Weird Alliances

by sixes_and_sevens1 min read24th Oct 201419 comments


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In the recent discussion on supplements, I commented on how weird an alliance health stores are. They cater for clientèle with widely divergent beliefs about how their merchandise works, such as New Agers vs. biohackers. In some cases, they cater for groups with object-level disputes about their merchandise. I imagine vegans are stoked to have somewhere to buy dairy-free facsimiles of everyday foods, but they're entering into an implicit bargain with that body-builder who's walking out of the door with two kilos of whey protein.

In the case of health stores, their clientèle have a common interest which the store is satisfying: either putting esoteric substances into their bodies, or keeping commonplace substances out of their bodies. This need is enough for people to hold their noses as they put their cash down.

(I don't actually know how [my flimsy straw-man model of], say, homoeopathy advocates feel about health stores. For me, it feels like wandering into enemy territory.)

I've been thinking lately about "allies" in the social justice sense of the word: marginalised groups who have unaligned object-level interests but aligned meta-interests. Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transfolk and [miscellaneous gender-people] may have very different object-level interests, but a very strong common meta-interest relating to the social and legal status of sexual identities. They may also be marginalised along different axes, allowing for some sort of trade I don't have a good piece of terminology for. The LGBT([A-Z]).* community is an alliance. Not being part of this community, I'm hesitant to speculate on how much of a weird alliance it is, but it looks at least a little bit weird.

This has led me to think about Less Wrong as a community, in particular the following two questions:


To what extent is Less Wrong a weird alliance?

On paper, we're all here to help refine the art of human rationality, but in practice, we have a bunch of different object-level interests and common meta-interests in terms of getting things done well (i.e. "winning"). I explicitly dislike PUA, but I'll have a civil and productive discussion about anki decks with someone who has PUA-stuff as an object-level interest.


Is there scope for weird, differently-marginalised trade?

Less Wrong celebrates deviant behaviour, ostensibly as a search process for useful life-enhancing interventions, but also because we just seem to like weird stuff and have complicated relationships with social norms. Lots of other groups like weird stuff and have complicated relationships with social norms as well. Is this a common meta-interest we can somehow promote with them?

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