobic" covers a lot of things which are nowhere close to being settled questions the way theism is.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-06T17:24:06.091Z · score: 14 (22 votes) · LW · GW

And furthermore, that umbrella of ideas is a moving target anyways. Social justice movements have fighting X-ism as a terminal goal, so when they run out of X-ist things in a community to fight, they move the goalposts until there are X-ist things to fight.

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-06T17:44:05.501Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that's necessarily an accurate assertion about "social justice movements" as a whole. It seems to me that almost all* of the X-isms that social justice movements attack are real, legitimately undesirable power imbalances and prejudices. The fact that they have yet to run out of such X-isms to fight probably says more about the typical structure of human societies than it does about the social justice movements.

*Obviously there are some pathological examples, like otherkin &c, although these are not particularly mainstream

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-06T20:40:33.991Z · score: 9 (21 votes) · LW · GW

IMHO, feminism has flat-out won. Women have the vote, they have reproductive rights, they have no-fault divorce, they have a majority of the collegiate student body, and they have equality of opportunity. Single, childless women who live in cities make more than their male counterparts. Wife-beating has been vilified. Society is hyper-vigilant about domestic violence.

What's left for feminists to fight for are pretty much non-issues in comparison - especially given the institutional, social, and organizational power they wield. They're still fighting for the rights of women, sure -- but that's more because they don't have anything else to do with themselves.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-07T16:24:38.405Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Street harassment takes some of the fun out of life.

Getting rape and murder threats on line really does distress and distract people, and it seems to be much more likely to happen to women.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-07T17:05:37.820Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I do think that street harassmeent is a serious issue. I however only have anedcotal reports. Can you point me to some statistics that describe the situation on a more general level?

Is it mainly an issue of the big cities where people don't know each other? How do different countries compare against each other? How many cases of street harassment does the average woman experience per year?

comment by arundelo · 2014-01-07T17:40:37.549Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The founder of an anti-street-harassment website conducted "two informal, anonymous online surveys".

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T17:52:49.085Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Informal, anonymous online surveys" do not produce useful data.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-07T17:55:12.937Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, ours have produced data that's useful at least for questions relating to LW. So I'm not going to say it's impossible. But if you're trying to answer a political question...

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-07T22:51:55.869Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps we should add questions that measure street harassment to the next Lesswrong survey?

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-07T22:57:25.672Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

We're no less demographically skewed than your average feminist site. More, probably.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-08T00:23:27.434Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Skrewing depends on the purpose of your data.

If you want data to understand whether the average woman who participate on Lesswrong are subject to substantial sexual harrasment the lesswrong data is okay. To the extend that we think about modifying how we talk about certain issues on Lesswrong that's the demographic that we care about.

Having the question in the lesswrong data set also allows us to see whether the answer to the question correlates with other answers on the survey.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-08T00:35:38.263Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

To the extend that we think about modifying how we talk about certain issues on Lesswrong that's the demographic that we care about.

When we talk about these things, it's most often in the context of potentially driving away demographics whose representatives might offer underrepresented insights or perspectives. Sampling from a set self-selected to not have been driven away yet isn't going to give us the data we want.

When that's not the context, we're usually talking about issues depending on the general population, and the pitfalls of using LW data for that are obvious.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-08T01:08:06.052Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

When that's not the context, we're usually talking about issues relevant to the general population, and the pitfalls of using LW data for that are obvious.

I don't think we only care about the general population. We care about the people with whom we are interacting on a daily basis. We have a bunch of people in this community who want spend time with rational friends instead of spending time with an average member of society.

Even if we are not intending with rational people we are still unlikely to interact with the average person. Most woman I meet, I meet during Salsa dancing. That activity selects for woman who are okay with strangers physically touching them during Salsa dancing.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T01:04:06.554Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think it belongs in the survey, but it might be worth doing as a separate project.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-08T01:07:41.396Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why? The survey allows for finding correlations with existing questions. It means that you get answers to questions such as whether being harrased correlates with IQ for free.

Those answers also tend to be more likely to generalize to the general population than the absolute values of the amount of people who report being harrased.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T07:56:26.565Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me that a good survey on street harassment would be fairly long and the survey is already long enough. Still, if there's still interest when the next survey is being discussed, it's a possible topic. Prediction

Just defining harassment is difficult.

IQ (especially at LW levels) doesn't strike me as likely to give much information. IQ might correlate with spending time in better neighborhoods, or with being more distracted (less likely to notice minor harassment? more likely to get harassed by men who don't like being ignored) or with being less distracted (more likely to notice harassment).

I'd like more research on the subject-- I suspect that local culture makes a huge difference. I also realize that discussions of street harassment are more likely to attract women who've been harassed.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-08T11:49:59.575Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

IQ is just an example. We also have questions about moral beliefs. We have questions about how likely you find various risks.

At this stage the results wouldn't be conclusive but they would increase the grasp I would have on the issue. Having a question on the LW survey wouldn't give the same level of detail as a in depth study, but it would be an improvement.

I'd like more research on the subject-- I suspect that local culture makes a huge difference.

I think the local culture question is one of the questions that interests me most. Should I expect that this is an issue for the woman I meet in daily life, given that I live in Germany? Women like my sister don't bring the issue up, even in discussions about the value of feminism.

I know a bunch of women through the internet who report being troubled by street harassment and those don't live in Germany. Given the reports of those woman, I do think that the issue is serious.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T18:10:28.671Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

A fair point. But then, imagine 4chan becoming interested in an online anonymous survey about sexual harassment... X-D

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-07T18:19:26.646Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The chance of a 4Chan raid is the least of your worries, really. I don't know where the links in the ancestor were posted, but you could end up with anything from bad -- a bunch of random demographic filters that are next to impossible to control for -- to terrible, roughly the equivalent of surveying a Young Republicans meeting about Barack Obama's economic policy. Except ten percent of the attendees are only there for kicks and will answer every question with "fish".

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T18:33:11.046Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The chance of a 4Chan raid is the least of your worries, really.

Depends on what you are worried about, really :-/ And I don't think it will be a raid, just, y'know, a field trip. The 4chan people are a helpful crowd and would love to leave lots of responses to the survey...

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-07T19:12:34.878Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

They produce at least a little data. This one is admittedly filtered in a bunch of ways, both by internet access and interest in street harassment.

Still, it at least implies that there's a good bit of street harassment, and it's fairly frequent but not constant.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-07T22:40:03.288Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The survey says: "Nearly 95 percent of female respondents were honked at one or more times and 40 percent said they are honked at as frequently as monthly."

This survey raises the question of what distinguishes those 5% of woman who were never honked at. Is it something like physical attractiveness? Is it about the locating at which the woman is living? Walking around with a confident posture?

If one considers this a serious issue than I would expect that someone has data that answers the question.

If I read about honking, it also not clear how seriously to take it. Sure it's not fun if someone honks at you, but it's not a big deal.

Then there are "sexist comments". If good deconstructivist can label a lot of comments as sexist. You could label the act of open a door and saying: "After the lady." as a sexist comment. I would where I now what the terms means.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T01:16:04.759Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It wouldn't surprise me if some honks at women aren't noticed by the woman they're directed towards, and some honks are taken to be harassment that are directed at someone else.

It would take some work to design a good survey.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-08T01:23:08.584Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It would take some work to design a good survey.

Yes. But given that there are woman studies departments at universities and this seems to be a topic they ought to care about, I would expect at least some of those academics do serious work and running good surveys.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T19:31:11.939Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

They produce at least a little data.

The key term is "useful". They produce some data, but it's likely to be misleading, primarily because of self-selection bias. So, no, you can NOT conclude that "there's a good bit of street harassment, and it's fairly frequent" on the basis of putting up a survey on a web page and keeping it there for a month or two.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-07T10:19:32.186Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

What's left for feminists to fight for are pretty much non-issues in comparison

Actually, there is a lot left for feminists to fight... but most of that is in other countries. Female genital mutilation being the most obvious example.

Two problems with that.

First, all humans are naturally selfish. My own hurt thumb feels like a greater tragedy than someone else being killed. In the same way, a sexist comment somewhere on internet feels like a greater issue than someone being mutilated on the other side of the planet, if the former is about me and the latter isn't. It's the same reason why Occupy is more popular than Effective Altruism; both are about people who have more giving to people who have less, but only in the former you are included in the list of possible recipients.

Second, there are political alliances, because the more applause lights you put together, the more applause you get. Unfortunately, at some moments some of the applause lights get in conflict. How can you believe "female genital mutilation is evil" and "all cultures are completely equal" or even "all native cultures are noble and perfect" at the same time? Let's rather focus on the non-issues which avoid these paradoxes; you can always safely speak about the evil of the white hetero cis males.

Maybe we need another movement that will care about eradicating female genital mutilation in the world. Even if doing so requires saying politically incorrect things.

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-06T20:56:05.930Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, okay, I think I understand your original comment better now. I thought you were criticizing the constant move towards "new" X-isms to fight against. (i.e., moving from race to LGBT). I think it's possible that feminist groups wield power disproportionate to the egregiousness of what they are now combating, serious though implicit sexism can be.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-06T22:52:24.179Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

There a ban on talking about religion on Lesswrong that I'm aware off. I'm aware off a ban on talking about the basilisk and a ban from talking about advocating specific violence.

Could you point to an discussion in which Lesswrong supposedly agreed that talking about religion is wrong?

I think it's more of a matter that this community lacks people who can make interesting arguments in favor of religion.

The last interesting discussion about religions on Lesswrong I remember was how the catholics scored best on the reverse ideological turing test. I think that making arguments on that level about religion is welcome on LW.

comment by falenas108 · 2014-01-06T23:04:07.441Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, the "...talking about religion because it's wrong" should have said "talking about the validity of religion because it's wrong."

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-07T00:51:41.546Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"talking about the validity of religion because it's wrong."

The discussion I referenced was about that an ideological turing test is a way to test the validity of arguments.

I don't think that you are forbidden to talk about the validity of religion because it's wrong. It just that there aren't many interesting things you can say about the issue.

If you write a boring post against religion that argues against a few strawman you get voted down, but that doesn't mean that the topic is inherently forbidden.

Let's say Nassim Taleb would come to Lesswrong and argue his position on religion. Do you really think that LW consensus would be: "Go away, because the topic is dealt with."?

No, the discussion could be a fruitful discussion about how to choose bayesian priors.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-07T05:07:55.359Z · score: 3 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Having a policy of not permitting people to say overtly racist, misogynist, or queerphobic things because they're wrong* isn't any worse than shutting down talking about religion because it's wrong.

I have a simpler idea: How about a policy against saying wrong things regardless of topic, or since it's hard to know ahead of time whether something is wrong a policy against making claims without evidence.

comment by falenas108 · 2014-01-07T05:35:48.519Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

This response is why I put overtly in there. I think there are certain things we can agree on, and this is the de facto policy of LW, since these views getting heavily downvoted.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-07T05:59:24.625Z · score: 1 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, define "overtly". What about saying that race is correlated with intelligence, propensity to commit violent crime, and a bunch of other important stuff?

comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-01-07T11:49:13.678Z · score: 3 (9 votes) · LW · GW

That such things are often left hanging probably squicks out a lot of people. Being able to say that certain races are statistically more violent and less intelligent than others has historically been correlated with lynch mobs and skewed priorities when making arrests. Recurse a few levels, and what you're really saying is "After the Renaissance, Europeans took over the world and its resources, and the resource distribution has been slow to change since". African American's tend to be descended from slaves who were treated poorly before and after emancipation, while the San Francisco Bay area still has all that money from the Gold Rush. Of course there are going to be statistical differences, given those starting points.

[edit: What I'm saying, I think, is that naked statistics on these topics is not new, and in the past, were used as excuses for things that were physically and emotionally harmful. To simply state them pattern-matches to nineteenth century style racism/sexism/etc, against which the underclass rebelled after sufficient abuse.]

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-07T14:29:22.325Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-07T16:36:43.024Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Exposure to lead affects intelligence and criminality

More on the subject

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-07T17:48:00.807Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Its very unfortunate that lead and lead are homographs, makes it hard to Google information on the subject.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-01-07T15:51:32.891Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

What you've said is reasonable (and I've read your link before). I've also read that issues such as poor nutrition during pregnancy can have heritable effects lasting for several generations (so by this model, even if all the impoverished people in the world were suddenly given all the best resources, one wouldn't expect to see significant intelligence/behavior improvements until their great-great-grandchildren or so). The suggestion of environmental influences was more an argument against genetic explanations as a curiosity stopper (as you said, there is no reason that there should be a singular mechanism of effect for the observed disparities).

In the context of this thread, though, I was replying to the question of whether simply pointing out the statistics might be seen as overt racism by outsiders. "Blacks are over all less intelligent and more prone to violent crime as compared to whites and Asians" sounds very much like what the educated nineteenth century racists said, the same way "I like eugenics" sounds like "I like genocide" to someone who could reasonably expect to be victimized by policies based on those ideas.

(Similarly, "Blacks are less likely to be employed compared to whites, all things equal" and "blacks are disproportionately likely to be targeted by police" sound like naive progressivism, but they are also true statements.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-07T22:12:22.615Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I've also read that issues such as poor nutrition during pregnancy can have heritable effects lasting for several generations (so by this model, even if all the impoverished people in the world were suddenly given all the best resources, one wouldn't expect to see significant intelligence/behavior improvements until their great-great-grandchildren or so).

For a bayesian who thinks about whether to hire a black person or a white one, it's irrelevant whether intelligence difference are due to parents being poor and haven't eaten enough food during pregnance or whether they are due to genetic differences.

As far as I understand the social justice movement they would approve of both justifications because both are essentially that the person gets judged by their background and get's treated as a member of an underclass.

I can't remember someone on lesswrong making a claim as strong as claiming that black should be stopped from procreating by eugenic measures. You find people who argue that overpopulation and African getting children is the central problem of humanity at the moment but nobody is making the argument directly.

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-07T16:05:53.815Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Nutrition is discussed in the link as a possible explanation.

In the context of this thread, though, I was replying to the question of whether simply pointing out the statistics might be seen as overt racism by outsiders. "Blacks are over all less intelligent and more prone to violent crime as compared to whites and Asians" sounds very much like what the educated nineteenth century racists said, the same way "I like eugenics" sounds like "I like genocide" to someone who could reasonably expect to be victimized by policies based on those ideas.

Fair enough.

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-08T16:46:08.410Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

test

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-07T20:29:18.191Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think it's less a curiosity stopper and more a controversy stopper? The idea being that if there's an environmental cause of something bad AND a genetic cause, we can more easily and with less controversy start with addressing the environmental cause and still do a lot of good.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T22:32:57.422Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Recurse a few levels, and what you're really saying is "After the Renaissance, Europeans took over the world and its resources, and the resource distribution has been slow to change since".

Remind me again, why do Han Chinese have higher IQ than Europeans?

There is an unfortunate American tendency to treat all issues of race in the purely white-and-black context.

The world is much more diverse than that. Most people are brown.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-07T22:03:24.501Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Being able to say that certain races are statistically more violent and less intelligent than others has historically been correlated with lynch mobs and skewed priorities when making arrests.

But that's qualitatively different from the way a lot of people who are religious are wrong. Religious people are often wrong on many factual questions.

On Lesswrong I would see no case where religious views should get forbidden because they are dangerous and religious people do awful things.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2014-01-06T04:24:11.693Z · score: -2 (24 votes) · LW · GW

attacking open discourse as anti-woman and anti-minority is very, uhh, squicky. I don't have a better way of putting my thoughts down on the matter - it's just very, very concerning to me. It feels like a Stalinist complaining that we aren't putting enough bullets in the heads of dissenters

There is no such thing as open discourse any more than there can ever be such a thing as a 'free' market. Implicit and explicit power and privilege always prevent both. People trying to create workarounds for this fact strikes me as a good thing.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-06T04:37:48.005Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps what I was saying wasn't precise enough there. I'm talking about how when a community starts responding to certain arguments by vilifying their proponents, there's a chilling effect on the discourse in the community.

Openness of discourse is more of a matter of degree than on/off, anyways, much like a 'free' market.

comment by bogus · 2014-01-06T04:36:48.674Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

There is no such thing as open discourse ... Implicit and explicit power and privilege always prevent both. People trying to create workarounds for this fact strikes me as a good thing.

What makes you think that this is a functional workaround, as opposed to compounding the problem? The underlying idea seems to be a preference for "safe spaces" - hardly a move towards more openness.

comment by DaFranker · 2014-01-06T12:53:34.243Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see anyone pointing at any particular workaround, just someone pointing at the concept-vector of pushing towards outside of a certain set of conditions.

For instance, Omega could give you a box that contains a million utilons iff you pretend within your discourse and marketing that every player is on equal grounds with identical game matrices... but I'm not sure how much that messes with stuff and I'm not in the mood for maths.

Just throwing out there that one may have directed a rebuke at a pile of straw.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-07T17:21:11.781Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Implicit and explicit power and privilege always prevent both.

If I register an anonymous account on a forum than power doesn't prevent me from speaking. I might get disapproval, I might even get banned but I don't have to expect repercussion for my daily life from speaking my mind.

It's not like a face to face conversation where you have serious consequences for speaking against power.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T17:43:33.920Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I don't have to expect repercussion for my daily life from speaking my mind.

That rather depends on what's on your mind. Example.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-07T22:41:32.688Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That a bad example given that the user in question wasn't anonymous. His address was easily found by another person without access to law enforcement resources.

There's definitely speech that can give you problems if it can be backtracked to your identity. In Western society using Tor and not leaking personal information should be sufficient for protecting that kind of speech.

For some kind of speech you have to think more about protecting your anonymous speech by technical means such as Tor than for other kinds of speech.

The guy in the example had the problem that he didn't expect repercussion for his actions and therefore didn't do the necessary protection of his anonymity.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-08T01:21:26.736Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That a bad example given that the user in question wasn't anonymous.

Being truly anonymous on the 'net is harder than most people imagine.

In Western society using Tor and not leaking personal information should be sufficient for protecting that kind of speech.

I am not sure this is the case. Example.

Oh, and in this context what's special about a Western society?

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-08T01:56:12.792Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am not sure this is the case. Example.

Not an example of speech that happens within a forum.

Oh, and in this context what's special about a Western society?

We have a concepts such as guilty until proven innocent with makes it hard to sentence people based on statistical stylometry data.

The interest in censorship is also lower. It's much easier to simply ignore speech because Western society is more resilient.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-08T02:07:18.736Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Not an example of speech that happens within a forum.

It's an example of someone "using Tor and not leaking personal information".

comment by CronoDAS · 2014-01-08T04:35:00.687Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

We have a concepts such as guilty until proven innocent with makes it hard to sentence people based on statistical stylometry data.

"Innocent until proven guilty" you mean?

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-08T12:02:17.304Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes ;)

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-06T15:47:59.000Z · score: 34 (44 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-01-06T15:52:28.889Z · score: 15 (19 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

Probably here.

comment by Dentin · 2014-01-07T17:46:39.425Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-08T07:20:44.828Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-08T21:16:03.102Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Could you be more specific? What genetic tests do people do; and which receive objections? Just Down's?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-09T09:09:07.458Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The objection is not to the tests, it's to aborting when you don't like their results.

comment by Alejandro1 · 2014-01-13T20:01:08.087Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Are there people who object to that and approve of abortion in other circumstances? If (mostly) not, then this is (mostly) people whose real objection to abortion is for other reasons, for example religious, and make their objections louder in these cases because the negative associations of eugenics allow them to score rhetorical points.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-14T07:43:23.228Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The people I was thinking of when writing that comment (nearly) always oppose to abortion, but since then someone mentioned something called the Autism Genocide Clock and I decided to google for that.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-08T21:26:53.968Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There is a variety of tests, their number grows all the time and some of them are specific to particular gene pools. Prenatal tests for more than 800 genetic disorders have been developed.

For a common example, people with Jewish Ashkenazi ancestry are tested for Tay-Sachs, others are not.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-08T21:43:40.477Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I ask what do people actually do, and what do people actually protest. Army can at least answer the second question. Non-invasive tests for Down's weren't even available before a couple of years ago. Your link appears to be about extensions of that technology, not anywhere near availability. Yes, Tay-Sachs is tested via CVS or amnio, but usually not all Ashkenazim, but only after screening the parents.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-08T21:53:34.097Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I ask what do people actually do

That depends on what will insurance pay for and what the parents themselves want. A woman I know who was pregnant about 10 years ago got 5-6 tests as a default (given her insurance, her obstetrician, etc.). Another woman who is still pregnant at the moment got over 10 tests as a default a few months ago.

what do people actually protest

People who protest are typically pro-life people and they protest anything which could possibly lead to a voluntary abortion.

comment by hyporational · 2014-01-09T04:53:04.518Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-09T15:28:49.760Z · score: 15 (19 votes) · LW · GW

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

  • you are an unfriendly place for women;

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

  • you are actually a cult;

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

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

comment by Emile · 2014-01-10T22:46:42.348Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-11T11:24:07.264Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

...and cryonics.

comment by satt · 2014-01-11T12:31:52.635Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

...and for the best impact: all of the above, in a long article, with citations out of context from random parts of the website;

Eh, it's been done.

(As it happens, that article's been linked before in Discussion without triggering a big argument. But the Discussion post was deleted, and the post only mentioned that "Cult of Bayes' Theorem" article in a parenthetical aside, so it's not a very good natural experiment.)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T02:47:57.482Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by therufs · 2014-03-31T19:57:30.817Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I believe there was most likely one specific thing that offended the author

Why?

What might it have been?

Why wouldn't the author say what it was, if there was such a thing?

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-04-01T15:24:35.694Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What might it have been?

Why wouldn't the author say what it was, if there was such a thing?

Read the "tl;dr" part at the end of the article. (Someone used the word "eugenics", and the author was trigegred by this word.)

Why [do you believe there was most likely one specific thing that offended the author]?

The contrast between the widely general text of the article, so that I had problem finding out "what exactly is this person trying to say?", and the very specific "tl;dr" at the end, which I really would have problem to extract as the main point from the article.

My model of humans (which may be more or less correct, but this is what I use) says that the most likely way to this outcome is the following:

Author reads something and becomes angry. In their mind this connects with dozen other things (which weren't actually present in the article). Author decides to write a reply in the form of article in their blog. Author writes very generally, because they want to show how things are connected; to emphasise that the thing that triggered them is not just a trivial detail, but a part of an important whole. Overwhelmed by emotions, author writes too general article, and only at the end notices they actually didn't write the thing that triggered them. But the article is already finished, so they add a "tl;dr" at the end.

A competing hypothesis would have to explain why the "tl;dr" is seemingly unrelated to the rest of the article, when in fact it should be a summary of the article. (My hypothesis is that it is a summary of what author had in mind when deciding to write the article.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-06T01:16:31.859Z · score: 28 (42 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-07T07:41:42.618Z · score: 27 (45 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by Locaha · 2014-01-07T09:40:09.626Z · score: 10 (18 votes) · LW · GW

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

Are you ever in physical danger because of your opinions?

comment by Dentin · 2014-01-07T17:56:00.092Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Locaha · 2014-01-07T18:06:41.820Z · score: -1 (15 votes) · LW · GW

However, I can think of instances where physical danger was on the table of options (the KKK in minnesota is a good example.)

My point was: experience of a male white atheist, egoist, libertarian is very different from the experience of a female (of any persuasion). The former does not experience a constant physical danger (and the associated stress of being aware of said danger) whenever he leaves the house.

You need to be a very special person to be able to have a calm detached discussion about things that threaten you every day of your life. Not in a specific place in Minnesota, but everywhere.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2014-01-07T20:37:01.750Z · score: 22 (32 votes) · LW · GW

a male [...] does not experience a constant physical danger (and the associated stress of being aware of said danger) whenever he leaves the house.

With the exception of rape, which tends to be a special case in most senses, men are overwhelmingly more likely to be the victims of every other type of violent crime including homicide. In addition, men make up 92% of workplace deaths (and presumably a correspondingly high proportion of the injuries) and are also significantly more likely to die in an accident off the job (again, presumably a similar distribution of injuries).

The idea that men are somehow protected from physical danger by "male privilege" is simply a preposterous notion.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-24T23:35:21.955Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, people are far less likely to die (per mile travelled) in car crashes than in plane crashes, and yet ISTM more people are scared of flying than of driving. Which means... Okay, taken literally Locaha's claim is incorrect, but it's not that hard to steelman it into a valid point.

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-07T21:02:26.010Z · score: 0 (12 votes) · LW · GW

There's a very big difference between men being part of violent crime and dangerous jobs and needing to worry for your physical safety as you walk down the street. No one is claiming men are protected from "physical danger" as if they have some sort of DND "Immunity to nonmagical weapons". The fact that men are involved to a much greater extent in violence and prison and whatnot IS a big deal but it's not actually opposed to the problem of women being on average smaller than men and a target for rape.

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2014-01-07T22:34:59.040Z · score: 15 (21 votes) · LW · GW

There's a very big difference between men being part of violent crime and dangerous jobs and needing to worry for your physical safety as you walk down the street.

No, no there isn't.

Most crimes, including most violent crimes, are not rape. Aside from rape, men are much more likely to be the victim of a crime, especially a violent crime. So if you're talking about how much someone should be worried about being the victim of a violent crime... how exactly is maleness supposed to protect someone when it predicts a much higher likelihood of being targeted by criminals?

And even beyond that, even mundane stuff like being hit by a car while on the shoulder of the road is more than twice as likely to kill a man as a woman. With no malice at all, a man is still in significantly more danger of dying or being injured just going about his everyday life, whether driving to work or walking down a flight of stairs. Again, no "dangerous job" needed; men are in greater physical danger even in commonplace situations.

Women have every reason to fear for their safety, and rape is a very serious problem, but it boggles the mind to see attitudes that men couldn't possibly understand how dangerous it is to be a woman when those very same men are the ones much much more likely to be hurt or killed "whenever he leaves the house".

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-07T23:31:30.721Z · score: 15 (23 votes) · LW · GW

I think you're being disingenuous when you talk about men being targeted by criminals. Men make up more than 90 percent of gang members (http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/survey-analysis/demographics) and something like 90 percent of violent criminals (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_differences_in_crime) in the first place. Something like half of violent crimes are gang-related (http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/survey-analysis/gang-related-offenses). This means that with no "targeting" needed, men are already WAY more likely to be injured or killed through violence if you look at sheer demographics, and yet the average man doesn't need to worry about being shot by an opposing gang member when he walks down the street at night. This is exactly why you immediately abandoned your point about workplace violence, since workplace is self chosen. You can't simply look at an inequality of outcome and totally discount the nature of the populations concerned.

Similarly, you can look at the ratio of male to female prostitutes (http://sex-crimes.laws.com/prostitution/prostitution-statistics) and see that a prostitute is far more likely to be female than male. We can talk about what this means for both women and men, but I think it would be terrible to simply list it as "Obviously women are very badly off, way more have to become prostitutes than men!" and ignore the fact that men are by far more likely to be customers of prostitutes. Reality is complex.

I think it's important to recognize that men are channeled by society into more violent and dangerous careers in crime and coal mining etc. I don't think those are nonissues. But I also think the average man walking down the average street at night is significantly safer than the average woman doing the same

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2014-01-08T00:31:10.914Z · score: 13 (17 votes) · LW · GW

You seem to ascribe a fair amount of bad faith to me and I'm not sure why. Maybe because this line of argument pattern-matches to MRA thought?

Anyway I didn't "abandon" the jobs point so much as point out that men are universally, even ignoring job choice, more likely to get into and be hurt in accidents. Accidental death and injury being far far more common than homicide and assault, that alone blows the "physical danger" argument out of the water. Not quite as dramatic as an industrial accident or a robbery-gone-wrong sure, but then again shark attacks are more dramatic than dying of heart disease.

And with regards to crime, your statistics do not say what you think they say. The national gang center says half of law enforcement agencies reported an increase in gang crime, not that ~50% of violent crimes were committed by gang members. Looking at the FBI unified crime reports, I can only find clear breakdowns of victims / circumstances in homicide, but it looks like even subtracting the entire number of gang-related deaths from the male death total still leaves them with more than three times the number of homicide victims that women have (9,917 male victims - 884 gang/institutional murder victims / 2,834 female victims = 3.19). And remember, the homicide rate today has been masked by medical advances for decades; male victimization rates are actually much higher than crime statistics indicate, and again most of these guys are 'civilians' rather than career criminals.

The whole point of my original post was this; it doesn't matter if you look at crime victimization or workplace injury or accidents or all of them or something else entirely, because by any and all reasonable measures a man is in more "physical danger" in his everyday life than a woman is (yes, even the mythical Average Man/Woman). There are a handful of crimes which women are at special risk from and need to be cautious of, but men will disproportionately die or be injured in pretty much any other way you could imagine.

(BTW, I'm not the one downvoting you. One of those times when an anonymous karma system is more of a pain than a positive.)

comment by V_V · 2014-01-08T00:51:42.814Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

But I also think the average man walking down the average street at night is significantly safer than the average woman doing the same

Most sexual assaults are not committed by random strangers on the average street at night.
IIUC, if we exclude sexual assault, gang-related violence, and random fights/brawls, victimization rates for men and women are similar, and probably still higher for men.

comment by adbge · 2014-01-08T03:35:25.964Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The U.S. Department of Justice has a special report, Violent Victimization Committed by Strangers, 1993-2010:

In 2010, males experienced violent victimizations by strangers at nearly twice the rate of females (figure 2). The rate of violence against males by strangers was 9.5 victimizations per 1,000 males in 2010 compared to 4.7 victimizations per 1,000 females.

It goes on to say that the disparity seems to be shrinking, with crime against men falling more rapidly than crime against women.

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-08T01:07:07.026Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

a male [...] does not experience a constant physical danger (and the associated stress of being aware of said danger) whenever he leaves the house.

we are talking about assaults by random strangers though.

comment by V_V · 2014-01-08T01:16:37.849Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Sexual assault by random strangers? Then is not a significant risk, at least in most parts of developed countries.
Assault for other purposes? Then AFAIK women don't have a higher victimization rate than men.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-07T23:17:56.010Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The situation is made more complicated because women are encouraged to take risk seriously while men are encouraged to downplay risk, so you get different results depending on whether you're looking at risk or fear.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-08T10:23:49.576Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, everyone is encouraged to take violence against women much more seriously than violence against men.

One might say that this sexist bias is the problem, and one that the original blogger seeks to exacerbate.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T14:40:13.672Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

One might say that this sexist bias is the problem, and one that the original blogger seeks to exacerbate.

One might, but I certainly wouldn't. I believe that violence against men is a very serious problem, and one which has barely begun to get addressed.

I would like to see a serious attempt to oppose violence against people, but no one seems to have figured out that it's worth doing and/or found a way to organize it.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-08T23:57:39.036Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Once you've decided that both goals are worth pursuing, an important question is whether violence against women might be reduced by different means than violence against men.

comment by Prismattic · 2014-01-08T03:21:51.144Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

One wonders if some of the difference in outcomes (as in the being hit by a car on the shoulder example) isn't partly a product of women generally taking less risks than men because of the fear of sexual assault.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-08T10:31:52.303Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think that likely explains some of the discrepancy.

I routinely walk across a park late at night that women I know avoid.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T18:13:45.170Z · score: 10 (16 votes) · LW · GW

The former does not experience a constant physical danger (and the associated stress of being aware of said danger) whenever he leaves the house.

None of the women I know in real life "experience a constant physical danger" whenever they leave the house.

Presumably we're not talking about being hit by a bus.

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-07T18:25:11.958Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I've seen it asserted in many places that most women are constantly aware of and distressed by the possibility of being raped. Now obviously women in general aren't always visibly on edge whenever they're out in public, but some proportion clearly do feel that way, or at least claim to. Unfortunately this is the kind of thing which it's rather socially difficult to conduct an informal poll on. Does anyone know of any studies or surveys or anything which might shed some light on the issue?


Edit: The most helpful thing turned up by a quick google scholar search was this. Table 2 on page 4 gives us a good rough estimate that ~38% of people worry "very/pretty frequently" about rape (this makes the rate for women possibly as high as ~76%, if we assume that men never worry about themselves or others being raped).

This paper seems to suggest that levels of fear of crime are about equal in males and females, although women are more likely to worry about rape specifically. It's based only on 64 qualitative interviews in Britain, but it also points to this conclusion being predominant in the literature.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T18:30:00.755Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately this is the kind of thing which it's rather socially difficult to conduct an informal poll on.

You can start by asking your mother or your sister or your girlfriend. If none of them obsesses about being raped every time they venture out onto city streets...

Of course, this assumes a reasonably benign environment. If you live in inner-city Detroit, you should be aware of the dangers of going out of your front door, but that applies to both men and women. On the other hand if you live is a sleepy village with zero cases of rape during the last hundred years and you still are "constantly aware of and distressed by the possibility of being raped", a psychiatrist might be a good idea.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-07T19:21:04.517Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You can start by asking your mother or your sister or your girlfriend. If none of them obsesses about being raped every time they venture out onto city streets...

"Obsesses" already implies excessive concern.

I'm not sure what a good survey would include, but questions about what precautions one takes, or how one feels about going out versus being home might be a start.

comment by Izeinwinter · 2014-01-07T21:18:43.798Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The problem is how to get the data without contributing to the atmosphere of fear. Because that atmosphere really does harm quality of life for a lot of women, and is not in any real way helpful at mitigating the danger, because it hardly ever comes with usable advice or strategies attached.

I suspect the most common and useful strategy is the "Girls come in pairs and groups" thing. Which has the advantage of not being a stressor in the way turning yourself into Nicola Griffiths Aud would be, and also likely pretty darn effective - Hard to get raped if your bestie is kicking your assailant in the kidneys.

On a much better tangent: Aud is awesome, and I am really confused noone has made her into a series of blockbuster movies yet.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T19:02:53.910Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

if we assume that men never worry about themselves or others being raped

(emphasis mine)

This is known to be false (e.g. ask any father of a teenage daughter).

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-07T19:06:26.174Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Right. It's a deliberately excessive assumption that I used to obtain a ceiling. The true ratio is probably somewhere between 0.76 and 0.38

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T19:28:04.956Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The true ratio is probably somewhere between 0.76 and 0.38

Before starting to speak of the true ratio, you really should examine your data source a bit more carefully.

Your link leads to a non-academic article which quotes numbers from opinion surveys and there's little information on those. In particular, the question of how representative their data sample was is kinda important. To make an obvious observation, people living in big cities probably (correctly) fear crime more than people living in rural communities. Therefore the reported average fear of crime will be greatly affected by how urbanized your sample is.

Another point is that your Table 2 does not give numbers about people who worry about rape. It gives numbers about people who worry about "yourself or someone in your family getting sexually assaulted or raped" (emphasis mine). And "sexual assault" is a fuzzy term which might, depending on who and how you ask, include things like catcalls and leery glances. And boyfriends. Plus, to continue my example, probably every parent with a teenage daughter answered "pretty frequently" to this question.

P.S. Also the numbers are from 1993. The overall crime rate in the US has dropped hugely since then.

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-07T19:44:28.547Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I'm aware that these sources are far from perfect. I just did a quick google search and threw out the the first numbers I could easily get my hands on, as a quick sanity-check. Obviously it's far from a definitive answer.

You're free to look for better data; I'll probably do a little more poking around myself.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T19:55:44.970Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You're free to look for better data

I'm lazy :-P and not interested enough.

However I'll give you my data-less biased priors :-)

I expect you to find some data. Much of it will be bad because it tends to be produced by Departments of Gender and Women's Studies and these people are not known for their statistical acumen or precision of analysis. Almost all of it will be biased because a study that doesn't show how bad it is to be a woman in an oppressive patriarchy of male chauvinist pigs is unlikely to be published. Whatever remains (if anything) will show high variance and inconsistency.

If you are interested in the subject I'd like to repeat my suggestion: ask women around you. Real, live women. You don't have to talk to them about rape -- ask them if they are afraid to be on the street alone. afraid to leave the house. afraid to be near male strangers. Listen to what they say.

comment by pragmatist · 2014-01-08T03:00:03.147Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you are interested in the subject I'd like to repeat my suggestion: ask women around you. Real, live women. You don't have to talk to them about rape -- ask them if they are afraid to be on the street alone. afraid to leave the house. afraid to be near male strangers. Listen to what they say.

Do you really believe that the quality of most studies on this topic is so poor that this extremely flawed research strategy you recommend is more likely to be reliable? That seems like an unjustifiably dim view of the relevant research community.

I don't disagree that asking women you know is one easy way to get evidence on this question, but I would think that even a pretty poorly conducted scientific study would constitute superior evidence.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-08T04:10:06.572Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Do you really believe that the quality of most studies on this topic is so poor

Yes.

P.S. I do love how directly querying the reality surrounding you is described as an "extremely flawed research strategy" X-D

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-08T16:58:06.460Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Well querying it in sample sizes that are much smaller and less random than even the shoddiest academic study is, by comparison, indeed "extremely flawed".

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-10T02:43:32.175Z · score: -2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Well their not systematically biased, unlike the samples that someone with an agenda is likely to use.

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-10T03:12:33.039Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I said this below as well, but it's fairly well buried now so I'll repeat it here for others' benefit:

Your hypothesis that any research on fear of rape will be systematically biased towards the claim that the vast majority of women are frequently, distressingly afraid of rape is strongly contraindicated by the fact that the arbitrarily-chosen (i.e., they were open access) research sources I cited at the top of this thread support the opposite conclusion.

(To clarify: I really don't care very much about this question and as such I'm content to just go along with the rough approximations that a couple of old surveys provided. If someone was actually trying to get a really good answer I would suggest they look further and deeper. Published research would probably be a good start; given what I've seen so far, your hypothesis that it's systematically and hopelessly biased to the point of uselessness is not persuasive)

comment by pragmatist · 2014-01-09T14:02:03.912Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Um... the particular method you suggested is an extremely flawed research strategy. Especially considering that one of your complaints about the research linked by Vulture was that the sample may not be representative. I don't know about you, but the women I know well do not constitute a particularly representative sample of women in general.

Describing your experiment as "directly querying the reality surrounding you" makes it sound pretty dandy, but if you actually look at the specifics of the experiment, it's subject to a host of biases.

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-08T04:40:45.082Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's interesting that you seem to think that almost every source is likely to be biased... in the exact opposite direction from the results of the two arbitrarily-chosen sources above!

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-07T23:36:48.096Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Almost all of it will be biased because a study that doesn't show how bad it is to be a woman in an oppressive patriarchy of male chauvinist pigs is unlikely to be published.

It's interesting that you seem to think that almost every source is likely to be biased... in the exact opposite direction from the results of the two arbitrarily-chosen sources above!

comment by Izeinwinter · 2014-01-07T20:54:57.970Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

More than that, a poll about fears is likely to have a pretty high false positive rate - just considering the question is likely to bring up a significant number of instances of anything you fear at all, and if it is phrased as generically as "often" with no definition? Getting at the true numbers would require.. Uhm. No, asking people to monitor their fears would be Nigh-certain to make them much more fearful ("log thoughts of sex" has been tried. The results that came back were blatantly a case of "dont think of a pink elephant" coloring everything) and thus would be deeply unethical. I think the cleanest lift would be a large collection of extensive daily journals, or outright annotated lifelogs. That would probably make your subject pool more introspective than the general population, but it should not skew these specific numbers much. Expensive, however.

comment by JQuinton · 2014-01-07T18:49:29.410Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

At first glance that fear seems to be a result of the availability heuristic. Women are much more likely to be assaulted by someone they know, not by a random stranger that they meet when they go out in public. But the random stranger in public assault is the one that's more well known in the popular consciousness.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-07T19:55:59.450Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

A poll: Are you constantly aware of and distressed by the possibility of being raped? Also, are you a man or a woman (however you define it)?

[pollid:579]

comment by pragmatist · 2014-01-08T02:49:02.552Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think "constantly" was a bit of obvious hyperbole on Vulture's part, permissible in an informal comment but not in a survey question that is meant to produce useful results. I have heard from some women that they are frequently concerned about the possibility of being raped, but I doubt there is anyone who is literally in constant fear of rape.

Unless the intent of this poll is just to mock Vulture's original phrasing, I'd suggest changing the wording of the question.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-08T11:28:11.096Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Unless the intent of this poll is just to mock Vulture's original phrasing, I'd suggest changing the wording of the question.

The intent was to illustrate how easy it is to create a poll. I would like people to create polls more often when they wonder about something that could be instead estimated using a poll.

I apologize for the wording, but it seems unfair to change the words when some people have already voted. Anyway, the whole poll is hidden deep in the comment tree. It would be better to do it again, in a top-level comment, in the Open Thread (to reduce selection bias). And it would be better done by someone who treats this hypothesis more seriously; they will find a better wording.

comment by Locaha · 2014-01-07T18:52:33.387Z · score: -6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Presumably we're not talking about being hit by a bus.

We're talking about being a second-class citizen in a society.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-08T10:06:52.679Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The former does not experience a constant physical danger (and the associated stress of being aware of said danger) whenever he leaves the house.

The statistics I've seen show that men in the US face more risk of violent crime than women.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_the_United_States

comment by bogus · 2014-01-07T19:16:35.946Z · score: 0 (14 votes) · LW · GW

The former does not experience a constant physical danger (and the associated stress of being aware of said danger) whenever he leaves the house.

Oh, he surely would if he lived in a vibrant enough neighborhood. Unfortunately, most white male atheist libertarians are horribly bigoted and segregate into "safe", de-facto gated communities. Privilege can be quite unfair, y'know!

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-08T10:19:07.887Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

That's how I've arranged my life. I live in a civilized neighborhood in a civilized city.

I actually grew up in Hawaii, where the thing for young men to do was find the nearest young male "haole" (white) to harass, threaten, or beat.

That's one bit of violence that the blogger likely missed out on. Young men looking to prove their manhood often look to find other young men from some unpopular subgroup to victimize. But that's people with penises being victimized, so what the hell does that matter?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T14:37:21.698Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

One of the unfortunate things about SJ as it currently exists is that they don't want to hear that privilege is local. Intersectionality is a step in the right direction, and I hope things will keep getting more fine-grained until it gets to what happens in individual lives.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-08T20:09:47.530Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

privilege is local

Nice. That's catchy.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T23:26:33.732Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I'm glad you liked it.

It's something I've been thinking for a while, but I believe this is the first time I've posted it.

All hail LW for being a place where I felt safe saying that privilege is local-- it took being a place where SJ language is understood without SJ being the dominant ideology.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-08T09:58:56.669Z · score: 2 (16 votes) · LW · GW

I don't believe the blogger was in any danger because of her opinions at a dinner party either.

My guess is that she travels in a terribly civilized circle where watching a boxing match would induce fainting spells. I travel in fairly pansified circles myself, and that's the way I like it. I like civilization.

As for actual violent crime, all the crime statistics I've seen show that men are at least as likely to be victimized as women.

Even in terms of partner violence, all of it of which I'm aware in my circles are of females acting out against their partners in rather dangerous ways. We've been laughing for years about how a female friend gave her boyfriend a shove down a staircase right in front of me in college. He managed to catch himself on the sloping ceiling above and avoid crashing to his death. The look he gave her in return was priceless.

Because you see, it's funny when women try to hurt men. When it's the other way around, it's a crime against humanity. And we all have to be thrown into a tizzy at the thought of violence used against a woman. The mere thought of the possibility of it entitles the blogger to have all opinions that give her a twinge of worry shut down. No matter that the statistics show that the evil enpenised person she shuts down faces the same or more risk of actual violence.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T14:54:29.574Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

We have no idea how much violence the blogger has actually experienced, but it might have something to do why they're so concerned about it. I'm more than a bit surprised that they find SJ (?) circles so emotionally safe, but maybe they haven't run into the nastier emotional attacks is a way that affects them personally.

I agree that violence by women against men is all too frequently treated as funny-- in popular art as well privately. Is there anyone here who follows popular art enough to have an opinion about whether this has changed and in what direction?

I think violence against men by women not being taken seriously is partly sexism against women-- an idea that women aren't strong enough to do real damage. The other half of the problem (this is probably obvious to you) is a highly mistaken belief about how tough men ought to be.

comment by CronoDAS · 2014-01-08T19:33:00.392Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes violence by men against men is portrayed as funny, too.

Violence by men against women portrayed as funny isn't as common but there are still some classic examples.

Violence by women against women is another trope entirely.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-08T23:37:13.166Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Monty Python and the Holy Grail: 1975

Airplane: 1980

It seems to me that a certain sort of violence by women against men was a common trope some decades ago-- perhaps other people can tell me whether it's still popular.

He says something obnoxious. She hits him, and not with a slap-- with a solid punch coming up from the ground. Big laugh from the audience. Rather implausibly, he isn't injured and he doesn't retaliate.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-09T04:20:57.126Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Monty Python was the example of men vs men. The examples of women against men were Airplane (1980) and Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008).

comment by CronoDAS · 2014-01-09T07:00:13.713Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Those were examples of men against women being funny.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-09T07:11:51.710Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oops...but now I don't know why Nancy was giving dates.

comment by CronoDAS · 2014-01-09T07:22:06.181Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe to show that things have changed somewhat? Repo the Genetic Opera is something of an unusual movie, but it's more recent than Airplane! is.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-08T23:44:00.032Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

As you might expect, there's a trope for this. (caution: TVTropes link)

Judging from the examples, the answer is "yes", although I don't know comedy well enough to say whether these are truly representative.

comment by CronoDAS · 2014-01-09T07:13:32.464Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This trope might be closer.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-09T07:26:39.877Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I knew there was something I was forgetting.

Though on second examination, that to be looks more about the sight gag than the violence dynamic. Armor-Piercing Slap (warning: TV Tropes) can include violence, but all it requires is humiliation, contra NancyLebovitz's description.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-01-07T16:04:08.768Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

On what basis do you complain that your fellow neighbors don't like egoistic people? It seems to me very useful for a community to disapprove of egoists.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-08T09:32:30.930Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

In case it wasn't clear, I was using the term in the philosophical sense, and in my case it refers to Stirnerite egoism.

I'm not complaining that my neighbors don't like egoists. They're not required to. I don't feel entitled to have them believe as I would have them believe, unlike the privileged blogger under consideration.

comment by James_Miller · 2014-01-06T04:02:33.895Z · score: 27 (33 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by bogus · 2014-01-06T04:09:41.332Z · score: 15 (29 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-06T04:45:15.185Z · score: 20 (22 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-07T05:15:45.093Z · score: 4 (26 votes) · LW · GW

And potentially the quality or originality of their comments.

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

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-07T06:17:33.863Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by lmm · 2014-01-26T10:43:52.395Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-26T21:31:12.759Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I sort of agree with you in that I think the highest quality of commenters won't be super squicked out by either horse sex or talking about cranial capacity differences between races or whether a trolley should run over 3 babies or 2 toddlers. But that's too high a bar! I think plenty of people are disgusted by certain topics and it's worth acknowledging that even smart, mostly well reasoned commenters can be scared away or simply feel unwelcome. Reddit can be a home to various mutually hating subgroups because of its structure, but we use a much less divided system and it's worth considering what topics attract what sorts of commenters.

Plus I don't actually want to talk about horse sex all the time as a filter.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-07T09:53:59.171Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted for making me laugh.

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

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-08T02:01:03.866Z · score: 7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-10T01:07:49.096Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

:-D

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-01-06T08:30:10.296Z · score: 13 (19 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-06T14:04:13.714Z · score: 7 (15 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by epursimuove · 2014-06-15T08:29:14.755Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-06-15T15:10:57.201Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think you missed the argument.

If you have a subculture or other group of people whose experience is strongly correlated with one another, and their conduct repels or silences anyone whose experience disagrees with theirs, then their view of the world will be missing a lot of information and will contain systematic biases.

We have words for this in various areas, such as "groupthink", "filter bubble", "circlejerk" ....

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-06-21T19:14:48.925Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you have a subculture or other group of people whose experience is strongly correlated with one another

I don't think that LW is such a space. On LW people disagree on many issues and we do have controverse discussions.

I'm no neoreactionary. If we have a safe space policy that doesn't allow neoreactionary thought than I'm not exposed to the neoreactionary perspective which is quite different from my own.

comment by epursimuove · 2014-09-26T02:11:37.776Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It doesn't repel "anyone whose experience disagrees", it repels anyone unwilling to hear opposing viewpoints. While having had different experiences may correlate with an unwillingness to hear opposing viewpoints, it's highly dubious that this correlation is strong enough to completely exclude the former category.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-09-26T08:51:17.516Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Imagine that you are a Foo — a member of some arbitrary demographic group. (You can't stop being a Foo.)

Now, imagine that there exists an online community — let's call it Open Minds — that you're moderately interested in. But when you go there, you find that (alongside the interesting parts), viewpoints such as "Foos are not really people", "it's okay to torture Foos for fun", and "non-Foos who speak up in defense of Foos are traitors" are repeatedly aired there by a minority of community members.

Many others in Open Minds disagree strongly with these anti-Foo views; and consider them nasty, false, and uninformative. But for this disapproval, those folks are often denounced as closed-minded — even by others who do not themselves hold anti-Foo views.

Meanwhile, there are other communities, perhaps just as interesting as Open Minds, where treating Foos as non-persons is considered obviously wrong both as a matter of moral norms and as a matter of self-evident fact. In those communities, a person who expresses the idea "Foos are not really people" thereby excludes him- or herself from reasonable discussion. That person is considered a troll or an asshole, and possibly banned if they don't shape up — or, at least, shut up on that particular topic.

Given that you are a Foo, where would you choose to spend your time? In Open Minds, the community where a small minority repeatedly calls you a non-person, and "open-mindedness" is taken to include considering that possibility? Or in the community where calling you a non-person is considered to be obviously wrong?

(Consider also that you know that you are a person, and that it is not okay with you if someone tortures you for fun. In other words, you know that the anti-Foo views are false. As far as you are concerned, those views aren't a matter of abstract speculation; they really are people using obviously false ideas to justify doing horrible things to you and others like you. Besides, you've heard those ideas before, and you don't learn anything from hearing them again.)

Now, consider further that Foos may have particular experience or information that non-Foos lack — merely because two paths through the same territory do not yield the same map. (It isn't that Foos are better or smarter than non-Foos, and it certainly isn't that everything Foos believe is true ... just that they have had access to different data.)

In effect, Open Minds has chosen to prioritize ensuring the community's access to anti-Foo views over ensuring the community's access to any information that Foos themselves may possess.

How open-minded is that?

comment by Azathoth123 · 2014-09-28T01:58:34.533Z · score: -3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Now, imagine that there exists an online community — let's call it Open Minds — that you're moderately interested in. But when you go there, you find that (alongside the interesting parts), viewpoints such as "Foos are not really people", "it's okay to torture Foos for fun", and "non-Foos who speak up in defense of Foos are traitors" are repeatedly aired there by a minority of community members.

I fail to see the relevance of your example.

comment by gjm · 2014-09-28T10:43:35.027Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's an exaggerated version of how (e.g.) some women or black people might feel on coming to LW and finding (e.g.) people vigorously defending the idea that it's perfectly sensible for an otherwise identical job application to be viewed as evidence of lower competence if it comes from a woman, because women are so much less able than men that all the other information on the application doesn't screen off sex from competence. Or writing in a manner that simply takes it for granted that black people are unintelligent and prone to crime.

I repeat, it's an exaggeration. I'm pretty sure fubarobfusco isn't claiming that there are actual demographic groups that are actually seriously regarded by a lot of LW people as non-persons or fit objects for torture. But I think it's entirely defensible to say that some real demographic groups are likely to experience something similar in kind, although distinctly less in intensity, here, and to be concerned that that will produce an effect similar to the one fubarobfusco describes.

comment by epursimuove · 2014-09-29T10:32:39.416Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Or writing in a manner that simply takes it for granted that black people are unintelligent and prone to crime.

If someone can't distinguish between a categorical statement ("all demographic X people have trait T") and a statement about statistical tendencies ("the demographic X average for trait T is N standard deviations below that of demographic Y") , I question their ability to contribute to any community that's based around rigorous thinking.

comment by gjm · 2014-09-29T11:32:17.966Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Unfortunately,

  • many people, when intending to make the statistical sort of statement, will write in a way that looks exactly the same as if they were affirming the categorical statement, and
  • many people, whose actual opinions and feelings are more in line with the categorical statement, may write something more like the statistical statement because it's easier to defend, and
  • when someone writes something that could be interpreted either way, even the most rational of readers belonging to demographic X is liable to find it hurtful, and
  • even when someone writes something that sticks carefully to statements about statistical tendencies, readers belonging to demographic X (and others) may reasonably suspect that what they're actually thinking is something more like the categorical statement -- and they may well be right, especially in cases where prejudice is widespread and well entrenched.

So, although it would be nice if everyone here always thought carefully and clearly in terms of quantitative statistics, and no one here harboured any prejudices about traditionally-disfavoured groups, and everyone here knew that those things were true, and everyone could therefore take all ambiguous statements as statistical and evidence-based ... well, that isn't the world we're actually in, and I don't see any possible way we could get there.

[EDITED to clarify some poorly-written bits. No intentional changes of meaning.]

comment by epursimuove · 2014-09-30T06:48:57.671Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you have any evidence that any of these things actually happen to a significant extent? Virtually everyone is able to distinguish claims about tendencies from absolute claims, even if they lack the knowledge to express this distinction formally. Here's Steven Pinker summarizing research on stereotypes:

Moreover, even when people believe that ethnic groups have characteristic traits, they are never mindless stereotypers who literally believe that each and every member of the group possesses those traits. People may think that Germans are, on average, more efficient than non-Germans, but no one believes that every last German is more efficient than every non-German. And people have no trouble overriding a stereotype when they have good information about an individual. Contrary to a common accusation, teachers’ impressions of their individual pupils are not contaminated by their stereotypes of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. The teachers’ impressions accurately reflect the pupil's performance as measured by objective tests.

comment by Azathoth123 · 2014-09-28T18:48:10.846Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's an exaggerated version of how (e.g.) some women or black people might feel on coming to LW and finding (e.g.) people vigorously defending the idea that it's perfectly sensible for an otherwise identical job application to be viewed as evidence of lower competence if it comes from a woman, because women are so much less able than men that all the other information on the application doesn't screen off sex from competence.

Would you apply the same logic to someone with a low IQ who objects to people thinking that its acceptable to reject an otherwise identical low IQ applicant to favor of a high IQ applicant? Also quite frankly the application you described had very little other useful information that its not at all surprising that it doesn't screen of sex.

Or writing in a manner that simply takes it for granted that black people are unintelligent and prone to crime.

Is your argument that if we pretend these differences don't exist they'll go away. Also as far as crime, as a rational black person should be more worried about getting killed by my fellow blacks than by "white racists".

But I think it's entirely defensible to say that some real demographic groups are likely to experience something similar in kind, although distinctly less in intensity, here, and to be concerned that that will produce an effect similar to the one fubarobfusco describes.

Just out of curiosity, would you be willing to apply the same logic to all the stuff on LW that could make Christians feel uncomfortable?

comment by gjm · 2014-09-28T19:47:23.213Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Would you apply the same logic to someone with a low IQ who objects [...]?

I'm not sure what specific logic you mean. The particular reason fubarobfusco described for trying not to make Foos feel too unwelcome was that they might contribute useful insights less correlated with non-Foos' than that of the non-Foos who might be discouraged by being asked not to be too mean about the Foos. That doesn't seem to apply very well to "people with low IQ", who -- whatever else may be said about them -- are probably not well equipped to contribute novel insights into the topics discussed on Less Wrong.

The evidence that (at least for many jobs) IQ correlates strongly with job performance is rather stronger than the alleged evidence that sex correlates strongly with job performance, so saying "it's OK to be reluctant to hire people with lower IQs" would likely be less hurtful to someone with (admittedly) low IQ than saying "it's OK to be reluctant to hire women" sounds to many women.

the application you described had very little other useful information

I don't want to re-litigate that one in this thread, so I'll just mention that I disagree.

Is your argument that if we pretend these differences don't exist they'll go away.

Obviously not. (This is not the first time you've speculated about what thinking underlies something I'm saying, and got it badly wrong. You might want to stop doing it; it doesn't seem to work well.)

My argument is that if, every time any question related to race comes up, the thread in question is flooded with people saying "those awful black people are stupid and criminal -- stay away from them!" then black people who are not stupid or criminal (of which there are plenty) are likely to be put off, and that would be a shame because they are likely to have useful things to say.

would you be willing to apply the same logic to all the stuff on LW that could make Christians feel uncomfortable?

I think there's rather less of that these days than there was once. If you want, you can read what I wrote on roughly that topic back in 2009. Other than that: Yes, I would apply the same logic. No, that doesn't mean I think no one on LW should ever criticize religion. (Neither do I think that no one on LW should ever express the opinion that women, or black people, or people called Eugine, or people with blue eyes, are less intelligent / more criminal / etc. than the rest of the population. In particular, I certainly don't think they should be forbidden to.)

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-06-21T16:59:26.621Z · score: -1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

So let me get this straight? You're trying to argue that we should avoid saying things that make people feel uncomfortable in order to prevent groupthink?

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-06-22T01:13:22.545Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No, I'm saying that if you systematically repel people with different experiences from your own, you'll get more groupthink.

More pointedly, if you exclude people who have had a particular experience from your discussion, but try to draw conclusions about those people's experiences, abilities, opinions, or motives, you're probably going to get clueless results — or at least, results that do not reflect a serious inquiry. (For instance, look at groups of atheists who speculate about how "insane" religious people are; or an exclusively-male group speculating about What Women Want. If they were actually interested in acquiring facts about the experiences or motives of religious folks or women, wouldn't they care to listen to some?)

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-06T16:24:12.863Z · score: 13 (17 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by James_Miller · 2014-01-06T17:04:48.822Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The politically correct response to your valid objection would be to claim that the positive characteristics come from discrimination, historical oppression, and unjust privileges.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-06T17:20:02.378Z · score: 10 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Shelve the meta-speculation until you've at least checked speculation-prime.

"Our problem is that we're too good" is a really, really, really suspicious thing for a human to say. Have you considered the possibility that it might not be true?

(Also, request to taboo the term "politically correct")

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-07T21:22:12.545Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

"Our problem is that we're too good" is exactly what any community based around values uncommon in the world at large -- or at least not visibly common and visibly commonly not held -- would say. Epistemic rationality is not visibly common and visibly commonly not held.

comment by Erdrick · 2014-01-07T07:29:10.977Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Upvoted for having my favorite rationality quote of the last month.

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-06T12:40:50.200Z · score: 6 (20 votes) · LW · GW

LW's implicit philosophy (which I don't disagree with) is that a cost of participating is that you are fair game for blunt criticism. Alas, such a philosophy probably repels some potential participants who would otherwise make intelligent comments.

Driving out the voices of the less privileged is potentially problematic when LW claims to be on a mission for the good of all of humanity.

comment by Erdrick · 2014-01-07T07:40:31.467Z · score: 6 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Or to math this up, our mission is unlikely to succeed if we make joining harder and less pleasant for ~54% of the population (51% female, ~2-3% non-hetero male)

So, while agreeing with the principle of favoring open and blunt discourse, I for one intend to make more of a concerted effort to square the circle of being honest and blunt while being more welcoming.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-07T21:42:18.576Z · score: 8 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Has joining actually been made harder and less pleasant for ~54% of the population? Has joining been made harder and less pleasant for ~54% of the population as a result of that ~54%'s membership in those two demographic groups?

There is no inherent quality of being female that would make one be viscerally repulsed by the use of the term 'sluttiness'. Apophemi cites that as an example of a term the use of which makes joining harder and less pleasant for... well, 55% of the population, as a direct result of their membership in those demographic groups:

If by “sluttiness” r-you mean “sexual promiscuity”, what is gained by using a gender-targeted insult that is likely to make a significant portion (i.e. women and/or queer people, who together are like… 55% of the world at least) of r-your potential audience uncomfortable and less likely to engage with r-your argument?

I hope it's obvious that "women and/or queer people" aren't the operative groups here. I certainly haven't noticed any inherent property of my not being straight that makes me necessarily uncomfortable with the use of the word "sluttiness" and less likely to engage with arguments that use it, and I've heard women use the word in the exact same sense the reactionaries Yvain was arguing against in that post used it.

After rectifying the names, it emerges that the operative group is a political identity -- one that may be (and probably is) more likely to contain a higher percentage of those demographics than the population at large, but one that is neither identical to nor inherent in those demographics.

"I speak for the entirety of this demographic" is a really suspicious thing for a human to say -- triply so when it's about something politically charged.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-07T08:11:02.834Z · score: 7 (25 votes) · LW · GW

Our mission already requires that we keep out ~95% of the population, i.e., the people who would destroy our ability to have rational discussions.

comment by itaibn0 · 2014-01-07T12:15:39.590Z · score: 1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Why do you think that 95% of the population would destroy our ability to have rational discussions? This seems like a fairly subtle judgement, and it seems difficult to be confident a subtle judgement applies to 95% of the population.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-08T02:01:54.990Z · score: 4 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Look at a randomly chosen discussion forum on the internet.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-01-09T18:40:31.199Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Randomly chosen discussion forums on the internet are not environments for rational discussions. While I remain what I think of as reasonable wherever I go, there are definitely fora where producing a rational discussion is not one of my priorities.

comment by itaibn0 · 2014-01-08T19:58:37.499Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That's evidence that 70% of the population would destroy our ability to have rational discussions, but I don't see 95%. Perhaps I should read more randomly chosen discussion forums to understand your point of view.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-01-06T11:11:37.387Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by Nornagest · 2014-01-06T17:49:41.555Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-06T10:20:25.998Z · score: 26 (34 votes) · LW · GW

Refusing to tolerate tolerance is dangerous.

Let's please continue to tolerate tolerance.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-01-06T01:54:26.920Z · score: 26 (40 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

I'm not sure these are the same individuals.

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

comment by ESRogs · 2014-01-06T20:00:20.958Z · score: 19 (23 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Apprentice · 2014-01-06T09:49:39.800Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by gothgirl420666 · 2014-01-06T03:09:07.222Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by RomeoStevens · 2014-01-06T05:39:30.442Z · score: 37 (39 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-06T05:00:02.873Z · score: 26 (36 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Apprentice · 2014-01-06T14:22:14.964Z · score: 24 (28 votes) · LW · GW

Let me have a go at this.

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

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

Have I successfully alienated everyone yet?

comment by Moss_Piglet · 2014-01-06T18:10:37.174Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

comment by Apprentice · 2014-01-06T19:39:38.995Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-01-06T08:51:04.780Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by shokwave · 2014-01-06T06:30:47.581Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-07T07:51:34.807Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by bramflakes · 2014-01-06T03:16:25.589Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Depends on the type of racist.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-06T03:44:25.224Z · score: 4 (14 votes) · LW · GW

It depends on the definition of "racist" that you use. Anyone who self-identifies as "racist" is probably in a hateful enough place that the idea of saving African children from malaria doesn't even cross their mind as a possibility. On the other hand, if you define racism as "any idea held by white people that PoC disapprove of", well, most white folks are racist.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-06T07:08:01.183Z · score: 16 (18 votes) · LW · GW

On the other hand, if you define racism as "any idea held by white people that PoC disapprove of", well, most white folks are racist.

Actually, it's some PoC. SJs claim to speak for all of a group, but actually, they don't.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-07T10:06:15.812Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Read the comments to this post and weep.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-01-07T13:03:25.891Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Was that the post you intended to link? I am glad to have discovered that in Finland, you get a top hat and a sword when you are awarded a Ph.D., but I see nothing boneheaded in the comments.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-08T07:15:30.811Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Look at Ross Yesman's comment and the replies to it.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-01-08T08:57:26.196Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Storm in an eggcup.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-10T19:41:57.156Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That was my point: someone crying sexism over something not a single woman in the conversation is bothered by.

comment by blogospheroid · 2014-01-06T06:13:00.658Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with Romeo Steven's comment that the issues seem orthogonal. As an example, (caveat YMMV), Steve Sailer believes in HBD. However, he frequently cites lower growth in african american wages as a reason to shut the american borders down to low skilled workers.

However, in today's environment, I'm not sure how many top-rated charities are HBD believing. A neoreactionary charity aiming at improving Africa might do many things differently. And being a relatively new ideology, most policies would not have substantial support of data. Hence, atleast in the current scenario, you would not find many people that were HBD aware and contributed greatly to african charities. However, it is not intellectually inconsistent.

comment by blogospheroid · 2014-01-06T06:08:21.603Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I agree with Romeo Steven's comment that the issues seem orthogonal. As an example, (caveat YMMV), Steve Sailer believes in HBD. However, he frequently cites lower growth in african american wages as a reason to shut the american borders down to low skilled workers.

However, in today's environment, I'm not sure how many top-rated charities are HBD believing. A neoreactionary charity aiming at improving Africa might do many things differently. And being a relatively new ideology, most policies would not have substantial support of data. Hence, atleast in the current scenario, you would not find many people that were HBD aware and contributed greatly to african charities. However, it is not intellectually inconsistent.

comment by passive_fist · 2014-01-06T23:08:24.160Z · score: 1 (13 votes) · LW · GW

That definition of 'racist' is what Yvain calls a non-central fallacy: http://lesswrong.com/lw/e95/the_noncentral_fallacy_the_worst_argument_in_the/

If you can definitively prove "the existence and possible importance of average group differences in psychological traits", then the true and rational position to take would be racism. Now, as far as I know or have researched, no conclusive arguments have been made for accepting racism. However, when you say 'racist', it conjures up images like this:

(EDIT: this picture was embedded; it's now linked instead)

http://motherboard-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/content-images/article/ironically-a-mans-face-can-tell-you-if-hes-likely-to-act-like-a-racist/048156b6350757d5b198262bdfb53d92_vice_630x420.jpg

comment by James_Miller · 2014-01-07T01:02:36.083Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I didn't downvote you, but consider the impact this picture would have on someone quickly looking at this post to see if they want to participate in LW. Are you being ironic or something?

comment by passive_fist · 2014-01-07T01:58:04.904Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I see. I didn't consider that at all; that's a good point. I removed the picture.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-07T22:16:49.653Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

This picture of a lynching is closer to my "why I think racism is bad" image.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2014-01-07T23:03:47.526Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Emotionally salient stories are the stuff scope insensitivity is made of. I point this out not because I disagree with you, I believe it is more important to notice this stuff WRT things you agree with than things you disagree with.

comment by Bakkot · 2014-01-07T01:57:07.121Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Didn't downvote you, but I'm willing to bet it was because you embedded an image rather than linking it.

comment by Vaniver · 2014-01-13T03:15:12.757Z · score: 22 (22 votes) · LW · GW

Yvain's excellent response.

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-21T04:06:08.386Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I thought the "never read the comments section" rule could be safely ignored on that post, since comments were turned off. After following two of the pingbacks, I wanted to throttle two separate people and demand of them the ten minutes of my life that they wasted.

Lesson learned: Never read the comments section. No exceptions.

comment by MaxNanasy · 2015-06-25T10:12:16.949Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Never read the comments section. No exceptions.

... says a post in a comments section

comment by jooyous · 2014-01-13T04:51:32.435Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Vaniver · 2014-01-13T05:22:16.194Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-06T04:16:15.089Z · score: 19 (21 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by Manfred · 2014-01-06T06:31:52.459Z · score: 22 (22 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Jack · 2014-01-06T10:17:08.104Z · score: 17 (19 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-06T18:40:27.247Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

The word isn't the whole problem, but this a case where not using the word would be painless and beneficial.

"Eugenics" is a problematic word because it's now associated with involuntary sterilization and Nazis. But for some reason, some supporters of voluntary human enhancement will go and use the term for things they support.

They can't control whether other people use "eugenics" to attack all kinds of things they don't like, but the least the former group could do is avoid actively aiding the latter group.

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2014-01-06T23:17:31.022Z · score: 44 (48 votes) · LW · GW

Given that there is a popular tendency for people to accuse even totally different things of being "eugenics" to discredit them, if you tried to rebrand eugenics as something else people would notice very quickly, they would "accuse" you of being eugenicist, and the debate about whether Plan Y is or is not a good idea would immediately shift to a debate about whether Plan Y is or is not eugenics - which you would lose, because it is.

This reminds me of an interesting analysis I heard about why Heartiste manages to hang on when many people who are much less horrible than he is get laughed off the Internet. If you write some very reasonable liberal enlightened essay about how maybe there's some reason to believe some women are such-and-such but we must not jump to conclusions, people will call you a sexist, you'll have to argue that you're not a sexist, and your opponents have spent their entire lives accusing people of sexism and are better at this argument than you are and will win (or at least reduce your entire output to defending yourself). If you're Heartiste, and people call you sexist, you can just raise an eyebrow, say "Well, yeah", and watch people whose only master-level argumentative gambit is accusing people of sexism have no idea what to do

Heartiste happens to be awful, but I'm pretty sure the same strategy could be applied to reasonable positions. If I wanted to start a site that promoted sexist positions, I would call it www.sexism.com.

If the human biodiversity people had called their movement neo-racism, they would have avoided having every mention of them devolve into painful non-debates like this one. Compare the neo-reactionaries, who are much more politically astute and who were entirely correct to call their movement neo-reaction.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-07T03:36:38.799Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

...and the debate about whether Plan Y is or is not a good idea would immediately shift to a debate about whether Plan Y is or is not eugenics - which you would lose, because it is.

This assumes words have true, immutable meanings, which they don't.

For example, if you respond to the claim that Obama is a communist by...

Wait a second, you yourself explained this pretty well in your Anti-Reactionary FAQ: "The meaning of words changes over time, and the Cold War made the more moderate elements of communism drop the 'communist' label."

Accusations of "eugenics" generally deserve a similar response: meanings of words change over time, and the fact that a policy fits Galton's original definition of "eugenics" doesn't mean it's "really" eugenics any more than we should examine pre-Cold War communist documents to establish whether America is "really" a communist country.

Yes, arguing about definitions is annoying, but there's really no way around having to explain that no, policy Y is not what people commonly associate with "eugenics." The real choice you have is whether to alienate a portion of your audience from the outset by declaring you like eugenics.

And yes, ballsy countersignalling can sometimes work, but this doesn't mean it's automatically a good idea in every case. For example, I predict that politician who described her support for legal abortion by saying "I support murder in some cases" (*cough cough*) would have a very difficult time getting elected.

comment by Scott Alexander (Yvain) · 2014-01-08T01:10:13.987Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think it assumes words have immutable meanings, just that they have some conventional meaning. You are proposing that we turn the debate from "Is eugenics plan x a good idea?" to "Does plan x, which fits the current conventional meaning of eugenics, sound like eugenics to you?" Unless you can unilaterally change the conventional meaning of eugenics, then for your purposes the meaning might as well be immutable - your argument will fail. And not only do people show no signs of being willing to shift the conventional meaning of eugenics in a pro-eugenics direction, but they seem very willing to shift the conventional meaning of eugenics in an anti-eugenics direction whenever anyone asks.

I think probably things inside and outside the Overton Window require different strategies. "Ballsy countersignaling" might work differently for things outside the window than for things inside of it. I agree that the politician shouldn't call abortion murder.

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-07T02:22:31.657Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

It's about consequences of what you say.

If you say you like eugenics, the promotional consequences of your words are not limited to some nice, non coercive, purely voluntary eugenics. Instead, it is more or less spread over eugenics as frequently understood.

If you want to promote the voluntary measures, you say that you are pro choice, pro birth control, and believe that parents should have the right to improve health of their future children. If you want to also promote the involuntary variety, that's when you would say "I like eugenics".

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-01-09T20:02:38.137Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If you want to promote the voluntary measures, you say that you are pro choice, pro birth control and believe that parents should have the right to improve health of their future children

AFAIK very few people use the improvement of the genes of the next generation as an argument in favour of pro-choice or pro-birth control positions -- such an argument would be automatically frowned upon by mainstream political circles, exactly because it's seen as "eugenics" (and hence racism) even without any coercion.

And "improve health of their future children" has the connotations of just avoiding disease or disability, rather than e.g. also increase the potential for high cognitive skills.

All in all I think I think that something like "I'd support strictly voluntary eugenics" would be much clearer in intent than what you suggest -- shorter too.

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-12T23:06:06.655Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

You can already choose to have or not to have children, or choose the mate, based on what ever motivation pleases you, including the notion of improving the human race. It's sort of like saying "I support strictly voluntary segregation". Whites and blacks already have enough freedom of movement to segregate themselves all they want.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-14T06:09:52.744Z · score: -2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Whites and blacks already have enough freedom of movement to segregate themselves all they want.

Not really, since you have no way of keeping members of the other race from settling in your new neighborhood.

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-15T16:35:11.929Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

That's coz it's not your neighborhood, in the property ownership sense.

edit: Albeit, thanks for making that point, which exactly clarifies the reason why someone might say a ridiculous phrase such as "I support strictly voluntary segregation": to later on contradict 'emselves a bit and complain about the lack of freedom to impose segregation on those who don't want it. Likewise, the "strictly voluntary eugenics" quickly comes down to someone's volition to neuter someone else.

comment by ErikM · 2014-01-16T07:42:37.488Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

By analogy: Private property also includes (must include, in my opinion) the freedom to "impose" it on those who don't want it - If Alice has a bicycle which she considers to be her private property and Bob tries to take the bicycle because Bob doesn't believe in private property and doesn't respect the notion of "Alice's bicycle" in the first place, I'm damn well going to side with Alice in telling Bob to go away, and if necessary, threatening violence against Bob.

If you try to form a concept of "strictly voluntary private property" which only applies to those who want it, you hardly have private property at all - you have a standing invitation for people who disagree with you to take your stuff.

Back to the previous topic, the "strictly voluntary segregation" one has in America and most of the West is that if a hundred white people move to the middle of nowhere to establish a segregated whites-only village and build it from the ground up, they're only allowed to have that segregated village as long as every black person in America refrains from moving there. As Eugine notes, it's illegal for one race to take legal measures to keep the other race out. To generalize, members of one race need functionally unanimous, ongoing, unilaterally revocable permission from all members of the other race in order to be segregated at present. (I gather some ghettos, trailer parks etc. have this by being so unappealing that nobody wants to move there.)

The interpretation of "strictly voluntary" as requiring the agreement of the exact people one wants to avoid in the first place strikes me as a questionably high bar, similar to calling a lifetime imprisonment "strictly voluntary" on the grounds that you can leave as long as the warden gives you permission.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-19T10:49:39.415Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Would you say I'm not free to agree with my friend to met at the pub because if he doesn't show up the police won't do anything about it? Would you say my girlfriend and I aren't free to have a monogamous relationship because if I cheated on her the police wouldn't stop me and vice versa? Hell, would you say I'm not free to be on a diet because the police won't stop me if I overeat?

comment by ErikM · 2014-01-19T18:48:15.896Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Short answer: questions contain hidden complexity and words with multiple interpretations.

Long answer:

  • You are free to enter into an agreement to meet at the pub that is non-binding, unilaterally severable, has no damages because there is no consideration specified, or for one of several other reasons will not get the police involved. You are also free to enter into a contract where, for instance, you and your friend will meet at the pub today and you will buy a round for the pair, and tomorrow you and your friend will meet at the pub and he will buy a round for the pair, and in that case I expect you could involve the police if your friend fails to perform. Perhaps I'm reading too much into single words when I read your "agree" and respond with a contrast between "agreement" and "contract", but I think there's a relevant point here about the amount of binding-ness and expectation involved and to what extent one is willing to be compelled by a contract one signs, because "agree to meet at the pub" conveys to me a sense of general intent, which has less force and fewer sanctions (social, legal, or otherwise) for violations than "promise to meet at the pub" which in turn is weaker than "contract to meet at the pub".
  • In America, I would lean towards answering yes, with significant caveats about how "relationship" is to be interpreted. I refer you to the Diosdado case, where a man and a woman got married with some concern about the possibility of adultery, and therefore entered into a contract imposing certain penalties (a monetary fine; and to be considered at fault in an eventual divorce) upon an eventual adulterous party. Then one party committed adultery and convinced the court to throw the contract out of court in favor of granting a no-fault divorce and ending the marriage at no cost (except that paid to the lawyers). To make an analogy, the precedent here is that you can't be free to have monogamous relationship any more than you can free to have an abusive relationship, because any such relationship rests on an illusory promise (general term for promises of the form "I promise to do X if I feel like it", which have no force, and don't function as promises) as the counterparty can terminate it without warning, without cause, and without penalty. American courts don't expect an abused person to remain abused, and the American courts don't expect a married person to remain faithful, regardless of what either person signed.
  • I would say you're free to be on a diet in that case.

Tapping out.

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-16T16:24:19.236Z · score: -5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

As Eugine notes, it's illegal for one race to take legal measures to keep the other race out.

It's really funny how racists are never able to follow the most elementary rules of logic.

comment by ErikM · 2014-01-16T17:28:29.972Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure what your point here is. Please clarify?

I'm arguing that segregation is forbidden in America and similar countries; it seems to me that calling segregation "strictly voluntary" clouds the issue. It's almost a fully general argument to say that X is strictly voluntary because you can do it if none of several million people stop you doing it.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-16T02:22:19.610Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

That's coz it's not your neighborhood, in the property ownership sense.

to later on contradict 'emselves a bit and complain about the lack of freedom to impose segregation on those who don't want it.

My point is that under US law segregation is illegal even for those who want it. Even if everybody in the neighborhood wants it to be segregated and signs a contract to keep it that way, the contract is illegal under US law and members can be punished if they refused to sell to someone on the basis of race.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-16T08:41:35.232Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Voluntary segregation, i.e. they don't want to settle in your neighbourhood (and you don't want to settle in theirs either).

comment by ErikM · 2014-01-14T09:10:19.794Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Well, you can adopt an ideology that members of the other race find more or less universally detestable and put up posters for it all across the neighborhood, but this has the consequence of filling your neighborhood with an ideology that lots and lots of people find detestable.

comment by MugaSofer · 2014-01-18T05:39:24.808Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps some variant of "neo-eugenics", then. Much like the suggested "neo-racism", you get to be a distinct position while still short-circuiting that particular argument.

comment by bogus · 2014-01-06T19:20:20.111Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

"Eugenics" is a problematic word because it's now associated with involuntary sterilization and Nazis.

Is the association unwarranted? Even when eugenics was very much "a thing" in many Western countries (including, AIUI, the Progressive-era U.S) it always denoted coercive intervention to suppress fertility in the unpopular outgroups du jour.

And apparently, Yvain's use of this term is what ticked off this person in the first place. We should just stop using it.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-06T20:33:43.828Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

No, not unwarranted at all. It's just that the original definition of the term didn't include coercion, and some people insist on sticking to this "official" definition, history be damned.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-07T21:47:23.808Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-01-06T10:41:12.177Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

What word would You suggest instead of eugenics ?

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

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-07T10:30:53.127Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-07T23:03:40.769Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-01-06T10:47:21.302Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The mainstream media seems less terrified of the idea of "designer babies", which is not specifically eugenics, but related enough that I wonder if Eugenics shouldn't quietly respawn in the Designer Babies category?

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-01-06T10:50:11.887Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Too narrow.

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-07T05:06:23.631Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Designer populations?

No, that circles back and sounds hitler-y again.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-06T18:36:31.825Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The not-morally-objectionable stuff that still gets called "eugenics" generally fits comfortably under the term "human enhancement." You can also talk about more specific technologies e.g. embryo selection.

comment by Pfft · 2014-01-10T21:27:13.634Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The not-morally-objectionable stuff

Your comments in this thread make it seem like there is a general consensus about what things are moral or not, and the problem is just using words precisely. But things like selecting embryos to avoid giving birth to children with disabilities is considered very objectionable by many---and the people who object do talk about eugenics, genocide, etc. For example, the "Autism Genocide Clock". When there is a genuine moral disagreement, changing what word you use will not help.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-11T00:05:58.613Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not that there's a consensus - just that there's a correct view.

Changing the word won't magically win over the "Autism Genocide Clock" folks, but when you're arguing with them you aren't doing yourself any favors by framing your position is, "actually, I think autism genocide is great!"

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-06T04:32:32.576Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-06T14:03:10.436Z · score: 0 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Eugenics may well be slow genocide. I have no faith that it would be equitably distributed.

comment by blacktrance · 2014-01-06T15:23:15.089Z · score: 0 (8 votes) · LW · GW

If it doesn't involve killing, it can't be genocide.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-06T18:18:17.193Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Not true according to many standard definitions of genocide. You should especially read carefully Raphael Lemkin's original definition.

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-06T15:55:56.712Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The targets may not be convinced by this argument.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-06T15:59:09.614Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It's probable that we need a range of words to cover different sorts of efforts at eliminating ethnicities and genetic sub-groups.

comment by satt · 2014-01-06T19:08:32.182Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

From p. 119 of William H. Tucker's The Cattell Controversy: Race, Science, and Ideology:

Instead of the term genocide, which he wanted to reserve only for "a literal killing off" of all the members of a group, Cattell proposed the neologism genthanasia, for the more sensitive process of "phasing out" a "moribund culture...by educational and birth control measures, without a single member dying before his time."

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-06T20:17:03.436Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Ethnic cleansing seems appropriate.

edit: That is, the term seems appropriate.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-06T21:22:20.204Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Ethnic cleansing" usually implies causing people to leave an area.

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-06T22:34:58.728Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, it's a move in the direction away from the murderous connotations held by genocide. And taken literally it is pretty descriptive of the goals of eugenics.

comment by blacktrance · 2014-01-06T16:40:54.191Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Arguably, we already do - genocide for the first one, and eugenics for the second one.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-06T16:53:47.898Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The problem is that "eugenics" doesn't distinguish between positive and negative eugenics, nor does it imply anything about consent. The latter is serous, not just because consent matters, but because there's been a history of involuntary and frequently covert sterilization of low status women.

I've heard the high level of incarceration of black men in the US called genocide because it takes those men out of the mating pool. It seems like overblown language to me, but the premise doesn't seem totally implausible.

comment by blacktrance · 2014-01-07T00:30:04.848Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Personally, I tend to not use the term "eugenics" unless someone asks me if I support it, in which case I tell them that I only support it when it's voluntary. This usually works well.

Relatedly, it's interesting to note that some people object to eugenics even when it's clear from context that there is consent, such as when some pro-choice people oppose abortion of fetuses with Downs or other defects.

comment by Emile · 2014-01-06T22:07:01.118Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So, aliens come down and sterilize every single dutch-speaking person on earth (also, Flemish and Afrikaans), as well as anybody who has a dutch-speaking immediate relative - genocide, or not?

comment by blacktrance · 2014-01-06T22:11:45.525Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It depends on what you're trying to get at with the word "genocide". It's targeted elimination of a group, but not by mass murder. Does that qualify as a genocide? That's like asking if a tree makes a sound if it falls in a forest and no one hears it.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-07T05:21:49.841Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, the problem here is that the thread got derailed disputing the definition of genocide when the relevant question is "should we do X".

comment by CharlieSheen · 2014-01-13T07:36:48.430Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Calvin · 2014-01-13T07:46:52.747Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hopefully if their use of the world differs from expectations casual observers won't catch up, I mean...

We want to increase average human cognitive abilities by granting all the children with access to better education.

Wouldn't raise many eyebrows, but if you heard...

We want to increase average human cognitive abilities by discouraging lower IQ people from having children.

...then I can't help the feeling that e-word may crop up a lot. I would probably be inclined to use it myself, for all honesty.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-06T10:23:34.914Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by gjm · 2014-01-06T13:58:28.841Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-06T14:42:33.373Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by gjm · 2014-01-06T19:45:55.832Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

excessive emphasis on genes.

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

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

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

where are the great mathematicians and physicists?

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

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-13T07:44:06.978Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-13T15:19:39.700Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-06T15:06:00.934Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-06T15:24:57.604Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think that depends on the cause of the change.

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-06T15:47:46.944Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Other than lack of homogeneity, why would this not be true?

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-06T16:00:57.265Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure I understand your question, but eliminating the left tail of a bell curve would change the average but not necessarily extend the right tail.

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-06T18:03:06.386Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you did that then after one or two generations, regression to the mean would set the average IQ right back to where it was (almost). If you eliminated enough of the left tail over several generations to actually change the average to a stable higher value, then the right tail would be extended.

Like I said I'm not commenting on the effect of the Holocaust because I don't know anything about it.

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-06T20:02:06.610Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If UberHitler kills everyone with IQ<100, that raises the average IQ without increasing the number of people with high IQ. After a few generations, you are back to a Gaussian with a smaller variance (you lost some genetic diversity) and a slightly larger mean, which means that at some IQ level that is sufficiently high you have fewer people with that IQ .

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-06T23:24:34.366Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The reversal test makes this sound a bit strange:

If you have a population with an average IQ of 100 and you add in an equal number of people with an IQ of 80 then after a generation, you will have a Gaussian with a larger variance. Hence there will be more geniuses due to more genetic variation.

Surely you don't believe that? I realize that this isn't a perfect reversal but that sounds very odd to me.

Anyway here is the crude model of intelligence that I working with - I admit I'm not an expert on this topic, and I have some reading up to do on the genetic basis of intelligence. Intelligence is a polygenetic trait that can be roughly (very roughly) modeled as a bunch of genetic sites with either a plus or minus alleles (keeping it simple with just 2 possibilities). The more plus alleles you have the more likely you are to have a high IQ (genes and intelligence aren't perfectly correlated). Populations with a higher average IQ have a higher concentration of plus alleles so the chance of receiving many of them is increased. But if you take away all of the people who due to bad luck received a very large number of minus alleles, you haven't altered the concentration of alleles in the gene pool that much - this is part of why regression to the mean occurs. But if you consistently select for people with a higher concentration of plus alleles, then the odds of any one child having a lot of plus alleles increases in the population. This is how artificial selection occurs in any trait that is polygenetic. Corn kernels are huge because the people who cultivated corn selected for the biggest corn kernels - yes there was a loss of genetic diversity and yes there was decrease in the variance, but that nevertheless what was observed were corn kernels that were bigger than any corn before.

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-06T23:49:44.773Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Surely you don't believe that? I realize that this isn't a perfect reversal but that sounds very odd to me.

It would happen in your model, if there is no perfect overlap between the set of sites in one population and the set of sites in the other population. With two populations, you have more sites. The smartest possible mega-genius is from the mixed population and has + alleles on each site; none of the original populations can have a genius this smart at all.

To see that on less extreme rarity (and approximately for a large number of alleles), write down the ratio of two Gaussians with different means and variances. Simplify. Observe that the ratio of the larger variance Gaussian to the smaller variance Gaussian gets arbitrarily high far from the mean.

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-07T00:03:09.467Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Okay but that is an incredibly weak claim - I'm not interested in switching all of the plus alleles on because additivity starts to break down and having an IQ of say 500 isn't particularly meaningful. For any reasonable definition of genius, artificially selecting for the smartest members of a population (what super-Hitler is doing), will increase the number of them.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-07T03:50:26.704Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Assume total heritability, random mating, additive genetics, and a single 50% truncation event. In the first generation, the right tail becomes 4x larger as a proportion of the population, but it gets smaller in equilibrium. The new mean is 0.8 standard deviations above the old mean. The new standard deviation is 0.6 times the old one. When it reaches equilibrium and becomes a Gaussian with those parameters, the crossover where the old population had a thicker tail than the new is about two standard deviations. At three standard deviations, the new distribution is only 1/10 of the old distribution. But I don't know how much time it takes to get there.

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-08T16:44:09.770Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you, I'm pretty surprised by that result. Two questions: does assortive mating merely slow down that process? And is there any way to increase the both the average and the standard deviation?

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-17T18:19:34.549Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You need new mutations to increase the standard deviation, that takes a lot of time and a big population size.

Also, having a genetic disorder applies larger selection pressure to the other genes.

If we are to think of some real 'eugenic' population bottleneck, such as WW2 related, the correlation between intelligence and survival is, frankly, shit, plus a lot of small, geographically co-located sub-populations where a bunch of beneficial genes have been slowly increasing in prevalence get completely wiped out, with loss of all copies of that gene.

Bottom line is, selective breeding of larger corn kernels works quickly because the nature hasn't been breeding for larger corn kernels to begin with, it has been breeding optimum kernel sizes, and to get large kernels you're just selecting genetic disorders. There's nothing that you can wreck about the brain that would turn you into a genius, there's a plenty of things you can wreck about growth that would make corn kernels big.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-17T18:35:57.007Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You need new mutations to increase the standard deviation, that takes a lot of time and a big population size.

Or just some mutagens.

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-21T20:26:05.732Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me that this would work much better for traits that can be accomplished through loss of function (e.g. larger corn kernels, through loss of function of regulator genes) than in general. At too high mutation rate, complex functionality can't be preserved.

One thing to keep in mind eugenics wise is that pretty much all the breeding methods we employ for other species are dysgenic - we are producing cripples to our own benefit or amusement. Damage this, damage that, select this bad gene, that bad gene, and you get yourself docile floppy eared dog with the IQ equivalent of severe mental retardation, compared to a wolf.

comment by gwern · 2014-01-22T19:00:25.401Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

One thing to keep in mind eugenics wise is that pretty much all the breeding methods we employ for other species are dysgenic - we are producing cripples to our own benefit or amusement.

I assume by 'dysgenic' you mean 'less fit than unbred specimens for reproductive fitness in the wild'. (You couldn't mean 'reproductive fitness' in general, given how many dogs there are compared to how many wolves there are now.)

This seems like an odd point to make. Of course we breed animals to be less-reproductively-fit-in-the-wild - if they were already ideal for our multifarous purposes, why would we be explicitly breeding them at all? (If they were already ideal for eating or being pets or whatever, we would simply capture & use them or raise them normally without any interference in their reproduction.)

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-22T20:26:12.444Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It'd be a pointless point if there was a symmetry between fitness in the wild and fitness for our purpose. There isn't - fitness in the wild is very seldom improved by loss-of-function mutations, whereas fitness for our purposes, starting from the species that have been evolving for fitness in the wild, very often is. Rapid success at breeding larger corn kernels is not going to generalize into rapid success at breeding ubermensch.

comment by gwern · 2014-08-05T22:53:56.046Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

fitness in the wild is very seldom improved by loss-of-function mutations, whereas fitness for our purposes, starting from the species that have been evolving for fitness in the wild, very often is.

There's no reason evolution would have already have optimized for all the intelligence-related alleles; if it had, they would have reached fixation.

Rapid success at breeding larger corn kernels is not going to generalize into rapid success at breeding ubermensch.

I think it is. All the genetic data seems to point to: much of intelligence is genetic, highly polygenic, not fixated, and additive. All of that translates to breedability: we have a lot of easily identified variants present in only parts of the population; hence, breedable.

comment by private_messaging · 2014-08-08T08:17:02.949Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There's no question that evolution can continue. The issue is that the rate you can attain for different traits differ. For example, evolving smaller animals from larger animals (by a given factor) is an order of magnitude faster process than evolving larger animals from smaller animals. ( http://news.ucsc.edu/2012/01/body-size.html ). I think you wouldn't disagree that it would be far quicker to breed a 50 point IQ drop than 50 point IQ rise?

we have a lot of easily identified variants present in only parts of the population

I guess you refer to those studies on intelligence genes which flood the popular media, which tend to have small effect sizes and are of exactly the kind that is very prone to superfluous results.

comment by gwern · 2015-02-25T17:29:02.964Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

For example, evolving smaller animals from larger animals (by a given factor) is an order of magnitude faster process than evolving larger animals from smaller animals. ( http://news.ucsc.edu/2012/01/body-size.html ). I think you wouldn't disagree that it would be far quicker to breed a 50 point IQ drop than 50 point IQ rise?

But what does that have to do with breeding for our objective purpose? It may be easier to destroy functionality than create it, but evolution is creating functionality for living in the wild and doing something like hunting mice while we're interesting in creating functionality to do something like understand human social cues and trading off against things like aggression and hostility towards the unknown. In both cases, functionality is being created and trading off against something else, and there's no reason to expect the change for one case to be beneficial for the other. Border collies may be geniuses at memorizing words and herding sheep and both of these feats required intense selection, but both skills are worse than useless for surviving in the wild as a wolf...

I guess you refer to those studies on intelligence genes which flood the popular media, which tend to have small effect sizes and are of exactly the kind that is very prone to superfluous results.

The original studies, yes, the ones like candidate-gene studies where n rarely is more than a few hundred, but the ones using proper sample sizes like n>50000 and genome-wide significance level seem trustworthy to me. They seem to be replicating.

comment by private_messaging · 2015-03-20T23:18:06.240Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, my point was that you can't expect the same rate of advances from some IQ breeding programme that we get when breeding traits arising via loss-of-function mutations.

They seem to be replicating.

They don't seem to be replicating very well...

http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/09/researchers-search-for-genes-behind-intelligence-find-almost-nothing/

Sure, there's a huge genetic component, but almost none of it is "easily identified".

Generally you can expect that parameters such as e.g. initial receptor density at a specific kind of synapse would be influenced by multiple genes and have an optimum, where either higher or lower value is sub-optimal. So you can easily get one of the shapes from the bottom row in

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_and_dependence#/media/File:Correlation_examples2.svg

i.e. little or no correlation between IQ and that parameter (and little or no correlation between IQ and any one of the many genes influencing said parameter).

edit: that is to say, for example if we have an allele which slightly increases number of receptors on a synapse between some neuron type A and some neuron type B, that can either increase or decrease the intelligence depending on whenever the activation of Bs by As would be too low or too high otherwise (as determined by all the other genes). So this allele affects intelligence, sure, but not in a simple easy to detect way.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-22T20:42:27.253Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There isn't - fitness in the wild is very seldom improved by loss-of-function mutations

I am not sure this is generally true.

The wild equivalent to "fitness for our purposes" is a drastic change in the environment which starts to select for different criteria. In such conditions organisms certainly select for new-useful-function mutations, but they also select for loss-of-no-longer-useful-function mutations. Functionality tends to be expensive (e.g. in energy) and if you don't need it, you're better off discarding it.

Remnants of lost functionality are common.

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-22T20:49:55.833Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Those drastic changes rarely happen, though. In humans, the most recent very well known one was adult lactose tolerance - something that switched lactase off in adulthood no longer does.

edit: and somewhat back to the original point with regards to eugenics - humans have been evolving intelligence for a while already, so selection for intelligence doesn't seem like a dramatic change.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-22T20:54:24.576Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

adult lactose tolerance

That, by the way, is an interesting example of both adding functionality (now adults can drink milk!) and losing functionality (the gene which turns off lactase production in adulthood got broken and no longer works in many people).

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-22T20:59:52.618Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah. Anyhow, my original point has to do with attempts to breed humans for intelligence. Humans have been evolving for greater intelligence for a very long time now, any free easy gains already been made. You could probably get larger brain volume rather easily with birth by caesarian only, but that doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-22T21:22:30.846Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Humans have been evolving for greater intelligence for a very long time now, any free easy gains already been made.

I don't know. It may or may not be true, but it doesn't look obvious to me.

The issue is that "evolving for greater intelligence" competes with other things like "evolving for greater strength" or "evolving for greater alpha-ness" or maybe even simply "evolving to survive famines".

Because of TANSTAAFL greater intelligence comes at a cost (as a trivial example, the human brain consumes a LOT of energy) and the trade-offs the evolution makes are appropriate for the then-current environment. And our current environment is markedly different (there's your drastic change) from the one in which modern humans actually evolved.

It is quite possible that some trade-offs which held down the growth of intelligence are no longer operational and humans can/will continue to evolve towards even higher IQ.

Practically, of course, the point is moot as evolution is very very slow and humans will self-modify much more rapidly than evolution could provide any noticeable gains.

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-22T21:40:48.934Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It is quite possible that some trade-offs which held down the growth of intelligence are no longer operational and humans can/will continue to evolve towards even higher IQ.

Maybe, but as you say, it would come at potential cost. E.g. gain of a few points but you won't survive famine, that doesn't sound very good.

Or much more insidiously, gains on an IQ test, at the expense of ability to form/organize/use complex background knowledge (IQ tests are designed to be minimally affected by extra background knowledge).

Practically, of course, the point is moot as evolution is very very slow and humans will self-modify much more rapidly than evolution could provide any noticeable gains.

Yeah, either that, or the civilization goes kaput and it's back to all-natural selection.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-23T03:12:59.406Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Think of this in terms of complexity (use your favorite measure). The point is that evolution has a much easier time reducing it than increasing it.

comment by Desrtopa · 2014-01-21T20:53:20.079Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Damage this, damage that, select this bad gene, that bad gene, and you get yourself docile floppy eared dog with the IQ equivalent of severe mental retardation, compared to a wolf.

Many breeds of dogs are certainly very dim compared to wolves, but I'm not so sure that some aren't just as intelligent, perhaps more so. It can be difficult to evaluate the relative intelligence of dogs and wolves, because some of the hallmarks by which we measure the most intelligent dogs (such as the complexity of tasks they can be trained to perform) do not apply to wolves because they're so much less cooperative.

Considering the intellectual tasks the smarter breeds of dogs are capable of though, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of eugenic selection for intelligence relative to wolves, for e.g. border collies, standard poodles and such.

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-22T13:47:24.123Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wolves are under strong selection pressure as well, though.

Intelligence comparisons are of course tricky, but one could compare brain volumes as a proxy, and the comparison is not in favor of dogs.

Thing is, of possible mutations within any gene (coding for a protein), vast majority cause loss of it's original function. This makes the speed of evolution dramatically dependent to the specific details of how the change is accomplished.

comment by Desrtopa · 2014-01-22T15:10:53.971Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Brain volume isn't necessarily a very good proxy, some animals are significantly smarter than other animals which have larger brains. Rats, for instance, may be more intelligent than some animals which are capable of eating rats, and have much larger brains due to greater body volume.

The vast majority of the difference between dogs and wolves isn't due to mutation, but selective concentration of genes which already existed within the grey wolf gene pool.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-22T16:31:02.828Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The vast majority of the difference between dogs and wolves isn't due to mutation, but selective concentration of genes which already existed within the grey wolf gene pool.

As far as I remember, dogs are NOT domesticated wolves. Dogs and wolves have a common ancestor, but they diverged quite a while ago, possibly even before domestication. I vaguely recall that jackals were also somehow involved in dog ancestry.

comment by passive_fist · 2014-01-22T22:19:26.652Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The common ancestor of dogs and gray wolves, while perhaps having some differences with modern wolves, was still a gray wolf, and this is supported by the paper you linked below. While it's true that modern gray wolves have less diversity than ancestral ones, what Desrtopa said is also correct.

comment by Desrtopa · 2014-01-22T18:13:27.856Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is incorrect, the most recent source I've read on the subject indicated that nearly the entire gene diversity out of all breeds of dogs is just a subset of the gene diversity that already existed in grey wolves.

WIkipedia also supports the contention that dogs are extracted directly from grey wolves a few tens of thousands of years ago, too recently for them to have diverged from some meaningfully distinct common ancestor.

The success in developing tame silver foxes with only a few generations of selective breeding suggests that domestic traits can be bred into canines without additional mutation just by imposing selection effects to sort for genes already existing within their population.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-22T18:33:11.932Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think this is incorrect

This claims otherwise. Notably:

To identify genetic changes underlying dog domestication and reconstruct their early evolutionary history, we generated high-quality genome sequences from three gray wolves, one from each of the three putative centers of dog domestication, two basal dog lineages (Basenji and Dingo) and a golden jackal as an outgroup. Analysis of these sequences supports a demographic model in which dogs and wolves diverged through a dynamic process involving population bottlenecks in both lineages and post-divergence gene flow. In dogs, the domestication bottleneck involved at least a 16-fold reduction in population size, a much more severe bottleneck than estimated previously. A sharp bottleneck in wolves occurred soon after their divergence from dogs, implying that the pool of diversity from which dogs arose was substantially larger than represented by modern wolf populations. We narrow the plausible range for the date of initial dog domestication to an interval spanning 11–16 thousand years ago, predating the rise of agriculture.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-09T04:06:33.472Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If you truncate less of the tail, it takes more generations to move the mean, but I believe that by the time it moves the same distance, the variance shrinks less.

If you have a randomly mating population, apply assortative mating for a few generations, apply one generation of selection, and let randomly mix, it costs less variance for the same mean as if you don't do assortative mating. That's because assortative mating is a kind of selection, so this is like several generations of selection. If you start and end with an equilibrium of assortative mating, I'm not sure what happens. Also, assortative mating increases the variance, so you have to distinguish between the variance of the population and the variance of the population that would result if you switched to random mating.

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-08T16:59:54.134Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

test

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-07T00:34:42.842Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I made a weak claim (all sites) to make it easier for you to see how that works within your own additive model. Of course, you don't have to have plus alleles on all locations for a genius to be more common in the mixed population than in the original populations.

For any reasonable definition of genius (someone with an IQ of 160+), artificially selecting for the smartest members of a population (what super-Hitler is doing), will increase the number of them.

This would depend on the population sizes involved, number of locations, and overlap between locations.

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2014-01-06T20:08:37.334Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am not following how killing people who do poorly on a test does not evoke the evolution demon, eventually.

comment by private_messaging · 2014-01-06T20:27:33.047Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The average increased, that's your evolution. If you let many generations pass, for the mutations to happen and genetic diversity to restore, you will get the variance back as well.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-07T06:04:15.402Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Assuming random mating, you'll already get higher IQ kids in the next generation since people with exceptionally high IQ are more likely to mate.

comment by gjm · 2014-01-06T23:40:02.621Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

What is the process by which you expect the mean to regress enough to leave you with a thinner upper tail than before UberHitler did his thing?

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-06T20:48:16.843Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

What exactly happens depends on the model, but I think it would be very difficult to build a model with nonzero heritability that produced a bell curve and where truncating the left tail did not affect the right tail.

Usually bell curves occur from the sum of many small discrete variables. That appears to be true for IQ. Under this model, any form of selection has basically the same effect, at least in the long term. If the old equilibrium had random mating and the next generation is also produced by random mating, then a new bell curve will be produced in the very next generation. If the old distribution were due to assortative mating, and that continues, it will take longer to reach equilibrium. But it will affect the right tail eventually.

Added: no, more than a generation to equilibrium.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-07T05:29:50.116Z · score: 2 (10 votes) · LW · GW

What exactly happens depends on the model, but I think it would be very difficult to build a model with nonzero heritability that produced a bell curve and where truncating the left tail did not affect the right tail.

Well, since IQ is forced to be a bell curve by definition, the fact that it is a bell curve doesn't count as evidence for anything.

comment by jsalvatier · 2014-01-07T18:44:49.067Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

IQ tests are normalized (so they have a median of 100 and standard deviation of 15, but they are not forced to be normally distributed), so I think the distributional properties can be evidence for something.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-07T19:39:52.406Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I think you are mistaken and they simply are forced to be bell curves.

But even if IQ is an affine transformation of the number of questions answered correctly, the simple act of adding up the questions is likely to produce a bell curve, so its appearance is not much evidence.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-08T11:43:21.183Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I confirm that IQ tests are forced to be bell curves; at least those using the methodology I learned at university.

Calibrating the test (giving it to many people) returns information like: "50% of test subjects can solve 23 problems of these 50" and "98% of test subjects can solve 41 problems of these 50".

Then the next step is to put these data in the bell curve, saying: "therefore 23/50 means 0 sigma = 100 IQ" and "therefore 41/50 means 2 sigma = 130 IQ".

But you can't assume that this is linear. To explain it simply, let's assume that the more intelligent person always solves a superset of the problems the less intelligent person solved. Therefore, any person with IQ between 100 and 130 would solve all the 23 "easy" problems, some of the 18 "hard" problems, and none of the 9 "impossible" problems. But how many exactly -- that depends on how difficult exactly those "hard" problems are. Maybe they are relatively easy, and a person with IQ 115 will solve all of them; and maybe they are relatively hard, and a person with IQ 115 will solve none of them. But that is a fact about the test, not about the intelligence distribution of the population. Therefore this fact should be removed in the normalization.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-08T15:46:33.279Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Then the next step is to put these data in the bell curve, saying: "therefore 23/50 means 0 sigma = 100 IQ" and "therefore 41/50 means 2 sigma = 130 IQ".

This is NOT forcing the outcome to be a bell curve. This is just normalizing to a given mean and standard deviation, a linear operation that does not change the shape of the distribution.

Consider a hypothetical case where an IQ test consists of 100 questions and 100 people take it. These hundred people all get a different number of questions correct -- from 1 to 100: the distribution of the number of correct answers is flat or uniform over [1 .. 100]. Now you normalize the mean to 100 and one standard deviation to 15 -- and yet the distribution remains flat and does not magically become a bell curve.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-08T16:58:36.179Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

These hundred people all get a different number of questions correct -- from 1 to 100: the distribution of the number of correct answers is flat or uniform over [1 .. 100].

This is a fact about the test.

Now you normalize the mean to 100 and one standard deviation to 15 -- and yet the distribution remains flat and does not magically become a bell curve.

Maybe it was wrong for me to use the word "normalization" in this context, but no, the distribution of raw scores is not mapped linearly to the distribution of IQs. It is mapped onto the bell curve.

Otherwise every intelligence test would produce a different intelligence curve, because inventing 100 questions such that they get the same distribution of raw scores as some other set of 100 questions, that would be an impossible task. (Just try to imagine how you would try to obtain the set of 100 questions for which the distribution of raw scores is linear. Keep in mind that every testing on many real subjects costs you a lot of money, and on a few subjects you won't get statistical significance.)

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-08T17:04:15.565Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

the distribution of raw scores is not mapped linearly to the distribution of IQs. It is mapped onto the bell curve.

Could you provide links showing this to be the case?

because inventing 100 questions such that they get the same distribution of raw scores as some other set of 100 questions, that would be an impossible task.

There is a helpful theorem.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-08T18:40:02.561Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There is a helpful theorem.

It assumes that all the variables you're summing are independent.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-08T18:50:00.745Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Weaker forms of CLT hold up even if you relax the independence assumption. See Wikipedia for details.

As a practical matter, in IQ testing even with only linear normalization of raw scores you will get something approximately Gaussian.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-08T19:06:47.419Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

As a practical matter, in IQ testing even with only linear normalization of raw scores you will get something approximately Gaussian.

I wouldn't count on that more than about one standard deviation away from the mean.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-08T19:09:55.196Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not exactly Gaussian -- that's even theoretically impossible because a Gaussian has infinitely long tails -- but approximately Gaussian. Bell-shaped, in other words.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-10T19:41:08.770Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fallacy of grey. Certain approximations are worse than others.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-10T19:50:40.042Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So in this particular example, which approximation is worse than which other approximation and by which metric?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-10T20:01:36.813Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

An IQ test in which the scores are only normalized linearly is a worse approximation to a Gaussian distribution than one which is intentionally designed to give Gaussianly distributed scores.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-10T20:06:08.198Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Well, duh, but I don't see the point.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-10T02:49:39.661Z · score: -3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Therefore this fact should be removed in the normalization.

Perhaps, but it doesn't follow that the new normalization should be Gaussian. One test I'd like to see is what happens when you give a test calibrated for one population to a different one.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-10T09:38:59.190Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If the test is normalized for a population A, then if we give it to a population B, the results don't have to be Gaussian. The normalization occurs only once, when the relationship between the raw scores and the IQ values is defined. Later the existing definition can be reused.

You would get somewhat different shape when you a) calibrate the test for population A and then measure population B, or b) calibrate the test for A+B and then measure population B.

Probably the most correct way to compare two populations would be to skip the normalization step and just compare the histograms of raw scores for both populations. (I am not good enough in math to say how exactly.)

Also, I am not sure how much such comparison would depend on the specific test. Let's imagine that we have one population with average IQ 100 and other population with average IQ 120. If we give them a test consisting of IQ-110-hard questions, the two populations will probably seem more different than if we give them a test consisting of a mix of IQ-80-hard and IQ-140-hard questions.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-10T17:19:45.618Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This backs my general notion that for a lot of measurements (especially of people?), we need graphs, not single numbers.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-11T07:46:14.822Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Also, I am not sure how much such comparison would depend on the specific test. Let's imagine that we have one population with average IQ 100 and other population with average IQ 120. If we give them a test consisting of IQ-110-hard questions, the two populations will probably seem more different than if we give them a test consisting of a mix of IQ-80-hard and IQ-140-hard questions.

You can compare by looking at which percentile of population B, the median of population A corresponds to.

Edit: also once you've compared several populations this way, you can try to see if there is a way to normalize the test such that the distributions for all the populations have similar shapes.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-07T06:53:59.026Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh, yeah. But I think It is probably true that it is difficult to build a model of a continuous trait in which truncation of one tail does not affect the equilibrium of the other tail.

The more relevant point is additive heritability (aka h^2 or narrow sense heritability. Any model will have some, so my condition of having any is not helpful. But if a trait has a lot, that means the trait is pretty close to counting genes, hence the distribution must be a bell curve. But that doesn't mean that it is a constraint on models.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-07T08:19:04.606Z · score: -4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The more relevant point is additive heritability (aka h^2 or narrow sense heritability.

Not all traits are additively heritable, e.g., the malaria protection/sickle cell anemia gene, and in particular its not obvious that intelligence is additively heritable. One theory I've heard is that things like autism are a result of having too many "intelligence genes".

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-07T19:44:51.444Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Even in the most extreme case of dominance, where H^2 greatly diverges from h^2, the additive heritability is not zero. (But if you had a trait in which heterozygotes were distinguishable from homozygotes, but the two types of homozygotes were not distinguishable, then h^2=0. I know of no such trait.)

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-07T01:49:39.892Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Here's a short-term analysis that may be more convincing.

I assume perfect heritability and pm's choice of 50% selection, both to make the effects larger. I assume additive genetics because that's what we expect from the assumption of a bell curve. The far right tail is largely produced from two parents both on the right half, even on the tail. The farther right you go, the more true this is. Assuming mating is at random. For each person who could have a right tail child, if only they found the right mate, eliminating half of the population that wouldn't do doubles their odds of having an appropriate mate and thus a right tail child. Thus, the right tail is twice as big. The further out we go, the closer it is to twice as big. If everyone has twice as many children to make up for the population being cut in half, then the tail is four times as big.

If there is strong assortative mating, the people on the right tail weren't going to going to have children with the left half and the first effect doesn't apply, since the selection only eliminates pairings that weren't going to happen. Indeed, assortative mating is very similar to truncation selection, so combining the two is redundant in the first generation.

In the first generation, the left tail does not look at all gaussian. In the long term, it does become gaussian. In the short term right becomes a thicker tail, but in the long term the variance has gone down and the right tail becomes smaller, starting at two standard deviations from the original mean.

comment by byrnema · 2014-01-06T03:30:39.480Z · score: 19 (29 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by CellBioGuy · 2014-01-06T03:47:28.978Z · score: 14 (24 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-06T09:04:28.846Z · score: 6 (18 votes) · LW · GW

A friend described LW as "like students arguing seriously about how often you really need to shower".

comment by komponisto · 2014-01-07T05:48:39.234Z · score: 28 (34 votes) · LW · GW

In other words, "like people I regard as low-status arguing seriously about whether assumptions unquestioned by high-status people like me are actually true".

Probably right.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-01-06T11:25:38.371Z · score: 27 (27 votes) · LW · GW

That's not a bad discussion to have, though! What if showering more than two or three times a week causes your back to break out? What if rinsing every other day is good, but using shampoo/soap/etc that often causes unwanted side effects? What if the optimal frequency of showers for keeping body-odor minimized is every third day, and showering every day or every other day actually makes BO worse? We need data!

(I'm not being sarcastic. However, the optimal showering strategy is likely to vary from person to person, and be influenced by diet, physical activity, genetics, environment, etc.)

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-06T13:15:53.862Z · score: 15 (17 votes) · LW · GW

like students arguing seriously about how often you really need to shower

If those students live in a society that mostly does not even wash their hands, I'd consider that an improvement.

(Yeah, I'm deliberately misrepresenting your analogy.)

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-06T13:20:59.256Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Upvote for last line!

comment by [deleted] · 2014-03-30T09:02:57.578Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Once a day is the bare minimum for basic decency. Unless you happen to share your water and heating bills with me, in which case more than a couple per week would be the epitome of frivolity. ;-)

comment by komponisto · 2014-01-07T05:51:12.397Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In other words, "like people I regard as low-status arguing seriously about whether assumptions unquestioned by high-status people like me are actually true".

...which is probably right.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-07T05:09:49.626Z · score: 1 (13 votes) · LW · GW

In some investigations, it's like trying to determine if there is life on a planet by bombing it.

How does that simile make sense? You can destroy the life by bombing it, I don't see what you supposedly destroy by posting on a blog.

comment by byrnema · 2014-01-07T06:24:33.823Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I chose this simile because I did want to capture how destructive and upsetting I find these discussions. (Though I then preferred the humor of the word, 'trainwreckiness'). Another analogy I had in mind was that of astronauts drinking tea (the astronauts capture the overly cerebral cluelessness better, and for sure imagine a 'high tea' with little cups and little knives for spreading jam that keep getting fumbled) but I wanted to also have it immediately understood that the porcelain cups were imploding like eggshells in their oversized white mittens. The bull was a better symbol for this.

comment by bramflakes · 2014-01-06T02:10:26.696Z · score: 19 (47 votes) · LW · GW

The homepage says:

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

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

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

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

comment by benkuhn · 2014-01-06T02:41:49.768Z · score: 20 (26 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

That sword cuts both ways.

comment by bramflakes · 2014-01-06T02:56:41.014Z · score: 14 (24 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

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

comment by komponisto · 2014-01-07T06:00:19.590Z · score: 19 (19 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by bramflakes · 2014-01-07T15:21:01.219Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Note to self: start steelmanning more.

comment by bogus · 2014-01-06T03:02:14.058Z · score: 6 (16 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-06T03:07:06.851Z · score: 7 (11 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by scrafty · 2014-01-06T05:14:00.706Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I think it makes a big difference if the preferred theory is gender/racial equality as opposed to fundamentalist Christianity, and whether the opposition to those perceived challenges result from emotional sensitivity as opposed to blind faith. At the very least, the blog post doesn't indicate that the author would be irrational about issues other than marginalization.

comment by Watercressed · 2014-01-06T07:40:48.738Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Does fundamentalist Christianity indicate that the believer would be irrational about issues other than religion?

If yes, what's the difference?

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-06T20:15:42.973Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

he cannot accept any perceived challenge to their preferred theories

I find your mismatched pronouns painful.

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-06T09:02:22.371Z · score: 0 (16 votes) · LW · GW

This person actually states that he cannot accept any perceived challenge to their preferred theories.

The "preferred theory" in question is that they are of value as a human, and that they have considerable experience of being treated as not of value as a human, up to and including violence. As preferred theories go, this strikes me as not being an unreasonable one to hold.

comment by bogus · 2014-01-06T09:18:51.903Z · score: 7 (15 votes) · LW · GW

If this is what he means by that, then his argument clearly rests on the assumption that the rationalist/LW community actively dehumanizes people like him. This seems so clearly baseless to me that it actually makes for an even less charitable description of his views.

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-01-06T09:23:20.307Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Her. But never mind, I'm sure it'll all be fine.

comment by Nominull · 2014-01-07T05:56:26.792Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

If I have no value as a human, I desire to believe I have no value as a human.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-07T16:09:21.606Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Would that desire be enough to qualify you as a human?

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2014-01-06T04:11:39.341Z · score: 7 (25 votes) · LW · GW

It's not clear to me that avowed racists (and sorry, that's what "HBD" is a euphemism for) make up any any significant portion of the LessWrong community, just a loud portion of it. Self-described "reactionaries" are certainly a very small (but loud) minority here.

Really we should get better at conveying when opinions held by a loud minority here are not by any means the opinion of the majority.

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-06T04:47:58.651Z · score: 16 (30 votes) · LW · GW

What do you mean by racist?

Edit: If by racist you mean "hate people who don't share the same skin color with them" then I would guess that there are almost no racists on LW.

If by racist you mean "think that some racial groups are superior and others inferior" then I would also guess that there are almost no racists on LW.

If by racist you mean "think that different populations of people differ significantly along various axes such as athletic ability, intelligence, memory etc." then yes there are a lot of racists on LW.

The third option does not imply either of the first two.

comment by Prismattic · 2014-01-06T05:16:34.848Z · score: 17 (25 votes) · LW · GW

I think Chris is slightly mistating the problem, at least on Lesswrong. It would be sort of shocking if various genetically distinguishable population cohorts all happened to be exactly equal in average intelligence. But that's not what's so off-putting about the reactionaries. The problem comes with their reliance on extremely lazy statistical discrimination in individual cases. They have made quite clear that if they encounter a woman or an individual of African descent who has tested very high on an IQ test, they would still discriminate against that individual for jobs or educational slots, arguing that racial/gender averages swamp the evidence from the test, which might just regress to the mean.

To me, the individual IQ test is much stronger evidence and should swamp the cohort averages.

comment by bogus · 2014-01-06T05:25:12.020Z · score: 9 (15 votes) · LW · GW

But that's not what's so off-putting about the reactionaries.

The underlying "off-putting" issue is that 'HBD' advocacy tends to attract some especially hateful people in droves - this is quite clear if you take a glance at even 'high-quality' "HBD" sites with open commenting. And this has literally nothing to do with the merit of the scientific question, does (literal) human biodiversity in intelligence, personality etc. exist. Honestly, it's not clear that we know one way or the other. It's a very tricky situation if you are committed to both truth-seeking and a reasonable ethical stance.

comment by Prismattic · 2014-01-06T05:37:32.893Z · score: 11 (19 votes) · LW · GW

Lesswrong has actually had such individuals show up here, too, from time to time. They get downvoted into oblivion and/or Eliezer or one of the other high-status people shows up and encourages downvoting people who feed the troll. So the racists who are just using biodiversity as a rationalization for already-committed racism get driven off.

This does seem relevant when answering the separate question of whether the topic should just be taboo.

To the extent that I've been involved in these debates on LW, I'm almost always arguing for the anti-racist and anti-sexist position, but I still wouldn't want Lesswrong to adopt the norms of discourse that prevail at "safe space" feminist sites. Because that way really does lie madness (I've seen a feminist website drive off anyone who wanted to dispute the claim "rape is worse than murder," to give one egregious example).

comment by MichaelAnissimov · 2014-01-13T00:41:31.405Z · score: 0 (6 votes) · LW · GW

waves

Am I going to be "downvoted into oblivion"?

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-07T06:44:11.025Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

The underlying "off-putting" issue is that 'HBD' advocacy tends to attract some especially hateful people in droves

Selection bias. Because of the taboo against voicing support of HBD, most of the less hateful voices simply shut up to avoid public censure. That only leaves those more concerned with the truth than being liked, and the dogmatic racist loons, who usually outnumber them by a wide margin.

comment by bogus · 2014-01-07T07:17:53.212Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You might have a point here, but it's not clear what the counterfactual is. As HBD advocates like to point out, many and perhaps most people (including minorities) behave in private as if they believed in HBD (for instance, by buying housing in "good" neighborhoods, choosing "good" schools and the like, where "good" is defined by demographics).

By this argument, the "less hateful voices" who are silenced include most of the population, even though these same people might want to enforce a ban on publicly accepting HBD, for social signaling reasons (i.e. not wanting to be perceived by others as a dogmatic racist loon). Interestingly, it's not clear to me how stable this equilibrium is.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-07T09:22:34.450Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

What you believe in private versus what you're willing to advocate in public creates the selection bias, and this comment here seems to agree.

But I don't see why they would actually want, as oppose to merely pretend to want, a ban on publicly accepting HBD for signaling purposes. If they don't want to be perceived as a racist loon, they'll just avoid admitting to the view in public.

comment by Prismattic · 2014-01-07T08:45:33.465Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

where "good" is defined by demographics

Whoa. The "demographics" people are choosing on are income, not race. Faced with a choice between living in a middle class majority-black neighborhood and a (forgive the term) white trash neighborhood, I think most people would choose the former. This fact may get obscured by the relative paucity of middle class majority-black neighborhoods, but at least in the US, that has at least as much to do with redlining, the legacy of sundown towns, and such as it does with HBD.

comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-01-07T12:34:01.175Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

many and perhaps most people (including minorities) behave in private as if they believed in HBD

Except those behaviors express belief in statistics, not that those statistics are biological in nature. Biological diversity does not have to be the cause for statistical trends. Have HBD adherents falsified other explanations for the statistics?

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-07T20:34:45.986Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You do not have to eliminate other explanations to accept genetic causes. A combination is likely. Bu you have to prove other causes explain all the effect in all cases to prove genetic equivalence.

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-06T13:10:45.273Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Almost every community has a large share of crazies, and fringe political communities are certainly going to have a lot of them. I think the difference is the content of what reactionaries say. Their rhetoric isn't so much worse than extreme social justice types or extreme atheists (I'm thinking of the freethoughtblogs type), but what they say is completely alien and horrifying to most people.

comment by Jack · 2014-01-06T10:55:54.642Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Also, there is no particular reason why learning that a group's average IQ is a standard deviation lower than you thought before should cause a decrease in your sympathy and empathy for that group. I see no one in that camp saying "How can we use this information to optimize charities?" which is the obvious first question if you care about the people you're talking about. Why would a fact about an innate feature that people can't control shrink your moral circle?! I'm sure there are exceptions, but it is eminently clear reading reactionary blogs just who they care about.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-07T06:47:38.791Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Also, there is no particular reason why learning that a group's average IQ is a standard deviation lower than you thought before should cause a decrease in your sympathy and empathy for that group.

If anything, I'd expect it to increase sympathy.

comment by drethelin · 2014-01-07T20:42:06.161Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I think a lot of people lose sympathy when they feel like there's nothing they can do. You see this pattern with people who have addict relatives or friends who make bad romantic decisions. At first they try to offer advice and money and various kinds of help but as this doesn't work, they revert to not even feeling sympathy anymore. I think ascribing genetic inferiority to underprivileged groups is likely to work like this for a lot of people.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-07T23:36:36.033Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think so.

Sympathy tends to extend more for lack of capability than poor choices.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-08T11:31:38.884Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Sympathy tends to extend more for lack of capability than poor choices.

And it takes some non-intuitive insight to understand that in some situations "poor choices" are caused by a "lack of capability". Specifically, a capability to think or act sufficiently rationally. (Where "sufficiently" depends on the specific situation.)

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-01-07T06:36:33.396Z · score: 5 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Quite a number of people pooh pooh the reliability of IQ tests, most usually people in dogmatic denial about HBD. Are they also horrible people for their "lazy statistical discrimination"?

comment by Prismattic · 2014-01-07T08:26:16.811Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Your comment is basically a non sequitor boo light, unless there is some obscure second meaning to the term "statistical discrimination" with which I am unfamiliar.

In any case, IQ tests can be less-than-perfect measures of intelligence and still be far more reliable than the evidence on which the reactionaries are relying.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2014-01-07T04:17:48.586Z · score: -1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

If by racist you mean "think that some racial groups are superior and others inferior" then I would also guess that there are almost no racists on LW.

Would you mind defining what you mean by "superior" and "inferior"?

comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-01-07T14:39:01.954Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I dunno, I have often heard the following charge against HBDers "You're just trying to prove your own superiority under a pathetic veil of pseudo-science that you call HBD". I'd rather not talk about superiority and I'd rather talk about the specific axes along which populations might differ, and how that might inform policy decisions (an even more volatile topic).

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T15:39:08.821Z · score: 9 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I have often heard the following charge against HBDers "You're just trying to prove your own superiority under a pathetic veil of pseudo-science that you call HBD".

Notably, that charge is typically leveled at Caucasians who, by HBD lights, are noticeably inferior to East Asians.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2014-01-07T15:09:12.960Z · score: 14 (18 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by Vulture · 2014-01-06T19:05:27.254Z · score: 14 (18 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

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

Hide comments and posts about

[ ] Race

[x] Gender

[ ] Sexual Violence

etc.

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

comment by CellBioGuy · 2014-01-06T02:19:47.386Z · score: 13 (17 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-06T02:38:58.513Z · score: 13 (17 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-01-06T08:37:52.949Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Moreover, because people are not completely stupid, they probably won't put up a sign saying "I am recruiting soldiers to attack opposing viewpoints!"

Instead, they will point a finger and say "Look, over there! That person is recruiting soldiers to attack opposing viewpoints!"

comment by passive_fist · 2014-01-06T22:56:03.941Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by ESRogs · 2014-01-06T19:24:34.799Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

comment by CellBioGuy · 2014-01-09T00:15:53.063Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The former.

comment by fubarobfusco · 2014-01-06T02:14:03.133Z · score: 13 (19 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

This is, yes, a signaling argument.

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

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-06T14:43:47.882Z · score: 11 (17 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-06T03:03:20.089Z · score: 11 (17 votes) · LW · GW

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

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

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-06T22:26:36.874Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

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

Probably because it's a trap :-D