Comment by xccf on Apology · 2019-03-24T07:38:10.754Z · score: 16 (16 votes) · 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 · score: 12 (10 votes) · 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 · score: 18 (11 votes) · 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 · score: 7 (6 votes) · 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 · score: 6 (7 votes) · 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 · score: 4 (5 votes) · 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 · score: 2 (4 votes) · 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 · score: 3 (3 votes) · 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 reciprocity.io.

  • 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 · score: -1 (3 votes) · 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 · score: 4 (4 votes) · 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!

Cool!

Comment by xccf on An Exploration of Sexual Violence Reduction for Effective Altruism Potential · 2017-11-14T02:45:47.812Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · 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 · score: 4 (4 votes) · 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 · score: 2 (2 votes) · 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 · score: 22 (22 votes) · 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 · score: 14 (14 votes) · 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 · score: 15 (15 votes) · 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 · score: 0 (0 votes) · 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 · score: 9 (9 votes) · 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 · score: 4 (4 votes) · 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 · score: 0 (0 votes) · 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 · score: 12 (12 votes) · 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 · score: 1 (1 votes) · 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 · score: 1 (1 votes) · 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.]

Thanks.

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 · score: 6 (8 votes) · 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.

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-28T00:51:26.457Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I think you're overstating your case.

I don't think it is, at all, any more than Daryl Bem's research updates me towards thinking ESP is real.

This strikes me as a misunderstanding of how Bayesian updates work. The reason you still don't believe in ESP is because your prior for ESP is very low. But I think hearing about Bem's research should still cause you to update your estimate in favor of ESP a tiny amount. In a world with ESP, Bem finds it easier to discover ESP effects.

if you think that the scientists would have published these papers regardless of their truth

I don't think social psychologists are that dishonest. Even 36% replicability suggests some relationship between paper-publishing and truth.

Furthermore, I think the fact that social psychologists are so liberal should cause some update in the direction that studying humans causes you to realize liberal views about human nature are correct.

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-28T00:25:32.425Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

An explanation of what you mean by "turn out OK" would be helpful. For instance, do movements that err more towards social justice fare worse than those that err away from it (or than those that sit at the status quo)?

I'm referring to mob mentality, trigger-happy ostracization, and schisms. I don't think erring towards/away from social justice is quite the right question, because in these failure cases, the distribution of support for social justice becomes a lot more bimodal.

Actually, I would think that any overshooting you see in these communities is a reaction to how status-quo (or worse) both of those communities are.

Sounds plausible. That's a big reason why I support thoughtful work on diversity: as a way to remove the motivation for less thoughtful work.

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-28T00:16:57.716Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · EA · GW

As a side note, I find the way you're using social science quite frustrating. You keep claiming that social science supports many of your particular beliefs, and then other people keep digging into the evidence and pointing out the specific reason that the evidence you've presented isn't very convincing. But it takes a lot of time to rebut all of your evidence that way, much more time than it takes for you to link to another bad study.

To be charitable to Kelly, in most parts of the internet, a link to popular reporting on social science research is a high quality argument. I can understand how it might be frustrating for people to tell you you need to up your paper scrutinizing game while you are busy trying to respond to an entire thread full of people expressing disagreement.

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-27T11:41:50.766Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · EA · GW

The pattern I see is that "organizations" (such as government agencies or Fortune 500 companies) usually turn out OK, whereas "movements" or "communities" (e.g. the atheism movement, or the open source community) often turn out poorly.

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-27T04:34:00.418Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · EA · GW

I think I've noticed a pattern where basically any hypothesis that's not the discrimination hypothesis gradually leaves the Overton window.

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-27T04:22:14.332Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I found this comment frustrating because I see it making the mistake described here:

...I think that if you identify with or against some group (e.g. 'anti-SJWs'), then anything that people say that pattern matches to something that this group would say triggers a reflexive negative reaction. This manifests in various ways: you're inclined to attribute way more to the person's statements than what they're actually saying or you set an overly demanding bar for them to "prove" that what they're saying is correct. And I think all of that is pretty bad for discourse.

I.e. "rounding to the nearest outgroup" instead of trying to understand what Kelly in particular is trying to communicate.

Anyway, I wrote a long reply here where I took a first stab at differentiating between "SJWs" vs "diversity advocates I can get behind".

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-27T03:29:15.775Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

I don't think we should police thoughts, only actions.

We don't make it a crime to fantasize about killing someone--you only become a criminal when you act on those thoughts. This illustrates a useful and widely applied principle of our legal system. The willingness of some diversity advocates to disregard this principle is a good example of diversity advocates getting overzealous about diversity and sacrificing other values, as I complain about in this comment.

Furthermore, I don't think condemning people for having beliefs we don't want is an effective way to change those beliefs--a variety of research seems to indicate this doesn't work (though, I generally don't put too much stock in social psychology research, which includes those links, and I'm also not a good paper scrutinizer).

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-27T03:04:41.389Z · score: 32 (36 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for this post. There's a lot I agree with here. I'm in especially vigorous agreement with your points regarding hero worship and seeing newcomers as a source of fresh ideas/arguments instead of condescending them.

There are also some points I disagree with. And in the spirit of not considering any arguments above criticism, and disagreement being critical for finding the best answers, I hope you won't mind if I lay my disagreements out. To save time, I'll focus on the differences between your view and mine. So if I don't mention a point you made, you can default to assuming I agree with it.

First, I'm broadly skeptical of the social psychology research you cite. Whenever I read about a study that claims women are more analytical than men, or women are better leaders than men, I imagine whether I would hear about it if the experiment found the opposite result.

I recommend this blog post on the lack of ideological diversity in social psychology. Social psychologists are overwhelmingly liberal, and many openly admit to discriminating against conservatives in hiring. Here is a good post by a Mexican social psychologist that discusses how this plays out. There's also the issue of publication bias at the journal level. I know someone who served on the selection committee of a (minor & unimportant, so perhaps not representative) psychology journal. The committee had an explicit philosophy of only publishing papers they liked, and espousing "problematic" views was a strike against a paper. Anyway, I think to some degree the field functions as a liberal echo chamber on controversial issues.

There's really an entire can of worms here--social psychology is currently experiencing a major reproducibility crisis--but I don't want to get too deep in to it, because to defend my position fully, I'd want to share evidence for positions that make people uncomfortable. Suffice to say that there's a third layer of publication bias at the level of your Facebook feed, and I could show you a different set of research-backed thinkpieces that point to different conclusions. (Suggestion: if you wouldn't want someone on the EA Forum to make arguments for the position not X, maybe avoid making arguments for the position X. Otherwise you put commenters in an impossible bind.)

But for me this point is really the elephant in the room:

some people in broader society now respond to correctable offenses with a mob mentality and too much readiness for ostracization, but just because some people have swung too far past the mark doesn’t mean we should default to a status quo that falls so short of it.

I would like to see a much deeper examination here. Insofar as I feel resistant to diversity efforts, this feels like most of what I'm trying to resist. If I was confident that pro-diversity people in EA won't spiral towards this, I'd be much more supportive. Relevant fable.

All else equal, increased diversity sounds great, but my issue is I see a pattern of other pro-diversity movements sacrificing all other values in the name of trying to increase diversity. Take a statement like this one:

Some of the most talented and resolute people in this community are here because they are deeply emotionally compelled to help others as much as possible, and we’re currently missing out on many such people by being so cold and calculating. There are ways to be warm and calculating! I can think of a few people in the community who manage this well.

Being warm and calculating sounds great, but what if there's actually a tradeoff here? Just taking myself as an example, I know that as I've become aware of how much suffering exists in the grand scheme of things, I've begun to worry less about random homeless people I see and stuff like that. Even if there's some hack I can use to empathize with homeless people while retaining a global perspective, that hack would require effort on my part--effort I could put towards goals that seem more important.

this particular individual — who is probably a troll in general — was banned from the groups where he repeatedly and unrelentingly said such things, though it’s concerning there was any question about whether this was acceptable behavior.

Again, I think there's a real tradeoff between "free speech" and sensitivity. I view the moderation of online communities as an unsolved problem. I think we benefit from navigating moderation tradeoffs thoughtfully rather than reactively.

Reminding people off the forum to upvote this post, in order to deal with possible hostility, is also a minor red flag from my perspective. This resembles something Gleb Tsipursky once did.

None of this seems very bad in the grand scheme of things, especially not compared to what I've seen from other champions of diversity--I just thought it'd be useful to give concrete examples.

Anyway, here are some ideas of mine, if anyone cares:

  • Phrase guidelines as neutrally as possible, e.g. "don't be a jerk" instead of "don't be a sexist". The nice thing about "don't be a jerk" is it at admits the possibility that someone could violate the guideline by e.g. loudly calling out a minor instance of sexism in a way that generates a lot of drama and does more harm than good. Rules should exist to serve everyone, and they should be made difficult to weaponize. If most agree your rules are legitimate, that also makes them easier to enforce.

  • Team-building activities, icebreakers, group singalongs, synchronous movement, sports/group exercise, and so on. The ideal activity is easy for anyone to do and creates a shared EA tribal identity just strong enough to supersede the race/gender/etc. identities we have by default. Kinda like how students at the same university will all cheer for the same sports team.

  • Following the example of the animal-focused EAs: Work towards achieving critical mass of underrepresented groups. Especially if you can saturate particular venues (e.g. a specific EA meetup group). I know that as a white male, I sometimes get uncomfortable in situations where I am the only white person or the only man in a group, even though I know perfectly well that no one is discriminating against me. I think it's a natural response to have when you're in the minority, so in a certain sense there's just a chicken-and-egg problem. Furthermore, injecting high-caliber underrepresented people into EA will help dismantle stereotypes and increase the number of one-on-one conversations people have, which I think are critical for change.

  • Take a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to helping EA men with women. Again, I think having more women is playing a big role for animal-focused EAs. More women means the average man has more female friends, better understands how women think, and empathizes with the situations women encounter more readily. In this podcast, Christine Peterson discusses the value of finding a life partner for productivity and mental health. In the same way that CFAR makes EAs more productive through lifehacking, I could imagine someone working covertly to make EAs more productive through solving their dating problems.

  • Invite the best thinkers who have heterodox views on diversity to attend "diversity in EA" events, in order to get a diverse perspective on diversity and stay aware of tradeoffs. Understand their views in enough depth to market diversity initiatives to the movement at large without getting written off.

  • When hiring a Diversity & Inclusion Officer, find someone who's good at managing tradeoffs rather than the person who's most passionate about the role.

Again, I appreciate the effort you put in to this post, and I support you working towards these goals in a thoughtful way. Also, I welcome PMs from you or anyone else reading this comment--I spent several hours on it, but I'm sure there is stuff I could have put better and I'd love to get feedback.

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-27T00:00:20.823Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Yeah. I'm also in favor of trying to grab low-hanging fruit from addressing discrimination, as long as we don't get overzealous. But in terms of trying to make our demographics completely representative... there are already a lot of groups trying and failing to do that, sometimes in a way that crashes & burns spectacularly, so I would rather hang back and wait for a model that seems workable/reliable before aiming that high.

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-26T23:46:59.315Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the reply, Kelly, and I'm sorry you're getting downvoted. I really appreciate your willingness to be charitable and admit your mistakes, and I will strive to emulate your example.

That's not to say it's a black and white matter of total biological similarity or total culturally-imposed disparities and prejudice. That's what the author of the memo implies

Hm, that's not how I read it. For example, in the first sentence, he says he doesn't deny that sexism exists. Later, he writes: "Of course, men and women experience bias, tech, and the workplace differently and we should be cognizant of this..." My interpretation is that Google already has a ton of discussion of the impact of sexism, bias, etc. and Damore wanted to fill in the other side of the story, so he didn't bother to repeat stuff that everyone already agrees on. Maybe that was a mistake in retrospect.

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-26T23:41:19.003Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I don't actually believe that affluent white males are a lot more moral than everyone else, but anyway, let's put aside the question of whether such evidence exists for a moment and ask: if such evidence did exist, would it be sensible for us to discuss it? My answer is no. I would rather take a compromise position of addressing clear cases of discrimination, being mildly worried about mild cases, and letting sleeping dogs lie.

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-26T23:37:44.378Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · EA · GW

It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see how unsolicited exploration of "other hypotheses" (cough cough) for racial and gender disparities could be very distressing for the people who are being discussed as if they're not there.

Oh, I totally agree, and I don't think we should discuss them. [I edited my comment in an attempt to clarify this.]

Comment by xccf on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA · 2017-10-26T20:57:51.956Z · score: 19 (23 votes) · EA · GW

This reminds me of a pattern I see in social justice movements, which goes something like this: We are observing some kind of gender or race-based disparity, with a variety of different hypotheses for why it might be occurring. Some people think discrimination is the most likely hypothesis. Other people have other hypotheses. The people who think discrimination is the most likely hypotheses see the people suggesting other hypotheses and loudly decry those people as discriminatory. Those people get quieter. The gender or race-based disparity persists. The only hypothesis that anyone is allowed to talk about is the discrimination one. So it's more clear than ever that discrimination is the only possible explanation. Given this clarity, the people pushing the discrimination hypothesis have the mandate to decry milder and milder instances of discrimination. Eventually, the community undergoes a schism over the issue of whether to be hypersensitive to mild instances of discrimination or not.

The Google memo Kelly references is a good case study. Kelly implies that the author is an "outright asshole". I assume she makes this judgement solely based on the author's willingness to explore hypotheses besides the discrimination one--in terms of communication style, it's clear that the author takes pains to be as civil as possible.

The question for me is: How long do we need to test out the discrimination hypothesis before it's disconfirmed? If it's been 5 years since anyone talked about any hypothesis besides the discrimination one, and the disparity still persists, are we allowed to consider the possibility that the discrimination hypothesis is incorrect? What if it's been 10 years?

Realistically, if there's a disparity, there's probably a combination of several things going on. So, how can we capture the low-hanging fruit from fighting discrimination without putting ourselves on a path towards a schism?

Comment by xccf on A Different Take on President Trump · 2016-12-10T08:27:45.693Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · EA · GW

I'd be happy if this was made an official policy going forwards.

However, I don't see how this post differs meaningfully from Haydn's post. Both posts present evidence for various political beliefs without endorsing a candidate. It's hard to argue that either makes even an implicit endorsement, given that the election has finished.

I worry about a norm against debating politics which in practice means "liberal political positions are not up for debate". The EA movement sometimes feels this way, and it definitely decreases my enthusiasm for engaging with EA. It's also epistemically dangerous.

Comment by xccf on A Different Take on President Trump · 2016-12-10T02:51:23.692Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for the feedback, Rick.

People pushing the above arguments clearly think that the potential impacts of integrating these thoughts into EA are very very high

I'm only mildly confident that making this post was a good idea. I probably wouldn't have made it if Haydn's post had better anticipated objections like Henry's. Haydn's post made me worry that most EAs, including policy associates at the main EA think tank, are simply unaware of arguments that the right is making.

Happy to hear more thoughts on this, including sent as a personal message.

Comment by xccf on A Different Take on President Trump · 2016-12-09T03:14:25.952Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · EA · GW

The claims about Europe in this article are completely absurd, but that's hardly surprising given the incredibly low standard of the sources cited.

Note that many of the claims in Haydn's post had no source at all.

Global Go To Think Tank Index Report

I took a quick look at this report. The methodology section indicates that it ranks think tanks on the basis of impact. Choosing to trust a think tank based on how much influence it has seems a bit like choosing to trust a person based on how loudly they're speaking.

Comment by xccf on A Different Take on President Trump · 2016-12-09T03:02:02.156Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · EA · GW

If EA is going to engage in politics, and remain a "broad tent" that includes people with varied political views, then we will need to face the problem that people with different political views typically consider different sources reliable.

For that article in particular, I see a link to a Polish news report. Jacek Wrona appears to be pretty well credentialed (this was the first result on Google, but I am translating it from Polish to make this judgement). So is your contention that Breitbart lied, and that Jacek Wrona never said this? Or is your contention that Breitbart accurately reported on Jacek Wrona's statement, but because he is obviously wrong regarding his assessment of the situation Europe faces, his statement is unreasonable as the basis of a report? If the second one, is it ever possible for you to continue considering a source reliable if it publishes a statement by an expert that contradicts your worldview?

I'd also be curious to know what sources you consider credible yourself. When I read Wikipedia's article related to New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Germany, I see this statement:

Several media outlets at first ignored the story and only started reporting on the incidents on 5 January, after a wave of anger on social media made covering them unavoidable.[45] This delay was criticised by several politicians, including Hans-Peter Friedrich.[204] The public television channel ZDF later acknowledged that they had failed to report on the incidents despite having sufficient knowledge to do so.[205][206]

These sources are apparently reliable enough for Wikipedia, and they call the credibility of mainstream outlets into question.

A Different Take on President Trump

2016-12-07T21:57:54.151Z · score: 5 (32 votes)
Comment by xccf on Improving long-run civilisational robustness · 2016-10-09T02:20:05.428Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Another related reading: http://thefutureprimaeval.net/you-cant-save-the-world-without-civilization/

Comment by xccf on Why Poverty? · 2016-04-27T11:56:05.506Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

This seems extremely implausible to me. Historically, assimilation and globalization has been the norm.

"Assimilation and globalization" doesn't imply a particular direction of value drift. It's Eurocentric to assume that cultural assimilation always means non-European cultures assimilating in to European ones.

The word "imperialist" is typically used in conjunction with European empires, but the majority of historical empires were not European, and Europe has been a backwater throughout much of history. In particular, Islam already has a storied history of assimilating other cultures.

(I upvoted Carla_Fin's comments back up towards 0 because I thought they explored important conceptual territory, even if they were expressed indelicately. It seems to me that if EA chooses to neglect particular lines of argument because pursuing them makes you seem like a mean person, that will be a failure mode for EA as a movement. As a reductio ad absurdum, how much potential do you think the EA movement would have if we weren't willing to point out that PlayPumps is an ineffective charity, in order to avoid being insensitive to the founders of PlayPumps? Of course we should prevent the forum from devolving in to fruitless flame warring, and I move we all work to be especially collegial when discussing touchy topics.)

Comment by xccf on Why Poverty? · 2016-04-27T11:38:31.408Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Alarmingly, population growth in Africa is not slowing as quickly as demographers had expected. In 2004 the UN predicted that the continent’s population would grow from a little over 900m at the time, to about 2.3 billion in 2100. At the same time it put the world’s total population in 2100 at 9.1 billion, up from 7.3 billion today. But the UN’s latest estimates, published earlier this year, have global population in 2100 at 11.2 billion—and Africa is where almost all the newly added people will be. The UN now thinks that by 2100 the continent will be home to 4.4 billion people, an increase of more than 2 billion compared with its previous estimate.

If the new projections are right, geopolitics will be turned upside-down. By the end of this century, Africa will be home to 39% of the world’s population, almost as much as Asia, and four times the share of North America and Europe put together. At present only one of the world’s ten most populous countries is in Africa: Nigeria. In 2100, the UN believes, five will be: Nigeria, Congo, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Niger.

Although much could change in the next 85 years, none of those countries is a byword for stability or prosperity. A quadrupling of their population is unlikely to improve matters. If nothing else, the number of Africans seeking a better life in Europe and other richer places is likely to increase several times over.

...

...even relative to their levels of income, health and education, the countries of sub-Saharan Africa have high fertility rates. That has prompted some scholars to posit cultural explanations.

One theory is that African men want big families to enhance their status; another that communal land-holding makes them economically beneficial, since resources are shared according to family size. Without dismissing these arguments, John Bongaarts of the Population Council, an international non-profit group, suggests a third: relatively low use of modern contraception. In many places, after all, vigorous campaigns to disseminate contraceptives and discourage big families have contributed to sudden and deep falls in fertility. Such a drive in the 1970s in Matlab, a district in Bangladesh, saw the share of women using contraceptives increase six-fold in 18 months.

...

...The UN estimates that there are still 216m married women in the world who would like access to modern methods of contraception, but do not have it. The Copenhagen Consensus, a group of academics which rates development policies, reckons it would cost $3.6 billion a year to provide what they need. The benefits, in terms of the diminished need for infrastructure and social spending, reduced pollution and so on, would be $432 billion a year—120 times more. That is the second-most productive investment the project has identified, after liberalising trade, out of a welter of different development goals. Better yet, it helps with all the others.

The Economist

Note that giving poor people free contraception also provides a nice solution to the meat eater problem.

I'd be curious to hear if anyone has arguments against free contraception as a cause area.

Comment by xccf on Charities I Would Like to See · 2016-04-06T10:20:10.597Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Seems reasonable.

Such research might be very high leverage if bee happiness correlates positively with honey production and you can develop and market a relatively cheap product to bee farmers that increases bee happiness and thus honey production.

Comment by xccf on Charities I Would Like to See · 2016-04-03T17:36:41.698Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Wouldn't farming bees be better than farming rats? They are even smaller, and you could support the operation by selling the honey. (If bees don't win because they are smaller, why not go bigger and create a happy farm full of egg laying chickens or something? Same advantage of being able to support the operation by selling animal products.)

Comment by xccf on If tech progress might be bad, what should we tell people about it? · 2016-03-04T10:22:01.313Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA · GW

Eliezer recently posted advice for central banks on how to accelerate economic growth. I'm not sure if that means he has changed his mind. (Maybe he's deliberately giving them bad advice.)

Comment by xccf on If tech progress might be bad, what should we tell people about it? · 2016-03-04T10:19:05.781Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

And http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/12/tiptoe-or-dash-to-future.html

Comment by xccf on Should effective altruists work on taxation of the very rich? · 2016-02-16T01:54:50.556Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

in the US they receive 20% of all income and own about 35% of all wealth

How does this 35% figure account for people in debt?

Future changes in technology (e.g. atomically precise manufacturing or artificial intelligence) may leave most human labour with no market value at all. In the absence of an effective existing infrastructure for the taxation of capital incomes to fund e.g. a minimum income, almost all income may then be received by a tiny number of unimaginably rich people, while an outright majority face starvation (unless fortunate enough to receive private charity).

I think this scenario deserves more analysis. As a reductio ad absurdum, why can't the "outright majority facing starvation" run their own parallel economy with no atomically precise manufacturing or AI? Even given atomically precise manufacturing, why shouldn't a destitute subsistence farmer in Africa be unable to continue subsistence farming and thereby avoid starvation? Perhaps a more realistic scenario is some AI trillionaire comes along and offers to buy the farmer's land, because they're running out of things to buy. In which case if the farmer is smart, the farmer only accepts a deal where they get enough money to live comfortably off of the dividends from that money if it's invested in AI stocks. So then the issue is people who are in debt around the time AI gets invented and don't have time to get out of debt before they lose their jobs, or people who manage their investments poorly or spend their nest egg. I'm not saying their is no issue here, I just think it deserves to be thought through further.

In a world where all material goods are essentially free, people who own dividend-paying AI stocks will either (a) not spend their money, which means it doesn't matter much who owns it or (b) use it to purchase non-material goods--that is, services that only humans can provide or are better provided by humans, such as therapy, tutoring, medical care, policing, etc. Many of the jobs with the most employment seem like jobs that an AI stock owner would be willing to pay extra for a human to do.

Re: developing countries. An alternative story I've heard is that many go through a flip-flopping pattern of alternately trying to attract foreign investors in order to grow the national economy, and then having the locals get fed up by the fact that foreigners own so much infrastructure and having the government nationalize the infrastructure. Obviously this scares off foreign investors, which contributes to economic stagnation until the cycle repeats. According to this story, the wealthiest countries are wealthy because they provide a stable, predictable, profitable environment for entrepreneurs and investors, and in order to make more of the world wealthy, we need to give more people the opportunity to live under such a stable economic regime.

Immigration from developing countries to developed countries is one way of doing this, but I worry that in the limit, adding immigrants from unstable regimes to a stable regime makes it unstable. I would rather find a way to create new stable regimes. If we don't have methods for creating new stable regimes, it seems sensible to be conservative with the ones we already have.

Comment by xccf on Do EAs underestimate opportunities to create many small benefits? · 2016-01-26T08:43:44.570Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Devil's advocacy for this proposal:

  • Increasing air travel means increasing carbon emissions.

  • It's good for people to accept government intrusion, because a light global surveillance state (PRISM type stuff) will be desirable in the face of x-risks brought by nanotechnology, biotechnology, or other future developments. (We may as well leverage terrorist threats to get this light global surveillance state implemented, since the nanotech/biotech justifications are too weird to ever be accepted by the mainstream.)

  • If a successful terrorist attack involving planes is later conducted, the EA brand will suffer mightily (people are really irrational when it comes to terrorist attacks). This is related to my theory for why Obama is so drone-happy: if there is a major terrorist attack on US soil, power will go to the Republicans in the next election, so Democrats have a stronger incentive to actually prevent terrorist attacks. Obama also has less of a disincentive to take harsh measures against potential terrorists since liberals will go easy on him; see also Nixon goes to China. (I'm curious how far this argument can be generalized--does one always want to elect the politician who states the opposite of the foreign policy one wants to see implemented?) (Note: I don't think protecting our brand should be paramount over all other considerations, but I do think we should risk reputational capital wisely.)

  • Aligning the EA movement politically runs the risk of alienating potential EAs who are polarized against whoever we align ourselves with.

Veg*n recidivism seems important, tractable, and neglected

2015-06-28T18:33:01.268Z · score: 16 (16 votes)