Responses and Testimonies on EA Growth

My mental model is that in the early years, a disproportionately large portion of the EA community consisted of the community’s founders and their friends (and friends of friends, etc.) This cohort is likely to be very tolerant of the early members’ idiosyncrasies- it’s even possible some of those friendships were built around those idiosyncrasies. 

That's true, and those friendships also probably reduced conflict as well - much harder to take a very negative view of someone you know well socially.

Progress Open Thread: March 2021

The version of "kind" I'm thinking of doesn't just encompass "not insulting people", but covers other everyday aspects of the word. The relevant one here is: "Don't insinuate that a given member of a certain group is likely to be dangerous, to the point that you don't recommend people interact closely with them.

This seems like quite a strange policy. You're clearly diverging from Scott's policy in a big way: he is talking about being nice to other commenters (form), but you have some major  content-based assumptions baked in. 

Indeed, your approach is in some cases the exact opposite of Scott's approach!

Consider a scenario where you are a native of a third world country, and a fellow EA is going to come visit. This person, while well intentioned, is generally quite naive, so you are keen to look out for their welfare. Alas! Shortly before they arrive, you find out they have booked accommodation in an extremely dangerous part of town, where murder, rape and kidnapping are common, and the police fear the gangs. Your country doesn't have good statistics for this area (as no-one reports crimes to the police), so you can't prove this to her, yet it is surely the kind thing to warn her of this, and encourage her to rent in a different part of the city. In doing so you are indeed insinuating that a certain group is likely to be dangerous, and encouraging ther hem to avoid contact - but this is the kind thing to do! Staying silent is the socially easy way out, but it does nothing to help your friend. Sacrificing your social standing and reputation to speak uncomfortable truths for the sake of a welfare of someone you have never met is surely the height of kindness.


A couple of times in your comment you discuss the danger of stereotypes. Unfortunately I think this shows a very prejudiced (if you will forgive the pun) view of stereotypes. Actually, research suggests that stereotypes are generally very accurate:

Stereotype accuracy is one of the largest and most replicable effects in all of social psychology.  Richard et al (2003) found that fewer than 5% of all effects in social psychology exceeded r’s of .50. In contrast, nearly all consensual stereotype accuracy correlations and about half of all personal stereotype accuracy correlations exceed .50.[1]

Finally, you suggested this:

For example, under the standard you seem to be suggesting, you could have gone on in your comment to speculate about the safest gender, race, national origin, and IQ of child to adopt. Even if these were all just "inferences", I can't imagine them improving the quality of discussion, because I've never seen the internet work that way.

Actually, this is a great point, and one that I think more supports my argument. One thing that it is very important for adoptive families in the US to be aware of are the issues around adopting Native American children. Because of special laws, you run the risk of the child being taken away from you long after you have taken them into your home, in a way that would not be legally possible for a non-native-american child. As a result of this I would indeed recommend parents take race into account when adopting inside the US, insomuchas they should be extra careful with native children. It is important to be able to discuss this; it's a significant risk and one we shouldn't cover up, even if some people might find the topic politically uncomfortable. 

Please stand with the Asian diaspora

The document is written in legalese, and by a judge who ultimately decided in Harvard's favor, so you have to piece it together from different sections unfortunately:

The personal rating reflects the admissions officer’s assessment of what kind of contribution the applicant would make to the Harvard community based on their personal qualities. [Oct. 17 Tr. 213:22–216:1; Oct. 18 Tr. 39:1–25]. Although the reading procedures have not historically provided detailed guidance on what qualities should be considered in assigning a personal rating, relevant qualities might include integrity, helpfulness, courage, kindness, fortitude, empathy, self-confidence, leadership ability, maturity, or grit. 


Mr. Hansen’s less complete models, which did not include variables for racial identities, projected admitted classes with far more Asian students than Harvard’s actual admitted classes, suggesting either that racial tips resulted in fewer Asian students being admitted or that factors correlated with Asian identity that were not included in Mr. Hansen’s models were significantly affecting which applicants Harvard chose to admit. 


These statistics on the use of “standard strong” are consistent with the profile ratings Harvard admissions officers assigned to Asian American applicants and white applicants, which show that Asian American applicants excelled, on average, on academic and extracurricular ratings, but were weaker when evaluated on personal and athletic criteria. 


Professor Card [The Harvard defence expert] creates an independent model for each admissions cycle, includes the personal rating because he concludes that it does not reflect race and, in any event, includes information that is important to the admissions process such that omitting it skews the outcome, includes the other variables that Professor Arcidiacono omits, and does not interact variables. Using this approach, he comes out with a very slight, and not statistically significant, negative coefficient for Asian American identity and concludes, based on that data and approach, that Asian Americans are not discriminated against in Harvard’s admissions process. 


Asian Americans would likely be admitted at a higher rate than white applicants if admissions decisions were made based solely on the academic and extracurricular ratings. Among Expanded Dataset applicants, more than 60% of Asian American applicants received academic ratings of 1 or 2, compared to 46% of white applicants, 9% of African American applicants, and 17% of Hispanic applicants. [Oct. 25 Tr. 49:17–50:5; PX623]. Overall, strong academic applicants are particularly abundant, with a higher percentage of applicants (42%) scoring a 1 or 2 on the academic rating as compared to the percent that score a 1 or 2 on any other rating. [DD10 at 4].46 Asian American applicants’ stronger academic ratings broadly align with their stronger performance across a range of qualitative indicators of academic strength. [Oct. 25 Tr. 41:18–46:9; PD38 at 4–7]. Asian American applicants also average relatively high extracurricular ratings. More than 28% of Expanded Dataset Asian American applicants receive an extracurricular rating of 1 or 2, compared to 25% of white applicants, 16% of African American applicants, and 17% of Hispanic applicants. [Oct. 25 Tr. 52:12–22; PX623]. Although Harvard admissions officers do not believe that Asian American applicants, as a group, have worse personal qualities than other applicants and Harvard alumni interviewers assign personal ratings of 1 or 2 to Expanded Dataset Asian American and white applicants with a similar frequency, [Oct. 23 Tr. 204:1–9; Oct. 24 Tr. 138:11–16; Oct. 25 Tr. 55:7–12], Harvard admissions officers assign Asian American applicants personal ratings that are, on average, slightly weaker than those assigned to applicants from other racial groups, [PX623]. Among Expanded Dataset applicants, 22.6% of white applicants receive a personal rating of 1 or 2, compared to 18% of Asian Americans, 19.4% of African Americans, and 19.1% of Hispanics. 


The model implies that when holding constant nearly all of the available observable variables, Asian American identity is associated with a lower probability of being assigned a strong personal Case 1:14-cv-14176-ADB Document 672 Filed 09/30/19 Page 68 of 130 69 rating by an admission officer. More precisely, his model suggests that an average Baseline Dataset Asian American applicant has a 17.8% probability of receiving a 2 or higher on the personal rating, which is lower than the 21.6% chance that the model suggests the applicant would have in the absence of any racial preference. [Oct. 25 Tr. 96:24–97:24; PD38 at 31]. Harvard did not offer a competing regression model to show that no statistically significant relationship between Asian American identity and the personal rating exists, and the Court therefore concludes that the data demonstrates a statistically significant and negative relationship between Asian American identity and the personal rating assigned by Harvard admissions officers, holding constant any reasonable set of observable characteristics.


Third, as discussed supra at Section V.C, E, teacher and guidance counselor recommendations seemingly presented Asian Americans as having less favorable personal characteristics than similarly situated non-Asian American applicants, and the school support ratings do not fully reflect more subtle racial disparities. As the experts’ analyses demonstrate, some race-correlated variation in teacher and guidance counselor recommendations is likely a cause of at least part of the disparity in the personal ratings. See supra at Sections V.C, E. Professor Card’s analysis shows that the school support ratings for Asian American applicants are generally weaker than the ratings for white students when comparing white and Asian American students who receive the same academic rating.


Overall, the disparity between white and Asian American applicants’ personal ratings has not been fully and satisfactorily explained. Because some of the disparity in personal ratings is due to teacher and guidance counselor recommendations, the issue becomes whether the remaining disparity reflects discrimination. The disparity in personal ratings between Asian American and other minority groups is considerably larger than between Asian American and white applicants and suggests that at least some admissions officers might have subconsciously provided tips in the personal rating, particularly to African American and Hispanic applicants, to create an alignment between the profile ratings and the race-conscious overall ratings that they were assigning.

Responses and Testimonies on EA Growth

For this to be the explanation presumably intra-EA conflict would not merely need to be driving people away, but driving people away at higher rates than it used to. It's not clear to me why this would be the case.

It's also worth noting that highly engaged EAs are quite close socially. It's possible that many of those 178 people might be thinking of the same people!

Progress Open Thread: March 2021

Thanks for the feedback. While you are a moderator and can of course moderate as you wish, I must admit I found it confusing. I tried looking through the rules to find anything related to this:

The current comment makes unkind assumptions about a group of people without accurate data to back them — so despite the good intentions, it falls afoul of our rules.

The closest I could find was this section:

   Unnecessary rudeness or offensiveness

But this is of course quite different. My comment's tone was not particularly rude (e.g. no swearing, personal attacks), and nor was the content 'unnecessary' - or at least no more so than many other comments on the forum. In a situation whether there is a logical reason why a course of action is bad, but no hard empirical data, what alternative is there but to share our best attempt at reasoning?

Furthermore, I am not sure it is true that I made unkind assumptions; I assume you are refering to this section, but it is clearly an inference, not an assumption, that older adopted children present an elevated risk, and one that is couched in measured language like 'consider' and 'might':

Finally, it is a well established fact that one of the biggest threats to children comes from their mothers getting new boyfriends who are not genetically related to the child; this results in a something like a 10x increase in child abuse risk vs traditional families. I have never seen similar statistics around older adopted children but I would consider whether they might present a similar risk to your son given the 12 year age gap.

Indeed, arguably my comment was actually encouraged by the rules:

Polish: We'd rather see an idea presented imperfectly than not see it at all.

Worse, I think your objection is an isolated demand for rigor. It is very common for people to express arguments in the absence of hard statistical data; such data-heavy comments are a minority of those on the forum. Even among top-level articles such sources are often omitted - for example this highly upvoted post from the frontpage contains almost no statistics at all, yet I don't think this is a major problem.

So what is different here? My guess is the true crux of your objection is that my comment expresses a negative view of a group who it is not socially acceptable to criticize (you will note that Denise's comment also implies negative things, about a different group, but she has received no pushback because her target is considered socially acceptable to criticize)

But I encourage you to reconsider this, because as Effective Altruists we need to ensure our beliefs are as accurate as possible. This is not a topic of idle speculation: my comment was written to be specifically action guiding, and the negative facts about adopted children, especially older adopted children, are a crucial component of any fair evaluation of the risks and benefits of this decision. We should not be straw rationalists who are unable to act in the absence of RCTs; we can and should use evidence from other domains to make logical inferences when we have to make decisions under uncertainty. If we punish such comments, while allowing relatively statistic-light 'positive' comments we create a persistent bias which will lead us to social desirability bias. It is well known that the EA movement has a bias against conservatives; we should not let this bias morph into a moderation policy.

Less importantly, I also think you may not have properly understood my argument, because you raise this as a challenge:

I think it's very likely that adopted teenagers report higher life satisfaction than teenagers who don't get adopted. I'll gladly donate $50 to the charity of someone's choice if they find solid data showing otherwise, since my first few minutes of research didn't get me anywhere.

Yet better outcomes for adopted teenagers over non-adopted teenagers is actually a logical consequence of the  considerations I mentioned, because never-adopted children will have even worse adverse selection problems than late-adopted children!

Please stand with the Asian diaspora

There is a lot of discrimination that isn't violence. 

This is a good point, and definitely true. One example is the massive discrimination that asians face in college admissions. During the Harvard admissions trial, both sides agreed that asian applicants had generally superior academic and extracurricular credentials to white applicants, and much higher than black applicants, and yet were admitted at significantly lower rates. The university's defence was that on average asians had inferior personalities, a finding which to my knowledge not supported by academic research, and seems potentially somewhat offensive to asian people.

Please stand with the Asian diaspora

I am wondering whether you are talking about the US only?

Yes - the US is the country whose data I am most familiar with, and the article is written by someone at Cornell (in America) about an event that took place in America and contains a link to a list of resources by Americans providing advice for Americans. The US also has an unusually high asian population for a non asian majority country, which makes this issue more significant than in e.g. Switzerland  or Japan.

It's possible that this is also happening in other countries. Certainly Americans often wrongly ignore the rest of the world so I may be guilty of this!  If you have data that there has been a similar surge in anti-asian violence in other countries that would be valuable to know and somewhat contradict my hypothesis, as BLM is obviously a primarily US phenomena.

Please stand with the Asian diaspora

I'm not sure it is clear that the Atlanta shooting was an incidence of anti-asian prejudice. The shooter himself said this was not a significant part of his motivation, and given that he seems willing to confess to killing people for a crazy reason I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt:

Long said his actions were not racially motivated, but claims instead to be driven by sex addiction at odds with his religious beliefs.[9][23][24] According to Sheriff Reynolds, Long wanted to "eliminate the temptation" by targeting day spas.[24][25] Long said he wanted to "help" others dealing with sex addictions by targeting the spas.

It is true that many people in the media have suggested this was about the ethnicity of many (but not all) of his victims. But they do not have very strong evidence for this, and I think the lesson from many past tragedies like this is that often people's first impressions are shown to be mistaken as more facts come to light. To the extent that this story causes an emotional toll on readers, we should partly blame the media here for trying to fit a racial narrative to an event where it is not at all clear it fits.

Despite the lack of good data, I suspect that it is indeed the case that anti-asian crimes have risen significantly this year. We known that violent crime in general has increased significantly since the BLM protests/riots of last summer, and that attacks on asians are disproportionately caused by blacks (28% for 2018, the last year we have data, vs just 15% for white and hispanic victims). So my guess is that reductions in policing as a result of the protests have left many asians exposed. Most races are primarily victimised by others of the same race (62% for whites, 70% for blacks), but this is far less true for asians (24%). Presumably it is these inter-racial crimes that asians disproportionately suffer from which either are, or at least are reported as, hate crimes.

However, I'm not sure in practice there is very much we can directly do about the issue. Trying to reduce crime in the US seems like a very difficult task.

Progress Open Thread: March 2021

I realize this is a sensitive topic, but as it sounds like you have not yet firmly committed I will go ahead and encourage you to strongly consider not adopting an older child, for several reasons.

Firstly, people significantly over-estimate their ability to change the outcomes for adopted children. This has been well studied with twin adoption studies, which generally find that adopted children's outcomes are closely linked to their biological parents - and not very linked to their adaptive parents. A good (if slightly dated now) introduction to this is Caplan's Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, reviewed and excerpted here

Secondly, by adopting an older child you put yourself in a much worse position. To the (limited) extent that good parenting can improve things, at 15 years a lot of that opportunity has been missed. 

Worse, you are suffering from severe adverse selection. By adopting a much older child, you are choosing a child than has been repeated not adopted by other people. This suggests that, even relative to the general class of kids up for adoption, this child is likely to have significant behavioural issues.

Finally, it is a well established fact that one of the biggest threats to children comes from their mothers getting new boyfriends who are not genetically related to the child; this results in a something like a 10x increase in child abuse risk vs traditional families. I have never seen similar statistics around older adopted children but I would consider whether they might present a similar risk to your son given the 12 year age gap.

As a result I would encourage you to consider having another biological child instead. This is also potentially much bigger upside: instead of (hopefully) someone improving someone's life a bit, you give an entire life to someone who would not have otherwise had one. 

Blameworthiness for Avoidable Psychological Harms

Reminded me of this paper, on a somewhat related topic:

We investigate the consequences and predictors of emitting signals of victimhood and virtue. In our first three studies, we show that the virtuous victim signal can facilitate nonreciprocal resource transfer from others to the signaler. Next, we develop and validate a victim signaling scale that we combine with an established measure of virtue signaling to operationalize the virtuous victim construct. We show that individuals with Dark Triad traits—Machiavellianism, Narcissism, Psychopathy—more frequently signal virtuous victimhood, controlling for demographic and socioeconomic variables that are commonly associated with victimization in Western societies. In Study 5, we show that a specific dimension of Machiavellianism—amoral manipulation—and a form of narcissism that reflects a person’s belief in their superior prosociality predict more frequent virtuous victim signaling. Studies 3, 4, and 6 test our hypothesis that the frequency of emitting virtuous victim signal predicts a person’s willingness to engage in and endorse ethically questionable behaviors, such as lying to earn a bonus, intention to purchase counterfeit products and moral judgments of counterfeiters, and making exaggerated claims about being harmed in an organizational context.

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