I wonder if it might help you to talk to someone from Community Health and ask them to tell you (anonymized) stories about the sort of things that led them to ban people from conferences, or enact other penalties. Maybe this would reassure you that you're not likely to be "close to the line" in your default behaviour - or, flag to you that some common things you do could make people very uncomfortable. (fwiw tho, please don't mask your excitedness - I really don't think people will interpret that as flirtatious by itself)
Maybe you'll say 'that won't help me, because even if I can avoid those specific actions, I won't know the rules that they violated'. Maybe CH can tell you what rule or heuristic was violated too! But partly... like I sympathise with you - I am also an enjoyer of explicit social norms - but I'm not sure if it's possible to come up with a set of rules for social behaviour that are perfectly comprehensive like this. (This is a big part of the AI alignment problem, right - turns out trying to very-precisely specify what you want an entity to do and not do, with no misunderstandings or rules-lawyering, is really hard).
If it would help, I'm happy for you to message me and ask me questions about stuff like this, no question too silly. This goes for readers of this comment too. Caveat: I'm pretty high-openness and probably at least a bit neurodivergent, so you shouldn't necessarily trust my answers.
This is a great post and I really agree. I'm becoming more suspicious lately of my former beliefs (aliefs?) of 'if you're not feeling emotional urgent about x cause or y activity, it's because your emotions are wrong'. Now, I see my felt senses of eagerness or interest or motivation as containing more information, even if they tell me to work on or care about things that EAs don't usually work on or care about.
(I'm making a separate comment for a separate point)
Something I think about a lot, with regard to this, is secrecy. I feel like there's a big culture of secrecy or confidentiality around both questions of sexual misconduct, and other issues in the community, and I wonder whether we might be a healthier community if there was just more open, specific, name-attached discussion of bad things that people in the community have done. The problem, of course, is that calling for survivors to make open accusations plays into the same dynamic you are criticizing here - of placing most of the burden of getting justice on survivors.
For example: I personally know of someone in the community who has done some bad stuff. Not 'calling-the-police' bad, but 'I kinda wanna hang a red flag on him' bad. And part of me wants to just, idk, make a public post about this, or tell everyone I know: not because I want to ruin his life, or because I'm angry/vengeful, but because I want to protect others, and I think others might want to change their interactions with him, if they knew. And part of what prevents me from doing that is that it's not my story to tell; but part of it, I think, is a feeling that 'call-outs' of that kind are too big and dramatic and overkill-y, if the harm hasn't crossed over a certain threshold. But is that right? Do people have the right to be protected from people's reactions to their actions?
Similarly, I notice that when you described two (!) instances of sexual harassment you experienced at the recent EAG, you didn't say who it was. And it's completely your right not to reveal that and I really don't intend to pressure you to do so, but I have to confess part of me is like 'what the FUCK, after ALL that's happened and all the discussions we've been having, people had the audacity to behave like that?! Name and shame!'
And I have similar questions in my mind about stuff NOT related to sexual misconduct. For example, I've heard some bad stories about people's experiences working for EA organisations, and I wonder whether we might be a healthier community if more of these conversations were openly had.
Anyway, this makes me think that something the community could do is ensure to survivors (and others who've suffered bad behaviour) that telling people what happened, with their own and the perpetrator's name attached, won't harm their career. I'm not sure how to do this. One part is probably just expressing support for survivors and believing reports of misconduct by default (rather than having scepticism as a default). This might be another reason to distribute power more equitably within the community - if more people run organisations, control money, and have social power, then it might feel less costly to piss off one powerful person. Another part is perhaps for powerful people to make convincing signals that they won't punish people who criticize them and call them out for bad behaviour.
Anyway, very confused about all this. I'm interested in people's thoughts.
Thank you for writing this. I've been thinking a lot about what 'average EAs' (as opposed to e.g. formal Community Health) can do to make the community better - with regard to sexual misconduct and other things. If there is anything that you, or other survivors reading this, would like me to do to ease your burden, let me know (for example, spreading warnings about people, or communicating with people who've harmed you, or people in power, on your behalf, or anything else you might think of). I'm also just happy to hear people's stories.
This is an interesting idea and I'd be in favour of at least some version of it.
A distinction I think about often is: who is initiating? Where there is a power dynamic, it seems more risky if the more powerful person initiates romance, and less risky if the less-powerful person does and the more-powerful one just reciprocates. So I might be in favour of versions of these rules which say 'the more-powerful person shouldn't initiate for X time (maybe never, in cases where the power relationship is particularly pronounced), but if the less-powerful person initiates, they may reciprocate'.
There are some complications here: e.g., maybe it would encourage more-powerful people to kind of 'fish' for interest from the other. But still: 'this powerful person is into me and is sort-of flirting with me, but in a plausibly-deniable way I can ignore' seems a lot better than 'this powerful person asked me out and now I have to turn them down'.
Fwiw, I don't viscerally feel like there's a strong power dynamic between me and my local community builders - or at least, no more than the dynamic between me and other people who have more general 'EA community status' than me (e.g., people who work at 80k). I don't think I'd find being hit on by a community builder massively fraught. I'm not claiming that others should or do feel this way - just adding my data point.
I strongly disagree that the meme or post trivializes that discussion. If you read the post, you'll see that Ozy (the writer) doesn't think the discussion is silly, they just object to people dragging polyamory into it and making unreasonable demands. (Fwiw I'm a woman and Ozy is non-binary, so we are both part of the constituency that these discussions are supposed to help).
"A fishing rod is no use in the fields; seeds are no use at sea. But with cash, the fisher can buy a rod and the farmer can buy seeds."
I wrote some thoughts on this + the whole related conversation here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/4towuFeBfbGn8hJGs/amber-dawn-s-shortform?commentId=bHmWcHYnQkaGWjbcQ
I wrote some thoughts on this + the whole related conversation here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/4towuFeBfbGn8hJGs/amber-dawn-s-shortform?commentId=bHmWcHYnQkaGWjbcQ
Some stuff that frustrates me about the ‘dating within EA’ conversation
This post is related to ‘Consider not sleeping around within the community’, to the smattering of (thankfully heavily downvoted) posts unironically saying there should be less polyamory in EA, and to various conversations I’ve had about this, both in public and private. It’s less polished and more of an emotional snapshot. I feel extremely triggered/activated by this and I’m a bit wary that I’m earning myself a reputation as the unhinged-rants-about-polyamory woman, or that I’m sort of arguing against something that isn’t substantively “there”.But I also think that emotions are information, and since these conversations are nominally about “making EA good/safe for women”, my perspective as a woman matters.
-We are all talking past each other. Some people are talking about power dynamic relationships. Some are talking about conflicts of interest. Some are talking about polyamory. Some are talking about casual sex or dating within EA. I've even seen one comment saying 'no-one should date anyone within EA'. I'm likely part of the problem here, but yeah, this is aggravating.
-I’m generally very wary of somewhat-vague admonishments addressed to a large group, with the assumption that the people who “need to hear” the admonishment will accurately self-select in and those to whom it doesn’t apply will accurately realise that and ignore it. Like, consider a feminist inveighing against vaguely how men are “trash” and/or need to “do better”. I’m pretty against this kind of rhetoric (unless it comes with a *hyper-specific* call to action or diagnosis of the bad behavior), because I think that this will cause anxiety for conscientious, neurotic, feminist men who wouldn’t hurt a fly (and sometimes queer women and NBs, if it’s relating to attraction to women), whereas abusive and/or misogynistic men are just not going to care.
Similarly, I do not think men will correctly self-assess as socially clumsy or as having lots of power. Owen Cotton-Barratt’s statement is instructive here: he completely failed to see his own power. (Also, incidentally, if I understand right he was monogamously partnered and wasn't deliberately trying to hit on the women he made uncomfortable, so a 'don't sleep around in the community' norm wouldn't have helped, here). I think the advice 'avoid hitting on people if you're socially clumsy', if taken seriously, would lead to lots of kind, reasonable men neurotically never hitting on anybody - even in appropriate social contexts when those advances would be welcome - whereas boundary-pushers and predators won’t care.
This sort of thing is especially dangerous in an EA context, since EAs take moral injunctions very literally and very seriously. I think this is why I feel defensive about this.
-These conversations are supposed to be about “making EA better/safer for women” whereas (a) it’s not clear that most of the posts are even by women (some are anon, and lots of the comments are from men) and (b) as a woman who dates people in the community, this just feels deeply counter-productive and Not Helpful. It’s possible that there are norms that are good for women overall but not me specifically, but I think this is far from established and I’m still not crazy about being collateral damage.
The object level
-I do think that if I had taken some people’s views about dating within the community seriously, I wouldn’t have the relationships I do. I want to defend the attitudes and behaviours that led to me and my partners forming positive relationships with each other.
-I think this kind of critique implies a view of the world I disagree with.
(I) it implies that a large part of the problems in EA come from social clumsiness, or maybe social clumsiness + power. I’m just more cynical about this: while I don’t want to minimize the harm done by 'off' comments and awkward advances, I’m more concerned about stuff like rape, assault, or ongoing abuse (in workplaces, homes or relationships). And there have been plenty of allegations of those things!
I don’t subscribe to an overly black-and-white view of people where the are either bad villains or good well-meaning citizens, but I don’t think that you end up raping or abusing people through 'social clumsiness'.
(Ii) it implies that power is inevitable and relationships are not. Like, one way to prevent the unsavory interaction of power + relationships is to dissuade relationships. Another is to try to distribute power more equitably and give more power to people who are newer to the community, lower within organisational hierarchies, and who are structurally disadvantaged by things like gender. Similarly, in situations where a relationship conflicts with a professional role, I'd strongly want to prioritize preserving the relationship over preserving the role, just because for most people romantic relationships are very important and meaningful, whereas work relationships are instrumental.
I also think this kind of attitude takes responsibility and agency away from men? It assumes that drama and offence is just a necessary consequence of sexual interaction, rather than *something that can be mitigated* when people develop a feminist consciousness (and other progressive consciousnesses like anti-racism) and work on their empathy and social and emotional skills. The view ‘to solve gender problems we need to stop/limit sex’ seems both very pessimistic and kind of sexist against men. Rather than telling men not to date or even not to have casual sex, I’d rather tell men (and other genders! Other genders aren’t exempt from this!) to try to build the maturity to handle these encounters well, while empowering women so that they feel they can push back directly against minorly-inappropriate behaviour, and be supported in the case of suffering majorly inappropriate or harmful behaviour.
I guess I think this reply is sort of not helpful. The OP was clearly about more than grantmakers and grantees, and other situations where there's a clear power dynamic. I feel like in a lot of these interactions you are bringing up hypotheticals to refute people's firm statements, but it's hard to see what you actually think. Like do you disagree with OP? If so, why are you nitpicking people who also disagree with OP? Do you agree with OP? Or a limited form of it? If so, just say that and let other people have their emotional reactions.
Anyway I want to say I agree with Liv throughout this comment section.
I would feel surprised if people felt pressure to be part of a cuddle puddle just because there was one at a party, and inclined to say it was their problem if so. I think it's different obviously if people are verbally pressuring them to join (and I think "awww come on! it's fun" counts as verbal pressure). But I'd be sad if people stopped having cuddle puddles/hot tubs because of a worry that some hypothetical person might feel uncomfortable with them.
I think offering people couchsurfing is good and nice, but you should do it before they arrive.
I basically think the masturbation comment is bad and was made especially bad by the other things. I think it's not exactly additive or multiplicative but that the three of them together created a Situation that was worse than either of them individually. The masturbation comment disturbed her, AND because she was staying at his house she couldn't easily remove herself from the disturbing situation, AND because he was powerful it was hard for her either to ask to be re-accommodated or to say "eww, don't make gross comments like that".
I think it can be somewhat useful to talk explicitly about factors likely to make flirting welcome or unwelcome. But a problem I have with this is that it's wrong to interact with people based on averages, basically. If 70% of EA women like or dislike being flirted with in X way, what do you do? Do the 30% minority just have to put up with discomfort (or, less seriously, a lack of enjoyable flirting)? Are you 70% flirtatious (pleasing no-one fully)?
I think the problem with checklists is that fundamentally, negotiating social interactions so that everyone is happy and comfortable, and flirting and appropriate escalation, are social skills. And social skills tend to be fuzzy and involve very different types of thinking than analysis, or rule-following. So when people throw their hands up in despair, or ask for explicit rules, it feels a bit like they're getting annoyed that they can't just throw their technical skills at a social-skills problem. (Written as someone who finds some social skills hard, including in the areas of flirting/romance)
I'm not sure that adding impaired/unproductive people would counterfactually reduce others - if a person with a disability refrains from having a child, that doesn't mean that some healthy person elsewhere has an extra child.
Re being happy to be alive, I kind of want to distinguish 'being unhappy with one's life' and 'being happy to be alive'. I think you can have net-negative wellbeing and broadly think your life sucks, but still not sincerely want to die, or wish you'd never been born. This hunch is mainly based on my own experience: I've had times in my life where I think my wellbeing was net-negative, but I still didn't wish I hadn't been born. Basically I have a sense that there's a value to my life that's not straightforwardly related to my wellbeing.
This is interesting! What is your guess of 2.5/10 based on? I guess this fuzziness makes me feel innately sceptical about such scales - I think one can get well-calibrated at tracking mood or wellbeing with numbers, but I think if you just ask a person who hasn't done this, I wouldn't expect Person A's 5 and Person B's 5 to be the same.
Re the reversal test, I'd be in favour of organizations that generally helped people become more fertile, if they wanted to be? I don't want people with mental illness to have more children per se - I want them to have the amount of children they want to have.
I think in the case of Project Prevention, the question is muddied in several ways. If a person has lots of children but can't or doesn't take care of them, I agree that's a problem, but it's not really a eugenics issue (it would also be a problem if they had no mental illness and were just negligent). Conversely, if a drug addict had a lot of children but did take care of them, that's not obviously an issue to me. And based on the wikipedia page, Project Prevention seems like a good example for why people are concerned about the reclamation of "eugenics". The founder is quoted as saying "We don’t allow dogs to breed. We spay them. We neuter them. We try to keep them from having unwanted puppies, and yet these women are literally having litters of children". This is incredibly dehumanizing language and doesn't give me confidence that this person has drug addicts' interests at heart! Her reply to criticism about this was that she cared about the children. But to me, the fact that the children may not have a stable home or reliable parent figure seems more important than their genetics.
I'd be in favour of polygenic screening for people with heritable conditions, as this really does seem to enhance parental choice and it comes from a place of compassion rather than stigma.
Weakly against asking people to explain downvotes/disagree-votes (even politely)
Quite often it'll be clear that a post/comment is being downvoted/disagree-voted, and someone - either the OP or just a reader who likes the comment/post - writes that they're surprised at the disagreement/downvoting, and they'd be interested to know why people are disagreeing or why they don't like it.
Most of the time these requests are very polite and non-demanding, but I'm still (weakly) against them, because I think they contribute to an expectation that if you downvote/disagree-vote, you have to be willing and able to 'defend' your choice to do that. But this is a very high bar - if I was forced to defend verbally all of my voting choices - and in language according to Forum norms, no less (not "I think the post is dumb, what do you want from me") - I would almost never vote. If people wanted to explain why they disagreed or disliked the post, they probably would have already commented!
It's also asymmetric - I've never seen someone say "I don't understand why this is getting upvoted". So asking people to explain downvotes/disagreevotes might lead to a dynamic where there's a mild disincentive to downvote/disagree and no comparable disincentive to upvote/agree, which means that controversial posts would appear to have more artificially more upvotes/agree-votes than they 'deserve'.
It's interesting that you say that anti-eugenicists are engaging in a motte and bailey argument, looking to tar less oppressive eugenicist practices with the brush of Nazi oppression. As I was reading through this, I worry that the attempted reclamation of the word 'eugenics' - as well as making "eugenicists" unpopular - might contribute to a motte and bailey in the other direction, where the motte is "surely you think it's reasonable to prevent siblings from having kids" and the bailey is more oppressive or coercie forms of reproductive control.
Like, you start the essay with an example of "eugenics" that most people would agree was reasonable -a German court's attempt to break up a couple of biological siblings. And then later, you talk about Nazi atrocities like murder and sterilization, which I agree that few modern eugenicists advocate for. But between those, you talk about people with mental illness: how bipolar, schizophrenia and substance abuse tendencies are genetic and often passed down to kids. You point out that people with these conditions often get together with others with the same condition, making their kids extra likely to have the disorder.
This perturbs me: is this, for you, in the reasonable 'siblings' camp or the unreasonable 'Nazi atrocities' camp? I can think of very mild interventions and very repressive ones, and I don't think you say what you'd actually recommend here. In general, I love and admire people with mental disorders like this (including bipolar and substance abuse), and I think that reproductive rights are extremely important. I would feel sad if a bipolar friend, e.g., was strongly discouraged or even forcibly prevented from having children due to their condition, or if they were encouraged to seek out non-bipolar partners. I'd be against even mild "eugenicist" interventions aimed at making mentally ill people have fewer children.
I think most EAs are either positive or neutral about existence per se, and I think most people who are alive are happy to be, even if they struggle with difficult or painful mental and physical health conditions.
This is such a good comment, thank you! I've also been mulling over the shame/inappropriateness connection. Another, complementary frame is something like, if you have strong psychological parts that shame you, while at the same time other parts recognize that this shaming is toxic and overpowerful, those parts might well be like 'F*** you, I refuse to be shamed anymore!' which might lead to leaning hard in the opposite direction and doing things that healthy shame/embarrassment might have warned you not to do.
I disagree a lot with the empirical claims here (as a former Classics student I have some news for you about how "strictly monogamous" ancient Greece and Rome were, for example), but I think that's not even the crux for me - the crux is that we don't have a moral responsibility to choose who to date or not date based on the vague effects on social norms. To put it in more EA-ish terms, even assuming your claims are right, the marginal effect on my society's creativity, productivity... etc that is caused by me being poly, is surely extremely negligible, whereas the cost to me of not being poly is very big (particularly since I already have two partners). So the main reason I disagree with posts like this is that they just make unreasonable demands of people.
This all seems right!
Re differentiating social from professional spaces, do you think (unofficial, non-CEA-sponsored) dating events around the time of EAGs is a step in the right or the wrong direction?
Arguments that it's unhelpful: it sets an expectation that you can/should be viewing the conference and adjacent socials as a way to find partners, which isn't true of the conference proper; you may encounter people you've had professional 1-on-1s with at the dating event which may make things blurry/awkward.
Arguments that it's helpful: it quarantines all the flirty energy in one place so people feel "less of a need" to hit on each other at the conferences and general afterparties; by making that space be explicitly social, it helps the conference itself be more implicitly professional?
Yeah, that would be interesting. I'm not sure there inherently has to be a tradeoff between 'being able to date EAs' and 'having access to work networks free of professional advances.' Granted the situation you mentioned is inappropriate. But there are lots of different fields in EA, and lots of people who are at similar power levels. If a young AI safety researcher and a young animal-welfare person meet at their university group and start dating, that's 'dating within EA' but it isn't, in my opinion, at all inappropriate, and the risks are pretty low.
I guess I'm sceptical that there is really "soft norm" pressure to date one's co-workers (except inasmuch as there is less of a norm not to date one's co-workers, but that's different). Like, do people really think (implicitly or explicitly) "I'll do better at work if I date this person, so I'm going to date them (whether or not I like them)"? This seems very weird to me. I'd find it really hard to date someone for a long time if I wasn't actually into them.
So first, I do in fact want EA culture to lean substantially more towards personal autonomy than Western culture does - I like autonomy a lot!
I think some regulation is inevitable as people interact. For example, if I go around calling everyone names and never showering, people might be like "Amber is smelly and rude, so I'm not going to invite her to my parties". And then, if I noticed people never invited me to parties, I might be like 'huh! maybe I should shower, and be less rude'. So in a way, people there are 'controlling' and 'regulating' my behaviour, but that doesn't seem overly coercive.
What I object to is if one person thinks I'm smelly and rude and is like "no-one else should invite Amber to parties". This seems to me to be illegitimately hijacking the norm-creation process. Like ideally norms should arise out of the majority preferences of the group; it's bad if a minority decide This Is How It's Going To Be and the rest have to conform.
Out of interest, which norms are off-putting to you? And which ones might be off-putting to monogamous mid/late career professionals?
I guess I'm in favour of a meta-norm of openness/permissiveness, meaning that a diverse range of people all feel comfortable in the community.
I think this is a reasonable concern (as someone who would avoid moving into a big group house like the plague :p). I'd be in favour of more blinding when people make hiring decisions. Hiring agencies, as well as saving people time here, might also make the process fairer, since they can be more objective and will be less tempted to hire friends.
As an empirical matter, do you think people in EA do disproportionately hire friends, or does the causation go the other way? (e.g., people move into group houses with friendly colleagues).
(replying to both skyblue20 and Jamie)
I do think that professional/social overlap is less of a problem when the power structure is flatter. I agree that informal power structures can arise, but I don't think formal power structures help with this (by making it more explicit), because often the formal structure is a different thing to the informal structure. E.g., you can imagine a person who has various managers and superiors at work, but also feels less powerful or lower-status relative to colleagues who are nominally on the same level, or friends that they don't work with, because (e.g.) they've been in the community longer, or they're twitter-famous, or they're just more socially dominant, or whatever reason. So I do think getting rid of formal power structures would mitigate the problems, because it would get rid of one avenue for abuse and complication (even though informal power structures would mean that there still was some potential for abuse).
As for whether it could work in EA - I'm not sure, but I think other movements and organizations have experimented with flatter power structures. I think the EA community might be a good place to experiment with this, both because EAs are generally open to experimentation/doing things a bit differently, and because I don't think the average EA has a strong will to power for power's sake (like there's limited macho posturing, for example).
This is a fair point. I think there are maybe two different meanings of norms at play that might be useful to disambiguate:
(1) what's normal in a community, in the sense of 'what most people do'
(2) what's expected, approved of, recommended in the community
(1) can bleed into (2), because if you are the odd one out, you might feel like an outsider, even if no-one is actively expressing disapproval of what you're doing. Vegans in an majority-omnivore space, or omnivores in a majority-vegan space, might feel kind of awkward, even if no-one criticizes or remarks on their dietary choices. Similarly, I've heard some people say they felt ambient social pressure to be poly in the Bay Area just because loads of other people were, or because people assumed it of them, etc.
I think what I'm against is not norms existing, but people trying to intervene in the norms 'top down', as it were, by talking about what the norms should be. I think the correct way to contribute to community norms is just by "being the change you want to see". So if any individual EA wants the community norms to be less overlap-y and/or less polyamorous, what they should do is not date multiple people, and not date other EAs. But it's not legitimate for them to tell other people what to do.
Yeah, this seems very reasonable. I'd be in favour of less centralization and more transparency. It does seem like there are issues where grantmakers have to decide about whether to give a grant to present or former partners or metamours, or close friends. Maybe there could be a system where people's grant proposals must always be assessed by someone who doesn't live in the same hub as them (if they live in a hub).
I think it is possible that things that make the community happy will end up being net negative for the world. But I do think that creating a happy, thriving social community, that people feel comfortable in, is going to be really important for the longterm success of this movement (as you acknowledge). And there's a kind of tricky thing where... like, if I felt like 'oh, the movement tolerates you having polyamorous relationships now, but if we decided one day that this had net negative consequences, we'd shun you' - then I'd feel way less good in the social community now, because my acceptance wouldnt feel secure. I think people need to feel safe and like their acceptance is "unconditional", rather than feeling like if their presence is no longer deemed to be net positive for the world, they'll be rejected from their social network [cf "I didn't get into EAG and am sad" discourse] .
I put "unconditional" in inverted commas because obviously some conditions are always present and appropriate - if I went on a murdering spree (or committed a billion-dollar fraud :p) it would be reasonable for the community to shun me. But I think this bar should be pretty high, because the costs are bigger than the obvious costs to the people being shunned.
I do agree that it's reasonable/inevitable that sometimes roles conflict with who you want to date. But in all your examples, I wouldn't necessarily frame this as 'telling someone who they couldn't date' (more like saying 'you can't date x while one or both if you is in y circumstance'). Like, if I ran an organization and a manager came to me and said 'uh, my report and I have kind of fallen for each other, and we want to date', I wouldn't be like 'well you can't date them', I'd be like 'congratulations! But yeah, you probably shouldn't manage them anymore - I'll find them another manager'. When potential romantic relationships arise in workplace settings where there's a power dynamic, I think the best move is to let the relationship play out and move around the working relationships so there's no longer a power dynamic between the two. The reason I think this is that romantic relationships are very precious for people, and not that easy to find, whereas manager/report relationships (or professor/student or whatever) are generally less meaningful and require less compatibility, so it makes sense to prioritize the romantic relationship over the professional one.
Similarly, if a monogamous person says 'I won't date you if you date other people', that seems like them (reasonably) expressing a condition on who they will date - similar to if they said 'I won't date you if you eat meat/are a social conservative/are a smoker/want kids'. This feels different to external people trying to stop me from dating another person who wants to date me.
Maybe a lot of this is semantic, but the substantive thing might be 'in cases where there are clashing social and work relationships, I'd be in favour of prioritizing the social one over the work one, and in workplaces accommodating social relationships that arise within in them, rather than trying to prevent them from happening' - similarly to how good workplaces should accommodate people having kids (by e.g. offering parental leave), rather than telling them to just quit if they want a kid.
I like thrift/charity shops, and I like people using their own unique skills and talents to do good, so I love this project! Good luck with it.
I like thrift/charity shops, and I like people using their own unique skills and talents to do good, so I love this project! Good luck with it.
Like others commenting, I'm not convinced that the anecdotes here point to blacklists. I will say, if organizations do have blacklists and put people on them for reasons like "they gave a talk I didn't like", that's very bad, and I'm against it.
I do think adjectives like "weak epistemics", "not truth-seeking", and "not rational" are often completely contentless and are basically power moves. I basically think there are few contexts when it makes sense to apply these to other people in the community, and if you think there's something flawed with the way that a person thinks, you should state it more precisely (e.g. "this person seems to make hyperbolic and false claims a lot", or "they gave a talk and it seemed to be based on vague vibes rather than evidence", or "they value other things much more highly than utility and I value utility extremely highly, so we don't agree".
I appreciate Michelle for making this thread :) it made me feel warm and fuzzy. Michelle, I also really appreciate your life advice posts, especially your recent ones on 'personal policies' and on parenting.
I just had the exact same question, so thanks Aaron for asking this, and Derek for giving this answer :)
This is repeating some of what's already been said, but I worry that this is targeting the wrong thing.
I do believe that lots of the abusers or boundary-pushers in EA probably justified their behaviour by just saying they were 'weird' or 'high-openness' or 'high decoupling' or whatever. But I think behaving like this involves not just weirdness, but also other traits - at the less serious end, lack of social skills and empathy (and just good-old fashioned lack of feminist consciousness), and at the more serious end, manipulativeness and being an asshole. Like, I'm weird but I know that you probably shouldn't invite your coworkers to sex parties, because I've managed to absorb the general world knowledge that 'lots of people are weird about sex and consider it private and stuff so you probably should be a bit circumspect about the contexts and ways in which you mention it'.
I'm sorry to have misinterpreted you. I guess I'm confused by what your broad point is now - where do we disagree? I think I don't understand why you disagree with my comment that 'Polyamory is a morally neutral relationship structure that's practiced happily by lots of people. It doesn't make you an abuser, or not-an-abuser.'
[this is partly also responding to your response to Kelsey below]
I think I view this differently because I prize personal freedom (for everyone) really highly, and I also think that the damage of community disapproval/the norms being 'against' you is pretty high, so I would be hesitant to argue strongly against any consensual and in-principle-not-harmful relationship style, even if there was evidence that it led to worse outcomes. In that situation, I'd try to mitigate the bad outcomes rather than discouraging the style.
To get a sense of why poly people are upset about this, imagine if someone was like 'there are better outcomes if people are celibate - you save so much time and emotional energy that can be spent on research! So you should break up with your partner'. You'd probably have a strong 'uh, no, wtf, I'm not doing that' reaction. And maybe you'd say 'oh I would never say anyone would break up with their partners', but depriving someone of future potential positive relationships is also bad, and... like... maybe I'm just neurotic or not assertive enough or something, but if someone says 'X is bad', and I do X, I am inclined to take that seriously.
I also think advocating against polyamory wouldn't be very effective at curbing abuses that stem from abusers being exposed to less risk, because I think if you're brazen and sociopathic enough to do some of the things described in the article, and also high status, you're not really going to care about whether your relationship style is vaguely discouraged. Like, stuff like grooming and hitting on young people you have power over and assault is already more-than-vaguely discouraged, and that didn't help!
What's the mechanism whereby it leads to greater gender equality?
It literally is intolerant. Like if you are saying "we shouldn't tolerate this in the community", that just is intolerant.
This feels complicated to say, because it's going to make me seem like I don't care about abuse and harassment described in the article. I do. It's really bad and I wish it hadn't happened, and I'm particularly sad that it's happened within my community, and (more) that people in my community seemed often to not support the victims.
But I honestly feel very upset about the anti-polyamory vibe of all this. Polyamory is a morally neutral relationship structure that's practiced happily by lots of people. It doesn't make you an abuser, or not-an-abuser. It's not accepted in the wider community, so I value its acceptance in EA. I'd be sad if there was a community backlash against it because of stuff like this, because that would hurt a lot of people and I don't think it would solve the problem.
I think the anti-poly vibe also makes it kind of...harder to work out what's happening, and what exactly is bad, or something? Like, the article describes lots of stuff that's unambiguously bad, like grooming and assault. But it says stuff like 'Another told TIME a much older EA recruited her to join his polyamorous relationship while she was still in college'. Like, what does it mean to 'recruit someone to join your polyamorous relationship'? You mean he asked her out, when he was much older and she was in college, and he happened to be poly? Yet it's sandwiched between descriptions of two unambiguously awful incidents of sexual harassment and grooming.
There was also a quote from someone who complained about her poly partner being a fuckboy. Which like... maybe this guy was not a good partner, but that's kind of unrelated to whether he had multiple partners. And 'this guy I dated was kind of a fuckboy and I wasn't happy in the relationship' isn't in the same ballpark as abuse and harassment!
The inclusion of less-bad things doesn't negate the broad point of the article, but if we want to actually tackle sexual harassment, it helps to know what exactly the problem is, rather than gesturing at 'these people have Unconventional Ways and that's Suspicious'.
I don't see why priors should make us suspect non-monogamous relationships would lead to more abuse than monogamous ones.
I really relate to the 'what would it even look like?' thing.
I also think that coming up with examples and stories like this isn't just important for motivating people - it's also important for epistemics. If you stay too long at the abstract level, I think you can miss things - often flaws or confusions will arise when you try to actually give a very concrete story about what might or will happen.
I think this is a false choice, because I don't think the top karma posts are usually mediocre. I think high karma is a good proxy for high quality, but low karma isn't a good proxy for poor quality, because some low karma posts are (as OP said) good, but too technical or niche for general readership, or perhaps just not many people have seen it. In other words, I think there are lots of false negatives with karma but few false positives (is that metaphor at all clarifying, lol).
I do think it's a shame if good non-community-drama posts never even get seen; on going onto the Forum, I'd love to see a front page featuring articles on a range of topics.
Thanks for this!
My take on this is: maybe this is fine actually, because, for precisely the reasons you said, high karma is a sign of high accessibility and high popularity...which is useful for users! If I see that a post has high karma, that's a reliable signal to me that it's both interesting and accessible to the general reader (i.e., to me). If all the highest-rated posts were highly-technical, long treatises on niche topics, even if they were very good quality, then high-karma wouldn't be such a good signal that I would get something out of reading it, if that makes sense? So karma would then be a less good tool at nudging people to read stuff that they might actually enjoy/get something out of.
I do take your point that there can be a snowball effect where high-quality but high-effort-to-read posts can just get completely pushed off the frontpage before anyone has even seen them, while middling community posts just hang around forever, accumulating more karma. That is a problem.
I guess a question underlying all of this is 'what is karma for?' An implication of this post seems to be that karma should reflect quality, or how serious people think the issues are, all things considered. But I think that's too big a responsibility to place on upvotes and downvotes. I don't think the Forum norms say that you should use them this way (they say you can upvote if 'you want others to see it' and 'generally like it', not only if you think it's objectively really important), and even if they did, I don't think it's reasonable to expect that people really would use them that way, because people don't have that much brainspace to devote to "is this post really impactful/serious?" And the majority of EA Forum readers are never going to be qualified to say whether a niche post is high-quality or not, because they don't have the expertise (they can say if they found it interesting, but things can be interesting, accessible, and also wrong).
Your points B and C are so right, btw! As a native English speaker, I can't speak any second language nearly as well as most non-native English speaking EAs. I'm super impressed with all of you, and far from thinking you're stupid or slow, interacting with you makes me feel stupid because I couldn't discuss highly technical things in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Mandarin...
This is a great project, thanks for doing this! I think the results will be really informative.
Some musings on apologies in general:
I feel like I’ve read quite a few comments which imply that, *because* Bostrom proactively brought up this email in order to apologise for it, we shouldn’t be criticising him or being so harsh on him.
Setting aside the questions of whether the apology was sufficient, or whether he really brought it up proactively or because he feared exposure anyway, or whether the apology did or did not “double down” on the original wrongdoing…
…I think it’s wrong to say that ‘if Bostrom brought this up purely out of remorse, and apologised perfectly, he should lose no points.’
I think some of the commenters have an implicit model of apologies which is like ‘doing a Bad Thing means you lose some points; apologising correctly for the Bad Thing means you get the points back’. This is not how apologies work, and nor should it be. If this was how apologies worked, then there would be no social disincentive for doing bad things, provided you learned how to make proper apologies.
My model of how apologies work is more like ‘doing a Bad Thing means you lose some points; apologising correctly means that you lose fewer points (but you still lose some). Apologising also paves the way towards you eventually regaining your lost points with your community (rather than them, for example, distancing themselves from you), because they can *trust* you not to do it again’.
Unfortunately, often people make apologies *because* people are upset with them for the Bad Thing and they want people to stop being upset with them. This is understandable, but it makes it difficult to introspect and produce a *sincere* apology (or, conversely, to decide *not* to apologise because you actually don’t think the thing was bad) - because you’re too focussed on the goal of ‘stop people from being mad at me’. And people can kind of sense that desperation, and you *seem* less sincere. So I guess my advice to an apologiser would be something like ‘set aside the goal of “making people less mad at you” or “regaining your lost points immediately” - they’ll be mad at you either way, and your points are lost. Instead, set yourself the goal of “convincing them to trust you going forward, so you can regain the points over time.”’