Comment author: ClaireZabel 27 October 2017 09:46:00PM *  10 points [-]

Kelly, I don't think the study you cite is good or compelling evidence of the conclusion you're stating. See Scott's comments on it for the reasons why.

(edited because the original link didn't work)

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 27 October 2017 10:07:48PM -1 points [-]

Thanks, clarified.

Comment author: Julia_Wise  (EA Profile) 27 October 2017 08:42:56PM *  23 points [-]

To speak to the section about EA orgs hiring a diversity & inclusion officer:

That's essentially my role at CEA as Community Liaison, with help from other staff. Some of my work is focused on helping CEA work well for lots of kinds of people, both internally as a workplace and externally in our events and projects for the community.

I also try to be a resource on these topics for other EA orgs, groups, and individuals. I'm very happy to be contacted ( about anything in this area where I might be able to give information or advice. Some examples of things we've helped with:

  • How to run a "Living on Less" campaign in a way that's respectful of people actually living in poverty
  • How to help a group member who has just experienced a mental health crisis
  • Designing policies for Facebook groups that balance competing needs/wishes from different group members
  • Serving as a contact point for people who have experienced abuse or harassment within the community, either simply to provide support or to also take next steps if the person wishes
  • Promoting pro-social norms through measures like the Guiding Principles of EA.

Edited to add: someone pointed out that I didn't mention confidentiality. I will keep anything you tell me as confidential as you want it to be kept.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 27 October 2017 09:45:21PM -1 points [-]


I appreciate the work you've done and continue to do on community-building. It seems though that there is a lot more productive work that can done than can be achieved by one part-time role, and that there are angles we're not addressing.

For instance, we could bring in someone who can advise on all forms of communication from job postings to website UX to social media content and strategy; assist with speaker recruitment and selection and provide feedback for presentations at conferences; and conduct reviews of inclusionary performance in organizations' hiring and management practices, in outreach efforts, and in local communities' practices.

Comment author: xccf 27 October 2017 11:41:50AM 13 points [-]

The pattern I see is that "organizations" (such as government agencies or Fortune 500 companies) usually turn out OK, whereas "movements" or "communities" (e.g. the atheism movement, or the open source community) often turn out poorly.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 27 October 2017 09:01:47PM *  -1 points [-]

An explanation of what you mean by "turn out OK" would be helpful. For instance, do movements that err more towards social justice fare worse than those that err away from it (or than those that sit at the status quo)?

Whether that's the case for the atheism movement or the open source community is a heavy question that merits more explanation.

Actually, I would think that any overshooting you see in these communities is a reaction to how status-quo (or worse) both of those communities are. Note for instance that when women are not collaborators on a project (but not when they are), their open-source contributions are more likely to be accepted than men's when their gender is not known but despite that they're less likely to be accepted than men's when their gender is known.

Comment author: ThomasSittler 27 October 2017 10:21:26AM 12 points [-]

As a concrete suggestion, could someone make a stylish (or other) extension that hides upvote counts and usernames on the EA forum? I would be delighted to use it, and would encourage others to do so, too.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 27 October 2017 01:24:49PM 1 point [-]

If people have to opt into it, we can assume the people who currently misuse their votes won't.

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: 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: xccf 27 October 2017 03:04:41AM *  32 points [-]

Thanks for this post. There's a lot I agree with here. I'm in especially vigorous agreement with your points regarding hero worship and seeing newcomers as a source of fresh ideas/arguments instead of condescending them.

There are also some points I disagree with. And in the spirit of not considering any arguments above criticism, and disagreement being critical for finding the best answers, I hope you won't mind if I lay my disagreements out. To save time, I'll focus on the differences between your view and mine. So if I don't mention a point you made, you can default to assuming I agree with it.

First, I'm broadly skeptical of the social psychology research you cite. Whenever I read about a study that claims women are more analytical than men, or women are better leaders than men, I imagine whether I would hear about it if the experiment found the opposite result.

I recommend this blog post on the lack of ideological diversity in social psychology. Social psychologists are overwhelmingly liberal, and many openly admit to discriminating against conservatives in hiring. Here is a good post by a Mexican social psychologist that discusses how this plays out. There's also the issue of publication bias at the journal level. I know someone who served on the selection committee of a (minor & unimportant, so perhaps not representative) psychology journal. The committee had an explicit philosophy of only publishing papers they liked, and espousing "problematic" views was a strike against a paper. Anyway, I think to some degree the field functions as a liberal echo chamber on controversial issues.

There's really an entire can of worms here--social psychology is currently experiencing a major reproducibility crisis--but I don't want to get too deep in to it, because to defend my position fully, I'd want to share evidence for positions that make people uncomfortable. Suffice to say that there's a third layer of publication bias at the level of your Facebook feed, and I could show you a different set of research-backed thinkpieces that point to different conclusions. (Suggestion: if you wouldn't want someone on the EA Forum to make arguments for the position not X, maybe avoid making arguments for the position X. Otherwise you put commenters in an impossible bind.)

But for me this point is really the elephant in the room:

some people in broader society now respond to correctable offenses with a mob mentality and too much readiness for ostracization, but just because some people have swung too far past the mark doesn’t mean we should default to a status quo that falls so short of it.

I would like to see a much deeper examination here. Insofar as I feel resistant to diversity efforts, this feels like most of what I'm trying to resist. If I was confident that pro-diversity people in EA won't spiral towards this, I'd be much more supportive. Relevant fable.

All else equal, increased diversity sounds great, but my issue is I see a pattern of other pro-diversity movements sacrificing all other values in the name of trying to increase diversity. Take a statement like this one:

Some of the most talented and resolute people in this community are here because they are deeply emotionally compelled to help others as much as possible, and we’re currently missing out on many such people by being so cold and calculating. There are ways to be warm and calculating! I can think of a few people in the community who manage this well.

Being warm and calculating sounds great, but what if there's actually a tradeoff here? Just taking myself as an example, I know that as I've become aware of how much suffering exists in the grand scheme of things, I've begun to worry less about random homeless people I see and stuff like that. Even if there's some hack I can use to empathize with homeless people while retaining a global perspective, that hack would require effort on my part--effort I could put towards goals that seem more important.

this particular individual — who is probably a troll in general — was banned from the groups where he repeatedly and unrelentingly said such things, though it’s concerning there was any question about whether this was acceptable behavior.

Again, I think there's a real tradeoff between "free speech" and sensitivity. I view the moderation of online communities as an unsolved problem. I think we benefit from navigating moderation tradeoffs thoughtfully rather than reactively.

Reminding people off the forum to upvote this post, in order to deal with possible hostility, is also a minor red flag from my perspective. This resembles something Gleb Tsipursky once did.

None of this seems very bad in the grand scheme of things, especially not compared to what I've seen from other champions of diversity--I just thought it'd be useful to give concrete examples.

Anyway, here are some ideas of mine, if anyone cares:

  • Phrase guidelines as neutrally as possible, e.g. "don't be a jerk" instead of "don't be a sexist". The nice thing about "don't be a jerk" is it at admits the possibility that someone could violate the guideline by e.g. loudly calling out a minor instance of sexism in a way that generates a lot of drama and does more harm than good. Rules should exist to serve everyone, and they should be made difficult to weaponize. If most agree your rules are legitimate, that also makes them easier to enforce.

  • Team-building activities, icebreakers, group singalongs, synchronous movement, sports/group exercise, and so on. The ideal activity is easy for anyone to do and creates a shared EA tribal identity just strong enough to supersede the race/gender/etc. identities we have by default. Kinda like how students at the same university will all cheer for the same sports team.

  • Following the example of the animal-focused EAs: Work towards achieving critical mass of underrepresented groups. Especially if you can saturate particular venues (e.g. a specific EA meetup group). I know that as a white male, I sometimes get uncomfortable in situations where I am the only white person or the only man in a group, even though I know perfectly well that no one is discriminating against me. I think it's a natural response to have when you're in the minority, so in a certain sense there's just a chicken-and-egg problem. Furthermore, injecting high-caliber underrepresented people into EA will help dismantle stereotypes and increase the number of one-on-one conversations people have, which I think are critical for change.

  • Take a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to helping EA men with women. Again, I think having more women is playing a big role for animal-focused EAs. More women means the average man has more female friends, better understands how women think, and empathizes with the situations women encounter more readily. In this podcast, Christine Peterson discusses the value of finding a life partner for productivity and mental health. In the same way that CFAR makes EAs more productive through lifehacking, I could imagine someone working covertly to make EAs more productive through solving their dating problems.

  • Invite the best thinkers who have heterodox views on diversity to attend "diversity in EA" events, in order to get a diverse perspective on diversity and stay aware of tradeoffs. Understand their views in enough depth to market diversity initiatives to the movement at large without getting written off.

  • When hiring a Diversity & Inclusion Officer, find someone who's good at managing tradeoffs rather than the person who's most passionate about the role.

Again, I appreciate the effort you put in to this post, and I support you working towards these goals in a thoughtful way. Also, I welcome PMs from you or anyone else reading this comment--I spent several hours on it, but I'm sure there is stuff I could have put better and I'd love to get feedback.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 27 October 2017 12:57:49PM *  2 points [-]

I can't address all of this but will say three quick things:

I'm broadly skeptical of the social psychology research you cite

I appreciate it's weakness, but it's at least some evidence against people's intuitions and in addition to the literature on how those intuitions are demonstrably false and discriminatory it should update people away from those discriminatory beliefs.

[Edit: I appreciate that I should generally behave as though my community will behave well, and as such I should not have requested that people upvote even if I just asked them to "upvote if [they] find the post useful." I want to be sure to flag in this response though the incredibly poor way in which people who disagree with claims and arguments in favor of diversity and inclusion are using their votes, in comments and on the whole post. It's worth explicitly observing that identity-driven voting here is not equal among opposers and supporters, but seems clearly dominated by opposers.]

I appreciate your suggestions a lot, but caution you to be careful of your own assumptions. For instance, I never suggested that a Diversity & Inclusion Officer should be the person most passionate about the role instead of most smart about it.

To emphasize though, so it doesn't get lost behind those critical thoughts: I thoroughly appreciate the suggestions you've contributed here.

[Edit: Apologies for some excessive editing. I readily acknowledge that in an already a hostile environment, my initial reaction to criticism regarding an important issue that is causing a lot of harm is too defensive.]

Comment author: KelseyPiper 26 October 2017 06:28:46PM 25 points [-]

I just want to quickly call attention to one point: "these are still pure benefits" seems like a mistaken way of thinking about this - or perhaps I'm just misinterpreting you. To me "pure benefits" suggests something costless, or where the costs are so trivial they should be discarded in analysis, and I think that really underestimates the labor that goes into building inclusive communities. Researching and compiling these recommendations took work, and implementing them will take a lot of work. Mentoring people can have wonderful returns, but it requires significant commitments of time, energy, and often other resources. Writing up community standards about conduct tends to be emotionally exhausting work which demands weeks of time and effort from productive and deeply involved community members who are necessarily sidelining other EA projects in order to do it.

None of this is to say 'it isn't worth it'. I expect that some of these things have great returns to the health, epistemic standards, and resiliency of the community, as well as, like you mentioned, good returns for the reputation of EA (though from my experience in social justice communities, there will be articles criticizing any movement for failures of intersectionality, and the presence of those articles isn't very strong evidence that a movement is doing something unusually wrong). My goal is not to say 'this is too much work' but simply 'this is work' - because if we don't acknowledge that it requires work, then work probably will not get done (or will not be acknowledged and appreciated).

Once we acknowledge that these are suggestions which require varying amounts of time, energy and access to resources, and that they impose varying degrees of mental load, then we can start figuring out which ones are good priorities for people with limited amounts of all of the above. I've seen a lot of social justice communities suffer because they're unable to do this kind of prioritization and accordingly impose excessively high costs on members and lose good people who have limited resources.

So I think it's a bad idea to think in terms of 'pure benefit'. Here, like everywhere else, if we want to do the most good we need to keep in mind that not all actions are equally good or equally cheap so we can prioritize the effective and cheap ones.

I'm also curious why you think the magnitude of the current EA movement's contributions to harmful societal structures in the United States might outweigh the magnitude of the effects EA has on nonhumans and on the poorest humans. To be clear about where I'm coming from, I think the most important thing the EA community can do is be a community that fosters fast progress on the most important things in the world. Obviously, this will include being a community that takes contributions seriously regardless of their origins and elicits contributions from everyone with good ideas, without making any of them feel excluded because of their background. But that makes diversity an instrumental goal, a thing that will make us better at figuring out how to improve the world and acting on the evidence. From your phrasing, I think you might believe that harmful societal structures in the western world are one of the things we can most effectively fix? Have you expanded on that anywhere, or is there anyone else who has argued for that who you can point me to?

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 27 October 2017 01:17:53AM 4 points [-]

While I thoroughly appreciate your thoughts here and I'm glad you voiced them, I think you started on a miscommunication:

I don't think the fact that there are costs to this, as anything, is controversial (though I know its cost-effectiveness is), and it sounds to me like Tyler just meant "intrinsic benefits," in addition to the instrumental benefits to EA community-building. If he thought improving diversity and inclusion in the community had no cost, I would think he'd say its case is irrefutable, not that these benefits merely "strengthen" its case.

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: Michael_PJ 27 October 2017 12:50:57AM *  4 points [-]

As I said, I'm totally in favour of collaborative discussions, i.e. this stuff

they don't raise their voices, go ad hominem, tear apart one aspect of an argument to dismiss the rest, or downvote comments that signal an identity that theirs is constructed in opposition to

(except possibly raised voices), but I wanted to argue that sometimes things that look like combative discussion aren't. Imagine:

A: <argument>

B: I think that's a pretty bad argument because <reason>. <argument> seems much better.

A: No, you didn't understand what I'm saying, I said <something else>.

This could be a snippet of a tense combative argument, or just a vigorous collaborative brainstorming session. A might feel unfairly dismissed by B, or might not even notice it. If we were trying to combat combtiveness by calling out people abruptly shooting down other people's ideas, then we might prevent people from doing this particular style of rapid brainstorming.

(Sorry, this stuff is hard to talk about because it's very contextual. I should probably have picked a better example :))

What I'm trying to say is that we just need to be a little bit careful how we shoot for our goals.

Comment author: Kelly_Witwicki 27 October 2017 12:55:17AM 1 point [-]

I see, we're just thinking of "combative" differently.

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