442 karmaJoined Oct 2018



    Why might humans evolve a rejection of things that taste to sweet? What fitness reducing thing does "eating oversweet things" correlate with? Or is it a spandrel of something else?

    If this is true, it's fascinating, because it suggest that our preference for cold and carbonation are a kind of specification gaming!


    Ok. Given all that, is there particular thing that you wish Ben (or someone) had done differently here? Or are you mostly wanting point out the dynamic?

    I want to try to paraphrase what I hear you saying in this comment thread, Holly. Please feel free to correct any mistakes or misframings in my paraphrase.

    I hear you saying...

    • Lightcone culture has a relatively specific morality around integrity and transparency. Those norms are consistent, and maybe good, but they're not necessarily shared by the EA community or the broader world.
    • Under those norms, actions like threatening your ex-employees's carrer prospects to prevent them from sharing negative info about you are very bad, while in broader culture a "you don't badmouth me, I don't badmouth you" ceasefire is pretty normal.
    • In this post, Ben is accusing Nonlinear of bad behavior. In particular, he's accusing them of acting particularly badly (compared to some baseline of EA orgs) according to the integrity norms of lightcone culture. 
      • My understanding is that the dynamic here that Ben considers particularly egregious is that  Nonlinear allegedly took actions to silence their ex-employees, and prevent negative info from propagating. If all of the same events had occurred between Nonlinear, Alice, and Chloe, except for Nonlinear suppressing info about what happened after the fact, Ben would not have prioritized this.
    • However, many bystanders are likely to miss that subtlety. They see Nonlinear being accused, but don't share Lightcone's specific norms and culture. 
    • So many readers, tracking the social momentum, walk away with the low-dimensional bottom line conclusion "Boo Nonlinear!", but without particularly tracking Ben's cruxes.
      • eg They have the takeaway "it's irresponsible to date or live with your coworkers, and only irresponsible people do that" instead of "Some people in the ecosystem hold that suppressing negative info about your org is a major violation."
    • And importantly, it means in practice, Nonlinear is getting unfairly punished for some behaviors that are actually quite common in the EA subculture. 
    • This creates a dynamic analogous to "There are so many laws on the book that technically everyone is a criminal. So the police/government can harass or imprison anyone they choose, by selectively punishing crimes." If enough social momentum gets mounted against an org, they can be lambasted for things that many orgs are "guilty" of[1], while the other orgs get off scott free.
    • And furthermore, this creates unpredictability. People can't tell whether their version of some behavior is objectionable or not. 
    • So overall, Ben might be accusing Nonlinear for principled reasons, but to many bystanders, this is indistinguishable from accusing them for pretty common EA behaviors, by fiat. Which is a pretty scary precedent!

    Am I understanding correctly?

    1. ^

      "guilty" in quotes to suggest the ambiguity about whether the behaviors in question are actually bad or guiltworthy.


    Crostposted from LessWong (link)

    Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like it should take less than an hour to read the post, make a note of every claim that's not true, and then post that list of false claims, even if it would take many days to collect all the evidence that shows those points are false.

    I imagine that would be helpful for you, because readers are much more likely to reserve judgement if you listed which specific things are false. 

    Personally, I could look over that list and say "oh yeah, number 8 [or whatever] is cruxy for me. If that turns out not to be true, I think that substantially changes my sense of the situation.", and I would feel actively interested in what evidence you provide regarding that point later.  And it would let you know which points to prioritize refuting, because you would know which things are cruxy for people reading.

    In contrast, a generalized bid to reserve judgement because "many of the important claims were false or extremely misleading"...well, it just seems less credible, and so leaves me less willing to actually reserve judgement.

    Indeed, deferring on producing such a list of claims-you-think-are-false suggests the possibility that you're trying to "get your story straight." ie that you're taking the time now to hurriedly go through and check which facts you and others will be able to prove or disprove, so that you know which things you can safely lie or exagerate about, or what narrative paints you in the best light while still being consistent with the legible facts.

    (2) I think something odd about the comments claiming that this post is full of misinformation, is that they don't correct any of the misinformation. Like, I get that assembling receipts, evidence etc can take a while, and writing a full rebuttal of this would take a while. But if there are false claims in the post, pick one and say why it's false. 

    Seconding this. 

    I would be pretty interested to read a comment from nonlinear folks listing out everything that they believe to be false in the narrative as stated, even if they can't substantiate their counter-claims yet.

    I recommend that you use a spoiler tag for that last part. Not everyone who wants to has finished the story!

    I imagine that most of the disagreement is with (implied, but not stated) conditional "that Owen did this means that decent men don't exist".

    I want to know if you can find more people companies that have experienced a similar thing with the FDA. 

    Is there a reddit or discussion forum where people discuss and commiserate about FDA threats like this one? Can you find people there, and then verify that they / their experiences are real?

    As a naive outsider, it seems to me like all of the specific actions you suggest would be stronger and more compelling if you can muster a legitimate claim that this is a pattern of behavior and not just a one-off. An article with one source making an accusations is more than 3x less credible than an article with 3 sources making the same accusation, for instance.

    And if this is just a one-off, then it seems a lot less concerning, and taking action seems much less pressing. (Though it seems much easier to verify that this is a pattern, by finding other people in a similar situation to yours, than to verify that it isn't, since there are incentives to be quiet about this sort of thing).

    I know that I was wrong because people of the global majority continuously speak in safe spaces about they feel unsafe in EA spaces. They speak about how they feel harmed by the kinds of things discussed in EA spaces. And they speak about how there are some people — not everyone, but some people — who don’t seem to be just participating in open debate in order to get at the truth, but rather seem to be using the ideals of open discussion to be a cloak that can hide their intent to do harm.

    I'm not sure what to say to this.

    Again, just because someone claims to feel harmed by some tread of discourse, that can't be sufficient grounds to establish a social rule against it.But I am most baffled by this...

    . And they speak about how there are some people — not everyone, but some people — who don’t seem to be just participating in open debate in order to get at the truth, but rather seem to be using the ideals of open discussion to be a cloak that can hide their intent to do harm.

    Um. Yes? Of course? It's pretty rare that people are in good faith and sincerely truth-seeking. And of course there are some bad-actors, in every group. And of course those people will be pretending to have good intentions. Is the claim that in order to feel safe, people need to know that there are no bad actors?(I think that is not a good paraphrase of you.)

    We need a diverse set of people to at least feel safe in our community.

    Yeah. So the details here matter a lot, and if we operationalize, I might change my stance here. But on the face of this, I disagree. I think that we want people to be safe in our community and that we should obviously take steps to insure that. But it seems to be asking to much to insure that people feel safe. People can have all kinds of standards regarding what they need to feel safe, and I don't think that we are obligated to carter to them because they are on the list of things that some segment of people need to feel safe.

    Especially if one of the things on that list is "don't openly discuss some topics that are relevant to improving the world." That is what we do. That's what we're here to do. We should sacrifice pretty much none of the core point of the group to be more inclusive.

    "How much systemic racism is there, what forms does it take, and how does it impact people?" are actually important questions for understanding and improving the world. We want to know if there is anything we can do about it, and how it stacks up against other interventions. Curtailing that discussion is not a small or trivial ask.

    (In contrast, if using people's preferred pronouns, or serving vegan meals at events, or not swearing, or not making loud noises, etc. helped people feel safe and/or comfortable, and they are otherwise up for our discourse standards, I feel much more willing to accommodate them. Because none of those compromise the core point of the EA community.)

    ...Oh. I guess one thing that seems likely to be a crux:

    ...if we are to succeed in truly achieving effective altruism at scale..

    I am not excited about scaling EA. If I thought that trying to do EA at scale was a good idea, then I would be much more interested in having different kinds of discussions in push and pull media.

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