From the article:

For someone who isn’t a fan of teen idol Justin Bieber, being forced to listen to one of his songs over and over again could be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

At Evanston Township High School this week, they called it a fund-raiser.

To motivate their fellow students to donate money for a struggling cafe/arts center popular with ETHS kids, seniors Charlotte Runzel and Jesse Chatz persuaded administrators to let them blast Bieber’s hit “Baby” over the school’s loudspeaker system at the end of each class period — and not stop playing the song until Runzel and Chatz had met their goal.

...

Perhaps not surprisingly, Runzel and Chatz, who were given one week to meet their goal of $1,000 for Boocoo cafe on Church Street, were able to raise the money in just three days.

“It made me smile to look at what we can do and look at the money we are raising,” said Chatz.

 

Link. (Chicago Sun-Times)

I wonder if this atrocity is going to go unpunished?

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[-][anonymous]11y 22

seniors Charlotte Runzel and Jesse Chatz persuaded administrators to let them blast Bieber’s hit “Baby” over the school’s loudspeaker system at the end of each class period — and not stop playing the song until Runzel and Chatz had met their goal.

I think the real motivator that Runzel and Chatz provided is the opportunity for students to signal their dislike of Justin Beiber by donating. The idea that students were giving because of the disutility of listening to the song is just a front. That is, students donated so that they could say, "Yeah I donated so we can stop listening to this awful music," not because they were so fed up with hearing the song that they were willing to pay to stop it. I wonder whether Runzel and Chatz are aware of this.

I think the real motivator that Runzel and Chatz provided is the opportunity for students to signal their dislike of Justin Beiber by donating.

I'm not sure, at the very least this could be inverted - they caused a situation where many groups of students would tend to pressure each other to donate in order to avoid the negative utility that would come from acting against their peer group.

If every student is signaling their dislike by donating, donating becomes the status quo. In that case, donating wouldn't be a status raising action, but not signaling would deviate from the status quo, which is perceived as high risk so you're willing to pay to avoid that. In the end, everyone but the groups for which the signaling is status neutral is at a net loss.

Interestingly a similar system was reported on reddit (though I can't find the link now), where the standard tip jar was replaced with two containers labelled after different cartoons (think it was animaniacs and dexters labratory?) and the jar that got the highest amount of donations the previous day was displayed ("You picked band X over ban Y"). This profits both from signalling desires as in the Beiber case and competiveness.

Edit: Found it!

Image

Discussion

The success of this is even harder to explain in terms of rewards, as they're not notionally contributing to their own utility by removing unpleasant music, merely getting pleasure from expressing their opinion.

As horrific as this particular variety of dust speck torture is, I'm more worried about the way people with the best of intentions and halfway-decent luminosity/transparency still manage to shut down conversation about efficient charity.

Step 1: People see warm fuzzy charity opportunities, and want to donate.
Step 2: People don't donate as much as they'd like to, because they're selfish/lazy/akrasic.
Step 3: People invent gimmicky signaling mechanisms that help correct for akrasia by aligning medium-size donations to warm fuzzy charities with personal self-interest.
Step 4: A substantial minority of people, who get less benefit from signaling or who underestimate the value of signaling, complain about the fundraisers and act like 'party poopers' because they'd rather not donate at all.
Step 5: The fundraisers' organizers feel perfectly justified in heaping shame on anyone who objects to participation in a fundraiser, since they see themselves as helping to correct for the complainers' akrasia rather than engaging in actual coercion.
Step 6: Anyone who would prefer to save their funds for efficient charities hesitates to speak up about this, because the content of their suggestion will not be listened to -- as soon as people realize that they are on team "don't donate to fundraiser," they will be dismissed as party poopers.

Does anyone else find the idea of "I'm not coercing you, I'm just helping you correct for your akrasia" deeply chilling?

It fascinates me that this got 14 karma points. I have libertarian tendencies, I keep few close relationships, and I put a high value on my privacy and independence. And, yet, under the right circumstances, I would really appreciate it if people in my community would help me correct for my akrasia/selfishness/ignorance. If I resent a particular intrusion, I chalk that up to the circumstances being wrong (e.g., you don't understand what I'm really trying to accomplish), rather than to a violation of some strong principle (you should never try to control my behavior).

The fact that you have few close relationships and strongly value independence might be contributing to the fact that you don't find the quoted phrase problematic.

Consider a social network with reciprocal support agreements, such that nodes in that network will act to protect one another's interests when those interests are threatened. So if an agent X is seen by the network to be threatening the interests of a node N, the network will act to protect N's interests against X.

Suppose that nodes in that network vary in terms of the strengths of their reciprocal support agreements. Call S(N) the typical strength of such agreements for a node N, such that the higher S(N) is, the more effectively the network will act to protect N's interests against X in the above scenario.

If node N2 has fewer close relationships, and places a higher value on privacy and independence, than node N1, it's likely that S(N2) < S(N1), which means that if agents X1 and X2 are seen to act against (respectively) N1 and N2's interests, N1's interests are better protected by the network than N2's are.

Call "stealth" the ability of an agent to act against a node's interest without being seen by the network as acting against that node's interests. Obviously, stealth is more valuable to X1 than to X2; equally obviously, X1's stealth is more of a threat to N1 than X2's stealth is to N2.

For example, suppose each X argues that their action is actually in their corresponding N's interests, but that the N can't perceive its own interests as effectively as the X can perceive the N's interest. This is a form of stealth, in that arguing this successfully results in X not being seen as acting against N's interest.

Consequently we'd expect N2 to object to that argument far less than N1 does, since it's more of a threat to N1 than it is to N2.

EDIT - Corrected some mislabeling. Changes are bolded.

And, yet, under the right circumstances, I would really appreciate it if people in my community would help me correct for my akrasia/selfishness/ignorance.

If someone needs to tell me they are not coercing me then the remainder of their sentence jolly well better not be an explanation of how they are trying to control my behavior. In cases where their controlling intervention is desired I don't need to be told that they are not coercing me. If their control is not desired then telling me that they are not is begging for reprisal.

I think the creepiness generalizes, and is pervasive, but I recognize I'm in the minority on this in the world.

"I'm not coercing you, I'm just helping you correct for your _"

The majority of people find this kind of thinking perfectly acceptable. I find such comments creepy and reprehensible, and it's extremely chilling to know that I'm in the minority on this.

[-][anonymous]11y 1

I don't know if you are minority on that. Depending what you mean I guess. If it looks like coercion without the part about helping you overcome akrasia (as this bieber example does), then that's no good.

What do you think about, say, teaching people rationality skills without them asking for it?

In general, what is a borderline acceptable example for "I'm not coercing you, I'm just..."?

What do you think about, say, teaching people rationality skills without them asking for it?

Depends on how you did it. Did you strap them to a chair, tape their eyelids open, force them to watch instructional videos?

Or did you write a story that people want to read, let's say about Harry Potter, that includes lessons on rationality?

In general, what is a borderline acceptable example for "I'm not coercing you, I'm just [helping you correct for your]..."?

People coerce people all the time. I don't think it is avoidable, but let's not go into the whole anarchist/libertarian thing.

The ominous part is the equation that coercion isn't coercion when it is for your own good. It's ok to take people's freedom from them, as long as you're only taking away their freedom to make a mistake, and forcing them to do what's good for them. That's just writing yourself a blank check to run (and destroy) other people's lives.

Borderline cases? For the self delusion that coercion isn't coercion? I can't think of any.

I can think of numerous cases where I would coerce someone for their own good, such as yanking someone out of the path of a speeding bus.

For competent adults, I would rarely condone coercing someone against their own well considered values. There would have to be a rather huge benefit to outweigh so violating a person's autonomy. I'll go along with licensing requirements for brain surgeons. I'm probably borderline for a licensing requirement for setting broken bones and putting on casts.

Where you actually are in the position of being a guardian of someone with limited or diminished capacity, like a child or a parent with advanced Alzheimer's, you come across the issue much more. You'll make some decisions for them. I'd still encourage leaving some slack for both to make their own bad choices, because having your autonomy taken from you has it's costs as well.

[-][anonymous]11y -1

Depends on how you did it. Did you strap them to a chair, tape their eyelids open, force them to watch instructional videos?

Ha yeah. clockwork orange isn't exactly ethical eutopia.

Borderline cases? For the self delusion that coercion isn't coercion? I can't think of any.

I was just trying to get a sense of the extent of your belief. There are things you say are OK like pulling a person out of the path of a bus, and things you say are not, like running someone's life, but what is a case that is ambiguous to you? Stealing a drunk friend's keys and possibly confining them to keep them from driving drunk? Making drugs or whatever illegal (assuming you're actually doing so for anyone's good, and not for police bureaucracy or drug cartels). Banning guns? Forcing everybody to take introductory rationality/philosophy of science classes in high school?

"I applaud everyone's altruism, but I'm donating the same amount to charity X instead because I think it does even more good, and I invite others to join me" is, I think, a way to talk about efficient charity without being a party pooper.

(I noticed, while writing this, the vast gulf in connotation between saying "X does more good" and "X does even more good", so tact is important.)

[-][anonymous]11y 8

For someone who isn’t a fan of teen idol Justin Bieber, being forced to listen to one of his songs over and over again

Oh, the humanity!

[-][anonymous]11y 1

I'm going to go ahead and downvote for using sensationalizing title.

Something similar was used at my school, but it failed because they messed it up completely. For a week, students payed to change the annoying music they played during passing periods, but they just changed it to another annoying song, some of which were worse. It ended up raising almost no money, because who wants to pay to change the song from Bieber to Nyan-Cat? I donate in small quantities to charities at school purely for signalling purposes, I donate if I'm in a class with cool people, and not at all if I'm in one of my required classes I simply tolerate.

A similar tactic was used at our school during lunch a few years ago, but I don't think many people donated and they stopped fairly soon. I .don't remember many details though