A Different Take on President Trump 2016-12-07T21:57:54.151Z
Veg*n recidivism seems important, tractable, and neglected 2015-06-28T18:33:01.268Z


Comment by xccf on Getting money out of politics and into charity · 2020-11-05T23:40:07.087Z · EA · GW

I think the Center for Election Science, an EA organization that advocates approval voting, could be an effective anti-polarization organization.  There seems to be widespread dissatisfaction with the 2-party system, and I believe it's contributing significantly to polarization.

There's something rather delightful about money being matched from Republican and Democrat donors in order to fund an organization which aims to get rid of the 2-party system :)

Comment by xccf on Prabhat Soni's Shortform · 2020-10-24T05:24:00.089Z · EA · GW

The idea of fat-tailed distribution of impact of interventions might be a better alternative to this maybe?

That sounds harder to misinterpret, yeah.

Comment by xccf on Prabhat Soni's Shortform · 2020-10-21T04:38:58.089Z · EA · GW

That's a good point, it's not a connection I've heard people make before but it does make sense.

I'm a bit concerned that the message "you can do 80% of the good with only 20% of the donation" could be misinterpreted:

  • I associate the Pareto principle with saving time and money.  EA isn't really a movement about getting people to decrease the amount of time and money they spend on charity though, if anything probably the opposite.
  • To put it another way, the top opportunities identified by EA still have room for more funding.  So the mental motion I want to instill is not about shaving away your low-impact charitable efforts, it's more about doubling down on high-impact charitable efforts that are underfunded (or discovering new high-impact charitable efforts).
  • We wouldn't want to imply that the remaining 20% of the good is somehow less valuable--it is more costly to access, but in principle if all of the low-hanging altruistic fruit is picked, there's no reason not to move on to the higher-hanging fruit.  The message "concentrate your altruism on the 80% and don't bother with the 20%" could come across as callous.  I would rather make a positive statement that you can do a lot of good surprisingly cheaply than a negative statement that you shouldn't ever do good inefficiently.

Nevertheless I think the 80/20 principle could be a good intuition pump for the idea that results are often disproportionate with effort and I appreciate your brainstorming :)

Comment by xccf on When does it make sense to support/oppose political candidates on EA grounds? · 2020-10-20T20:27:11.207Z · EA · GW

Was  the "at least one EA" someone in a position of influence?

Not really.

most of his current work seems either opposed to or orthogonal to common EA positions.

I think you have to be careful here, because if someone's work is "opposed" to a common EA position, it's possible that they disagree on facts related to that position but they are still motivated by doing the most good.  It plays into the feedback loop I was talking about in the other comment.  If you disagree with someone a lot, and you don't think you will be able to change their mind, you might not want to invest the time in exploring that disagreement.

Comment by xccf on When does it make sense to support/oppose political candidates on EA grounds? · 2020-10-17T18:26:10.165Z · EA · GW

I think you should feel free to participate in politics as an individual, but I'm pretty uncomfortable with the EA movement developing an official ideology in an organic and ad-hoc way. It seems easy for a feedback loop to form where an ideology becomes associated with a particular group, and people who disagree with the ideology leave the group, and that strengthens the association. I know an online forum roughly as erudite as the EA forum where this happened in the opposite direction, and the majority of the participants (I believe) are voting for Trump (not because they like him but because they think the left is worse). (Notably, most users on this other forum are pseudonymous--I suspect this is a small thing which can make a big difference in the long run in terms of how a group's political beliefs evolve.)

I'm going to go ahead and try to explain the mindset of Trump supporters as I see it a little bit, not because I want anyone voting for him (please don't), but because I think it will be helpful for understanding considerations around getting involved in politics, and also because if you're going to try and change the votes of his supporters it helps to know what they're thinking.

Essentially I think the people who support Trump do so because their social media feed mostly shows examples of the media being dishonest, and the people who oppose Trump do so because their social media feed mostly shows examples of Trump being dishonest. I don't think it is unreasonable to be distrustful of the media. See Gell-Mann Amnesia, this overview of studies which show the dismal accuracy of newspapers, or this book which explains the dismal incentives of modern news publishers and why those incentives cause them to neglect the truth. Insofar as the media is inaccurate, I would expect them to favor Democrats--a 2014 survey found 4x as many journalists identify as Democrat than Republican. I would guess that the balance has worsened since 2014 due to the feedback loop I described above.

It does seem there have been cases where the press has been clearly unfair to Trump. Let's consider the "original" Trump scandal, the one where he supposedly said Mexicans were rapists.

When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity.
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Here is the video of Trump saying the second bit. Note how he points to the audience as he says "They're not sending you"--i.e. suggesting that people in his audience are "Mexico's best people". I have never seen any media outlet point this out--it seems like his statement has been consistently presented so as to make Trump seem as xenophobic as possible. (By the way, Trump later referenced this article about coyotes who rape migrants to support his rapist claim.)

As a voter, my time to fact check stories is limited. So once I see two or three stories which seem clearly unfair on a deeper investigation, it doesn't seem totally unreasonable to wonder if most stories are unfair. In other words, the "corrupt establishment which is out to wreck Trump by any means possible" hypothesis becomes a hypothesis that does an OK job of explaining the data I see.

This theory of why people support Trump also explains why particular events have hurt his popularity in my view:

  • Being a jerk to Joe Biden in the debate
  • Coronavirus
  • Trump's handling of BLM protests

I suspect the key issue is whether the event serves as a credible "out of band" signal of malfeasance on Trump's part--an event which requires relatively little trust in journalists to verify, and clearly indicates malfeasance even absent journalist editorializing.

You cite the fact that most EA survey respondents seem to oppose Trump. That's not a convincing argument in my view because of correlated errors. Young people in general oppose Trump and the EA movement skews young. Most EAs aren't analyzing political issues carefully and trying to come to conclusions from first principles; they're engaging in their spare time and reading what comes up in their feed. Reading people you disagree with is way less fun as a recreational activity, so people tend not to do it, and also it's easy to get pushed in a particular direction if friends will ostracize people for disagreement.

I'll go ahead and respond to a few more of your points individually:

In the context of United States politics, however, the extreme left has not been anywhere near as successful at capturing the Democratic Party as the far right has been at capturing its counterpart

That's not obvious to me:

The vast majority of current House Republicans have openly condemned QAnon, with all but 17 signing onto a recent House resolution calling it a “conspiracy theory.”

Have the vast majority of House Democrats condemned antifa?

as any actual leftist will be happy to complain to you about.

I understand that disappointment with Trump is a fairly common position on the far right.

You state that the left in the US "isn't even that extreme by international standards". However, a big part of what concerns me about the left is their rhetoric and their epistemology. If their objective was to prevent anyone from eating pineapple on pizza, and they considered any yellow or green plant topping to be "pineapple" (regularly referring to the Republicans as the fascist white nationalist party when Senate Republicans unanimously confirmed a Black man as Air Force chief of staff), and they were dropping guillotine memes on Twitter, staying just within the rules to hint about their plans for pineapple on pizza lovers, then I would consider that to be a problem even if I could do without pineapple on pizza. Additionally it's instructive to observe the trend--the left has gotten a lot more extreme in recent years, and it's possible that whatever force that caused this will continue to operate.

(Maybe this would be a good time to re-emphasize that I think Biden is the right person to vote for this year--in part because I notice that whatever process which caused the left to get more extreme seemed to operate faster during Trump's term. However, I acknowledge that my Trump-supporting friend (a brilliant engineer who keeps his views very close to his chest) has a point when he mentions that Trump has ordered a halt to (in his view) Orwellian anti-racism training in the federal government, and there's a chance Biden will reverse this order. This is a way in which your claim "To the extent there is problematic thinking and behavior on the left, I do not believe it is a problem that will be worsened by having Democrats in power" could be false.)

Anyway, hopefully some of that has given you a sense for why I think the current presidential election is a minefield in a way approval voting and ballot initiatives increasing aid for effective charities are not. In the modern political era, it's not enough to just mention a bunch of things you read in your feed. You want to do random in-depth fact checks, or provide incentives for normally reticent supporters of unpopular views to explain those views, or something.

Comment by xccf on When does it make sense to support/oppose political candidates on EA grounds? · 2020-10-17T04:23:42.186Z · EA · GW
What do you predict would happen to someone like that? Would you expect them to be fired if they held a position at an EA org? Barred from attending EA Global?  Shunned by people in their local group?

Peter Thiel spoke at the EA Summit in 2014 I think, what happened to him? I heard at least one EA say we should kick him out.

Comment by xccf on When does it make sense to support/oppose political candidates on EA grounds? · 2020-10-17T02:28:50.560Z · EA · GW

First, I want to say I'm glad you're voting for Joe and I hope you will tell all your Pennsylvanian friends to do the same. Nevertheless I think there are a few key considerations around EA getting involved in politics on a movement level that your comment misses.

I also want to note that I find it odd that post got downvoted (possibly for being explicitly partisan?) vs posts like this, which don't explicitly claim to be partisan / engaging in politics but I think are actually extremely political.

That post relates to a case where politics got itself involved in EA. The question we're discussing here is whether EA should get itself involved in politics. I do think it may be reasonable to treat these cases differently, because if we're not allowed to say anything when politics gets itself involved in EA, that leaves us vulnerable to being hijacked by external political actors. (As an absurd example, imagine it came out that the CEO if Givewell was a believer in QAnon and was directing Givewell donor funds in their direction. A commitment to being apolitical which prohibited any discussion of this seems rather self-defeating.)

I think one really useful and accurate idea from the social justice community is the idea that you can't be neutral on many political issues.

Not saying this is how you deployed it, but I often see others deploy this slogan in a way that seems very antithetical to EA.

What if I choose to focus my time and attention on issues I consider higher-impact? ("I'm soliciting donations to cure rare diseases in cute puppies. You can't be neutral on this issue!")

What if I spent some time researching the issue and I think the evidence around it is very mixed/low-quality, or the costs and benefits roughly balance out? Or I think the issue is too much of an epistemic minefield to know what evidence is reliable? ("The CIA did X, and then they did Y and Z to cover their tracks.")

What if my position is too complex / nuanced / unusual to be easily summarized as for or against? ("Not left, not right, forward.")

When someone says "you can't be neutral", it sounds to me like "please turn off your brain". Neutrality is the state I'm in when I'm trying to weigh evidence and evaluate arguments related to an issue. Telling me I can't be neutral is telling me to abrogate the thought process I use to come to a thoughtful and well-informed position.

This "you can't be neutral" mindset has the potential to destroy a lot of the value of the EA movement, in my opinion.

I think it is pretty likely that attempting to be "neutral" on political issues is close to being as bad as taking the political position that will lead to the worse outcome, or something along those lines.

I just want to quickly address this. What matters in Pennsylvania is the difference between Trump's total and Biden's total. Adding 1 to Trump's total and subtracting 1 from Biden's total have an equivalent magnitude of effect on the final result. Not voting is exactly halfway between voting for Trump and voting for Biden in terms of the effect it has. If people actually start thinking that "since I'm not voting for Biden, I might as well vote for Trump", Trump will be very happy.

I think similar logic applies to other political acts. It often seems true that the result is based roughly on summing up the actions of various involved partisans. Generally speaking, I think people who tell you "neutrality is just as bad" are trying to browbeat you into taking their position, and their statement is not descriptively accurate.

(I might as well add that I suspect the "with us or against us" sentiment on the left contributes to Trump's popularity. For all its faults, Trump's movement is more ideologically inclusive, in my view.)

Comment by xccf on Getting money out of politics and into charity · 2020-10-07T08:27:21.776Z · EA · GW

This sounds like a very promising initiative. However, you're asking for advice, so I'll try and identify potential problems.

The platform would collect money from donors to both campaigns; let’s say for example that Harris donors give us $10 million and Pence donors give us $8 million. We would send matching amounts ($8 million on each side) to charity and donate the remaining amount to the political campaign that raised more ($2 million to Harris).

When I pretend I'm a Republican evaluating this proposal, I think: "If the campaign goes forwards as normal, about 44% of the ads will be for Pence and 56% for Harris. That's not great, but it is alright--our message for America will shine through. On the other hand, if we implement donation matching, 100% of the ads will be for Harris. That sounds apocalyptic. It might even start cutting into our base because people will start to think that no one agrees with them."

You could address this by asking Democrats to match $1.25 for every $1 of Republican ad spend, so extreme donation matching means $0 spending on ads, but Democrats might find this to be unfair.

Extreme donation matching is a rather unlikely scenario of course, so it might be better to pitch something more realistic such as "Harris gets $9 million, Pence gets $7 million, $2 million goes to charity". Actually I think maybe that is in fact what you're talking about? Still, there might be room to improve the framing.

Another thought: I would guess that political ads fall into two basic categories:

  • Get out the vote ads
  • Reaching out to swing voter ads

The first kind of ad probably increases political polarization. However, the second kind could reduce polarization--it seems like so much political discourse these days amounts to playing telephone on what a candidate originally said or did, and I wonder if there is some value in people hearing from candidates directly to know what they really endorse. Additionally, swing voter ads inculcate in party bosses the habit of trying to understand the preferences of people who might not fit squarely within their base, and figure out how they might appeal to those preferences.

My guess is many people who would participate in such a donation matching scheme think polarization sucks. I wonder how they would feel about the matching funds to go towards some kind of anti-polarization organization.

Comment by xccf on Getting money out of politics and into charity · 2020-10-07T08:08:53.215Z · EA · GW

Maybe have staff members who are respected members of both parties?

Or set up individual wealthy donors who are planning to donate roughly the same amount with one another and have them place money in escrow?

Comment by xccf on Should we think more about EA dating? · 2020-07-26T16:59:09.618Z · EA · GW

Some more considerations:

  • If you have a bad experience dating EAs, that might cause you to sour on the EA movement. (Personally, after getting rejected by some EAs, part of my brain pointed out "hey you're putting a lot of effort into this EA thing and it doesn't seem to be helping where survival or reproduction are concerned." Since this isn't something I want my brain to think, I no longer ask EAs out.)
  • There's also the possibility of general awkwardness that could interfere with professional relationships.
  • For heterosexual dating, replaceability comes into play--assuming 2 men for every woman, and monogamy, if a guy gets an EA girlfriend, there's likely some other guy in the EA movement who isn't getting an EA girlfriend. So if you're a guy, you might want to think hard about whether an EA girlfriend is really something you need.
Comment by xccf on Are there lists of causes (that seemed promising but are) known to be ineffective? · 2020-07-10T03:14:26.342Z · EA · GW

One problem with making a list like this: People already get mad at EA for saying that their favorite trendy cause is ineffective. I'm somewhat sympathetic to this: Even if I don't think [super trendy cause] is the most important cause, I'm usually glad people are working on it, and I don't want to discourage them (if the likely result of me discouraging them is that they switch to playing video games or something). It's also bad from a public relations point of view for EA to be seen as existing in opposition to trendy causes.

Therefore, if anyone makes a list like this, I suggest you stick to obscure causes.

Comment by xccf on EA considerations regarding increasing political polarization · 2020-06-22T11:38:47.418Z · EA · GW

EDIT: I want to highlight this take by someone who's much more knowledgable than I am; you should probably read it before reading my comment.

First, the immediate stakes are far lower - in the Cultural Revolution, "counter-revolutionary revisionists" were sent cross-country to re-education camps, tortured, killed, even eaten. As far as I am aware, none of these things have happened recently in America to public figures (or made-public-by-Twitter figures) as a result of the sort of backlash you discuss.

This hasn't happened yet, and probably won't happen any time soon, but it's conceivable to me that it might happen eventually if things get much worse. What if we saw a resurgence in targeted killings in a world where police have been abolished/shamed into inaction and discussing the killings in the media is seen as blowing a dog whistle? (However, even in this world, one could move to a part of the US where the rate of private gun ownership is high... from what I've seen, rioting hasn't really been taking place in those areas.)

Third, at the moment, this cultural movement (whatever you want to call it) is not orchestrated top-down or directly backed by the formal structures of power (legislative, executive, and judicial branches of American government, and the military), in stark contrast to the Cultural Revolution.

The Cultural Revolution was not backed by the formal structures of power. The Red Guard organizations precipitating the revolution were frequently in opposition to established party structures (and each other). Here are some quotes from Mao: A Very Short Introduction:

All groups justified their policies and actions with reference to Mao’s works. When Mao gave a clear order they tried to obey it. Much of the time, however, Mao was careful to hide his hand. His comments were Delphic in their ambiguity leaving Red Guard organizations considerable room to act on their own initiative. Communist leaders vying for power or survival whether at local or national level tried to manipulate Red Guard groups, sometimes through their own children. Like gang members anywhere, Red Guard organizations developed their own rivalries and antagonisms, albeit with ideological rationalizations. In some cases, they imprisoned, tortured, and even murdered each other with disturbing brutality.”
When [Party leaders] were dragged before struggle meetings, Mao left the masses to do as they saw fit. He did not order their ill treatment but neither did he intervene to prevent it.
...At this point, however, Mao drew back from the abyss, condemning the commune and the free elections it had announced...

Finally in the summer of 1968, faced with near civil war in various provinces, Mao decided to call a halt. Work teams were sent onto the campuses to restore order but were sometimes viciously attacked. Mao called a meeting of Red Guard leaders in the capital. Confronting their complaint that a ‘Black Hand’ was attempting to suppress the campus revolution, he announced that he himself was that Black Hand.

Lack of top-down authority could be a bad thing. With the current situation, since there is no cult of personality, there is no one with the authority to be a 'Black Hand' if things get truly crazy. Memetic evolution seems to be the primary master.

On the other hand, there is the point that police, military, and privately-owned guns in the US all appear to not be very inclined to revolution, at least for the time being.

Comment by xccf on EA considerations regarding increasing political polarization · 2020-06-22T10:55:49.312Z · EA · GW
Secondly, effective altruists are disproportionately employed at companies like Google and Facebook. The policies of social media giants can influence discourse norms on the Web and therefore society as a whole. While EAs working at tech giants may not have enough power within the organizational hierarchy to make a meaningful difference, it’s something worth considering. Another way in this vein that EAs could make a difference is by creating or popularizing discussion platforms that promote rational argumentation and mutual understanding instead of divisiveness (related post).

I want to highlight reddit as a social network which could be especially valuable to get a job at. It seems to have a combination of

  • a very large userbase (bigger than Twitter according to this article)
  • a relatively small employee headcount (so larger per-capita employee influence)
  • a subreddit structure which could allow for experimentation with depolarization interventions--allow moderators to customize their subreddits in a programmable way, let many experiments bloom, see which experiments are associated with depolarization/improved discussion quality (I have experiment ideas if people are interested)
Comment by xccf on EA considerations regarding increasing political polarization · 2020-06-22T10:51:17.409Z · EA · GW
increasing the presence of public service broadcasting

I don't know how well that would work in the US--it seems that existing public service broadcasters (PBS and NPR) are perceived as biased by American conservatives.

A related idea I've seen is media companies which sell cancellation insurance. The idea being that this is a business model which incentivizes obtaining the trust and respect of as many people as possible, as opposed to inspiring a smaller number of true believers to share/subscribe. One advantage of this idea is it doesn't require any laws to get passed. (As polarization gets worse, I expect passing depolarization laws gets harder and harder.)

Here's another idea for the list:

Comment by xccf on Should EAs be more welcoming to thoughtful and aligned Republicans? · 2020-01-25T01:56:58.946Z · EA · GW

Maybe you could choose to only vote in a party's primary if you also precommit to voting for your chosen candidate in the general election if they win the primary.

Comment by xccf on Should EAs be more welcoming to thoughtful and aligned Republicans? · 2020-01-21T23:26:50.757Z · EA · GW

I think if you're in a blue state like California, it generally makes sense to register as Republican to vote in the Republican primary, because there will be fewer California Republicans voting in that primary, but California still contributes the same number of electoral college votes?

Comment by xccf on Genetic Enhancement as a Cause Area · 2020-01-02T21:21:42.274Z · EA · GW

I think a good way to explore potential downsides of this proposal, and also potentially reduce the taboo around genetic enhancement, would be to steelman the concerns of people who are reflexively opposed to it.

For example, how likely is it that talking about genes more (e.g. the genetic basis of intelligence) will cause people to associate moral value with genes or feel contempt for those are genetically unlucky? You could do psychology experiments where you tell participants that X% of variation in some trait is genetic and see how that affects their attitude towards people without that trait. Does the framing matter? Do some framings cause dehumanization and others cause compassion?

You could also look at historical case studies and try to tease apart causality: Did the progressive eugenics movement amplify the racism of that time period or just reflect it? Did Hitler become interested in genes because he was racist, or did he become racist because he was interested in genes?

You're both looking for potential downsides to this kind of advocacy, and also looking for framings which will minimize potential downsides while framing genetic enhancement in a way that broadens support among those who might consider it taboo. For example, subsidize it as a way to decrease inequality. Genetic inequality is arguably more unfair than any other kind!

Finally, regarding the We risk creating a race of enhanced humans who won’t care about (or will subjugate) the rest of us. point, one idea for mitigating this is to introduce genetic enhancement soon, before we are very good at it, so there is a gradual increase in the level of e.g. intelligence instead of a sudden one. That could decrease tribalism, since instead of there being an "ultra-enhanced" tribe and a non-enhanced tribe with nothing in between, there are many people with many different levels of enhancement in the middle to keep the peace and foster compassion and understanding.

Comment by xccf on Leverage Research: reviewing the basic facts · 2019-09-21T02:30:34.293Z · EA · GW
I also hope your faith in Bennett is well-placed, that whatever mix of vices led him to write vile antisemitic ridicule on an email list called 'morning hate' in 2016 bear little relevance to the man he was when with Leverage in ~~2018, or the man he is now.

Perhaps it'd be helpful for Bennett to publish a critique of alt-right ideas in Palladium Magazine?

  • In Bennett's statement on Medium, he says now that he's Catholic, he condemns the views he espoused. If that's true, he should be glad to publish a piece which reduces their level of support.
  • Since he used to espouse those views, he has intimate understanding of the psychology of those who hold them. So a piece he edits could help deconvert/deradicalize people more effectively than a piece edited by an outsider. And whatever persuaded him to abandon those views might also work on others.

Bennet might complain that publishing such a piece would put him in an impossible bind, because any attempt to find common ground with alt-righters, and explain what originally drew him to the movement to do effective deconversion, could be spun as "Jonah Bennett doubles down on alt-right ideology" for clicks. Bennet might also complain that publishing such a piece would make him a target for alt-right harassment. However, if Bennett is sincerely sorry for what he said, it seems to me that he should be willing to accept these risks. At least he could offer to publish a critique of the alt-right that's written by someone else.

If he does publish such a piece, I personally would be inclined to tentatively accept him back into civil society--but if he's unwilling to publish such a piece, I think it's reasonable to wonder if he's "hiding his true power level" and be suspicious/condemnatory.

I do feel we should have some sort of path to forgiveness for those who sincerely wish to leave extremist movements.

Comment by xccf on Evaluating Communal Violence from an Effective Altruist Perspective · 2019-08-18T18:46:27.036Z · EA · GW
communal violence seems to be common in post-colonial contexts, where many borders have been drawn in disregard to geographic grouping of social groups.

Hmmm, would this reasoning also imply that immigration restrictions could reduce communal violence in some cases? If putting people of different social groups in the same country tends to cause conflict.

Comment by xccf on Making discussions in EA groups inclusive · 2019-06-07T00:41:28.444Z · EA · GW

Ozy also wrote a response to this article which agrees with some of your points:

Comment by xccf on Is preventing child abuse a plausible Cause X? · 2019-05-08T05:26:59.547Z · EA · GW

There are non-political ways to address this, such as better contraceptives like Vasalgel.

EA already has semi-official positions on intractable political issues like immigration. If stable two-parent families are indeed an effective way to prevent child abuse, I don't see why we shouldn't have a semi-official position on promoting those as well. It could help address conservative underrepresentation in the EA movement. I think if some positions are taken publicly on both sides, that increases our credibility as an independent source of truth. Otherwise we might be seen as "EA-washing" the political positions that we already held as coastal liberal types.

But really I think stable two-parent families are a bipartisan issue. For example, abortion probably helps reduce the incidence of single motherhood (though of course the ethics of abortion itself is another can of worms). I don't think your average liberal person is actually against fatherhood or stable households, they just prioritize other outcome measures (perhaps incorrectly if the data here is right).

Comment by xccf on Is preventing child abuse a plausible Cause X? · 2019-05-08T05:10:24.766Z · EA · GW

"Obviously we can't say this is all causal - in general all good properties are correlated, so it's likely there are shared genetic etc. causes."

Possible causal mechanism:

Through infanticide, males can eliminate the offspring of their competition and get the female back to full baby-making capacity faster
Comment by xccf on Apology · 2019-03-29T10:29:01.990Z · EA · GW

Can you provide a reliable source supporting the claim that the UK legal system does not allow the accused access to all evidence?

I did some research of my own, and from what I can gather, it seems the provision you refer to is mostly about not letting the public know the name of the alleged victim. I find it hard to believe that the accused sometimes does not know the name of the alleged victim in the UK legal system.

Comment by xccf on Apology · 2019-03-29T09:30:44.337Z · EA · GW

FIRE has some discussion on their website if you search for "cross-examine" here. Maybe you can provide legal background on how this situation differs from a college disciplinary hearing.

But I'm less interested in legal technicalities and more interested in what the best policies for Effective Altruism are. There's a decent chance this is the end of Jacy's career as an EA. It's important for CEA to wield its power in this area responsibly.

I'm not saying Jacy should definitely be allowed to cross-examine witnesses. I'm just saying it's a complex issue that deserves careful consideration.

Comment by xccf on Apology · 2019-03-29T07:11:08.019Z · EA · GW
Two of FIRE's conditions request that victims of sexual assault must face their assailant in order to have any hope of justice.

If I'm not mistaken, only one condition requires this ("Right to face accuser and witness"). I don't see how the "Access to all evidence" condition requires this.

You seem to have strong feelings about this. I think these are complex issues that deserve careful consideration. Here in the US, the right to confront witnesses is a guarantee provided by the Sixth Amendment to our constitution. I'd want a good understanding of why it's there before being confident in its removal.

Comment by xccf on Apology · 2019-03-29T06:12:37.145Z · EA · GW
Very few teenagers are formally accused of sexual misconduct, and even fewer expelled from a university following an accusation.

I searched for information on how Brown University handles sexual misconduct and quickly found two cases of judges siding with students who felt they were treated unfairly by Brown University tribunals.

A federal judge has reinstated a Brown University student after finding that the Ivy League school in Providence, R.I., improperly judged him responsible for sexual misconduct.
"After the preliminary injunction, this Court was deluged with emails resulting from an organized campaign to influence the outcome. These tactics, while perhaps appropriate and effective in influencing legislators or officials in the executive branch, have no place in the judicial process. This is basic civics, and one would think students and others affiliated with a prestigious Ivy League institution would know this. Moreover, having read a few of the emails, it is abundantly clear that the writers, while passionate, were woefully ignorant about the issues before the Court."
It’s extremely rare for a judge to intervene in such a case against a private university because, unlike public schools, they are not bound by obligations under the Constitution to afford due process to the accused.

John Doe’s suit was for breach of contract, one of the few avenues open to students at private universities.

From an article on Case #1 (Judge William E. Smith). The judge's remark "having read a few of the emails, it is abundantly clear that the writers, while passionate, were woefully ignorant about the issues before the Court" appears to lend credibility to Jacy's claim that "The stories against me snowballed into exaggerated rumors about me last year that I’m sure many in my class heard."

A Brown University student suspended for alleged sexual misconduct has won an important victory: His lawsuit against the university, which makes some of the most eye-popping claims of unfair treatment that I've seen in my years of covering these issues, has survived a motion to dismiss.

From an article on Case #2 (Judge John McConnell).

FIRE is an organization which rates universities on whether they provide due process to those accused of sexual misconduct. They give Brown University a grade of D in this area (which seems to be the most common grade). Note that the process used in the Effective Altruism community appears to violate at least two of FIRE's due process safeguards: "Access to all evidence" and "Right to face accuser and witness". (I have complex feelings about this. Can elaborate if people are interested.)

Anyway, seems to me Jacy's expulsion provides less evidence than you might think, because Brown's process for deciding these things is not that great.

Comment by xccf on Apology · 2019-03-24T07:38:10.754Z · EA · GW

I don't think it's clear from this post which steps weren't voluntary, and I don't think we should make assumptions.

I'm familiar with a specific case in this area where CEA's response seemed excessive to me. And I've heard of CEA employees, people who were middle-of-the-road politically, who began to tire of CEA's excessive concern for its public image and the public image of the EA movement.

But the thing is that excessive concern for public image might not be a bad idea in this day and age. People have written books about this.

Comment by xccf on Apology · 2019-03-24T04:27:25.628Z · EA · GW
He has himself agreed to step back from the EA community more generally, and to step back from public life in general, which would be an odd move if these were minor misdemeanours.

Not necessarily, in the current cultural milieu.

I think enforcement of this stuff is very uneven and depends a lot on your social circle. Some social circles are underzealous in their enforcement, others overzealous. Given purity spiral dynamics which seem present in the animal rights movement, it seems possible their enforcement is overzealous.

Comment by xccf on The Importance of Truth-Oriented Discussions in EA · 2019-03-14T22:51:58.090Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the info.

The way I'm reading these excerpts, only one refers to an alienating conversation of the sort discussed in Making Discussions Inclusive (the one about the "somewhat sexist" comment).
The other three seem like complaints about the "vibe", which feels like a separate issue. (Not saying there's nothing to do, just that Making Discussions Inclusive doesn't obviously offer suggestions.) Indeed, there could even be a tradeoff: Reading posts like Making Discussions Inclusive makes me less inclined to talk to women and queer men, because I think to myself "it'd be very easy for me to accidentally say something that would upset them... probably best to avoid opening my mouth at all, so I don't screw things up for the entire EA movement."

Comment by xccf on The Importance of Truth-Oriented Discussions in EA · 2019-03-14T01:58:28.192Z · EA · GW

My intent was to point out that you can make the slippery slope argument in either direction. I wasn't trying to claim it was more compelling in one direction or the other.

If you believe EA has Epistemic Honor, that argument works in both directions too: "Because EA has Epistemic Honor, any rules we make will be reasonable, and we won't push people out just for having an unfashionable viewpoint."

I do think slippery slope arguments have some merit, and group tendencies can be self-reinforcing. Birds of feather flock together. Because Scientology has a kooky reputation, it will tend to attract more kooks. See also Schelling's model of segregation and this essay on evaporative cooling.

Perhaps it's valuable to brainstorm compromise positions which guard against slipping in either direction. (Example: "Discussion that could be alienating should be allowed in EA Facebook groups if and only if the person who starts the discussion is able to convince a moderator that the topic is important enough to outweigh the costs of alienation." That idea has flaws, but maybe you can think of a better one.)

Comment by xccf on The Importance of Truth-Oriented Discussions in EA · 2019-03-14T01:26:40.184Z · EA · GW
We don’t want to dismiss how frustrating it can be to see people being wrong without it being sufficiently challenged, but we also believe that people are generally capable of overcoming these challenges and learning to adopt a broader perspective from where they can see that it usually isn’t actually very important if someone is wrong on the internet.

People typically have the choice of many different communities they could become a part of. So if one community seems consistently wrong about something in a frustrating way, it's not surprising if someone chooses to move on to a different community which lacks this problem. Yes, I could overcome my frustrations with Scientologists, learn to adopt a broader perspective, and join the Scientology community, but why bother?

Even though certain rules may seem quite mild and reasonable by themselves, their mere existence creates a reasonable fear that those with certain viewpoints will eventually be completely pushed out.

How does this version sound? "Even though certain heterodox beliefs may seem quite mild and reasonable by themselves, their mere existence creates a reasonable fear that those with certain extreme viewpoints will eventually come to dominate."

Comment by xccf on A List of Things For People To Do · 2019-03-12T01:20:39.618Z · EA · GW

Imagine a virus called "NiceKill" that is harmless... unless you're a very nice person, in which case it kills you. Releasing a virus like this would be very bad, right? Now imagine a virus called "HalfNiceKill+60" which silently spreads to everyone in the world, then 60 years later, it kills 50% of the very nice people. Still sounds pretty bad, right?

Research indicates altruism likely has a genetic basis. The Effective Altruism meme could act like HalfNiceKill+60 if it causes very nice people who would ordinarily have kids to focus on their careers because "that is what's most effective". From a long-termist perspective, elimination of the very nice people seems very bad. So if you want kids, but you've been holding back because "that is not what's most effective", I suggest you add parenting to your personal Things For People To Do list. It is a perfect Task Y... very hard for one person to have 100x as many kids as another. (Outside of sperm and egg donation at least.)

Note: This analysis is flawed if you believe the Singularity is going to happen in the next couple decades. I think it plausibly will, but I believe in hedging my bets.

Comment by xccf on EA Survey: Sexual Harassment Questions - Feedback Requested · 2018-03-21T00:45:28.930Z · EA · GW

As I said previously, I'm glad you are working on this problem. However, I suspect you are defaulting too strongly to public communication and coordination on this forum. My impression is that many EA orgs tend to keep their analysis private and publish only if there's a compelling reason. For this particular issue, I see a few reasons to default even more strongly to privacy: First, there are reputational risks to the EA movement. Second, public online discussion of topics like this can degrade notoriously quickly. Therefore, I suggest that instead of soliciting public comments, you put together a small group of advisors, people with a few different perspectives from a few different stakeholders, and ask them to provide views on things like what the right set of questions to ask is. I suspect that this approach will get you better advice than drive-by internet commenting, while also mitigating the risks I described.

I have some more thoughts, but I'm following my own advice and sending them via a personal message :)

Comment by xccf on An Exploration of Sexual Violence Reduction for Effective Altruism Potential · 2017-11-16T09:55:27.567Z · EA · GW

Maybe we need a norm of advertising our consent philosophy in prominent places the same way we do with gender, marital status and orientation.

Here is an interesting thread in the slatestarcodex subreddit where some possible problems with this idea were discussed (ctrl-f "public symbol").

The simplest way to do this would be on the basis of whether a woman wears revealing clothes. Unfortunately, there's something of a taboo among feminists regarding this approach, because if you say anything about how a woman wore revealing clothes, feminists round that off to victim blaming and condemn you on that basis.

What are your thoughts on what needs to happen?

Thanks for asking! Some brainstorming:

  • I like your centralized reporting idea. Julia Wise says she has served as a contact point, and CFAR recently added a community disputes council which does this, among other things. (If you're unable to see the post I linked, you can get in touch with the CFAR people here.) Getting all these people to make entries in a shared database seems good. (BTW, how many people reached out to you since you made this post and shared your anonymous feedback link?)

  • Try to understand why people don't want to report sexual assaults. Would they be willing to report them in the context of the EA survey or some other anonymous survey? But also, would allowing for anonymous accusations this way present its own set of problems? Maybe if someone gets more than one anonymous accusation from different sources, then they should get quietly kicked out of the community ("quietly"=in a way that doesn't harm their reputation, because these anonymous accusations are unverifiable--so we are kicking them out in order to mitigate risk, not because we think they should be condemned).

  • Instead of doing expensive social norm experimentation ourselves, maybe survey the anthropology literature and try to understand whether some societies have lower rates of rape/sexual assault than others, and what those societies have in common culturally.

  • I personally don't really think the EA community should be seen as a place for dating/relationships--the same way workplaces are not seen this way. So I'm happy for the EA community standards to trade off decreased relationship formation in favor of increased safety. If you really want to date other EAs, there's always

  • However, in society at large, I think it'd be good for feminists and women who create incentives for sexually aggressive behavior--e.g. 50 Shades of Grey fans--to dialogue more and come to some kind of compromise position. Right now the 50 Shades fans are nodding along with the feminists and then quietly rewarding guys who push boundaries.

  • I also think it'd be good for men to get positive examples of behavior that women consider OK or even appreciated, instead of only hearing about behaviors we shouldn't do.

  • I get the impression feminists think they can solve sexual assault by making the threshold for what constitutes sexual assault ever lower. I think this hurts their credibility. Maybe there are some guys who take the feminist guideline and always adjust it some distance towards being more aggressive, but then there are other guys who want a decent-sized safety buffer between what we do and what gets you condemned. Learning that you are a monster if you have any sexual desire for women can also cause suicidality.

  • So maybe it'd be useful if there was a group that tried to put together a set of common-sense rules by surveying a representative population of women about what bothered them, and having a group of reasonable and fairly randomly sampled men & women engage in dialogue (with an equal number of both men and women in the group, and without penalizing people for saying uncomfortable stuff and expressing "Red Pill" sentiments--maybe by making it an anonymous online discussion or something. BTW in general, I think solving tribalism and helping people who disagree on these issues to engage productively would be good, e.g. you and Marcus in this thread). Then you could release your recommendations, and if someone violated them, it would hopefully create less drama to take action against the violator (because a broader set of people would be able to agree that the guidelines were reasonable and action is therefore justified if someone violates them). And if the level of drama decreased, then maybe women would be more willing to make accusations, and then we'd be able to get rid of the real bad apples more effectively.

  • The point is that if accusers are always being seen as part of the feminist camp, which lumps them in with some people saying some pretty crazy and unreasonable stuff, then that's going to make them unpopular whenever they make an accusation, which is going to lead fewer women to be willing to make accusations. So another thing that might work is for more accusers to be explicit about which parts of feminist discourse they disagree with. If they seem like reasonable people, maybe their accusations will be taken more seriously, less drama will be generated, and making an accusation won't make you unpopular.

Comment by xccf on An Exploration of Sexual Violence Reduction for Effective Altruism Potential · 2017-11-14T10:42:47.713Z · EA · GW

This isn't even in the article at all:

"along with high rates of trauma at 90%+ for female survivors."

I haven't even read the rest of your comment because your claims are blatantly, verifiably false.

I think Marcus was referring to the stats you quoted under "Sexual violence reduction as suffering reduction", such as the claim that 94% of rape victims met the criteria for PTSD one week later.

Marcus's comments were a lot more confrontational than I would have liked, but I still found them worth reading. I think there are some good points if you're able to get past the confrontational tone.

Comment by xccf on An Exploration of Sexual Violence Reduction for Effective Altruism Potential · 2017-11-14T09:55:04.812Z · EA · GW

I don't think we can have an accurate idea of how much sexual assault is happening in EA without a separate high-quality survey. This is because there are so many definitions of sexual violence which contradict one another, that to ensure an accurate picture of what's going on, we'd have to wrangle with definitions for a long time - and we'd end up asking a set of questions, not just one question.

I'd love to see a yearly undetected sex offender survey given to both men and women regarding how much sexual violence they committed against EAs in the last year, and a yearly sexual violence survey given to both men and women to ask how much sexual violence they received from EAs in the last year. If they added this to the yearly survey that would be awesome!

I think there's a tradeoff here. If this is created as a second, separate survey, there will likely be selection effects in who chooses to take it. I expect people who are more concerned about the problem of sexual assault (such as people who have been sexually assaulted) will be more likely to complete a survey that's specifically about sexual assault. Given these selection effects, I suspect it's best to settle on a relatively brief measure and include it in the main survey.

Brainstorming on what to include in that measure:

One idea is to just ask people "were you sexually assaulted" and let them use their own definition. After all, our goal is to reduce psychological trauma. If someone's experience met some technical definition of sexual assault, but it didn't bother them very much, maybe it's not something we need to worry about.

In a memo that has now been signed by about 70 institute members and advisers, including Judge Gertner, readers have been asked to consider the following scenario: “Person A and Person B are on a date and walking down the street. Person A, feeling romantically and sexually attracted, timidly reaches out to hold B’s hand and feels a thrill as their hands touch. Person B does nothing, but six months later files a criminal complaint. Person A is guilty of ‘Criminal Sexual Contact’ under proposed Section 213.6(3)(a).”

Far-fetched? Not as the draft is written. The hypothetical crime cobbles together two of the draft’s key concepts. The first is affirmative consent. The second is an enlarged definition of criminal sexual contact that would include the touching of any body part, clothed or unclothed, with sexual gratification in mind. As the authors of the model law explain: “Any kind of contact may qualify. There are no limits on either the body part touched or the manner in which it is touched.” So if Person B neither invites nor rebukes a sexual advance, then anything that happens afterward is illegal. “With passivity expressly disallowed as consent,” the memo says, “the initiator quickly runs up a string of offenses with increasingly more severe penalties to be listed touch by touch and kiss by kiss in the criminal complaint.”

Source. I don't think using a broad technical definition like this would be very useful, but a narrow technical definition of rape seems like it could be pretty useful to measure.

This blog post makes the case for vague rules like "don't be a jerk" and "don't be creepy". Maybe that could make a good survey question: "Did you get creeped out by another EA in the past year? How creeped out were you on a scale of 1 to 10? Here's a rubric." I actually think a measure like this could be less controversial than trying to precisely define sexual assault. Hopefully even the most fraternity brother-ish of EAs can recognize the case for not creeping chicks out. (Similarly, having a central registry that tells people things like "a lot of people are getting creeped out by you" seems like it could maybe work better than trying to define what exactly constitutes "assault"--it frames the problem as something you'd like to become aware of and fix, like having body odor, as opposed to grounds for ostracization? Of course ostracization is in fact justified in some cases--I'm just thinking aloud here.)

I suppose one issue with these measures is that they will fluctuate depending on the presence/absence of highly sensitive people in the movement. Overall, I'm much more comfortable using measures like these as indicators for what we should prioritize internally vs an overall measure of the moral worth of the movement. In other words, maybe we should not make them public? I don't know.

It might also be interesting to include a measure of how many women in EA would like men in EA to be more direct and sexually assertive with them--see this comment.

The reason I want to write a separate article about the number of sex offenders in EA is because it appears quite controversial. If we can get closer to having a consensus on sexual violence related matters, I think this will make us more effective at reducing it. The purpose of the article is not to create a more accurate number. I'm not even sure that's possible. The purpose of the article is to address the controversy, explore the complexities, and encourage people to compensate for the various biases that may be interfering.

Well, as a man in EA, I don't like the idea of people thinking of me as a possible sex offender--especially if I'm not, in fact, a sex offender. And whenever you try to estimate how X men in EA are sex offenders, no matter what X you tell people, you've framed things in a way that is gonna make people see me as a possible sex offender. So maybe that's why you got some pushback on that statement.

I'm happy for us to do a survey to measure sex offenses, because that will give us a way to actually measure and fight the problem. I know that any nonzero number that survey finds is going to reflect poorly on me, a man in EA, even if the number is much lower than we'd expect on base rates, because of the framing effects I discussed. However, I am willing to pay that cost because I care about addressing the problem of sexual assault. But I think trying to make an estimate based on prior information will just stir people up.

Edit: I've set up a collaboration with the yearly EA survey team!


Comment by xccf on An Exploration of Sexual Violence Reduction for Effective Altruism Potential · 2017-11-14T02:45:47.812Z · EA · GW

I agree with all of this. Perhaps I'm too quick to extrapolate from my own experiences--I know that I've accidentally creeped out women in the past, and I always feel really bad about it afterwards, but this could be a bad mental model of the typical case.

Comment by xccf on An Exploration of Sexual Violence Reduction for Effective Altruism Potential · 2017-11-14T02:42:27.467Z · EA · GW

These are all good points. I find it totally plausible that some individuals are responsible for many assaults. I think this is a problem we should address. And I'm really sorry to hear about your experiences.

Comment by xccf on An Exploration of Sexual Violence Reduction for Effective Altruism Potential · 2017-11-14T02:14:20.087Z · EA · GW

Why do you feel it's important to have a more accurate guess regarding the number of sexually violent people in EA? I'm in favor of trying to measure the rate of sexual assault using e.g. the EA survey, because that is a metric we can track in order to measure whether things are improving. (Ideally using a question such as "Were you assaulted in the past year?", so our metric will be responsive year over year.) But it seems to me that time spent refining our guess based on priors would be better spent implementing measures to reduce sexual assault.

Comment by xccf on An Exploration of Sexual Violence Reduction for Effective Altruism Potential · 2017-11-13T10:57:42.392Z · EA · GW

Thanks for this post. It's brave, thorough, fair, and well-researched--a breath of fresh air compared to 99% of internet discussion on this topic.

People seemed to appreciate it when I laid out my points of disagreement with the last post of this sort, so I'm going to try doing the same for this post. Feel free to let me know (including via PM) if you think it's a bad idea for me to do this.

Like the last post, I think this post could benefit from less uncritical acceptance of social science research. That said, my sources aren't any better. So my comment is just an attempt to present a coherent worldview--take it with a grain of salt.

I think this post underrates the degree to which effective altruists are likely to be unrepresentative of the population at large. In particular, all the EAs I've met are really smart. And all the discussion I see in online EA communities is really intelligent. I don't think there's any IQ data that backs up these observations directly. But the 2015 EA survey found that Less Wrong was the most popular way to discover EA, and survey data on Less Wrong users seems to indicate that the average IQ on Less Wrong is around 140. My impression is that Less Wrong is responsible for a lot of "founder effects" in the EA movement (the fraction of EAs from LW was even higher in the 2014 EA survey), and that being a magnet for high-IQ people goes along with this.

Why does this matter? Because the sexual behavior of high IQ people seems to be much different than the sexual behavior of the population at large. Check out this graph from this blog post. High IQ male teens are about 3x more likely to be virgins than average, and high IQ female teens are about 5x more likely.

Why is this? There are a few possible explanations. Personally, I suspect it's a combination of smart people prioritizing other things, and having lower libidos. (Consider that only 20% of female graduate students at MIT masturbate, compared to 70% of the female population at large--source.)

You quote a study which found that frottage offenders targeted an average of nine hundred people each. That's definitely an interesting stat, but I think you have to be extra careful when extrapolating from "institutionalized sex offenders... mandated to receive specialized treatment" to EAs, especially given that all the research I've heard about indicates that prisoner IQs tend to be well below average.

Furthermore, I would expect that sex offenders who actually get imprisoned are much more blatant than average. So that's a reason why it could be unsafe to extrapolate data from imprisoned rapists to your "average" undetected rapist.

That all said, I believe you when you say there have been cases of sexual assault in EA, and I think you have good ideas about how to stop it. Here are some of my thoughts. In some cases, I'll be emphasizing points you already made, because our worldviews overlap a fair amount.

I think that sexual assault prevention presents a different challenge relative to a lot of other causes EAs are interested in. We are used to seeing causes as bottlenecked on money or talent, but sexual assault strikes me as a cause bottlenecked on experimentation and tribalism. It's a topic that's difficult to have a two-sided conversation about due to the current political environment. People tend to retreat in to bubbles lead by the most motivated individuals, who are often extremists. Sometimes the extremists suggest interventions which may actually hurt their cause, because they don't have good awareness of how people in other bubbles are thinking.

I was really impressed by how aware you seem to be of these issues. But, I think it's important to recognize that your willingness to write a ~30 page essay on this topic is an indicator that sexual assault is something you're unusually sensitive to. (That doesn't mean you shouldn't work on it; I'm glad it's something you feel motivated to work on. I'm just saying you should keep this in mind.) Furthermore, I think it's interesting to contrast your suicide stats with the fact that sexually harassed employees are only 1.63 times more likely to have turnover intentions. See also this article about women in Washington DC who prioritize their career over making sexual harassment allegations.

This isn't meant to excuse sexual assault or sexual harassment. It's meant to indicate that sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape are offenses of much different magnitude. Similar to how shoving someone, punching someone so hard they get knocked out, and murdering someone are offenses of much different magnitude. Unfortunately, it seems to me that a lot of feminist discourse serves to lump these offenses of different magnitude together using terms like "rape culture". Equivalently, imagine someone shoved another person during a bar dispute, and we condemned their action as indicative of "murder culture".

Why does this matter? As you state in this post, our legal system doesn't work that well for sex offenses. Our legal system works on the presumption of innocence and tries to gather evidence that a person committed a crime. But for sex offenses, there typically isn't much evidence to gather.

Because the legal system doesn't work that well, we have to fall back on the court of public opinion. My issue with a term like "rape culture" is that it pushes us closer to a world where a person receives the maximal sentence in the court of public opinion even for the most minor offense.

Why is this a world we don't want to be in?

  • The punishment doesn't fit the crime. This undermines the legitimacy of the effort to fight sex offenses.

  • In the traditional legal system, a person can commit a minor offense, pay their debt to society, and stop thinking of themselves as an offender. But if a person who commits a minor offense has no chance of re-integrating with society, that creates an incentive to attack the legitimacy of the entire system. See above.

  • It frames a minor sex offense in a way that's likely to cause greater psychological harm. See also Lila's comment.

  • Outrage is like antibiotics: The more it's overused, the less well it works.

However, even if many women tolerate sexual aggressiveness well, I suspect the EA movement has an unusually high density of women who don't. As I mentioned, high-IQ women seem to have much less sexual desire, and high-IQ people in general seem to be more anxious. So you may not be all that unrepresentative relative to the _EA_ population.

This ties in to the whole Red Pill/pickup topic. There's a lot I could say about that, but one major point is that it is targeted at average-IQ women who like going to bars--sorority girls who say things like:

Don’t ask for permission for a first kiss. Dear lord, I hate that nonsene. Things are great and then whoa, I’ve got a pushover on my hands. No, you can’t kiss me, pussy. Goodbye.

Personally, I know of approximately 0 sorority girls in EA. And more broadly, I don't see attitudes like this expressed frequently by women in the EA movement.

I could write another long comment on my issues with Red Pill ideas, and why I think feminist writing fails to engage productively with them. But I don't have a ton of confidence in my views, and I'm also not sure how many guys who read that stuff will end up reading my comment. So for now I'll just make a few points directed at those guys:

  • In the same way reversed stupidity is not intelligence, reversed censorship is not intelligence. Just because feminists furiously condemn red pill ideas using arguments that are bad does not mean that red pill ideas are correct.

  • In general, the epistemics of red pill discussion sites aren't that great. Ideas are selected for based on whether they spread virally within the echo chamber rather than whether they're factually supported. Reading something frequently enough can cause you to believe it's true even if it isn't. (This is how propaganda posters work.) If you want an evidence-based dating guide, prominent evolutionary psychologist (and effective altruist) Geoffrey Miller has a book and a website.

  • If sexual gratification is what you seek, there's a lot of data showing that it's easier for a man to get laid in environments with more women than men. Effective Altruism is not such an environment.

Comment by xccf on An Exploration of Sexual Violence Reduction for Effective Altruism Potential · 2017-11-13T08:13:42.928Z · EA · GW

Framing effects matter. "There are 100-600 male rapists in EA" comes across much differently than "men in EA may be rapists at the same rate as men in the population at large".

Comment by xccf on An Exploration of Sexual Violence Reduction for Effective Altruism Potential · 2017-11-13T04:32:53.644Z · EA · GW

I also found this stat frustrating. The "A 1:6 ratio means 7 rapes per 6 women on average" stat frustrated me even more--it assumes that EA men are rapists at the base rate of the population at large (probably false), and that every time a rapist rapes someone, if the rapist is an EA, their victim must be an EA too.

I worry that hearing stats like this will cause women to avoid EA, which will then contribute to the imbalanced gender ratio that Kathy has identified as being part of the problem.

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-31T23:30:05.384Z · EA · GW

Out of curiosity, have you tried anything besides private conversations?

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-30T05:12:23.193Z · EA · GW

Some more thoughts:

  • I mentioned my concern that pro-diversity efforts in EA might "spiral" towards a mob mentality. I think one way in which this might happen is if the people working towards diversity in EA recruit people from underrepresented groups that they know through other pro-diversity groups, which, as you mention, frequently suffer from a mob mentality. If the pool of underrepresented people we draw from is not selected this way (e.g. if the majority of black people who are joining EA are against affirmative action, as is true for the majority of the black population in general), then I'm less worried.

  • I think some of your suggestions are not entirely consistent. For example, you mention that EA should not "throw around the term “AI” with no qualification or explanation". From my perspective, if I was hearing about EA for the first time and someone felt the need to explain what "AI" was an acronym for, I would feel condescended to. I imagine this effect might be especially acute if I was a member of a minority group ("How dumb do these people think I am?") Similarly, you suggest that we cut our use of jargon. In practice, I think useful jargon is going to continue getting used no matter what. So the way this suggestion may be interpreted in practice is: Don't use jargon around people who are members of underrepresented groups. I think people from underrepresented groups will soon figure out they are being condescended to. I think a better idea is to remember that we were once ignorant about jargon ourselves, and make an effort to explain jargon to newbies. Hopefully they feel like members of the ingroup after they've mastered the lingo.

  • Relatedly, there is a question which I think sometimes gets tied up with the diversity question, but perhaps should not get tied up, which is the question of whether EA should aim more to be a committed, elite core vs a broad church. My impression is lots of people privately favor the committed, elite core approach. I think we can have both diversity and a committed, elite core: consider institutions such as Harvard which are both elite and diverse. Furthermore, I think being more public about our elitism might actually help with diversity, because we'd be making our standards clearer and more transparent, and we could rely less heavily on subjective first impressions. (CC Askell on "buzz talk".) To put it another way: although "diversity" and "inclusion" are often treated as synonyms, it's actually possible to be both "diverse" and "exclusive" (and this seems likely ideal).

  • A benefit of diversity you didn't mention: Insofar as the EA movement has world peace and global cooperation as part of our goals, it's useful to have people from as many different groups as possible. This is also useful if we want to be able to speak authoritatively on topics like how AI should be used for the benefit of humanity and whatnot.

  • Unjustified hunch here, but I think maybe another failure mode that can come up when a movement tries to increase diversity is that people who are underrepresented start to receive more attention. Even if this attention is positive (e.g. "How can we cater to people like you better?"), I think this can result in an increased level of self-consciousness. (See my previous point about how people who look different may feel self-conscious by default even if they're not discriminated against.) Further unjustified conjecture: the sort of black person who supports affirmative action tends to enjoy the power they get from this, whereas the sort of black person who doesn't support affirmative action doesn't like it, thereby enhancing the "spiral" effect.

  • Another possible failure mode: Diversity advocates see something they don't like (e.g. a person suggesting that women do not contribute to society and are leeches if they don’t offer men sex), and they want to root the problem out. In order to rally support, they let everyone know about the problem (like you did in this post). But by letting everyone know about the problem, they've also made it in to a bigger problem: now every woman who reads this post knows that someone, at one point in an EA-related discussion somewhere, made this outrageous claim--which results in those women feeling less welcome and more on edge. The toxic echo of this person's post continues to reverberate as it is held up as part of a broader trend within EA, even though their post itself was long ago deleted. (This could contribute to the "spiral" effect I described, if the women who stick around after hearing about posts like these are disproportionately those that enjoy engaging in flame wars with people who make outrageous statements.)

  • I mentioned the EA Survey. One thing you could do is look at existing EA survey data and try to understand whether our issues with underrepresentation seem to be getting better or worse over the years. My impression is that gender thing, at least, has gotten much better since EA was founded. In any case, if things are already on a good path, I'm more skeptical about major diversity initiatives--"if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Incidentally, I realized some of the points I'm making here are redundant with this essay which was already posted. (But I highly recommend reading it anyway, because it has some great points I hadn't thought of.)

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-29T00:28:50.654Z · EA · GW

If I recall correctly, this comment was at -2 when I first saw it, which frustrated me because I think people who publicly admit mistakes should get upvotes. Publicly admitting mistakes is really hard to do. I think we should take a moment to give people credit for this before demanding that they confess their sins even more thoroughly.

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-29T00:00:44.006Z · EA · GW

Do you know of any spaces that don't have the problem one way or the other?

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-28T04:38:14.704Z · EA · GW

Another idea I had: add questions to the EA Survey to understand how people feel about the issues you are describing. This accomplishes a few things:

  • It allows us to track progress more effectively than observing our demographic breakdown. Measuring how people feel about EA movement culture gives us a shorter feedback loop, since changes in demographics lag behind culture changes. Furthermore, by attempting to measure the climate issue directly, we can zero in on factors under our control.

  • It helps fight selection effects that occur in online discussion of these issues. People on both sides can be reluctant to share their thoughts & ideas in a thread like this one. Online discussions in general can be wildly unrepresentative. I was surprised to learn about polls which found that most Native Americans aren't offended by the use of "Redskins" as a team name (criticism of this poll), and that a majority of black people are against affirmative action. And among the "anti-SJW" crowd, there's a perception that some folks are going to see racism/sexism in everything, and they will never be satisfied. So taking a representative poll of EAs, and perhaps comparing the results to some baseline, can help us come to agreement on the degree to which we have issues.

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-28T02:49:53.666Z · EA · GW

The best scrutinizer is someone that feels motivated to actually find the truth. This should be obvious.

How does "this should be obvious" compare to average social science reporting on the epistemic hygiene scale?

Like, this is an empirical claim we could test: give people social psych papers that have known flaws, and see whether curiosity or disagreement with the paper's conclusion predicts flaw discovery better. I don't think the result of such an experiment is obvious.

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-28T01:58:36.398Z · EA · GW

[Edit: I appreciate that I should generally behave as though my community will behave well, and as such I should not have requested that people upvote if they find the post helpful. I want to be sure to flag in this response though the incredibly poor way in which people who disagree with claims and arguments in favor of diversity and inclusion are using their votes, in comments and on the whole post.]


I'm also finding the voting in this thread frustrating.

I appreciate your suggestions a lot, but caution you to be careful of your own assumptions. For instance, I never suggested that a Diversity & Inclusion Officer should be the person most passionate about the role instead of most smart about it.

Sorry about that.

To emphasize though, so it doesn't get lost behind those critical thoughts: I thoroughly appreciate the suggestions you've contributed here.

Glad to hear it :)

[Edit: Apologies for some excessive editing. I readily acknowledge that in an already a hostile environment, my initial reaction to criticism regarding an important issue that is causing a lot of harm is too defensive.]

I'm an excessive editor too, I'm not sure it's something you need to apologize for :)

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-28T01:41:12.991Z · EA · GW

I dearly hope we never become one of those parts of the internet.

Me too. However, I'm not entirely clear what incentive gradient you are referring to.

But I do see an incentive gradient which goes like this: Most people responding to threads like this do so in their spare time and run on intrinsic motivation. For whatever reason, on average they find it more intrinsically motivating to look for holes in social psych research if it supports a liberal conclusion. There's a small population motivated the opposite way, but since people find it less intrinsically motivating to hang out in groups where their viewpoint is a minority, those people gradually drift off. The end result is a forum where papers that point to liberal conclusions get torn apart, and papers that point the other way get a pass.

As far as I can tell, essentially all online discussions of politicized topics fall prey to a failure mode akin to this, so it's very much something to be aware of.

Full disclosure: I'm not much of a paper scrutinizer. And the way I've been behaving in this thread is the same way Kelly has been. For example, I linked to Bryan Caplan's blog post covering a paper on ideological imbalance in social psychology. The original paper is 53 pages long. Did I read over the entire thing, carefully checking for flaws in the methodology? No, I didn't.

I'm not even sure it would be useful for me to do that--the best scrutinizer is someone who feels motivated to disprove a paper's conclusion, and this ideological imbalance paper very much flatters my preconceptions. But the point is that Kelly got called out and I didn't.

I don't know what a good solution to this problem looks like. (Maybe LW 2.0 will find one.) But an obvious solution is to extend special charity to anyone who's an ideological minority, to try & forestall evaporative cooling effects. [Also could be a good way to fight ingroup biases etc.]

As a side note, I suspect we should re-allocate resources away from social psychology as a resolution for SJ debates, on the margin. It provides great opportunities for IQ signaling, but the flip side is the investment necessary to develop a well-justified opinion is high--I don't think social psych will end up solving the problem for the masses. I would like to see people brainstorm in a larger space of possible solutions.