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dr_s

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I would need to dig up specific stuff, but in general I'd suggest to just check out his Twitter/X account https://twitter.com/RichardHanania and see what he says. These days it's completely dominated by discourse on the Palestine protests so it's hard to dig out anything on race. Mind you, he's not one to hold a fully stereotypical GOP-aligned package of ideas - he has a few deviations and is secular (so for example pro-choice on abortion; also he's definitely not antisemitic, in fact he explicitly called himself prosemitic, as he believes Jews to be smarter). But on race I'm fairly convinced he 100% believes in scientific racism from any time he's talked about it. I don't want to link any of the opinion pieces around that argue for this (but there's a fair deal if you want to check them out and try to separate fact from fiction - many point out that he's sort of switched to some more defensive "bailey" arguments lately, which he seems to do and explicitly advocate for as a strategy in his latest book "The Origins of Woke" too, again see the ACX review). But for some primary evidence, for example, here's a tweet about how crime can only be resolved by more incarceration and surveillance of black people:

https://twitter.com/RichardHanania/status/1657541010745081857?lang=en-GB

His RationalWiki article has obviously opinions about him, but also a bunch of links to primary sources in the bibliography:

https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Richard_Hanania

He used to write more explicitly racist stuff under the pseudonym Richard Hoste until a few years ago. He openly admitted this and wrote an apology blog post in which he basically says that he was young and went a bit too far. Now whether this corresponds to a genuine moderation (from extremely right wing to merely strongly socially conservative and anti-woke) is questionable, because it could just as well be a calculated retreat from a motte to a bailey. It's not wild to consider this possibility given that, again, he explicitly talks about how certain arguments would scare normies too much so it's better to just present more palatable ones. And after all that is a pretty sound strategy (and one Torres accused EAs of recently re: using malaria bednets as the bailey to draw people into the motte of AI safety, something that of course I don't quite see as evil as he implies it to be since I think AI safety absolutely is a concern, and the fact that it looks weird to the average person doesn't make it not so).

At this point from all I've seen my belief is that Hanania mostly is a "race realist" who thinks some races are inherently inferior and thus the correct order of things has them working worse jobs, earning less money etc. and all efforts in the opposite direction are unjust and counterproductive. I don't think he then moves from that to "and they should be genocided", but that's not a lot. He still thinks they should be an underclass and for now thinks that the market left to its own devices would make them so, which would be the rightful order of things. That's the model of him I built, and I find it hard to believe that Scott Alexander for example hasn't seen all the same stuff.

Thanks, that's useful! I guess the surprising thing is maybe just that there still are some fairly prominent names in the rationalist space that express obviously very right wing views and that they are generally almost not seen as such (for example Scott Alexander just wrote a review of Hanania's new book in which I'd say he almost ends up sounding naive by how much he doesn't simply acknowledge "well, clearly Hanania is barely stopping shy of saying black people are just stupider", something that Hanania has said openly elsewhere anyway, so it's barely a mystery that he believes it). 

So I am actually perhaps less familiar with the distribution of political beliefs in EAs specifically and I'm thinking about rationalist-adjacent communities more at large, and there's definitely some people more comfortable around some pretty racist stuff than you'd find elsewhere (as someone else quoted - ACX just published a review of Hanania's book "The origins of woke", and the book is apparently a big screed against civil rights law. And knowing Hanania, it's not hard to guess what he's driving at). So at least there's a certain tendency in which open-mindedness and willingness to always try to work everything out from first principles can let in some relatively questionable ideas.

I do agree about the problem with political labels. I do worry about whether that position will be tenable if the label of "TESCREAL" takes off in any meaningful way. Labels or not, if the rationalist community writ large gets under sustained political attack from one side of the aisle, natural alliances will be formed and polarization will almost certainly occur. 

Well, it's complicated. I think in theory these things should be open to discussion (see my point on moral philosophy). But now suppose that hypothetically there was incontrovertible scientific evidence that Group A is less moral or capable than Group B. We should still absolutely champion the view that wanting to ship Group A into camps and exterminate them is barbaric and vile, and that instead the humane and ethical thing to do is help Group A compensate for their issues and flourish at the best of their capabilities (after all, we generally hold this view for groups with various disabilities that absolutely DO hamper their ability to take part in society in various ways). But to know that at all can be also construed as an infohazard: just the fact itself creates the condition for a Molochian trap in which Group A gets screwed by nothing other than economic incentives and everyone else acting in their full rights and self-interest. So yeah, in some way these ideas are dangerous to explore, in the sense that they may be a case where truth-finding has net negative utility. That said, it's pretty clear that people are way too invested in them either way to just let sleeping dogs lie.

Yes, ACX readers do believe that genes influence a lot of life outcomes, and favour reproductive technologies like embryo selection, which are right-coded views. They're actually not restricted to the far-right, however.

 

The problem is that this is really a short step away from "certain races have lower IQ and it's kinda all there is to it to explain their socio-economic status", and I've seen many people take that step. Roko and Hanania which I mentioned explicitly absolutely do so publicly and repeatedly.

So the thing with self-identification is that I think it might suffer from a certain skew. I think there's fundamentally a bit of a stigma on identifying as right wing, and especially extreme right wing. Lots of middle class, educated people who perceive themselves as rational, empathetic and science-minded are more likely to want to perceive themselves as left wing, because that's what left wing identity used to prominently be until a bit over 15 years ago (which is when most of us probably had their formative youth political experiences). So someone might resist the label even if in practice they are on the right half of the Overton window. Must be noted though that in some cases this might just be the result of the Overton window moving around them - and I definitely have the feeling that we now have a more polarized distribution anyway.

I think you are onto something - and I think there is a distinction here between "elites" and "rank and file", so to speak. Not too surprisingly since these are people from very distinct backgrounds often anyway! I kind of shudder when I see high profile rationalists casually discussing betting or offering prizes of tens of thousands of dollars over small internet arguments, because it's fairly obvious these people live in a completely different world than mine (where my wife would rightfully have my head if I spaffed half of my year's salary for internet points). And having different material interests is fairly likely to skew your politics.

One more thing is that often the groups that you describe are most attracted to being libertarian - which is kind of a separate thing, but more right than left coded usually (though it's the "laissez fair capitalism" kind of right, not the "round up the ethnic minorities and put them in camps" one). 

There is a distinctive cluster of issues around "biodeterminism" on which these groups are very, very right-wing on average-eugenics, biological race and gender differences etc.-but on everything else they are centre-left. 

This is kind of a key point because there's also two dimensions to this. One is, "which statements about biodeterminism are true, if any?", and the other is "what should we do about that?". The first is a scientific question, the latter a political and moral one. But the truth is that because the right wing has offered some very awful answers to the latter, it has become an important tenet on the left to completely deny that any such statements could be true, which kind of cuts the problem at its roots. This is probably correct anyway for vastly disproved and discredited theses like "black people have lower IQ", but it gets to the point of denying that IQ is inheritable or correlates at all with anything worth calling "intelligence", which to me feels a bit too hard to believe (and even if it was - ok, so what is a better measure of intelligence? There has to exist one!).

And well, a community of high decoupling, high intelligence, science minded autists is probably the one that's most likely to take issue with that. Though again it should be very wary of the risk of going down the lane of self-aggrandizement in which you fall for any supposed "study" more or less flawed that says that group so-and-so is just constitutionally stupid, no need to think any harder about why they do badly.

Fair! I think it's hard to fully slot rationalists politically because, well, the mix of high decoupling and generally esoteric interests make for some unique combinations that don't fit neatly in the standard spectrum. I'd definitely qualify myself as centre-left, with some more leftist-y views on some aspects of economics, but definitely bothered by the current progressive vibe that I hesitate to define "woke" since that term is abused to hell but am also not sure how to call since they obstinately refuse to give themselves a political label or even recognise that they constitute a noteworthy distinct political phenomenon at all.

How was this survey done, by the way? Self ID or some kind of scored test? 

dr_s
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But even then, a nuanced engagement with that would require making distinctions, not just going "all EA evil". Both Torres and Gebru these days are very invested in pushing this label of "TESCREAL" to bundle together completely different groups, from EAs who spend 10% of their income in malaria nets to rationalists who worry about AI x-risk to e/accs who openly claim that ASI is the next step in evolution. I think here there are two problems:

  1. abstract moral philosophy can't  be for the faint of heart, you're engaging with the fundamental meaning of good or evil, you must be able to realize when a set of assumptions leads to a seemingly outrageous conclusion and then decide what to make of that. But if a moral philosopher writes "if we assume A and B, that leads us to concluding that it would be moral to eat babies", the reaction can't be "PHILOSOPHER ENDORSES EATING BABIES!!!!", because that's both a misunderstanding of their work and if universalized will have a chilling effect leading to worse moral philosophy overall. Sometimes entertaining weird scenarios is important, if only to realise the contradictions in our assumptions;
  2. for good or bad, left-wing thought and discourse in the last ten-fifteen years just hasn't been very rational. And I don't mean to say that the left can't be rational. Karl Marx's whole work was based on economics and an attempt to create a sort of scientific theory of history, love it or hate it the man obviously had a drive more akin to those of current rationalists than of current leftists. What is happening right now is more of a fad, a current of thought in which basically rationality and objectivity have been sort of depreciated as memes in the left wing sphere, and therapy-speak that centres the self and the inner emotions and identity has become the standard language of the left. And that pushes away a certain kind of mind very much, it feels worse than wrong, it feels like bullshit. As a result, the rationalist community kind of leans right wing on average for evaporative cooling reasons. Anyone who cares to be seen well by online left wing communities won't associate. Anyone who's high decoupling will be more attracted, and among those, put together with the average rationalist's love for reinventing the wheel from first principles, some will reach some highly controversial beliefs in current society that they will nevertheless hold up as true (read: racism). It doesn't help when terms like "eugenics" are commonly used to lump together things as disparate as Nazis literally sterilizing and killing people and hypothetical genetical modifications used to help willing parents have children that are on average healthier or live longer lives, obviously very different moral issues.

Honestly I do think the rationalist space needs to confront this a bit. People like Roko or Hanania hold pretty extreme right wing beliefs, to the point where you can't even really call them rational because they are often dominated by confirmation bias and the usual downfalls of political polarization. Longtermism itself is a pretty questionable proposition in my book, though that argument still lays in the space of philosophy for the most part. I would be all for the rise of a "rational left", both for the good of the rationalist community and for the good of the left, which is currently really mired into an unproductive circle jerk of emotionalism and virtue signalling. But this "TESCREAL" label if anything risks having the opposite effect, and polarizing people away from these philosophically incompetent and intellectually dishonest representatives of what's supposed to be the current left wing intelligentsia.

I don't know if it makes a lot of sense because yes, in theory from my viewpoint all "torture worlds" (N agents, all suffering the same amount of torture) are equivalent. I feel like that intuition is more right than just "more people = more torture". I would call them equally bad worlds, and if the torture is preternatural and inescapable I have no way of choosing between them. But I also feel like this is twisting ourselves into examples that are completely unrealistic, to the point of almost uselessness; it is no wonder that our theories of ethics break down, same as most physics does at a black hole singularity.

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