This is a linkpost for https://medium.com/@ThingMaker/in-defense-of-punch-bug-68fcec56cd6b
Cool new post from Duncan Sabien (formerly active here under that name and Conor_Moreton).
Cool new post from Duncan Sabien (formerly active here under that name and Conor_Moreton).
Duncan, if you do still come here on occasion, thank you for a careful attempt at expressing a potentially risky opinion on a potentially risky subject.
Just wanted to chime in with "same".
A: (punches B) Slug bug!
B: (immediately punches A back, roughly equally hard)
A: Hey! You don't get to hit me back. That's the rules.
B: I understand. However, I was actually playing Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. And so were you, by the way. Furthermore, I wasn't aware that we were playing Slug Bug, so my prior has to be that you were actually just demonstrating or testing your physical dominance over me.
A: We're friends! We've known each other for forty years! You're godfather to my children! I'm married to your sister! Why would I be demonstrating physical dominance over you?
B: I guess this is one of those better-safe-than-sorry situations. I actually do trust you to lay down your life for mine, but I don't trust you to perfectly and continuously control your human status impulses. You stepped over a line, I checked you on it. Now we can proceed with neither of us wondering if that punch had any hidden implications to our relationship. By the way, now that you've announced we're playing Slug Bug, I'm game for it.
A: But I wasn't playing this "status-regulation-prisoner's-dilemma" that you're describi... (read more)
Typical mind spot-check: If I saw the comment from D to C of "ugg, X in my feed" I would consider this (effectively) a request to not post Xs at all (especially when it comes from a housemate!), or at least a note that it causes substantial disutility to be considered. That's a pretty strong negative signal. When C says they'll stop Xing, and D responds "I didn't mean for that to happen, you're overreacting!" it feels disingenuous at best. D made the mistake slash did the thing slash owns the thing, not C, so if D didn't mean that, D should say "I'm sorry, I came on way too strong, you don't need to do that." Yet Duncan seems to treat this as, if anything, C over/strongly reacting.
What do others think of this?
I mention with some carefulness (since it brings _another_ dimension of political pendulum swinging for people to have strong opinions about), that, in particular, "ugh, X, dead animals in my feed" pattern matches pretty explicitly to a particular vegan social move that's clearly designed to convince people to stop posting about dead animals.
Agreed; if I were just annoyed about this but didn't want the person to stop, I would certainly not post something like that. I think D is not expressing themself clearly in that example.
(Note that to my mind, the appropriate reaction for D in such a case is to hide the post.)
Hoo boy, I have a number of things to say on this.
First, to get this out of the way, I fricking hate punch bug. That would definitely not have been my choice of example, that's for sure. But, we can substitute in similar things that don't involve, you know, literally punching people. Other, lesser, sorts of unannounced roughhousing, say. At the very least, I want to assert "The rule 'never touch anyone without asking' is not workable" as a sort of minimal example.
But none of that is the real point, and I think is a post that gets at a lot of important things. I do worry that it's conflating some things, but, oh well, we can peel these apart later.
My comments, from smallest / least related to largest / most core:
It is useful to be able to express weak preferences and have them treated as weak preferences. I notice I can't do this with some people -- any expressed preference is treated as a strong preference, so instead of just being able to say "weak preference in favor of X", you have to judge for yourself whether to mention X at all. That said, it's not clear to me that this is in general necessarily due to "social ownership of the micro"; pe
So, um, OK, time to step in it. Hoping this doesn't count as a "hot-button political issue". This is going to echo some things I've said over in the comments at Thing of Things, but I'm not going to go digging for those links right now...
It seems to me that some of what Duncan describes here is closely related to that infamous problem which led to such writings as Scott's old "Meditations" series, Scott Aaronson's "comment 171", etc. It's not so much a matter of "social ownership of the micro", but rather micro-vs-macro interpretations of certain instructions. Let's consider the situation in Vignette #1. In it, Alexis and Blake both correctly observe that how you ask a person about something may, at a micro level, affect how comfortable they feel with the possible responses to it.
(This may be a different sense of "micro". After all -- if this micro-emotional effect affects their actual decision, it then necessarily has macro effects! Which is to say, our brains' all-or-nothing decision systems can take the micro and amplify it. The "micro" here isn't so much in terms of results but in terms of the fact that what things hin... (read more)
IMO, the "legitimate influence" part of this comment is important and good enough to be a top-level post.
I think this essay has interesting insights, but I am left disturbed by something that is not made entirely clear. In Sabien's ideal world, am I allowed to opt out of the game of "punch bag"? Because, although it is the first time I hear about this game, I already hate it. Not in the "this is wrong for complicated social, political and/or ethical reasons" sort of way, but in the "I personally find it very annoying, gross and unpleasant" sort of way.
So, if Sabien proposes a world in which one cannot opt out of "punch bag" (and if so, the same probably applies to many other things I would want to opt out of), then I really don't want to live in that world. Speaking of pendulums that swing too far, maybe we can have a world where people don't do the "social ownership of the micro" thing, but also where personal freedom and autonomy is respected?
Sounds like that was what school was like for many, and this certainly rings true given my school experiences - if you're in school, then you're physically forced into proximity with people who will punch you whenever they feel like it, and it's supposed to teach you an important lesson, or something. Duncan seems unsure whether we have too little of this, or too much.
Note that he says if you tell them you're not playing, they respond "It sure looks like you're playing, you're not punching me back." Which I think (at least, unless you can call in Reasonable Authority Figure and have them be punished appropriately without becoming a pariah, but actually even then) makes it a moral obligation to punch them. As hard as you can. Right in the face. And ideally then walk away, silently.
So, yeah, not being able to opt out of that seems pretty terrible. I think there's a lot of value in playing such a game, especially that it forces you to pay attention to the world around you and also to make it clear that the occasional punch/whatever really isn't a big deal, on an easy-to-actually-get level. Plus, it's just fun. I think I cried tears of joy during the preview for the movie Tag. But the idea of not even being allowed to opt out of it seems pretty terrible.
And I hereby opt into the game with Duncan and only Duncan. Cause otherwise it's a asymmetric pickoff, plus I don't know how to punch well.
Agreed that you shouldn't escalate violence in response to violence - punching them back roughly 10% less hard than they punched you (since aiming at this will make you get it right) is the right response at that point. The not-playing-around sucker punch is the response to their statement that you not punching them back is you playing the game.
I think it's more about situations that have insufficient information. The initial example has him being called "rapey" for a light tap on a friends shoulder for the first time. It's different if he were to slug them hard and it's different if the recipient already expressed they aren't interested. But if the first time someone taps their friend on their shoulder is compared to actual rape in any way then we clearly need to reevaluate something.
A bit about my history that colors this - I grew up being taught in a way that I thought going up to someone, especially a woman, introducing myself, and extending my hand for a handshake was vaguely rapey. People with different experiences than mine may find the article a lot less important than I do. In my personal pendulum swing I still avoid punch buggy like things towards people who have said no to them but am a lot more open to trying it for the first time with a new person who seems like the type who'd enjoy them.
Having finally read this - here are things I agree with:
... (read more)
- there is such a thing as too much attention paid to small harms, and this can trap people in increasingly convoluted rules aimed at preventing harms of a magnitude smaller than the harm caused by the convoluted rules themselves; arguably it's not even possible to prevent harms that small, and trying to do so is more harmful than just being okay with the notion that sometimes you may inevitably slightly harm someone you care about
- this dynamic can break "we"-ness by creating a "fault" rather than "fault analysis" mindset -- but not necessarily just by creating an adversarial dynamic - it is just as bad, possibly worse, if the individuals place the fault on themselves. I've been in this situation where I want to be able to say "I find this thing that happened slightly unpleasant, and I want to tell you about that because I want you to know about my experiences, and maybe we can think about whether this is easily preventable in the future, but if it isn't that's really okay" and this gets taken as "I'm sorry for hurting you I will do better" which is not at
[Edited first paragraph to moderate tone]
I'm very worried about people unilaterally claiming the right to initiate physical violence against me with impunity. (It's additionally worrying when the occasion for this is being reminded of a prominent German brand; ironically, I have the exact same worry about the "punch Nazis" advocacy I was seeing on the internet a few months ago, given the general unwillingness to work out a legible standard by which Nazis might be identified.)
Asymmetric "no punch back" rules are special, and there's a long history of such things being used to build momentum towards mass murder. The Jewish holiday of Purim specifically commemorates the political maneuvering required to persuade the Great King of Persia to specifically disavow a "no punch back" rule implied by a prior edict authorizing a day of pogroms. The prior edict was not repealed, but the repeal of the "no punch back" rule was considered sufficient cause for repeating the celebration annually.
The casual acceptance and signal-boosting of posts like this is part of why I don't feel safe in the San Francisco Bay Area Rationalist community.... (read more)
I’m flagging individual comments that clearly violate norms with brief mod-notes, which link back to this comment.
Before I dive into them, I wanted to summarize my understanding of Benquo’s position, based on our conversation yesterday.
... (read more)
- Ben’s epistemic state is that the Punch Bug article is advocating for a change with a decent chance of escalating into violence with serious consequences.
- Most of his concern is not about what Duncan said or intended to say, but in what the likely consequences of it getting promoted are. One important consideration here is downstream effects as the message gets propagated and simplified by the sorts of people who don’t make serious efforts to interpret 14,000 word texts and retain their nuance.
- Independent of whether Ben was right in his assessment of the chance of serious escalation, he considered important that, at least in principle, there could be posts on LessWrong advocating for things with dangerous downstream consequences, and we should be cognizant of how our discourse norms will affect our ability to talk about that.
- Ben’s model of why and how the post is likely to lead to bad outcomes are informed by the mechanics of how anti-Jew pogroms (an
I also want to note what I think is the biggest, most obvious mistake I made here. When I wrote the initial comment criticizing Benquo, I went through several drafts. Some of them focused more on specific examples of why I thought the comment was unacceptable and where it crossed the line. Other drafts focused on an overall lack-of-charity, in a discussion where charity was crucial.
Those drafts felt long/meandering/hard-to-parse, and after a couple hours I said “gah, fuck it, ship it”, and then while in fuck-it-ship-it mode, deleted a couple paragraphs in an attempt for brevity. In the process, I gutted the actual core point, leaving a pretty superficial criticism about “don’t literally invoke Nazism please.”
I think this was the point where making slightly different choices with a clearer head could have had a huge impact on the overall frame of the conversation.
Then I didn’t really re-examine the comment until a few days later. And at that point, it had seemed to me that it made more sense to wait till I’d talked to Ben, and then write a more thorough comment that fully addressed everything. I still wasn’t modeling costs to Duncan, and didn’t fully understand that until the point where Duncan called them out explicitly.
I think this is a plausible interpretation of ghetto in-a-vacuum, but the associations with are strong enough that you basically can't bring up the world ghetto without going out of your way to disclaim that.
And if you're bringing it up as a description of someone else's words, I think you actually need to substitute the definition for word. For a more extreme but hopefully clear example: If you say about someone "I'm not saying they're going to put people in a literal nazi ghetto, I'm just saying <whatever you're actually saying>", one of the primary actions you're doing is associating them with the phrase "literal nazi ghetto", even if you specifically said you were not doing that, because that's how language and brains work.
In this particular case, I'm honestly a bit skeptical that you think the connotations of ghetto are mild – maybe they're mild in isolation, but your whole point was that this wouldn't remain in isolation (which is the exact reason why ghettos game to have their associations in the first place)
In general, I think a policy of "if you're going to bring up things associated with Nazi Germany, you are responsible for putting a much larger share of interpretive labor in, moreso than I usually think is necessary for an overton-window-fight.
I'm asking you, if you enforce a norm that there should be a very high burden of interpretive labor for using terms like "ghetto" in that way, to equally enforce a norm that there should be a very high burden for promoting proposals to create things that at all resemble ghettos, since the former norm makes those proposals substantially more difficult to criticize within the bounds of accepted discourse. Insofar as you're asking me not just to abstain from literally saying that Duncan's a Nazi or planning a genocide (I didn't, and as far as I can tell he's not), but from referring to structural similarities between his comparatively mild proposal and some things widely acknowledged to be bad, it seems like there should be a similarly sized avoidance zone around proposals like his, and unambiguously approving linkposts to such proposals.
Thanks for making this clear and direct.
I characterized what I thought Duncan's words meant, in my own words.
The first time I did this I quoted the passage I thought implied this in the same comment. I don't think it's a plausible construal of this at all that Duncan had literally written the words not explicitly quoted, which were directly pointing to a following, overtly blockquoted, verbatim quote.
The other times I did this, on the same page (but sometimes not in the same thread), it's more plausible that a reader who hadn't carefully read the whole page could get that impression. But this is not the same thing as a literal assertion that Duncan had said that thing in those words.
Usually when person X writes "person Y said that Z", there is some ambiguity about whether Z is a quotation (exact or approximate) or a characterization in Y's own voice. I meant to say the latter, but I see how I was unclear in a way that let people wrongly infer the former. If anyone was genuinely misled by this, I'm sorry for my negligence.
Your specific proposal seems l... (read more)
I was specifically objecting to the details of Raemon's framing. I agree that in the context of the other things I said I should have been much more careful about the term "ghetto." I strongly agree that moderators should attend to things like this. Your explanation basically makes sense to me.
I'm very unhappy that this ended up in a place where "is Duncan a proto-Nazi?" is a plausible framing of the question. I'm going to put quite a bit of thought to whether there was a way to object to this clearly and vividly, in a way that didn't obscure the underlying threat model, without accidentally making it about Duncan personally.
These all seem like things that would strongly favor games like "sometimes roughhouse with your friends with punchback allowed and sensitivity over repeated interactions to how people are feeling about the whole thing" over games like "punchbug". I'm justified in deprecating hypotheses somewhat that would predict different things than the ones that actually happened.
I'm definitely not claiming to not be missing important stuff. A more clearly grounded query would have been way better, of course, but as it turned out, generating more hypotheses about the appeal of punchbug would have been entirely beside the point, as the problem turned out to be that SilentCal thought I meant something much narrower by "asymmetric," which excluded formally symmetrical rules with disparate impact.
Edit: Welp no, I wrote a silly comment. While I think that this comment points somewhat to why a certain subset of people find punch bug morally wrong, this is not responding to the OP well at all and does not describe it accurately. The OP is not about punch bug, it is about social ownership of the micro, and is only discussing that aspect of punch bug. I do not think physical dominance is at all what the post is about, and if there was a standard alternative to punch bug that involved no physical dominance then my model of Duncan would also use it in the post. My apologies to Duncan for writing a silly comment.
Thanks for this comment, it helped me understand the OP much better.
In particular, one of the significant aversions I have to punch bug is not that I get punched. It's that I remember where punch bug came from. It came from being at school, a place where my sovereignty was consistently overruled by the institution. And we kids were in the same boat, all being trampled over.
But then the kids realised you could do the same to others. They could punch you and you couldn't punch back, not because of any agreement you'd come to, but because it's the rules.... (read more)
[This is my reaction to the entire thread as of writing this, and I saw the OP only after the tone editing]
I praised Duncan for writing this, not because I think everyone should be playing Punch Bug, or that it should be an opt-out game. I strongly disagree with that, and like many, think it was a poor choice of central example. I praised him, and I stand strongly by this, because this essay felt extremely risky to write due to the exact concerns it was complaining about, and opened up the author to very over-sized retaliation. I'm not brave enough to write such things, and as Talib points out repeatedly in Skin in the Game, I should feel shame about that. Which I do.
Also, I didn't notice the point Benquo is making, until Benquo made it. At which point, I saw it very, very clearly. He came to my apartment last Purim and we read the Megillah together, so shared cultural context doubtless helped. Despite that context, I think that saying the word pogrom (or similar) here is necessary to make the point. I wouldn't have gotten there reliably without it, even with a very Jewish background and outlook, so it seems very necessary in general.
We need to defend the need for p... (read more)
Just to make sure we have complete clarity around exactly what words seemed outside the bounds of acceptable discourse here to Raemon, my original unedited comment began:
I notice some level of confusion here.
Suppose Alice came to me with an argument like the following (about which I will make a meta-level, not an object-level, point; I don't endorse the entirety of what follows):... (read more)
Let me back up. Zvi convinced me there was a big important click to be had here, and I'm bothered that I haven't had the click. My current understanding of your argument is unpersuasive. That probably means it's an incorrect understanding.
Maybe our crux is that I don't think the Punch Bug game was ever significantly about hurting people who don't want to play it?
I get that part. Yes, the Punch Bug game is disparately impactful against those who value not-being-punched more than they value getting-to-punch, especially if they value getting-to-punch at zero. You could say the same about many things, such as throwing loud parties.
That said, I think there's an important difference between a policy chosen in spite of the fact that it harms some people, and one chosen because of that fact. Yes, the latter has been known to masquerade as the former, but I don't think that's what's going on here (this is what I proposed as a crux). I also think that policies that tend to harm a preexisting group are suspect in a way that ones that harm an essentially-random set of people aren't. "People who don't want to punch and be punched" isn't a random group, but it's also nowhere near as suspect a group as "Jews" (maybe this is our crux?).
With those mitigating factors in place, allowing Punch Bug seems to me more like allowing loud parties and less like declaring a day of pogroms. The only thing that aligns it with the pogroms is the involvement of physical violence--and even then, I'd suspect ... (read more)
It might help if you pointed at the groups you think the asymmetry is between, as I suspect you and SilentCal are imagining different lines here.
I think you see the asymmetry as being between "people who want to punch others" and "people who don't want to punch others," as only the first group sees any possible value from punch bug (in the short term*), and SilentCal sees the two people as "the person who saw the bug first" and "the person who didn't see it," where the only asymmetries are related to people's abilities to spot bugs (and thus playing punch bug with the blind would raise these sorts of symmetry concerns).
*There are purported long-term benefits of playing the game, that Duncan describes in his post; in particular, it seems likely to make people more likely to notice cars of a particular type. You could use this to your benefit, as in the case where you're attempting to get better at noticing motorcycles on the road, because you think that'll make it less likely that you get into an accident with them, by playing a modified version of punch bug based on that thing.
Indeed, I note that lots of rationalist ... (read more)
Probably best to taboo 'asymmetric' at this point. Based on your example I thought it meant "explicitly discriminatory" and not just "disparately impactful".
The no-punchback rule is really the main thing for me, especially in conjunction the "it sure seems like you're playing" no-opt-out rule and the proposal that "we" ghettoize people who don't want to participate. If Duncan were just saying people should get into friendly fights more often, I wouldn't like the proposal, but I don't think it would be terrifyingly creepy to me.
Additionally sketchy is the way this was folded into a long and otherwise-reasonable discussion of why we should chill out about casual infliction of minor harms on others in the course of preference-discovery, as though these were the same thing.
[ETA (by Ben): Duncan strongly disputes the "ghetto" characterization. I don't see how else the "safe spaces" proposal would work out, but "ghetto" is an inference I'm drawing, not the literal text of the OP.]
So I definitely will join you in condemning the no-opt-out rule. The ghettoization proposal... honestly, I think it was too absurd to me to even generate a coherent image, but if I try to force my imagination to produce one it's pretty horrible.
I'm not sure I see the folding-in problem as keenly as you do. I read Duncan as saying "there's a problem in that we freak out too much about accidental micro harms. My proposed solution is a framework of intentional micro-harms". The first part is on firmer ground than the second, but I don't think it's illegitimate to pair them.
And it's the deep creepiness of the no-punchback rule that I mainly don't get. Like, if the puncher only said "Punch Bug", and the possibility of a punch back were not discussed, I think the default assumption would be that a punch back is forbidden. That's pretty what it means for the original punch to be socially sanctioned. Making the "no punch back" part explicit is, I guess, rubbing the punchee's face in that fact? Is the face-rubbing the problem?
Wait, maybe I get it? Is the terrifying scenario being envisioned, essentially that of a bu... (read more)
This is actually a huge part of what I was upset about, and it's really helpful to have you make that explicit: The fact that no one else seems to have bothered to take the initiative to concretely visualize this proposal and respond to the implications of its literal content. And then, when I tried to point out the problem by pointing out a structural analogy to a thing there's some agreement is bad, a mod criticized me for doing that. Which is, itself, a sort of epistemic "no punch-back" rule.
It's not so much that "bully" is a natural group now, as that proposals like this make that particular division - between people who like punching people with no punchback and people who don't take initiative in that sort of game - more salient, and create a visible minority group that's fair game for (initially mild) abuse by the punching caste. (The "safe space" proposal made that really, really obvious to me once I noticed it.)
Jews are interesting because they... (read more)
Okay, I think I see where you're coming from. I've definitely updated towards considering the OP proposal scarier. Thanks for spelling things out.
I took Benquo to be saying there was such a qualitative difference. I already agree there are lots of reasons Duncan's proposal would likely do more harm than good.
What Duncan is proposing is a general societal agreement to allow the Punch Bug game, on a dubious but IMO sincerely-held theory that this would be to the general benefit. It's no more a unilateral imposition than a law you voted against.
Let me clarify: I believe that if you took all of the people who currently want to play Punch Bug, and put them all in one one community, they would continue to play Punch Bug. They would *not* find that the absence of unwilling victims spoiled the fun, because unwilling victims were never the source of the fun.
[In this comment I have my moderator hat on]
Ben, I think this comment is crossing an important line, that is necessary that LessWrong preserve.
The short, easily-followed-guideline-version is:
More generally, and nuancedly... important, contentious discussions about the Overton window are where it's hardest to keep things truth-oriented, and in good faith.
It matters if we've obliviously building momentum towards violence that will escalate beyond anyone's control. It matters if (as Duncan argues), we're overreacting to a cluster of fears relating to violence and consent and creating a world where people are subtly starved for important human interactions. It matters if both are true and we'll be needing to make a lot of careful judgment calls with a clear head.
There are going to be a lot of questions and overton-window-fights that are at least as important as these ones, and it matters ... (read more)
[Moderator hat still on because it's sort of dishonest to take it off, although this comment is much more off the cuff and not intended as a definitive LW Moderator Take, and the mod-hat in this case is more "I'm speaking as a guy with opinions on discourse which are informed by being a LW mod"]
First, while I stand by the "have a higher bar for invoking Nazis" guideline, the most important bit here is, as Zvi says in the Second Circle, remember to win. We are here to figure things out. I'm not confident I'm getting all the nuances here right, and making the right judgment calls is more important than having easy-to-follow guidelines. (With a further caveat that we do at least need good enough guidelines that there doesn't always have to be a huge discourse when this sort of thing comes up)
With that in mind:
So, I see basically four ways to look at the situation:
1. Discussion/promotion of Punch Bug in particular, or anything relating to a combination of physical violence and opposition to BDSM style consent norms, is forever off the table – completely over the line.
2. It's not intrinsically over the line, but it requires a lot ... (read more)
Is Duncan Right?
[taking off my mod hat, insofar as I honestly can]
I think the essay makes a lot of good points. I don't like Punch Bug – I think it was the wrong choice of symbol to carry the argument forward, in particular because "no-punch-back" rules on non-opted-in games seem like bullshit to me, and importantly so. I'm not certain about roughhousing in general or the threshold of "punch" being the correct line.
But I think the essay is well within bounds. It is an important case study for attempting a deep/aesthetic double crux on a topic that normally would involve completely talking past each other.
And as much as I think no-punchback-rules are bullshit, I think they are importantly not on the same level as pogroms.
It so happens you can more easily paint a visceral picture of how no-punchback-roughhousing-games leads to pogroms, than, say, how bad economic policy might lead to pogroms. But I think bad economic policy is probably more relevant (or at least tied). Economic policy is also hard to get right, and there's a lot of room for i.e. people arguing for and against minimum wage pointing at each other and calling each other monsters, and ... (read more)
I've never done a double crux as such or even watched one before, so my understanding here is limited, but I don't see how someone who disagrees with Duncan is supposed to find the "double crux" with him, given that (1) the OP doesn't engage with three important counter-arguments in the post itself: cover for actual abuse/bullying, slippery slope towards a lot more violence, people who hate Punch-Bug-No-Punchbacks and wouldn't just get used to it (how is the analogy to "peanut-free zone" actually supposed to work?!) and (2) the author seems to have no intention of engaging with critics who subsequently bring up these counter-arguments.
I'm saying something sort of like 2, but the specific thing I'm saying is the thing you're asking me not to say, so I'm in something of a double bind.
The creation of an implied "we" who are to unaccountably administer violence to a minority defined by a strong preference for rule-following, and by a comparative lack of affinity for violence outside the apparatus of a legitimate state, whenever this minority wanders out of the specific delineated space "we" have defined for them, is not really a thing it's necessary to propose in order to address the general question of whether our society's threshold for censurable violence needs to be higher than it is. The fact that it was proposed is pretty salient to me, and I'm not interested in legitimizing a discourse where asking whether people like me should effectively be confined to a ghetto is within the bounds of acceptable discourse, but indirectly alluding to historical examples where this has worked out pretty poorly for the people thus confined is outside the bounds.
I'm done with this conversation for the time being, and I'm considering whether legitimizing LessWrong at all is a thing I still want to do, given the current direction of moderation.
Perhaps you and Duncan have found something to agree on ;-)
One important bit of context is that Duncan has already left LW because he didn't like the moderation policies (it's sort of an awkward grey area where other people post and link to his stuff and talk about it).
I don't currently have bandwidth to respond in more detail about the main point you're making. I think that having some kind of principled way to address either this sort of post (possibly), or ones that are not too far removed from it, is very important. And I don't think we have such a principled approach yet, and that we should.
These differences are in fact important, as you say.
I read Raemon as suggesting there should be bright-line rules. I meant to reply that IF we have bright-line rules against certain sorts of statements, advocating initiating physical violence seems like one natural line to consider, and it seems like there's an inherent asymmetry in policing the language with which people respond to (perceived) threats, but not the (perceived) threats themselves.
There's separately the object-level question of whether the proposed policies in your post actually have the outcome I claim they would have, and the question of whether my construal of the policies themselves is reasonable. But I think Raemon was claiming that even if for the sake of argument we grant that my point of view were correct on those two questions, it would still be objectionable to draw the comparisons I drew because they constitute a sort of rhetorical damage to the commons. That's the (perceived) context I was responding to.
The following sure seems like it to me:... (read more)
Yes, the grandparent post is bad: it uses an unfair and extremely-inflammatory analogy which predictably made the conversation worse. But: Please ease up on the time pressure.
Earlier on in this thing (on Friday), I started a long post with an overview of what happened here as I understood it, and things everyone involved could have done differently to make things go better. ~6 hours in I set it aside because I wanted to be sure to get it right, because an outside view suggested that a cooldown would be wise, and because it was threatening to compete for time with paid work. To the extent that I've had time to devote to this narrative since, it's been spent on collecting perspectives and on replying on easier-to-deal-with tangentially related to threads.
The overall situation pattern-matches somewhat with an experience I had in the Boston community awhile back; the main takeaway I took from that was that time pressure makes everything worse. Several people in that narrative felt like nothing was happening, and acted to create pressure to ensure their concerns hadn't been dropped, but actually things were happening and this instead forced people into a defensive-reactive mode. (The end result was terrible for everyone involved.)
(Note: I am kinda-technically a moderator, in the sense that I have moderator power, but due to time constraints since the site launched I have not done any moderating.)
I don't want to engage with this too much right now, but do want to give a tiny bit more background that I don't think settles this issue, but does complicate it a bit:
In practice, on this specific issue, the moderation team consisted of just Ray and me and not really anyone else. We discussed the issues with other moderators, but because of the high-stakes nature of this conflict, I thought that it was important that the relevant decisions and comments were made by the people who I thought had the most detailed background on both the people involved, and the long-term goals of LessWrong moderation. This usually would have also included Ben Pace, but he isn't around for this month.
I don't think that in retrospect (mostly implicitly) restricting moderation action on this issue to just Ray and me was a bad call, given the constraints at the time. I think criticizing us for not having scaled our moderation team better, and establishing procedures that allow everyone on the team to meaningfully contribute to this situation, is a valid criticism, and something I do think we could have done better. I also think that even with just me and Ray, being more immediately transparent would have been achievable, and something I plan to be better at in the future. But I do think the error is significantly less severe than it would have been had we had access to 5 moderators instead of just 2.
I'm editing the original post to correct this overreach, which I agree was an uncharitable overreach and an example of me not reaching the correct standard.
I actually would not have generated the substance of the parent comment (or been able to articulate the follow-up explanations) without the pattern-matching described in the analogy you criticized. I can see a case for avoiding this sort of rhetoric regardless, but want to make sure it's clear that your proposed standard would have required me to do substantially more up-front interpretive labor before getting any evidence someone would listen, with the most likely result of me not making the point at all.
This would be totally fine if anyone else were making that point. I strongly encourage people who want more civil discourse and have the time and patience to do it, to preempt or outcompete me! I'd be so very happy if that happened consistently on things like this.
I don't see you as having come close to establishing, beyond the (I claim weak) argument from the single-word framing, that the actual amount or parts of structure or framing that Dragon Army has inherited from militaries are optimized for attacking the outgroup to a degree that makes worrying justified.
I have a vague and unspecified concern (which might be unfair, and which I hope you will call out if you find it to be unfair) that this might be the beginnings of a drift across the line into scoring points, or the start of a snowball rolling downhill.
Like, you're almost certainly just genuinely curious about the gears of benquo's model. The word "army" raised a flag ... does the word "warriors" raise a similar flag? This is an entirely valid question for finding the boundaries of benquo's beliefs.
But I would be sad if other people piled on after this comment with a whole bunch of "do you think [innocuous thing] is bad or not?" comments. I fear something like, the conversation turning into an inquisition? A sense that the crowd gets to demand that benquo's model defend itself, but the crowd isn't symmetrically required to defend its model?
I want to firmly reiterate that I think there's literally zero to object to in the above comment, both in content and tone; it's more about a (very weak) gut-level intuition about what comes after it. I also note the possibility that these four paragraphs may not be worth the spa... (read more)
My real crux here is something like Bayes.
I think you and I disagree strongly about the base rates of threat à la Scott Alexander's "different worlds." From your perspective, I imagine I'm coming across like someone saying that muggings never happen, because I grew up in an affluent suburb and am typical minding that everywhere else is just like that; from my perspective, it feels like your priors are skewed similar to those of parents who are anxiously preoccupied about child abductions because of overexposure in the news, and who don't attend to base rates.
In other words, I don't think I disagree with your actions given high priors of threat and need-to-defend; I just disagree that those priors are appropriate.
(I note that you've mentioned being missed or mischaracterized several times, so I'm sensitive to the possibility that I'm addressing a stereotype that doesn't match the real you/your real beliefs.)
But basically, the whole lens of "military unit of abused children that carry out a genocidal war" feels false/disingenuous/inappropriate to me, given my priors. Like, to look at a nerd in a community of nerds proposin... (read more)
Interpretive labor request: I'd like people to try to read this comment (and for that matter pretty much all my comments) under the assumption that a demon has cast a spell on me to make me word things in a way that sounds more like scapegoating than I mean, and on you to interpret them that way whenever there's any potential ambiguity. This isn't an excuse for failures on my part to be clear, it's just a request. If you see ways in which the demon has tricked me, I want that information so I can fix the problem.
Duncan, thanks for the interpretive labor you're extending. I agree that given what I seem to you to be saying, you're in a difficult position here.
I want to restate that my threat model was not primarily that things like the Dragon Army house resort to violence. (It didn't!) It's more that the appeal of proposals like Dragon Army is a really bad sign about the broader culture's coordination protocols. We live in a world where violence is increasingly being compressed into tail events. Accordingly, I'm worried about ambient cultural protocols favoring violence leading to sudden phase transitions.
I'm not claiming that yo... (read more)
Noting that my salience for Ender's Game (which I like a lot, but not like Duncan likes it) wasn't about kids treated with respect and given agency. It's about a system that ruthlessly manipulates and exploits and lies to those kids, especially Ender, despite it taking a huge toll on all concerned, because the world needs saving and it's time to be the SOBs that do what it takes to get them ready and motivated, and get results. And then the sequels are about him dealing with the consequences of that, plus some Mormonism.
You've been careful to avoid directly calling me any names, but you've made multiple statements that would come from someone who believes I'm a violent xenophobic sadist ten times more frequently than they would come from someone who believes I'm a good, kind, welcoming, and careful person; they are clear and strong Bayesian evidence and readers will overwhelmingly interpret them as such. And that's just this thread, as opposed to the times you stated explicitly on FB that you feared for your physical safety because I and my house were in your neighborhood.
More broadly, notice that you've ended up retracting or walking back multiple negative claims about me, but have yet to err on the side of being too charitable or saying something too nice. All of the mistakes that you yourself have acknowledged thus far point in the same direction, which in mechanical terms is what we mean by the word "bias."
On rereading I don't see direct textual support for this, so I'll edit. Thanks for pointing out the error.
I explicitly stated the opposite when I noticed there appeared to be ambiguity on that point. I can see how the presence of that ambiguity in the first place would be unpleasant for you. On the whole I regret that interaction, except insofar as it persuaded me to spend less time on Facebook.
(I also upvoted Duncan's direct response, it was much easier to evaluate and respond to than most of the other criticism I got on this and related threads. I'd like to encourage more criticism like this, tagging specifics. At this point I'm seriously considering the hypothesis that this would have gone better - and better for me - in a forum moderated by Duncan.)
The line between overt physical, informational, and structural violence is blurry in our world. A toy example of the sort of violence that could actually happen quite soon is that people coordinate to subtly gaslight one of my friends, my friend starts acting strangely as a result, people call the police on them for acting strangely, and due to a not very surprising misunderstanding my friend is shot to death.
I'm not worried about this happening to me personally, because I'm good at explaining myself, and because I have a level of privilege sufficient not to rely on this community for meeting some of my basic needs - I can just leave, and did so for a few months. But I'm safe because I'm treating my environment as unsafe. (Around the same time I checked out physically, another friend checked out mentally, which resulted in them having some pretty unpleasant experiences.) I and people like me don't end up investing in this community as much as we might - this is part of why my post about the Berkeley REACH had the tone of "if you people want nice things you should fund them" rather than "here's a great thing for the community we're building."
The mechanism by whic... (read more)
As I understand the argument, the claim is that you (or rather, the reference class of people who feel like you) only react like that because you are hypersensitized to harmless (ie. with a short physiological return to baseline) threats due to lack of exposure.
If I am around a spider, I am in a state of mild to severe panic, depending on size. But this is not a fact about the inherent horribleness of spiders, but about my phobic mindset, and attempting to make the world spider-free would be a completely undue cost compared to treating my phobia.
To me, the question with Punch Bug is whether the suffering imposed on people who are naturally ill-suited to mild violence outweighs the suffering caused by lack of physicality and possible neuroticism (?) due to underexposure in people well-suited to mild violence.
I would point to (the ethical parts of) the BDSM community as an example of useful norms about this.
1) You do not hit people who do not want you to hit them.
1a) Outside of the context of a relationship in which it can be assumed your partner generally wants you to hit them, you ask someone before hitting them.
2) You do not engage in consensual violence around nonconsenting individuals. (A light tap is not violence; punching someone is.)
2a) Bystander consent may be assumed if the bystanders are at a party or social event arranged for the specific purpose of facilitating people consensually hitting each other.
3) If you are going to be playing games where "no" doesn't mean "no" (for example, "you're not hitting me back so I guess you are playing punch bug!"), you establish a safeword ahead of time which means "no".
Interesting, but not correct or helpful. Asymmetric games based on likely-unpleasant effects should simply always be opt-in. Circle game, arm cross, slug bug, are all common, and are all fine among friends who've agreed and find it helps them. They're never fine to start without a pretty strong signal that it's welcomed. Yes, this extends to catcalling and verbal slugging.
I suspect Duncan (and you) never had the experience of such a game imposed on you where the instigator hit hard enough to cause pain, from an instigator who'd hit for other reasons in the past and could be expected to retaliate if the roles were reversed.
You're just not going to convince me that playful cover for hitting people out of the blue is OK. The conversation _is_ ridiculous, but not in the way you seem to think. I'm not saying it's the end of the world, or that people who try to spread this without permission are evil (or even that they have any bad intent whatever). I'm just saying there are a LOT of situations where it's hard to distinguish from other kinds of violent intimidation, especially when the direction is from the strong to the weak.
This is not normal behavior on her part. This is domestic violence. The standard advice is to leave people who hit you. Possibly after clearly stating that you are not okay with being hit and you will leave if it continues, and giving her a chance to change her ways. Maybe she should work with a professional to help with her anger problems. But there is a significant risk that a person who regularly attacks you will escalate.
Interesting side question to ponder, under various variations of the rules: in a world of Punch Bug, would you want to drive a bug?
I'm firmly on the side of guess culture on this. If you're good enough at reading my nonverbal signals that you can punch me without making me feel defensive or creeped out, go for it. If you aren't good enough, you aren't good enough, and I won't hesitate to tell you as much.
I love this article. It's illuminating and well written.
I do agree with the conclusion, although I probably would have been less generous in my treatment.
I'm firmly on the "micro-ignoring" side of things. But, interestingly, I notice my own small reactions more and more. It's something I've been working. And I noticed them precisely so that I don't let them affect me, even unconsciously.
That is also the goal of zen, mindfulness, etc... Become aware of your thoughts and feelings, accept them and let them go.
I'm truly ... (read more)
Promoted to frontpage.
Is there a term for distinguishing between disagreements where the two people are arguing over how to weight the different factors in a model vs disagreements/misunderstandings where they have different factors in their models? Extra layer of complication when languaging doesn't directly point at the factors but only references them. I've been calling them factor disagreements vs model disagreements.
I bring this up because I see written stuff needing to do scaffolding to build this concept up from scratch repeatedly.
It's also a useful conce... (read more)
Really? These anecdotes sound really awful and exhausting to me. They're going out of their way to start status-threatening conflicts over minor inconveniences.
edit: Reading further it seems OP essentially agrees that this behaviour is unhealthy.
It's a lot better than some other ways that could have gone - Harley could have just said "Fuck you, asshole, this wasn't any of your business" and stormed off. It's better to be able to understand and articulate what and why something is causing you distress than to simply react to distress.
Since I'm in another thread doing a thing that's sort of weirdly adjacent to supporting Duncan's post, let me say what I think of it overall.
I played a bit of Punch Bug as a kid (actually, it was 'Punch Buggy' where I grew up). In my social circles the punches weren't hard, it was basically a token gesture to make spotting a Beetle first into a form of 'winning'. I'd compare it to nonviolent games such as jinx or five minutes to get rid of that word). Personally I found all of these a little fun, a little annoyi... (read more)
Is Duncan/Conor OK with you linking his content here at LW? (There are of course reasons why I think this is a sensible question to ask, but I won't be going into them here.)
Aside from that, the post is very much of the TL;DR variety, and should ideally be broken into a series of self-contained posts, each pointing out some well-defined inferential step. I'm really quite skeptical that productive discussion about the OP is feasible as is. (But I'm of course willing to be proven wrong, if anyone wants to try!)
It was linked on his FB wall by a friend of his, so I think that's fine.
I actually think this post essentially needed to be as long as it is. Most of the points are not _new_ and if seen in isolation, would be sort of "okay, sure, now what?" The reason they're all necessary is to actually process an entire alternate worldview at once to talk about something that people will have a lot of extreme, knee jerk reaction to.