MichaelPlant comments on Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: MichaelPlant 26 October 2017 07:21:19PM 4 points [-]

Thank you very much for bringing this up. Discussion about inclusivity is really conspicuous by it's absence within EA. It's honeslty really weird we barely talk about it.

Three thoughts.

  1. I'd like to emphasise how important I think it is that members of the community trying and speak in as jargon-free a way as possible. My impression is this has been getting worse over time: there seems to be something of a jargon arms race as people (always males, typically those into 'rationality'-type stuff) actively try to drop in streams of unnecessary, technical, elitist, in-group-y words to make themselves look smart. I find this personally annoying and I assume it's unwelcoming to outsiders.

  2. You gave loads of suggestions (thanks!). There were so many suggestions though, I can't possibly remember them all. Do you think you could pick out what you think the most important 2 or 3 are and highlight them somewhere?

  3. On a personal note

young, white, cis-male, upper middle class, from men-dominated fields, technology-focused, status-driven, with a propensity for chest-beating, overconfidence, narrow-picture thinking/micro-optimization, and discomfort with emotions

Ouch. I find this a painful and mostly accurate description of myself. Except emotions. Those are fine.

Comment author: DonyChristie 26 October 2017 09:17:21PM *  23 points [-]

Discussion about inclusivity is really conspicuous by it's absence within EA. It's honeslty really weird we barely talk about it.

Are you sure? Here are some previous discussions (most of which were linked in the article above):

http://effective-altruism.com/ea/1ft/effective_altruism_for_animals_consideration_for/ http://effective-altruism.com/ea/ek/ea_diversity_unpacking_pandoras_box/ http://effective-altruism.com/ea/sm/ea_is_elitist_should_it_stay_that_way/ http://effective-altruism.com/ea/zu/making_ea_groups_more_welcoming/ http://effective-altruism.com/ea/mp/pitfalls_in_diversity_outreach/ http://effective-altruism.com/ea/1e1/ea_survey_2017_series_community_demographics/ https://www.facebook.com/groups/effective.altruists/permalink/1479443418778677/

I recall more discussions elsewhere in comments. Admittedly this is over several years. What would not barely talking about it look like, if not that?

Comment author: ateabug 28 October 2017 10:25:23PM *  4 points [-]

All these threads are framed in a very non-"culture war"-y style, and there is little disagreement or criticism expressed in the comments, which is why they feel inconspicuous. This one, on the other hand, has already amassed 200+ comments within 3 days, which is more than any other thread on this forum, as far as I can tell (the only one that gets anywhere close is an II/Gleb drama thread).

Comment author: MichaelPlant 27 October 2017 10:40:46AM 1 point [-]

I guess I'm basing my subjective judgement of 'conspicuous by it's absence' by comparing how much inclusivity gets discussed in wider society vs how much it gets discussed in EA. I don't think a few posts over a few years really cuts the mustard, not when it's not obvious how much is being done on this issue.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 29 October 2017 10:19:45AM *  1 point [-]

how much inclusivity gets discussed in wider society vs how much it gets discussed in EA.

With the exception of groups which specifically exist for the purpose of promoting inclusivity, I can't think of any groups which discuss it more than EA.

Heck, even groups like that - e.g., BLM or anti-GamerGate groups or other leftist cultural movements - don't spend significantly more time worrying about their own inclusivity than EA does.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 29 October 2017 02:58:56PM -1 points [-]

Animal advocates definitely discuss inclusion in their movement(s) more, or at least more productively. A small organization was even established in the space recently to increase racial inclusion in the movement. EA discussion on the issue has led to far less action and results in a lot more pushback and hostility. If EAs do discuss it more, I'd say the excess is in people expressing frustration and that not going anywhere.

(My source is observation -- I have been heavily involved in both communities for several years.)

In terms of wider society, it's an issue that people and institutions from governments to non-profits that exist to solve the issue to tech companies are putting a lot of discussion and action into. BLM isn't something separate, it's part of the discussion in wider society. And IIRC US companies spend $8bn on diversity programs annually. (How effectively they're spending it is another matter, but the point is it's getting a lot of attention.)

Comment author: casebash 27 October 2017 12:55:49AM 3 points [-]

I feel that many of the words or terms that we have created are useful because they allow us to create common knowledge. However, if you want to reduce the amount of jargon, I would suggest writing up a list of words that could be replaced with non-jargony words or phrases (for reference, I posted in the LW fb group suggesting using Co-ordination problems or Race to the Bottom instead of Moloch and I got a large number of upvotes).

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 26 October 2017 08:49:13PM *  0 points [-]

I haven't thought about prioritization yet, and was hoping other people would discuss that here. Since a lot of these are actions individuals can take, it will vary a lot by what roles an individual plays and what they have the most room for improvement in.

That said... toning down jargon, I suspect you'd agree, is probably pretty cost-effective, as I would think is toning up the visibility of people from underrepresented groups. A Diversity & Inclusion Officer who could review and advise on social media communications, ads, community recruitment, website UX, conference speakers, talk content and descriptions, job postings and hiring processes, etc, and who could establish metrics and goals for and conduct annual reviews on inclusionary practices, sounds easily worth their salary, at the very least as an experiment for a year.

Comment author: [deleted] 27 October 2017 10:08:18AM *  4 points [-]

toning down jargon, I suspect you'd agree, is probably pretty cost-effective.

Could you link to some examples of EA content that you think are good at this, relative to the rest?

Comment author: casebash 27 October 2017 12:51:05AM 3 points [-]

I have no doubt that there are things worth doing in this field, but I do worry about the potential for this to take attention away from even higher priorities. One reason why big organisations move slowly is because they have to get approval/input from so many people before they can actually do anything. Secondly, I worry that this is an example of dispersed costs and concentrated benefits in that optimising on second factor tends to be making some sacrifice or compromise on the first.

There is likely to be an adverse selection effect in that the kinds of people who would want to be a diversity officer tend to be the kinds of people who also take the strongest stance and hence are more likely to push us toward prioritising this more than we should.

I am not saying that this is necessarily a bad idea, just it isn't as obviously good as it looks at first glance.