Freethinkers In EA

104Joined Mar 2019


This is one of those circumstances where changing the phrase would likely mean avoiding the issue. I agree that we don't want people to be unfeeling automatons and that there are circumstances when expressing even "negative" emotions like anger can be positive. At the same time, the idea that different people have different levels of emotional control seems to be a very useful model, even if it doesn't perfectly describe reality (ie. context-dependence). You've already noted that some behaviours put a burden on most people - having low levels of emotional control/being ideological falls inside this category.

I'll note one argument that you could have put forward: possibly low levels of emotional control is correlated with positive characteristics, such as creativity or the ability to be enthusiastic or authentic. So perhaps a filter on this quality would be net negative.

We can accomodate people who have low levels of emotional control (this is distinct from feeling strong emotions) and who are more ideological. However, while it makes the group more welcoming for those individuals, it makes it less welcoming for everyone else, so it's not so clear that this results in the group being more welcoming overall like we were promised. In any case, it helps highlight how narrow the particular conception of inclusion put forward by Making Discussions Inclusive actually is.

"The claim that we should not have "limited discussions" is closing the barn door after the horse is already out." - Some discussions about what should or should not allowed to be discussed are much more politicised than others and hence much more damaging. (In case it seems like I've contradicted myself here, my point is not that discussions about what should be allowed to be discussed should be banned, merely that a serious movement towards banning particular ideas encourages more of these adversarial discussions and hence the more positive and welcoming environment that is typically promised rarely materialises)

"We believe that someone is excluded to a greater degree when they are not allowed to share their sincerely held beliefs than when they are merely exposed to beliefs that they disagree with." - This only referred to the degree of exclusion that would be experienced by a single individual for one of those two options. Obviously, the number of people affected is important as well as you point out.

Perhaps it is possible to discuss those issues while dodging political landmines, but there's also the worry about people being less willing to share views too close to the edge of the Overton Window.

It's not necessarily as intentional as that. Some people have certain political goals. They can achieve those goals co-operatively by engaging people in civil discussion or by adversarily by protesting/creating negative publicity. If the later tends to be successful, a greater proportion of people will be drawn towards it. Is that clearer?

A few EAs decided to work together to write an in-depth, section-by-section response to the above post. Please note that it discusses issues which were listed in Making Discussion Inclusive as potentially alienating.

I'll concede that the post could definitely be better than it is and as the primary author I take responsibility for post being somewhat light on references. However part of this was that the post this is responding to received many comments by people with views similar to mine, so I updated towards this post being less high priority and decided to just publish what we had.

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.

Indeed, however people will generally accept a certain level of frustration if you are providing sufficient value. As an example, couples often start picking up on the minor annoyances after they fall out of love. Continuing the analogy, focusing on these issues is the obvious thing to do, but it often won't be what is needed to fix the relationship.

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."

Yes, the argument does cut both ways, but it's worth noting that we made this argument in response to arguments very similar to this.

PR risk is another whole topic by itself and there are some tough questions here. One comment though: We need to be wary that acting to prevent PR damage can actually encourage more people to put pressure on you as they've seen that you are vulnerable.

I'm in favour of operationalization and avoiding politics (and I suspect the other collaborators would as well). However, I suspect that those coming from a social justice perspective would feel that limiting the discussion in this way would be unfair to them. The kinds of arguments they might make for minority applicants deserving AA for EA roles, for example, would most likely be based upon a claim of massive, ongoing, systematic disadvantage and exclusion both in society itself and EA. There are other arguments that they could make, but they'd still probably feel that we had excluded a pillar of their main argument for many claims by fiat. For this reason, addressing these issues seems unavoidable.

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