I think that relevant context for backlash against Davis Kingsley's anti-polyamory views is that he is an orthodox Catholic. His anti-polyamory views are part of a set of fairly extreme views about sexuality, including being opposed to homosexuality, masturbation, contraception, premarital sex, and any sexual intercourse other than PIV. He has also expressed the viewpoint that polyamory should be socially stigmatized and people should be pressured into monogamy. I believe that much, perhaps most, of the backlash he has faced is due to the overall set of his beliefs and that it was disingenuous for him not to include this context.
Obviously, I am opposed to sexual harassment and to pressuring people towards any relationship style.
[Note: comment edited to use Davis's preferred terminology for his style of Catholicism. The first sentence originally said "traditional". I'm sorry for using terms for his beliefs that he doesn't identify with.]
The Economist article discusses the practice of widespread polygyny: that is, men who have multiple wives and whose wives are only married to them. As a matter of mathematics, polygyny (without polyandry) means that many men will stay unmarried, which makes them less connected to society and more likely to behave violently. That argument seems true to me.
However, the argument hardly seems applicable to the egalitarian polyamory almost always practiced by effective altruists. Poly female effective altruists can and do date multiple people. Further, many poly effective altruists are in same-gender relationships. If anything, polyamory as practiced by most effective altruists seems to reduce relationship inequality. People who have trouble finding a primary relationship can find a secondary relationship and receive many of the benefits of a romantic relationship. (Although not all, of course-- I don't mean to erase the very real loneliness that comes from having a hard time finding a primary partner, even if you have secondaries you love.)
Further, the article discusses polygyny in cultures where women are literally bought from their families by wealthy men. Both polygamy and monogamy are harmful relationship structures when women are sold by their fathers to strangers three times their age. That doesn't mean that either is harmful when freely chosen by an individual in a society with much better protections for human rights in general and women's rights specifically.
Don't worry, I'm robust to bad comments on the EA Forum. :) Fortunately, this doesn't seem to be a norm anywhere close to being adopted.
I don't understand why bad actors who are already willing to harass women wouldn't be willing to cheat on their wives. I also don't understand why we can't just stigmatize people hitting on their employees, if that is the thing we actually care about. Your proposed system has no advantages if the senior men are single or serially monogamous-- both very common.
Your language also strikes me as oddly and unnecessarily gendered. It isn't exactly better if a senior woman is hitting on a younger, vulnerable man! Effective altruists are much more LGBT+ than the general population, and poly effective altruists even more so; it seems to me to be a very incomplete analysis to assume that everyone is heterosexual.
I have been harassed by many monogamous men but if I posted on the LW forum saying "I was harassed by many monogamous men" I would expect a lot of pushback from people who-- very sensibly-- would think I was trying to stigmatize monogamy.
There are places for unendorsed venting. Those places are not the Less Wrong forum.
ETA: I'm guessing from comments of yours I read elsewhere that you didn't mean to come off as anti-poly as you did to me and Amber, and I'm sorry if my comment came off hostile. I know I've definitely written things that came off in ways I didn't intend. :)
As a queer person, it definitely makes me feel unwelcome to hear people suggest that the social movement I'm part of gets to have an opinion on my consensual relationship choices.
An interesting counterexample to some of your points is the Disney Renaissance, generally considered to be the golden age of Disney animation, which started fifty years after Disney began animating films. AIUI, the conventional wisdom is that there happened to be a confluence of incredible talents: in particular, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were an incredible songwriting duo. The Renaissance was also when the iconic Disney princess line was invented. Before the Renaissance, Disney happened to have made films about princesses, but it wasn't a distinct category, any more than films about talking animals were considered a distinct category. The anecdote I've heard is that a producer noticed that girls were wearing handmade Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella dresses, and decided to appeal to the obvious market here!
I for one would be very interested in it if you decided to look into why the Disney Renaissance was so good so long after Disney began animating films.
Just a point on inclusiveness: throughout this post, you implicitly assume that the average effective altruist is a heterosexual man-- the sort of person who would find a girlfriend at EA Global, has Will MacAskill as his competition, and who might tell cute girls about the drowning child thought experiment. That kind of thing tends to be really alienating to women and LGBT+ people reading! It's the same way you would feel kind of alienated if you read a post assuming that you are a woman and you'd be getting a boyfriend at EA Global. One easy way you can make posts like this more inclusive is by gender-swapping things: for example, you might keep your drowning child example, but say "social skills to find a boyfriend at EA Global." (Will MacAskill should probably be kept as it is, because for better or for worse calling prominent men dreamy is much less socially laden than calling prominent women dreamy.)
Thank you! You're right. That's absolutely a flaw. In the future, when I write things like this, I'll try to be more careful about highlighting that both I and my conservative friends are American and I can't speak to other countries.
Hiring someone to watch my kid instead of trying to work during naps and in the evenings.
Getting pregnant may cause insomnia both while you're pregnant and postpartum (even if someone else is taking care of the baby or you've sleep-trained the baby).
At all times, I have a set of topics to think about during downtime, such as showers and walks. (I try to include several different topics, including at least one piece of fiction I'm writing.) If I can't sleep, I lie still in bed and think about one of my topics. I find I get a lot of creative insight, I avoid anxious ruminating, and I often drift off back to sleep.
Don't drink caffeine late in the afternoon, and if you use stims or other insomnia-causing medication try to take them as early as possible.
I do not intend Near-Term EAs to be participants' only space to talk about effective altruism. People can still participate on the EA forum, the EA Facebook group, local EA groups, Less Wrong, etc. There is not actually any shortage of places where near-term EAs can talk with far-future EAs.
Near-Term EAs has been in open beta for a week or two while I ironed out the kinks. So far, I have not found any issues with people being unusually closed-minded or intolerant of far-future EAs. In fact, we have several participants who identify as cause-agnostic and at least one who works for a far-future organization.
The EA community climate survey linked in the EA survey has some methodological problems. When academics study sexual harassment and assault, it's generally agreed upon that one should describe specific acts (e.g. "has anyone ever made you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex against your will using force or a threat of force?") rather than vague terms like harassment or assault. People typically disagree on what harassment and assault mean, and many people choose not to conceptualize their experiences as harassment or assault. (This is particularly true for men, since many people believe that men by definition can't be victims of sexual harassment or assault.) Similarly, few people will admit to perpetrating harassment or assault, but more people will admit to (for example) touching someone on the breasts, buttocks, or genitals against their will.
I'd also suggest using a content warning before asking people about potentially traumatic experiences.
If we're ignoring getting the numbers right and instead focusing on the emotional impact, we have no claim to the term "effective". This sort of reasoning is why epistemics around dogooding are so bad in the first place.
I'd be interested in an elaboration on why you reject expected value calculations.
My personal feeling is that expected-value calculations with very small probabilities are unlikely to be helpful, because my calibration for these probabilities is very poor: a one in ten million chance feels identical to a one in ten billion chance for me, even though their expected-value implications are very different. But I expect to be better-calibrated on the difference between a one in ten chance and a one in a hundred chance, particularly if-- as is true much of the time in career choice-- I can look at data on the average person's chance of success in a particular career. So I think that high-risk high-reward careers are quite different from Pascal's muggings.
Can you explain why (and whether) you disagree?
IIRC, Open Phil often wants to not be a charity's only funder, which means they leave the charity with a funding gap that could maybe be filled by the EA Fund.
Well, yes, anyone can come up with all sorts of policy ideas. If a person has policy expertise in a particular field, it allows them to sort out good policies from bad ones, because they are more aware of possible negative side effects and unintended consequences than an uninformed person is. I don't think the fact that a person endorses a particular policy means that they haven't thought about other policies.
Is your claim that Chloe Cockburn has failed to consider policy ideas associated with the right-wing, and thus has not done her due diligence to know that what she recommends is actually the best course? If so, what is your evidence for this claim?
I don't think it would be wise to try and specify and defend that abstract claim in the same post as talking about a specific situation. I take it as given, at least here. Perhaps I will do a followup, but I think it would be hard to do the topic justice in, say, 5-10 hours which is what I realistically have.
I am confused. If you took it as given, why bother talking about whether Alliance for Safety and Justice and Cosecha are good charities? It surely doesn't matter if someone is good at doing something that you think they shouldn't be doing in the first place. Perhaps you intended to say that you mean to discuss the object-level issue of whether these charities are good and leave aside the meta-level issue of whether EA should be involved in politics, in which case I am puzzled about why you brought up the meta-level issue in your post.
Animal welfare activism is controversial, but it hasn't been subsumed into the culture war in the way immigration, race and social justice have. Some parts of animal welfare activism, such as veganism are left-associated, but other parts like wild animal suffering and synthetic meat most certainly are not. So in my mind, animal welfare activism is suitable for EA involvement.
I disagree that animal welfare activism hasn't been subsumed into the culture war. For instance, veganism is a much more central trait of the prototypical hippie than immigration opinions are. PETA is significantly more controversial than any equally prominent immigration charity.
I think that wild-animal suffering and synthetic meat are mostly not part of the culture war because they are obscure. I expect that they would become culture-war issues as soon as they become more prominent. Do you disagree? Or do you think that the appropriate role of EA is to elevate issues into culture-war prominence and then step aside? Or something else?
AI-risk as offputting is becoming less true over time, but EA should not be aiming to appeal to everyone. Rather I think that EA should be aiming to not take sides in tribal wars.
Do you mean that EA shouldn't take sides in e.g. deworming, because that's a tribal war between economists and epidemiologists? Or do you mean that they shouldn't take sides in issues associated with the American left and right, even if they sincerely believe that one of those issues is the best way to improve the world? Or something else?
I am perhaps confused about what your claim is. Do you mean to say "Chloe Cockburn does not have expertise except in the facts of the law and being a left-wing anti-Trump activist"? Or "Chloe Cockburn has a good deal of expertise in fields relevant to the best possible way to reduce mass incarceration, but her opinion is sadly biased because she has liberal political opinions"?
Regarding her Twitter, I think Chloe Cockburn might have an informed opinion that reducing deportations of undocumented immigrants would reduce incarceration (through reducing the number of people in ICE detention) while maintaining public safety. That would cause her both to recommend Cosecha and to advocate on her Twitter feed for reducing deportations. Indeed, it is very common for people to do awareness-raising on Twitter for causes they believe are highly effective: if your argument were taken to its endpoint, we ought not trust GiveWell because its employees sometimes talk about how great malaria nets and deworming are on social media.
Probably, like all people, Chloe Cockburn supports the causes she supports for both rational and irrational reasons. That is something to take into account when deciding how seriously to take her advice. But that is also a fully general counterargument against ever taking advice from anyone.
This post seems to me to move somewhat incoherently between:
- effective altruist charity suggestion lists should not endorse political charities.
- effective altruist charity suggestion lists should specifically not endorse anti-racist and pro-undocumented-immigrant charities.
- there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that Alliance for Safety and Justice and Cosecha in specific are effective.
I think dividing these three claims more clearly would make it easier for me to follow your argument.
It would also be more persuasive, for me, if you elaborated more on what your arguments actually were. For instance, on the issue of whether 80,000 Hours should endorse political charities, you mention that it might turn off "traditionalists/conservatives and those who are uninitiated to Social Justice ideology." Of course, an identical critique applies to animal welfare charities: many, many traditionalists/conservatives/non-social-justice-people are turned off by animal welfare activism. And xrisk charities tend to turn off, to a first approximation, everyone. You might, of course, believe that effective altruists should only work on global poverty issues. But it seems like an odd oversight to me to not either address animal welfare and xrisk charities (to which far more money is moved than to Cosecha) or explain why you believe animal welfare and xrisk charities are different.
Similarly, your argument against Alliance for Safety and Justice appears to mostly be that they specialize in helping people of color. To me, this does not seem like an obvious point against them; the question is whether specializing in helping people of color causes more benefit to the world than helping both white people and people of color equally. There is a prima facie case that the former does; after all, many people believe that dysfunctional policing in black and Latino communities leads to both increased crime and mass incarceration. But you seem to disagree, and I'm not sure why. You oppose selective release of black and Latino prisoners (which does not seem to be a policy ASJ is in favor of, although perhaps I'm wrong) and to believe an organization specializing in helping men would be a reducto ad absurdam. I don't, actually, see any problems with donating to an organization that primarily helps men if it seems to be the best way to reduce mass incarceration. Is your belief that it is morally wrong to ever specifically help one group because you believe they are worse off than other groups? (If so, how do you feel about GiveDirectly targeting worse-off people with their cash transfers and having considered the possibility of only transferring cash to women?)
I am uncertain why someone would choose to figure out what other people's area of expertise is from Twitter. Most people's Twitters contain their political opinions-- as you point out-- and do not contain their CV.
If you look at her LinkedIn, which seems to me to be a more appropriate source of information about her expertise, you'll discover that in addition to being the current program officer at OpenPhil specializing in criminal justice (which is presumably why she was asked), she was also a former advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU specializing in ending mass incarceration and a lawyer who specialized in holding police accountable for wrongful convictions. This seems to me like a person who does, in fact, have informed opinions about ending mass incarceration.
I've also found that sorbet hits the sweet + cold buttons and I tend to find it tastier than soy or rice milk ice cream.