Evan_Gaensbauer comments on The marketing gap and a plea for moral inclusivity - Effective Altruism Forum

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (46)

You are viewing a single comment's thread. Show more comments above.

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 14 July 2017 08:09:15AM 0 points [-]

Talking about people in the abstract, or in a tone as some kind of "other", is to generalize and stereotype. Or maybe generalizing and stereotyping people others them, and makes them too abstract to empathize with. Whatever the direction of causality, there are good reasons people might take my comment poorly. There's lots of skirmishes online in effective altruism between causes, and I expect most of us don't all being lumped together in a big bundle, because it feels like under those circumstances at least a bunch of people in your inner-ingroup or whatnot will feel strawmanned. That's what my comment reads like. That's not my intention.

I'm just trying to be frank. On the Effective Altruism Forum, I try to follow Grice's Maxims because I think writing in that style heuristically optimizes the fidelity of our words to the sort of epistemic communication standards the EA community would aspire to, especially as inspired by the rationality community to do so. I could do better on the maxims of quantity and manner/clarity sometimes, but I think I do a decent job on here. I know this isn't the only thing people will value in discourse. However, there are lots of competing standards for what the most appropriate discourse norms are, and nobody is establishing to others how the norms will not just maximize the satisfaction of their own preferences, but maximize the total or average satisfaction for what everyone values out of discourse. That seems the utilitarian thing to do.

The effects of ingroup favouritism in terms of competing cause selections in the community don't seem healthy to the EA ecosystem. If we want to get very specific, here's how finely the EA community can be sliced up by cause-selection-as-group-identity.

  • vegan, vegetarian, reducetarian, omnivore/carnist
  • animal welfarist, animal liberationist, anti-speciesist, speciesist
  • AI safety, x-risk reducer (in general), s-risk reducer
  • classical utilitarian, negative utilitarian, hedonic utilitarian, preference utilitarian, virtue ethicist, deontologist, moral intuitionist/none-of-the-above
  • global poverty EAs; climate change EAs?; social justice EAs...?

The list could go on forever. Everyone feels like their representing not only their own preferences in discourse, but sometimes even those of future generations, all life on Earth, tortured animals, or fellow humans living in agony. Unless as a community we make an conscientious effort to reach towards some shared discourse norms which are mutually satisfactory to multiple parties or individual effective altruists, however they see themselves, communication failure modes will keep happening. There's strawmanning and steelmanning, and then there's representations of concepts in EA which fall in between.

I think if we as a community expect everyone to impeccably steelman everyone all the time, we're being unrealistic. Rapid growth of the EA movement is what organizations from various causes seem to be rooting for. That means lots of newcomers who aren't going to read all the LessWrong Sequences or Doing Good Better before they start asking questions and contributing to the conversation. When they get downvoted for not knowing the archaic codex that are evolved EA discourse norms, which aren't written down anywhere, they're going to exit fast. I'm not going anywhere, but if we aren't more willing to be more charitable to people we at first disagree with than they are to us, this movement won't grow. That's because people might be belligerent, or alarmed, by the challenges EA presents to their moral worldview, but they're still curious. Spurning doesn't lead to learning.

All of the above refers only to specialized discourse norms within just effective altruism. This would be on top of the complicatedness of effective altruists private lives, all the usual identity politics, and otherwise the common decency and common sense we would expect on posters on the forum. All of that can already be difficult for diverse groups of people as is. But for all of us to go around assuming the illusion of transparency makes things fine and dandy with regards to how a cause is represented without openly discussing it is to expect too much of each and every effective altruist.

Also, as of this comment, my parent comment above has net positive 1 upvote, so it's all good.