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

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Comment author: casebash 27 October 2017 02:27:20AM 5 points [-]

Thanks for putting in the effort to write such a detailed post, I imagine that this would have taken a lot of time and effort. I also appreciate that you offered to have a discussion on the extent to which this is a problem. I have had negative experiences in the past with people who were opposed to this line of questioning, so I am really glad to see you actually invite this discussion.

Firstly, in regard to the communities we draw from, I've seen a lot of articles about how problematic the IT industry is, but I am rather skeptical of these claims and hence of the claim that EA is especially problematic. Clearly there are a lot of bad things that have happened in certain places, but people are acting as though it is an established fact industry is worse than other industries without there being any research backing it up. I think we need to be careful about anecdotal evidence because of the Chinese Robber Fallacy - ie. neglect of base rates. I feel that many people look at the industry with the preconception that it is sexist because it is majority male and it is hardly surprising that they find confirmatory evidence. This isn't to say that the industry might not be disproportionately sexist, my suspicion is that we do not know because no-one has conducted the research.

Secondly, I would suggest that similarly it is not clear whether the problem in EA is larger than in the rest of society. It might be larger or it might be smaller, but I haven't seen strong evidence either way. I'm not saying that we should therefore not try to be more inclusive, I'm just pushing back a tendency that I've seen to declare a group especially bad without sufficient evidence to justify claiming this as an established fact.

Thirdly, I would be wary about relying to much evidence about correlations. Does diversity increase the success of companies or due more successful and wealthier companies have an easier time attracting women and minorities? I would not be surprised if it was a mix, although I won't guess at the split.

Fourth, I wouldn't say that the effects of quotas are clear from the one study (http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/12/beware-the-man-of-one-study/). As it says, "Competence was measured by comparing the private incomes across people with the same education, occupation, age, and residence in the same geographical region. Those with higher incomes were deemed more competent". That's an interesting result, but it needs to be combined with other research to be reliable.

Fifth, "some people in the community have made other thoroughly unreasonable claims to justify the status quo, such as that women would be a distraction in the workplace". Where were these claims made and how many people made them?

Sixth, I'm in favour of people being able to anonymously share experiences, but I believe it would be of the utmost importance to ensure that we did not create a site that enabled people to anonymously spread rumours that harmed the reputation of other people and could possibly lead to divisions within the movement. If such a site is made, I would suggest that there be rules against identifying information be shared in the general discussion area. If someone wants the kind of advice that requires them to identify the specific individual, such as if they were intending to lodge a formal complaint with an organisation, then there could be specific persons tasked tasked with advising them. There's a huge debate about anonymous vs. identified complaints that I don't want to get involved in, but anonymous, public, unscreened accusations are a recipe for disaster.

Lastly, you write, "Unfortunately I suspect some people in the community are content, implicitly or explicitly, to assume that women and people of color are inherently so much worse than white men at thinking about altruism effectively that the constitution of the community is merely an effect of this presumed difference". I believe there are two main issues with recruiting women: a) Women are less likely to be in the groups we have been successful in recruiting from (ie. maths, philosophy, computer science) b) In our society, women are encouraged to embrace their emotions more and men are encouraged to be objective. Given this socialisation, men are more likely to find EA matches their thought process.