Comment author: xccf 31 October 2017 11:30:05PM 0 points [-]

Out of curiosity, have you tried anything besides private conversations?

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 01 November 2017 12:54:51AM *  1 point [-]

Since I'm already working on inclusionary practices myself, there's not much else to do but private or public discussion.

The private discussions I have had explicitly around the issue have varied a lot in their content and purpose and can be characterized as any of the following or a combination thereof: Listening to people's experiences; sharing my own; discussing solutions; actively (beyond just listening) supporting people who were treated poorly; sharing information and concern about the issue with people in a better or still good position to do something about it; trying to discuss why this or more specific issues of exclusion are a problem with people who prefer the status quo; or endeavoring to show people why something they did was a problem and what they should do differently.

Dealing with a bewilderingly amateur situation myself and working to privately help the people responsible to understand the problem and improve took a month out of my life, and with a really important counterfactual, and that's strictly in time spent on the issue that I don't think I would have had to lose in e.g. the animal advocacy community, and not accounting for the emotional toll. I have good reason for (cautious) optimism that that was fruitful but also a red flag restraining that optimism and regardless only time will tell.

Basically I've spent a huge amount of time on those private and often solution-oriented conversations and have been hanging over the precipice of burnout with the community since day 1 several years ago. (The broader community at least, not the animal advocacy sub/intersected-community. And disclaimer that there are great individuals throughout the broader community who are my friends and/or whose presence in the community I am so happy for, etc.) And I'm definitely not alone in that.

I can do more to have private conversations with people in better positions than myself to make change here (such as people who are looked up to in the community by the people whose behavior could be more inclusionary, or donors to EA orgs), and I might if this post and the discussion here doesn't inspire other people to take more action on this issue, which is my hope.

Comment author: Michael_Wiebe 31 October 2017 10:12:03PM 2 points [-]

Is it true that men score higher than women in 'thinking' vs 'feeling'? If so, the EA community (being dominated by men) might be structured in ways that appeal to 'thinkers' and deter 'feelers'. To reduce the gender gap in EA, we would have to make the community be more appealing to 'feelers' (if women are indeed disproportionately 'feelers').

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 01 November 2017 12:09:10AM *  0 points [-]

I think we score quite a bit worse on "feeling" than most altruistically-driven communities and individuals, men included.

[Edit: Point being, yes we're lacking in feeling, but "thinking vs. feeling" is not a tradeoff we have to make to increase our A (or our gender parity, which isn't an inherent problem but is tightly related to our problems). EA's whole purpose is to combine both and we should aim to recruit people who score high on both, not just one or the other. Sorry for the excessive edits.]

Comment author: ateabug 30 October 2017 01:57:23PM *  1 point [-]

But by letting everyone know about the problem, they've also made it in to a bigger problem: now every woman who reads this post knows that someone, at one point in an EA-related discussion somewhere, made this outrageous claim--which results in those women feeling less welcome and more on edge. The toxic echo of this person's post continues to reverberate as it is held up as part of a broader trend within EA, even though their post itself was long ago deleted.

This can get very dangerous as it opens a door for trolls to negatively impact the community and potentially damage its reputation. Maybe these kinds of discussions need to be gated in some way, or be had offline or something.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 30 October 2017 07:29:30PM 0 points [-]

Risk does come with greater publicity of such behavior, but that's part of the point of making it more public (in addition to the information value for people who want to avoid or address it). This is the first I've ever publicly said something about these issues in EA, after three years of many private conversations that seem to have resulted in limited or no impact. Greater publicity means greater accountability and motivation for action, both for the people who behave poorly and the people who let them do so without consequence.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 October 2017 04:57:31PM *  4 points [-]

The idea of introducing social justice into an existing movement has already been tried, and I think it's worth going over the failures and problems that social justice has caused in the atheist movement before jumping headlong into it in the EA movement. This reddit page about why Atheism+ failed makes for interesting reading: https://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/2ygiwh/so_why_did_atheism_plus_fail/

Unfortunately, the people who ended up in charge of the movement cared much more about perpetuating their radical ideologies, their cults of personality, and their easy paycheques than any of these issues. ... No matter how noble your cause, someone who practices dishonesty, censorship, intimidation, and harassment in alleged pursuit of that cause is not your friend.

See also this: https://athefist.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/the-atheism-plusftb-problem/

Attempts to interfere with harassment policies and promoting the (unevidenced) idea that atheist meetings are hotbeds of sexual exploitation have slashed female attendance at events like TAM which were practically on 50/50 parity. Rather than trying to invest in the future of the movement or seek the best and most effective speakers there’s an insistence on the basis of gender rather than expertise. Not that there aren’t good speakers of all genders but when you pass over expert male speakers to include sub-par ones with axes to grind rather than progress to make that’s an issue

it continues:

There’s also something peculiar in claiming to be atheists and skeptics while suspending skepticism when it comes to certain claims – like the highly questionable 1-in-4 rape statistic or broader concepts like patriarchy and rape culture. Skepticism or demands for evidence in these arenas is treated as hostility.

The post by Kelly that I am responding to seems to contain several red flags indicating that EA+SJ is falling into the same traps that Atheism+SJ fell into;

  • suspending healthy skepticism of questionable claims,
  • advocating identity categories over competence,
  • supporting the silencing of dissenting opinions and abandoning free speech

As I said in another comment: don't say you weren't warned if this goes badly.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 29 October 2017 06:46:57PM *  0 points [-]

Regarding your "red flags":

1) The post does not advocate for identity categories over competence, but competence over identity categories. As I've argued, we're missing out on a lot of people because they don't match irrelevant criteria.

2) No skepticism of questionable claims has been suspended. You are welcome, as others have, to point out what claims are too confident and why. You'll note that I've edited the post to qualify a claim I made that a commenter pointed out is debated in the literature, and an implication I made that a commenter convinced me I made too confidently.

You are also welcome to provide arguments for the position you seem to take that the status quo (or an even more exclusive community, which we may be becoming) is better than a more inclusive community. Bringing up the risk is a valuable contribution to this discussion and I really appreciate it. Let's go further with our analysis of tradeoffs and discuss specific steps we can take to become more inclusive while limiting the risks in either direction, and let's have a healthy skepticism of the status quo.

3) A dismissal of the whole project of inclusion because of the risk that it will go too far is itself something of a silencing of dissenting opinions and an abandoning of free speech. As I said very explicitly in my comment about free speech, the term is often used to justify speech that pushes people out and reduces the diversity of opinions in the community and the freedom that people have to speak. The question is where the line is -- and it's probably a blurry, messy one -- and how we should address transgressions of it to keep our debates as free and productive as possible.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 October 2017 04:57:31PM *  4 points [-]

The idea of introducing social justice into an existing movement has already been tried, and I think it's worth going over the failures and problems that social justice has caused in the atheist movement before jumping headlong into it in the EA movement. This reddit page about why Atheism+ failed makes for interesting reading: https://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/2ygiwh/so_why_did_atheism_plus_fail/

Unfortunately, the people who ended up in charge of the movement cared much more about perpetuating their radical ideologies, their cults of personality, and their easy paycheques than any of these issues. ... No matter how noble your cause, someone who practices dishonesty, censorship, intimidation, and harassment in alleged pursuit of that cause is not your friend.

See also this: https://athefist.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/the-atheism-plusftb-problem/

Attempts to interfere with harassment policies and promoting the (unevidenced) idea that atheist meetings are hotbeds of sexual exploitation have slashed female attendance at events like TAM which were practically on 50/50 parity. Rather than trying to invest in the future of the movement or seek the best and most effective speakers there’s an insistence on the basis of gender rather than expertise. Not that there aren’t good speakers of all genders but when you pass over expert male speakers to include sub-par ones with axes to grind rather than progress to make that’s an issue

it continues:

There’s also something peculiar in claiming to be atheists and skeptics while suspending skepticism when it comes to certain claims – like the highly questionable 1-in-4 rape statistic or broader concepts like patriarchy and rape culture. Skepticism or demands for evidence in these arenas is treated as hostility.

The post by Kelly that I am responding to seems to contain several red flags indicating that EA+SJ is falling into the same traps that Atheism+SJ fell into;

  • suspending healthy skepticism of questionable claims,
  • advocating identity categories over competence,
  • supporting the silencing of dissenting opinions and abandoning free speech

As I said in another comment: don't say you weren't warned if this goes badly.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 29 October 2017 06:33:47PM 0 points [-]

I already commented this on your earlier, similar comment, but since you're repeating this here I will too so it's not missed:

I entirely appreciate the concern of going too far. Let's just be careful not to assume that risks only come with action -- the opposite path is an awful one too, and with inaction we risk moving further down it.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 October 2017 04:32:59PM 4 points [-]

Came to say this as well.

See, for example:

https://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/2ygiwh/so_why_did_atheism_plus_fail/

The atheists even started to disinvite their intellectual founders, e.g. Richard Dawkins. Will EA eventually go down the same path - will they end up disinviting e.g. Bostrom for not being a sufficiently zealous social justice advocate?

All I'm saying is that there is a precedent here. If SJW-flavored EA ends up going down this path, please don't say you were not warned.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 29 October 2017 04:55:13PM 4 points [-]

I entirely appreciate the concern of going too far. Let's just be careful not to assume that risks only come with action -- the opposite path is an awful one too, and with inaction we risk moving further down it.

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: Kelly_Witwicki 29 October 2017 03:40:34AM 9 points [-]

Someone who prefers to remain anonymous shared with me that there were multiple issues that made her and other women interns feel excluded at an EA organization, but she felt it was too intimidating to bring them up because the staff seemed too tight, including the women, and the interns felt too separate from them.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 29 October 2017 03:50:40AM 5 points [-]

The same person, in response to the point "Don’t dismiss or trivialize the altruistic concerns ordinary people have," said:

Agree – this is one of the most alienating parts of EA groups I have come across. Charity snobbishness has become quite extreme in some contexts I’ve been in, and I found it to be a somewhat closed-minded approach to altruism generally. At one point, I became persuaded by this attitude and even noticed myself becoming judgmental with the people around me. It was only when my mum told me she thought I had become more judgmental, and not for the better, that I took initiative to really analyse why I was behaving like I was, and to understand that this is not a way to do the most good for people around you nor for trying to encourage people to give their time and money more effectively. I think many people in EA should take a step back and realise that in their attempt to do the most good, they are acting in a closed-minded way, which is actually preventing them to be able to achieve the most good they can.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 29 October 2017 03:40:34AM 9 points [-]

Someone who prefers to remain anonymous shared with me that there were multiple issues that made her and other women interns feel excluded at an EA organization, but she felt it was too intimidating to bring them up because the staff seemed too tight, including the women, and the interns felt too separate from them.

Comment author: xccf 28 October 2017 04:38:14AM *  9 points [-]

Another idea I had: add questions to the EA Survey to understand how people feel about the issues you are describing. This accomplishes a few things:

  • It allows us to track progress more effectively than observing our demographic breakdown. Measuring how people feel about EA movement culture gives us a shorter feedback loop, since changes in demographics lag behind culture changes. Furthermore, by attempting to measure the climate issue directly, we can zero in on factors under our control.

  • It helps fight selection effects that occur in online discussion of these issues. People on both sides can be reluctant to share their thoughts & ideas in a thread like this one. Online discussions in general can be wildly unrepresentative. I was surprised to learn about polls which found that most Native Americans aren't offended by the use of "Redskins" as a team name (criticism of this poll), and that a majority of black people are against affirmative action. And among the "anti-SJW" crowd, there's a perception that some folks are going to see racism/sexism in everything, and they will never be satisfied. So taking a representative poll of EAs, and perhaps comparing the results to some baseline, can help us come to agreement on the degree to which we have issues.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 29 October 2017 03:02:20AM 2 points [-]

I like this idea. It will be skewed towards people who aren't turned off by the culture, as those who are will have less interest in, and in some or many cases may not even be exposed to, the survey, but getting more systematic info on people's feelings here would be very useful.

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