Darkar Dengeno


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Agreed on both counts, yeah. I still don't think this is actually evidence against the possibility of the political nexus shifting away from social justice (in fact, I would count it as evidence we're near peak intensity) and I still think there is a lot of value to trying to understand and capture interesting insights from the social justice movement, but I don't think a real concerted effort do do this is possible until things relax a bit.

If someone can think of reasonable ways to verify whether the cultural toxicity of the SJ fight has 'moved on' I would be willing to make a public prediction that it will have done so in five years. Maybe some kind of random sample of twitter fights? Or a survey of leftist tumblr?

Given that politics is problematic it's worthwhile to discourage people from posting low quality political posts on LessWrong

I did not say "low quality" and I do not think this post is low quality. I think it is of middling quality, around what I would expect an average LessWrong member to be capable of writing. It is less specific than I would like and I think overreaches in the amount the key insight is able to explain but there is a key insight. One I found useful and novel and well constructed.

Further, while it would be very bad to have LessWrong become solely about politics, looking at the front page there are very few posts with a political focus. Politics is a part of our world and if we cannot discuss it then that is a weakness in our epistemology. If we strongly discourage mid-quality posts that deal with political topics then it could have an intellectual chilling effect.

That said, the post has positive karma right now and while it's not quite where I would place it, it's within a range that I would expect to see for most posts like this so I am no longer as terrified as I was that LessWrong had suddenly caught groupthink.

All math, world languages, and all visual and performing arts courses should have an ethnic studies equivalent.

Ah, I think you're right. It seems like they want an "ethnic studies" version of everything and students have to take at least one ethnic studies course per year. I'm not a huge fan of that and it seems like it is taking some well-deserved criticism.

Looking at this presentation through the lens of the original post, it seems like what the Ethnic Studies Board is trying to do is create safe spaces and reduce perceived harms against minorities (hence, I think, why they want to make sure there's an "ethnic studies" version of every core class: so that the people they feel will best benefit from this curriculum can use it for their entire high school education).

I'm not sure they have fully considered the consequences of doing this (especially opportunity cost: all the class time spent on "ethnic studies" math is time not spent on, well, math) but I see no objection with the goal of providing minority students with a curriculum which will fit them better, in and of itself.

This is an interesting discussion which touches on education philosophy (how do we know the curriculum the Ethnic Studies Board has produced actually accomplishes its goals?), optimal resource allocation, language, culture, and (yes) race. But it is not a discussion we can have if seeing the phrase, "countering dominant narratives" makes the participants blind to anything else there.

Right, so, a few things:

The curriculum isn't mandatory

There is a huge difference in my mind between forcing teachers to adopt a specific curriculum with political implications and providing them the resources to include political topics as they see fit.

I'll admit, looking over the framework itself feels pretty icky. There are a few things I like about it, though.

SWBAT identify ancient mathematicians and their contributions to mathematics

I've long felt that more history of mathematics should be included in math curriculum (for much the same reason as history of science should be included). Seeing how our understanding of math as changed as new concepts were invented makes it feel more like a living process (off the top of my head, you could probably get a lot of mileage out of just looking at how the conception of numbers changed from the Greece to Rome to India).

Who holds power in a mathematical classroom? Is there a place for power and authority in the math classroom? Who gets to say if an answer is right? What is the process for verifying the truth?

This is practically proto-rationalism. Getting kids to question why things are accepted as the correct answer ('because that's what the book says' vs 'because I can prove it given ZFC axioms') and understand that there is a way they can see for themselves if something is true.

How is math manipulated to allow inequality and oppression to persist?

I didn't say the framework was perfect. This is just one example of clear progressive-coded language and yeah, I have a hard time defending why this ought to be in a math curriculum.

Going back to my earlier point, though, Christian-advocacy groups do sometimes try to get evolution taken out of public schools (or have creationism taught alongside evolution as an equivalent 'theory'). I'm not saying that it never happens or that there aren't extremists or that no effort should be put into wacking back insanity. But trying to paint evolution vs creation as the most important debate ever feels silly now. And more than that, for people who think religion vs atheism is the most important fight ever, trying to get one side to recognize good arguments on the other is like pulling teeth.

Politics is the mind-killer. The fact that, as I write this, a reasonable-if-flawed attempted steelmanning of an ideology that the LessWrong community has decided is on the other side is sitting at ~minus 5 karma~ (ninja edit: +5 now, it seems to be fluctuating a lot, so reduce the intensity of this) should be considered shameful. I grow ever more afraid that LessWrong is just one more community that can tolerate anything except the outgroup.

It might be that nobody gets a degree in education without professing allegiance to SJ and those teachers then go to bring SJ into all the subject at school.

This sounds unlikely, uncharitable, and frankly more than a little conspiratorial. I'm not even sure if this is something most social justice advocates would even want.

What comes next might be a version that's even more radical.

I would not consider this an actual paradigm shift in the way the atheism->SJ shift occurred and I do not think it will actually happen.

My model of culture wars is that they are fought over large ideological fronts. Atheism was a front line, now it is not. Scott proposed a view in which that front line moved over the ideological space centered around identity and culture and became the social justice conflict. If this model is correct then that front line can move again but it can't move to social justice because it's already there. If this happens, people could still argue about SJ topics and think they're important (just like people still argue about atheism now) but it also means people can discuss these things intelligently without the discussion devolving.

I'd encourage you to take an outside view here and consider how plausible it would sound for an atheist arguing in 2004 that atheism vs religion was going to be the most important cultural topic forever and that the reason for this was that theists were just so backwards and extreme they would keep upping the fight until faith pledges became mandatory in public schools and everyone would be forced to read the Bible instead of studying biology.

Where do we go from here? I’m not sure. The socialist wing of the Democratic Party seems to be working off a model kind of like this, but hoping to change the hamartiology from race/gender to class. Maybe they’ll succeed, and one day talking too much about racism will seem as out-of-touch as talking too much about atheism does now; maybe the rise of terms like “woke capitalism” is already part of this process.

This is what I was referencing, I think it is unlikely social justice will remain the political center it has been for the last decade or so forever and socialism seems like a plausible 'next step' (though I wouldn't place much confidence on this).

That movement has social dynamics that drive people to take more extreme positions and not express dissent that don't exist in the same way in New Atheism.

I'm not sure this is true; New Atheism hit its peak before I was really active online but I don't think arguments like "religion may be false and harmful in some cases but it also has certain benefits to individuals and society that it would be foolish to ignore" would have gone over well in atheist communities, nor would "most modern organized religions downplay the harm they have caused historically and honestly dealing with those harms, both historical and modern, is a weak-point for many followers, even highly educated ones" have been met with much generosity in religious communities.

I cannot personally judge whether the atheism/religion flame wars were as toxic as the social justice/alt-right wars are today and I would not be shocked to learn that things really are worse now and that this conflict is stickier memetically, but I would be very surprised if this were the last political conflict ever. Something has to come next. In fact, I'd put ~75% odds that by 2025 it will seem odd that so much emphasis was put on social justice during this decade (although I'm not sure how one would judge this fairly).

I'd like to thank you for writing this up. I have a strong intuition that many of the ideas central to social justice would work well alongside the rationalist movement if it were less politically charged. Maybe if Scott Alexander's thesis about New Atheism transforming into Social Justice is correct (and the corollary that a new hamartiology will show up soon and take its place) then it is plausible social justice ideology will become less toxic and more amenable to an approach at the object-level (which is where I think we excel).

I am not sure this model is complete; in another comment, Wei_Dai points out that much of the social justice movement is centered around social inequalities, and your frame of "reducing suffering that can cause from predicted harms" doesn't seem to exactly hit on the problems systemic inequality can cause (such harms are often relatively easy to measure, even if not as straightforward to correct).

Social justice, as I currently understand it, is at least partially about reducing freedom in order to increase safety.

This makes sense to me. My model of a social justice advocate would argue that threats to safety are also threats to freedom: if someone does not feel safe in their environment then the range of actions they can de facto pursue is reduced even if they are technically permissible. In either case, my suspicion and the underlying assumption that good-faith social justice advocates must believe: social Pareto improvements exist.

Are there technical/object-level fields that make sense to recruit to LessWrong?

It was, as I admitted, a mistake. I was being inexact as it was not critical for my central point, if it was I would have looked it up, failed to find it, and adjusted my approach (or more likely, left out IQ altogether). I'm unsure what continuing to belabor this accomplishes aside from chastising me for insufficiently respecting numbers.

Are there technical/object-level fields that make sense to recruit to LessWrong?

Amusingly, the article you linked redirected to a different article which seems to reinforce your first point and I think helped clarify for me the exact dynamics of the situation. The author defends Dr. Littman's paper on what she terms 'rapid-onset gender dysphoria' against the heavy backlash it received (mostly on twitter, it seems) and especially Harvard's response to that backlash.

I find it difficult to imagine that healthy academic discourse could take place in an environment that conflict-heavy. Critically, this does not require the field itself to be nonsense but rather so deeply joined to the social justice culture war that the normal apparatuses of academia are hijacked.

This has raised my estimation of the risk of inviting gender studies researchers to participate in discussions on LW significantly, especially since as you point out, that risk runs in both directions.

There may still be ideas worth salvaging from the gender studies community and I'm really curious at what a 'rationalist gender studies' field looks like but the risk does look salient enough it may not be worth the effort.

You lost your meeting room because you were discussing (what I assume to be) politically sensitive topics. I think we'd agree that intellectual progress halts when important topics become too charged to touch and I don't want feminism to become like that in the rationalist sphere.

But rationalist sphere != LessWrong and perhaps this isn't the right place for progress in that area to happen. You bring up the differing approaches of SSC and LW and I actually quite like SSC's approach of high-discussion-norms while not shying from sensitive topics, but you're not wrong about paying a price for that.

So now I'm left wondering, if not here, then where? Where could rational-adjacent people sanely interact with feminists and sociologists and others in 'challenging' fields and what would the discussion there have to look like to keep people safe?

The answer might be 'nowhere'. This could be a fundamentally irreconcilable difference and if that's the case then I will be sad about it and move on. I don't think I have enough evidence to conclude this yet, but I will concede that is this place does exist, LessWrong probably isn't it.

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