I think the concept of "rudeness" is underappreciated. (Or, if people are appreciating it, they're doing so quietly where I can't find out about it)

I think a lot of coordination-social-tech relies on there being some kind of social karmic balance. A lot of actions aren't expressly illegal, and not even blatantly all-the-time socially sanctioned. But if you do them a bit, it's considered rude, and if you're rude all the time, you get a reputation for being rude, and this comes with some consequences (i.e. not invited to as many parties). 

The-concept-of-rudeness gives you a tool to softly shape your culture, and have some kind of standards, without having to be really rigid about it.

[Edited to add] 
I'm writing this post because I was writing another coordination/epistemic-norms post, and I found myself wanting to write the sentence "If you do [X thing], it should be considered a bit rude. If you do [X' worse version of X thing], it's more rude." And then I realized this was resting on some underlying assumptions about coordination-culture that might not be obvious to everyone. (i.e. that it's good to have some things be considered "rude")

I come from a game-design background. In many games, there are multiple resources, and there are multiple game-mechanics for spending those resources, or having them interact with each other. You might have life-points, you might have some kind of "money" (which can store value and then be spent in arbitrary quantities), or renewable resources (like grains that grow back every year, and spoil if you leave them too long).

Many good games have rich mechanics that you can fine-tune, to shape the player's experience. A flexible mechanic gives you knobs-to-turn, to make some actions more expensive or cheaper.

The invention of "money" in real life was a useful coordination mechanic. 

The invention of "vague social capital that you accumulate doing high status respectable things, and which you can lose by doing low status unrespectable things" predates money by a long time, and is still sometimes useful in ways that money is not. 

A feeling-of-rudeness is one particular flavor of what "spending-down social capital" can feel like, from the inside of a social interaction.
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Different cultures have different conceptions of "what is rude." Some of that is silly/meaningless, or actively harmful. Some of it is arbitrary (but maybe the arbitrariness is doing some secret social cohesion that's not obvious and autists should learn to respect anyway). In some cultures belching at a meal is rude, in others not belching at a meal is rude. I think there's probably value in having shared scripts for showing respect.

Epistemic cultures have their own uses for "the rudeness mechanic." 

You might consider it rude to loudly assert people should agree with you, without putting forth evidence to support your claim. 

You might consider it rude to make a strong claim without being willing to make concrete bets based on it. Or, you might consider it rude to demand people to make bets on topics that are fuzzy and aren't actually amenable to forecasting.

Rudeness depends on circumstance

Different domains might warrant different kinds of conceptions-of-rudeness. In the military, I suspect "being rude to your superiors" is actually an important thing to discourage, so that decisions can get made quickly. But it can be actively harmful in innovation driven industries. 

An individual norm of "rudeness" can be context-dependent and depend on other norms. According to this Quora article, in Japan it's normally rude to tell your boss he's wrong, but also you're supposed to go out drinking with your boss where it's more okay to say rude things under the cover of alcohol.

Problems with Rudeness

There are costs/risks to the rudeness mechanic. The flexibility that it provides also lets you selectively punish people for unrelated social/political reasons. Cultures can acquire dumb norms, or norms that once made sense but are not maladaptive, and rudeness is one way for that dumbness to get implemented. 

A problem with Cosmopolitan Melting Pot Cultures is that there's too many different forms of rudeness to keep track of, which someone can arbitrarily start trying to enforce on you, and I think people have developed a healthy aversion to unilateral rudeness enforcement.

But overall I'm a fan of it as a game mechanic. I think it's good for communities with barriers-to-entry to have their own cultures optimizing for particular things, and for rudeness to be one of their tools.

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I once came up with a game-theoretic definition: "If someone can do a thing X, which is nice and beneficial and should be encouraged, but which also makes it possible for you to do a thing Y, which hurts them and makes them regret doing X, then it is rude for you to do Y."  Some thoughts:

  • This captures situations like "X = them letting you into their house, Y = you getting dirt everywhere / breaking dishes / being a nuisance", and "X = them being willing to converse with you, Y = you insulting them".
  • Intentionality may be part of the proper definition—it seems like being "unintentionally rude" is a thing, and that in such cases it wouldn't be right to leave off the "unintentionally".
  • If you do a rude thing and apologize profusely and make it up to them, it seems that may possibly make the whole interaction no longer rude, and I have a feeling that the key determinant for success there is "making it up to them well enough that they no longer regret doing X".  I do feel like I've captured a real piece of the psychology there.

I'm not sure how far to take it, and whether rudeness is the right word; but I do feel like I've stumbled on a concept worth having and possibly worth refining.  Anyway, I mention it in case it's useful.

"Don't do things that would make other people regret doing a thing that you generally want people to do" seems like a good behavioral rule-of-thumb but I don't feel like it gets at the core of rudeness.

I think rudeness is sometimes used intentionally to discourage unwanted activities (belittling someone who argued against you, mocking someone who tried to compete with you, ignoring someone you don't want to talk to).  I think your rule also struggles to explain examples of rudeness like interrupting a conversation (as a third party), asking an unreasonable favor, or giving someone unsolicited spoilers.

Conversely, it seems like your rule covers behaviors like stealing and betrayal that are objectionable but wouldn't typically be described as "rude".

 

Actually, what you said is pretty close to what I currently tentatively use as my fundamental test of general ethical behavior, which is something like 

  • Honor the deals you would've made (if idealized versions of you and the other parties had had unlimited time to negotiate at some point in the past, possibly from behind a veil of ignorance although I don't feel very sure about that part).

For example, we probably could've agreed to not take each others' stuff (with some narrow but important caveats), and so stealing is (mostly) wrong.

If I discover you pouring a bottle of mysterious liquid down the well one night, then I think (with caveats) that it's right for me to give you a chance to explain yourself, and it's right for you to stop pouring and not try to run for the duration of that conversation, because we could probably have made a deal along the lines of "if one of us finds the other doing something that looks bad, the finder will hear them out (rather than immediately attacking) if the other doesn't try to exploit the delay."

If you open a hotdog stand, it's not wrong of me to also open one and compete with you, because we probably would not have made a deal like "whoever gets into a particular business first has a protected monopoly on it for as long as they want it".  (If everyone made deals like that, it would cause a bunch of problems.)

If someone can do a thing X, which is nice and beneficial and should be encouraged, but which also makes it possible for you to do a thing Y, which hurts them and makes them regret doing X, then it is rude for you to do Y.

If X is "a racist, who hates even seeing blacks, opening a store" and Y is a "a black person entering the store", by your definition Y is rude. I would disagree.

I think actual racists would consider it rude.  "They should know they're not welcome here, how dare they show their face, don't they know no one wants to see them", etc.  So, yes, there may be dispute about whether something counts as rude or not.  Though also, racist shop owners used to post signs saying what races were allowed (when this was legal), in which case thing X wouldn't really be allowing thing Y.

I think there is also an assumption that the parties involved have an at least tentatively cooperative relationship.  I would figure that the racist's opinion of the other party is more like "I hate your guts and hope you all die", which probably puts it outside that.

Let's check that.  If I imagine that the racist store owner and the black guy secretly had a great friendship, that they spent many hours together and helped each other privately and hold each other in high esteem... and if the store owner still doesn't want the black guy appearing in his store (let's say because he believes—maybe because they've told him so—that his biggest customers will all leave if they see him, and he'd have to abandon his business), and if the black guy knows all this, and chooses to appear anyway... I'm not 100% sure I'd call it rude—anyone can think their cause is so important that making a political statement is justified no matter how much it displeases people, and even if it accomplishes nothing, I think it might not be rude if the person truly believes it's the right thing to do—but I could imagine the black guy agreeing it would be rude.

This seems to carve reality somewhere, but a) I agree with Dweomite's take on how it doesn't feel like it carves rudeness specifically). b) also... does this actually describe something other than "defecting"? (like, defecting normally is "I took an action that got me points at your expense because you cooperated," which seems essentially like what you were saying here? Not sure I've parsed it properly)

I'm linking Turntrout's "What Counts as Defection" (without quite remembering whether it supports my point or runs against it) since it seems like a useful reference.

For (b), when I've seen the prisoner's dilemma presented, defecting always benefits the defector and hurts the other person (e.g. reducing the defector's prison sentence by 1 year, while adding 2 years to the other's) regardless of the other person's choice; thus "you have an incentive to defect no matter what".  (In fact, usually it's presented such that the effects of defecting are always the same down to the exact numbers—in TurnTrout's article, the example yields (+1, -3) in all cases, although the formalized version with P, R, S, T doesn't state a requirement that T-R = P-S.)  So defection being enabled by the other's cooperation is not an element of the normal prisoner's dilemma.

One could say that defection is bad regardless, but that my defection being enabled by your desirable prosocial behavior (which should be rewarded, at least with praise and social capital) adds insult to injury.  Then we could say the insult is what makes it rude.

Regarding TurnTrout's post:  I would characterize prisoner's dilemma cases as "everyone should know that everyone will always be tempted to steal/etc., and therefore we should all be vigilant for that and expect defection to be punished".

Stag hunt is different—if you're hunting stag and I know it, then I actually have an incentive to hunt stag too; if I wimp out and don't do it, that's because I expected you to wimp out too.  In practice, the failures with stag hunt games are down to communication and organization problems—"I didn't realize hunting stag was an option, didn't know we were playing this game", or possibly "I disagree about the payoff, I think the stag will kill us even if we all join the hunt".  Therefore I think it's inappropriate to use the same word "defect" for wimping out of a stag hunt, implying that people should be punished for it—I do not want e.g. the drunk friend who says it would be awesome if we all did some crazy thing to feel entitled to punish the sober friends who think it's stupid.  (Glancing at the comments, I see jimmy makes a similar point about stag hunt.)

As for the game of chicken... the real-world game involves two people agreeing to do something insanely risky and stupid, which is its own punishment as far as I'm concerned.  I'm trying to think of relevant real-life examples.  Wiki mentions brinkmanship in military or almost-military conflicts between states, which isn't very relevant to individuals... and also the Hawk-Dove game, for which the closest modern analogue is "being mugged", but I would figure muggers usually choose targets who look like they couldn't fight back very well.  I guess "aggressive driving on the highway" would fit.  It is a form of defection—trying to get an advantage at the other's expense—and it is technically enabled by them not defecting as well.  But I feel like my main emotional reaction is "you're crazy if you even try that"; also it is an inherently self-limiting problem, because if the proportion of insanely aggressive drivers gets high enough, they'll kill each other off frequently enough to prevent it getting higher.

I might indeed consider it "rude" if aggressive drivers' behavior made it so that, to protect against it, everyone else had to change their behavior, or change the rules, in a way that sucked for everyone.  (I tend to disagree with the authorities when they lower speed limits, add speed bumps, and stuff—they seem to err harder in the direction of alleged "safety" than I would—but there are probably interventions that I would agree with if I saw the data.)  So X might be "letting everyone drive on this road without stop signs in certain places", and Y would be "driving on that road, too fast to avoid a crash if someone makes a turn at those places".

I think the thing I'm getting at is "prosocial behavior should be rewarded, at the very least with social capital; it being met with defection is bad, but it being met with defection enabled by the prosocial behavior is maximally set up to disincentivize the prosocial behavior, and this is especially bad and deserves more focused disapprobation".  And I still suspect "rude" may be the right word.

I like this. Also I think this is a "some people need diametrically opposite advice from other people" thing - some people need to be shown that "this is rude" is a valid kind of judgment to make, other people need to be shown that it's okay and good to do rude things sometimes (which is also true imo). (I think I'm natively more in the second group.)

Perhaps yet another thing I was unclear about:

The whole reason I like the concept of rudeness as a game mechanic is that it’s a fairly soft punishment, and this allows you to be so rude things when the situation calls for it.

Yeah I think this is somewhat implied and I certainly don't take you to be saying the opposite of it, though I think it would be useful to state this more explicitly as well.

(But also I think how deterring a punishment people find this varies by person; there's definitely situations where I think it would be better to just do the rude thing but this is extremely hard to do because that punishment feels Very Bad.)

I didn't follow what you're advocating (or what you're arguing against).  Are you a fan of the concept of "rude" as a social mechanic to guide behavior/communication, or a fan of BEING rude in pursuit of some kinds of communication?  Like most social-status components, I find it mostly unhelpful as an abstraction on it's own, and better decomposed into what kinds of offense is being given/taken, and when is it necessary or helpful to do so.

Are you a fan of the concept of "rude" as a social mechanic to guide behavior/communication, or a fan of BEING rude in pursuit of some kinds of communication?

The former. Or, to be slightly more generalized, I'm a fan of "fuzzy social credit that can be gained or spent" as a game mechanic to include in your social/coordination iterated games, with "being rude" being one way that algorithm ends up feeling from the inside.

If I follow that, another way of thinking about rudeness might be spending social/political capital?

If being rude is spending social capital, does that suggest that we ought to be at least a little rude? Capital that can’t be spent is no capital at all. (At least for some forms of capital.) On the other hand, should we be thinking about politeness more like trust, which is in some ways the opposite of expendable resources: typically, the best play with trust is to maintain it indefinitely?

I do think "if you've never been rude, you're probably not being rude enough." 

I think rudeness/politeness isn't the same thing as trust. 

I started to write some off-the-cuff stuff expanding on this point but realized it was actually gnarlier than I realized and am gonna hold off till I've thought more.

In terms of social coordination do you see rudeness and manners/courtesy as mirror/inverse tools? Is there some asymmetry present between the two in terms of social coordination mechanisms? Or are these really just two sides of the same coin and we can discuss coordination efficacy from either perspective?

I didn't comprehend your purpose

Okay, sounds like this was less clear than I'd hoped. I added these paragraphs to the post. Not sure if they quite answer you or Dagon's implied question, but hopefully help a bit:

I'm writing this post because I was writing another coordination/epistemic-norms post, and I found myself wanting to write the sentence "If you do [X thing], it should be considered a bit rude. If you do [X' worse version of X thing], it's more rude." And then I realized this was resting on some underlying assumptions about coordination-culture that might not be obvious to everyone. (i.e. that it's good to have some things be considered "rude")

I come from a game-design background. In many games, there are multiple resources, and there are multiple game-mechanics for spending those resources, or having them interact with each other. You might have life-points, you might have some kind of "money" (which can store value and then be spent in arbitrary quantities), or renewable resources (like grains that grow back every year, and spoil if you leave them too long).

Many good games have rich mechanics that you can fine-tune, to shape the player's experience. A flexible mechanic gives you knobs-to-turn, to make some actions more expensive or cheaper.

The invention of "money" in real life was a useful coordination mechanic. 

The invention of "vague social capital that you accumulate doing high status respectable things, and which you can lose by doing low status unrespectable things" predates money by a long time, and is still sometimes useful in ways that money is not. 

A feeling-of-rudeness is one particular flavor of what "spending-down social capital" can feel like, from the inside of a social interaction.

Is being rude like being tacky?

...I feel like this comment isn't really engaging with what the post was about. Like, sometimes maybe? But not really the point.