CarlaZoeC

1014Joined Jul 2020

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26

The post in which I speak about EAs being uncomfortable about us publishing the article only talks about interactions with people who did not have any information about initial drafting with Torres. At that stage, the paper was completely different and a paper between Kemp and I. None of the critiques about it or the conversations about it involved concerns about Torres, co-authoring with Torres or arguments by Torres, except in so far as they might have taken Torres an example of the closing doors that can follow a critique. The paper was in such a totally different state and it would have been misplaced to call it a collaboration with Torres. 

There was a very early draft of Torres and Kemp which I was invited to look at (in December 2020) and collaborate on. While the arguments seemed promising to me, I thought it needed major re-writing of both tone and content. No one instructed me (maybe someone instructed Luke?) that one could not co-author with Torres. I also don't recall that we were forced to take Torres off the collaboration (I’m not sure who know about the conversations about collaborations we had): we decided to part because we wanted to move the content and tone in a very different direction, because Torres had (to our surprise) unilaterally published major parts of the initial draft as a mini-book already and because we thought that this collaboration was going to be very difficult. I recall video calls in which we discussed the matter with Torres, decided to take out sections that were initially supplied by Torres and cite Torres’ mini-book whereever we deemed it necessary to refer to it. The degree to which the Democratising Risk paper is influenced by Torres is seen in our in-text citations: we don't hide the fact that we find some of the arguments noteworthy! Torres agreed with those plans. 

At the time it seemed to me that I and Torres were trying to achieve fundamentally different goals: I wanted to start a critical discussion within EA and Torres was ready by that stage to incoculate others against EA and longtermism. It was clear to me that the tone and style of argumentation of initial drafts had little chance of being taken seriously in EA. My own opinion is that many arguments made by Torres are not rigorous enough to sway me, but that they often contain an initial source of contention that is worth spending time developping further to see whether it has substance. Torres and I agree in so far as we surely both think there are several worthy critiques of EA and longtermism that should be considered, but I think we differ greatly in our credences in the plausibility of different critiques, how we wanted to treat and present critiques and who we wanted to discuss them with.

The emotional contexual embedding of an argument matters greatly to its perception. I thought EAs, like most people, were not protected from assessing arguments emotionally and while I don't follow EA dramas closely (someone also kindly alerted me to this one unfolding), by early 2021 I had gotten the memo that Torres had become an emotional signal for EAs to discount much of what the name was attached to. At the time I thought it would not do the arguments justice to let them be discounted because of an associated name that many in EA seem to have an emotional reaction against and the question of reception did become one factor for why we thought it best not to consider the co-authorship with Torres. One can of course manage perception of a paper via co-authorship and we considered collaborating with respected EAs to give it more credibility but we decided both against name-dropping those people who invested via long conversations and commentary in the piece to boost it as much as we decided not to advertise that there are obvious overlaps with some of Torres’ critiques. There is nothing to hide in my view: one can read Torres' work and Democratising Risk (and in fact many other peoples’ critiques) and see similarities - this should probably strengthen one’s belief that there’s something in that ballpark of arguments that many people feel we should take seriously? 

Apart from the fact that it really is an entirely different paper (what you saw is version 26 or something and I think about 30 people have commented on it. I'm not sure it's meaningful to speak about V1 and V20 as being the same paper. And what you see is all there is: all the citations of Torres are indeed pointing to writing by Torres, but they are easily found and you'll see that it is not a disproportionate influence), we did indeed hope to avoid the exact scenario we find ourselves in now! The paper is at risk of being evaluated in light of any connection to Torres rather than on it's own terms, and my trustworthiness in reporting on EAs treatment of critiques is being questioned because I cared about the presentation and reception of the arguments in this paper? A huge amount of work went into adjusting the tone of the paper to EAs (irrespective of Torres, this was a point of contention between Luke and I too), to ensure the arguments would get a fair hearing and we had to balance this against non-EA outsiders who thought we were not forceful enough.

 I think we succeeded in this balance, since both sides still to tell us we didn't do quite enough (the tone still seems harsh to EAs and too timid to outsiders) but both EAs and outsiders do engage with the paper and the arguments and I do think it is true that there is a greater awareness about (self-) censorship risk and critiques being valuable. Having published , EAs have so far been kind towards me. This is great! I do hope it'll stay this way. Contrary to popular belief, it's not sexy to be seen as the critic. It doesn't feel great to be told a paper will damage an institution, to have others insinuate that I plug my own papers under pseudonyms in forum comments or that I had malicious intentions in being open about the experience, and it’s annoying to be placed into boxes with other authors who you might strongly disagree with. While I understand that those who don't know me must take any piece of evidence they can get to evaluate the trustworthiness of my claims, I find it a little concerning that anyone should be willing to infer and evaluate character from minor interactions. Shouldn’t we rather say: given that we can’t fully verify her experience, can we think about why such an experience would be bad for the project of EA and what safeguards we have in place such that those experiences don't happen? My hope was that I can serve as a positive example to others who feel the need to voice whatever opinion (“see it’s not so bad!”), so I thank anyone on here who is trying to ease the exhaust that inevitably comes with navigating criticism in a community. The experience so far has made me think that EAs care very much that all arguments (including those they disagree with) are heard. Even if you don’t think I'm trustworthy and earnest in my concerns, do please continue to keep the benefit of doubt in mind towards your perceived critics, I think we all agree they are valuable to have among us and if you care about EA, do keep the process of assessing trustworthiness amicable, if not for me then for future critics who do a better job than I. 

I agree this is clearly a terrible argument and I'd hope my proposition for distributed decision making would never be dragged into such an argumentative mess. Throwaway151, I'm happy to have a call to discuss the many doubts and questions you have? 

Torres did provide comments on a draft indeed - so did many others, we were very liberal in sharing it before it went out. I would have to dig deep to know whether we accepted Torres' comments on any later drafts, but I'm very sure there was no major rewriting in response to Torres comments and we certaintly saw now responsibility to do so: commentary is not authorship. 

Hi Lukas - I'm sorry I didn't get back to you, I think this should be considered bad form. tbh I cannot recall why I didn't, I just remember having been on many calls about this (realising this approach wasn't scalable) and simply wanting to take a break from this paper after many months of it taking emotional effort (and I am indeed rarely on FB and must have fogotten to reply). I would have hoped for you to ping me via email if it was important to you! I'm still happy to have a call to answer your questions. 

The post in which I speak about EAs being uncomfortable about us publishing the article only talks about interactions with people who did not have any information about initial drafting with Torres. At that stage, the paper was completely different and a paper between Kemp and I. None of the critiques about it or the conversations about it involved concerns about Torres, co-authoring with Torres or arguments by Torres, except in so far as they might have taken Torres an example of the closing doors that can follow a critique. The paper was in such a totally different state and it would have been misplaced to call it a collaboration with Torres. 

There was a very early draft of Torres and Kemp which I was invited to look at (in December 2020) and collaborate on. While the arguments seemed promising to me, I thought it needed major re-writing of both tone and content. No one instructed me (maybe someone instructed Luke?) that one could not co-author with Torres. I also don't recall that we were forced to take Torres off the collaboration (I’m not sure who know about the conversations about collaborations we had): we decided to part because we wanted to move the content and tone in a very different direction, because Torres had (to our surprise) unilaterally published major parts of the initial draft as a mini-book already and because we thought that this collaboration was going to be very difficult. I recall video calls in which we discussed the matter with Torres, decided to take out sections that were initially supplied by Torres and cite Torres’ mini-book whereever we deemed it necessary to refer to it. The degree to which the Democratising Risk paper is influenced by Torres is seen in our in-text citations: we don't hide the fact that we find some of the arguments noteworthy! Torres agreed with those plans. 

At the time it seemed to me that I and Torres were trying to achieve fundamentally different goals: I wanted to start a critical discussion within EA and Torres was ready by that stage to incoculate others against EA and longtermism. It was clear to me that the tone and style of argumentation of initial drafts had little chance of being taken seriously in EA. My own opinion is that many arguments made by Torres are not rigorous enough to sway me, but that they often contain an initial source of contention that is worth spending time developping further to see whether it has substance. Torres and I agree in so far as we surely both think there are several worthy critiques of EA and longtermism that should be considered, but I think we differ greatly in our credences in the plausibility of different critiques, how we wanted to treat and present critiques and who we wanted to discuss them with.

The emotional contexual embedding of an argument matters greatly to its perception. I thought EAs, like most people, were not protected from assessing arguments emotionally and while I don't follow EA dramas closely (someone also kindly alerted me to this one unfolding), by early 2021 I had gotten the memo that Torres had become an emotional signal for EAs to discount much of what the name was attached to. At the time I thought it would not do the arguments justice to let them be discounted because of an associated name that many in EA seem to have an emotional reaction against and the question of reception did become one factor for why we thought it best not to consider the co-authorship with Torres. One can of course manage perception of a paper via co-authorship and we considered collaborating with respected EAs to give it more credibility but we decided both against name-dropping those people who invested via long conversations and commentary in the piece to boost it as much as we decided not to advertise that there are obvious overlaps with some of Torres’ critiques. There is nothing to hide in my view: one can read Torres' work and Democratising Risk (and in fact many other peoples’ critiques) and see similarities - this should probably strengthen one’s belief that there’s something in that ballpark of arguments that many people feel we should take seriously? 

Apart from the fact that it really is an entirely different paper (what you saw is version 26 or something and I think about 30 people have commented on it. I'm not sure it's meaningful to speak about V1 and V20 as being the same paper. And what you see is all there is: all the citations of Torres are indeed pointing to writing by Torres, but they are easily found and you'll see that it is not a disproportionate influence), we did indeed hope to avoid the exact scenario we find ourselves in now! The paper is at risk of being evaluated in light of any connection to Torres rather than on it's own terms, and my trustworthiness in reporting on EAs treatment of critiques is being questioned because I cared about the presentation and reception of the arguments in this paper? A huge amount of work went into adjusting the tone of the paper to EAs (irrespective of Torres, this was a point of contention between Luke and I too), to ensure the arguments would get a fair hearing and we had to balance this against non-EA outsiders who thought we were not forceful enough.

 I think we succeeded in this balance, since both sides still to tell us we didn't do quite enough (the tone still seems harsh to EAs and too timid to outsiders) but both EAs and outsiders do engage with the paper and the arguments and I do think it is true that there is a greater awareness about (self-) censorship risk and critiques being valuable. Having published , EAs have so far been kind towards me. This is great! I do hope it'll stay this way. Contrary to popular belief, it's not sexy to be seen as the critic. It doesn't feel great to be told a paper will damage an institution, to have others insinuate that I plug my own papers under pseudonyms in forum comments or that I had malicious intentions in being open about the experience, and it’s annoying to be placed into boxes with other authors who you might strongly disagree with. While I understand that those who don't know me must take any piece of evidence they can get to evaluate the trustworthiness of my claims, I find it a little concerning that anyone should be willing to infer and evaluate character from minor interactions. Shouldn’t we rather say: given that we can’t fully verify her experience, can we think about why such an experience would be bad for the project of EA and what safeguards we have in place such that those experiences don't happen? My hope was that I can serve as a positive example to others who feel the need to voice whatever opinion (“see it’s not so bad!”), so I thank anyone on here who is trying to ease the exhaust that inevitably comes with navigating criticism in a community. The experience so far has made me think that EAs care very much that all arguments (including those they disagree with) are heard. Even if you don’t think I'm trustworthy and earnest in my concerns, do please continue to keep the benefit of doubt in mind towards your perceived critics, I think we all agree they are valuable to have among us and if you care about EA, do keep the process of assessing trustworthiness amicable, if not for me then for future critics who do a better job than I. 

jumping in here briefly because someone alerted me to this post mentioning my name: I did not comment, I was not even aware of your forum post John, (sorry I don't tend to read the EA forum), don't tend to advertise previous works of mine in other peoples comments sections and if I'd comment anywhere it would certainly be under my own name 

Thanks for saying this publically too Nick, this is helpful for anyone who might worry about funding. 

Thanks for stating this publically  here Will! 

Saying thepaper is poorly argued is not particularly helpful or convincing. Could you highlight where and why Rubi? Breadth does not de-facto mean poorly argued.  If that was the case then most of the key texts in  x-risk would all be poorly argued.

Importantly, breadth was necessary to make a critique. There are simply many interrelated matters that are worth critical analysis. 

Several times the case against the TUA was not actually argued, merely asserted to exist along with one or two citations for which it is hard to evaluate if they represent a consensus.

As  David highlights in his response: we do not argue against the TUA, but point out the unanswered questions we observed. We do not argue against the TUA , but highlight assumptions that may be incorrect or smuggle in values. Interestingly, it's hard to find  how you believe the piece is both polemic but also not directly critiquing the TUA sufficiently.  Those two criticisms are in tension. 

If you check our references, you will see that we cite many published papers that treat common criticisms and open questions of the TUA (mostly by advancing the research). 

You spoke to 20+ reviewers, half of which were sought out to disagree with you, and not a single one could provide a case for differential technology?

Of course there are arguments for it, some of which are discussed in the forum. Our argument is that there is a lack of peer-review evidence to support differential technological development as a cornerstone of a policy approach to x-risk. Asking that we articulate and address every hypothetical counterargument is an incredibly high-bar, and one that is not applied to any other literature in the field (certainly not the key articles of the TUA we focus on). It would also make the paper far longer and broader. Again,  your points are in tension. 

I think the paper would have been better served by focusing on a single section, leaving the rest to future work. The style of assertions rather than argument and skipping over potential responses comes across as more polemical than evidence-seeking.

Then it wouldn't be a critique of the TUA. It would be a piece on differential tech development or hazard-centrism. 

This is remarkably similar to a critique we got from Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh. He both said that we should zoom in an focus on one section and said that we should zoom out and compare the TUA against all (?) potential alternatives. The recommendations are in tension and obnly share the commonality of making sure we write a paper that isn't a criqitue.

We see many remaining problems in x-risk. This paper is an attempt to list those issues and point out their weaknesses and areas for improvement. It should be read similar to a research agenda. 

The abstract and conclusion  clearly spell-out the areas where we take a clear position, such as the need for diversity in the field, taking lessons from  complex risk assessments in other areas, and democratisting policy recommendations. We do not articulate a position on degrowth, differential tech development etc.  We highlight that the existing evidence basis and arguments for them are weak.

We do not position ourselves in many cases, because we believe they require further detailed work and deliberation. In that sense I agree with you that we're covering too much - but only if the goal was to present clear positions on all these points. Since this was not the goal, I think it's fine to list many remaining questions and point out that indeed they still are questions that require answers. If you have strong opinion on any of the questions we mention, then go ahead write a paper that argues for one side, publish it, and let's get on with the science. 

Seán also called the paper polemic several times. (Per definition = strong verbal written attack, hostile, critical). This is not necessarily an insult (Orwell's Animal Farm is considered a polemic against totalitarianism), but I'm guessing it's not meant in that way. 

We are somewhat disappointed that one of the most upvoted responses on the forum to our piece is so vague and unhelpful. We would expect a community that has such high epistemic standards to reward comments that articulate clear, specific criticisms grounded in evidence and capable of being acted on.

Finally, the 'speaking abstractly' about funding. It is hard not see to see this as an insinuation that this we have consistently produced such poor scholarship that it would justify withdrawn funding. Again, this does not signal anything positive aboput the epistemics, or just sheer civility, of the community.

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