Comment author: DavidNash 29 October 2017 07:31:42PM 3 points [-]

I think your conclusion is worth being a post on it's own, and would potentially get read by more people in a shorter format.

It may also be the people that you'd want to read to the end wouldn't read a post as in depth as this.

Comment author: zdgroff 27 October 2017 06:36:31PM *  7 points [-]

Your portrait of what the EA community could be is a beautiful one and made me tear up. You hit the nail on the head many times in this post on the subtle connections between things that I think can be hard to identify: the connection between heart and head, the E and the A, the overuse of jargon, and the hero worship, and so on. I have to say that as a fairly straight-passing gay man with immense amounts of privilege, even I feel many of these pressures and am often put off by the alpha-male machismo you often see in EA spaces.

I’ve witnessed discrimination and harassment, and heard of assault, in EA-ish spaces, and it seems pretty clear that this is contributing to the gender gap. I’ve definitely exhibited some of the combative and argumentative behaviors you mention. When I got into the EA community a few years ago, I began in global poverty and animal advocacy circles, and I found they were much better on these issues than the community is now, sadly. (That’s with both of those areas’ having plenty of problems.)

I think Kelly moved us toward a type of dialogue on this issue that is lacking in the world, and I hope we can have more of it. Right now, discussions around diversity and inclusion seem polarized between the sort of “rationalist” discussion that’s snarky and dismissive on the one hand and an ostracizing mob mentality on the other hand. I don’t want to say EA should chart a middle path, because I think we should lean toward being overly zealous on diversity and inclusion rather than away, but I think EA and its aligned movements (animal advocacy in my mind) would benefit from a conversation that is at the same time inclusive and data-based. I don’t think the world has that type of conversation very often.

The lack of conversations that are both inclusive and data-based seems to lead to pretty bad results, where diversity and inclusion are may not be promoted in the most effective ways, and people opposed to diversity and inclusion harbor suspicions about the world (e.g. that discrimination does not exist) that continue to fester unaddressed.

From my exploration of these matters, I’ve come to see that generally, when one reads about data on discrimination, differences between groups, etc. one finds that (a) discrimination exists and can be quite powerful; (b) there are differences between genders, but the differences are subtle and go in varied directions (e.g. men are more combative, and women are more collaborative, as Kelly notes); and (c ) these differences are not the reason for the vast majority of gaps that we see.

I think that because discussion about differences between genders is often consigned to the more diversity-hostile corners of the internet, though, ideas that would be proven wrong by the data go unchallenged. Again, I think if we were to have the right sort of conversation on these issues, we would find that discrimination is indeed the primary cause of the gender gap in EA, but without that conversation, people will not be convinced. (And if an honest conversation engaged with data and personal experiences came to the conclusion that this was not the case, that would probably be good information to have.)

For instance, I read the Damore memo, but then saw this graph which seems to be pretty good evidence that the vast majority of the gap in tech is not from biological differences (and so likely some iteration of discrimination, implicit or explicit). I don’t remember where I came across this graph, but it was very helpful to me. Without looking at the whole picture, though, one can look solely at the individual components of the picture (e.g. Damore’s arguments on specific gender differences) and come to conclusions that would be put in doubt with fuller information.

As an additional reason why I think EA is a movement that could have the right conversation on this, I think that EAs recognize a moral principle similar to equality of interests, where differences in personal traits do not lead to moral differences. It seems that in many diversity and inclusion conversations, both the right and the left consider personal trait differences to imply moral differences, and I think EAs can challenge and move beyond that assumption–though with care and only after we start improving on our demographics.

This is a very challenging issue because, as noted in a comment below, racism and sexism have long been motivated by biological essentialism, and it’s extremely disturbing to have people talk about a group you are a part of in this way. (As a Jew, I can say that I feel discomfort with the conversation about Jewish values below, for instance, though I don’t have a strong opinion on its propriety.) I think that the way to deal with this problem is to exercise caution when speaking about these sorts of things, to avoid casual discussion of them, and to have a higher evidence standard for when we talk about these things. I think that our community can learn the appropriate maturity to do that, though.

Anyway, all this is to say that I hope that as this conversation goes on, we can bring data to bear and recognize the implications of the way we speak for others in this community. Words and ideas do cause harm, and we should be utilitarians about the way we speak. With appropriate caution, though, I think that EAs can have a conversation that gets to the heart of the matter and offers a model for how these conversations can be had.

————————————

For those looking for examples of places where these discussions could be valuable, I have a few:

  • Gender and cosmopolitan values–The Better Angels of Our Nature cites feminism as one of the reasons for declines in all sorts of violence (war, sexual violence, torture), and I’ve seen enough data to match my intuition that feminism is also very good for animals. I think there are lots of things to explore empirically in this domain (that likely would have implications for the A vs. E debate), but they probably involve engaging with uncomfortable questions about where these gender differences arise.

  • On another note, animal advocates will often assert that if we focus on multiple causes, we will solve our diversity and inclusion problem. I think this is a very important claim to test, because focusing on multiple causes may be quite costly. I’m fully supportive of focusing on creating justice within our movements and groups, e.g. by aggressively fighting sexual assault and getting rid of income barriers, but I think the claim about movements’ outward focus is a debatable one that really needs to be empirically explored.

  • Similarly to the above note, animal advocates often work on issues to promote diversity and inclusion including things like fighting urban food deserts without looking into the evidence around them. This could not only hinder direct impacts but also create the impression that advocates’ diversity and inclusion efforts are an afterthought without the same rigor applied to it that advocates apply to work for animals.

Comment author: DavidNash 27 October 2017 08:02:44PM 6 points [-]

Just in reply to the graph section - this post made me think about possible reasons for the discrepancy between computer science and law/medicine.

http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exaggerated-differences/

Comment author: Denkenberger 26 October 2017 05:10:49PM 1 point [-]

I assume this means 3 million viewers at any one time - the total number of people who primarily get their news from Fox would be much larger.

Comment author: DavidNash 27 October 2017 07:51:57AM 0 points [-]

True, looking at this article, it seems that it could be as high as 24 million which is just above 7% of the population, but the political scientist in the post has doubts of how true the figure is and for people who watch, is it 5 minutes or 5 hours.

https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2017/0119/Is-watching-Fox-News-the-ultimate-conservative-calling-card

Comment author: zdgroff 19 October 2017 07:38:08PM 0 points [-]

Wow, the older generation thing is really interesting. Definitely giving that paper a read.

Re: interpretation of events, yeah, that makes sense. I just find it alarming that Trump could get 30%+, or Brexit.

Comment author: DavidNash 20 October 2017 09:01:38AM 2 points [-]

It could be that we are politically engaged and read about every event that happens but the majority of people don't pay much attention to politics. So Trump getting 30%+ is based on a lot of those voters having read 1 or maybe 2 favourable things about him and nothing else, similar with Democrat voters.

For example, Fox news averages 3 million viewers, which is less than 1% of the population.

Comment author: zdgroff 18 October 2017 08:47:46PM 0 points [-]

I've had this instinct myself for a while and blogged about it today (http://www.zachgroff.com/2017/10/democratic-dysfunction-may-get-in-way). I'm quite sympathetic to Pinker's thesis but becoming less sympathetic with each passing day. (Maybe I just need to reread the book.)

Do you think tribalism is indeed getting better, and even if so, do you think its rate of decrease might be slowing given the rise of far right populism and leftist identity politics? Articles like this make me worried: https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/9/5/16227700/hyperpartisanship-identity-american-democracy-problems-solutions-doom-loop

Comment author: DavidNash 19 October 2017 12:40:30PM 4 points [-]

I think most people that write about this subject don't take a step back and look at the historical context and general trends in society, which makes it really hard to work out what's going on.

It's hard to tell from just observing the news how views/public opinion are trending, if the number of the KKK has gone from 3000 to 300, but we only start interviewing and televising them at the 300 level, it will appear as if they are more present in society than in the past.

One study of polarisation (which in some ways is similar to tribalism) shows that polarisation could be increasing the most in older generations, who use the internet least. This might suggest that as people come online, we're hearing more from a more polarised generation, who before the internet, wouldn't be letting people know about their views as much.

https://www.brown.edu/Research/Shapiro/pdfs/age-polars.pdf

Here is another post about how we may start to interpret events in one way even if it doesn't match trends. It seems like a lot of people are now focused on the far right/extremism and tribalism, when they weren't before the election.

http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/11/07/tuesday-shouldnt-change-the-narrative/

Comment author: DavidNash 21 September 2017 03:11:33PM 3 points [-]

Maybe a relevant post from the past.

http://effective-altruism.com/ea/pu/we_care_about_walys_not_qalys/

"QALYs only measure health, and health is not all that matters. Most effective altruists care about increasing the number of "WALYs" or well-being adjusted life years, where health is just one component of wellbeing."

Comment author: MichaelPlant 17 August 2017 01:53:57PM 4 points [-]

This is sort of a meta-comment, but there's loads of important stuff here, each of which could have it's own thread. Could I suggest someone (else), organises a (small) conference to discuss some of these things?

I've got quite a few things to add on the ITN framework but nothing I can say in a few words. Relatedly, I've also been working on a method for 'cause search' - a ways of finding all the big causes in a given domain - which is the step before cause prio, but that's not something I can write out succinctly either (yet, anyway).

Comment author: DavidNash 17 August 2017 02:26:52PM 2 points [-]

I think there's one happening in London in November that is discussing questions of this nature - it may be worth seeing if they will add it to the schedule if it's not already there.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 10 July 2017 06:32:44PM *  1 point [-]

Thanks for the update. That's helpful.

However, it does seem a bit hard to reconcile GWWC's and 80k's positions on this topic. GWWC (i.e. you) seem to be saying "most EAs care about poverty, so that's what we'll emphasise" whereas 80k (i.e. Ben Todd above) seems to saying "most EAs do (/should?) care about X-risk, so that's what we'll emphasise".

These conclusions seem to be in substantial tension, which itself is may confuse new and old EAs.

Comment author: DavidNash 10 July 2017 09:04:47PM 0 points [-]

Might it be that 80k recommend X-risk because it's neglected (even within EA) and that if more then 50% of EAs had X-risk as their highest priority it would no longer be as neglected?

Comment author: Owen_Cotton-Barratt 13 June 2017 11:18:26AM 9 points [-]

I was a bit confused by some of these. Posting questions/comments here in case others have the same thoughts:

Earning-to-give buy-out

You're currently earning to give, because you think that your donations are doing more good than your direct work would. It might be that we think that it would be more valuable if you did direct work. If so we could donate a proportion of the amount that you were donating to wherever you were donating it, and you would move into work.

This made more sense to me after I realised that we should probably assume the person doesn't think CEA is a top donation target. Otherwise they would have an empirical disagreement about whether they should be doing direct work, and it's not clear how the offer helps resolve that (though it's obviously worth discussing).

Anti-Debates / Shark Tank-style career choice discussions / Research working groups

These are all things that might be good, but it's not obvious how funding would be a bottleneck. Might be worth saying something about that?

For those with a quantitative PhD, it could involve applying for the Google Brain Residency program or AI safety fellowship at ASI.

Similarly I'm confused what the funding is meant to do in these cases.

I'd be keen to see more people take ideas that we think we already know, but haven't ever been put down in writing, and write them up in a thorough and even-handed way; for example, why existential risk from anthropogenic causes is greater than the existential risk from natural causes

I think you were using this as an example of the type of work, rather than a specific request, but some readers might not know that there's a paper forthcoming on precisely this topic (if you mean something different from that paper, I'm interested to know what!).

Comment author: DavidNash 13 June 2017 01:49:19PM 4 points [-]

In terms of Anti-Debates/Shark Tank etc

These might be things local groups organise, but wouldn't make a plan and evaluate unless they had more time to do that.

Comment author: ThomasSittler 31 May 2017 11:59:15PM 5 points [-]

It seems to me that the main reason people are sometimes insufficiently friendly or reliable is not the lack of papers detailing the benefits of considerateness.

Comment author: DavidNash 01 June 2017 08:55:49AM 9 points [-]

If there was any community that it might apply to, it's probably effective altruists.

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