willbradshaw

willbradshaw's Comments

Concern, and hope

I'm still pretty sceptical that the post in question was deliberately made with conscious intention to cause harm. In any case, I know of at least a couple of other EAs who have good-faith worries in that direction, so at worst it's exacerbating a problem that was already there, not creating a new one.

(Also worth noting that at this point we're probably Streisanding this dispute into irrelevance anyway.)

Concern, and hope

(I have now cut the link.)

Concern, and hope

This comment does a good job of summarising the "classical liberal" position on this conflict, but makes no effort to imagine or engage with the views of more moderate pro-SJ EAs (of whom there are plenty), who might object strongly to cultural-revolution comparisons or be wary of SSC given the current controversy.

As I already said in response to Buck's comment:

I agree that post was very bad (I left a long comment explaining part of why I strong-downvoted it). But I think there's a version of that post, that is phrased more moderately and tries harder to be charitable to its opponents, that I think would get a lot more sympathy from the left of EA. (I expect I would still disagree with it quite strongly.)

As you say, there aren't many right-wing EAs. The key conflict I'm worried about is between centre/centre-left/libertarian-leaning EAs and left-wing/SJ-sympathetic EAs[1]. So suggesting I need to find a right-wing piece to make the comparison is missing the point.

(This comment also quotes an old version of my post, which has since been changed on the basis of feedback. I'm a bit confused about that, since some of the changes were made more than a day ago – I tried logging out and the updated version is still the one I see. Can you update your quote?)


  1. I also don't want conservative-leaning EAs to be driven from the movement, but that isn't the central thing I'm worried about here. ↩︎

3 suggestions about jargon in EA

One aspect of how "information hazard" tends to be conceptualised that is fairly new[1], apart from the term itself, is the idea that one might wish to be secretive out of impartial concern for humankind, rather than for selfish or tribal reasons[2].

This especially applies in academia, where the culture and mythology are strongly pro-openness. Academics are frequently secretive, but typically in a selfish way that is seen as going against their shared ideals[3]. The idea that a researcher might be altruistically secretive about some aspect of the truth of nature is pretty foreign, and to me is a big part of what makes the "infohazard" concept distinctive.


  1. Not 100% unprecedentedly new, or anything, but rare in modern Western discourse pre-Bostrom. ↩︎

  2. I think a lot of people would view those selfish/tribal reasons as reasonable/defensible, but still different from e.g. worrying that such-and-such scientific discovery might damage humanity-at-large's future. ↩︎

  3. Brian Nosek talks about this a lot – academics mostly want to be more open but view being so as against their own best interests. ↩︎

Concern, and hope

"Culminating" might be the wrong word, I agree the triggering event was fairly independent.

But I do think people's reactions to the SSC kerfuffle were coloured by their beliefs about the previous controversy (and Scott's political beliefs), and that it contributed to the general feeling I'm trying to describe here.

Concern, and hope

I agree that post was very bad (I left a long comment explaining part of why I strong-downvoted it). But I think there's a version of that post, that is phrased more moderately and tries harder to be charitable to its opponents, that I think would get a lot more sympathy from the left of EA. (I expect I would still disagree with it quite strongly.)

I think there's a reasonable policy one could advocate, something like "don't link to heavily-downvoted posts you disagree with, because doing so undermines the filtering function of the karma system". I'm not sure I agree with that in all cases; in this case, it would have been hard for me to write this post without referencing that one, I think the things I say here need saying, and I ran this post by several people I respect before publishing it.

I could probably be persuaded to change that part given some more voices/arguments in opposition, here or in private.

(It's also worth noting that I expect there are a number of people here who think comparisons of the current situation to the Cultural Revolution are quite bad, see e.g. here.)

Exploring the Streisand Effect

I don't see the connection to counterproductive secrecy.

Exploring the Streisand Effect

A third category of things that are distinct from the classic Streisand effect, but similar enough that it is often worth discussing them together, is counterproductive secrecy. That is, cases where, instead of causing information spread by attempting to change the actions of others, you cause it by being ostentatiously secretive yourself.

One thing that would be very useful to me is a good name for this effect, as distinct from the Streisand effect. Like I said in the piece, they're clearly related, but I think distinct enough to merit separate terms, and having a good name would help clarify the conceptual space.

Anyone know any good cases of secrecy (as opposed to censorship) spectacularly backfiring?

EA Forum feature suggestion thread

I agree this is a good idea. Not sure about regular comments, but it would be great if shortform posts had a "Promote to full post" button.

EA Forum feature suggestion thread

I think sub-fora is a somewhat contentious issue, the counter-argument being that it's good to have the Forum be a clearing-house of EA ideas without too much splintering.

I agree the tag interface could be more discoverable. If you go to https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tags/all you can see a list of all tags and how many posts each one has, but there doesn't seem to be much functionality beyond a featureless alphabetical list (e.g. it would be cool to allow them to be sorted by number of posts, and for the tags page to be discoverable from the homepage).

Once you get to a specific tag, though, it seems to already have the functionality you're looking for, including different sort orders: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/investing

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