[LINK] Why I'm not on the Rationalist Masterlist

by Apprentice1 min read6th Jan 2014883 comments


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A long blog post explains why the author, a feminist, is not comfortable with the rationalist community despite thinking it is "super cool and interesting". It's directed specifically at Yvain, but it's probably general enough to be of some interest here.


I'm not sure if I can summarize this fairly but the main thrust seems to be that we are overly willing to entertain offensive/taboo/hurtful ideas and this drives off many types of people. Here's a quote:

In other words, prizing discourse without limitations (I tried to find a convenient analogy for said limitations and failed. Fenders? Safety belts?) will result in an environment in which people are more comfortable speaking the more social privilege they hold.

The author perceives a link between LW type open discourse and danger to minority groups. I'm not sure whether that's true or not. Take race. Many LWers are willing to entertain ideas about the existence and possible importance of average group differences in psychological traits. So, maybe LWers are racists. But they're racists who continually obsess over optimizing their philanthropic contributions to African charities. So, maybe not racists in a dangerous way?

An overly rosy view, perhaps, and I don't want to deny the reality of the blogger's experience. Clearly, the person is intelligent and attracted to some aspects of LW discourse while turned off by other aspects.

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Since it has suddenly become relevant, here are two results from this year's survey (data still being collected):

When asked to rate feminism on a scale of 1 (very unfavorable) to 5 (very favorable), the most common answer was 5 and the least common answer was 1. The mean answer was 3.82, and the median answer was 4.

When asked to rate the social justice movement on a scale of 1 (very unfavorable) to 5 (very favorable), the most common answer was 5 and the least common answer was 1. The mean answer was 3.61, and the median answer was 4.

In Crowder-Meyer (2007), women asked to rate their favorability of feminism on a 1 to 100 scale averaged 52.5, which on my 1 to 5 scale corresponds to a 3.1. So the average Less Wronger is about 33% more favorably disposed towards the feminist movement than the average woman (who herself is slightly more favorably disposed than the average man).

I can't find a similar comparison question for social justice favorability, but I expect such a comparison would turn out the same way.

If this surprises you, update your model.

the average Less Wronger is about 33% more favorably disposed towards the feminist movement than the average woman

Maybe that's exactly what makes LW a good target. There are too many targets on the internet, and one has to pick their battles. The best place is the one where you already have support. If someone would write a similar article about a website with no feminists, no one on the website would care. Thus, wasted time.

In the same way, it is more strategic to aim this kind of criticism towards you personally than it would be e.g. towards me. Not because you are a worse person (from a feminist point of view). But because such criticism will worry you, while I would just laugh.

There is something extremely irritating about a person who almost agrees with you, and yet refuses to accept everything you say. Sometimes you get angry about them more than about your enemies, whose existence you already learned to accept. At least, the enemies are compatible with the "us versus them" dichotomy, while the almost-allies make it feel like the "us" side is falling apart.

EDIT: Seems like you already know this.

"A heretic is someone who shares almost all of your beliefs. Kill him." - Some card game

There is something extremely irritating about a person who almost agrees with you, and yet refuses to accept everything you say. Sometimes you get angry about them more than about your enemies, whose existence you already learned to accept. At least, the enemies are compatible with the "us versus them" dichotomy, while the almost-allies make it feel like the "us" side is falling apart.

Upvoted for that.

[-][anonymous]7y 14

In my experience, groups that want something to attack will attack groups that are generally aligned with them, rather than groups that are further away -- possibly due to the perceived threat of losing members to the similar group.

I've seen so many Communists get called Nazis by other Communist groups -- and those groups never go after people who actually call themselves Nazis.

Perhaps this is obvious already, but the positions people explicitly endorse on surveys are not necessarily those they implicitly endorse in blog comments.

Also, people are free to interpret blog comments as it suits their goals.

[-][anonymous]7y 10

Anyone want to set up an implicit association test for LW?

[-][anonymous]7y 10

Update: Likely that feminist-inclined LWers are less likely to comment/vote and more more likely to take surveys.

Meta-update: This hypothesis ruled highly-improbable based on more data from Yvain.

Among lurkers, the average feminism score was 3.84. Among people who had posted something - whether a post on Main, a post in Discussion, or a comment, the average feminism score was 3.8. A t-test failed to reveal any significant difference between the two (p = .49). So there is no difference between lurkers and posters in feminism score.

Among people who have never posted a top-level article in Main, the average feminism score is 3.84. Among people who have posted top-level articles in Main, the average feminism score is 3.47. A t-test found a significant difference (p < .01). So top-level posters were slightly less feminist than the Less Wrong average. However, the average feminism of top-level posters (3.47) is still significantly higher than the average feminism among women (3.1).

[-][anonymous]7y 14

I update in the direction that the model of people I form based on LW comments is pretty inaccurate.

8Alejandro17yMy conclusion is that most posters in LW have conventionally liberal views (at least on social issues) but many of them refrain from participating in the periodic discussions that erupt touching on these issues. Some possible reasons for this: i) they hold these opinions in a non-passionate way that does not incline them to argue for them; ii) they are more interested in other stuff LW has to offer like logic or futurism and see politics as a distraction; iii) they mistakenly believe their opinions are unpopular and they will suffer a karma hit.
8Eugine_Nier7yiv) they absorbed these views from their surrounding culture and don't actually have good arguments for them.

Possible, but I suspect the "Why our kind can't cooperate" both has a stronger effect and is more likely.

6Alexei7yWould love to see these numbers broken down by gender.

For the sake of simplicity, I used sex rather than gender and ignored nonbinaries. The average man on the site has a feminism approval score of 3.75; the average woman on the site has a score of 4.40. These are significantly different at p < .001.

The average man on the site has a social justice approval score of 3.55; the average woman on the site has a score of 4.21. These are, again, significantly different at p < .001.

4Alexei7yWow, this is exactly opposite of what I expected. Thank you!
8Scott Alexander7yYou expected men to be more feminist than women? Why?
4gjm7yPerhaps what he expected was for men to call themselves more feminist than women, for some sort of signalling reasons (of course anon survey responses aren't much use for signalling, but maybe the idea is that people get into the habit of describing themselves in particular ways and then continue to do so for consistency even in contexts where there's no signalling benefit.
4[anonymous]7yI'm not sure about that. To my System 1, “50/100” means ‘mediocre’, whereas “3 stars (out of 5)” means ‘decent’.

I think it's worth noting that we are (yet again) having a self-criticism session because a leftist (someone so far to the left that they consider liberal egalitarian Yvain to be beyond the pale of tolerability) complained that people who disagree with them are occasionally tolerated on LW.

Come on. Politics is rarely discussed here to begin with and something like 65*% of LWers are liberals/socialists. If the occasional non-leftist thought that slips through the cracks of karma-hiding and (more importantly) self-censorship is enough to drive you away, you probably have very little to offer.

*I originally said 80%, but I checked the survey and it's closer to 65%. I think my point still stands. Only 3% of LWers surveyed described themselves as conservatives.

Only 3% of LWers surveyed described themselves as conservatives.

Interesting. I wonder why LW has so few conservatives. Surely, just like there isn't masculine rationality and feminine rationality, there shouldn't be conservative rationality and liberal rationality. It also makes me wonder how valid the objections are in the linked post if the political views of LW skew vastly away from conservative topics.

Full disclosure: I'm a black male who grew up in the inner city and I don't find anything particularly offensive about topics on LW. There goes my opposing anecdote to the one(s) presented in the linked blog.

At a guess, I'd say this is linked to religion. Once you split out the libertarian faction (as the surveys historically have), it's quite rare for people on the conservative side of the fence (at least in the US) to be irreligious, and LW is nothing if not outspokenly secular.

People in the rationality community tend to believe that there's a lot of low-hanging fruit to be had in thinking rationally, and that the average person and the average society is missing out on this. This is difficult to reconcile with arguments for tradition and being cautious about rapid change, which is the heart of (old school) conservatism.

I think futurism is anti-conservative.

My steelman of the conservative position is 'empirical legislation' : do not make new laws until you have decent evidence they achieve the stated policy goals. "Ah, but while you are gathering your proof, the bad thing X is still happening!" "Too bad."

FAI is a conservative position.

To respond to the grandparent, I think in the US conservatives ceded all intellectual ground, and are therefore not a sexy position to adopt. (If this is true, I think one should view this as a bad thing regardless of one's political affiliation, because 'loyal opposition' is needed to sharpen teeth).

4Sophronius7yThere is a big difference between what sex you are and what beliefs you profess: The first should not be determined by how rational you are, while the second very much should. There should be nothing surprising about the fact that more intelligent and more rational people would have different beliefs about reality than less intelligent and less rational people. Or to put it another way: If you believe that all political affiliations should be represented equally in the sceptic/rationalist community, you are implicitly assuming that political beliefs are merely statements of personal preference instead of seeing them as claims about reality. While personal preference plays a role, I would hope that there's more to it than that.

There is a big difference between what sex you are and what beliefs you profess: The first should not have anything to do with how rational you are...

Why not? Men and women are different in many ways. Why did you decide that a disposition to rationality can't possibly depend on your sex (and so your hormones, etc.)?

5Sophronius7yIt's in reply to Quinton saying that there should be no masculine and feminine types of rationality. In other words, whether you are a man or a woman should not determine what the correct/rational answer is to a particular question (barring obvious exceptions). This is in stark contrast to asking whether or not political affiliation should be determined by how rational you are, which is another question entirely. In other words: Just because correct answers to factual questions should not be determined by gender does not mean that political affiliation should not be determined by correct answers to factual questions.
8Randy_M7y"The first should not have anything to do with how rational you are, while the second very much should. " What does should mean there, and from where do you derive it?

something like 80% of LWers are liberals/socialists

60%. But yes, it was funny to find out who the evil person was.

Actually, no, it was quite sad. I mean, when reading Yvain's articles, I often feel a deep envy of the peaceful way he can write. I am more likely to jump and say something agressive. I would be really proud of myself if I could someday learn to write the way Yvain does. ... Which still would make me just another bad guy. Holy Xenu, what's the point of even trying?

Politics is rarely discussed here to begin with and something like 65*% of LWers are liberals/socialists.

Yes, but people on the far right are disproportionately active in political discussions here, probably because it is one of the very few internet venues where they can air their views to a diverse and intelligent readership without being immediately shouted down as evil. If you actually measured political comments, I suspect you'd find that the explicitly liberal/social ones represent much less than 65%.

Apposite criticism. Most worrying excerpt:

...these environments are also self-selecting. In other words, even when the people speaking loudest or most eloquently don’t intentionally discourage participation from people who are not like them / who may be uncomfortable with the terms of the discussion, entertaining ‘politically incorrect’ or potentially harmful ideas out loud, in public (so to speak) signals people who would be impacted by said ideas that they are not welcome.

Self-selection in LessWrong favors people who enjoy speaking dispassionately about sensitive issues, and disfavors people affected by those issues. We risk being an echo-chamber of people who aren't hurt by the problems we discuss.

That said, I have no idea what could be done about it.

I'm not sure that anything should be done about it, at least if we look at it from whole society's perspective. (Or rather, we should try to avoid the echo chamber effect if possible, but not at the cost of reducing dispassionate discussion.) If some places discuss sensitive issues dispassionately, then those places risk becoming echo chambers; but if no place does so, then there won't be any place for dispassionate discussion of those issues. I have a hard time believing that a policy that led to some issue only being discussed in emotionally charged terms would be a net good for society.

Yes, the complaint strikes me as "Stop saying things we don't like, it might lead to disapproved opinions being silenced!

[-][anonymous]7y 14

Wouldn't it be possible to minimize signaling given the same level of dispassionate discussion? That is, discourage use of highly emotionally charged/exosemantically heavy words/phrases if a less charged equivalent exists or can be coined and defined.

Say if you have a word X that means Y plus emotional connotation α and thede/memeplex/identity signaling effect β (not that emotional connotation is detached from the thedish/political/identity-wise context of the reader, of course), there's really no reason to use X instead of Y in dispassionate discussion. To give a concrete example, there's no reason to use 'sluttiness' (denotatively equivalent to 'sexual promiscuity' but carrying a generally negative connotational load, signaling against certain memeplexes/political positions/identities (though ideally readers here would read past the signaling load/repress the negative emotional response), and signaling identification with other positions/identities) instead of 'sexual promiscuity', which means the same thing but sheds all the emotional and thedish/tribal/whatever baggage.

(That shouldn't be read as an endorsement of the reasoning toward the same conclusion in the post, of course.)

I don't believe this is feasible. My impression is that emotional connotations inhere in things, not in words.

Over the decades, society has, over the decades, gone through a whole string of synonyms for "limited intelligence" -- none of which are emotionally neutral. Changing terms from "imbecile", to "retarded", "developmentally disabled" to "special needs", has just resulted in a steady turnover of playground insults. You can't make an insulting concept emotionally neutral, I think.

[-][anonymous]7y 16

The two aren't contradictory: emotional connotations can inhere in things and words.

The euphemism treadmill is what you get when the emotional connotation inheres in a thing. But what emotional connotation inheres in 'sexual promiscuity'? Even if it is there (and its recommendation by someone sensitive enough to emotional connotations that inhere in words [from the perspective of a specific thede/tribe] seems to suggest that it isn't), certainly there's less negative connotation there than in 'sluttiness'.

Similarly, it's possible to find loaded equivalents, or at least approximations, for most (all?) of Mencius Moldbug's caste terms. (UR is a good place to mine for these sorts of pairs, since he coins emotionally neutral terms to replace, or at least approximate, emotionally loaded terms. Of course, if you use them, you're signaling that you've read Moldbug, but...)

I agree that this is by far the most interesting part of the piece. IIRC this site is pretty much all white men. Part of it is almost certainly that white men are into this sort of thing but I can't help but imagine that if I was not a white man, especially if I was still in the process of becoming a rationalist, I would be turned off and made to feel unwelcome by the open dialogue of taboo issues on this website. This has the obvious effect of artificially shifting the site's demographics, and more worryingly, artificially shifting the site's demographics to include a large number of people who are the type of person to be unconcerned with political correctness and offending people. I think while that trait in and of itself is good, it is probably correlated with certain warped views of the world. Browse 4chan for a while if you want examples.

I think that between the extremes of the SJW Tumblr view of "When a POC talks to you, shut the fuck up and listen, you are privileged and you know nothing" and the view of "What does it matter if most of us aren't affected by the problems we talk about, we can just imagine and extrapolate, we're rationalist, right?" is where the truth probably lies.

Like you said, I have no idea what to do about this. There are already a lot of communities where standard societal taboos of political correctness are enforced, and I think it's worthwhile to have at least one where these taboos don't exist, so maybe nothing.

I'm a white man who's done handsomely in the privilege lottery and I find quite a lot of LW utterly offputting and repellent (as I've noted at length previously). I'm still here of course, but in fairness I couldn't call someone unreasonable for looking at its worst and never wanting to go near the place.

If all you show a person is the worst of lesswrong, then yes, I could see them not wanting to have anything to do with it. However, this doesn't tell us anything; the same argument could be made of virtually all public boards. You could say the same thing about hallmark greeting cards.

[-][anonymous]7y 17

This is roughly how I feel. There is a lot of good stuff here, and a lot of lot of horrible, horrible stuff that I never, ever want to be associated with. I do not recommend LessWrong to friends.

I'm at a loss regarding what you must consider 'horrible'. About the worst example I can think of is the JoshElders saga of pedophilia posts, and it only took two days to downvote everything he posted into oblivion and get it removed from the lists - and even that contained a lot of good discussion in the comments.

If you truly see that much horrible stuff here, perhaps your bar is too low, or perhaps mine is too high. Can you provide examples that haven't been downvoted, that are actually considered mainstream opinion here?

[-][anonymous]7y 21

Most of these are not dominant on LW, but come up often enough to make me twitchy. I am not interested in debating or discussing the merits of these points here because that's a one-way track to a flamewar this thread doesn't need.

  • The stronger forms of evolutionary psychology and human-diversity stuff. High confidence that most/all demographic disparities are down to genes. The belief that LessWrong being dominated by white male technophiles is more indicative of the superior rationality of white male technophiles than any shortcomings of the LW community or society-at-large.

  • Any and all neoreactionary stuff.

  • High-confidence predictions about the medium-to-far-future (especially ones that suggest sending money)

  • Throwing the term "eugenics" around cavalierly and assuming that everyone knows you're talking about benevolent genetic engineering and not forcibly-sterilizing-people-who-don't-look-like-me.

There should be a place to discuss these things, but it probably shouldn't be on a message board dedicated to spreading and refining the art of human rationality. LessWrong could easily be three communities:

  • a rationality forum (based on the sequences and similar, fo

... (read more)

High confidence that most/all demographic disparities are down to genes. The belief that LessWrong being dominated by white male technophiles is more indicative of the superior rationality of white male technophiles than any shortcomings of the LW community or society-at-large.

I am not sure how much these opinions are that extreme, and how much it's just a reflection of how political debates push people into "all or nothing" positions. Like, if you admit that genes have any influence on population, you are automatically misinterpreted to believe that every aspect of a population is caused by genes. Because, you know, there are just two camps, "genes, boo" camp and "genes, yay" camp, and you have already proved you don't belong into the former camp, therefore...

At least this is how I often feel in similar debates. Like there is no "genes affect 50% of something" position. There is a "genes don't influence anything significant, ever" camp where all the good guys are; and there is the "other" camp, with everyone else, including me and Hitler. If we divide a continuous scale into "zero" and "nonzero" sub... (read more)

[-][anonymous]7y 12

I even don't think that having a white male majority at this moment is some failure of a LW community

There are other options. I think there exist possible worlds where LW is less-offputting to people outside of the uppermiddleclasstechnophilewhitemaleosphere with demographics that are closer to, but probably not identical to, the broader population. Like you said, there's no reason for us to split the world into all-or-nothing sides: It's entirely possible (and I think likely) that statistical differences do exist between demographics and that we have a suboptimal community/broader-culture which skews those differences more than would otherwise be the case.

Edit: I had only skimmed your comment when writing this reply; On a reread, I think we mostly agree.

9thelomen7yI've definitely experienced strong adverse reactions to discussing eugenics 'cavalierly' if you don't spend at least ten to fifteen minutes covering the inferential steps and sanitising the perceived later uses of the concept. Good point about the possible three communities. I haven't posted here much, as I found myself standing too far outside the concepts whilst I worked my way through the sequences. Regardless of that, the more I read the more I feel I have to learn, especially about patterned thinking and reframes. To a certain extent I see this community as a more scientifically minded Maybe Logic group, when thinking about priors and updating information. A lot of the transhumanist material have garnered very strong responses from friends though, but I've stocked up on Istvan paperbacks to hopefully disseminate soon.
7NancyLebovitz7yI can't see this as part of the problem. You don't have to discuss it, but I'm bewildered that it's on the list.
[-][anonymous]7y 12

I should probably have generalized this to "community-accepted norms that trigger absurdity heuristic alarms in the general population".

Again, there should be a place to discuss that, but it shouldn't be the same place that's trying to raise the sanity waterline.

4ChrisHallquist7yI don't mind #3, in fact the discussions of futurism are a big draw of LessWrong for me (though I suppose there are general reasons for being cautious about your confidence about the future). But I would be very happy to see #1, #2, and #4 go away.
[-][anonymous]7y 13

I find stuff like “if you don't sign up your kids for cryonics then you are a lousy parent” more problematic than a sizeable fraction of what reactionaries say.

4Lumifer7yI don't think this hypothesis is supported by the evidence, specifically past LW discussions.
5[anonymous]7yMy vague recollections of LW-past disagreements, but I don't have any readily available examples. It's possible my model is drawing too much on the-rest-of-the-Internet experiences and I should upgrade my assessment of LW accordingly.
6Lumifer7yYes, I am specifically talking about LW. With respect to the usual 'net forums I agree with you.

a lot of lot of horrible, horrible stuff that I never, ever want to be associated with.

As a lurker and relatively new person to this community I've now seen this sentiment expressed multiple places but without any specific examples. Could you (or anyone else) please provide some? I'd really like to know more about this before I start talking about Less Wrong to my friends/family/coworkers/etc.

Feel free to PM me if you don't want to discuss it publicly.

9[anonymous]7yA lot of this content is concentrated among the users who eventually created MoreRight. Check out that site for a concentrated dose of what also pops up here.
5gothgirl4206667yThis guy was a pretty big poster on LW, I think. Best example I can come up with, I'm sure there are better ones. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq5vRKiQlUQ [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq5vRKiQlUQ]

But but ... he posted a link to that (or some other video of him ranting at the camera), and then was downvoted to oblivion and demolished in the comments, while whining about how he was being oppressed.

Things like that don't seem remotely mainstream on LW, do they? (I don't read all the big comment threads ...)

8gothgirl4206667yOh, okay. For some reason I thought he was fairly respected here.

A lie repeated a hundred times becomes available.

If we keep telling ourselves that LW is full of horrible stuff, we start believing it. Then any negative example, even if it happens once in a while and is quickly downvoted, becomes a confirmation of the model.

This is a website with hundreds of thousands of comments. Just because a few dozen of the comments are about X, it doesn't prove much.

EDIT: And I think threads like this contribute heavily to the availability bias. It's like an exercise in making all the bad things more available. If you use this strategy as an individual, it's called depression.

Just imagine that once in a while someone would accuse you of being a horrible human being, and (assuming they had a record of everything you ever did) would show you a compilation of the worst things you have ever did in the past (ignoring completely anything good you did, because that's somehow irrelevant to the debate) and told you: this is you, this is why you are a horrible person! Well, that's pretty much what we are doing here.

6hyporational7yThat was awesome!

A pretty minor poster, but there was someone who was a fan of his who posted a lot of links to him for a while. I think he's gotten worse.

5Dentin7yThat guy is funny. Definitely not someone who would be well respected here. His model of the world is broken and he's trying to make the world fit his model, instead of the other way around.
6ChrisHallquist7yCan you provide some links? I haven't followed what you've said previously about this.

Continuing the argument though, I just don't think including actual people on the receiving end into the debate would help determine true beliefs about the best way to solve whatever problem it is. It'd fall prey to the usual suspects like scope insensitivity, emotional pleading, and the like. Someone joins the debate and says "Your plan to wipe out malaria diverted funding away from charities that research the cure to my cute puppy's rare illness, how could you do that?" - how do you respond to that truthfully while maintaining basic social standards of politeness?

Someone affected by the issue might bring up something that nobody else had thought of, something that the science and statistics and studies missed - but other than that, what marginal value are they adding to the discussion?

Someone affected by the issue might bring up something that nobody else had thought of, something that the science and statistics and studies missed

Aye !

but other than that, what marginal value are they adding to the discussion?

Is that not enough for You ? Especially in some discussions, which are repetitive on LW ?

Someone affected by the issue might bring up something that nobody else had thought of, something that the science and statistics and studies missed - but other than that, what marginal value are they adding to the discussion?

Thinkers - including such naive, starry-eyed liberal idealists as Friedrich Hayek or Niccolo Machiavelli - have long touched on the utter indispensability of subjective, individual knowledge and its advantages over the authoritarian dictates of an ostensibly all-seing "pure reason". Then along comes a brave young LW user and suggests that enlightened technocrats like him should tell people what's really important in their lives.

I'm grateful to David for pointing out this comment, it's really a good summary of what's wrong with the typical LW approach to policy.

(I'm a repentant ex/authoritarian myself, BTW.)

8Ishaan7yI hesitate to suggest this, but I've noticed most of the "sensitive but discussed anyway" issues have been on areas where socially weaker groups might feel threatened by the discussion. Criticism of socially strong groups is conspicuously absent, given that LW demographics are actually far-left leaning according to polls. If the requirement that one must be dispassionate would cut in multiple directions simultaneously (rather than selectively cutting in the direction of socially marginalized groups) then we'd select for "willing to deal intellectually with emotional things" rather than selecting for "emotionally un-reactive to social problems" (which is a heterogeneous class containing both people who are willing to deal intellectually with things which are emotionally threatening and people who happen to not often fall on the pointy end of sensitive issues) The reason I hesitate to suggest it is that while I do want an arena where sensitive issues can be discussed intellectually without driving people away, people consciously following the suggestion would probably result in a green-blue battleground for social issues.
8BarbaraB7yMaybe invite blacks or other members of marginalized communities explicitly ? Some time ago, Eliezer wrote a post, which made it clear he would be glad to see more women on LW. I thing his article was well written. Did any of You guys, the opponents of crazier versions of feminism, feel annoyed by that ? Later, there were other efforts to drag women here. (It does feel flattering, I tell You). Now, the percentage of LW women has grown slightly (lazy to look up the census result), athough we are still a minority.
[-][anonymous]7y 19

the percentage of LW women has grown slightly (lazy to look up the census result)

It grew from 3% in 2009 to 8.9% (cis) + 1.3% (trans) in 2012.

8ThrustVectoring7yI don't see this as a problem, really. The entire point is to have high-value discussions. Being inclusive isn't the point. It'd be nice, sure, and there's no reason to drive away minority groups for no reason. I mean, I don't see us trying to spread internet access and English language instruction in Africa so that the inhabitants can help discuss how to solve their malaria problems. As long as we can get enough input about what the problem is actually like, we don't need to be inclusive in order to solve problems. And in the African malaria case, being inclusive would obviously hurt our problem-solving capability.

Eh, yes and no. This attitude ("we know what's best; your input is not required") has historically almost always been wrong and frequently dangerous and deserves close attention, and I think it mostly fails here. In very, very specific instances (GiveWell-esque philanthropy, eg), maybe not, but in terms of, say, feminism? If anyone on LW is interested tackling feminist issues, having very few women would be a major issue. Even when not addressing specific issues, if you're trying to develop models of how human beings think, and everyone in the conversation is a very specific sort of person, you're going to have a much harder time getting it right.

This attitude ("we know what's best; your input is not required") has historically almost always been wrong

Has it really? The cases where it went wrong jump to mind more easily than those where it went right, but I don't know which way the balance tips overall (and I suspect neither do your nor most readers - it's a difficult question!).

For example, in past centuries Europe has seen a great rise in litteracy, and a drop in all kinds of mortality, through the adoption of widespread education, modern medical practices, etc. A lot of this seems to have been driven in a top-down way by bureaucratic governments who considered they were working for The Greater Good Of The Nation, and didn't care that much about the opinion of a bunch of unwashed superstitious hicks.

(Some books on the topic: Seeing Like a State; The Discovery of France ... I haven't read either unfortunately)

I don't see this as a problem, really. The entire point is to have high-value discussions.

High-value discussions here, so far as is apparent to me, seem to be better described as "High-value for modestly wealthy white and ethnic Jewish city-dwelling men, many of them programmers". If it turns out said men get enough out of this to noticeably improve the lives of the huge populations (some of which might even contain intelligent, rational individuals or subgroups), that's all fine and well. But so far, it mostly just sounds like rich programmers signalling at each other.

Which makes me wonder what the hell I'm still doing here; in spite of not feeling particularly welcome, or getting much out of discussions, I haven't felt like not continuing to read and sometimes comment would make a good response. Yet, since I'm almost definitely not going to be able to contribute to a world-changing AI, directly or otherwise, and don't have money to spare for EA or xrisk reduction, I don't see why LW should care. (Ok, so I made a thinly veiled argument for why LW should care, but I also acknowledged it was rather weak.)

6David_Gerard7yMy LW reading comes out of my Internet-as-television time, and so does Hacker News. The two appear very similar in target audience.
7John_Maxwell7yOut of curiousity, what sites come out of your Internet-as-non-television time?
6David_Gerard7yI live in my GMail. Wikipedia editing, well, really it's a form of television I pretend isn't. The rest is looking for something in particular.
5John_Maxwell7ySo what do you consider a high-value use of your free time?

Even with malaria nets (which seem like a very simple case), having information from the people who are using them could be important. Is using malaria nets harder than it sounds? Are there other diseases which deserve more attention?

One of the topics here is that sometimes experts get things wrong. Of course, so do non-experts, but one of the checks on experts is people who have local experience.

The entire point is to have high-value discussions.

Feminism and possible racial differences seem like pretty low-value discussion topics to me... interesting way out of proportion to their usefulness, kind of like politics.

5Vulture7yMaybe I'm being dense, but I don't see why this is obviously true.
6ThrustVectoring7yThere's obviously a level of exclusivity that also hurts our problem-solving, as well. At some point a programmer in the Bay Area with $20k/yr of disposable income and 20 hours a week to spare is going to do more than a subsaharan african farmer with $200/yr of disposable income, 6 hours a week of free time, and no internet access.

This is a bit of a tangential ramble on why diversity might be kind of a good idea.

Different evidence accrues to people with different experiences.

A Bayesian agent who goes through an upbringing as a boy and one who goes through an upbringing as a girl will probably not possess identical beliefs about society, the world, humanity, and so on. This is not because one has been held back or misled, nor because one is less rational than the other ... but because two different partial explorations of the same territory do not yield the same map.

This does not mean that "men's truth" and "women's truth" (or "European truth" and "African truth") are different truths. Nor does it mean that any map is just as good as any other. Some people really do sit down and scribble all over their map until it is useless.

But since nobody's map is equivalent to the territory, overall we can expect that we will navigate the territory better if we can get help from people whose maps are different from our own.

That means that if we spend our time hanging out only with people whose experiences are a lot like our own, and going all Robber's Cave on anyone whose map doesn... (read more)

A Bayesian agent who goes through an upbringing as a boy and one who goes through an upbringing as a girl will probably not possess identical beliefs about society, the world, humanity, and so on. This is not because one has been held back or misled, nor because one is less rational than the other ... but because two different partial explorations of the same territory do not yield the same map.

The apparent inconceivability (in this thread) of the notion that someone might disagree on a deep level with local memes without being insane is quite amazing. Typical mind fallacy, the lack of realisation that there exist unknown unknowns.

This matters if we care about possessing accurate maps; and it also matters a great deal if what we are trying to map includes things like "the good of humanity" or "coherent extrapolated volition of humankind" or things like that.

Yes. This thread reads like LW is aimed at realising the CEV of well-off programmers in the Bay Area. If you're serious about working for all of humanity, it may conceivably be useful to seriously listen to some who don't already agree with you.

The apparent inconceivability (in this thread) of the notion that someone might disagree on a deep level with local memes without being insane is quite amazing. [...] If you're serious about working for all of humanity, it may conceivably be useful to seriously listen to some who don't already agree with you.

I don't think that's the case. If people would find that notion inconceivability I doubt that the thread would be upvoted to 19 at the point of this writing.

I would also point out that the kind of ideology that expressed in the linked post comes from the Bay Area. As far as core differences in ideologies goes pitting one Bay Area ideology against another Bay Area ideology isn't real diversity of opinion.

The apparent inconceivability (in this thread) of the notion that someone might disagree on a deep level with local memes without being insane is quite amazing. Typical mind fallacy, the lack of realisation that there exist unknown unknowns.

I considered posting a third-hand account in the rationality quotes of a blind couple who, in a public park and not hearing anyone else nearby, decided to have sex. They told the judge they did not know that anyone could see them; maybe they didn't, what with plausibly having no idea what vision is capable of.

It felt too lengthy, and it wasn't originally intended as a parable, so I decided against posting it. I think it more easily explains itself in this context, though.

overall we can expect that we will navigate the territory better if we can get help from people whose maps are different from our own

Only if their maps are better than random. We should try to attract those people from the under-represented groups whose maps are better than random.

People with strong political identities usually have their maps systematically distorted. So while trying to attract the members of the under-represented groups, we should avoid political applause lights, to avoid attracting the most politically active members of these groups.

Specifically, I think LW would benefit from participation of many women, but we should avoid applause lights of feminism, social justice, or however it is called. Because that's just one specific subset of women. If a person with strong political opinions criticizes LW as not the best place for them... well, maybe in this specifical case, that's system working as intended.

Instead, invite all the smart women you know to the LW meetup, and encourage them to write an article on LW. Select them by smartness, not by political activity and willingness to criticize LW for not conforming to their party line. Analogically for any other under-represented groups. Invite them as individuals, not as political forces.

People with strong political identities usually have their maps systematically distorted.

Oh, certainly. Feminism points out, though, that the social mainstream is also a strong political identity which systematically distorts people's maps. They use somewhat unfortunate historical words for this effect, like "patriarchy". That's just a label on their maps, though; calling a stream a creek doesn't change the water.

So combining this with your guideline, we should be careful not to invite anyone who has a strong political identity ... but we cannot do that, because "ordinary guy" (and "normal woman") is a strong political identity too. It's just a strong political identity one of whose tenets is that it is not a strong political identity.

We don't have the freedom to set out with an undistorted map, nor of having a perfect guide as to whose maps are more distorted. Being wrong doesn't feel like being wrong. A false belief doesn't feel like a false belief. If you start with ignorance priors and have a different life, you do not end up with the same posteriors. And as a consequence, meeting someone who has different data from you can feel like meeting som... (read more)

[-][anonymous]7y 39

tldr: Having strong political opinions feels like common sense from the inside.

Even if everyone's map is distorted, I think there is an important difference whether people try to update, or don't even try. Which is part of what this website is about.

In other words, I would be okay with an X-ist who says they could be convinced against X-ism by evidence, even if they obviously consider such evidence very unlikely.

(And I obviously wouldn't be okay with people suggesting that presenting an evidence against X-ism should be punished.)

[-][anonymous]7y 17

Right. Refusing beforehand to consider certain types of argument/conclusion without looking at their merits, and having freely-acknowledged yet apparently-not-seen-as-a-problem-and-even-actively-justified emotional reactions to those arguments that trigger that refusal[1], seem like exactly the sort of things this site -- or any community dedicated to generating quality thought -- would want to discourage as much as possible. And when the justification is given in the language of a thede/tribe/political movement/identity that is opposed to the types of argument/conclusion being rejected... well, creating/promoting/incentivizing those emotional reactions is very useful to the movement, but not at all conducive to generating quality thought.

(The fun part about all of this is that it looks like it leads straight to a version of Marcuse's paradox (tolerance requires intolerance of intolerance): you have to refuse to update toward refusing to update.)

[1] I've been calling this sort of thing a memetic immune reaction, extending the memes-as-viruses metaphor. The justification for it isn't always present, and the emotional trigger to the refusal isn't always acknowledged, so that blog post is really an excellent case study. (edit: whoops, asterisks are bullet points, can't footnote that way)

7hyporational7yThis sounds awfully like "if you're not with me, you're my enemy." Any advice how to untangle myself from this web that seems inescapable? I already don't vote or read the news from any particular source, nor do I actively try to change political opinions. People with agendas seem to want to make everything about politics and me as their pawn as a consequence. When they try to take my passiveness IRL as a sign of opposition to their political agenda, I usually proceed to explain how much more of a political enemy I could be just to demonstrate my point if I cared to.

I can see the problem you're trying to avoid-- the assumption that one sort of feminism is typical for women. And I think it's worth avoiding.

However, you seem to be implying that men aren't excessively clustered by politics at LW.

Also, the problem pointed to in the Not on the Master List article doesn't generally manifest at that level of fear. I think the more common negative reaction to LW is moderate revulsion, and I suspect that just inviting more women isn't going to solve it.

If anyone tried the experiment of inviting more women, it might be world posting about how it worked out.

Maybe it's just that when someone says: "I feel uncomfortable about X", my natural reaction is thinking about a possible fix; but when someone says: "I am a member of a tribe T and we dislike X", my natural reaction is: Fuck you, and fuck your tribe T!

Only later comes the rationalization, that improving a situation for a specific person, especially for someone who feels some discomfort and yet wants to be a member of the community, is good for the community. But obeying demands made in the name of a different tribe, just helps the other tribe conquer this territory; and the complaining person probably wasn't interested in membership too much, just wanted to plant a flag of the tribe T here.

My model of a person who wrote this article is that even if LW changed according to their wishes, they wouldn't join LW anyway (they would just tick off another internet battle won), or they would join but would contribute mostly by criticizing other things they don't like, making some existing members (including women) uncomfortable.

Still, there is a question: If we change according to this person's wishes, maybe this person will not join us, but perhaps some other person wou... (read more)

Maybe it's just that when someone says: "I feel uncomfortable about X", my natural reaction is thinking about a possible fix; but when someone says: "I am a member of a tribe T and we dislike X", my natural reaction is: Fuck you, and fuck your tribe T!

Not sure if you meant to imply this, but did the linked article read to you like, "I am a member of tribe T and we dislike X"? To me it just sounded like, "I feel uncomfortable about X."

Uhm, after reading the article again, I think you are right. It was written as: "I feel uncomfortable about X."

Yet I somehow perceived it completely differently. I wonder why exactly. Probably because it was long and not going to the point (which made the real point less obvious) and contained a lot of keywords typical for a specific tribe (so I assumed it was speaking in the name of the tribe).

Also because members of that tribe frequently argue that making them uncomfortable should be a punishable offense.

8jsalvatier7y" moderate revulsion" is a reaction I've seen from people who I would like to be party of the community and I thought had a reasonable chance of being interested.
6buybuydandavis7yMath. Conservatives are 3%. Just 3 labels make up roughly 93%, and I'd say only two real clusters, as libertarian vs. socialist/liberal. I haven't noticed substantive debates here between liberals and socialists. It would be interesting to see, if someone can point some out. Note the predominance of the Anglosphere - with the 4 top represented countries making up around 75% of the survey respondents, and those 4 countries being 4 of the top six in per capita terms.
5michaelkeenan7yThis doesn't matter for your point; I'm just letting you know: the survey results showed 3% conservative, not 35%. There were 35 total conservatives, which was 3% of respondents.
7hyporational7yThe burning question is diversity in what exactly? I'm pretty sure there's good diversity and bad diversity, whatever your values happen to be. Then there's diversity that doesn't matter. I don't care how tall people here are.
5JTHM7yYour argument is cogent, and yet I find the overwhelming majority of calls for diversity to be somehow underhanded. I suspect that your true motives are invisible to you. Consider this: is your motivation for valuing diversity really a product of your philosopher's thirst for pure, pristine knowledge, or do you just want every social group you see as important to be loaded with demographics which support your political faction? (Think carefully--the truth might not be obvious from casual introspection; we are masters at self-delusion when politics is at play.) I say this because I cannot help but notice that the cry of "Diversity!" is invoked exclusively by those who are trying to import to a group those demographics which tend to offer political support to the left. What's more, the frequency which with this cry is invoked correlates positively with the degree to which that demographic supports the left. Consider the following data from the 2012 presidential election: Whites voted 39% for Obama, and 59% for Romney. Blacks voted 93% for Obama, and 6% for Romney. Hispanics voted 71% for Obama, and 27% for Romney. Asians voted 73% for Obama, and 26% for Romney. Source [http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/elections/how_groups_voted/voted_12.html] When I encounter someone singing the praises of diversity, I more often find that they are lobbying for Blacks than Hispanics, rarely for Asians, and never for Whites. Blacks offer overwhelming support to the left, Hispanics are more lukewarm, Asians' support proportionally resembles that of Hispanics' (but they are a smaller group overall so it is less important for the left to signal respect for their faction), and Whites support the right. Coincidence? Unlikely. Now consider gender (same source as above): Men voted 45% for Obama, 52% for Romney. Women voted 55% for Obama, 44% for Romney. Again, women support the left and men do not. Again, the cry of "Diversity!" is invoked for those trying to add women to a group, and

the cry of "Diversity!" is invoked exclusively by those who are trying to import to a group those demographics which tend to offer political support to the left.

I wouldn't mind "importing a demographics which tends to support X" assuming that we continue using the existing filters on content, and require rational comments and avoiding mindkilling politics. The difference between 55% and 44% seems unimportant, because we don't use majority voting in LW anyway. It's not like a 5% advantage would make someone win or lose an election. Unless we really lose our basic community values, it wouldn't even mean that the minority group would automatically get negative karma for every comment.

I am more concerned about "importing a subset of a demographics, selected by its support for X". As a strawman example, by suggesting that we need more Obama-voting women, but we actually don't care about Romney-voting women. As a more realistic example, by trying to optimize LW for women from the feminist / social justice warrior cluster, instead of for women in general. (Because, you know, there are also women who prefer free speech, and some changes would make LW even l... (read more)

7pgbh7yConsider these two theories: How would you tell which of these theories is true?
4JTHM7yI have said nothing of the left promoting the well-being of minorities, and I have said nothing of why minorities support the left. I have said that the left tries to place left-leaning demographics in positions of power and influence (which is not always the same thing as actually helping those demographics, although helping them may be a side effect), and that leftists try to populate their social circles with those same demographics. Obviously, the right tries to place right-leaning demographics in positions of power and influence as well. For that matter, anyone who identifies with faction X tries to place likely X-ists in positions of power and influence. However, an attempt to do such a thing rarely feels like a power grab from the inside, regardless of your political orientation. Inside the mind of a leftist, a power grab of this form feels like promoting the noble cause of diversity.
5ChristianKl7yTaboo "diversity". Specifically are you saying that having norms that prevent certain views from being expressed increases diversity by making the community more welcoming for members of minorities or are you saying that preventing certain views from being expressed decreases diversity.

Just wanted to mention that an amazing amount of arguments in this thread and in the linked piece consists of misidentified non-central fallacies (in Yvain's labelling). None of the targets of the labels used ("racist", "eugenics", "feminist", what have you), correspond to a typical image evoked by using them.

I like Less Wrong-- there are courtesy rules here which keep it from going wrong in ways which are common in SJ circles. People get credit for learning rather than being expected to get everything right, and it's at least somewhat unusual to attack people for having bad motivations.

This being said, there are squicky features here, and I'm not just talking about claims that women are different from men-- oddly enough, it generally (always?) seems to be to women's disadvantage, even though there's some evidence that women are more trustworthy at running banks and investment funds.

I tolerate posts like this, but LW would seem like a friendlier place (to me) and possibly even be more rational if articles about gender issues would take utility for men and women equally seriously.

Reactionaries had something of a home here-- less so after the formation of More Right, I think. I haven't seen evidence of anything especially extreme on the egalitarian side, though there might be as good a rationalist case to be made for thorough reparations. Now that I think about it, I haven't even seen a case made for strong economic support for intelligent poor children.

Trolley problems..... I keep gettin... (read more)

It's funny, I am totally sympathetic to everything you wrote here, yet all I can think is, "my daily life is chock full of people incapable of grappling with trolley problems or discussing torture concretely, why are you trying to make LessWrong more like real life?"

This encourages me to think more about just what I was proposing....

A lot of what I was trying to do was demonstrate that I think the writer of the original link has a point. This is not quite the same thing as a call for action, even though I'd be happier without the trolley problems.

Another angle I was taking was that LW is theoretically open-minded, but is actually much more hospitable to some sorts of radical low-empathy ideas than others.

What I think is more feasible than changing LW (which is not to say very feasible) would be an empathy-tilted rationalist blog. It might be an independent development or started by disaffected LWers.

Have a probably empathic idea: HBD focuses on IQ, but there's little or no discussion of the possibility of tech for raising IQ from 90 or so to 110, even though that would make a large positive difference.

Meanwhile, I'll mention Hillary Rettig, a progressive who's good on instrumental rationality.

Are you talking about raising the IQ of a person, or the average IQ of a population? There's little discussion of the former because decades of failed interventions has made "you can't raise an existing person's IQ reliably" the default hypothesis. Once you've got past the easy childhood stuff like nutrition, lead paint and iodine deficiencies, there's not a lot you can do. Aside from some kind of Black Swan like a pill that raises you up a standard deviation, there's not much room for hope.

Raising the IQ of the next generations though, there's discussion on that since all the theory deems it totally possible. See here for example.

But yes, in absolute terms there's little discussion on how to solve the problem. Many writers assume the problem is politically intractable.

9NancyLebovitz7yI was talking about raising the IQs of large numbers of existing people. My impression is that there just isn't much interest is looking for physical solutions. Compare the amount of interest in combating obesity to the amount of interest in becoming more intelligent.
7drethelin7yThere's a good amount of interest in eg r/nootropics and Gwern has written about the possible benefits of supplementing local water supplies and whatnot. Part of the problem is that the solutions are political complex since they involve A) convincing sufficient people IQ is really a thing and then B) getting large groups of people to admit they're dumb and want their children to be smarter. In terms of technical solutions we're just not there cybernetically yet I don't think. Genetic solutions have the whole eugenics problem to contend with though china seems to be working on it regardless.

Re: trolley problems and torture:

I seem to remember reading somewhere, I think it was something Daniel Dennett said, about the value of having philosophers willing to explore ideas that are (and maybe should be) taboo for ordinary people.

Take Peter Singer, for example. I don't buy the whole standard consequentialist package in ethics, but I really like Peter Singer. And he says things that are really shocking to many people, for example arguing that infanticide is often morally OK. But I suspect being willing to consider shocking ideas like that may be a prerequisite for being able to make progress on certain really important topics (see Singer's ideas about animal rights, charity, and some areas of medical ethics). Not everyone needs to be Peter Singer, but having a few Peter Singers - even a whole blog community of them - seems really valuable.

A couple other points: on torture, I don't think it's exactly being taken lightly. Rather, I suspect the reason it's used as an example is precisely because it an archetypal example of a really horrible thing.

As for seeming un-empathic, I don't think it's just rationality signaling. There's an issue that when you're making decisions that effect huge numbers of people, being too driven by your feelings about one case can lead to decisions that are really bad for the other people involved and that you wouldn't make if you really thought about it.

And torture seems to be taken too lightly. It's a real world problem, not just a token to be passed around in arguments.

What do you have against passing real world problems around as tokens in arguments?

LW historically has had a habit of choosing examples with shock value beyond what's necessary to make the point; granted, this no longer seems quite so fashionable for new top-level content, but it does remain noticeable in comments and in older posts, including parts of the Sequences. I view this habit as basically a social display: a way of signaling "I can handle this without getting mind-killed". Now, let me be very clear: I do not regard this as intrinsically destructive, nor do I place substantial terminal value on avoiding offense. But I do think its higher-order effects have avoidably reduced the quality of discussion here.

The fundamental issue is that not everyone here is equally able to avoid derailing discussions when exposed to topics like, say, torture. Even people who are generally very rational may find particular subjects intolerable; judging from experience, in fact, I'd say that most of the people here have one or two they can't handle, including myself. Avoiding these is part of our culture when they overlap with talking points in mainstream politics, and that's good; but there remains a wide scope of weakly politicized yet potentially mindkilling ones out there, many of which we've historically thrown around with the gleeful abandon of a velociraptor plunging into a vat full of raw meat.

I think we should stop doing that, at least to the extent that we avoid conventional politics and for most of the same reasons.

a habit of choosing examples with shock value beyond what's necessary to make the point


with the gleeful abandon of a velociraptor plunging into a vat full of raw meat.


8Mestroyer7yTorture is a uniquely good tool in thought experiments, when you need something bad, and I refuse to give it up. Death is too complicated (and therefore invites too much hypothetical-fighting). There're questions of what quality of life you're missing, how long you would have lived, etc, and worse yet, some people think it's a good thing. No one* thinks torture (of the average person) is a good thing. When people say things like "I want to go on living no matter what my life is like" the only correct answer is extremely unpleasant experiences, which are also called torture. I could wrap the idea of torture in a bunch of sterile-sounding abstractions, but no one likes obfuscation, and it would still be torture. If leaving out the word "torture" changes their reaction, then including it is necessary to make my point. Anything else equivalently bad that could do the job in my thought experiment would probably be some more specific thing than torture, or disturb people as much as torture anyway. (*Colloquial sense of "no one") When I need to make an argument about factory farming, and I want to draw an accurate analogy, I need to bring up torture, because that is an accurate description of what actually happens in factory farms. It's not just the death in them that bothers me. Indeed, to counter the Robin Hanson argument that meat is moral [http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:BsnelhDP8SQJ:hanson.gmu.edu/meat.html+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us] , references to actual torture are the only answer (linked to cache version because as of writing this the page is down). When I am arguing with a theist, and I need to sidestep their cached thought that people in Hell deserve it, I have to use the word torture, because that is a boo-light, and i am fully justified in using it because torture is what we're talking about. If you can't discuss these things with me, that is too bad. Children likely have valuable insights that adult conversions are missing due to the
9NancyLebovitz7yI'm fascinated, because those are not at all the sorts of mentions of torture that bother me-- what gets to me is the tortures vs. dust specks and "is that worth fifty years of torture?, what if the person is memory-wiped afterwards?" discussions. Those do mind-kill me, and I pretty much don't read them.

I tolerate posts like this, but LW would seem like a friendlier place (to me) and possibly even be more rational if articles about gender issues would take utility for men and women equally seriously.

That post is by GLaDOS, who is female. I doubt GLaDOS values women less than men, but it would be nice if you would actually make a case for your insult/accusation rather than just throwing it in without any discussion.

8NancyLebovitz7yThat post struck me as ignoring any advantages divorce might have (like getting out of bad marriages) for women.
4knb7yIt seems clear to me that the post was not about weighing the pros and cons of divorce in total (something which would take a lot more than a short post). The post makes a more abstract point about the way incentive changes can have large impacts even without people coordinating to deliberately change behavior. That seems like a very appropriate topic for Less Wrong.
8Ishaan7yI believe that the "problem" is that Lesswrong loves contrarians. If a smart-sounding article espousing conservative opinions on social issues appears, most lesswrongers will disagree but be interested in reading anyway because it's novel and there is a dearth of smart conservative opinions in the world, and the exciting chance to "actually change their mind" looms. If a smart-sounding article espousing liberal opinions on social issues appears, most lesswrongers will agree but be disinterested in reading because they've heard it all before, and it's preaching to the choir, and it's political and mind-killing, etc. This reversal of traditional attitudes to disagreement has its merits, but we're seeing the downsides too. (one of the many reasons I advocate having separate feedback buttons for agreement, interest, and quality assessment)

Doesn't this problem gradually fix itself? For example, at the beginning I was interested in Moldbug's articles, but these days I just consider them boring. I have already heard the big picture; there is now nothing new, just reiterating what was already said; the lack of evidence or even clear explanations is very annoying, and I have already given up hope that it could be improved.

These days, if someone says something seemingly smart like "Cthulhu always swims left", my first though is: give me a definition of what the hell do you even mean by this, then give me an evidence that it really happens, and if you don't give any of it (which is my expectation based on previous experience) then just please shut up because you're wasting my time.

Speaking for myself, the neo-reactionaries had their chance (which I consider to be a good thing -- because I learned a few interesting things), and they wasted it.

7bogus7yWell, since that post quotes liberally from a "manosphere" website, you'd be justified for assuming that it does take men's welfare more seriously than women's. But for what it's worth, it's mostly concerned with trying to predict men's strategically reasonable response to a change in institutions, and determining the resulting equilibrium. Whether you value men's and women's welfare equally doesn't much affect how bad the projected outcome is. Why? A standard result in the trolley-problem literature is that folks deviate from utilitarian ethics in a way that's suggestive of just such a moral injunction. People on LW are different, in that they tend to be highly committed to utilitarianism. But we already knew that - the way trolley problems are discussed here is just more evidence of this fact.
6[anonymous]7yDoes there need to be a case made for that? This seems like one of the earliest identified reasons for redistributing wealth. You had people and organizations sponsoring poor talented youth and this being considered virtuous since ancient Greece. And the reform of education and welfare in the 19th and 20th century often emphasized this example, thought they may not have always done much about it. In Slovenia at least we have scholarships handed out to people who preform very well on aptitude tests, is this something that doesn't happen as reliably in the US?
4NancyLebovitz7yI know smart Americans who grew up very poor, and don't seem to have received a lot of help.
5Prismattic7yI don't really like trolley problems either, but I don't think they can be waved away. When programming a self-driving car's decision algorithm for reacting when a car full of people skids in front of it while there is a single pedestrian on the sidewalk where it would have to swerve, you are essentially dealing with a real -world trolley problem.
4CronoDAS7yBetter to hit the other car rather than the pedestrian. The people in the car are protected by a lot of metal and will tend to suffer much less damage.
5drethelin7yI think a lot of the focus on trolley problems is they're sort of a platonic model of making hard decisions about tradeoffs, with the idea being that if you can convince people it's right to make tradeoffs in the most obvious situation, they should consider the tradeoffs in much more complicated policy decisions also. EG people who propose Basic Income want people to be willing to trade "some of your money" for "greater happiness for many people". This is also what a lot of Effective Altruism movement is based on, making GOOD tradeoffs rather than bad ones.

The linked article is too long and it is not obvious what exactly its point is. I kept repeating to myself be specific, be specific while reading it.

I believe there was most likely one specific thing that offended the author... and rest of the long unspecific article was simply gathering as many soldiers as possible to the battle -- and judging by the discussion that started here, successfully.

The summary at the end hints that it was a use of word "eugenics" somewhere on LW, or maybe somewhere on some LW fan's blog. Unless that was just a metaphor for something. The author is probably disabled and feels personally threatened by any discussion of the topic, so strongly that they will avoid the whole website if they feel that such discussion would not be banned there. Unless that, too, was a metaphor for something.

(The main lesson for me seems to be this: If you want attention, write an article accusing LW of bad things. LW can't resist this.)

Most of the rest of the above comment seems to be insults accusing the author of bad faith, but this bit implied a question of fact:

The summary at the end hints that it was a use of word "eugenics" somewhere on LW, or maybe somewhere on some LW fan's blog.

Probably here.

We already practice eugenics, every time we do a genetic test and abort a fetus when it has some horrible transferrable genetic disorder. Frankly, we could do with a bit more of that - there are many, many horrible recessive genetic diseases which people should never have to endure, and which should be eliminated if at all possible. Not doing so strikes me as similar to not trying to cure polio.

8[anonymous]7yAnd indeed there are plenty of people who object to that (at least where I am -- it may be different in places further away from the Pope).
6hyporational7yI don't think a random person critiquing LW would have the same impact. They also have to be "oppressed" or something.

Yes, they need to know our buttons and press them. Such as:

  • you are an unfriendly place for women;

  • you say that politics is the mindkiller, but secretly all of you are libertarians (or all of you are conservatives);

  • you are actually a cult;

...and for the best impact: all of the above, in a long article, with citations out of context from random parts of the website; quoting some offensive and heavily downvoted comments and presenting them as a typical LW content; claiming to be an expert on artificial intelligence or quantum physics and claiming that everything LW says on these topics is a pseudoscience. Did I forget something important? Oh yes, the basilisk! And end with a huge generalization that this all proves that LW is a horrible group of people, and that you will tell everyone you know to avoid LW: both your personal friends, and also any scientist or an organizer of an atheist or skeptic meetup.

(I am not saying this is what the linked article did. Just that this is what I would include into a troll manual, and bet money that LW couldn't resist discussing such article. But a subset of this is enough to succeed.)

You forgot torture vs dust specks, nerd rapture, building a benevolent God, and many-worlds.

[-][anonymous]7y 10

...and cryonics.

5NancyLebovitz7yIt seemed like the whole rationality community was the problem, not just LW. I agree that more specificity would have helped-- in particular, the indicators she ignored with other people, and what went wrong in those relationships.

Feminism in particular has a bad history of leaning on a community to make changes - to the point where the target becomes a feminist institution that no longer functions in its original capacity. I may be overreacting, but I don't even want to hear or discuss anything from that direction. It's textbook derailing. "But what you're doing is anti-woman" has been played out by feminists, over and over again, to get their demands met from community after community. From Atheism+ to Occupy Wall Street, the result is never pretty.

And honestly, attacking open discourse as anti-woman and anti-minority is very, uhh, squicky. I don't have a better way of putting my thoughts down on the matter - it's just very, very concerning to me. It feels like a Stalinist complaining that we aren't putting enough bullets in the heads of dissenters - except it's a feminist complaining that we aren't torpedoing the reputation of enough people who express "anti-woman" ideas. Just... ew. No. It doesn't help that this idea is getting obfuscated with layers and layers of complicated English and parenthetical thoughts breaking up the sentence structure.

Some choice quotes:

I thus require adherence to these ideas or at least a lack of explicit challenges to them on the part of anyone speaking to me before I can entertain their arguments in good faith.

Big warning flag right here. It's threatening to ignore, ostracize, or attack those who disagree with their sacred cows. That's an unconscionably bad habit to allow oneself.

I may be overreacting, but I don't even want to hear or discuss anything from that direction.


It's threatening to ignore, ostracize, or attack those who disagree with their sacred cows. That's an unconscionably bad habit to allow oneself.

throws hand in air

You'd think if we were such hot stuff at dispassionately debating things, we could handle outgroup criticism like this without either ignoring opposing views or devolving into tribal politics. But as Tarski would say, "if we can't, I want to believe we can't," and I admit I'd rather not discuss this sort of thing than always discuss this sort of thing.

[-][anonymous]7y 19

To maximize open discourse, you have to close down discourse against open discourse.

It's just Marcuse's paradox (which I'm pretty sure I'm coining here): to maximize tolerance, you have to be intolerant toward intolerance. Or in the legal arena: "the Constitution is not a suicide pact."

There are two arguments in that post: "certain elements within the rationality thing signal more than is necessary", the correction of which would aid the goal of generating high-quality open discourse, and "certain conclusions should not even be considered, certain arguments should not be made, no matter their strength, because certain people have memetic immune reactions to them that drive them away from participating at all", the correction of which would mean an end to open discourse. Given that ThrustVectoring (presumably) values open discourse, the response of "I don't even want to discuss anything from that direction" is exactly correct.

That doesn't mean that it can't be discussed, of course; it just means that a community that values open discourse can't discuss it. If apophemi wants there to be a community based around limited rationality -- that is, rationality-minus-discourse-about-certain-things -- well, one can always be started. Secession is always an option, and online, you don't even have to figure out how to build a seastead to secede.

"the Constitution is not a suicide pact."

Humorous, off-topic response: But the Declaration of Independence is!

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

This is harsh, but I think it's basically right. A useful rule of thumb: any time you see the words "safe space" used in the context of deliberation or political discussion (as opposed to, y'know, providing actual, safe, spaces to people threatened with actual bodily harm) you can substitute "echo chamber" and see whether their argument still makes sense. Yes, sometimes echo chambers generate worthwhile political arguments, but that's kind of the exception, not the rule. And these arguments still need to be evaluated openly, if only because this is the only way of acquiring durable credibility in a political or deliberative context.

I agree about political discussion. But LessWrong isn't about political discussion. Far more important to a typical LessWronger would be something like community building, which correct me if I'm wrong but that's pretty much a textbook example of what "safe space" is good for. This criticism was not directed at us per se, but we can extract useful information from it.

But LessWrong isn't about political discussion ...

Fair point. It is about deliberation, though. And make no mistake, these folks use "safe space" in the political/echo-chamber sense all the time. To me, this makes their overall argument extremely problematic - they're showing no appreciation at all for the benefits of open discussion.

Also, yes, real-world communities, meetups etc. are quite different and some important concerns do come into play. But LW folks have been quite aware of this, and we've seen plenty of useful discussion about related issues, with very little controversy.

9falenas1087yYes, creating a safe space does prevent an entirely open discussion. So downvoting to oblivion people to talk about the merits of killing everyone in Asia, or the validity of Christianity. As a community, we have decided that there are certain discussions we don't want to have, and certain topics we don't want to discuss. Not all safe spaces are equal. A safe space for a support group for trans folk would have a different meaning for a safe space for African Americans. I think Less Wrong could have its own version of a safe space, with the spirit behind the rules being something like "don't say/advocate for violence against others, don't be needlessly rude, don't use personal attacks."

don't say/advocate for violence against others, don't be needlessly rude, don't use personal attacks.

But those already are the rules on LW......aren't they?

5Randy_M7yIt is about honest discussion of issues with political implications, I believe, without unnecessarily belaboring those implications.

Are Atheism+ and Occupy Wall Street examples "where the target becomes a feminist institution that no longer functions in its original capacity"? Could you spell out what you mean or point to discussion of their changes?

The Occupy Wall Street example in particular was talking about their use of what they call "the Progressive Stack" to organize meetings. The general idea was this - people want to speak up, but not everyone can talk at the same time, so we need some sort of system for choosing who gets to speak when. First in first out isn't fair enough when you factor in things like minorities or women feeling more inhibited about speaking, so let's let them jump the queue and speak before people who are white and/or male.

It's an idea that sounds just fair enough to be considered, and has the benefit of both having passionate supporters on the left and of having an obvious path to paint opponents as sexist racists that want to silence women and minorities. The left won on this point at the cost of driving off much of their popular support, and the movement has been marginalized since.

The above is my understanding of what happened with this, synthesized over a fair amount of reading and research. It may well be wrong, and the situation may well be more complicated than I described. As far as I understand it, though, it's the major mistake that the movement made - it let itself be co-opted... (read more)

[Occupy Wall Street] let itself be co-opted into caring about social justice at the cost of their other goals.

When discussing OWS and similar political movements, the term "social justice" gets quite ambiguous. OWS has always been about social justice, by any reasonable meaning of the term. To be clear, you obviously mean identity politics, the notion that self-styled "minority" groups are more equal than everyone else.

Yeah, I'm talking about the more narrow definition that gets made fun of in /r/tumblrinaction. As opposed to what I think of as "economic justice", which involves things like banking reform, fairness in income distribution, taking care of the poor and homeless, etc.

As far as Atheism+ goes, it's an organized group spearheaded by people like Rebecca Watson who are outraged -- outraged -- at the behavior of atheists being insufficiently pro-woman and pro-social justice. Rebecca Watson in particular has a laser-like focus on sexism within the atheist and skeptic community, at the expense of the larger groups' nominal goals. She's responsible for the whole "elevatorgate" debacle, and responded to Richard Dawkins' claim that she was overreacting by going after Dawkins personally with this piece of loveliness.

It got worse.

Jen McCreight and PZ Myers have been circulating unverifiable accusations of rape, allegedly relied from anonymous sources, against big-name activists in the Skeptics movement, including Lawrence Krauss and Michael Shermer, who didn't happen to have jumped on the Atheism+ bandwagon.


As far as Atheism+ goes, it's an organized group spearheaded by people like Rebecca Watson who are outraged -- outraged -- at the behavior of atheists being insufficiently pro-woman and pro-social justice.

When women in the atheist movement still get sexually harassed by public figures, get rape and death threats, and when having a "no sexual harassment" policy creates a firestorm, all from other people within the atheist movement, the movement does need to be more pro-women and more pro-social justice.

(Link to a blog that has a source for all the incidents I'm talking about, plus a few more http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/08/30/atheism-plus-and-some-thoughts-on-divisiveness/)

Watson's response to Dawkins comes after he gave a response to her ridiculing her for feeling uncomfortable about getting asked out on an elevator.

And as for the mission statement, I don't think there's a problem with countering misogyny, racism, homo/bi/transphobia, or ableism. That sounds like a good thing. You may disagree with what they label as x-phobia, but the discussion should be about what is x-phobic, not whether we should care about x-phobia.

When women in the atheist movement still get sexually harassed by public figures, get rape and death threats, and when having a "no sexual harassment" policy creates a firestorm, all from other people within the atheist movement, the movement does need to be more pro-women and more pro-social justice.

False dilemma.

Social justice warriors are not the only kind of people on this planet who care about safety and well-being of other people. Also, feminists sometimes send death threats, too.

The sexual harassment by public figures certainly has to stop, the perpetrators have to be punished: legally when possible, and removed from positions of power within the community.

Giving more power to feminists and social justice warriors is not the only way to do this. It is one of the possible solutions, but not the only possible solution.

8falenas1087yAs Nancy said, what other movement that you could see becoming active in the atheist movement that supports this? And yes, they send death threats too. But at a ridiculously lower rate than is currently done, considering many popular female bloggers say they get death/rape threats every time they say something controversial.
5NancyLebovitz7yThe problem is that there doesn't seem to be a strong movement for Maintaining Decent Treatment for All People. I'm concerned that it's really hard to get people to do political things unless there's some excessive opposition to a defined group.
6Creutzer7yWasn't it rather the adoption of this as an explicit policy that created trouble? And that's not surprising, because it suggests that the problem is prevalent in the group to an extent that makes the explicit policy needed, which insinuation will naturally offend some members of the group.
6[anonymous]7yAsked into someone's hotel room, actually.
9ChrisHallquist7yI've nothing to say about OWS, but as an ex-member of Freethought Blogs and I've written a bit about the problems with that clique, for example here [http://www.patheos.com/blogs/hallq/2013/04/lots-of-people-are-awful-but-not-everyone-who-disagrees-with-you-is/] . (PZ Myers is the most popular blogger on the FTB network, and not all bloggers do the kind of shit he does but quite a few do.)

Many LWers are willing to entertain ideas about the existence and possible importance of average group differences in psychological traits. So, maybe LWers are racists. But they're racists who continually obsess over optimizing their philanthropic contributions to African charities.

There are individuals who comment on LW and who are avowed racists.

There are individuals who comment on LW and who obsess over optimizing their philanthropic contributions to African charities.

I'm not sure these are the same individuals.

Just because there are infinitely many even numbers, and infinitely many primes, does not mean there are infinitely many even primes. Just because the most common given name in the world is Muhammad, and the most common surname is Wang, does not mean that the typical human being is named Muhammad Wang. Just because Brooklyn has a notably unusual number of wild parrots for a northerly place, and a notably unusual number of Hasidim, does not mean that there are any Hasidic parrots in Brooklyn.

In the section you quoted, 'racist' seemed to include anyone who entertains ideas about the existence of average group differences in psychological traits. By that criterion I'd bet there are many LWers who fall into the intersection of those categories. I am certainly one of them.

Fair enough, I may have been overgeneralizing from my own experience. I read HBD blogs and effective altruism blogs and I have a monthly donation to GiveWell which I aim to increase as my income rises. I'm surely not the only person for whom this is true but maybe there aren't that many of us.

Would it actually be intellectually inconsistent if someone was both racist and donated heavily to African charities? Honest question.

"there are differences that are demarcated by ethnicity" and "it sucks when people suffer" seem orthogonal to me.

Let me have a go at this.

Fellow effective altruists! It is your moral duty to familiarize yourselves with biological realities, many of which are relevant to deciding the morally optimal course of action. For example, "findings from twin studies yield heritability estimates of 0.50 for prosocial behaviours like empathy, cooperativeness and altruism". (source) Please take this into account when deciding whether to have children.

Fellow HBDers! It is your moral duty to take up the white man's burden and donate to GiveWell today. If giving money directly to poor people in Kenya doesn't seem paternalistic enough then go for the deworming options.

Have I successfully alienated everyone yet?

Actually, that was pretty good; pithy and introduces actual object-level issues to debate rather than abstract ideological concerns.

Please take this into account when deciding whether to have children.

This is pretty important actually; you see a lot of EA talk around here which basically assumes children are fungible ("If I don't have any kids, but spend the money to save n African kids then I'm in the clear!") without taking into account that those n kids will likely need > 2n kids-worth of aid themselves in a few decades and you've squandered the human capital which would otherwise be able to support them.

If effective altruists can justify having a well paying full-time job for charity, why not raising morally-upright intelligent kids to be successful as well? It's a lot tougher to do emotionally and financially, but comparing one-time payouts to investments with reliable returns seems like a no-brainer.

Fellow HBDers! It is your moral duty to take up the white man's burden and donate to GiveWell today. If giving money directly to poor people in Kenya doesn't seem paternalistic enough then go for the deworming options.

You'd probably do better with a hook about... (read more)

9Apprentice7yWe probably agree on a lot but I'd encourage you to check out GiveWell's report on GiveDirectly [http://www.givewell.org/international/top-charities/give-directly]. If there are particular fertility-affecting charities you'd like to recommend I'm happy to listen.

Of course! Racism is evil and charity is good! If you try to mix them you get an explosion.

No. A person may donate heavily to cure rare diseases in cute puppies without believing that puppies should have the vote.

It wasn't my point that the racists and the donors are non-overlapping, though — rather that they are not necessarily overlapping, and that the overlap — if it exists — should not be taken as defining the whole population. (Which is what the "But they're racists who ..." statement does.)

There are probably people named Muhammad Wang, after all; just not very many of them.

(I don't think there are any Hasidic parrots, though.)

Not necessarily, and in the case of "avowed racists of Less Wrong" almost certainly not. The "biological realism" concept is that there are genetic and physiological differences split so sharply along racial lines ("carves reality at its joints") that it is correct to say that all races are not born equal. Proponents of this concept would claim it is obviously true, and they would also be called racists. These people could donate heavily to African charities out of sympathy for what is, in their eyes, the "bad luck" to be born a certain race, and it would be consistent.

(I believe that biological realism is the main form of racism amongst LW posters, but I have nothing to back this assertion up except that I recall seeing it discussed)

but of sympathy for what is, in their eyes, the "bad luck" to be born a certain race

Or more to the point, sympathy for people with greater challenges than others, and finding that African charities, by targeting Africans, are more likely to target people with those challenges.

7bramflakes7yDepends on the type of racist.
5ThrustVectoring7yIt depends on the definition of "racist" that you use. Anyone who self-identifies as "racist" is probably in a hateful enough place that the idea of saving African children from malaria doesn't even cross their mind as a possibility. On the other hand, if you define racism as "any idea held by white people that PoC disapprove of", well, most white folks are racist.

On the other hand, if you define racism as "any idea held by white people that PoC disapprove of", well, most white folks are racist.

Actually, it's some PoC. SJs claim to speak for all of a group, but actually, they don't.

Our caveman/cavewomen brains think that we will only ever interact with a very small number of people, and losing the respect of anyone could materially worsen our chances of survival in a crisis. Consequently, many are terrified of public speaking or even of contributing to Internet debates such as on LessWrong. I suspect that the lower you perceive your status to be in the tribe, the greater the fear you will have of further weakening your position by saying something that others criticize.

Some communities go out of their way to create "safe spaces" that limit criticism to attract participants who would otherwise be too fearful to join discussions. LW's implicit philosophy (which I don't disagree with) is that a cost of participating is that you are fair game for blunt criticism. Alas, such a philosophy probably repels some potential participants who would otherwise make intelligent comments.

I face a similar trade-off in my classes. (I teach at a women's college.) Giving honest/blunt feedback during class discussions or on papers can cause a very negative emotional reaction in some students. Interestingly, students who went to high school in Asia are much better (on average) than Americans at handling criticism because they got so much more of it in high school than their American counterparts did, but my Asian students are (on average) far more fearful of public speaking than Americans, because they did so much less of it.

[-][anonymous]7y 21

Does it seem at all worrying that your explanation hinges on members of the in-group having a lot of positive characteristics that members of the out-group lack? "We're just too honest and unflinching in the face of criticism. If only the out-group were so gifted!"

There's probably more than one thing going on here; among them some evaporative cooling.

Alas, such a philosophy probably repels some potential participants who would otherwise make intelligent comments.

But the 'safe space' policy also repels potential participants - so, it's basically a wash. And only one of these policies is epistemically problematic - I'll let you guess which one.

Giving honest/blunt feedback during class discussions or on papers can cause a very negative emotional reaction in some students.

Obviously, when giving public feedback from a position of authority (being the course lecturer), you need to be quite thoughtful about the connotation of any statements on your part, specifically your impact on the students' perceived status. It's less clear that this would be a problem at LW, where few people speak with any overt authority and the karma system is an independent source of merit/status.

But the 'safe space' policy also repels potential participants - so, it's basically a wash. And only one of these policies is epistemically problematic - I'll let you guess which one.

Not that I'm much of a fan of "safe space" policies, but surely we should also be interested in how many potential participants each of these approaches repels. And potentially the quality or originality of their comments.

But the 'safe space' policy also repels potential participants - so, it's basically a wash.

When you repel one member of an over-represented group and attract a member of a previously-absent group, you keep the same number of participants but increase the amount of information present in the discussion.

8Viliam_Bur7yOr maybe you repel ten members of some group, hoping to attract one member of another group... and even then the person decides not to come, because something else bothers them.

LW's implicit philosophy (which I don't disagree with) is that a cost of participating is that you are fair game for blunt criticism. Alas, such a philosophy probably repels some potential participants who would otherwise make intelligent comments.

Driving out the voices of the less privileged is potentially problematic when LW claims to be on a mission for the good of all of humanity.

Or to math this up, our mission is unlikely to succeed if we make joining harder and less pleasant for ~54% of the population (51% female, ~2-3% non-hetero male)

So, while agreeing with the principle of favoring open and blunt discourse, I for one intend to make more of a concerted effort to square the circle of being honest and blunt while being more welcoming.

[-][anonymous]7y 11

Has joining actually been made harder and less pleasant for ~54% of the population? Has joining been made harder and less pleasant for ~54% of the population as a result of that ~54%'s membership in those two demographic groups?

There is no inherent quality of being female that would make one be viscerally repulsed by the use of the term 'sluttiness'. Apophemi cites that as an example of a term the use of which makes joining harder and less pleasant for... well, 55% of the population, as a direct result of their membership in those demographic groups:

If by “sluttiness” r-you mean “sexual promiscuity”, what is gained by using a gender-targeted insult that is likely to make a significant portion (i.e. women and/or queer people, who together are like… 55% of the world at least) of r-your potential audience uncomfortable and less likely to engage with r-your argument?

I hope it's obvious that "women and/or queer people" aren't the operative groups here. I certainly haven't noticed any inherent property of my not being straight that makes me necessarily uncomfortable with the use of the word "sluttiness" and less likely to engage with arguments that use it, and I'... (read more)

9Eugine_Nier7yOur mission already requires that we keep out ~95% of the population, i.e., the people who would destroy our ability to have rational discussions.
7CAE_Jones7yDetermining for how many people that caveperson assumption is valid is difficult, since their lack of support network-building ability also makes them easy to overlook. Such people do exist, however, and I would not be surprised if they appear at higher frequencies among marginalized demographics, especially the sort that would otherwise have interest in communities such as LessWrong. I doubt that the author of the linked article is in such a situation, however; when a blog post directed at one individual gets linked at a larger community blog and receives >70 comments discussing it and its message, my prior probability for "someone with an unstable social network and an inability to repair damage to said network" is adjusted way downward.

There a certain argument that I will call the glorification of self interest.

It goes like this: People who are subject to personal threats of their livelihood, tend to think about those threats and focus their mental energies on fighting those threats whenever possible. Because those people are indeed facing threats, they are they good guys which have to be defended. Anybody who isn't centrally concerned with threats against them, is privileged and should be ashamed for being privileged.

The only way to act utilitarian and care substantially about people in some far off country is because one doesn't have personal threats against oneself that need attention.

I don't think that's true. During the last US presidential election there were people who argued that Glenn Greenwald can afford to oppose Obama because of personal liberty issues and being a warmonger because Glenn Greenwald isn't subject of a minority for whom it's very important that Obama and not some Republican heads the White House.

At that point Glenn Greenwald lived in exile in Brazil because his homosexual partner couldn't legally live in the US. As far as being discriminated against being forced to live in exile seems ... (read more)

In my experience, reading blogs from minority representants (sensible ones) introduces you to different thought patterns.

Not very specific, huh ?

Gypsies are the most focused on minority in my country. The gypsy blogger, who managed to leave her community, once described a story. Her mother visited her in her home, found frozen meat in her freezer, and started almonst crying: My daughter, how can you store meat at home, when people exist, who are hungry today ? (Gypsies are stereotypically bad at planning and managing their finances, to the point of selfdestruction. But before this blog, I did not understand, it makes them virtuous in their own eyes.)

This blog was also enlightening for me.

Would not it be nice to have such people interacting in LW conversations, instead of just linking to them ?

Especially for people intending to program friendly AI, who need to understand the needs of other people (although I doubt very much AI will be developed or that MIRI will ever really start coding it. Plus I do not want it to exist. But it is just me.)

9asr7yYes. It would be nice. I am genuinely uncertain whether there's a good way to make LW appealing to people who currently dislike it, without alienating the existing contributors who do like it.
9BarbaraB7yMaybe I am naive, but, how about explicitly stating, by some high status member, that we would be very happy if they contributed here ? Eliezer wrote the same thing about women. http://lesswrong.com/lw/ap/of_gender_and_rationality/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ap/of_gender_and_rationality/]It was not exactly "Women, come, please" but it was clear they would be welcome to participate. It might have helped. Or maybe the increased percentage in the census result was due to something else ? How would I know...

And note that Eliezer did not forbid pick-up art discussion and whatever You guys hold dear.

I could try and write a similar post as was that about women, but I am a small fish in this pond.

If you want to increase your fish-size, articles / comment threads which generate lots of upvotes are a good way to do it. And since your fish-size is small already there's not much to lose if people don't like it.

9Emile7yPlease do! It would be worth a try (though I'm not totally sure what kind of post you want to write...)
6David_Gerard7yThe plan [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Coherent_Extrapolated_Volition] to write an AI that will implement the Coherent Extrapolated Volition of all of humanity doesn't involve talking to any of the affected humans. The plan is, literally, to first build an earlier AI that will do the interacting with all those other people for them.

Anecdote time:

I'm currently dispassionate about racial issues, and can (and have) openly discussed topics such as the possibility that racial discrimination is not a real thing, the possibility that genetically mediated behavioral differences between races exist, and other conservative-to-reactionary viewpoints. Some of those discussions have been on lesswrong, under this account and under an alt, some have been on other sites, and some have been in "real life".

Prior to the age of ~19, I would have been unable to be dispassionate about issues of race and culture. I would understand the value of being dispassionate and I would try, but the emotions would have come anyway. Due to my racial and cultural differences, I've fended of physical attacks from bullies in middle school and been on the receiving end of condescending statements in high school and college, sometimes from strangers and people whom I do not care about and sometimes from peers who I liked and from authority figures who I respected. When it came from someone i liked/respected, it hurt more.

The way human brains work, is when a neutral stimuli (here, racist viewpoints) is repeatedly paired with a negative sti... (read more)

6Alejandro17yI found this one of the most enlightening posts in this overheated thread and encourage you to expand it into a top-level post.
4Ishaan7yIf I were to expand this post at a future time, which ideas specifically do you find enlightening / would you say should be expanded? Are there any portions that you think should be slimmed or removed altogether? Another thing to think about is how to talk about this productively without triggering similar over-heating...although this post wasn't actually too controversial, so maybe that's a good sign on that front?
6Alejandro17yWhat I think LW could benefit from is an explanation "from the inside" of what leads some people of disprivileged groups to be sensitive to the expression of certain opinions, to ask for "safe spaces" and talk of "triggers", et cetera. I think you have an evenhanded position that on one side does not ask LW to censor or discourage dispassionate discussions of these opinions, but at the same time enables those who profess them to understand the unintended effects their words can have. Thus the well-intentioned among them (and I am sure there are some, though I share your indignation at those who are not and use underhanded tactics like mass-downvoting) will hopefully be more cautious in their choice of words, and also perhaps realize that requests for "safe spaces" are not necessarily power plays to squash controversy. I think the last paragraph (except for the first sentence) is the part that could be slimmed or removed; you have registered your protest against mass downvoting and doing it again in a post would distract from the main topic. Indeed, writing a top-level post about this in a way that does not cause a flamewar is a daunting, perhaps impossible task. I fully understand if under consideration you prefer not to do it.
[-][anonymous]7y 34

Refusing to tolerate tolerance is dangerous.

Let's please continue to tolerate tolerance.

I don't know if the things that bother this feminist would also bother me, but I've been reading Less Wrong for several years and I'll say that with some delicate issues, Less Wrong is like a bull in a China shop. In some investigations, it's like trying to determine if there is life on a planet by bombing it. I just avoid these topics entirely.

Sometimes I like to drop in and just marvel at the trainwreckiness. It gets too tangled for me to even think about trying to point out the multiple failures and lacks of context and utter-missings-of-the-point.

EDIT: Including some moderate such tangles in several places below in this very thread...

8David_Gerard7yA friend described LW as "like students arguing seriously about how often you really need to shower".

That's not a bad discussion to have, though! What if showering more than two or three times a week causes your back to break out? What if rinsing every other day is good, but using shampoo/soap/etc that often causes unwanted side effects? What if the optimal frequency of showers for keeping body-odor minimized is every third day, and showering every day or every other day actually makes BO worse? We need data!

(I'm not being sarcastic. However, the optimal showering strategy is likely to vary from person to person, and be influenced by diet, physical activity, genetics, environment, etc.)

6[anonymous]7yhttp://www.overcomingbias.com/2011/04/news-you-can-use.html [http://www.overcomingbias.com/2011/04/news-you-can-use.html]

In other words, "like people I regard as low-status arguing seriously about whether assumptions unquestioned by high-status people like me are actually true".

Probably right.

like students arguing seriously about how often you really need to shower

If those students live in a society that mostly does not even wash their hands, I'd consider that an improvement.

(Yeah, I'm deliberately misrepresenting your analogy.)

The author apparently has the privilege of living in a bubble where everyone she knows fundamentally approves of all her opinions, but occasionally has one person out of 20 show up at a gathering who disagrees, and just may throw a fit if that person dare voice their opinions.

Me - atheist, egoist, libertarian - I'm lucky if one person out of 20 won't think I'm the devil if I'm open about my opinions. I weep for the discomfort she feels when my existence impinges on her awareness.

I note that a Christian or Muslim describing how they are hurt by those who dare openly(!) question their sacred values wouldn't receive such polite consideration, and certainly not by this blogger.

Me - atheist, egoist, libertarian - I'm lucky if one person out of 20 won't think I'm the devil if I'm open about my opinions. I weep for the discomfort she feels when my existence impinges on her awareness.

Are you ever in physical danger because of your opinions?

I think this is a bit too black and white. There is not a well-defined group of ideologically homogeneous reactionaries which you could just get rid off. Rather, a significant number of LW contributors are sympathetic, to various degrees, to a variety of reactionary positions. I'm not a monarchist and I'm not a fan of Moldbug (why doesn't he just say what his claims are and then offer what he sees as the supporting evidence for them? why the wearisomely verbose exercises in smugness?). On the other hand, I am interested in HBD issues and I am sympathetic to some ethno-nationalist causes (e.g. the desires of the current majority population of Israel to remain the majority population of Israel). Perhaps more to the point, Yvain has spent a lot of time criticizing reactionary philosophy but he has also made it clear that he agrees with significant parts of it. Indeed, a person being upset by his posts is what triggered the current thread.

How about that good old Solzhenitsyn quote:

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.

Very well put. I agree entirely with what you are saying, and I think you said it very well.

I want to add though an emphasis that the line specifically between libertarianism and reactionary-ism is a very narrow one. Both philosophies come from the same background, with similar axioms. It is surprising, so it bears emphasis.

I am in the same boat as Apprentice when it comes to these matters, and whenever I read a reactionary post I feel a certain familiarity, along the lines of: "this may not be fully valid, but the people arguing it are very smart, and what's more actually started from a surprisingly similar position to me. I may not agree with most of the conclusions, or with the tone it is presented in, but I cannot deny that they have certain good points."

5ChrisHallquist7yWhat parts of neo-reactionary philosophy does Yvain actually agree with? He says at the end of the anti-reactionary FAQ that he likes how they're utopian, but then says he's actually more interested in other utopian schemes.

This comment by Yvain clears up a lot:

Someone on IRC said it better than I could – I am much more likely to agree with object-level Reactionary policies – which was what Nutshell talked about – than with meta-level Reactionary theories – which are mostly what this is addressing.

I agree with Nutshell on most of the object-level policies that didn’t get directly rebutted here, except insofar as they’re things that are hard and probably counterproductive to change. But many of the parts that say “If you’re in a hole stop digging” seem mostly correct to me.

Here's a link to the Nutshell essay. The 'stop digging' phrase occurs in discussions of cultural assimilationism, immigration selectionism, Chinese-style neo-imperialism and corporal punishment. Presumably, Yvain has some degree of sympathy for most or all of these policies. But of course you should rely on what he says in preference to any exegesis of mine.

7Vulture7yI thought the "never read the comments section" rule could be safely ignored on that post, since comments were turned off. After following two of the pingbacks, I wanted to throttle two separate people and demand of them the ten minutes of my life that they wasted. Lesson learned: Never read the comments section. No exceptions.

Most of the problems described in this post seem to be things that are not really practical to do anything about, but this caught my eye:

tl;dr: If you just typed in all honesty “I like eugenics”, even if I enjoy your posts about economics, congratulations, you freak me out and I really, really don’t know why I’m still reading your blog.

Really we need to stop using the word "eugenics." In the real world it really isn't smart to keep insisting on the "official" definition of a word decades after it acquired negative connotations for actually pretty good reasons.

My desire to hang onto familiar words reminds me of a joke.

"I'm a great communicator, people just keep misunderstanding me."

The problem isn't the word. If you describe a policy that meets the official definition, but don't use the word people still hate the thing you're talking about and know it is called eugenics.

People actually call things that are less controversial than actual eugenics, "eugenics". E.g. Project Prevention.

5ChrisHallquist7yThe word isn't the whole problem, but this a case where not using the word would be painless and beneficial. "Eugenics" is a problematic word because it's now associated with involuntary sterilization and Nazis. But for some reason, some supporters of voluntary human enhancement will go and use the term for things they support. They can't control whether other people use "eugenics" to attack all kinds of things they don't like, but the least the former group could do is avoid actively aiding the latter group.

Given that there is a popular tendency for people to accuse even totally different things of being "eugenics" to discredit them, if you tried to rebrand eugenics as something else people would notice very quickly, they would "accuse" you of being eugenicist, and the debate about whether Plan Y is or is not a good idea would immediately shift to a debate about whether Plan Y is or is not eugenics - which you would lose, because it is.

This reminds me of an interesting analysis I heard about why Heartiste manages to hang on when many people who are much less horrible than he is get laughed off the Internet. If you write some very reasonable liberal enlightened essay about how maybe there's some reason to believe some women are such-and-such but we must not jump to conclusions, people will call you a sexist, you'll have to argue that you're not a sexist, and your opponents have spent their entire lives accusing people of sexism and are better at this argument than you are and will win (or at least reduce your entire output to defending yourself). If you're Heartiste, and people call you sexist, you can just raise an eyebrow, say "Well, yeah", and watch pe... (read more)

9ChrisHallquist7yThis assumes words have true, immutable meanings, which they don't. For example, if you respond to the claim that Obama is a communist by... Wait a second, you yourself explained this pretty well in your Anti-Reactionary FAQ [http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/10/20/the-anti-reactionary-faq/]: "The meaning of words changes over time, and the Cold War made the more moderate elements of communism drop the 'communist' label." Accusations of "eugenics" generally deserve a similar response: meanings of words change over time, and the fact that a policy fits Galton's original definition of "eugenics" doesn't mean it's "really" eugenics any more than we should examine pre-Cold War communist documents to establish whether America is "really" a communist country. Yes, arguing about definitions is annoying, but there's really no way around having to explain that no, policy Y is not what people commonly associate with "eugenics." The real choice you have is whether to alienate a portion of your audience from the outset by declaring you like eugenics. And yes, ballsy countersignalling can sometimes work, but this doesn't mean it's automatically a good idea in every case. For example, I predict that politician who described her support for legal abortion by saying "I support murder in some cases" (*cough cough* [http://lesswrong.com/lw/e95/the_noncentral_fallacy_the_worst_argument_in_the/]) would have a very difficult time getting elected.
9Scott Alexander7yI don't think it assumes words have immutable meanings, just that they have some conventional meaning. You are proposing that we turn the debate from "Is eugenics plan x a good idea?" to "Does plan x, which fits the current conventional meaning of eugenics, sound like eugenics to you?" Unless you can unilaterally change the conventional meaning of eugenics, then for your purposes the meaning might as well be immutable - your argument will fail. And not only do people show no signs of being willing to shift the conventional meaning of eugenics in a pro-eugenics direction, but they seem very willing to shift the conventional meaning of eugenics in an anti-eugenics direction whenever anyone asks. I think probably things inside and outside the Overton Window require different strategies. "Ballsy countersignaling" might work differently for things outside the window than for things inside of it. I agree that the politician shouldn't call abortion murder.
9private_messaging7yIt's about consequences of what you say. If you say you like eugenics, the promotional consequences of your words are not limited to some nice, non coercive, purely voluntary eugenics. Instead, it is more or less spread over eugenics as frequently understood. If you want to promote the voluntary measures, you say that you are pro choice, pro birth control, and believe that parents should have the right to improve health of their future children. If you want to also promote the involuntary variety, that's when you would say "I like eugenics".
5bogus7yIs the association unwarranted? Even when eugenics was very much "a thing" in many Western countries (including, AIUI, the Progressive-era U.S) it always denoted coercive intervention to suppress fertility in the unpopular outgroups du jour. And apparently, Yvain's use of this term is what ticked off this person in the first place. We should just stop using it.

yeah I had this exact problem happen over twitter. "I like eugenics" "You're a monster!" "What? It's not like I advocate genocide to achieve it!" "Eugenics means advocating genocide!"

8[anonymous]7yIt's certainly not smart in public, when you're trying to get things done; but if you're trying to maintain quality, wouldn't it be a net positive to drive off people prone to The Worst Argument In The World?
6BarbaraB7yWhat word would You suggest instead of eugenics ? (Btw, I find it hilarious, having the discussion about inventing newspeak at LW, of all forums !)

Affirmative Genetic Action; Fighting Against Genetic Unequality; Genetic Justice; No Mutant Child Left Behind...

8ThrustVectoring7yI'd like to borrow from David Brin and call it "Uplift".
6CAE_Jones7yThe mainstream media seems less terrified of the idea of "designer babies", which is not specifically eugenics, but related enough that I wonder if Eugenics shouldn't quietly respawn in the Designer Babies category?
7BarbaraB7yToo narrow.

a male [...] does not experience a constant physical danger (and the associated stress of being aware of said danger) whenever he leaves the house.

With the exception of rape, which tends to be a special case in most senses, men are overwhelmingly more likely to be the victims of every other type of violent crime including homicide. In addition, men make up 92% of workplace deaths (and presumably a correspondingly high proportion of the injuries) and are also significantly more likely to die in an accident off the job (again, presumably a similar distribution of injuries).

The idea that men are somehow protected from physical danger by "male privilege" is simply a preposterous notion.

Let's play the money as dead children game for a bit. Now, when the article was written you could plausibly save 1life for about $1000, but these days I think the number is a bit higher. Let's say $10000 just to be safe.

Essentially, you're saying that you would sacrifice the lives of 100 people in order to avoid a brief homosexual experience, using basic consequentialism. Perhaps you won't change your mind even when thinking about the proposition from this perspective, but I know personally it would be too difficult ethically for me to refuse.

It doesn't have to be lives, of course. If you're more of a preferential consequentialist, you can help pay off your mates' crippling student debt or mortgage, or donate to a longevity charity to help your chances of not dying, or even MIRI or something.

In any case, a million dollars has a lot of potential utility. Refusing because you're not 'materialistic' is a bit short-sighted, I think.

Except that the broad umbrella of ideas which even a reasonable person might construe to be "racist, misogynist, or queerphobic" covers a lot of things which are nowhere close to being settled questions the way theism is.

And furthermore, that umbrella of ideas is a moving target anyways. Social justice movements have fighting X-ism as a terminal goal, so when they run out of X-ist things in a community to fight, they move the goalposts until there are X-ist things to fight.

5Vulture7yI don't think that's necessarily an accurate assertion about "social justice movements" as a whole. It seems to me that almost all* of the X-isms that social justice movements attack are real, legitimately undesirable power imbalances and prejudices. The fact that they have yet to run out of such X-isms to fight probably says more about the typical structure of human societies than it does about the social justice movements. *Obviously there are some pathological examples, like otherkin &c, although these are not particularly mainstream
8ThrustVectoring7yIMHO, feminism has flat-out won. Women have the vote, they have reproductive rights, they have no-fault divorce, they have a majority of the collegiate student body, and they have equality of opportunity. Single, childless women who live in cities make more than their male counterparts. Wife-beating has been vilified. Society is hyper-vigilant about domestic violence. What's left for feminists to fight for are pretty much non-issues in comparison - especially given the institutional, social, and organizational power they wield. They're still fighting for the rights of women, sure -- but that's more because they don't have anything else to do with themselves.

Street harassment takes some of the fun out of life.

Getting rape and murder threats on line really does distress and distract people, and it seems to be much more likely to happen to women.

9Viliam_Bur7yActually, there is a lot left for feminists to fight... but most of that is in other countries. Female genital mutilation being the most obvious example. Two problems with that. First, all humans are naturally selfish. My own hurt thumb feels like a greater tragedy than someone else being killed. In the same way, a sexist comment somewhere on internet feels like a greater issue than someone being mutilated on the other side of the planet, if the former is about me and the latter isn't. It's the same reason why Occupy is more popular than Effective Altruism; both are about people who have more giving to people who have less, but only in the former you are included in the list of possible recipients. Second, there are political alliances, because the more applause lights you put together, the more applause you get. Unfortunately, at some moments some of the applause lights get in conflict. How can you believe "female genital mutilation is evil" and "all cultures are completely equal" or even "all native cultures are noble and perfect" at the same time? Let's rather focus on the non-issues which avoid these paradoxes; you can always safely speak about the evil of the white hetero cis males. Maybe we need another movement that will care about eradicating female genital mutilation in the world. Even if doing so requires saying politically incorrect things.
5Vulture7yOh, okay, I think I understand your original comment better now. I thought you were criticizing the constant move towards "new" X-isms to fight against. (i.e., moving from race to LGBT). I think it's possible that feminist groups wield power disproportionate to the egregiousness of what they are now combating, serious though implicit sexism can be.

People are allowed to be repelled by true statements. For example, did you know that many people like to have sex with horses? Both men and women! Horses have very large penises and this is something that both intrigues and excites some people. Did you know that horse semen is available for purchase over the internet? I don't think someone who prefers not hear about horse sex is necessarily or even probably a low quality commenter.

7lmm7yI'll bite your horse penis: I think someone who would get upset or angry at your statement, who would avoid LW because of it, or ask that LW act to stop such statements being posted here, would indeed be a low quality commenter.
5drethelin7yI sort of agree with you in that I think the highest quality of commenters won't be super squicked out by either horse sex or talking about cranial capacity differences between races or whether a trolley should run over 3 babies or 2 toddlers. But that's too high a bar! I think plenty of people are disgusted by certain topics and it's worth acknowledging that even smart, mostly well reasoned commenters can be scared away or simply feel unwelcome. Reddit can be a home to various mutually hating subgroups because of its structure, but we use a much less divided system and it's worth considering what topics attract what sorts of commenters. Plus I don't actually want to talk about horse sex all the time as a filter.
7Viliam_Bur7yUpvoted for making me laugh. Then I started thinking about how this relates to the six moral foundations [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_Foundations_Theory], especiallly to the hypothesis that the Purity dimension is only important for conservatives. I mean, if that hypothesis is true, then liberals should insist on discussing this topic as much as possible, to make sure the horses are treated fairly, that people who like to have sex with them are not marginalized in internet debates; and they should insist on discussing technical details to minimize the possible harm resulting from such sex. -- Any objection to this means that the person is not sufficiently liberal, or that the hypothesis of liberals not caring about the Purity dimension is not true.
8Eugine_Nier7yEven Haidt no longer believes this. See the green movement, for example.
6Will_Newsome7yRationality, Islam, donkey fucking. [http://www.openmuseum.org/objet/show/1187?facet=4291]

Because life, of which the Internet is a subset, of which LW is a subset, is full of blowhards who will tell you all about your problems and how you should solve them while clearly not having a trace of a clue about the topic, and life is too short to go seeking them out.

The homepage says:

Less Wrong is an online community for people who want to apply the discovery of biases like the conjunction fallacy, the affect heuristic, and scope insensitivity in order to fix their own thinking.

Less Wrong users aim to develop accurate predictive models of the world, and change their mind when they find evidence disconfirming those models, instead of being able to explain anything.

So this person acknowledges their own biases, notes that some otherwise perfectly reasonable and in their opinion "Rational" people believe in HBD, and then (as far as I can tell) doesn't make any effort to investigate whether they might actually be true?

This is what motivated cognition looks like. If someone cannot change their mind because (sorry for the bluntness but there's no other way I can describe my impression in under a paragraph) their feelings might be hurt, and they are actively working against resolving this inner conflict, then they should not be in a rationalist community.

Really? Do you really think everyone who comes off as irrational based on a blog post of theirs that you read shouldn't be here? (There would be nobody left for you to talk to!) Or are you annoyed at this particular person because they said mean things about a group that contains you?

"This is what motivated cognition looks like. If someone cannot take criticism of their in-group without launching an ad-hominem attack on the critic, then they should not be in a rationalist community."

That sword cuts both ways.

Okay disclaimer - reading it did make me feel a little annoyed. Partly due to their writing style, partly due to me identifying with the specific subgroup of LW they're talking about, and partly on principle.

Really? Do you really think everyone who comes off as irrational based on a blog post of theirs that you read shouldn't be here?

No but when it's so clear-cut as in this case, yes.

If someone point-blank does not want to talk at the object-level about some controversial topic, and makes many veiled comments about what kind of nasty group I must belong to in order to entertain such beliefs, and has made it very clear they are happy to withdraw from the entire community surrounding it, what exactly am I supposed to do other than say "here's the door, have a nice day"?

what exactly am I supposed to do other than say "here's the door, have a nice day"?

Like you, I think that the linked blogger's position, as stated, is completely incompatible with the purpose of this community, but I think the point being made by some here is that steelmanning their criticisms, on the off-chance that their reaction might have been triggered by something legitimately criticism-worthy, is an option.

Note to self: start steelmanning more.

It's not clear to me that avowed racists (and sorry, that's what "HBD" is a euphemism for) make up any any significant portion of the LessWrong community, just a loud portion of it. Self-described "reactionaries" are certainly a very small (but loud) minority here.

Really we should get better at conveying when opinions held by a loud minority here are not by any means the opinion of the majority.

What do you mean by racist?

Edit: If by racist you mean "hate people who don't share the same skin color with them" then I would guess that there are almost no racists on LW.

If by racist you mean "think that some racial groups are superior and others inferior" then I would also guess that there are almost no racists on LW.

If by racist you mean "think that different populations of people differ significantly along various axes such as athletic ability, intelligence, memory etc." then yes there are a lot of racists on LW.

The third option does not imply either of the first two.

I think Chris is slightly mistating the problem, at least on Lesswrong. It would be sort of shocking if various genetically distinguishable population cohorts all happened to be exactly equal in average intelligence. But that's not what's so off-putting about the reactionaries. The problem comes with their reliance on extremely lazy statistical discrimination in individual cases. They have made quite clear that if they encounter a woman or an individual of African descent who has tested very high on an IQ test, they would still discriminate against that individual for jobs or educational slots, arguing that racial/gender averages swamp the evidence from the test, which might just regress to the mean.

To me, the individual IQ test is much stronger evidence and should swamp the cohort averages.

But that's not what's so off-putting about the reactionaries.

The underlying "off-putting" issue is that 'HBD' advocacy tends to attract some especially hateful people in droves - this is quite clear if you take a glance at even 'high-quality' "HBD" sites with open commenting. And this has literally nothing to do with the merit of the scientific question, does (literal) human biodiversity in intelligence, personality etc. exist. Honestly, it's not clear that we know one way or the other. It's a very tricky situation if you are committed to both truth-seeking and a reasonable ethical stance.

Lesswrong has actually had such individuals show up here, too, from time to time. They get downvoted into oblivion and/or Eliezer or one of the other high-status people shows up and encourages downvoting people who feed the troll. So the racists who are just using biodiversity as a rationalization for already-committed racism get driven off.

This does seem relevant when answering the separate question of whether the topic should just be taboo.

To the extent that I've been involved in these debates on LW, I'm almost always arguing for the anti-racist and anti-sexist position, but I still wouldn't want Lesswrong to adopt the norms of discourse that prevail at "safe space" feminist sites. Because that way really does lie madness (I've seen a feminist website drive off anyone who wanted to dispute the claim "rape is worse than murder," to give one egregious example).

The underlying "off-putting" issue is that 'HBD' advocacy tends to attract some especially hateful people in droves

Selection bias. Because of the taboo against voicing support of HBD, most of the less hateful voices simply shut up to avoid public censure. That only leaves those more concerned with the truth than being liked, and the dogmatic racist loons, who usually outnumber them by a wide margin.

Also, there is no particular reason why learning that a group's average IQ is a standard deviation lower than you thought before should cause a decrease in your sympathy and empathy for that group. I see no one in that camp saying "How can we use this information to optimize charities?" which is the obvious first question if you care about the people you're talking about. Why would a fact about an innate feature that people can't control shrink your moral circle?! I'm sure there are exceptions, but it is eminently clear reading reactionary blogs just who they care about.

6buybuydandavis7yIf anything, I'd expect it to increase sympathy.
5buybuydandavis7yQuite a number of people pooh pooh the reliability of IQ tests, most usually people in dogmatic denial about HBD. Are they also horrible people for their "lazy statistical discrimination"?
4Prismattic7yYour comment is basically a non sequitor boo light, unless there is some obscure second meaning to the term "statistical discrimination" with which I am unfamiliar. In any case, IQ tests can be less-than-perfect measures of intelligence and still be far more reliable than the evidence on which the reactionaries are relying.

There's a very big difference between men being part of violent crime and dangerous jobs and needing to worry for your physical safety as you walk down the street.

No, no there isn't.

Most crimes, including most violent crimes, are not rape. Aside from rape, men are much more likely to be the victim of a crime, especially a violent crime. So if you're talking about how much someone should be worried about being the victim of a violent crime... how exactly is maleness supposed to protect someone when it predicts a much higher likelihood of being targeted by criminals?

And even beyond that, even mundane stuff like being hit by a car while on the shoulder of the road is more than twice as likely to kill a man as a woman. With no malice at all, a man is still in significantly more danger of dying or being injured just going about his everyday life, whether driving to work or walking down a flight of stairs. Again, no "dangerous job" needed; men are in greater physical danger even in commonplace situations.

Women have every reason to fear for their safety, and rape is a very serious problem, but it boggles the mind to see attitudes that men couldn't possibly understand how dangerous it is to be a woman when those very same men are the ones much much more likely to be hurt or killed "whenever he leaves the house".

I think you're being disingenuous when you talk about men being targeted by criminals. Men make up more than 90 percent of gang members (http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/survey-analysis/demographics) and something like 90 percent of violent criminals (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_differences_in_crime) in the first place. Something like half of violent crimes are gang-related (http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/survey-analysis/gang-related-offenses). This means that with no "targeting" needed, men are already WAY more likely to be injured or killed through violence if you look at sheer demographics, and yet the average man doesn't need to worry about being shot by an opposing gang member when he walks down the street at night. This is exactly why you immediately abandoned your point about workplace violence, since workplace is self chosen. You can't simply look at an inequality of outcome and totally discount the nature of the populations concerned.

Similarly, you can look at the ratio of male to female prostitutes (http://sex-crimes.laws.com/prostitution/prostitution-statistics) and see that a prostitute is far more likely to be female than male. We can talk about wha... (read more)

You seem to ascribe a fair amount of bad faith to me and I'm not sure why. Maybe because this line of argument pattern-matches to MRA thought?

Anyway I didn't "abandon" the jobs point so much as point out that men are universally, even ignoring job choice, more likely to get into and be hurt in accidents. Accidental death and injury being far far more common than homicide and assault, that alone blows the "physical danger" argument out of the water. Not quite as dramatic as an industrial accident or a robbery-gone-wrong sure, but then again shark attacks are more dramatic than dying of heart disease.

And with regards to crime, your statistics do not say what you think they say. The national gang center says half of law enforcement agencies reported an increase in gang crime, not that ~50% of violent crimes were committed by gang members. Looking at the FBI unified crime reports, I can only find clear breakdowns of victims / circumstances in homicide, but it looks like even subtracting the entire number of gang-related deaths from the male death total still leaves them with more than three times the number of homicide victims that women have (9,917 male victims - 8... (read more)

But I also think the average man walking down the average street at night is significantly safer than the average woman doing the same

Most sexual assaults are not committed by random strangers on the average street at night.
IIUC, if we exclude sexual assault, gang-related violence, and random fights/brawls, victimization rates for men and women are similar, and probably still higher for men.

The U.S. Department of Justice has a special report, Violent Victimization Committed by Strangers, 1993-2010:

In 2010, males experienced violent victimizations by strangers at nearly twice the rate of females (figure 2). The rate of violence against males by strangers was 9.5 victimizations per 1,000 males in 2010 compared to 4.7 victimizations per 1,000 females.

It goes on to say that the disparity seems to be shrinking, with crime against men falling more rapidly than crime against women.

One wonders if some of the difference in outcomes (as in the being hit by a car on the shoulder example) isn't partly a product of women generally taking less risks than men because of the fear of sexual assault.

4buybuydandavis7yI think that likely explains some of the discrepancy. I routinely walk across a park late at night that women I know avoid.
9NancyLebovitz7yThe situation is made more complicated because women are encouraged to take risk seriously while men are encouraged to downplay risk, so you get different results depending on whether you're looking at risk or fear.
7buybuydandavis7yYes, everyone is encouraged to take violence against women much more seriously than violence against men. One might say that this sexist bias is the problem, and one that the original blogger seeks to exacerbate.
8NancyLebovitz7yOne might, but I certainly wouldn't. I believe that violence against men is a very serious problem, and one which has barely begun to get addressed. I would like to see a serious attempt to oppose violence against people, but no one seems to have figured out that it's worth doing and/or found a way to organize it.

There are various countries in Africa where a majority of the population thinks that it's a good idea to punish homosexuality with death.

If you want diversity in moral opinions than you should create an environment where someone from such a country can freely talk about his morality.

I have a much better understanding of the moral position of a third wave feminist than I have and understanding of the position of someone with mainstream Ugandian morality.

I think I understand the third wave feminist even better than someone from China.

If you would want to someone represent the majority of humanity it makes much more sense to specifically write post arguing conversative positions that appeal to the majority of the world population than to try to be more accommodating to social justice warriors as there aren't that many social justice warriors in the world.

But I wouldn't advocate going down that road but instead advocate that people focus on the quality of arguments.

Yvain has told you in the past the following:

Could you do me a BIG FAVOR and every time you write "Yvain says..." or "Yvain believes..." in the future, follow it with "...according to my interpretation of him, which has been consistently wrong every time I've tried to use it before"? I am getting really tired of having to clean up after your constant malicious misinterpretations of me.

So everyone should be aware that whenever Dmytry/private_messaging claims Yvain said something, that's almost always wrong according to Yvain's own view of what Yvain said.

Here's the bit I hope folks will read and think about:

An example: I cannot in good faith entertain the argument that high-scarcity societies are right in having restrictive, assigned-sex-based gender roles, even if these social structures result in measurable maximized utility (i.e. many much kids). [...] This is because respect for said arguments and/or the idea behind them is a warning sign for either 1) passively not respecting my personhood or 2) actively disregarding my personhood, both of which are, to use some vernacular, hella fucking dangerous to me personally.

This is, yes, a signaling argument.

It is an argument that if you signal that it's A-OK for your friends and associates to waver on whether certain humans are to be treated as full persons (as opposed to baby-making machines, slaves, marks, or maybe food), then those certain humans are pretty likely to get the hell away from you and your friends and associates. Especially given the alternative of hanging out with people who clearly (and expensively) signal the opposite.

It's why you can hardly ever get honest answers to questions like "would you sleep with a member of the same sex for a million dollars."

If it came down to actually making the choice, I'm pretty sure most straight men would sleep with a man for a million dollars. Only the naive are going to admit to it when it's a hypothetical, though, because the hypothetical question leaks information about your character. Choosing between a million dollars and your hetero-normal reputation is one thing -- choosing between saying that you'd take the million dollars and saying that you're too hetero-normal to do so is another.

6Lumifer7yProbably because it's a trap [http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/300099-churchill-madam-would-you-sleep-with-me-for-five-million] :-D

The problem is how specifically we define what "treating as full persons" means. Because, you know, one gets internet activist points for exaggerating and taking offense.

For example, if the article about Asch's conformity experiment says that women conformed more to the social pressures... well, if a wrong person said this at the wrong moment, they could easily get accused of not treating women as full persons. Also anyone who would try to defend them.

7BarbaraB7yHowever, the EA subgroup will not force her into assigned-sex-based gender role. They will tell her it is comparatively immoral to have children. Another way the subcultures on LW are not overlapping. As a woman, I am annoyed at both approaches, but I can cope.

rewarding the “ability” to entertain any argument “no matter how ‘politically incorrect’” (to break out of some jargon, “no matter how likely to hurt people”) results in a system that prizes people who have not been socially marginalized or who have been socially marginalized less than a given other person in the discussion

To paraphrase: Our community is exclusionary in the sense that its standards for what constitutes an information hazard (and thus a Forbidden Topic) are as stingy as possible, which means that it can't be guaranteed safe for people more vulnerable to psychological damage by ideas than the typical LessWrong crowd.

It's possible that this problem could be resolved with a more comprehensive "trigger warning" tagging system and a filtering system akin to tumblr savior. Then there could be a user preference with a list of checkboxes, e.g.

Hide comments and posts about

[ ] Race

[x] Gender

[ ] Sexual Violence


This could also double as protection for people who want to participate in LessWrong but have, for example, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder which could be triggered by some topics.

[-][anonymous]7y 18

Shelve the meta-speculation until you've at least checked speculation-prime.

"Our problem is that we're too good" is a really, really, really suspicious thing for a human to say. Have you considered the possibility that it might not be true?

(Also, request to taboo the term "politically correct")

7[anonymous]7y"Our problem is that we're too good" is exactly what any community based around values uncommon in the world at large -- or at least not visibly common and visibly commonly not held -- would say. Epistemic rationality is not visibly common and visibly commonly not held.
4Erdrick7yUpvoted for having my favorite rationality quote of the last month.

Attempting to discuss such issues dispassionately is a sign of privilege, and insisting that they be discussed dispassionately is an act of oppression.

Fine, then let me be passionate. You know what your atttitude reminds me most of? Those assholes in my old Greek highschool decades ago, or those assholes in the Greek media as far back as I remember, those assholes in the Greek society in general, who keep raging about how Jews/Germans/Americans/Turks/Slav Macedonians are oppressing us Greeks, those people who call it treason to have any different opinion on any "national issue"}, those people who call "toadies of foreigners" anyone who doesn't hate Jews/Germans/Americans/Turks/Slav Macedonians (who are after all oppressing us so very much that it should be actively unsafe to defend such people.)

If one defends such oppressors, they should be dragged to the courts, or beaten up, or perhaps stabbed to death. That's how the Greek establishment ensures the "unsafe" space for open discourse of issues that you also seem to be advocating for anyone who doesn't toe your favoured positions.

It must be "unsafe" to have a different opinion? Fuck you a... (read more)

We have no idea how much violence the blogger has actually experienced, but it might have something to do why they're so concerned about it. I'm more than a bit surprised that they find SJ (?) circles so emotionally safe, but maybe they haven't run into the nastier emotional attacks is a way that affects them personally.

I agree that violence by women against men is all too frequently treated as funny-- in popular art as well privately. Is there anyone here who follows popular art enough to have an opinion about whether this has changed and in what direction?

I think violence against men by women not being taken seriously is partly sexism against women-- an idea that women aren't strong enough to do real damage. The other half of the problem (this is probably obvious to you) is a highly mistaken belief about how tough men ought to be.

7CronoDAS7ySometimes violence by men against men is portrayed as funny, too. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eMkth8FWno] Violence by men against women portrayed as funny isn't as common [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErWR4FHgZ7I] but there are still some classic examples [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0GW0Vnr9Yc]. Violence by women against women is another trope entirely [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CATFIGHT].
5NancyLebovitz7yMonty Python and the Holy Grail: 1975 Airplane: 1980 It seems to me that a certain sort of violence by women against men was a common trope some decades ago-- perhaps other people can tell me whether it's still popular. He says something obnoxious. She hits him, and not with a slap-- with a solid punch coming up from the ground. Big laugh from the audience. Rather implausibly, he isn't injured and he doesn't retaliate.

That's how I've arranged my life. I live in a civilized neighborhood in a civilized city.

I actually grew up in Hawaii, where the thing for young men to do was find the nearest young male "haole" (white) to harass, threaten, or beat.

That's one bit of violence that the blogger likely missed out on. Young men looking to prove their manhood often look to find other young men from some unpopular subgroup to victimize. But that's people with penises being victimized, so what the hell does that matter?

One of the unfortunate things about SJ as it currently exists is that they don't want to hear that privilege is local. Intersectionality is a step in the right direction, and I hope things will keep getting more fine-grained until it gets to what happens in individual lives.

privilege is local

Nice. That's catchy.

I'm glad you liked it.

It's something I've been thinking for a while, but I believe this is the first time I've posted it.

All hail LW for being a place where I felt safe saying that privilege is local-- it took being a place where SJ language is understood without SJ being the dominant ideology.

Social justice rhetoric tends to lose me when it shifts from "I should be heard in the conversation because I can contribute to it" to "I should be heard in the conversation because I cannot contribute to it."

Any community that claims to be based on 'rationality' runs an extremely high risk of inappropriately automatically labeling opposing arguments to their in-group assessment as irrational and dismissing them as irrelevant. They themselves are inevitably irrational and will make the mistake.

Furthermore, in-groups want to co-opt any 'rationality' movement as their own, so that they have more soldiers to attack opposing viewpoints -- to wit, labeling it as disagreement with the 'rational' point of view. See rationalwiki for a horrific example of this.

Moreover, because people are not completely stupid, they probably won't put up a sign saying "I am recruiting soldiers to attack opposing viewpoints!"

Instead, they will point a finger and say "Look, over there! That person is recruiting soldiers to attack opposing viewpoints!"

7passive_fist7yAll of us have biases; that's something that's part of how the human brain works and simply cannot be avoided. The approach taken on LessWrong is not to purge oneself of biases, but to identify these biases and then consciously attempt to work around them in some way. It is implicit in this mindset that one will always have biases whose existence may not even be known. As long as everyone agrees with this, I don't think the community would devolve to that level. The person who wrote this article has taken the first step - she's admitted to having a lot of biases that prevent her from accepting arguments that oppose her viewpoints. I'd like to see her take the next.

Even better (or worse) than that. It was dysgenic for the German population. It was probably eugenic for the Jewish population. So what the Nazis managed to do was to help make the Jews racially superior to the Germans.

In other words, they managed to massacre 6 million people in order to achieve the exact reverse of what they said they wanted to do.

For the avoidance of doubt: (1) I think what they did was a horrible terrible thing, (2) although it was probably eugenic for the Jewish population it was dyseverythingelse for them, and in particular (3) I am certainly not suggesting, e.g., that Jewish people should be glad it happened or anything similarly monstrous. Also (4) of course neither "the Jews" nor "the Germans" is a particularly well-defined group biologically and I am not suggesting otherwise, and (5) I am not claiming that this sort of "racial superiority" is something anyone should be aiming at. Oh, and (6) I am also not suggesting that the worst thing about what they did is that it didn't achieve their goals. It would have been just as awful if it had.

I'm not sure my premises are correct, but this might be an example of LW's excessive emphasis on genes. I think you're saying that smarter Jews were more likely to survive the Holocaust. This might be true for German Jews (a lot of warning, a lot of people with resources to move-- and still, only 25% got out), but not so true about Polish Jews, where it happened very fast-- and that's where a very high proportion of the Holocaust happened.

Also, a major focus at LW is on extraordinarily smart people. Even if Ashkenazi Jews went from an average IQ of 115 to 117, where are the great mathematicians and physicists? I tentatively suggest that there was something special about Jewish culture (or possibly Jewish culture + surrounding Gentile culture when the latter was benign) in Germany, Austria, and possibly Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and it's gone.

excessive emphasis on genes.

When looking at the question of whether something intended as a eugenic program was in fact eugenic or dysgenic, an emphasis on genes seems highly appropriate, no? (I agree that the eugenic or dysgenic effect isn't the only or the most important thing we should care about -- the six million people murdered would seem like one other thing, for instance -- and I already said that as clearly as I could.)

I think you're saying that smarter Jews were more likely to survive the Holocaust.

Yes, I'm suggesting that probably smarter Jews were more likely to get out early and more likely to find ways to survive. (Of course plenty of smart ones died and plenty of not-so-smart ones lived too.) If so, then the Holocaust will have had a (probably rather small) eugenic effect on the Jewish population.

where are the great mathematicians and physicists?

26% of all Nobel prizewinning physicists to date, and 29% of all Fields medallists to date, are at least half-Jewish by ancestry, according to jinfo.org. I haven't checked their figures.

4[anonymous]7yI agree this is likely the case, but I think those where likely doomed at the end of WW1 not WW2, as I credit the Austro-Hungarian [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Martians_%28group%29] and German Empires as their incubators. We are unlikely to see the Kaisers return. It is most unfortunate because the intellectual beacon that was Vienna and groups like the Martians [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Martians_%28group%29] won't ever be seen again.

Well sure, but that doesn't count because we're pretty much all atheists here. Atheism is the default position in this social circle, and the only one which is really given respect.

I'm talking about criticisms of demographics and identities of non-marginalized groups that actually frequent Lesswrong.

If we're allowed to discuss genetically mediated differences with respect to race and behavior, then we're also allowed to discuss empirical studies of racism, its effects, which groups are demonstrated to engage in it, and how to avoid it if we so wish. If we're allowed to empirically discuss findings about female hypergamy, we're also allowed to discuss findings about male proclivities towards sexual and non-sexual violence.

But for all these things, there's no point in discussing them in Main unless there's an instrumental goal being serviced or a broader philosophical point being made about ideas...and even in Discussion, for any of this to deserve an upvote it would need to be really data driven and/or bringing attention to novel ideas rather than just storytelling, rhetoric, or the latest political drama.

Reactionary views, being obscure and meta-contrarian, have a natural edge in the "novel ideas" department, which is probably why it has come up so often here (and why there is a perception of LW as more right-wing than surveys show).

If we're allowed to discuss genetically mediated differences with respect to race and behavior, then we're also allowed to discuss empirical studies of racism, its effects, which groups are demonstrated to engage in it, and how to avoid it if we so wish. If we're allowed to empirically discuss findings about female hypergamy, we're also allowed to discuss findings about male proclivities towards sexual and non-sexual violence.

Speaking for myself, I would be happy to see a rational article discussing racism, sexism, violence, etc.

For example, I would be happy to see someone explaining feminism rationally, by which I mean: 1) not assuming that everyone already agrees with your whole teaching or they are a very bad person; 2) actually providing definitions of what is and what isn't meant by the used terms in a way that really "carves reality at its joints" instead of torturing definitions to say what you want such as definining sexism as "doing X while male"; 3) focusing on those parts than can be reasonably defended and ignoring or even willing to criticize those part's that can't.

(What I hate is someone just throwing around an applause light and saying: "therefore you must agree with me or you are an evil person". Or telling me to go and find a definition elsewhere without even giving me a pointer, when the problem is that almost everyone uses the word without defining it, or that there are different contradictory definitions. Etc.)

Some of my favorite feminist articles are the ones demonstrating actual statistical effects of irrational biases against women, such as http://www.catalyst.org/file/139/bottom%20line%202.pdf talking about women being undervalued as board members, or the ones talking about how gender blind audition processes result in far more women orchestra members.

For the record, I completely support anonymous evaluation of orchestra members, and many other professions. And students, etc.

This is how quickly I update in favor of feminism when presented rationally. :D

More meta: This is why I think this kind of debate is more meaningful.

Do the results of the blind tests give you some reason to think there might be harder-to-quantify irrational prejudice against women?


That alone doesn't imply agreement with any specific hypothesis about what exactly causes the prejudice, nor with any specific proposal how this should be fixed. That would require more bits of evidence.

In general, I support things that reduce that prejudice -- such as the blind tests -- where I see no negative side-effects. But I am cautious about proposals to fix it by reversing stupidity, typically by adding a random bonus to women (how exactly is it quantified?) or imposing quotas (what if in some specific situation X all women who applied for the job really were incompetent? just like in some other specific situation Y all men who applied could be incompetent).

Also, there are some Schelling-point concerns, e.g. once we accept it is okay to give bonuses on tests to different groups and to determine the given group and bonus by democratic vote or lobbying, it will become a new battlefield with effects similar to "democracy stops being fair once people discover they can vote themselves more money out of their neighbors' pockets". It would be nice to have some scientists discover that the appropriate bonus on tests is exactly 12.5 points, but it is more like real wor... (read more)

6NancyLebovitz7yOne thing I would like to see-- and haven't-- in regards to opposition to prejudice is work on how to become less prejudiced. That is, how to see the person in front of you accurately, even if you've spent a lot of time in an environment which trained you to have pre-set opinions about that person.
5Viliam_Bur7yInformation about an individual screens off information about the group. At least it should. Let's assume partial success, which is better than nothing. So the key is to get information about the individual. I would just try talking to them. I guess the failure of usual anti-prejudice techniques is assuming that all opinions about a group are wrong, i.e. not a valid Bayesian evidence. (Of course unless it is a positive opinion about a minority, in which case it hypocritically is okay.) They try to remove the participants' opinion about a group in general; usually without any success. I would rather assume that an opinion about the group may be correct, but still, any given individual may be different than the average or the stereotype of their group. Which can easily be demonstrated by letting participants talk about how they differ from the average or the stereotype of various groups they could be classified into. For example, unlike a typical man in my society, I have long hair, I don't like beer, and I am not interested in watching sport on TV. At this moment, the idea of "the person is not the same as (my idea of) the group" is in near mode. The next step is getting enough specific information about the other person so that the general image of "a random member of group X" can be replaced with some other data. (Depends on situation; e.g. in a group of children I would give many yes/no questions such as "do you have a pet?" and let them raise their hands; and then also they would ask questions. Each bit of information that differs from the assumption, if noticed, could be useful.) Of course the result could be that people change their opinion about this one specific person, and yet keep their prejudice about their group. Which is an acceptable result for me, but probably not acceptable for many other people. I would reason that a partial success which happens is much better than an idealistic solution that doesn't happen; and that accepting one exception make

Here's some empirical research on the actual causes of the pay gap. Executive Summary: The majority of the burden of child rearing still falls on women, and this can be disruptive to their careers prospects, especially in high paying fields like law and bussiness management; childless women and women who work in jobs that allow for flexible hours earn incomes much closer to parity.

7hairyfigment7ySide note: I can't really tell, but some evidence suggests the total time spent on childcare has increased in the past 40-50 years. Now, when I look at people raised back then and try to adjust for the effects of leaded gasoline on the brain, they seem pretty much OK. So we should consider the possibility that we're putting pointless pressure on mothers.

From this comment:

"Even though I like both basic income guarantees and eugenics, I don’t think these are two things that go well together – making the income conditional upon sterilization is a little too close to coercion for my purposes. Still, probably better than what we have right now."

I don't mind hearing from any level, as long as things are well cited.

-I've sort of gotten bored with level 0, but that could change if I see a bunch of really well done level 0 content. I just don't often see very many insightful things coming from this level.

-Level 2 holds my interest because it's novel. When it's well cited, it really holds my interest. However, it seldom is well cited. That's okay though - the ideas are fun to play with.

-Level 1 is the level I agree with. However, because I'm very familiar with it and its supporting data, and I hate agreeing with things, it has to work a lot harder to hold my interest.

My perception is that level 2, for reasons described, gets more attention than it merits. The shock value, twisty narrative, and novelty of it make it more interesting to people like me, who like reading compelling arguments even if they don't completely agree. However, it drives away people who are emotionally affected and/or perceive that have something to protect from what would happen if those viewpoints were to gain traction.

I was suggesting that maybe increasing good level one posts, which weren't boring, echo-chamber-ish and obviously true to to most peop... (read more)

Here, my honest answer would be that I presently have no evidence one way or the other.

At this point I would have to conclude that the guy is either very deliberately blind or is lying through his teeth.

He, of course, knows very well what the consequences for his career and social life would be were he to admit the unspeakable.

You're wrong.

First, about the consequences: the theatrics of the "unspeakable" are getting a little tiresome. Shalizi is a statistics professor at Carnegie-Mellon. The Mainstream Science on Intelligence was signed by 52 professors and included very clear statements about interracial IQ differences, lack of culture bias, and explicit heritability estimates. I would ask you to name the supposedly inescapable and grave "consequences for career and social life" these 52 professors brought on their heads.

Second, about the subject matter: this quote comes at the end of a long post in which Shalizi challenges the accepted estimates of IQ heritability, and criticizes at length the frequent but confused interpretation of heritability as lack of malleability. In his next post on the subject, he criticizes the notion of a single g factor as standing on a shaky ground, having been inferred by intelligence researchers on the basis of factor analysis that is known to statisticians to be inadequate for such a conclusion. Basically, Shalizi criticizes the statistical foundations employed by IQ researchers as being statistically unsound, and he carries out this critique on a muc... (read more)

9Lumifer7yThat flat and unconditional statement seems to be mismatched with your sentence a bit later: Given that you say you lack the capability to "assess it intelligently on my own" and given that I don't see the basis on which you decide I am statistically incompetent, I am rather curious why did you decide that I am wrong. Especially given that I was talking about my personal conclusions and not stating a falsifiable fact about reality. P.S. Oh, and the bit about consequences for career? Try Blits, Jan H. The silenced partner: Linda Gottfredson and the University of Delaware [http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02682886#page-1]
6Anatoly_Vorobey7yYou're wrong because your conclusion that Shalizi was either blind or lying rested on two premises: one, that heritability in racial IQ differences has been proven, and two, that for Shalizi to admit this fact would be uttering the "unspeakable" and would carry severe social and career-wise consequences. I wrote a detailed explanation about the way Shalizi challenges the first premise on statistical grounds, in the field where he's an expert (and in a way that's neither blind nor dishonest, albeit it could be wrong). I gave an example that illustrates that the second premise is wildly exaggerated, especially when applied to an academic such as Shalizi. That's why you are wrong. Your response was to twist my words into a claim that you are "statistically incompetent", where in fact I emphasized that Shalizi's critique was on a deep technical level, and that I myself lacked knowledge to assess it. That is cheap emotional manipulation. You also cited a paper about Gottfredson that wasn't relevant to what I said. Given this unpromising situation, I'm sure you'll understand if I neglect to address further responses of that kind.
6Lumifer7yHow could you possibly do that for a subject about which you said that "most of this goes over my head"? Short memory, too. Your words: "I doubt, however, that your dismissal of Shalizi's honesty is based on a solid understanding of the arguments in this debate about statistical foundations of IQ research." Oh, I'm the understanding kind :-P
5fubarobfusco7yThat's a locked-up paper printed in a journal operated by a political advocacy group [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Association_of_Scholars]. Linda Gottfredson [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linda_Gottfredson] doesn't seem to have been "silenced", though. (But I have a libertarian, rather than a left/right partisan, view on that concept. Someone who takes grants from wealthy ideological supporters instead of from government institutions is not thereby silenced; on the contrary, that would seem pretty darn liberating.)

The "Look Inside" button will give you the first two pages. I am not sure why the publisher of the journal is relevant unless you're going to claim the paper is an outright lie.

I think political differences come down to values moreso than beliefs about facts.

Sometimes it is difficult to find out what is the different value and what is essentially the same value but different models.

For example two people can have a value of "it would be bad to destroy humanity", but one of them has a model that humanity will likely destroy itself with ongoing capitalism, while the other has a model that humanity would be likely destroyed by some totalitarian movement like communism.

But instead of openly discussing their models and finding the difference, the former will accuse the latter of not caring about human suffering, and the latter will accuse the former of not caring about human suffering. Or they will focus on different applause lights, just to emphasise how different they are.

I probably underestimate the difference of values. Some people are psychopaths; and they might not be the only different group of people. But it seems to me that a lot of political mindkilling is connected with overestimating the difference, instead of admitting that our values in connection with a different model of the world would lead to different decisions. (Because our val... (read more)

7NancyLebovitz7yI agree, though I'll add that what facts people find plausible are shaped by their values.

I'm convinced it's worth actively discouraging them from participating in LessWrong

Really? From a thread devoted to increasing the diversity of LW you managed to conclude that people with political views sufficiently different from yours should be driven away from the site. Do you want another echo chamber? There are plenty of those on the 'net.

Now would be a good time to re-read Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism in its entirety.

Now would also be a good time to re-read Politics Is the Mind-Killer and ponder on the difference between trolls and people whose political ideas you don't like.

Turns out I was wrong, according to the 2012 survey only like 65% of LWers are socialist/liberals.

I think it makes a big difference if the preferred theory is gender/racial equality as opposed to fundamentalist Christianity, and whether the opposition to those perceived challenges result from emotional sensitivity as opposed to blind faith. At the very least, the blog post doesn't indicate that the author would be irrational about issues other than marginalization.

5Watercressed7yDoes fundamentalist Christianity indicate that the believer would be irrational about issues other than religion? If yes, what's the difference?

You are positing that folks who are affected by some issues would not participate in frank, dispassionate discussion of these same issues... why exactly? To preserve their ego? It seems like a dubious assumption.

This doesn't really seem like a dubious assumption to me, practically everyone is more motivated to preserve their ego than to think rationally.


Testosterone levels in men and women are in completely different ballparks, and there is no overlap in healthy individuals of the different sexes beyond puberty. This would make me think the difference is mainly genetic.

I'm not arguing for anything beyond this point, so we don't have to go there.

8Sophronius7yI stand corrected on the testosterone levels: The difference is indeed greater than I thought. I will accept that the difference is mainly, but certainly not solely, genetic.

Now would be a good time to re-read Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism in its entirety.

I did. It was about how community should allow moderator to make decisions the moderator considers necessary to protect the community.

It wasn't about how one faction should use external criticism to create a new rule to exile an opposing faction. That would be more similar to Evaporative Cooling of Group Beliefs.

A few years back, I was on a transhumanist mailing list where a small group espousing "social democratic transhumanism" vitriolically insulted every libertarian on the list. Most libertarians left the mailing list, most of the others gave up on posting. As a result, the remaining group shifted substantially to the left. Was this deliberate? Probably not, because I don't think the perpetrators knew that much psychology. (For that matter, I can't recall seeing the evaporative cooling analogy elsewhere, though that doesn't mean it hasn't been noted before.) At most, they might have thought to make themselves "bigger fish in a smaller pond".

This is one reason why it's important to be prejudiced in favor of tolerating dissent. Wait until substantially after it se

... (read more)

This back and forth is delightfully ironic given the micro-reactionary content of Well-Kept Gardens.

I would enthusiastically answer yes to both questions. The first is a million dollars for 35 minutes of moderate discomfort. The second signals that I'm both tolerant and confident in my heterosexuality. I don't even have to ponder this.

It gets more interesting as the price comes down and I would have clarifying questions if we wanted to determine the exact level, and the answers would probably be different. I don't know how common my answer is, but I suspect very common among my demographic cohort (white, urban, mid-twenties, of the liberal tribe). A rationalist friend recently gave his price as $200, which would be too low for me.

I cannot in good faith entertain the argument that high-scarcity societies are right in having restrictive, assigned-sex-based gender roles, even if these social structures result in measurable maximized utility (i.e. many much kids).

Which argument is the blogger referring to? Does it make sense to have many kids in a high-scarcity society?

6[anonymous]7yYes, because many of them will die before adulthood; also, they will help you work in the fields.

It's evidence.

It's evidence of what? That the paper fits well with the ideological orientation of the journal? Sure, but I'm not interested in that. Is it evidence that the paper incorrectly describes the relevant facts? I don't think so.

If the would really care about being misgendered they would provide relevant information to make sure that people can easily know their gender.

The rather seem to have another goal, and if you don't agree with it, you can use Bayesian inference.

Agreed, but we devote plenty of time to criticizing it, don't we? (Both reactionary criticism, and the more mainstream criticisms of the media/academia culture)

But the thing about the reactionary lens, especially Moldbug, is at the end of the day they side with the people in power. Moldbug even explicitly states as much. A central theme of his work is that we shouldn't keep elevating the weaker and criticizing the stronger, thus creating endless revolution. "Formalism" essentially means "maintaining the status quo of the current power heirarchy". The only exception to this is the Cathedral itself - because it is a power structure which is set up in such a way that it upsets existing heirarchies.

So the moldbug / reactionary ideology , at the core, is fundamentally opposed to carrying out the criticism which I just suggested against anyone who isn't part of "the cathedral" which keeps shifting the status quo (hence the meta contrarianism). It is an ideology which only criticizes the social critics themselves, and seeks to return to the dominant paradigm as it was before the social critics entered the scene.

I'm saying we need more actual real contrarianism, not more meta contrarianism against the contrarians. It is useful to criticize things other than the Cathedral. I'm being a meta-meta-contrarian.

The original Yvain's sin was admitting that hypothetically "his side" might be wrong about some details, and it might be worth to consider the evidence, and in case it shows convincing, update. Then he just dug himself deeper.

To a LW regular, this may seem like Rationality 101, but in real life, this is often enough to be expelled from the paradise of one's tribe. (And it happens in many different tribes, not just this one.)

The similarity between Yvain and neo-reactionaries is that both of them are willing to look at the evidence against Yvain's tribe's beliefs. They may have completely different motivation to do that, but whatever. This is what a loyal member of the tribe wouldn't do. This is what people in general don't do, unless they are exceptionally honest or exceptionally socially clueless.

4Anatoly_Vorobey7yI understand that your comment might exaggerate for the sake of irony, but I think you might be getting too close to applause-lights with it. You're saying (essentially) that it takes exceptional honesty to be willing to look at the evidence against your tribe's beliefs. That seems wrong. Complete and utter dogmatism isn't that common outside explicitly religious domains. People very frequently are honestly willing to look at the evidence against their wrong beliefs, and then they're honestly unconvinced by it, even if often it's because they misunderstood the evidence or failed to give it proper consideration. In fact, I feel certain that almost all neo-reactionaries think of themselves as willing to look at the evidence against their beliefs, as having done so many times, and as having vanquished that evidence.
[-][anonymous]7y 11

More broadly, I'm skeptical of 'intelligence' in general. It doesn't seem like a useful term.

People here have tried to define intelligence in more strict terms. See Playing Taboo with “Intelligence”. They define 'intelligence' as an agent’s ability to achieve goals in a wide range of environments.

It seems your post seems to be more about free will than intelligence as defined by Muehlhauser in the above article. Free will has been covered quite comprehensibly on LessWrong) so I'm not particularly interested debating about it.

Anyway, if you define intelligence as the ability to achieve goals in a wide range of environments then it doesn't really matter if the AI's actions are just an extension of what it was programmed to do. Even people are just extensions of what they were "programmed to do by evolution". Unless you believe in magical free will, one's actions have to come from some source and in this regard people don't differ from paper clip maximizers.

What would yours be?

I just think there are good optimizers and then there are really good optimizers. Between these there aren't any sudden jumps except when the FOOM happens and possibly from unFriendly to Friend... (read more)

The former does not experience a constant physical danger (and the associated stress of being aware of said danger) whenever he leaves the house.

None of the women I know in real life "experience a constant physical danger" whenever they leave the house.

Presumably we're not talking about being hit by a bus.

9Vulture7yI've seen it asserted in many places that most women are constantly aware of and distressed by the possibility of being raped. Now obviously women in general aren't always visibly on edge whenever they're out in public, but some proportion clearly do feel that way, or at least claim to. Unfortunately this is the kind of thing which it's rather socially difficult to conduct an informal poll on. Does anyone know of any studies or surveys or anything which might shed some light on the issue? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Edit: The most helpful thing turned up by a quick google scholar search was this [http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/public-perspective/ppscan/51/51025.pdf]. Table 2 on page 4 gives us a good rough estimate that ~38% of people worry "very/pretty frequently" about rape (this makes the rate for women possibly as high as ~76%, if we assume that men never worry about themselves or others being raped). This [http://www.sccjr.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Women_and_the_fear_of_crime.pdf] paper seems to suggest that levels of fear of crime are about equal in males and females, although women are more likely to worry about rape specifically. It's based only on 64 qualitative interviews in Britain, but it also points to this conclusion being predominant in the literature.

Unfortunately this is the kind of thing which it's rather socially difficult to conduct an informal poll on.

You can start by asking your mother or your sister or your girlfriend. If none of them obsesses about being raped every time they venture out onto city streets...

Of course, this assumes a reasonably benign environment. If you live in inner-city Detroit, you should be aware of the dangers of going out of your front door, but that applies to both men and women. On the other hand if you live is a sleepy village with zero cases of rape during the last hundred years and you still are "constantly aware of and distressed by the possibility of being raped", a psychiatrist might be a good idea.

7NancyLebovitz7y"Obsesses" already implies excessive concern. I'm not sure what a good survey would include, but questions about what precautions one takes, or how one feels about going out versus being home might be a start.
4Lumifer7y(emphasis mine) This is known to be false (e.g. ask any father of a teenage daughter).
4JQuinton7yAt first glance that fear seems to be a result of the availability heuristic. Women are much more likely to be assaulted by someone they know [http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2010/03/25/predator-theory/], not by a random stranger that they meet when they go out in public. But the random stranger in public assault is the one that's more well known in the popular consciousness.

Was that the post you intended to link? I am glad to have discovered that in Finland, you get a top hat and a sword when you are awarded a Ph.D., but I see nothing boneheaded in the comments.

what does this mean?

In theory it means that it's better to NOT follow the (established / agreed-to) rules when it clearly leads to major negative consequences.

In practice it usually means "We really want to do this and we're not going to have mere laws stand in our way".

imagine the irony of a "feminist" man telling a woman what feminism is

Why? Does being born with a wrong chromozome prevent a person from understanding feminism?

A few lines sooner, you said "Being a feminist is incredibly hard." Is it hard only for men, or also for women? If it is also hard for women, then wouldn't a man who succeeds somewhat in being a feminist be qualified enough to tell women what feminism is?

Read the following sentence and try to think what is wrong about it:

imagine the irony of a "mathematician" woman telling a man what mathematics is

You know, there used to be people who believed it to be just as self-evident as what you said.

By the way, some feminists do disagree with other feminists, so even disagreeing with some feminists does not contradict being a feminist.

the reality of the LW environment being simply uncomfortable for women to inhabit.

So how do you explain the women who are here? I guess they must be white or otherwise inferior...

I've tried to introduce LW to several of my friends, partners, and comrades, as I believe its lessons to be useful, but nearly all of the people without male privilege have been turned

... (read more)

With a bit more charitable interpretation, I think what we are talking about here is within-group variability vs between-group differences.

What you believe in private versus what you're willing to advocate in public creates the selection bias, and this comment here seems to agree.

But I don't see why they would actually want, as oppose to merely pretend to want, a ban on publicly accepting HBD for signaling purposes. If they don't want to be perceived as a racist loon, they'll just avoid admitting to the view in public.

I'm not sure I understand your question, but eliminating the left tail of a bell curve would change the average but not necessarily extend the right tail.

I think you are covering a lot of distance by stretching "don't advocate violence" into "don't say anything that someone feels the widespread adoption of could be potentially dangerous."

5falenas1087yActually, this is something I've been a bit confused about the whole time. What posts is she talking about? The OP says Yvain's posts, but from the substance of the article the article it sounds like she's talking about reactionaries. Considering the much higher than average rate of homocide towards trans people based on todays standards, a reinforcement of gender roles would almost certainly increase that rate.

Any kind of utilitarianism entails every statement of the form "p, if it results in measurably maximized utility" (kinds of utilitarianism differ in what they mean by "maximized utility", since the phrase itself is underspecified), and I find it a bit disingenuous to instantiate p in a way that people wouldn't like in order to defame its proponents instead of saying straightforwardly that you just don't agree with utilitarianism.

Which is quite a different question from that of whether a given p does, in fact, result in maximized utility. Not idea if the above one does. So cousin_it's question makes perfect sense: does p in fact result in maximized utility? Because if it doesn't, then the blogger's statement is even more disingenuous.

I don't think that gets at the core of the criticism.

I think the position is: "You shouldn't be allowed to argue that policy X is good in the abstract scenario A if policy is is dangerous in the world in which you are living B and the fact that you argue that X is good in A increases the chances that X will be adopted in B."

I'd suggest unpacking that "shouldn't be allowed".

To me, it reads something like:

"Let's say that in abstract scenario S, policy X sounds like a utility-maximizing proposal; but in the world we're living, policy X would hurt our neighbors A, B, and C. If we spend our social time chatting about policy X and how great it would be, and chide people who criticize policy X that they are not being good utility maximizers, we should predict that A, B, and C will see us as a threat to their well-being."

That last bit is the part I think a lot of this discussion is missing.

Perhaps what I was saying wasn't precise enough there. I'm talking about how when a community starts responding to certain arguments by vilifying their proponents, there's a chilling effect on the discourse in the community.

Openness of discourse is more of a matter of degree than on/off, anyways, much like a 'free' market.

There is no such thing as open discourse ... Implicit and explicit power and privilege always prevent both. People trying to create workarounds for this fact strikes me as a good thing.

What makes you think that this is a functional workaround, as opposed to compounding the problem? The underlying idea seems to be a preference for "safe spaces" - hardly a move towards more openness.

What is Masterlist supposed to mean? It appear in the headline but not in the text.

One thing to keep in mind eugenics wise is that pretty much all the breeding methods we employ for other species are dysgenic - we are producing cripples to our own benefit or amusement.

I assume by 'dysgenic' you mean 'less fit than unbred specimens for reproductive fitness in the wild'. (You couldn't mean 'reproductive fitness' in general, given how many dogs there are compared to how many wolves there are now.)

This seems like an odd point to make. Of course we breed animals to be less-reproductively-fit-in-the-wild - if they were already ideal for ou... (read more)

AFAIK, it's one idea that's being considered, but I don't think there's currently enough confidence in any particular approach to call it The Plan. "The Plan" is more along the lines of "let's experiment with a lot of approaches and see which ones seem the most promising"; the most recent direction that that plan has produced is a focus on general FAI math research, which may or may not eventually lead to something CEV-like.

So the contrarian food chain goes

Mainstream America (bulk of the American population)

-> radical egalitarian critique of mainstream america (feminists, anti-racists, the Left, moldbug's "Cathedral")

-> Reactionary critique of egalitarian movements (Moldbug, Manosphere, human biodiversity, Dark enlightenment)

-> Critique of Reactionary anti-egalitarian stances (Yvain, this post).

I'm advocating good old-fashioned contrarianism - stuff like radical egalitarianism, sex positivism, etc.

(No, obviously, not along those lines - but yes, that link is at the correct level of contrarianism.)

I'd say that the percentage of people showing interest in medicine that want to poison their neighbour is rather lower than the percentage of people talking about genetic differences between race being racist.

My argument is: (1) Feminism and race realism are interesting for the same reasons politics are interesting and (2) they aren't especially high value. If this argument is valid, then for the same reasons LW has an informal ban on politics discussion, it might make sense to have an informal ban on feminism and race realism discussion.

You don't address either of my points. Instead you make a slippery slope argument, saying that if there's an informal ban on feminism/race realism then maybe we will start making informal bans on all of social science. I don... (read more)

I respond to your guestion for the fairness sake, but my reasons are not impressive.

  1. Most of it is probably a wishful thinking, driven by my desire not to have the powerful AI aronud. I am scared at the idea.
  2. The fact that people have felt AI is near for some time and we still do not have it.
  3. Maybe the things which are essential for learning are the same which make human intelligence limited. For instance forgetting things.
  4. Vague feeling, that biologically based inteligence is so complex, that computers are no match.

Note that this community reacts badly to some topics as well.

The failing of being mind-killed by certain triggers is pretty common, and I have to give this author credit for recognizing it. I'd prefer an attempt to analyze and work with the emotional impact, to find ways to continue to discuss things where rationality is possible, rather than a set of examples that trigger this person specifically.

I do wonder if we should have a way to add trigger-warnings and filters to posts and comments. It can't be made perfect, and there are some interesting and s... (read more)

5RichardKennaway7yIn the sense of being unfavourable to some topics, or being irrationally unfavourable to those topics?

Small but noisy. They add their special flavour to the tone though, as one of the few places outside their circle of blogs that gives them airtime (much like the neoreactionaries they cross over with).

Rather we support our beliefs with rational arguments, the HBD-deniers don't bother presenting counter arguments (and when they do they tend to be laughably bad) but instead try to argue that it's somehow immoral to say and/or believe these things regardless of their truth value.

5hairyfigment7yI've not really followed you, but I've never once seen you make an argument or even explain what you want. If you tell me something y'all want that you could plausibly achieve without the aid of low-status racists, perhaps I'll try to put y'all in a separate category.
[-][anonymous]7y 8

Think of it as the no-politics rule turned up to 11.The point is not that these things can't be reasoned about, but that the strong (negative/positve) affect attached to certain things makes them ill-suited to rationalist pedagogy.

Lowering the barrier to entry doesn't mean you can't have other things further up the incline, though.

Datapoint: I find that I spend more time reading the politically-charged threads and subthreads than other content, but get much less out of them. They're like junk food; interesting but not useful. On the other hand, just about anywhere other than LW, they're not even interesting.

(on running a memory-check, I find that observation applies mostly to comment threads. There's been a couple of top-level political articles that I genuinely learned something from)

You can already choose to have or not to have children, or choose the mate, based on what ever motivation pleases you, including the notion of improving the human race. It's sort of like saying "I support strictly voluntary segregation". Whites and blacks already have enough freedom of movement to segregate themselves all they want.

I'll give you two-to-one odds that Derbyshire has not found a promising line of research for an Alzheimer's cure.

Probably before the end of this month.

You've underestimated what a Maintaining Decent Treatment for All People Movement would cover.

It might be pacifist. It would certainly be very cautious about war. It would be pro-refugee.

And push for a rational justice system. civil behavior by police, and good prison conditions.

Oppose domestic violence, and be emphatic that this applies to men, women, and children.

Oppose bullying, both in schools and workplaces.

I'm not sure I've included all the major categories.

A lot of this isn't being done reliably, and some of it faces a lot of opposition

I'm not going... (read more)