Inquiry into community standards

by ThisSpaceAvailable1 min read6th Aug 201453 comments

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Personal Blog

Apparently, I am not entitled to be treated with basic civility. Or, at least, not according to gwern. It started when gwern wrote

 

>>All you're saying is that Saddam called the USA's bluff and was wrong and it was disastrous. That could EASILY have happened with an attempt by the US to demand inspections from Russia.

>Um, no, because the USSR had no reason to think and be correct in thinking it served a useful role for the USA which meant the threats were bluffs that were best ridden out lest it damage both allies' long-term goals.

 

http://lesswrong.com/lw/kfd/a_parable_of_elites_and_takeoffs/b1xz

 

I read this as saying the USSR should call the bluff, which made no sense in relation to gwern's other posts. When I asked whether this was actually what was intended, gwern got pissed off, insisted that there was no way a good faith reading could see the post as saying that, and accused me of deliberately misunderstanding. I have bent over backwards to resolve this civilly, but my repeated attempts to get gwern to explain how I had misunderstood the sentence achieved nothing but the accusation that I was making an “underhanded” effort to get gwern to respond. Despite not being willing to discuss the matter in *that* thread, gwern brought the matter up in a comment thread for a completely different article. Throughout our encounters, gwern has been incredibly rude, referring to me as an “idiot” and “troll” (rather hypocritical, given the ridiculously silly claims made by gwern, such as that "A, therefore, A" is not a circular argument), and generally treating me with an utter lack of respect. And in defense, gwern has pointed to high karma and being here a long time as making any accusation of inappropriate behavior “presumptuous”. Because apparently, the popular kids can't be criticized by mere common folk.

 

Looking at the stats, gwern is indeed the top recent contributor, which makes this behavior all the more worthy of comment. If some random poster were being rude, that would be worrisome, but the fact that the top contributor thinks that a high karma score is license to egregiously violate Wheton's rule suggests that there may be something wrong with the site as a whole.

 

EY has referred to a need to have this be a “Well-Kept Garden”. So I would like to know whether gwern's behavior is the sort of thing that people here think is acceptable in this garden.

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53 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 9:34 PM
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Gwern was rude, and he got downvoted. You're being a big whiny baby and are getting downvoted a bunch. Seems like the system is Working As Intended

As far as I can tell, I was the only one downvoting gwern. And the fact that people want to avoid being called "whiny" is one of the most powerful weapons that bullies have. If you have some specific critique of my complaint, that's one thing, but your label of "whiny" seems to be based on nothing but the fact that low status accrues to asserting that one has been wronged. Now, is that a social norm that you approve of? If so, why?

Look, gwern sometimes behaves like an ass here, on IRC and possibly IRL, his charitable interpretation skills leave a lot to be desired, and this can be mildly annoying, but he more than makes up for this in the quality and quantity of the output he produces. He is a huge net benefit to this forum, probably more so than dozens of other regulars combined (possibly including yours truly), so deal with it. Ignore what you perceive to be unfair, and enjoy the rest. Not everyone can be Yvain-like insightful, productive and virtuous, all at the same time.

This is really dismissive and, if I'm honest, I'm disappointed it's been upvoted so much. It's very convenient to say something like this and score points by signalling self-sacrificing stoicism and tough skin, and a lot less convenient to take the time to actually try looking for solutions or even just hold off from making dismissive comments.

I believe I remember when I hopped on #lesswrong (on which I've spent maybe between fifteen and ninety minutes' active time, so it's telling that this happened), and within a few minutes you'd complained to me (when I wasn't talking to you, if I recall correctly) about gwern not respecting others' norms or something. I didn't imply you were a crybaby or use my ignorance of your beef as an excuse to be Above It All. In fact, I made conscious effort to preempt my brain labelling it as 'weirdly outspoken whining' and to not be prejudicial in assessing what you'd said, but to treat it as a potentially legitimate complaint.

When someone is upset and potentially feels bullied by the community, telling them to deal with it as if they are inherently the problem by daring to rock the boat is unacceptable. It might be the case that they turn out to be in the wrong, but putting it like you've put it is basically never ever ever helpful and smacks of failure of consequentialism (only looking at whether gwern is net-positive, rather than if there are marginal improvements to be made).

If it's your honest belief that there is nothing that can be done and that this thread shouldn't have been made, there are much nicer, less dismissive, more effective ways of doing it, or actions you can take. For example, not commenting and moving on. Like seriously, if anybody should be above 'Stop rocking the boat', it should be LessWrongers, given how many of us have probably encountered that attitude dozens or hundreds of times in pursuit of truth or been bullied for being nerds, and how many of us have black belts in Social Justice theory (even those who have questioned or renounced that art). And if anybody should be above weird deontological rules like 'Don't criticize net-positive figures' or 'if u dont like it u can just leave', it should be people who pride themselves on clearheaded thinking.

1) I'm annoyed by this and sleep deprived so forgive me if this response is incompletely coherent.

2) Those aren't weird deontological rules and you're just throwing in those words to describe those phrases as boo lights. MOST things people say aren't meant as strict rules, but as contextual and limited responses to the conversation at hand. This guy is implicitly calling for Gwern to be banned, or saying that it's either Them or Gwern. Shminux is simply explicitly conveying that we clearly choose to have Gwern rather than not. He's not Making A Rule.

3) You can't treat everyone who complains about being bullied by the community seriously. That's like auto-cooperating in a world full of potential defectors. It creates an incentive to punish anyone you dislike by starting a thread about how mean they are to you, and also has a chilling effect on conversation in general. Despite the rudeness, Gwern's replies in the linked conversation were lengthy and tried to convey information and thoughts. I've seen plenty of examples of people afraid to talk because they might offend someone online, and I don't really want the threshold for being punished for rudeness to be that low on Lesswrong.

4) There is such a thing as overreaction. Regardless of whether this person feels bullied by Gwern, everyone can take a look at the threads involved and decide if it's an appropriate response. I don't think calling someone out for something like this in a top level post (not to mention that's a pretty low quality post even for discussion) and impugning the entire community as irrational or whatever is at all proportional.

5) If thisspaceavailable (or you) want Lesswrong as a WHOLE to be less rude, rather than making a post that (clearly in my mind) is just getting back at Gwern, there are a LOT better ways to do it.

Those aren't weird deontological rules and you're just throwing in those words to describe those phrases as boo lights. MOST things people say aren't meant as strict rules, but as contextual and limited responses to the conversation at hand.

There is a very particular mental process of deontological thinking that epistemic rationalists should train themselves to defuse, in which an argument is basically short-circuited by a magic, invalid step. If the mental process that actually takes place in someone's head is, 'This person criticised a net-positive figure. Therefore, they must be belittled', and that's as far as their ability to justify actually goes, that seems like the kind of thinking an epistemic rationalist would want to be alerted to and detrain, if it's taking place subconsciously.

You're proposing the alternative that shminux could justify it further but is using it as a shorthand, and that I'm confusing that omission for an absence of recursive justification. The bare bones of shminux's comment would be "gwern is imperfect but hugely net positive. So deal with it. Not everyone can be perfect." If that's not deontological thinking, then it remains such a general heuristic argument, bare of any specific details of the case at hand, that it's a crappy comment to make to someone who feels that they've been bullied by a senior member and is probably worried the community will close ranks. It's not just a matter of 'What is the most charitable interpretation of shminux's comment', it's also e.g. 'What is the distribution over interpretations that would actually occur to someone who feels bullied and aggrieved?'

It looks like I'm making a fully general counterargument against arguments by calling anything short of a computer-verifiable argument deontological. It looks like you're making a fully general counterargument against accusations of deontological argument.

Your point (3) is an example of a recurring thing where I question a particular comment someone makes to a post, and then someone comes along and makes a bunch of arguments about why the original poster is in fact an idiot or defector or whatever and gets a bunch of upvotes by (intentional or otherwise) sleight of hand; they look like they're refuting my comment, but all they've done is justify general skepticism of the original poster, rather than a specific justification of the response that I questioned. It introduces a false dichotomy between belittling the original poster and 'opening the floodgates', and (intentionally or otherwise) makes me look like the naive idiot who wants to open the floodgates and the other person like the heroic, gritty defender of the forum. When all I was saying was that being mean in that specific way isn't the best thing from a consequentialist perspective. Specifically:

You can't treat everyone who complains about being bullied by the community seriously.

This is the false dichotomy. You are (intentionally or otherwise) completely misrepresenting what I'm saying. It looks to me like I got rounded off in your mind to 'naive person who thinks all claims of bullying deontologically have to be taken seriously', which is what annoyed you. You should be more careful when interpreting in future in such situations.

That's like auto-cooperating in a world full of potential defectors.

Or I'm not using a deontological or generalised heuristic, and I'm just making the specific claim that the exact response from this exact person in this exact case was not great. Apply your own skepticism of assumptions of deontology to me, if you will insist they be applied to shminux.

It creates an incentive to punish anyone you dislike by starting a thread about how mean they are to you

It's not obvious to me that this slippery slope is slippery enough to justify the specific response in this specific case.

and also has a chilling effect on conversation in general.

If I'm correct and shminux's reply was inappropriate, then that also has a chilling effect on those who have grievances. Additionally, I found shminux's reply and the amount of support it originally had very off-putting. I knew that I'd have to take a long time responding to it to try to point out what was wrong with it, and risk downvotes and obnoxious responses to do so. Then I found that some of the responses I did actually get (including yours) made me feel emotionally disgusted enough, and seemed so fundamentally crappy down several inferential layers, that it took me this long to respond and even begin to be able to roughly convey my position. I say this not as a definitive assertion that nobody should have challenged me, but to point out that you only mentioned the chilling effects on the accused without mentioning the effects on the accuser and other community members.

Despite the rudeness, Gwern's replies in the linked conversation were lengthy and tried to convey information and thoughts. I've seen plenty of examples of people afraid to talk because they might offend someone online, and I don't really want the threshold for being punished for rudeness to be that low on Lesswrong.

This seems very far away from my specific criticisms of shminux's comment.

Point (4) also does not connect to the specifics of shminux's comment.

Point (5) is defused by the obsevation that I was not defending ThisSpaceAvailable's post, but rather was criticising shminux's comment on the grounds that there are better responses than shminux's to the post. I find it extremely telling that you then state there are much better ways to make Less Wrong less rude, when you failed to understand that my comment was saying to shminux that there are much better ways of responding to a post like this than making a comment that pattern-matches extremely strongly to closing ranks around a senior community member. I.e. the form of your (5) is similar to the form of my comment, yet you missed what my comment was saying, and this seems like significant evidence to me that you were mindkilled by my comment.

I didn't say anything about banning.

Those aren't weird deontological rules

Asserting disagreement with a compound term engenders ambiguity. Are they not weird? Not deontological? Not rules? A combination?

It creates an incentive to punish anyone you dislike by starting a thread about how mean they are to you, and also has a chilling effect on conversation in general.

"Treating everyone who complaining about being bullied seriously" isn't the same as "Automatically taking the side of everyone who complains". It's bizarre to claim that you must oppose the general phenomenon of complaints, rather than addressing a problem with a specific complaint. My karma is now 42% positive for the last month. This one thread has lost me more karma than I've accrued over the entire last month. And you're saying that there's a chilling effect against gwern?

Despite the rudeness, Gwern's replies in the linked conversation were lengthy and tried to convey information and thoughts.

Really? In the first thread, gwern wrote that the threats were bluffs, and then said he had not said that and I was dishonest in thinking he did. In the other one, he spent several posts evading the question of how IQ is additive.

Regardless of whether this person feels bullied by Gwern, everyone can take a look at the threads involved and decide if it's an appropriate response.

And everyone can look at posts and decide for themselves whether downvoting was justified. And yet that didn't stop several people from making top level post complaining about mass downvoting. And really, what kind of response is "Everyone can decide whether the response was appropriate" to accusations of bullying?

I don't think calling someone out for something like this in a top level post (not to mention that's a pretty low quality post even for discussion) and impugning the entire community as irrational or whatever is at all proportional.

So, on the one hand, you say that everyone can see for themselves whether the behavior is appropriate, but on the other hand you take umbrage at my concluding from the lack of downvotes against gwern that the community as a whole is expressing a lack of concern regarding gwern's behavior?

If thisspaceavailable (or you) want Lesswrong as a WHOLE to be less rude, rather than making a post that (clearly in my mind) is just getting back at Gwern, there are a LOT better ways to do it.

What are they? And is there a way to ask what those are, that don't involve people calling me a whiner and massively downvoting me?

Huh, this is one of the worst misinterpretations of my LW comment in a long time. I don't even know where to start, so I'll just express my general disappointment with it, downvote and move on.

[-][anonymous]7y 3

I liked the part with weird deontological rules.

You more-or-less said, "gwern is imperfect but net-positive. So deal with it. Not everyone can be perfect.". I think such a response, in reply to someone who feels bullied by a senior members and worries the community is/will close ranks, is not the best course of action, and in fact is better off not being made. Even assuming your comment was not a deontological imperative, but rather a shorthand for a heuristic argument, I am very uncertain as to what heuristic you are suggesting and why you think it's a good heuristic.

Even if you ignored all that and rewrote your original comment differently, that might be sufficient to make headway.

Does that make things clearer? If this line of inquiry also seems too unweildy to begin replying to, can you go up meta levels and suggest a way to proceed?

I'll try one more time...

gwern is not a "senior member". He is not a moderator, as far as I know, though he did do some work for MIRI. He is a very prominent regular with superb research and analysis skills, quick wit, sharp tongue and occasionally bad attitude, apparently uninterested in applying the principle of charity. He's been told as much and was unwilling to acknowledge this as a problem.

Like on any forum, you don't have to engage everyone who replies to you. I ignore comments from a few regulars, some very active here, whom I have engaged in the past in repeated unproductive exchanges until I learned better. ThisSpaceAvailable should do likewise. This is basic internet hygiene. As long as the person you are unhappy to talk to does not run the place actively hounding you from thread to thread, downvoting and sniping, ignore them. If you feel that they break the forum rules, raise the issue with the mods. What ThisSpaceAvailable wrote comes across as drama-queening (an uncharitable term, but it fits in this case, hence all the downvotes of the OP). The very first sentence is an extreme put-off. Just now I have looked through the linked thread and my impression is that it's the OP who lost his cool. Anyway, I agree that my original reply could have been written in a more charitable way, but the point (a "heuristic", if you like) still stands: ignore those you don't like, unless they clearly break forum rules, or don't complain (or don't participate). It's not a "deontological imperative", more like common sense in online discourse.

I read this as saying the USSR should call the bluff, which made no sense in relation to gwern's other posts. When I asked whether this was actually what was intended

You didn't only do that. You also claimed that he misunderstood Punoxysm which means that you started by claiming implicitly that you think you understand roughly what gwern wanted to say.

If two people discuss something and you don't fully understand the positions then it's often a bad step to suggest that one misunderstands what the other is saying.

Punoxysm made a point suggesting that Iraq is somehow comparable to Russia as far as the response to threats goes. That's pretty obviously wrong. The US can't simply start a war against Russia but can against Iraq. Russia is not in the same reference class as the Iraq. If Punoxysm feels misunderstood then it's his role to say.

You coming in and accusing Gwern of misunderstanding provoked an annoyed response. It's not that you violated a rule, but him getting annoyed would have been predictable.

I have bent over backwards to resolve this civilly, but my repeated attempts to get gwern to explain how I had misunderstood the sentence achieved nothing but the accusation that I was making an “underhanded” effort to get gwern to respond.

Eh, no.

Saying: "If you can't have a calm, rational, and civil conversation about this, then I can only conclude that it you are not a rationalist.", is not trying to resolve the issue civilly. A sentence like this doesn't indicate that there's value to be gained from continuing the conversation. It's the kind of sentence that can happen in a burst of emotions but it doesn't help if you want to be taken seriously.

Gwern allegation that you are trolling instead of being sincere is probably wrong and accusing other people of trolling isn't useful.

So I would like to know whether gwern's behavior is the sort of thing that people here think is acceptable in this garden.

If that's what you want to know look at the karma votes of the corresponding posts. People vote down posts they don't consider acceptable.

If some random poster were being rude, that would be worrisome, but the fact that the top contributor thinks that a high karma score is license to egregiously violate Wheton's rule suggests that there may be something wrong with the site as a whole.

This sentence is passive aggressive by making an allegation that the site as a whole might be bad. Did you intend to make that allegation? Do you think making such an allegation makes it more likely that your post while be positively received and people side with you?


To go from the details of this case to something more general, it seems like to me like a conflict of values. Gwern communicates in a way that optimizes for information transmitted instead of avoiding to say specific things to be respectful.

You think that part of being civil means to move within some fixed social norms and leaving them is bad.

Gwern might be jerky is the same way Harry in HPMOR is. We have at the moment another thread about how that kind of rationality rubs some people the wrong way.

I remember Nietzsche's distinction of master and slave morality. It might be useful for understanding value conflicts like this one.

If that's what you want to know look at the karma votes of the corresponding posts. People vote down posts they don't consider acceptable.

The problem with this is that deep in some long convoluted thread that only a few people are following and even fewer are voting on based on careful consideration of the merits, the karma points could be far from reflecting what the overall community consensus would be, were it fully informed. And sometimes the votes do reflect the community consensus, but this uncertainty gives people an opening to think they are being treated unfairly, and that they could get justice if only they could bring the incident to the whole community's attention.

I'm not sure how big of a problem this is, but it may be worthwhile to try some relatively low cost solutions. For example, have a special post where people can post comments requesting reviews or explanations of karma points on some comment or whole thread, without having to make a big deal about it. (And link to the post from the site's introduction or FAQs so people can find out about it.)

[Note: I've avoided using gendered pronouns out of respect for the general principle that one should not assume a particular gender, but given others referring to gwern as “he”, I will follow suit]

You didn't only do that. You also claimed that he misunderstood Punoxysm

I'm not sure what statement of mine you're referring to.

Punoxysm made a point suggesting that Iraq is somehow comparable to Russia as far as the response to threats goes. That's pretty obviously wrong.

No, it's not. There are quite obviously differences between the two countries, but that does not mean that it's "obviously wrong" that a statement about Iraq is completely inapplicable to the USSR.

Saying: "If you can't have a calm, rational, and civil conversation about this, then I can only conclude that it you are not a rationalist.", is not trying to resolve the issue civilly.

First of all, you're ignoring everything that happened before that (and in fairness, some of it is not in the thread). When gwern made a statement that made no sense, I didn't just say "That makes no sense". I went out of my way to think of what he could have meant. Maybe he meant to say "Iraq" instead of "USSR". So I ask whether that's the issue, and he replies that it's not. So, I double-check that gwern is did in fact mean what his words say. Gwern responded to that by insulting me. I responded to that by painstakingly laying out how I arrived at my interpretation. Gwern made no response to that comment in that thread, but did go to another article and attacked me regarding this thread: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/kfp/terminology_thread_or_name_that_pattern/b47t

So, the comment that you quote was made AFTER gwern accused me of deliberately misunderstanding him, AFTER I had asked for a clarification, and AFTER gwern had gone to another thread to make an assertion (that I had misunderstood the statement) that gwern refused to defend in the original thread. So what you quoted appeared AFTER I tried to resolve the issue civilly, and gwern made it clear that he had no interest in doing so. That was when I pointed out that gwern was acting uncivilly, and that I was making conclusions based on that.

Now, as for the statement that you quoted, is it uncivil to point out someone else's incivility? What is wrong with saying "If you can't act like a rationalist, then I'm going to conclude you're not a rationalist"? Keep in mind, gwern said that he believed that I was being dishonest in claiming not to understand what he said. He basically called me a liar. You want to call me wrong, fine. I'm quite willing to accept the possibility that I'm wrong. But calling me a LIAR? That's not okay. I think putting up with that shit as long as I did shows what lengths I'm willing to go to bring a discussion back to a civil basis.

This sentence is passive aggressive by making an allegation that the site as a whole might be bad. Did you intend to make that allegation? Do you think making such an allegation makes it more likely that your post while be positively received and people side with you?

What's passive aggressive about it? It's a bit of a catch-22. If I say that I this incident is making think there may be something wrong with the site, that is going to make people defensive. But if I say nothing, then my post won't be positively received for the simple reason that my post won't exist. I don't intend to be passive aggressive. Anything I say will be interpreted as implying meaning beyond the literal statements, and coming up with a statement whose implicature matches my intended meaning is beyond my rhetorical skills, if it is possible at all. drethelin is going so far as to say that I am saying that gwern should be banned. If I make vague statements that gwern's behavior is bad, then people are going to jump to those sort of conclusions. If I'm more specific, and say “I think X should happen”, then I will be perceived as dictating. There's really nothing I can say that won't be as implying something. I believe that gwern's behavior is seriously anti-rationalist, I think that there should be social norms against such behavior. If there are such social norms, they are not evident to me, and in my personal opinion, this is suboptimal.

To go from the details of this case to something more general, it seems like to me like a conflict of values.

The only value that is necessary to condemn gwern's behavior is the principle that people should try to resolve disagreements civilly and not call someone a liar simply because he says he doesn't understand what you're saying.

Gwern communicates in a way that optimizes for information transmitted instead of avoiding to say specific things to be respectful.

Wow. That's almost exactly the opposite of the actual situation. This whole issue arose because I asked gwern to explain a statement, and rather than optimizing for information transmitted and answering me, he simply insulted me. Gwern was further irritated in another thread by my trying to get him to make his position explicit, calling my attempts to clarify the issue “Socratic bullshit”. As far as I can tell, gwern doesn't optimize for information, he optimizes for avoiding to have to critically examine his assumptions.

You think that part of being civil means to move within some fixed social norms and leaving them is bad.

Well, yeah, I think that insulting other people is bad. Normatively, it's rude. If you want to go positivist, it's destructive to effective communication. Not only that, it is contrary to what I understand rationality to be. This is not merely “You aren't acting in accordance to my personal values”. It's:

This site purports to have values distinct from the general populace I understood those values to include ones contrary to gwern's behavior It's really quite a disheartening experience to finally find a site that at first seems to oppose the sort of irrationality that is endemic on the internet Having behavior such as gwern's not be seriously discouraged is inimical to the stated goals of LW; how can create a Friendly AI, when one can't even create a friendly discussion board? Given these issues, I thought it important to seek the input of the community at large.

Gwern might be jerky is the same way Harry in HPMOR is.

No! That's the very thing makes the lack of condemnation of gwern so bizarre and distressing. How many times has Harry!MOR been confronted with a differing point of view, and he says “Well, I should seriously consider this point of view, try to figure out where this other person is coming from, and assume that they have good reason for believing it, even if it's not true. In fact, it's quite possible that I'm the one who's wrong, and it would be wrong for me to dismiss that possibility out of hand”? Now how many times has he responded by accusing the other person of not really honestly holding the opposing point of view, calling them an idiot and troll? How many times has he asked other people questions that, from the other person's point of view, are asking them to justify obvious, basic facts, and how many times has he responded to other people asking him such questions by calling the questions “Socratic bullshit”? How many times has he refused to defend a proposition in one discussion, and then referred to it as a clear fact in another discussion?

We have at the moment another thread about how that kind of rationality rubs some people the wrong way.

From that article “In some cases, people think it's rude to suggest to someone that they're wrong.” Again, I am not taking offense at being told that I am wrong. I am taking offense at being called a liar, idiot, and troll. It's gwern that can't handle people disagreeing with him.

how can create a Friendly AI, when one can't even create a friendly discussion board?

Different cultures have different notion of what's friendly behavior. If you behave in a way that's friendly behavior in the US in a village in Namibia, you are likely to do things that offend them and bring you into interactions that don't feel good even if the people in the village follow the notions of what friendly Namibian behavior happens to be.

That's roughly what happens here. You expect certain cultural customs to hold that you probably learned in the Social Justice warrior scene. Those customs don't hold in this community and that's why you behave in a way that get's you into this conflict where people vote down your posts a lot.

That doesn't mean that gwern's behavior is optimal and can't be improved, but part of being friendly usually means "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

Well, I should seriously consider this point of view, try to figure out where this other person is coming from, and assume that they have good reason for believing it, even if it's not true.

As far as the IQ debate goes, of course a lot of people have a good reason for being critical of IQ. IQ suggests that people are somehow unequal and many people consider that to be unfair. Gwern isn't oblivious of that fact. He's rather overly optimistic about the prospect of convincing people by pointing them to the research.

Now, as for the statement that you quoted, is it uncivil to point out someone else's incivility?

Yes. It raises the emotional tension of the discussion in a way that not beneficial.

What is wrong with saying "If you can't act like a rationalist, then I'm going to conclude you're not a rationalist"?

A lot. To take the most obvious thing: You presume that gwern cares about whether you consider him to be a rationalist. In the Social Justice community people care about whether other people see them as a "real feminist". We don't have something similar on LW. I don't care how other people on LW mentally label me. I care whether or not other people interact with me in a way that provides utility to me. On LW we are wary of labels. Robin Hanson lately even wrote a post against thinking of yourself as a rationalist.

We don't use labels in a way to press obligations on other people and expect the people to fulfill the obligations to be worthy of the label. That a technique used in the Social Justice world but we don't use it. It reduces the ability of other people to express themselves authentically and do what produces overall utility.

Keep in mind, gwern said that he believed that I was being dishonest in claiming not to understand what he said. He basically called me a liar. You want to call me wrong, fine. I'm quite willing to accept the possibility that I'm wrong. But calling me a LIAR?

To gwern your posts suggested that you lack the mediocre amount of intelligence necessary to see A -> B or you do have the intelligence and pretend to not see A -> B to mess with him. That means the in his interpretation of the situation the two options are that you are either a idiot for failing to have the amount of intelligence to see A -> B or a troll for pretending to fail to see it.

That was gwern's honest understanding of the situation and he expressed it. He didn't call you a idiot or troll to make you feel bad but because those are the terms that accurately describe the situation he perceived to exist.

Of course being an idiot in the sense of having a low IQ likely isn't the cause of you not thinking A -> B. It's more likely inferential distance given a different cultural background.

Whenever you run a test and that test produces a number that number is a metric for what the test measures. That's a core basis on talking about measurements. Debating that fact is like debating whether 1+1=2. If you complain that someone who says 1+1=2 isn't critically investigating his assumptions when you ask him why he thinks that 1+1=2, you are making demands that the person can perceive as unreasonable. In this case gwern is reacting in a way to those demands that's doesn't reflect a wise choice of words on his part.

On the other hand gwern has no obligation with spending the time to make an in depth explanation of why 1+1=2. The proper way to deal with such a discussion would have been for him to bow out.

Different cultures have different notion of what's friendly behavior.

Yes. This is the point. If a there is a project to build a "Friendly" AI by a community that sees nothing wrong with gwern's behavior, then that is not a FAI that I want built.

You expect certain cultural customs to hold that you probably learned in the Social Justice warrior scene. Those customs don't hold in this community and that's why you behave in a way that get's you into this conflict where people vote down your posts a lot.

I feel that you are not listening to what I am saying. I think that I was quite clear in saying that gwern's behavior is contrary to what I consider to be entailed by the values that this community purports to have. A valid response to that is to claim that I have misunderstood what values this community purports to have. Another valid response is to say that gwern's behavior does not, in fact, violate those values. Saying that I am simply expecting people to follow a particular set of norms because those are the norms that have been inculcated in me from another community is not a valid response.

but part of being friendly usually means "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

And apparently, part of doing as the Romans do is not starting threads asking what the Romans do. Because that's "passive aggressive".

Well, I should seriously consider this point of view, try to figure out where this other person is coming from, and assume that they have good reason for believing it, even if it's not true.

As far as the IQ debate goes, of course a lot of people have a good reason for being critical of IQ. IQ suggests that people are somehow unequal and many people consider that to be unfair. Gwern isn't oblivious of that fact. He's rather overly optimistic about the prospect of convincing people by pointing them to the research.

It is quite unclear to me how you think that is a response to what you quoted.

Now, as for the statement that you quoted, is it uncivil to point out someone else's incivility?

Yes. It raises the emotional tension of the discussion in a way that not beneficial.

You have said that "sometimes" it's beneficial to call someone a liar. Yet you say that calling someone's behavior uncivil is not beneficial. And since you're saying that my behavior is uncivil, it follows that your behavior is also uncivil.

I don't see why it is not beneficial to mention when I am taking offense at something that someone said, and giving them an opportunity to correct it.

What is wrong with saying "If you can't act like a rationalist, then I'm going to conclude you're not a rationalist"?

A lot. To take the most obvious thing: You presume that gwern cares about whether you consider him to be a rationalist.

That is not an unreasonable inference, but I did not say that. Rather, I explained why I felt that gwern was not being rational, and provided an opportunity for gwern, if he so chose, to address that. Again, I note that this is an area where it is difficult to communicate an idea without unwanted implicatures. If I say "If you want me to respect you as a rationalist", people will take that as me arrogantly expecting that to be important to them. But that's not what I'm saying. I'm simply saying that I am finding a conclusion to be warranted from their words, and I am giving them an opportunity to correct that if they so choose. Whether it is important enough for them to correct it is completely up to them.

In the Social Justice community people care about whether other people see them as a "real feminist". We don't have something similar on LW.

Sure we do. The karma system exists purely to communicate how other posters feel about you.

I think that, generally speaking, it's rude to downvote someone without them knowing why you're downvoting them, and giving them an opportunity to correct it. I downvoted gwern, and I told him why. That's not "presuming" that gwern cares that I am downvoting him. If gwern doesn't care about my downvotes, then he can ignore my post. It's a bit odd that you're twisting my giving gwern an explanation of my downvotes into some sort of presumptive act. If my exlpaining the downvotes is presumptive, then surely the downvotes themselves are presumptive. So, are you saying that every time someone downvotes a post, they are presuming that the other person cares about their opinion?

I don't care how other people on LW mentally label me. I care whether or not other people interact with me in a way that provides utility to me

:sigh:

This getting rather tiresome.

If you care about how people interact with you, how can you possibly not care how people label you? Gwern's behavior was increasing my inclination to interact with him in a way that would likely provide less utility. I explained to gwern what this behavior was, and why it was having that effect. And you're objecting to that based on how I phrased it. Suppose, instead of saying ""If you can't have a calm, rational, and civil conversation about this, then I can only conclude that it you are not a rationalist.", I had said ""If you can't have a calm, rational, and civil conversation about this, then I will modify my behavior towards you in a manner likely to result in less utility towards you". Would that have avoided your opprobrium?

We don't use labels in a way to press obligations on other people and expect the people to fulfill the obligations to be worthy of the label.

That's not what I was was doing.

To gwern your posts suggested that you lack the mediocre amount of intelligence necessary to see A -> B or you do have the intelligence and pretend to not see A -> B to mess with him. That means the in his interpretation of the situation the two options are that you are either a idiot for failing to have the amount of intelligence to see A -> B or a troll for pretending to fail to see it.

To what does "A->B" refer to? Given that what I was confused about was that gwern said that the threat was a bluff, and then said that he had not said that, a more appropriate summary would be "A -> ~A". Gwern claimed that he thought his post was clear. Assuming that he wasn't lying, there are at least THREE explanations for why I was claiming to not understand it. One is that I am an idiot. Another is I was lying. And the third is ... it actually was not clear. The fact that gwern didn't even CONSIDER that possibility shows him to be an arrogant asshole. As I said, I got a third party to confirm that it was confusing. I was willing to consider the possibility that I was at fault. But gwern was not.

Is there anyone who thinks the post makes sense? And if so, are they willing to explain it?

He didn't call you a idiot or troll to make you feel bad but because those are the terms that accurately describe the situation he perceived to exist.

And what is the point of describing your hypotheses, if you have already foreclosed any possibility of updating away from it? When I described my belief that gwern was being anti-rational, I was doing so to provide him an opportunity to falsify the hypothesis.

It's more likely inferential distance given a different cultural background.

Like, what? Acquiring an idiolect that agrees with the acrolect on the meaning of the word "which"? That's the only hypothesis I can come up with.

Whenever you run a test and that test produces a number that number is a metric for what the test measures. That's a core basis on talking about measurements. Debating that fact is like debating whether 1+1=2.

But I never debated that.

And apparently, part of doing as the Romans do is not starting threads asking what the Romans do. Because that's "passive aggressive".

You started this thread with the title "Inquiry into community norms" yet you don't seem to be interested in learning what the community norms happen to be but want to argue that they are simply wrong and should be replaced what you are used to.

Pretending to do one thing while actually trying to do the other is what being passive aggressive is about.

You have said that "sometimes" it's beneficial to call someone a liar. Yet you say that calling someone's behavior uncivil is not beneficial. And since you're saying that my behavior is uncivil, it follows that your behavior is also uncivil.

I don't have any general rules about calling people uncivil or liars but look at specific cases. You seem to search for a general rule that people shouldn't call others uncivil or liars, and I don't believe in such rules.

Again, as I argue in this post I don't put much value on whether or not you label me behavior as uncivil.

In this case you opened a thread with the title "Inquiry into community norms" and I answer by pointing you towards how your own behavior differs from standard community norms. For that goal it's useful to use certain labels to be able to communicate clearly.

If you care about how people interact with you, how can you possibly not care how people label you? Gwern's behavior was increasing my inclination to interact with him in a way that would likely provide less utility.

You reacted to it in a way that isn't friendly and that doesn't provide utility. While Gwern might share some responsibility for that, you share the core responsibility for your behavior. At that point you could have simply ended the discussion to avoid anyone of you wasting further time with it. You could have spend your time elsewhere with more utility.

"If you can't have a calm, rational, and civil conversation about this, then I will modify my behavior towards you in a manner likely to result in less utility towards you"

No. Rather "If you can't have a calm, rational, and civil conversation about this, then I will will see no utility in continuing to interact with you". It's not about punishing other people. It's about acting in your own self interest not to engage in low value discussions that don't bring you utility.

And what is the point of describing your hypotheses, if you have already foreclosed any possibility of updating away from it?

There are many cases where it makes sense to explain someone an idea that's accepted scientific knowledge to help spread scientific knowledge. Most professors who teach physics 101 don't update their beliefs about physics because of the interaction with their students. They update their beliefs about physics when talking with colleagues that are well past physics 101.


Just to be clear, I'm not advocating that you should do something different. I have no problem with cultural diversity. On the other hand if you want that people treat you in a certain way, than it could be beneficial for you to interact with them in a way that's conductive towards your goals.

You started this thread with the title "Inquiry into community norms" yet you don't seem to be interested in learning what the community norms happen to be but want to argue that they are simply wrong and should be replaced what you are used to.

I think that this is a blatant misrepresentation of my position, and I think that I have corrected you on multiple occasions. I am getting tired of repeating myself.

I don't have any general rules about calling people uncivil or liars but look at specific cases. You seem to search for a general rule that people shouldn't call others uncivil or liars, and I don't believe in such rules. ... In this case you opened a thread with the title "Inquiry into community norms" and I answer by pointing you towards how your own behavior differs from standard community norms

You simply quoted a statement of mine. You didn't identify any characteristics that made it uncivil. The most salient characteristic that I saw was that it was an accusation of incivility. I asked whether you were indeed saying that this was what was uncivil about it, and you said yes. You didn't say “Yes in this case”. You said “Yes”. And now you're trying to pretend that the responsibility lies entirely on my shoulders for misunderstanding you.

For that goal it's useful to use certain labels to be able to communicate clearly.

I feel that you are, however, being rather uncharitable towards me using certain labels to be able to communicate clearly.

It's not about punishing other people. It's about acting in your own self interest not to engage in low value discussions that don't bring you utility.

I reserve the right to identify aspects of gwern's future posts that I consider to be in error. And in any such interactions, I will not be assuming that gwern is amenable to rational discussion. This is not necessarily punishment, it is consequences.

I think that this is a blatant misrepresentation of my position,

Do you claim that you didn't make this thread to argue that gwern is wrong?

and I think that I have corrected you on multiple occasions.

And I correct you ;) My sentence describes your behavior. If you wear a green shirt and tell every one it's blue that doesn't mean the shirt actually is blue. If you want you can think about why other people might see your shirt as green but of course you aren't obliged to do so. Learning to understand other people just makes life easier. Everybody has the freedom to suffer as much as they want.

I feel that you are, however, being rather uncharitable towards me using certain labels to be able to communicate clearly.

You both complain that I don't make it easy for you to understand me and you claim that I use language that's too direct. You can't have both.

The most salient characteristic that I saw was that it was an accusation of incivility. I asked whether you were indeed saying that this was what was uncivil about it, and you said yes.

You confuse labeling with obligations. I'm perfectly capable of identifying someone's behavior as rude or uncivil without claiming that they have an obligation to act otherwise.

I also didn't simply say "Yes" I wrote quite a long paragraph to speak about the sentence and it doesn't boil down to calling other people uncivil being the primary factor.

I reserve the right to identify aspects of gwern's future posts that I consider to be in error.

You again switch into a notion of "rights" as if "rights" would matter in this context. This just illustrates that you for some reason don't get very far in understanding what I'm arguing.

I'm perfectly capable of identifying someone's behavior as rude or uncivil without claiming that they have an obligation to act otherwise.

This applies somewhat to both sides here, but I'm reminded of Arbcom on Wikipedia. Arbcom has a rule which says that Arbcom cannot make policy.

The result: most Arbcom discussions end up as people trying to get Arbcom to make policy, and Arbcom making policy, only specially phrased so as to sound like nobody is making policy or trying to do so.

Calling someone rude is a defacto claim that they have an obligation not to be so. You can rephrase it as "I'm not claiming they have an obligation not to be rude, I'm just claiming it's in their own self-interest", but you end up saying exactly the same things you would say if you claimed they had an obligation, just with extra clauses tacked onto your sentences to rephrase everything in terms of self-interest.

Calling someone rude is a defacto claim that they have an obligation not to be so.

No.

If I say that it's not in your own self interest to not bang your head against the wall I'm not saying that I forbid you from banging your head against the wall. I'm not creating an obligation for the other person. If the like getting their head hurt they can continue banging their head against the wall and I don't want to take that freedom away from them.

I follow the moral principle of giving people information about how they are hurting themselves, I'm not forbidding them from hurting themselves.

I have also no problem with someone making an expected utility analysis and finding that being rude is having the most utility to pursue that course of action. In the case of rudeness ends can completely justify means.

Furthermore you ignore a bunch of emotional effects that come along with putting obligations on other people. It makes you feel bad when they don't follow your dictates. If someone bangs their hand against the wall after I told him that it's not in his self interest and he continues, I might feel pity but not anger.

Getting rid of shoulds is one of the CBT exercises of identifying distorted thinking that David Burns described in the Feeling Good Handbook. It's not just about changing around a few words.

You think that Alice should meet Bob and Alice. You feel bad and get angry at Alice. Then you want to be an asshole to Alice but you think you shouldn't, so you suppress your anger. That's a strategy you can use to live your life and it can make you depressed.

If you would get rid of the "should's" in the first place, then you wouldn't feel bad about the situation. But of course you are free to bang your head against the wall and suffer. If I want to be cynic I can add that sometimes it needs a lot of suffering till people see that there a different way that doesn't involve suffering. Maybe a person hasn't suffered enough from banging their head against the wall and they still need a few rounds till their head hurts enough that they will stop. It's their issue not mine.

"Is" and "Is, defacto" aren't the same thing. Two things can be different, yet for practical purposes be the same.

It might be true that most people you interact with want to put an obligation on the other person to change their behavior when they use the word "rude".

In my case I do separate factual descriptions of behavior from obligations. Nothing I said in this discussion comes from a place of enforcing some norm.

At skeptic.stackexchange I do engage in telling people to stick to norms and vote for closing of questions that I consider to a norm violation. I'm engaging in this conversation in a different spirit.

I don't think people who feel a desire to kill another person can go ahead to make a learning experience. With rudeness I don't have any issue if people who feel that desire act on it and learn their lessons.

People generally distinguish between such cases as "You shoplifted, and now there will be negative consequences" and "You failed to pay protection money to the mob, and now there will negative consequences". You can say that there is no essential difference between them, and in both cases you feel quite comfortable with telling the person in question that their actions are not in their self interest, but most people accept the idea that there are standards for behavior other than mere self-interest. Furthermore, if you merely intended to state that my behavior would have negative consequences, then you could have said so. There are plenty of behaviors that result in negative consequences, that are not rude. By applying the word "rude" to my behavior, you were asserting some attribute beyond merely negative consequences, and that attribute is generally considered to be a moral one.

Do you claim that you didn't make this thread to argue that gwern is wrong?

Yes.

And I correct you ;) My sentence describes your behavior.

No, it described what you believe my internal mental state to be. You assert that you know better than I what that state is, yet you give no argument in support of that position.

You both complain that I don't make it easy for you to understand me and you claim that I use language that's too direct.

It would help if you would specify what statement of mine that you're talking about.

You confuse labeling with obligations. I'm perfectly capable of identifying someone's behavior as rude or uncivil without claiming that they have an obligation to act otherwise.

I really feel like you are not arguing in good faith. The quote you responded to made no mention of obligations. I feel like you're arguing in circles, saying that my behavior is rude, but then when I argue that the same logic condemns your actions as rude, you then start with this "I don't believe in shoulds" stuff.

I also didn't simply say "Yes" I wrote quite a long paragraph to speak about the sentence and it doesn't boil down to calling other people uncivil being the primary factor.

[me]Now, as for the statement that you quoted, is it uncivil to point out someone else's incivility? [you]Yes. It raises the emotional tension of the discussion in a way that not beneficial.

That's the entirety of your response to my question. It is not "a long paragraph", and it does boil down to calling other people uncivil being the primary factor.

[-][anonymous]7y 9

This seems to me driven by dramatic escalation. You feel wronged, so you feel the need to take a potent action to right that wrong. Understandable, emotionally, but I agree with KnaveOfAllTrades: what response do you think will improve things and why?

Could there have been any other way of approaching this problem than escalation? Your wording makes me assume you approached gwern personally about the topic. Did you? If you PM him, he stands nothing to gain, no karma, no "show" of besting you, so the conversation would be a level playing field. Have you tried speaking to him in private, calmly, to explain how you see the situation and where you take offense?

Do you intend to inspire others to make criticisms against gwern? Most likely, they have already made those criticisms. Though, of course, it's easy to say "dissent has been voiced" when you are not the one dissenting, so citation needed for that claim.

Finally, if gwern is in the wrong AND is getting away with it, appealing to the board in this manner may not be the most effective means to approach this problem. Are there no other, high level users/mods you can speak to? Perhaps some who witnessed this conflict. Speak to them privately, understand their outside view, present your case.

Appealing to the board as a whole should be done carefully. Not in the heat of emotion unless those emotions are tied to literally world-threatening events. Have you exhausted more subtle avenues of trying to right this disagreement, avenues that do not involve, essentially, spurring the collective conscience to an action that you feel you, alone, cannot make? And if you have, what actions do you hope to inspire that WILL correct this disagreement or insult or whatever?

What kind of policy response (from moderators, you, gwern, other users) do you think improves things, and why?

Without having a vested interest in that thread, I found it (at the time, and still do) somewhat hard to follow both of you and it seemed like both of you lost cool and could have tried harder to not escalate and to break down what you were saying into more basic and simplistic terms. But 'could have tried harder' and 'should have tried harder' do not necessarily coincide.

gwern scores low on agreeableness and this sometimes shows; this is undisputed. It is widely agreed (including, hohoho, by gwern I guess?) that gwern is biting. gwern is clueful enough that I think it does the community a service that gwern comes across as confident and authoritative, but a marginal disservice that he seems to lose his cool sometimes and when he slides into (seeming) bullying. I'm not sure how easy that is to change, though.

I think gwern should be aware that him making increasingly acerbic posts and getting upvoted while the other person is downvoted can be extremely distressing and feel like bullying by a senior member. I think we should all be more proactive in pointing out to him when he (or anyone else) is participating in a thread of comments that looks like it's taking a turn for the worse, and potentially downvote comments that seem like they have been made in a mood that is predictably non-constructive, and explain the downvote.

I reject the principle of 'if u dont like it just leave'. To the extent I shall mock it by removing capitalisation and punctuation, in fact. But I will note that in this particular case I am not convinced (though also not disconvinced) that there is a more worthwhile action, though it has yet to be seen if this thread will end up net-positive or net-negative in value.

That seems truly odd to me; I don't think I've ever noticed gwern being problematic or hard to understand. I remember him as a major character because he has contributed many things I've read and found valuable, and his comments have always seemed reasonable.

I'm not sure exactly which parts you're referring to, so can you quote the parts you find odd or by which you are confused?

Sorry to hear about your bad experience. I would advise apologising for any unintended tensions caused, and leave the particular conversation. I don't see any other path that works any better for you, now that you've written this post.

Generally, in this situation, writing as respectfully as you can is the best advice I can think of.

[-][anonymous]7y 2

Having followed the original thread with some interest, I find the whole situation somewhat amusing. If anything, gwern should have stopped engaging you earlier rather than later, but that's his noble phantasm -- and so here we are.

I imagine this now follows a death spiral of some sort, where you forum-seek for someone, somewhere, who agrees with you on this minor political point.

Do you have something substantive to say about why gwern should have stopped engaging with me?

So, "people shouldn't be assholes" is a minor political point? If this is such minor point, why did EY write an entire article on the point, and why is this article one of the most prominently linked-to article?

but that's his noble phantasm

Being an asshole is noble?

'noble phantasm' is probably a reference to Fate/Stay Night, wherein a noble phantasm is a weapon or object of unusual reknown which a certain class of beings have that grants them signature powers.

DRAMA!!!! :-D

Apparently, I am not entitled

Assuming that you are not entitled to anything is usually a good start.

and generally treating me with an utter lack of respect

You are not, in particular, entitled to respect. Respect is earned.

If you perceive that a conversation is devolving into an unproductive shit-flinging exercise you don't want, be agenty and bow out. You have the power.

In a better world respect would be earned, but the default assumption in the U.S. seems to be that you are indeed entitled to respect.

On LW we try to have a better world. We do have community norms but they are not build around the idea that people are automatically entitled to respect, especially in cases where respect is about withholding.

Part of ThisSpaceAvailable issue is that he expect that LW operates according to social norms that it doesn't operate under. ThisSpaceAvailable thinks that it's helpful to speak about being entitled to something. On LW it's not.

The idea that nice behavior can come from a place that has nothing to do with entitlement isn't in his calculation. In the whole debate about effective altruism we don't speak about entitlement.

My motivation for not calling someone a "dishonest piece of shit" isn't that the person is entitled to not be called that way but that calling him that way doesn't serve an useful purpose. It doesn't maximize utility.

I find the treatment of the term "entitled" to be rather uncharitable as to addressing my intention.

I can imagine someone acting nicely out of purely selfish motives, but I don't think that that is most people's reason. I think most people, even at Less Wrong, have some sense of moral obligation to act civilly. The idea that anyone who is not insulting me is so refraining purely for personal benefit is rather horrific to me. And if one is coming from a pure utilitarian point of view, what useful purpose does it serve to accuse me of dishonesty?

I think most people, even at Less Wrong, have some sense of moral obligation to act civilly. The idea that anyone who is not insulting me is so refraining purely for personal benefit is rather horrific to me.

This basically means that Buddhism is a very horrific moral framework for you.

The same goes for modern communication theories like nonviolent communication. In nonviolent communication expecting another people to fulfill an obligation is a violent act. The are many areas where people have spent a lot of time to get rid of "must" and "should" and not base their social interactions on those concepts.

Christianity is full of "must" and "should" and uses those tools to get people to act in a moral way. The Social Justice movement where I would expect you to come from is also full of "musts" and "shoulds".

Most of the people on LW don't have that kind of morality. The same goes for most people who meditate. New Agey people who are very kind and loving usually don't act based on "musts" and "shoulds".

I imagine that the idea that there are people who are nice purely because they enjoy it to be nice can come as a huge culture shock to someone out of the Social Justice background.

And if one is coming from a pure utilitarian point of view, what useful purpose does it serve to accuse me of dishonesty?

If you believe that someone is lying, openly saying that he's lying can sometimes have utility.

This basically means that Buddhism is a very horrific moral framework for you.

I am not aware of any properties of Buddhism that would result in that conclusion.

The same goes for modern communication theories like nonviolent communication. In nonviolent communication expecting another people to fulfill an obligation is a violent act.

That doesn't make any sense. Besides the fact that it is not, in fact, a violent act, and it simply abusing nomenclature to say it is, the clear implicature of referring to something as a "violent act" is to say that one believes that others have an obligation to not do it, and expects them to fulfill that obligation.

The are many areas where people have spent a lot of time to get rid of "must" and "should" and not base their social interactions on those concepts.

And the implicature of that statement is that LW is such an area. LW, where EA is a frequent topic of discussion, and where EY and Harry!MOR constantly refer to following rationalist precepts in moral language. The way you're talking, I'd think I were posting on an Objectivist discussion board, not a Rationalist one.

The Social Justice movement where I would expect you to come from is also full of "musts" and "shoulds".

That is an odd inference. I think people shouldn't be rude and arrogant, therefore you expect that I come from the SJM?

Most of the people on LW don't have that kind of morality.

Then they don't have any morality. Morality, by definition, is concerned with what one should do.

New Agey people who are very kind and loving usually don't act based on "musts" and "shoulds".

Sure they do. They might come up with other labels for the concepts, but they're still acting based on the idea of obligation.

I imagine that the idea that there are people who are nice purely because they enjoy it to be nice can come as a huge culture shock to someone out of the Social Justice background.

I think that you are trying to equivocate between two ideas: "I am nice, and am nice not merely out of a sense of obligation, but because I like being nice" vs. "I am nice, but only because I feel like being nice. If I were to ever to feel like being an asshole, I would be an asshole, without any moral qualms"

It is the latter that you are literally saying, and I am expressing horror at.

If you believe that someone is lying, openly saying that he's lying can sometimes have utility.

That doesn't really answer my question. It simply asserts that an answer may exist.

That is an odd inference. I think people shouldn't be rude and arrogant, therefore you expect that I come from the SJM?

The interesting thing is that you don't perceive your own behavior in this case to be rude. That means you have a quite different idea of "rude" then a lot of people I know. The way you argued with Gwern is more complex than just "Gwern shouldn't be rude and arrogant" it a bunch of cultural habits that come together. That pattern of social expectations pattern matches in my mind to the social justice community.
The fact that you purposefully chose to avoid gendered pronouns just confirmed my suspicion.

Sure they do. They might come up with other labels for the concepts, but they're still acting based on the idea of obligation.

No. I know a bunch of people in that space who are very clear that they have no responsibility for anything that happens outside of their body. On the other hand they prefer acting out their own needs and desires in an authentic way.

In Buddhism you get bad karma if you kill another person. The Buddhist idea is that you don't go around killing other people because it's in your own self interest not to mess up your own karma. It has nothing to do with having obligations not to kill.

For Cognitive Behavior Therapy there a self study book called: "The Feeling Good Handbook". It calls using should statement for other people a form of "distorted thinking".

I think that you are trying to equivocate between two ideas: "I am nice, and am nice not merely out of a sense of obligation, but because I like being nice" vs. "I am nice, but only because I feel like being nice. If I were to ever to feel like being an asshole, I would be an asshole, without any moral qualms"

It is the latter that you are literally saying, and I am expressing horror at.

Yes, I do mean the later. And those people who follow that philosophy are generally more nice and loving. In the moment where you repress the desire to be an asshole that desire doesn't go away. It's going to come out in some passive aggressive behavior or you might simply snap because the desire becomes too strong.

People who don't disassociate their emotions but act authentically deal with them and thereby learn not to feel like wanting to be an asshole.

I don't trust people who feel like they would like to be an asshole towards me but only act nicely because they perceive an obligation to be nice.

Just to be clear, I don't claim that no person on LW has a mental concept of not reasoning with obligations.

The interesting thing is that you don't perceive your own behavior in this case to be rude.

I certainly don't consider my behavior prior to being accused of dishonesty as being rude. Do you? After I was accused of dishonesty, I still trying to resolve the issue civilly. As I endured more and more abuse from gwern, I became increasingly short with him, but I don't think anything I said was inappropriate, given his behavior, and I find your proposition that it was to be poorly defended with vague, contradictory, and outright false statements.

The fact that you purposefully chose to avoid gendered pronouns just confirmed my suspicion.

Is that so surprising, as to provide significant information?

No. I know a bunch of people in that space who are very clear that they have no responsibility for anything that happens outside of their body.

I'm sure in pretty much any group there will be some who reject the concept of obligation. That doesn't mean that this is the predominant strain of thought.

In Buddhism you get bad karma if you kill another person. The Buddhist idea is that you don't go around killing other people because it's in your own self interest not to mess up your own karma. It has nothing to do with having obligations not to kill.

I find it disingenuous to claim that there is no sense of obligation connected with the concept of karma, especially as conceived in its Western versions. That's like saying that in Christianity, there is no sense of obligation in the concept of sin; Christians avoid sin merely out self interest, wanting to avoid hell.

In the moment where you repress the desire to be an asshole that desire doesn't go away.

So, I shouldn't repress the desire to be an asshole?

People who don't disassociate their emotions but act authentically deal with them and thereby learn not to feel like wanting to be an asshole.

That sound like a bunch of hooey to me. And I have a problem with the word “authentically” being redefined to mean “without inhibitions”.

I don't trust people who feel like they would like to be an asshole towards me but only act nicely because they perceive an obligation to be nice.

What's, there's something dishonest about not being an asshole? Maybe if gwern were to repress his desire to be an asshole long enough to have a civil discussion with me, he would discover that I have legitimate reasons for thinking as I do, and then would lose his motivation for being an asshole. Being a rationalist means not being ruled by System 1, and allowing for errors to be corrected.

I certainly don't consider my behavior prior to being accused of dishonesty as being rude. Do you?

You behaved in a way that predictable annoyed gwern. I don't care very much about whether or not to apply the word "rude" to that behavior.

I find your proposition that it was to be poorly defended with vague, contradictory, and outright false statements.

Basically you still fail to understand what I'm arguing. Nothing less, nothing more.

Is that so surprising, as to provide significant information?

Confirmations of past predictions are in their nature not surprising. That's why they are called confirmations. When doing pattern matching it's useful to see whether you find confirmations or disconfirmation for the patterns that you see.

I'm sure in pretty much any group there will be some who reject the concept of obligation. That doesn't mean that this is the predominant strain of thought.

I find it disingenuous to claim that there is no sense of obligation connected with the concept of karma, especially as conceived in its Western versions. That's like saying that in Christianity, there is no sense of obligation in the concept of sin; Christians avoid sin merely out self interest, wanting to avoid hell.

There might be some Western people who misunderstand what Buddhists mean with karma, that doesn't change much about the Buddhist concept. A good Christian doesn't sins because God is an authority in which he trusts and God put out rules that the Christian isn't supposed to do certain things. Buddhist thought doesn't have a God that does things like that.

If you jump up gravity pulls you down but that has nothing to do with you having an obligation to be near the ground. Buddhist karma is supposed to work just the same.

So, I shouldn't repress the desire to be an asshole?

I'm not telling you what you should or shouldn't do.

In practice you might pretty soon stop desiring to act like an asshole when you act based on those desires and suffer the costs of acting like an asshole.

Being a rationalist means not being ruled by System 1, and allowing for errors to be corrected.

You are not correcting the error of frequently wanting to be an asshole towards other people.

If I think about what outcome I want to achieve based on enlightened self interest and pick the actions that leads to that outcome I don't have to let myself be ruled by my System 1.

You behaved in a way that predictable annoyed gwern.

It certainly wasn't predicted by me. If your point is that asking people to clarify their position will predictably annoy them, and that's a standard norm here, and that if I want to avoid annoying people, one step to accomplish that would be to not ask people to clarify their statements, well, that really doesn't sound like a discussion board I have much interest in participating in.

I don't care very much about whether or not to apply the word "rude" to that behavior.

Then why did you bring it up? You said "The interesting thing is that you don't perceive your own behavior in this case to be rude."

Basically you still fail to understand what I'm arguing. Nothing less, nothing more.

If you have no concern for whether you are understood, why are you posting? If you are concerned, why do you not try to correct your failure to communicate what you are saying?

Confirmations of past predictions are in their nature not surprising.

Then they are not evidence on which one can make a conclusion. Your conclusion came from some other piece of evidence.

A good Christian doesn't sins because God is an authority in which he trusts and God put out rules that the Christian isn't supposed to do certain things.

And the Christian conflates moral obligation with divine command.

Buddhist thought doesn't have a God that does things like that.

What difference does God make? God puts out rules, karma puts out rules. God can say "should" all He wants, but those are irrelevant until someone adopts the "I should follow God" rule. Christians follow the rules that they believe God has put forth because they believe that they have a moral obligation to do so, and that moral obligation can't come from God, because if it did come from God, it would just be another one of God's rules, and what reason would anyone have to follow the "You should follow Me" rule?

If you jump up gravity pulls you down but that has nothing to do with you having an obligation to be near the ground. Buddhist karma is supposed to work just the same.

I don't believe that Buddhists believe that karma is simply an arbitrary rule that doesn't reflect morality.

You are not correcting the error of frequently wanting to be an asshole towards other people.

"Error" refers to actions, not to emotions.

If I think about what outcome I want to achieve based on enlightened self interest and pick the actions that leads to that outcome I don't have to let myself be ruled by my System 1.

But that would, in my understanding of what you're saying, not be being authentic.