↑ comment by gjm ·
2012-09-09T21:54:27.179Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
[Attention conservation notice: This is long.]
You might want to consider the possibility that the problem is on your end.
For sure, it might be. If you think it is, you might want to consider the possibility of convincing me, rather than pointing out the (obvious) fact that I might be wrong.
the heuristic is pick what appears to be the obvious explanation
See, it doesn't look to me even slightly like "the obvious explanation" and I don't see how to make it look like t.o.e. without the kind of bizarre misreading that I think Filipe engaged in. Of course (see above) I could be wrong. I'll explain -- and this is why this is going to be so long -- why the "Filipe-Nier explanation" seems so strange to me. Perhaps you can show me where I'm going terribly amiss.
So you claim, IIUC, that the obvious explanation for Douglas_Reay's writing what he did was that he wanted to offer "one of those blank-slatey attempts to explain the gender ratio in High-IQ communities due to some form of discrimination". That is, that (1) what he was primarily doing was explaining, (2) that the explanation he offered was "blank-slatey", and (3) that he was presenting it as "some form of discrimination".
How plausible is this analysis of Douglas_Reay's purposes, and how do other explanations of his posting what he did stack up? I'll consider only one other explanation (not because I think it's the only possible one but because this is going to be too long in any case): that he posted what he did because he thinks it's possible that some people at some LW meetups may act creepily, thus putting off some other people we'd rather not put off, and he wants to do what he can to make this less likely to happen. According to this explanation, (1) what he was primarily doing was attempting to shape the culture of LW meetups a bit, (2) there's nothing particularly "blank-slatey" about it, and (3) if discrimination is involved then it's tangential to what Douglas_Reay was saying.
First question, then: Was he primarily offering an explanation, or attempting to influence behaviour so as to reduce "creepiness"? I think the latter is much more plausible, for the following reasons. (a) Everything DR explicitly said points that way. The title: "How to deal with someone in a LessWrong meeting being creepy". What he actually said about his purposes: "not just so the people potentially causing problems get to read them, but also so everyone else knows the resource is here", etc. The only connection DR draws between "creepiness" and gender ratio is what I've quoted before: "... addressing one social skills issue that might be affecting this ...". As distinct from, say, "the issue that is probably causing this". (b) DR's posting history, which has lots about how to run LW meetups and very little about, e.g., the causes of gender imbalance in "High-IQ communities". (c) DR's other comments in this discussion, which again seem to indicate that his goal is to make LW meetups less likely to put people off. (d) Posting what DR actually did -- full of things that have nothing to do with "explaining the gender ratio" -- seems like a really weird way to attempt to influence opinions on that explanatory question, but entirely comprehensible as an attempt to influence behaviour ("creepiness" and reactions thereto).
Second question: Is he pushing some sort of "blank-slatey" agenda? [[Semi-digression: I confess that I'm not certain what Filipe meant by this, but among the ideas Pinker's famous book criticizes under that heading two seem potentially relevant: (a) that differences between people and groups are purely environmental in origin and not fixed at birth by, e.g., genetics; (b) that human behaviour is infinitely malleable. Of these, (b) would be relevant if we were talking about DR's attempts to influence behaviour (e.g., someone might argue that it's futile to try to stop people being "creepy") but that's explicitly what Filipe (and, I take it, you) think was "obviously" not his real purpose, so it'd better be (a). In combination with Filipe's choice of terminology -- "High-IQ communities" -- I therefore take it his point was something like this: "Communities that draw their membership from the upper tails of the intelligence distribution are inevitably going to be male-dominated because most exceptionally intelligent people are male; this looks like just one more attempt to deny that fact in the service of the false idea that there are no innate differences between the sexes.".]] I've looked very carefully at everything Douglas_Reay wrote there, and I can find (a) nothing even slightly resembling a statement that there are no innate differences between men and women, (b) nothing that assumes that there are no such differences, and (c) nothing that makes more sense if we assume there are no such differences. So the only evidence for a "blank-slatey" agenda is, it seems to me, the alleged fact that Douglas_Reay posted an "explanation" for gender imbalance that isn't "there are fewer women because most of the very cleverest people are men". Except that -- see above -- he didn't in fact do any such thing, and the absolute most he said was that "creepiness" might have something to do with it, which of course is perfectly consistent with any number of other contributing factors. All in all, I'm really not seeing any grounds for calling what Douglas wrote "blank-slatey".
Third question: is Douglas_Reay complaining, explicitly or implicitly, about "discrimination" and using it as an explanation for gender imbalances in LW meetups? Well, explicitly at least, Douglas seems to have gone out of his way to avoid making what he said anything of the sort. (Third paragraph, which I'll summarize as "This isn't only about men being creepy at women; let's focus on the behaviour and not on what group is doing it to what other group".) He assumes -- so it looks to me, at least -- that his audience wants to avoid "creepiness", which seems like the reverse of what you'd assume if you were taking the issue to be one of discrimination. I'm fairly sure (from, e.g., the positive-sounding mention of "rape culture") that Douglas does, in fact, consider that discrimination against women is a real thing -- and if there's supposed to be something wrong with that opinion, I'd be interested to know what -- but that is not at all the same as saying that such discrimination is the cause of gender imbalance in the LW community.
Overall question: Which explanation of Douglas_Reay's words is more credible? On what appears to be Filipe's (and your?) theory, his purpose in writing what he did was to push a "blank-slatey" explanation of gender imbalances in LW meetings, in which case presumably the stuff about how to avoid "creepiness" -- ostensibly the entire point of the post -- was just some sort of distraction. On the other theory I propose, his purpose was to influence behaviour, and the possibility of a link to gender imbalances was just a way of introducing the topic. I am at a loss to see why, if his purpose was as Filipe proposes, he would have written anything like what he did. On the other hand, conditional on the other theory I proposed, that problem goes away and what replaces it ("then why did he even mention gender ratio?") seems far less puzzling: he mentioned gender ratio because he expects some readers to want a less skewed gender ratio at meetups and to find it plausible that avoiding "creepiness" might help with that.
[EDITED to fix a typographical screwup related to LW's handling of underscores. No substantive changes.]
Replies from: Douglas_Reay
↑ comment by Douglas_Reay ·
2012-09-11T00:31:18.183Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Thank you, gjm. I'm pretty awed by how well you explained that. Hats off to you.
Replies from: gjm
↑ comment by gjm ·
2012-09-11T00:52:43.151Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Glad to be of service. I confess to being rather bemused at some of what's going on in this thread. (Perhaps that's because, as Eugene Nier suggests, I've got it all wrong, but if so it's odd that no one seems willing to refute me rather than insulting me.)