At least, the #1 red flag I’m able to coherently articulate, and that I completely forgot to mention earlier.
They basically take any mental system you have that is capable of showing you what is going badly wrong in their organization, that is capable of…
*hugs if wanted*
I’m so sorry and sad Less Wrong has made you feel this way! LW really shouldn’t be like that, that’s completely against (what I see as) its main points, and it makes me sad that there are people who are treated that way by the website/community/ideology :(
My personal experience with it has been the diametrical opposite of yours, though, and in my little LW niche “if people make you feel stupid every time you ask a question something is bad bad bad bad” is a pretty standard idea. Like, my LW friends are amongst the kindest and most amazing people I’ve met, and they would never ever ever try to make you feel bad for not being able to quite articulate what you’re thinking (in fact most of the time they try to help if you can’t and they most definitely don’t dismiss it because you can’t), so…
I used to think that there were some fairly stable subdivisions of LW, like “main site LW” and “Facebook LW” and “#lesswrong” and “SSC LW” and “Tumblr LW” and that the latter two (especially the last one) are particularly different and kinder and more like what I think LW “should be.” But with the number of posts on tumblr itself I’ve been seeing lately complaining about how awful LW can be, maybe I’m being even too generous and the kind Tumblr LW is in fact just a part of the whole Tumblr LW? Or maybe it just happens that tumblr is the place people come to vent about stuff so when people complain about LW on tumblr they usually don’t mean Tumblr LW.
Whatever the explanation might be, though, I don’t know how large or little a fraction of LW is like what you’ve experienced as opposed to what I have. Tumblr LW seemed like a very, very safe place with lots of great kind awesome people (we’ve been described as a Big Ball of Crushes), but it looks like it might be the case that only a very very small part of LW is like that, like you said, and that terrifies me.
TL;DR: :( :( :( *hugs if wanted* *sends fuzzyfeels your way*
the OP would be much more convincing if it contained any examples instead of vague platitudes. like, what mental systems that expose flaws in LW do LW people disparage? what flaws do they expose? can you link to an example of LW people doing this disparagement? I can try to think of examples, but idk if the sort of examples I’d think of are the same ones y’all are talking about, so that’s not really helpful. and if one disagrees with the OP then it’s really hard to address it in any way other than saying “nuh uh” if there aren’t any examples
While this is true, youneedacat has explicitly said that they have a very hard time formalising and putting their thoughts into a format that’s “acceptable” by LW standards, and they were criticising exactly the general behaviour that “if you can’t make your thoughts formal/explicit then they’re not worth it” that’s somewhat pervasive of LW culture.
And that’s hardly a point in favour of the culture as a whole! For a group that’s supposed to be all like “yay transhumanism!” and “our minds are dumb and fragile and should be watched all the time” and “tsuyoku naritai” we can sometimes be pretty big jerks to people whose thought processes work in a way that’s different than ours, or in a way some of us perceive as “less.”
That’s honestly also quite ableist, and quite inconsistent with a group that’s also known to occasionally ask questions like “are dolphins people?” I mean, if we’re willing to ascribe personhood to marine mammals, then I think the least we could do is also ascribe personhood to, yanno, people, and actually act the part.
So, OP has objections to LW culture as a whole, and I think even without knowing what exactly they’re talking about with as much detail as I’d like, I can still see the general point, and still agree with (at least some of) it. I hardly think it’s “rational” (not to mention charitable) to dismiss an entire class of potential ways of expressing oneself just because it does not fall into this neat little box we labelled “the correct way to say what we think.”
What I’d think the “rational” and charitable thing to do, and actually just the kind and moral one, would be to try to meet the other person always a little further than halfway. That’s, I think, what the principle of charity truly really is about. Try to do your honest best to see the world like the other person sees the world, try to actually understand them instead of just finding the best way to reply, work much harder to find flaws in yourself than in other people, this sorta dealio. This sounds, to me, much more representative of what LW could be (and what I’ve personally experienced it to be) than the snobby impression I’ve seen a lot of people have of us.
(And by the way this is not, strictly speaking, a response to you, it’s just a more general “what I think needs to be done for LW as a community to Get Better and Be Kinder” that I wanted to word more precisely.)
That’s a really good point about trying to meet people more than halfway. Since you didn’t explicitly say it, I want to say that this is because meeting somebody halfway feels like meeting them more than halfway, and the thing that feels like meeting somebody halfway is actually only going a little bit towards them. I say this both for the sake of anyone reading and for my own sake (writing things down makes them easier to remember, for me at least).
That said, I still take issue with a lot of this, for a few reasons. First, it actually is incredibly difficult to meet somebody halfway if you’re not sure which direction they are in. If I actually don’t know what complaints they’re making, I can’t move in the direction of understanding or agreeing with them, or at least, if I attempt to, there’s a good chance I’ll actually be moving in a different direction. For instance, upon describing this to my wife, her first thoughts were of Roko’s Basilisk and the Cult of Productivity and the weird Steve Rayhawk thing. Are those what the OP was talking about? I don’t know! My guess was about virtue ethics and SJ style dialectics or whatever. These are all different and not very related things.
Right! This is true. But… the thing is making an honest effort. And saying it. Like, you say out loud (or write explicitly, as may be the case), “I do not understand what you are saying, so I may be misrepresenting you, but this is what it looks like to me.” And always, obviously, be open to be corrected if the other person believes you misinterpreted them.
But I wouldn’t say those are completely unrelated things. For one, I also thought of Roko’s Basilisk and blahblah when I read OP but those were points I disagreed with - I do not think that LW feels like a cult from the inside at all. On the other hand, the point I agreed with is that it can signal a lot of cultishness, and it does have, at least in certain parts, aspects of true cultishness, and it is downright nasty sometimes. Point being: do your honest best, and be actually humble.
And finally, you can completely disagree with a person or be completely ignorant about what they mean when they say something while still empathising when they say they had unpleasant experiences and not getting immediately defensive when they say that your group is bad.
Especially because this group is LW and one of the first things we learn is “the map is not the territory” so when someone says “your group’s nasty” what they’re actually saying is “I believe your group is nasty” and that belief got there somehow. When they further say “I have had bad experiences” and “I have seen bad experiences being had” then you can drive some conclusions from there. It’d be very silly to expect the entirety of LW to be a pleasant place with perfectly rational agents etc etc etc. LW is a group of humans and large parts of it are actually bad.
Second, talking about thought processes being “less” or “incorrect” or “ableist”… I mean, there are differences in quality of thought process? There are some ways of thinking that are better than others? That’s kind of the whole point of Less Wrong, no? Getting angry at LW for considering some ways of saying things/thinking to be better than others seems like, idk, getting angry at the Catholic Church for thinking Mary is pretty important, or getting angry at Google for indexing sites based on popularity. Except even worse than that, since for most of the LW stuff, the LW position is objectively correct, or as close as anybody can get.
I don’t think that saying that implies that folks who disagree or who think/phrase things differently aren’t people. Do you think it does?
No, but being a jerk to them does, which is what I said. I’m not talking about teaching and correcting, I’m talking about outright rejecting and being mean.
One: don’t be mean, ever. One would think this is a pretty obvious thing, but no, LWers can be by and large very mean.
Two: rejecting is most definitely not the honest best you can do most of the time. Rationality is also about separating the signal from the noise, but if you just throw away the entire message just because it’s not pure signal is silly.
Or rather, you can in fact not-update on a message if you think the signal-to-noise ratio is low enough that you don’t have differential confidence about any specific potential meaning or intended meaning, but your tolerance should be about that high. It seemed to me that the “formalised, clear description” of what OP meant and definitely what I meant was that LWers are too strict about which sources we “take seriously.”
Like, “I am feeling bad about this, but I don’t know why.” is totally a valid message! If the person can’t know why and doesn’t want your help figuring it out, tant pis, you feel bad for them but leave them alone, and send them fuzzyfeels and sympathy. Which is what I did in my first reply. I can’t respond to OP’s specific points, like you pointed out, because they’re not there; I can do my best to try to figure out what they are, and express my beliefs about them, which I also did when I said that my personal experience with LW was different, and confess that that’s the best I could do.
> I hardly think it’s “rational” (not to mention charitable) to dismiss an entire class of potential ways of expressing oneself just because it does not fall into this neat little box we labelled “the correct way to say what we think.”
I’d really like to hear you expound upon this, ideally with examples, if you could. In particular, I’m curious what exactly the class of potential ways of expressing oneself is.
The example is the thing I said above. “I am feeling bad about this, but I don’t know why.” “I feel like this behaviour of yours is grating for no reason. Could you stop?” “I have an intuition that this is not a good thing but I’m having a hard time putting it into words.”
Like I said, if the person can’t put it into words and doesn’t want your help etc etc, then you can do nothing; but it does happen that even when they do want help, LWers do not actually extend a helping hand, and do not actually consider that the person may have a valid reason for feeling the way they do because they’re unable to put it into specific words from the get-go.