I was a co-founder of CFAR in 2012. I'd been actively trying to save the world for about a decade at that point. I left in 2018 to seriously purify my mind & being. I realized in 2020 that I'd been using the fear of the end of the world like an addictive drug and did my damnedest to quit cold-turkey. I'm now doing my best to embody an answer to the global flurry in a way that's something like a fusion of game theory and Buddhist Tantra.
Find my non-rationalist writing, social media, and projects at my Linktree.
What tendencies specifically would you classify as "woke"? Having an intentionally diverse cast? Progressive messaging? Other things? And which of these tendencies do you think would alienate a significant portion of the consumer base, and why?
By "woke" I'm referring to a pretty specific memeplex. I don't know how to name memeplexes with precision, but I can gesture at some of its key features:
The main problem with this memeplex is that it's a war machine, not an idea. One is not allowed to debate with it. You either agree and align, or get attacked. There's no room for "Hey, I think you might really have a good point about systemic oppression being a thing, but these approaches for creating change seem like they'll create more problems than they solve. Maybe we could think of what else to do instead?" The usual refrain is some version of "Get with the program!" or "You're just trying to protect your privilege" (or "You've internalized white supremacy" when speaking to someone from an obviously oppressed category).
It even comes with a ban on being named, which is curiously demonic. The term "woke" actually came from its early origins. It was a reference to waking up to the reality of systemic oppression, instead of continuing to sleepwalk as a kind of accomplice. In recent years it seems to have evolved a demand that it be viewed as totally normal, that disagreement is a sign of moral corruption, that trying to name this thing means you're resisting and thereby choosing to align with evil. I hadn't realized how strong that particular mutation had become when I first posted this question.
You're right, I could have been clearer about what structure was confusing me.
I keep encountering these detailed claims & explanations about how the movement toward "woke" (for lack of a better word — apparently the left has tagged what was once their word as now strongly right-coded) is having negative effects on viewership and profit. Not overwhelmingly like a lot of the right insists ("Get woke, go broke"), but still pretty significantly.
Like apparently in the Disney+ show where the Falcon became the new Captain America, there was a pretty dramatic drop-off in viewership right at the scene depicting police profiling the main character for being black. As far as I know, there was never a corresponding upswing from people who were excited about this material being depicted in the MCU.
A lot of these companies seem to have decided to send strongly left-coded messages like this and then tag audiences who object "toxic fandom". Electoral evidence gives me the sense that left vs. right is pretty evenly split in the population. The usual move in the past has been to be as unoffensive as possible so as to appeal to a wide audience base. So this swing seems like a pretty wide-spanning decision that profit lies so overwhelmingly with left-leaning audiences that alienating right-leaning folk is absolutely worth it, even if it doesn't create a correspondingly large number of strong left-leaning folk to start watching.
But since profit in media companies tends to be attached to raw viewership numbers, I get confused. Something doesn't add up.
Even saying it's ideological (like right-leaning folk often assert) doesn't stack up. Why would all of them suddenly become ideological in the same direction? Wouldn't those who are just profit-focused benefit from not going ideological?
So it really does seem like a profit motive, but the profit mechanism isn't at all clear to me.
Whenever I talk to people clearly aligned with the left in this front of the culture wars, I get the clear sense that they think they've simply won. That the right is a fringe thing or something, that these leftist ideas are just normal, that the few people who object to the messaging are just a few leftover bigots who need to get with the times or be deservedly alienated, etc. But that's not the impression I get at all when interacting with folk outside left info bubbles. (Strangely, I often get the opposite impression: lots of right-leaning folk think "wokism" is a fringe movement of just a few screaming people who have the ears and brains of Hollywood, that the reality of viewership will come home to roost eventually, etc. The info bubbling goes both ways on this.)
So I'm looking around and wondering: Gosh, did these companies solve the problem of the polluted information commons and actually determined that profit lies so, so much with the left that alienating the right is worth it? How did they do that? What do they know?
If someone feels resonance with what I'm pointing out but needs more, they're welcome to comment and/or PM me to ask for more.
Glad you liked it!
No, I hadn't encountered these folk. Thanks for the referral!
You might like Perri Chase's breakdown of what's wrong with modern business and how to do business differently. (That's a Facebook Live replay link.) That video was what gave me the missing piece of the puzzle to work out how to build actually effective training spaces.
(I then went on to take her courses in "Magic Led Business" — but (a) I don't advise most LWers to go that route and (b) I don't think a Beisutsu dojo needs to be a business to work really well.)
This strikes me as a core application of rationality. Learning to notice implicit "should"s and tabooing them. The example set is great.
Some of the richness is in the comments. Raemon's in particular highlights an element that strikes me as missing: The point is to notice the feeling of judging part of the territory as inherently good or bad, as opposed to recognizing the judgment as about your assessment of how you and/or others relate to the territory.
But it's an awful lot to ask of a rationality technique to cover all cases related to its domain.
If all that people did as a result of reading this post was notice the word "should" in their thoughts and start tabooing it, that would be a huge boon IMO.
I just really like the clarity of this example. Noticing concrete lived experience at this level of detail. It highlights the feeling in my own experience and makes me more likely to notice it in real time when it's happening in my own life.
As a 2021 "best of" post, the call for people to share their experiences doesn't make as much sense, particularly should this post end up included in book form. I'm not sure how that fits with the overall process though. I don't wish Anna hadn't asked for more examples!
I really, really liked this idea. In some sense it's just reframing the idea of trade-offs. But it's a really helpful (for me) reframe that makes it feel concrete and real to me.
I'd long been familiar with "the expert blind spot" — the issue where experts will forget what it's like to see like a non-expert and will try to teach from there. Like when aikido teachers would tell me to "just relax, act natural, and let the technique just happen on its own." That makes sense if you've been practicing that technique for a decade! But it's awful advice to give a beginner.
This post extended my thinking about the expert blind spot. I hadn't noticed that this would apply to things like the tradeoffs involved in an academic career. I remember encountering these pitfalls and getting weird advice about how to navigate them.
Thinking in terms of the gravity turn helped a lot of this click together for me.
It's such a simple, clear metaphor.
I also found it an engaging read. Perhaps because I related to it so well from my own academic background. But as style goes, I think it's solid.
My only criticism is that as a visual piece, the meat of this post comes across as a wall of text. It might have been nice for the author to find ways of breaking it up a little more. Modern online audiences aren't used to reading books anymore!
But that's pretty minor in the scope of things. I think it's basically great as is.
Partly I just want to signal-boost this kind of message.
But I also just really like the way this post covers the topic. I didn't have words for some of these effects before, like how your goals and strategies might change even if your values stay the same.
The whole post feels like a great invitation to the topic IMO.
I didn't reread it in detail just now. I might have more thoughts were I to do so. I just want this to have a shot at inclusion in final voting. Getting unconfused about self-love is, IMO, way more important than most models people discuss on this site.
I suppose, with one day left to review 2021 posts, I can add my 2¢ to my own here.
Overall I still like this post. I still think it points at true things and says them pretty well.
I had intended it as a kind of guide or instruction manual for anyone who felt inspired to create a truly potent rationality dojo. I'm a bit saddened that, to the best of my knowledge, no one seems to have taken what I named here and made it their own enough to build a Beisutsu dojo. I would really have liked to see that.
But this post wasn't meant to persuade anyone to do it. It was more of an offering of tools and a path in case it already fit someone's desire.
And who knows, maybe someone secretly is working on this, or even has constructed something of a "Bayesian Conspiracy" secret society that I just don't know about!
If someone has taken up the path this post lays out, I'd enjoy hearing about it.
I also would have liked clarification questions about how to do the things I talked about. And I still welcome those, for whatever that's worth.
I would write this post very slightly differently today. In rereading it this morning I have no regrets. I quite like it. But my style has refined a bit and I've learned a few things.
The main difference is that I see how I could have clarified the whole thing with examples. I've built things, and seen things built, according to most of these principles. Even though they're not rationality dojos, and some of them are in service to woo, I think it would have conveyed the overall idea a lot more vividly if readers could have felt the kind of embodied aesthetic clarity I'm talking about. That might have made it easier to extrapolate what to do for a Beisutsu dojo.
Here are a few other, more minor, differences that stand out for me:
As something of an aside, regarding the comments section:
I'm a little saddened that the whole of the comments section became kind of scattered and unintelligible due to deleting one user's profile.
There were just a few threads involving that person, but when they were removed all the replies to them in those threads became top-level comments to the OP.
I think that meaningfully damaged the ability to follow discussion of this post thereafter.
I don't know if conversation would have been any different without that effect.
But it seems worth noting for the sake of the review, since it (maybe) affects the ability to follow what points people had discussed about this post before.
That… makes a lot of sense actually. A lot. PT Barnum style advertising. I had not considered that. Thank you.
How about pride in America? An expression of the nobility of the country we built, our resilience, the Pax Americana, the fact that we ended WWII, etc.
It doesn't strike me as too strange or difficult to do this.
But that's after about 20 seconds of thought. I'm sure I'm missing something important here.