Being saner about gender and rationality

by Roko2 min read20th Jul 200998 comments

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It seems that LessWrong has a nascent political problem brewing. Firstly, let me re-iterate why politics is bad for our rationality:

People go funny in the head when talking about politics.  The evolutionary reasons for this are so obvious as to be worth belaboring:  In the ancestral environment, politics was a matter of life and death.  And sex, and wealth, and allies, and reputation...  When, today, you get into an argument about whether "we" ought to raise the minimum wage, you're executing adaptations for an ancestral environment where being on the wrong side of the argument could get you killed.  Being on the right side of the argument could let you kill your hated rival!

Politics is an extension of war by other means.  Arguments are soldiers.  Once you know which side you're on, you must support all arguments of that side, and attack all arguments that appear to favor the enemy side; otherwise it's like stabbing your soldiers in the back - providing aid and comfort to the enemy.  People who would be level-headed about evenhandedly weighing all sides of an issue in their professional life as scientists, can suddenly turn into slogan-chanting zombies when there's a Blue or Green position on an issue.

Politics is especially bad for the community if people begin to form political factions within the community. Specifically, if LessWrong starts to polarize along a "feminist/masculinist" fault-line, then every subsequent debate will become a proxy war for the crusade between the masculinist jerks and the femenazis.

Alicorn has contributed in several ways to the emerging politicization of LessWrong. She has started name-calling against the other side ("Jerkitude" "disincentivize being piggish"), started to attempt to form a political band of feminist allies ("So can I get some help?  Some lovely people have thrown in their support,"), implicitly asked these new allies to downvote anyone who disagrees with her position ("There is still conspicuous karmic support for some comments that perpetuate the problems"), and asks her faction to begin enforcing her ideas, specifically by criticising, ostracizing or downvoting anyone who engages in a perfectly standard use of langage and thought: modeling the generic human female as a mechanical system and using that model to make predictions about reality. She has billed this effort as a moral crusade ("unethical"). I am sure she isn't doing this on purpose: like all humans, her brain is hard-wired to see any argument as a moral crusade where she is objectively right, and to seek allies within the tribe to move against and oppress the enemy. [notice how I objectified her there, leaving behind the language of a unified self or person in favour of a collection of mechanical motivations and processes whose dynamics are partially determined by evolutionary pressures, and what a useful exercise this can be for making sense of reality]

We should expend extreme effort to nip this problem in the bud. As part of this effort, I will delete my account and re-register under a different username. I would recommend that Alicorn do the same. I would also recommend that anyone who feels that they have played a particularly large part in the debate on either side do the same, for example PJeby. That way, when we talk to each other next in a comment thread, we won't be treating the interaction as a proxy war in the great feminist/masculinist crusade, because we will be anonymous again.

I would also implore everyone to just not bring this issue up again. If someone uses language in a way that mildly annoys you (hint: they probably didn't do this on purpose), rather than precipitating a major community feud over it, just ignore it. The epistemic rationality of LessWrong is worth more than the gender ratio we have. A 95% male community that manages to overcome a whole host of problems in instrumental and epistemic rationality is worth more to the world than a 80% male community that is crippled by a blood-feud between a feminist faction and a masculinist faction.

 

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Here's the thing. We're going to have to face politics and deal with it. There is no way a rationalist community can call itself such, if the first hint of polar controversy makes us commit ritual suicide, then declare the topic taboo forever.

Why is this such a big deal? There were instances of divisive or otherwise unthoughtful language on the site. Alicorn called our attention to them. We should improve and move on to discussing rationality topics, not fretting about mod cliques and calling for account deletions.

The epistemic rationality of LessWrong is worth more than the gender ratio we have. A 95% male community that manages to overcome a whole host of problems in instrumental and epistemic rationality is worth more to the world than a 80% male community that is crippled by a blood-feud between a feminist faction and a masculinist faction.

Like the politician said, if I can set the agenda it doesn't matter how anyone votes.

How about an 80% male community that manages to overcome a whole host of problems in instrumental and epistemic rationality, including the one we are looking straight at?

This is it. Right here, right now. Solve this problem.

-1bogus12yMake no mistake: this is not a problem in "instrumental and epistemic rationality", it is a problem in politics. We simply cannot afford to appeal to some sort of "rational", god's-eye-view ideology and lose our real world credibility.

And politics is outside the scope of rationality how?

[notice how I objectified her there, leaving behind the language of a unified self or person in favour of a collection of mechanical motivations and processes whose dynamics are partially determined by evolutionary pressures, and what a useful exercise this can be for making sense of reality]

I still don't think you understand what feminists mean by objectification. It's not the same thing as cognitive reductionism, which I think hardly anyone here would object to. I mean, yes, minds are causal systems made of parts embedded in the universal laws of physics and can be understood as such. Everyone knows that!---and given that everyone knows that, you should be able to deduce that whatever it is people really mean when they criticize this objectification-thing, it has to be something other than cognitive reductionism.

Let me explain what I understand by objectification. So, even though (as everyone here already knows) everything that exists, exists within physics, we still find it useful and necessary to distinguish structures within physics which we think are conscious and intelligent (whatever it is we refer to with those words), which we call minds or people, and structures that ... (read more)

I would also recommend that anyone who feels that they have played a particularly large part in the debate on either side do the same, for example PJeby.

I almost did that yesterday, but realized that there's no way I wouldn't be recognizable.

However, I will dispute your implication that I'm a "masculinist" - I'm merely against the idea that anyone has a "right" over the thoughts of others, or a right to not have their feelings hurt.... especially in a forum whose purpose is to help people get over their irrationality. Here, we should be talking about how to disconnect our buttons, rather than how to insist that other people stop pushing them.

4thomblake12yI agree with the first part - that's pretty obvious from any common conception of rights - it's very hard to support rights about thoughts simultaneously with any right to liberty. Of course, it wasn't central to the complaint. The main issue is that we might be driving people away, and there are at least a few people for whom it is true. I disagree. If you take away the 'buttons', there isn't much left. While of course rationality for AIs is relevant here, most of the discussion should be about rationality implemented in humans. And while there are some who think rationality requires denying what it is to be human, I would not be among them.
6Annoyance12yWhether this is a problem depends on the people being driven away, and why.
3pjeby12yIn the thread which Alicorn objects to, she makes precisely this argument. Her entire premise is based on a notion of such rights, although she conveniently doesn't mention it in this post. Arguing that bad feelings give meaning to life or contrast to the good feelings is precisely the same as arguing for death giving meaning to life or contrast to living. Research has already established that positive and negative feelings are not inherently-linked opposites; in fact, they're largely independent of each other. (It should also be trivially obvious in practice that we can enjoy something without feeling deprived by its absence or reverse. I can enjoy sunny weather without being hurt by it raining, for example.)
1thomblake12yNo. While a notion of such rights is certainly something she's mentioned believing in, that's not central to the question of whether it's warranted to object to such language. I, for instance, do not hold any such notion of rights, and yet raise the same objection. My first reaction is "no, it's not", which suggests to me that I'm misreading you. I'm not sure I'd argue that "bad" feelings give "meaning" to life (I'd generally consider that a category mistake, as life isn't the sort of thing with a meaning). However, "bad" feelings are a part of what it is to be human. I'm not particularly interested in specifically accumulating "positive" feelings, so I don't think the rest of your comment applies. That death is a part of being human is certainly not something to be discarded out of hand. There is indeed a tension in our nature between the need to preserve ourselves and the facticity of our deaths. Acknowledging this does not entail insisting on people dying, though.
0pjeby12yI would be most illuminated if you would share a justification in favor of having ongoing bad feelings (as opposed to a momentary notification of a possible problem), that does not also work as a justification in favor of death.
2RobinZ12yIf one is in a continuing bad situation, a persistent bad feeling encourages one to search for the persistent factor.
3pjeby12yReally? Has it been your experience that persistent bad feelings actually motivate you to change something? In my experience, and in the experience of my clients, a persistent bad feeling is usually an alternative to actually doing something about a problem. You want to talk about anosognosiac self-deception? Try bad feelings. It's very easy to deceive yourself into thinking that, say, worrying about work somehow counts the same as working. People who feel bad don't want to do anything except stop the bad feeling (or in some cases, wallow in it), and the most expedient ways to stop most bad feelings usually do nothing to resolve the problem that created the bad feeling in the first place. In short, bad feelings do not prime constructive behaviors. Good feelings do.
1Jonathan_Graehl12yIt's very suspect on the surface that you say people "don't want to do anything except stop the bad feeling" followed by (paraphrasing) "except when it's the exact opposite." While it seems that people in persistent bad situations often get nothing out of their stress and suffering but additional health problems, I think we'd have even worse failure modes if we really only reacted emotionally to changes in circumstance, and were unable to sustain persistent (dis)satisfaction with our present state. I mean this as a statement about our possible evolutionary "design", not about what's theoretically possible.
-1thomblake12yI feel oddly like you didn't read the rest of my comment. Are we talking past each other again? The simplest justification is that they are 'uniquely human', a part of our nature and the human experience. All justifications must follow from what we are, or else what are they to rest on? On the face of it, this serves as a justification for death. However, death is a one-off problem whose removal would hardly impact the nature and character of one's life. Removing 'bad' feelings would entail scraping out a decent-sized chunk of what it is to be a human. And don't think the problem of death is so easily solved.
4pjeby12ySo, if I were to never become depressed again, I'm no longer a human? That doesn't make any sense to me. Bear in mind, I'm not proposing Superhappy-ness. I'm simply saying that after the initial moment of pain or sorrow or frustration or grief or embarrassment or whatever, the utility of that feeling being continued drops off dramatically. And if something bothers you emotionally for, say, an hour (let alone frequently) the odds are good that you are wasting your time. (And yes, that does mean I've been doing a bit of time-wasting here recently.)
0thomblake12yUnless I'm misunderstanding 'utility' as you're using it here, it seems like you're begging the question. To say that "bad feelings don't serve utility" doesn't really seem to be saying much at all; this is part of why I felt the need to put scare quotes around 'bad' above - bad feelings are by definition bad.
0pjeby12yPot, meet kettle. ;-)
1thomblake12yIf you're going to accuse me of committing a logical fallacy, please do me the service of doing so explicitly, and pointing out where it happened.
-1pjeby12yHere: That isn't even remotely a justification for actually having bad feelings.
0thomblake12yYou didn't show where I was begging the question, or was that not what you meant to imply above? While I'm not sure formalism is the right way to go, let's try it: .1. 'Bad' feelings are part of what it is to be uniquely human. .2. OUR STANDARDS FOR WHAT IS GOOD/ACCEPTABLE FLOW FROM OUR NATURE. .3. By 2, any standard of the good that runs counter to our nature is not a good standard. .4. By 3 and 1, a standard of the good that considers 'bad' feelings to be bad is not a good standard. Perhaps not the most helpful way of putting it, but hopefully that works. Any sign of a fallacy there? (note: 'the naturalistic fallacy' is not an acceptable answer)
0pjeby12y1. Bad feelings are not unique to humans, so how are they "uniquely" human? And even if they were, why is being "uniquely human" all that's required for something to be good? 2. Why does that mean our standards are actually good? 3. Our nature includes violence, so by this argument, violence is a good standard.
0thomblake12y1. I didn't say being "uniquely human" is all that's required for something to be good - rather, that discarding such things entirely is certainly bad. "Uniquely human" was supposed to be evocative - if it doesn't work for you, use "part of our nature" instead; it is probably more precise. ETA: though 'nature' is its own can of worms 2. To be clearer, what is actually good flows from our nature, so a correct standard for determining what is good will bear that in mind. 3. No, by this argument, a standard of the good that excludes violence is a bad standard. I agree that violence is a valued part of the human condition.
1pjeby12yHaving a bad back is uniquely human, too, as are male pattern baldness and HIV. Is discarding these things "certainly bad"? I also notice you haven't actually corrected the begging-the-question problem: you still haven't established that bad feelings belong to the class of "uniquely human", and you certainly haven't established that being uniquely human is good. If you go with "part of our nature" instead, then it's also part of our nature to be stupid and irrational, biased and fallacious. Shall we not discard those either? And of course, you're still begging the question of why "part of our nature" equals "certainly bad" to "discard". Sickness is part of our nature; shall we not cure it? Must we linger in ill health for as long as our ancestors, instead of getting well more quickly? If not, how is it different from getting over a bad emotion more quickly? Your #2 is even more disappointing -- "what is actually good flows from our nature" -- WTF? That's as much begging the question as saying there must be a God because he's good, and all the good we have in the world must therefore flow from His love. You're just babbling here, not making a case for anything. It's good because good flows from our nature, and our nature is good because discarding it is bad? Perhaps it contains a dormative principle [http://sci.tech-archive.net/Archive/sci.math/2005-03/8622.html], too?
0thomblake12yI wasn't aware we were arguing metaethics at that level here, so a charge of begging the question seems entirely out of line. That what is good comes from the sort of thing that one is, is not all that controversial. It's actually one thing I didn't have to explain or defend at all in my thesis on ethics, but as always your panel may vary. Let's go through a few candidate explanations of the good: 1. The good is objective, and based on universal principles; it's pure chance that we care about what's good 2. The good is objective, and based on universal principles; we care about what's good because our observations about the good track reality 3. The good is objective and relative; what is good for a human is based on what it is to be human 4. The good is subjective; what is good as far as I'm concerned is not based on any facts about the universe other than some human's say-so I'm leaving out explanations of the good such as Divine Command Theory and Ethical Nihilism since I assume you wouldn't buy into them anyway. In each of these cases, what is good comes from what it is to be human. Our nature is the grounding of value, and to ignore a major part of our nature is sure to lead one astray when seeking out the good. Did you have another idea in mind for what constitutes goodness? That's not begging the question either, though I suppose it might be if it was stated more clearly. Does anyone actually argue that, anyway? No. I did not argue that our nature is good. That would indeed seem circular. Sorry, were you using 'begging the question' in the colloquial sense this whole time? I'd assumed not, since you referred to Aristotle. If not, please point out where I'd initially set out to prove that "part of our nature" equals "certainly bad" to "discard". I'd initially used (something like) that as a premise and not my conclusion! If you see what I'm doing as "just babbling" then I don't see how you even have anything to argue against. You'r
0pjeby12yBut since that's precisely the thing we're arguing about, to present it as your premise is begging the question, per the definition I quoted. In addition to that, it's not even relevant. I could equally say, "what is bad comes from the sort of thing that one is", and use this to prove that we should discard bad feelings. So stating it isn't actually reducing the original problem in any way. Actually, given most philosophy I've seen, I'd say that'd be a pretty fair assessment. ;-)
-1thomblake12ySo then in your opinion, I didn't commit a logical fallacy after all? ETA: Or were you just changing the subject?
0pjeby12yYou most certainly were begging the question. From Wikipedia (quoting Aristotle): You asserted that one class of thing was good because another class of thing was good, while failing to either establish that the class was good, or even that the thing in question was a member of that class.
0thomblake12yWhile I disagree with your assessment, it's clear at least that I did not make the argument clear to you, so more elaboration is above.
-1Vladimir_Nesov12yThis is incorrect. You are not supposed to turn insensitive to your own preferences.
1Nick_Tarleton12yIt sounds to me like pjeby is talking about knee-jerk emotional reactions, not preferences.
3pjeby12yCorrect. At least in my usage of language, a "preference" is something that you don't feel "bad" about when it's not met; you merely feel an absence of "good". IOW, it's bad enough that your preference isn't met, without feeling bad on top of it.

You don't have to resort to accusations of politics or 'factions' to make sense of what's going on. I think there's honest disagreement, but it's hard to tell until people answer some basic questions:

  1. Do we have, or want, a community norm against alienating potential members?
  2. Is the seemingly objectionable language in danger of alienating potential members?
  3. Are there good reasons to not avoid this sort of language, that would override (1)?

For (1), I think it's a resounding "yes", since part of the reason for the existence of this site is to increase the number of rationalists in the world, so alienating potential members seems antithetical to that goal.

(2) is an empirical question. (Amongst philosophers, that tends to be the end of the discussion - feel free to pursue that)

In the case of (3), I can think of a few. There may be some points which can only be talked about using that sort of language, and I think in that case the importance of discussing things wins (on a case-by-case basis).

Also, it might be the case that it's unclear what constitutes this sort of language, or how to fix it, so it would be asking too much to expect people to change their wording. I don't think that is the case.

Any thoughts? Did I leave anything out?

1RobinZ12yThat sounds accurate. I would be interested to know of any research data that would shed light on (2) - I would be surprised if there were not, but I can't name any personally.

There is simply no way of enforcing "sanity" standards about a political dispute that people physically fight over in the real world: we should be very clear about this. What disputes like this require is real-world mediation and negotiation skills which go far beyond Less Wrong's scope.

The best introduction to the topic I'm personally aware of is Bernard Crick's work In Defense of Politics, which is helpfully summarized on Wikipedia. Note that Crick describes politics as "an ethical dispute which has become public", and that ethical disputes are an inevitable consequence of goodness and morality standards. Accordingly, virtues like adaptability and compromise are of far higher merit than any platitude about "sanity" or "rationality".

7Roko12yThough perhaps LessWrong's scope should be extended to this topic. After all, it seems to be a very serious problem for semi-evolved monkeys playing rationality games...
2bogus12yWe could certainly encourage more discussion of the political virtues on Less Wrong - I'm talking about general concepts like mediation or compromise - and this would definitely help forestall the factionalization of Less Wrong's userbase. However, it would be a grave mistake to encourage "base level" political discussions on Less Wrong itself: that part should be left to specialized open politics websites [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/open_politics], which often need to include such features as argumentation frameworks, support for clearly-defined factions, acceptance of anonymous input etc.
0Roko12yAgreed. yes, exactly.
0Roko12yTrue. Renamed article to "Saner".

I will delete my account and re-register under a different username. I would recommend that Alicorn do the same.

It would be fascinating to learn why you think I'm going to take this recommendation as anything but an attack on my project and the identity I have established here. I maintain a consistent identity under the same name everywhere on the Internet because I stand by the things I write and value the ability to build a reputation and a history over time.

I would also implore everyone to just not bring this issue up again. If someone uses language in a way that mildly annoys you (hint: they probably didn't do this on purpose)

That's an interesting "hint", since you deliberately pointed out a sentence as an instance of the objectification I've complained about earlier in your post. Interestingly, that sentence isn't an example of the objectification I've complained about, although I do think it is false.

crippled by a blood-feud between a feminist faction and a masculinist faction.

This seems like an unduly dire prediction. What it looks like to me is there are three basic groups: people who actively support gender-neutrality (me, the "some lovely peop... (read more)

7Rings_of_Saturn12yAlicorn: I would be interested to hear your reply to the more substantive charges that Roko levels. I am in general in agreement with him that while the issue you raise is worth thinking about and discussing, your method of talking about it is thoroughly and consistently disingenuous. To wit: In your classification you left out a fourth group of people, of which I would consider myself one: people who actively support gender-neutrality but have a completely different definition of it and who consider people with your definition to be the ones similar to fish swimming the water, unaware that they are wet. Can you please address the real issues that Roko raises here, especially in the pargraph that begins "Alicorn has contributed..."? Your reply here seems to be avoiding the Least Convenient Possible [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2k/the_least_convenient_possible_world/] argument. Or the comment that I posted here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/134/sayeth_the_girl/y7v]? I understand that you have had to post many replies since posting your piece the other day, but I am still unsatisfied.
-1Alicorn12yAs you request, so I comply. Guilty, I suppose. I really wouldn't think of it or put it like that. I was hoping to alert the group that I still suspect is the majority (the group who, prior to said alert, were sympathetic but oblivious). I do consider making friends a great side effect of participating in this community, but apart from the fact that I mostly make friends with people who don't say rude and stupid things about women, I don't think I could call them "a political band of feminist allies". Since this accusation is leveled at something "implicit", asking me to respond to it is asking me to take responsibility for Roko's interpretation of what I said, but all right. Disagreement is not the problem. If we were having serious discussions about whether certain language is okay, that would be disagreement, and I would not downvote or ask anyone else to downvote polite and thoughtful arguments in favor of talking more or less the way Roko et. al. have been. I will downvote and hope that others will downvote comments that operate under the assumption that the status quo of language (namely, one in which sexist ideas slide in unobtrusively without people generally batting an eye) is unassailably correct. Posts and comments that use sexist language and express sexist ideas without disclaiming them or acknowledging that they might be identified that way should not be seen as the typical way of things in need of no thought from anyone about their hurtful effects. I have a faction? Cool! I didn't realize I had a faction. I always wanted to lead a faction when I grew up! I will charitably assume that "specifically" crept in there by accident, since I never said anything about ostracism, I think it should go without saying that everyone is subject to criticism, and as far as downvoting goes - see above. The idea that the language I complain about is "perfectly standard" is exactly what I want to attack. "Seems normal to Roko" is not the criterion for perfect sta

Your concern is fine but your suggested solutions amount to shooting off your arm to cure a bee-sting. The community seems to me nowhere near as polarized as you suggest.

5Roko12yThat's why I said "nip in the bud. " It isn't that bad yet, but when we have people saying: we are actually 1 step away from karma cartels. All it would take is me or PJeby to respond to the downvoting in kind.

I think this is twaddle.

If by "respond to the downvoting in kind" you mean something like "start downvoting articles from the Evil Feminists even when there's nothing in the articles themselves that would have made us downvote them if they'd been written by other people", then it's that that would be the first step to a "karma cartel" situation. (And "in kind" would be just plain dishonest.)

If by "respond to the downvoting in kind" you mean something like "start downvoting articles that we think have negative net contribution to the Less Wrong community because they encourage harmful attitudes", then you should be doing that and there's nothing cartel-like about it.

Furthermore, as a participant in some of these discussions, I have made a point of generally not downvoting comments I disagree with, nevermind other comments by the same people.

On the other hand, I've actually had roughly 80 unrelated comments of mine downvoted, and for various reasons suspect it was probably by someone who disagreed with me on precisely this topic of gender-related attitudes.

It's also worth noting that we've been explicitly encouraged to downvote comments we think contribute negatively to LW, and much of what Alicorn complained about falls firmly in my category of "thoughtlessly rude behavior that lowers the quality of the discussion".

6Roko12yis a dangerously broad category. For example, one might start downvoting all comments from gender X because we think we need less of that gender because they "contribute negatively". Or we might start systematically downvoting a particular person even when they make an entirely valid point, because they are "part of a problem" and need to be chased away. No, downvoting should solely be a measure of the degree of accuracy and relevance of a comment to settling the empirical question at hand. As we become politicized, we will find ways of justifying political actions against people on the "other side", and having a really broad category like "contribute negatively" will just make it really easy for us to do that. Our brains do all this automatically.

No, downvoting should solely be a measure of the degree of accuracy and relevance of a comment to settling the empirical question at hand.

I don't think most people think that's what downvotes are for. But that's been discussed at great length.

Specifically, I'm under the impression downvote means 'I want to see fewer comments like this' at its basis, and any other analysis of what it means proceeds from that and our community standards.

ETA: FWIW, Eliezer has agreed

At some point we really do have to enforce community norms to prevent the level of discourse from deteriorating. Antisocial and obnoxious behavior are perfectly valid reasons to downvote a comment, I have a hard time believing you really think they aren't, and I'm reasonably confident that most of LW is okay with the idea, judging by other comments I've seen receive downvotes (not to pick on him, but Annoyance has gotten some of this) for no obvious reason other than tone.

The issues are where to draw the lines, and how to handle it when the community is sharply divded on what constitutes "polite, respectful discussion". Frankly, the main person I see drawing "us vs. them" lines here is you.

3Roko12yWell I think that if the comment is specifically aimed at being obnoxious, e.g. Then that should be killed. But if a comment expresses a true proposition about the world, and the main purpose of the comment is to express that comment, e.g. "blacks are dumber than whites, look at all this data I have, and this list of biases about western culture which shows that we are massively prone to ignore the data" (disclaimer: I do not advocate that position), but as a side effect happens to offend someone, then it should not get deleted. At least this seems to be to me the algorithm which will empirically lead to truest community beliefs. Most of the juiciest truths will offend someone, and if we allow the truth to be suppressed because it "causes offence", we will end up with false beliefs. This seems utterly obvious to me.
7Roko12yIt is the nature of the human mind that we will do this whether we are trying to or not. I no longer trust myself to give an unbiased estimate of an article by alicorn, and I suspect that the reverse is also true.

As clunky as it is, this is a major virtue of the LessWrong anti-kibitzer script.

1Eliezer Yudkowsky12yYup, you could just install that if you're that worried.
3thomblake12yAgreed. You should already be doing that. I routinely downvote comments that I think are harmful to Less Wrong. Isn't that basically what voting is for?
2CronoDAS12yWho gives a crap about individual karma, anyway?
2Roko12yWell alicorn clearly does: and I think that she is correct that karma influences people to a significant degree.
4CronoDAS12yWell, total karma becomes rather meaningless after a certain level; it mostly just means you've posted a lot. Ratings of individual comments and posts are interesting, though.

This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Two rationalists fail to agree, so you're going to:

A) discuss until some sort of synthesis is found (this statement needs some qualifiers, which you, my charitable reader, may insert to your liking)

or

B) not talk about it (and delete your identities for good measure!)

Hmm, that's a tough one. (and I ommitted C/D, the other side is stupid/evil!)

Additionally, this post seems rather disingenuous coming from a participant (I gather; I don't/haven't read every comment, and don't really pay any attention to usernames) in the... (read more)

2SoullessAutomaton12yNo, C/D would be "convince the other side to stop talking about it, then push stronger for a synthesis that favors your side". I'm pretty sure we at least don't have anyone doing that.

I didn't see what Alicorn said in her post as a start or continuation of politicization in here. I saw it as an observation of possible biases.

I agree with you on the issue that those camps are unneccessary and harmful, but I think that excluding this topic from rationalistic discussion would do more harm than good. As you say, modelling general human female as a mechanical system is standard in both thinking and in language. Why is it so? Must it be so? Is the same true with generic human male? Is there any value in making such generalizations of either s... (read more)

1SoullessAutomaton12yI think his point is that attempting to change the demographics for the sake of changing them would result in a loss of rationality. I don't think I necessarily agree, but that's not the same as assuming the current gender ratio is ideal for some reason.
[-][anonymous]12y 5

Heh. Feel free to do what you think is right, but I for one won't blame Alicorn or the others if they decide to maintain their identity on this site. I don't even see how deleting your account is going to help the community.

Give it a couple of days, and people are going to move on. They'll remember that feminists (male and female) made some complaints about gender sensitivity and probably forget that after awhile, since its not a major topic and we'd all probably prefer to talk and think about other things.

I don't see a mod clique forming. The wors... (read more)

2thomblake12yI noticed that too. I'd say Roko won that game, if not for falling into his own trap.

Cliques form when you don't separate people and their ideas. Political struggle forms when you make value claims("It's unethical to talk about people as if they were objects". Even better since people are objects in almost every meaning of the word) that you want everyone else to accept and follow.

Take these two out, and I see no problem about talking gender issues. Talk about how it might be irrational to not take into account some aspect of people(instead of "objectifying is bad"), and focus on arguments, not on who's making them. Bas... (read more)

20% women would be a big change. But this is an ultra-nerd topic - so I don't see it happening.

0Jonathan_Graehl12yWhat's your 80% confidence interval for the current prevalence of females? (seperately per page view, per comment, or per active account, if you wish) Don't read further if you want to avoid anchoring, but mine is 7%-30% for readers and 5%-20% per post. In other words, I really don't know. There are plenty of ambi-sexed names.
-1timtyler12yHere's the members of the LW facebook group - so you can see for yourself: http://www.facebook.com/s.php?k=100000004&id=144017955332&gr=2&a=7 [http://www.facebook.com/s.php?k=100000004&id=144017955332&gr=2&a=7]
0Rakel12yWhy?
9SoullessAutomaton12yIn short, the type of backgrounds that most people on LW have, and other communities they are in, tend to be as gender-skewed as LW, if not sometimes moreso. Go look at the Computer Science department at your nearest university, for instance.
3Jonathan_Graehl12yTo my surprise, supposedly in the early 1990s females were 1/3 of undergraduates in computer science - http://w2.eff.org/Net_culture/Gender_issues/women_in_ai.article [http://w2.eff.org/Net_culture/Gender_issues/women_in_ai.article] I've worked with roughly 20% female AI graduate and phd, which was higher than I'd expected after my undergraduate class, which was at least 90% male.
0Rakel12yI'm well aware that communities like this tend to be extremely gender-skewed. Perhaps I should have elaborated on my question(s): Why 20% women would be a big change? Why timtyler doesn't see it happening?
3SoullessAutomaton12yWell, I can't really speak for him, but I assume he's just saying that the current ratio is far from 20% and that he sees no reason to expect it to change, possibly because the kind of people who would be likely to join will have a similarly skewed ratio. I'm not really sure what you're asking.
1Rakel12yI'm asking why he thinks that different gender ratio would be a big change. Are men and women so different from each other that it would be noticeable? Even if the discussions are strictly about rationalism? I'm also asking why he thinks change like that wont happen. Are women inherently less rationalistic? And a question for you: why it is likely that people who want to join have that skewed sex ratio? (Disclaimer: I'm asking these questions because I'm interested in what people think, and I'm trying to keep them as "unthreatening" as possible. But as they are questions, they always seem somewhat aggressive :P)
1SoullessAutomaton12yI think you're reading too much into it--it would be a big change in the gender ratio, not necessarily anything else. Personally, I don't think it'd matter all that much otherwise, as far as the discourse here is concerned. People don't find sites like LW out of the blue; they need to find links from some other site, have some reason for doing a web search that leads to this site, or have it mentioned by a friend. * If memory serves me, statistically, most friendships are same-sex, so that vector will have a similar sex ratio. * LW is a small site on esoteric topics, therefore the chance of finding it from a random Google search are small, so that vector is likely to have little impact. * Most of the other sites that would currently be inclined to link to LW are topically related to computer science, philosophy, economics, science, athiesm, technology, science fiction, &c.--most of which are interests that also have skewed gender ratios to some degree, some more or less so than LW[1]. That is also my answer to "why I don't expect it to change", at least not without deliberate outreach of some sort to compatible communities with less gender skew. Short version: It's a self-perpetuating situation for various reasons. [1]: I've been in at least one technology-oriented community where male-to-female transsexuals outnumbered biological females among active participants. I don't think I need to point out how statistically unlikely that is.
2wnoise12ySure. But consider the stochastic matrix [1-p, p; p; 1-p]. It has eigenvalues of 1, an even split, and (1-2p), corresponding to the difference between male and female. This part shrinks at each step outward in friendship. It certainly has some influnce into site membership, but it does end up shrinking rather rapidly (exponentially!). Even a p of 0.1 (1/10 friends is opposite sex), would give a ratio of 55:45 after 10 rounds. If we have a very biased join rate, this can reinforce that, but by itself it should be ignored.
0timtyler12yBig: 2% to 20% is - what - about a 1000% increase? Liklihood: extreme-rationality and intelligent machines are ultra-nerd material - and of course, most ultra-nerds are male.
[-][anonymous]12y 0

Hooray! Internet dramas has finally reached LessWrong!

I agree with your assessment of the problem and would also like to help. If Alicorn succeeds in forming a mod clique, the site will be much worse off. But we mustn't form cliques of our own to counter, because that would lead to the same outcome. Tragedy of the commons.

-1Roko12yThat is why I am going to delete my account and sign up with a different account name, which I will not tell anyone. BTW, the account deletion feature isn't working...
4orthonormal12yHonestly, I don't see what good would come of disguising your identity, from anyone's perspective. I urge you to look for other alternatives if you're worried about clique formation. Also, how hard do you think it would be for the other regulars to spot you under a new name?
0Roko12ySuggestions?
2orthonormal12yOn this particular issue, I just made a few suggestions [http://lesswrong.com/lw/13g/outside_analysis_and_blind_spots/]. I just don't see how having the same opinions under new names would help the state of the discourse, and we'd lose the ability to connect your ideas to their full context if you change names on us.
4Raka12yHi, I'm a new user who just discovered Less Wrong. I just wanted to post and say how excited I am to join this amazing and unfamiliar community!

I sit in absolute awe of the epic lack of sense of humor in the replies to this.

0RobinZ12y...! *laughs*
1bogus12yHi, Raka, and welcome to Less Wrong! I can tell you've been lurking for a while and have a well-developed sense of humor. These are well-appreciated qualities in our community, but do not overdo it: being overly trollish is discouraged here. Have fun!
0RichardKennaway12ySome possible interpretations of Raka's comment: 1. Raka is Roko, and is lying. 2. Raka is some other established reader of LW, and is lying. 3. Raka is a bystander who has been recruited by a regular to join and post that comment. 4. Raka is a new user who just discovered Less Wrong, and just wanted to post and say how excited they are to join, and just happened to choose a username very like Roko's, and post at a point in the discussion where questions of identity had been raised. I can't decide between the first three, but the least credible hypothesis is 4. Please don't piss in the soup Raka, whoever you are. ETA: As it happens, I have used the name "Raak" elsewhere on the web for many years, but I am not Roko or Raka, and have never posted and never will post here by any name but my everyday one.
6Paul Crowley12yI'm pretty sure it's * Raka is some other established reader of LW, and is making a point though I'm not sure I know exactly what the point is - perhaps that Roko is unlikely to succeed in their disguise, or that we're going to start thinking every newcomer is Roko if this sort of thing goes on.
1JulianMorrison12yThe most credible is 1. Placement, Hamming distance, a publicly stated intent to do as much, and a wierdly content-free intro message. I don't see what Roko gains from this.
5Nick_Tarleton12yI really don't think he would fail that badly at disguise.
3Roko12yNO! that is not me!!
1Jonathan_Graehl12yThat seems like an overreaction, and sets a messy precedent as well. I agree with your analysis, except I don't think the situation is as frightening as you do. Both her post and your reaction to it, while of reasonable quality, are exactly the type of useless meta-discussion that I'd encourage everyone to vote down at least to the extent necessary to keep it off the front page.
1yeynfv12yIs account deletion supposed to delete your old posts? Why do you want that?
0yeynfv12yI can't delete my account, either.
1brian_jaress12yYou could remove your email address and reset the password to somethingrandomly generated [http://www.random.org/strings/?num=10&len=20&digits=on&upperalpha=on&loweralpha=on&unique=off&format=html&rnd=new] . Just paste it in without saving a copy. That should also give you a chance to write a message confirming you've done it before you log off.
0[anonymous]12yHi everyone, I'm a new user who just discovered Less Wrong!
0[anonymous]12yit won't work, your comment style is distinctive.