451 karmaJoined Dec 2022


While I think this post is silly, the extent to which it's getting downvoted when much worse posts get upvoted regularly on the forum when they are written using ingroup-speak and support ingroup conclusions is really inexcusable. For this reason I'm upvoting it even though I don't like the post at all.

This is a universal argument that can be used to stop literally any action you don't like, or at least cause people to apologize for any such action, because any nontrivial action taken in the world is going to cause harm to at least some people, and probably many people. For this reason it should be rejected out of hand unless it is supported by context-specific details that make it more compelling in this case than it would be in the abstract.

No such details have been forthcoming from the proponents of this argument, most likely because they don't actually exist and therefore can't be supplied on demand.

Can you point to any specific physical harm that was caused by Bostrom's comments that goes beyond "some people were upset"?

I consistently express views that are outside the social norm, but I don't share your fear.

What you're missing here is the concept of heresy.

Plenty of views that are outside the social norm are not considered heretical. For instance, if you don't like a movie that most people like or vice versa, that view is going to be outside the social norm but not in a way that means people who express it are punished for their opinions.

The problem is that some true things are considered heretical, and therefore you must be cautious in how much you reveal of what you really believe, even in private as such private communications can end up being publicized in a way that's out of your control.

That aside, words and the concepts they perpetuate have consequences. Those consequences can range from hurt feelings to genocidal ideologies taking root.

Yes, I'm sure Catholics in 16th century Spain also believed that "words and the concepts they perpetuate have consequences", for example such as God deciding to punish your civilization by causing crop harvests to fail three years in a row because you were insufficiently pious and didn't suppress opponents of Catholicism sufficiently strongly.

You can always tell stories about how people expressing views you don't like will have bad consequences. Most of these stories are utter hogwash and are nothing more than exercises in self-delusion. Please keep the past record of such storytelling in mind when you make claims of alleged harm supported only by poor evidence and implicit intuitions you're unable to share with others.

If you're spending a great deal of time watching what you say and experiencing uncertainty regarding how others will respond, maybe you're experiencing a calibration issue.

I know exactly how others will respond. My uncertainty is about what I have said where and when will suddenly become the subject of attention by people who wish to attack me. There's no calibration issue if you're afraid to declare you're an atheist in 16th century Spain, just a well-calibrated recognition that doing this will be very bad for you.

Thanks for your invaluable contribution in pointing this out :)

You should make public the details of your early involvement with Alameda and stop trying to cancel other people until you've addressed your own past mistakes and wrongdoings.

Don't frame the apology at the beginning as almost purely instrumental i.e. not like "I will get smeared soon, so I want to get ahead of the game". This makes everything come across as less genuine. 

What other reason is there to apologize?

This framing was obviously a bad idea instrumentally, but the fact that Bostrom chose this framing sends some signal that he has some standards of integrity that he's not willing to compromise for instrumental goals. I have previously criticized other thought leaders in EA for not having any such standards, and the fact that Bostrom does seem to have them is encouraging.

And some other points that Habiba mentioned in her post e.g. "I am deeply uncomfortable with a discussion of race and intelligence failing to acknowledge the historical context of the ideas’ origin and the harm they can and have caused."

Is she also deeply uncomfortable with a discussion of, say, French people that fails to acknowledge the historical context of their origin and the harm they can and have caused? I'm guessing not.

Again, from a power-seeking perspective her point is correct, but I'm sure that's not the sense in which she meant it.

In my opinion it just highlights some basic misunderstandings about communication and our society today, which (I think) was proven by the fairly widespread negative backlash to this incident.

It's him maximizing some combination of honesty and instrumental value because he's not willing to completely lie about his views in order to improve his public image. That's a good trait and one you should be encouraging, not criticizing. EA has enough problems with people lying and deceiving to try to accumulate more power, more resources, and more influence. We don't need any more of this behavior.

I'm tired, too. I'm tired of constantly having to watch what I say or don't say because of the fear that some mob will descend on me and try to ruin my life as they are now trying to do to Nick Bostrom. Perhaps someone in your situation can find it in themselves to have sympathy for people in my position and not just people in yours.

Notice that, as usual, these allegations are considered privately and nobody from CEA responds to requests for comments, even after FTX goes bankrupt.

People should be demanding from all EA organizations to make their internal deliberations on this subject public. What allegations did they consider in 2018? Why did they decide that they were ultimately not serious enough to warrant action?

The tolerance this community has shown for the silence of EA organizations in light of what has happened is astonishing to me. I think it's partly that they simply don't know the extent of the connection between early Alameda and central EA infrastructure, but that can't be the whole story. There's some slim chance that some of this will come out in court if the discovery process ever extends that far, but it seems much less likely at this point than I would like.

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