In reply to Different Worlds;

It was a huge disappointment for me when Ben Hoffman compellingly argued in favor of parallel social worlds coexisting unobtrusively adjacent to one another without causing a large shift in our community discourse. It was consequentially a huge source of relief when the blog of record, made a similar argument almost exactly a year later, and the discussion was everything I could have hoped for.

The most common type of comment appeared to be the relating of instances where type two errors would have been natural if group identifiers were reversed. Such stories make good morality tales for an ethos that fears apophenia and endorses Hanlon's Razor in spite of Hanlon's Dodge. Most SSC readers reported having a low tendency to perceive threats, which is what one would expect from either the type one error heavy tone of the blog or the requirements of signaling. My favorite comment pointed out that even when people don't consciously notice threats, if they have a functioning amygdala, they are still regularly taking action to protect themselves from a mix of perceived threats which tolerates a much higher risk of type two error than they might accept when forming a narrative.

Another common sort of comment echoed James Damore in suggesting that complaints about gender discrimination come only from people who aren't good at engineering. Somewhat related were comments that suggested that people ought to leave workplaces where harassment occurs. Both of these attitudes presuppose the perspective that jobs are readily available and that people ought to try to excel in the objectively measurable. Unfortunately, the reality is that under any possible social arrangement, most people are not going to be exceptionally good in the domains that are most rewarded by society. For those who can afford not to play politics whether due to their excellence in engineering or in camming, it's wise to maintain a low sensitivity to threats. This avoids feeding the trolls and protects them from the self-fulfilling prophecies which can arise out of threat sensitivity. For the 80% of corporate employees who aren't at the top however, politics is the only way they can be in the game at all. Their higher threat sensitivity may exhaust them and leave them unhappy, but it allows them to capture more value than they contribute instead of less than they can afford to.

In a world where there are 5.17-6.56% more bureaucratic positions to compete for every year and the ability to afford necessities is in rapid decline for those unable to find a bullshit job, doing otherwise would be maladaptive self-sacrifice.


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After reading this post 2-3 times it started to make some sense to me, so I upvoted it. But the writing was a bit too impenetrable for me to understand it on first read, or to communicate that I would have to read it multiple times to understand it. The fact that it was written by you specifically was the thing that got me to read it multiple times, since I expected there to be hidden value in it, but I am not sure how much I should expect this of other readers.

This is currently making me hesitant to promote it to the frontpage, even though I think the core point is a valuable one.

I think at least part of this is the invisibility of hyperlinks by default. I was able to guess pretty accurately where links were from context, but without links highlighted in some way, the whole thing has a feel of "you should already know what all of this is referring to and this should be trivial to parse", which of course will not be true for most readers, and makes me want to simultaneously rush and strain mentally. (When links are visible I'm more forgiving with myself if I don't understand something on first glance.)

I doubt this is 100% of the problem but it seems like a factor here.

Strong agreement that hyperlinks are currently way too hard to see; compare LW2.0 with LW1.0 in this respect, or a post on SSC. I often find hyperlinks that I don't click on quite helpful, since they often are a signal that you are referring to a not-common-knowledge concept and provide a hint as to what that concept is. At their best, the link's url tells you a lot more, as a mini-greenlink. Others are saying 'I have data and here's what type of data that is, and you can look if you really want to' which again can be a key message.

I get that we're going for a sparse look, but I think we should at least be giving full underlines.

This was definitely an intentional choice, since one of the most common experiences we've encountered during the original sequences was that people seemed overwhelmed by the links, and that they couldn't really parse the text at all because of all the links.

It might be that I erred too much on the side of subtle underlines. When I tried giving them full underlines it did break the flow of the reading experience quite a bit, but I might try it again with either an off-black underline, or with some additional subtle highlighting of the text itself when it is part of a link.

Interesting. Was this a visual thing, where so many visible links caused some sort of overload in their brains? Was it that they felt the need to click on all the links if they hadn't already read them? Or was it something else?

This seems like an important thing to get right in deciding how to link things, not only in deciding how to display them. Displaying them 'quietly' solves some problems but could even make others worse, and as we write we need to decide how much to link. If I'm over-linking, even after cutting drastically down on joke-linking at Raymond's suggestion, then I need to adjust. I feel like other people might be reading posts on the internet quite differently than I do, and as this is not frequently discussed, wide variance is likely (as per Ozy's point recently).

Another thing to think about is whether green-linking would change this calculus when we get it. I found arbital green-links not distracting at all and very helpful, but if others pay a higher cost for normal links, it is possible they also pay a higher cost for green links than I would expect.

Hmm, this might be a contrast setting difference, but I can pretty easily identify links, though they are somewhat subtle. Do you mean that for you they are basically completely invisible, or that they are so subtle that you don't notice them unless you are specifically looking for them?

Completely invisible unless I mouseover

On Windows 10 I can see underlines of the links in Firefox/Chrome and Edge.

What system are you using? If it's not Safari, did you try deleting the cache?

Interesting, can you post a screenshot?

I'd like to try to figure out together what could make it and subsequent posts clearer.

I agree that the core point is valuable and that this post is difficult to parse. I am confident I got it, but I have a lot of unfair advantages doing that, and it still required reflection.

My diagnosis is that this post assumes a lot of knowledge, both of concepts and terms, that are not reasonable to assume. In some cases links are provided, but in some cases they aren't, and the links at best sort of get you off the hook here. The title is a huge hint to what is going on here, but the logic and terms involved need to be much more explicit.

I saw similar problems with your first main page post; it is clear that you overestimate what concepts and ideas readers are familiar with (even those who know a lot, often are missing any given thing, myself included), and how easily people can follow your logic.

I think that the better version of this post is roughly twice as long as this one.

(Note that this is not the general mistake people make, most people need to tighten things up, but this particular author making the opposite of a typical mistake should be entirely unsurprising.)

I agree: the better version of this post is roughly twice as long as this one.

Let's play the clarification game!

So, in this essay, high-trust SSC readers are Losers, right? They aren't bothering to play competitive status games very much. They don't see the world as full of (social) threats because they are privileged enough not to have to respond to them. So we see cheerful engineers or cheerful camgirls who think everyone is just being nice, partly because they project some kind of Niceness Field, or partly because they're just not very threat-sensitive, because their livelihood is secure enough without having to fear small amounts of social hostility.

Clueless people would be the people who opt in, not out, to mainstream social-status competitions, right? So, these are the women who complain that their world is full of subtle sexist slights, for instance. They're not quite talented enough or lucky enough to be able to ignore it when people respect them a little less; they need to work on constant reputation maintenance, and so they feel the stress of trying to balance the conflicting social demands of femininity. I could say "life's so much simpler when you don't worry about that crap!" but that would be unfair -- my life is structured so I don't have to worry about it.

Is that a good summary?

I would have read it the opposite way; that the first group is clueless (since they are unaware of the struggle) and the second group is losers (since they are losing out in this scenario in many ways) but otherwise appreciate this clarification.

I think in context Michael is referring to "Clueless" and "Loser" as terms of art in Venkat's "The Gervais Principle" series, not to the normal English meaning of the words.

Perhaps confusingly I also think you have the terms backwards, having read The Gervais Principle (clueless are trying to follow the official rules, losers don't think the rules have meaning so they just manage their local political situation) - which suggests that the title is pretty unclear on its own.

"Opt in" seems like the wrong expression for the second thing.

Benquo's comment is correct.

Fixed a broken link in the first paragraph. Links that aren't prefixed with a http:// are currently registered as internal links. We might want to change that in the long run.

Let me know if you don't want moderators to fix small things like this on future posts.

"It was a huge disappointment for me when Ben Hoffman compellingly argued in favor of parallel social worlds coexisting unobtrusively adjacent to one another without causing a large shift in our community discourse. It was consequentially a huge source of relief when the blog of record, made a similar argument almost exactly a year later, and the discussion was everything I could have hoped for."

I think one factor here is that Scott took efforts to "de-politicise"* the post which made it more sharable and useful as a go-to reference. It also meant that more of the attention was going to focus on the object-level discussion, rather than the general principle.

I do agree that we probably have a bias towards being too skeptical, especially when it comes towards evaluating claims from groups that refuse to apply any skepticism towards claims that they want to believe.

* The post still talks about political issue, but in such a way to try avoiding setting off arguments.

I re-read Ben's article, and while it was quite good, it was highly focused on an important object-level issue - sexual assault and how we deal with it - in the context of a presidential campaign. It was making the more general point, but it didn't focus on it, so that wasn't the default takeaway, and if you share the article, the message you're sending is more about sexual assault than it is about different worlds. Scott is willing to spend a ridiculous amount of effort in order to get people to calm down and listen to underlying issues. Ben's willingness to spend vast amounts of effort lie elsewhere.

Part of the issue is a bias toward skepticism, part is a bias toward seeing the role of language as discursive rather than active. In the idealized situation, one can cleanly separate the discursive speech of the trial from the active speech of the judge's or jury's final decision, but there are also times when one simply takes a vocal action without any prior discourse, for instance, shouting 'Stop' based on one's own type two error laden perception. Doing this is a form of aggression, an attempt to control the group's behavior personally rather than only doing so through the medium of discourse, but all politics is aggression and a HUGE fraction of what people do is politics.

As a general rule, when you are participating in a political conflict, you are taking sides whether you want to or not, and if you consistently take the side of the powerful, of those who have more authority and more live options, others are correct to notice you doing so and to incentivize you to do otherwise.

I think one factor here is that Scott took efforts to "de-politicise"* the post which made it more sharable and useful as a go-to reference.

This suggests that Scott's "things I will regret writing" would get an unusually low level of engagement. I do not think that this is true.