162 karmaJoined Mar 2023


This comment is gold. I believe there is an iceberg effect here-- EA cannot measure the number of times an accuser attempted to say something but got shut down or retaliated against by the community.

Personally, I would like to see discussion shift toward how to create a safe environment for all genders, and how to respond to accusers appropriately.

One book that I recommend is Citadels of Pride, which goes into institutional abuse in Hollywood and the arts scene. The patterns are similar: lack of clear boundaries between work/life, men in positions of power commanding capital, high costs to say anything, lack of feedback mechanisms in reporting. I am thankful that CEA is upping its efforts here; however, I also see that the amorphous nature (especially in the Bay Area) of these subcultures makes things difficult. It seems that most of the toxicity comes from the rationalist community, where there are virtually no mechanisms of feedback.

I am in touch with some of the women in the article, and they tell me that they feel safe speaking up now that they're no longer associated with these circles and have built separate networks. However, I agree that EA is very heterogeneous and diffuse, so it's important to understand which subnetworks they're talking about. Unfortunately, that trades off between identifiability, and these women may not want to be identified due to having tried to speak up before, then being shut down in a traumatizing manner.

There is an extremely high cost in some of these subnetworks to naming an accuser. These subnetworks are usually male-dominated, and view any form of speaking up as malicious "cancellation." 

This is also why I find the LW response to be inappropriate. While many of these claims are "old news" to those communities, many of these claims are fresh, and the LW community responded with a high level of dismissal. There was some poor reasoning about "baseline rates" (i.e. the people in this article are power law anomalies), but this reasoning is flawed because a) sexual assault remains the most underreported crime, so there is likely instead an iceberg effect, and b) women who were harassed/assaulted have left the movement which changes your distribution, and c) women who would enter your movement otherwise now stay away due to whisper networks and bad vibes.

Finally, I want to note that there is a distinction between EA/LW as official "movements," and the ideology. Most of these comments focus on the movement (e.g. governance structures, mechanisms of feedback). That's great to scrutinize, but we also need to examine the ideology given that it comingles with Bay Area ideology, rationalists, etc. 

Personally, when I was a teenager in EA (I am a woman), I found that there was little discussion about boundaries, emotional intelligence, healthy relationships, non-abusive dynamics, listening to your gut, and etc. I think a lack of focus on these areas makes can make subnetworks in these communities systemically unequipped to deal with these issues.

The response on the LW forum has been horrifying.



Update: there are some now sane commenters in the mix, although those comments came much later.