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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 10:56:02PM 1 point [-]

FWIW, I'm sympathetic to the google guy. However, it's not clear to me this case in the same. It might be, but I'd want someone to give me a series of reasons, backed by evidence, before we conclude "oh, it turns out affluent white males are just a lot more moral than everyone else and there's nothing to explain here".

Comment author: casebash 27 October 2017 02:34:30AM 7 points [-]

"oh, it turns out affluent white males are just a lot more moral than everyone else and there's nothing to explain here"

Do you think it is possible that EA could be majority white affluent male because programmers, philosophers, mathematicians, ect. are disproportionately white affluent male and EA has become good at recruiting these specific audiences?

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 27 October 2017 01:23:56PM 4 points [-]

I think that's a huge part of the reason why we overrepresent people the demographics we do. But offloading responsibility onto part of the pipeline below us isn't sufficient, least of all when we can source from other pipelines.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 27 October 2017 10:33:25AM 2 points [-]

Interesting. Hadn't put these together in my mind. Could well be something here.

Comment author: xccf 26 October 2017 11:41:19PM *  5 points [-]

I don't actually believe that affluent white males are a lot more moral than everyone else, but anyway, let's put aside the question of whether such evidence exists for a moment and ask: if such evidence did exist, would it be sensible for us to discuss it? My answer is no. I would rather take a compromise position of addressing clear cases of discrimination, being mildly worried about mild cases, and letting sleeping dogs lie.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 27 October 2017 01:01:14AM 4 points [-]

The difficulty for movements against discrimination (between humans) in a lot of modern society lies in that definition of what constitutes "clear" discrimination. For instance, people don't say explicitly discriminatory things as much as they used to, but they still hold discriminatory beliefs that make them e.g. mistrust, discredit and undervalue others, and we can for the most part only assess e.g. hiring bias by looking at whole samples, not at any one individual.

Comment author: xccf 27 October 2017 03:29:15AM *  4 points [-]

I don't think we should police thoughts, only actions.

We don't make it a crime to fantasize about killing someone--you only become a criminal when you act on those thoughts. This illustrates a useful and widely applied principle of our legal system. The willingness of some diversity advocates to disregard this principle is a good example of diversity advocates getting overzealous about diversity and sacrificing other values, as I complain about in this comment.

Furthermore, I don't think condemning people for having beliefs we don't want is an effective way to change those beliefs--a variety of research seems to indicate this doesn't work (though, I generally don't put too much stock in social psychology research, which includes those links, and I'm also not a good paper scrutinizer).

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 27 October 2017 01:22:23PM 7 points [-]

The problem is that those thoughts, as I noted, become actions, just actions we can usually only see as systematic trends. Just because someone does not say "women are incompetent" does not mean they aren't underestimating women's competence and e.g. hiring them less than he should. Taking action on this just requires a more systematic approach than explicit discrimination does.

I agree that in terms of what works, just pointing out bias doesn't seem to help and can even backfire, as I mentioned, which is why I provided a list of other possible solutions.

Comment author: DavidMoss 27 October 2017 06:44:18PM *  6 points [-]

The problem is that those thoughts... become actions... we can usually only see as systematic trends. Just because someone does not say "women are incompetent" does not mean they aren't underestimating women's competence and e.g. hiring them less than he should.

The flip side of it being hard to discern whether people have bad thoughts and act biasedly except by drawing inferences from broader patterns is that it's also hard to discern whether people actually do have bad thoughts and acted biasedly from those broader patterns. (c.f. the many fields where women dominate men in terms of prevalence and performance, as well as EAs many other demographic biases which don't receive the same treatment e.g. a 14:1 left-right bias, and a 4:1 20-35:any age over 35 bias).