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William_S comments on Open Thread #38 - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: William_S 23 August 2017 05:21:43PM 3 points [-]

Any thoughts on individual-level political de-polarization in the United States as a cause area? It seems important, because a functional US government helps with a lot of things, including x-risk. I don't know whether there are tractable/neglected approaches in the space. It seems possible that interventions on individuals that are intended to reduce polarization and promote understanding of other perspectives, as opposed to pushing a particular viewpoint or trying to lobby politicians, could be neglected. http://web.stanford.edu/~dbroock/published%20paper%20PDFs/broockman_kalla_transphobia_canvassing_experiment.pdf seems like a useful study in this area (it seems possible that this approach could be used for issues on the other side of the political spectrum)

Comment author: rhys_lindmark 24 August 2017 03:40:41PM *  2 points [-]

Nice link! I think there's worthwhile research to be done here to get a more textured ITN.

On Impact—Here's a small example of x-risk (nuclear threat coming from inside the White House): https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/07/department-of-energy-risks-michael-lewis.

On Neglectedness—Thus far it seems highly neglected, at least at a system-level. hifromtheotherside.com is one of the only projects I know in the space (but the founder is not contributing much time to it)

On Tractability—I have no clue. Many of these "bottom up"/individual-level solution spaces seem difficult and organic (though we would pattern match from the spread of the EA movement).

  1. There's a lot of momentum in this direction (the public is super aware of the problem). Whenever this happens, I'm tempted by pushing an EA mindset "outcome-izing/RCT-ing" the efforts in the space. So even if it doesn't score highly on Neglectedness, we could attempt to move the solutions towards more cost-effective/consequentialist solutions.
  2. This is highly related to the timewellspent.io movement that Tristan Harris (who was at EAGlobal) is pushing.
  3. I feel like we need to differentiate between the "political-level" and the "community-level".
  4. I'm tempted to think about this from the "communities connect with communities" perspective. i.e The EA community is the "starting node/community" and then we start more explicitly collaborating/connecting with other adjacent communities. Then we can begin to scale a community connection program through adjacent nodes (likely defined by n-dimensional space seen here http://blog.ncase.me/the-other-side/).
  5. Another version of this could be "scale the CFAR community".
  6. I think this could be related to Land Use Reform (https://80000hours.org/problem-profiles/land-use-reform/) and how we construct empathetic communities with a variety of people. (Again, see Nicky Case — http://ncase.me/polygons/)
Comment author: William_S 28 August 2017 05:00:44PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for the Nicky Case links

Comment author: arushigupta 29 August 2017 05:38:33AM 1 point [-]

I've been thinking about this as well lately, specifically in terms of reducing hatred and prejudice (racism, sexism, etc). For example, this is anecdotal, but one (black) man named Daryl Davis says that he has gotten more than 200 KKK members to disavow the group by simply approaching them and befriending them. Over time they would realize that their views were unfounded, and gave up their KKK membership of their own volition. This is an interview with Davis: http://www.npr.org/2017/08/20/544861933/how-one-man-convinced-200-ku-klux-klan-members-to-give-up-their-robes and I think there is also a documentary about him.

This is a great Vox article about a study that discusses ways to reduce people's biases: https://www.vox.com/identities/2016/11/15/13595508/racism-trump-research-study. The article title is about reducing racism, though the study discussed is about views on transgender people. It suggests that just a 10-min, open conversation can significantly reduce people's biases, and that these changes persist.

And lastly, another anecdotal story on how Derek Black, the godson of David Duke, and the son another very prominent figure in the alt-right, ended up leaving the alt-right after a group of diverse college classmates befriended him, and he slowly abandoned his previous views over the course of months.

While two of these links are to anecdotal stories, I think they are important in showing that even those with really extreme prejudice (KKK members and a young alt-right leader!) can let go of their prejudices when approached in the right way.

It definitely seems like an intervention that would require lots of grassroots, individual action, I suspect it could be very hard to measure the benefits of it - the amount of lives lost to this kind of prejudice and polarization is pretty low (at least in the US), and the other benefits that would arise are hard to measure. If someone else has good estimates on how impactful this would be, I'd love to hear them! Regardless I'm very excited to see some interventions in reducing prejudice and hatred that do seem to actually work, though more study into this is definitely necessary!

Comment author: astupple 31 August 2017 10:26:13PM 0 points [-]

I bet a more neglected aspect of polarization is the degree to which the left (which I identify with) literally hates the right for being bigots, or seeming bigots (agree with Christian Kleineidam below). This is literally the same mechanism of prejudice and hatred, with the same damaging polarization, but for different reasons.

There's much more energy to address the alt-right polarization than the not-even-radical left (many of my friends profess hatred of Trump voters qua Trump voters, it gives me the same pit of the stomach feeling when I see blatant racism). Hence, addressing the left is probably more neglected (unsure how you'd quantify this, but it seems pretty evident).

The trouble I find is that the left's prejudice and hatred seems more complex and harder to fix. In some ways, the bigots are easier to flip toward reason (anecdotes about befriending racists, families changing when their kids come out etc). Have you ever tried to demonstrate to a passionate liberal that maybe they've gone too far in writing off massive swaths of society as bigots? Just bringing it up literally challenges the friendship in my experience.

I think polarization is incredibly bad, there are neglected areas, but neglectedness seems to be outweighed by intractability.

Comment author: ChristianKleineidam 29 August 2017 12:11:30PM 0 points [-]

I don't think the recent rise of polarization in the US over the last decade is driven by a rise in racism or sexism. Activism to reduce either of them might be valuable, but I don't think it solves the issue of polarization.

Comment author: geoffreymiller  (EA Profile) 28 August 2017 11:30:09PM 0 points [-]

Heterodox Academy also has this new online training for reducing polarization and increasing mutual understanding across the political spectrum: https://heterodoxacademy.org/resources/viewpoint-diversity-experience/