25 votes

Silicon Valley’s safe space: Slate Star Codex was a window into the psyche of many tech leaders building our collective future. Then it disappeared.

67 comments

  1. [6]
    Macil
    (edited )
    Link
    I have a lot of criticisms of SSC and its community, but I feel like the article was pretty meandering and doesn't make its case well. I think the article at least touches on a lot of real issues....

    I have a lot of criticisms of SSC and its community, but I feel like the article was pretty meandering and doesn't make its case well. I think the article at least touches on a lot of real issues. Something is wrong with an internet community that regularly has well-known white nationalists present in its comment sections and held in good regard. Something is wrong with an internet community that sees that pointed out and thinks the problem is SJWs. Something is wrong with an author who still holds up Charles Murray as someone unfairly maligned, and that definitely shapes the community he gets.

    I loved a lot about the rationalist community, but it made a mistake in the way it effectively discouraged social awareness and that compounded badly over time. I wrote a bit more about this back when SSC took itself down and I'm somewhat trying to avoid retreading all of that.

    18 votes
    1. Cycloneblaze
      Link Parent
      Yeah, everything I've picked up about SSC has made me not want to engage with it, your comment included. But this article doesn't really say anything valuable and does a very poor job of pointing...

      Yeah, everything I've picked up about SSC has made me not want to engage with it, your comment included. But this article doesn't really say anything valuable and does a very poor job of pointing out the reasons why SSC actually is objectionable.

      The portion that comes before he deleted his blog is pretty weak and meandering, especially since it's apparently what the entire article would have been had that not happened; the portion that comes after is short and kinda petty. I don't know if I agree with Siskind's high-minded moral reasoning about why his stance on anonymity was right, but I do think that he personally had a good reason in trying to separate his patients and his blog, and the article doesn't engage with that at all.

      9 votes
    2. [3]
      super_james
      Link Parent
      Can you show that Scott holds up Charles Murray as "unfairly maligned"? That was not my understanding of the situation.

      Can you show that Scott holds up Charles Murray as "unfairly maligned"?

      That was not my understanding of the situation.

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        Macil
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        In https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/08/10/getting-eulered/, the link to "Glymour on IQ" is to a paper criticizing The Bell Curve. Scott spends a lot of the post criticizing the paper and saying...

        In https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/08/10/getting-eulered/, the link to "Glymour on IQ" is to a paper criticizing The Bell Curve. Scott spends a lot of the post criticizing the paper and saying it's politically motivated.

        (By the way, in that post when Scott says "Also: Anissimov! Did you...", he's referring to Michael Anissimov, who Scott is presumably considering part of his community here, and who is one of the proponents of the neoreactionary movement, a sort of precursor to the alt-right that overlaps with it. As RNG says, "It is strange that the so-called rationalist community has a... closeness? proximity? to the alt-right community", and that proximity isn't a coincidence. Scott isn't unaware of the people he attracts. While this might reek of "guilt-by-association", the thing I criticize Scott most for is his choice to craft his community this way.)

        In https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/06/14/links-617-silinks-is-golden/, Scott criticizes a Vox article on Charles Murray and links to two response articles, one which is no longer online and another from Quilette, which often pushes alt-right points and racial pseudoscience.

        In https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/06/21/against-murderism/, Scott uses Murray as an example of someone who is suppressed despite possibly being correct. There's this big twitter thread where Scott is defending Murray as someone who is suppressed despite supposedly having good science. (Heh, someone who shows up in that Twitter thread in Scott's defense is Emil Kirkegaard, and then you have Steve Sailer in that tweet's likes. Both regularly show up in the SSC comment sections.)

        ... Ugh, while reading so much of that, I can't believe how many times I've seen the mixup of people including Scott (and well, Murray) imply that heritable = genetic. Something being found to be heritable only implies that it's genetic if the environment is the same, which is not an assumption you can make between racial groups or probably any predefined groups of people! Anyone interested in this and other problems of Murray really should watch this excellent video on The Bell Curve.

        10 votes
        1. skybrian
          Link Parent
          Thanks for tracking down some links. This is specific enough to respond to. A longer quote leading up to the Anissomov reference is: This is clearly sarcastic. It seems to indicate that Scott...

          Thanks for tracking down some links. This is specific enough to respond to.

          A longer quote leading up to the Anissomov reference is:

          But there are thirty pages of that kind of thing, and then at the end it says “therefore, you should disbelieve in IQ and probably also all other research in the social sciences.”

          Also, it mentions how research on IQ must be rejected because it might encourage the Republicans, whose plans will lead to a nation where “Ku Klux Klan schools, Aryan Nation schools, the Nation of Northern Idaho schools, Farrakhan schools, Pure Creation schools, Scientiology schools, and a thousand more schools of ignorance, separation, and hatred bloom like some evil garden, subsidized by taxes.” So clearly there’s some political motivation at work as well.

          (Also: Anissimov! Did you realize you could get your Northern Idaho secessionist schools to be tax-subsidized? You should totally look into that!)

          This is clearly sarcastic. It seems to indicate that Scott Alexander knows who Anissimov is (I didn't), and assumes Anissimov reads his blog, and also that Scott is taunting him. I did a search, and apparently Anissimov is some weirdo who really does want to open schools in Northern Idaho? And there is an account on LessWrong, though it's been inactive for eight years.

          While investigating this, I came across this comment from six years ago. I don't know the full context, but it seems Scott is defending himself against charges that he is either dismissive of social justice or uncritical of the alt-right:

          I resent it because I've posted a bunch of long defenses and steelmannings of social justice ideas like Social Justice For The Highly Demanding Of Rigor and The Wonderful Thing About Triggers, some of which have gone mildly viral in the social justice blogosphere, and some of which have led to people emailing me or commenting saying they've changed their minds and become less hostile to social justice as a result.

          I resent it because, far from failing to intellectually engage with the Left, in the past couple of months I've read, reviewed, and enjoyed left-leaning books on Marx, the Soviet economy, and market socialism

          I resent it because the time I most remember someone trying to engage me about social justice, Apophemi, I wrote a seven thousand word response which I consider excruciatingly polite, which started with a careful justification for why writing it would be more productive and respectful than not writing it, and which ended with a heartfelt apology for the couple of things I had gotten wrong on my last post on the subject.

          [...]

          I resent it because I happily hosted Ozy's social justice blogging for several months, giving them an audience for posts like their takedown of Heartiste, which was also very well-received and got social justice ideas to people who otherwise wouldn't have seen them.

          I resent it because about a fifth of my blogroll is social justice or social justice-aligned blogs, each of which get a couple dozen hits from me a day.

          [...]

          I resent it because it trivializes all of my sick burns against neoreactionaries, like the time I accused them of worshipping Kim Jong-un as a god, and the time I said they were obsessed with "precious, precious, white people", and the time I mocked Jim for thinking Eugene V. Debs was a Supreme Court case.

          I resent this because anyone who looks at my posts tagged with social justice can see that almost as many are in favor as against.

          So it does seem like he's been heavily engaged in an awful lot of debate with people with a very wide range of ideas, and that includes debate with people of the alt-right (who is Jim?). Or at least he was engaged back then. It's definitely not the deplatforming approach in favor now.

          (And I thought I was pretty familiar with Scott Alexander's work, but this seems to be from before I started reading.)

          I'll stop here for now.

          6 votes
    3. paperclip
      Link Parent
      Your claim that something is wrong with it, with no explanation to back it up, is the same type of problem people in the SSC community try to avoid. Why is it bad? The great thing about the...

      Your claim that something is wrong with it, with no explanation to back it up, is the same type of problem people in the SSC community try to avoid. Why is it bad? The great thing about the internet is that it makes it very easy to talk to people you aren't friends with, and might not even like.

  2. rkcr
    Link
    Scott Alexander has responded to the post. The response doesn't really surprise me because the NYT article read as revenge for SSC causing them so much trouble. I commented earlier today that I...

    Scott Alexander has responded to the post.

    The response doesn't really surprise me because the NYT article read as revenge for SSC causing them so much trouble. I commented earlier today that I was a "casual reader" of SSC and if the NYT's version of SSC was the real one, I'd be scared of what that implied about me.

    That isn't to say I always agree with Scott Alexander... I do think he has some weak spots, especially around social justice. But the NYT article just paints him as a villain who only cares about free speech, which is... not why I read SSC?

    16 votes
  3. [20]
    dubteedub
    (edited )
    Link
    This appears to be the New York Times article that ended with Slate Star Codex being closed down last summer. Previous updates on this topic from Tildes are here: Scott Alexander has deleted his...

    This appears to be the New York Times article that ended with Slate Star Codex being closed down last summer.

    Previous updates on this topic from Tildes are here:

    Also just a reminder that the NYT reporter who wrote this piece, Cade Metz, received a huge amount of harassment from the tech community and SSC readership last summer for working on this story.

    Quote from second link above:

    Alexander had not named the reporter in question, but the former venture capitalist and cryptocurrency enthusiast Balaji Srinivasan, who has a quarrelsome Twitter personality, tweeted—some three hours after the post appeared, at 2:33 a.m. in San Francisco—that this example of “journalism as the non-consensual invasion of privacy for profit” was courtesy of Cade Metz, a technology writer ordinarily given over to enthusiastic stories on the subject of artificial intelligence. Alexander’s plea for civility went unheeded, and Metz and his editor were flooded with angry messages. In another tweet, Srinivasan turned to address Silicon Valley investors, entrepreneurs, and C.E.O.s: “The New York Times tried to doxx Scott Alexander for clicks. Just unsubscribing won’t change much. They can afford it. What will is freezing them out. By RTing #ghostnyt you commit to not talking to NYT reporters or giving them quotes. Go direct if you have something to say.”

    Other prominent figures in Silicon Valley, including Paul Graham, the co-founder of the foremost startup incubator, Y Combinator, followed suit. Graham did not expect, as many seemed to, that the article would prove to be a “hit piece,” he wrote. “It’s revealing that so many worry it will be, though. Few would have 10 years ago. But it’s a more dangerous time for ideas now than 10 years ago, and the NYT is also less to be trusted.” This atmosphere of danger and mistrust gave rise to a spate of conspiracy theories: Alexander was being “doxxed” or “cancelled” because of his support for a Michigan State professor accused of racism, or because he’d recently written a post about his dislike for paywalls, or because the Times was simply afraid of the independent power of the proudly heterodox Slate Star Codex cohort.

    The whole reason Scott Alexander seemed to be upset about was his anonymity. In light of that, I thought this part of the article as interesting:

    In late June of last year, not long after talking to Mr. Altman, the OpenAI chief executive, I approached the writer known as Scott Alexander, hoping to get his views on the Rationalist way and its effect on Silicon Valley. That was when the blog vanished.

    The issue, it was clear to me, was that I told him I could not guarantee him the anonymity he’d been writing with. In fact, his real name was easy to find because people had shared it online for years and he had used it on a piece he’d written for a scientific journal. I did a Google search for Scott Alexander and one of the first results I saw in the auto-complete list was Scott Alexander Siskind.

    I think it is interesting that its taken some seven months for this article to actually come. I know that a lot of folks here are (or rather were) SSC readers and I would be interested in their takes on if the deletion of SSC was an overreaction to this article.

    13 votes
    1. [11]
      DanBC
      Link Parent
      If he had been an English psychiatrist working and writing in England his pseudo-anonymity would have been unethical. I would have been able to complain to his professional regulator, and they...

      If he had been an English psychiatrist working and writing in England his pseudo-anonymity would have been unethical. I would have been able to complain to his professional regulator, and they would have upheld the complaint. I don't think they would have done anything other than warn him.

      He made a lot about his anonymity, but he'd done a terrible job of hiding his identity. He claimed to be worried about potential patients finding his blog from his name, but that was trivially easy to do.

      A lot of SSC was toxic. People will say that it's not his responsibility, but Anita Sarkeesian has a robust rebuttal to that: https://twitter.com/anitasarkeesian/status/1360625649245847553

      15 votes
      1. [8]
        Adys
        Link Parent
        "It's your fault your anonymity wasn't perfect" sounds a lot like victim blaming honestly. I've seen the comments on HN, it's pretty clear that the NYT went out of its way to draw negative...

        "It's your fault your anonymity wasn't perfect" sounds a lot like victim blaming honestly.

        I've seen the comments on HN, it's pretty clear that the NYT went out of its way to draw negative connotations on the guy. It reeks of the same strategies politicians use to smear opponents at any cost.

        And while I agree with Anita's general point that the people foster the community they create and thus are responsible for it, it's not fair to just imply that SSC was toxic ergo THE GUY HIMSELF was toxic. If I have outlandish views, write about them here and Deimos doesn't ban me, that doesn't mean he agrees with them. A lot of HN is toxic but the moderation staff are overall excellent people. Etc.

        10 votes
        1. [2]
          DanBC
          Link Parent
          I'm saying it's almost dishonest of him to claim that he wants to maintain separation between his real name and his slate star codex identity when he had already posted articles that tied both...

          "It's your fault your anonymity wasn't perfect" sounds a lot like victim blaming honestly.

          I'm saying it's almost dishonest of him to claim that he wants to maintain separation between his real name and his slate star codex identity when he had already posted articles that tied both identities together.

          9 votes
          1. skybrian
            Link Parent
            What’s an example of an article that did that?

            What’s an example of an article that did that?

            6 votes
        2. [5]
          PendingKetchup
          Link Parent
          I almost get the feeling that the NYT author didn't read the tribes essay, or rather read it and took it as a style guide. There's a lot of "was read by". The "said that affirmative action was...

          it's pretty clear that the NYT went out of its way to draw negative connotations on the guy.

          I almost get the feeling that the NYT author didn't read the tribes essay, or rather read it and took it as a style guide. There's a lot of "was read by". The "said that affirmative action was difficult to distinguish" line seems like we're not supposed to read it as what it actually says (i.e. an allegation that it would be hard to measure any discrimination in the presence of affirmative action) and instead is meant to imply that the two are being equated.

          it's not fair to just imply that SSC was toxic ergo THE GUY HIMSELF was toxic

          Here in Blue Tribe we are pretty strict ethical consequentialists. If it's your blog comments section, you're responsible for the tone of the community. If there are toxic people there, you are ethically required to contradict and exclude them; silence is assent. This is because the toxicity is generally in agreement with things like racism that undergird the prevailing society; they have a sort of inertia where they will be taken to be true by default if not convincingly rejected.

          3 votes
          1. [4]
            skybrian
            Link Parent
            One problem with this is that people are confusing different forums with different moderation policies. I also wonder how much of this is based on assumptions of people who don’t actually read...

            One problem with this is that people are confusing different forums with different moderation policies. I also wonder how much of this is based on assumptions of people who don’t actually read these forums?

            Although I skim, I think moderation of the comments section on Scott Alexander’s own blogs (old and new) is/was pretty good.

            3 votes
            1. [3]
              PendingKetchup
              Link Parent
              I don't actually read SSC comments much either. The impression I get is not that the comments sections tended to devolve into cespools, but that avowed racists were permitted to inhabit them so...

              I don't actually read SSC comments much either. The impression I get is not that the comments sections tended to devolve into cespools, but that avowed racists were permitted to inhabit them so long as they behaved civilly there.

              Also, I need to add that I think the Charles Murray "alignment" is in fact wrong; it's irresponsible to pull out somebody like that as an example and not mention their racism.

              6 votes
              1. [2]
                skybrian
                Link Parent
                I don't see it as irresponsible because everyone who knows anything about Charles Murray knows about the racism. That's what he's famous for. It's not a missing stair if everyone talks about it...

                I don't see it as irresponsible because everyone who knows anything about Charles Murray knows about the racism. That's what he's famous for.

                It's not a missing stair if everyone talks about it openly.

                6 votes
                1. nukeman
                  Link Parent
                  I haven’t heard of that term before, I like it.

                  I haven’t heard of that term before, I like it.

                  5 votes
      2. [2]
        petrichor
        Link Parent
        Just to quickly respond to this: Finding his name from his blog was trivially easy to do. Finding his blog from his name was not. Scott Alexander was concerned about the latter (those previous two...

        Just to quickly respond to this:

        He made a lot about his anonymity, but he'd done a terrible job of hiding his identity. He claimed to be worried about potential patients finding his blog from his name, but that was trivially easy to do.

        Finding his name from his blog was trivially easy to do. Finding his blog from his name was not. Scott Alexander was concerned about the latter (those previous two links should be date-controlled Google results - I hope they work). Seeing your personal therapist's full name and blog printed in the third most popular newspaper in America is a whole lot different than an independent patient investigating, finding his middle name, accidentally searching with that, and stumbling across his blog.

        A lot of SSC was toxic. People will say that it's not his responsibility, but Anita Sarkeesian has a robust rebuttal to that:

        I feel like this rebuttal is only minimally applicable to Slate Star Codex - it seems meant more towards YouTubers and the like that foster and depend on a community as their job. But, I don't know that much about the culture of the comments section and subreddit, so I could be completely off base.

        8 votes
        1. DanBC
          Link Parent
          Change that google search from "Scott Siskind" to "scott siskind forum" and it pops up useful results.

          Change that google search from "Scott Siskind" to "scott siskind forum" and it pops up useful results.

          5 votes
    2. [3]
      cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I didn't read SSC, however worth noting is Scott Alexander recently wrote another lengthy blog post on this subject where he basically admitted it was an overreaction which backfired, and some of...

      I didn't read SSC, however worth noting is Scott Alexander recently wrote another lengthy blog post on this subject where he basically admitted it was an overreaction which backfired, and some of the fault in how this all played out lies with him: https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/still-alive

      11 votes
      1. [2]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        That piece is a bit hard to summarize. He does apologize for some parts of how it played out, but still says there is a real problem here.

        That piece is a bit hard to summarize. He does apologize for some parts of how it played out, but still says there is a real problem here.

        4 votes
        1. cfabbro
          Link Parent
          Yeah, definitely hard to summarize since it covers a lot of ground. And IMO it's well worth reading in its entirety anyways, even for people not regular readers of SSC.

          Yeah, definitely hard to summarize since it covers a lot of ground. And IMO it's well worth reading in its entirety anyways, even for people not regular readers of SSC.

          2 votes
    3. [5]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      A non-paywall copy of that article is here. Since Scott Alexander started blogging again a few weeks ago, I guess they decided to run it? You can see reactions to this article on Hacker News and...

      A non-paywall copy of that article is here.

      Since Scott Alexander started blogging again a few weeks ago, I guess they decided to run it? You can see reactions to this article on Hacker News and in r/slatestarcodex. They're pretty negative.

      The article doesn't cover the controversy over doxing very well. Scott Alexander's main concern was that it would be too easy for his patients to find his blog, and this concern was shared by his employer. He's solved that by going independent. He's also trying a different business model for doing psychiatry.

      But he also wants to stand up for anonymous writers not being doxed, in general. Here is his blog post about that.

      The question here is whether journalists should cooperate with anonymous writers or not. I think journalists can do some good by verifying an anonymous writer's credentials without revealing their real name. This is something they do all the time for anonymous sources (since that's part of the deal). But it's inconsistent.

      7 votes
      1. [2]
        NaraVara
        Link Parent
        The problem is what happened doesn’t really count as doxxing in my mind. He went to events and had meetings with people based on his status as a blogger. He hardly made a secret of it and he...

        But he also wants to stand up for anonymous writers not being doxed, in general.

        The problem is what happened doesn’t really count as doxxing in my mind. He went to events and had meetings with people based on his status as a blogger. He hardly made a secret of it and he wasn’t really trying to be anonymous in his dealings around it.

        His problem seems to have been that his public profile was getting too big. But when you opt to be a public persona you don’t really get to choose exactly how well publicized you can be.

        9 votes
        1. skybrian
          Link Parent
          Yes, he's admitted that he's not exactly the best person to be standing up for anonymous writers, but still thinks it's important. He's pointed to more clear-cut examples.

          Yes, he's admitted that he's not exactly the best person to be standing up for anonymous writers, but still thinks it's important. He's pointed to more clear-cut examples.

          4 votes
      2. [2]
        dubteedub
        Link Parent
        Yes, that appears to be what prompted this article to be run as indicated in the last paragraphs here: ... The NYT reporter does talk about that concern that was shared by Scott and then pointed...

        Since Scott Alexander started blogging again a few weeks ago, I guess they decided to run it?

        Yes, that appears to be what prompted this article to be run as indicated in the last paragraphs here:

        In August, Mr. Siskind restored his old blog posts to the internet. And two weeks ago, he relaunched his blog on Substack, a company with ties to both Andreessen Horowitz and Y Combinator. He gave the blog a new title: Astral Codex Ten. He hinted that Substack paid him $250,000 for a year on the platform. And he indicated the company would give him all the protection he needed. In his first post, Mr. Siskind shared his full name.

        ...

        The article doesn't cover the controversy over doxing very well. Scott Alexander's main concern was that it would be too easy for his patients to find his blog, and this concern was shared by his employer. He's solved that by going independent. He's also trying a different business model for doing psychiatry.

        The NYT reporter does talk about that concern that was shared by Scott and then pointed out that it does not seem to be all that well founded as his full name had already been previously revealed, that it was easily available by Google, and that Scott had even written a scholarly article on the subject with his real name himself.

        I am also confused by how Scott going independent at Substack solves his purported concern about revealing his name. I mean in the blog post you linked he ends it by posting his full name himself. Can you explain what you mean by that?

        4 votes
        1. skybrian
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Although he's still going to write the blog under his pen name, he decided to give up on anonymity. That was the first time he's made the connection publicly. His opsec has always sucked, but they...

          Although he's still going to write the blog under his pen name, he decided to give up on anonymity. That was the first time he's made the connection publicly.

          His opsec has always sucked, but they are misleading about how they described it. He started out blogging under his own name, but he deleted that blog and started over. (And he started over again with Slate Star Codex. I think he's on his fourth blog now?) The remnants are still on Internet archive, I believe. I don't know what that scholarly article is or whether it has any connection to his pen name. The problem was not writing under his real name or pen name, but connecting the two, and in particular going from his real name to the blog. (Since that's what a patient would be starting with.)

          He's going independent in the sense of starting an independent psychiatric practice. Currently he's not taking new patients, but the patients he already had can find him. The new business model seems to be basically helping patients who don't have insurance. They are already on medication, it's working for them, and they can get by with video appointments for a much lower cost ($35 a month). You can check out his website. It seems to be a pretty good resource for learning about psychiatric conditions, too.

          It's something he can afford to experiment with since Substack is paying a lot.

          7 votes
  4. [2]
    knocklessmonster
    Link
    I would probably disagree with Scott Alexander and his base on a lot of things, and remember poking around to get a feel for him when this article was first discussed here, but boy was that...

    I would probably disagree with Scott Alexander and his base on a lot of things, and remember poking around to get a feel for him when this article was first discussed here, but boy was that article awkward. It felt like the author simply wanted to say Alexander's real last name a bunch. He holds ever-changing, often controversial opinions, but he's not a crypto-fascist or anything that needs to be revealed because of some great harm he may cause to the world, but that's almost the vibe I get from the article.

    In his first post, Mr. Siskind shared his full name.

    I feel this just helps highlight the obsession with naming the person behind the concept, rather than the ideas.

    I really had to read the article twice to make sure I was seeing it correctly. I get wanting to expose a real name, I get that when I realize somebody's using a pseudonym, or will try to find a picture/description of an author to help me sort of "visualise" what they're saying, but this just felt surreal. Metz went out of his way to mention "Mr. Siskind" often enough that he would've lost points in high school English.

    13 votes
    1. PendingKetchup
      Link Parent
      I think that's just how NYT refers to everyone they write about. Every one is Mr. or Mx. or Ms. or Dr. Whoever.

      I think that's just how NYT refers to everyone they write about. Every one is Mr. or Mx. or Ms. or Dr. Whoever.

      5 votes
  5. NoblePath
    Link
    I am responding to a few posts itt regarding the inclusion of professed racists in the forum. I read SSC for a little while a few years ago. I found its lack of social consideration off-putting...

    I am responding to a few posts itt regarding the inclusion of professed racists in the forum.

    I read SSC for a little while a few years ago. I found its lack of social consideration off-putting and self-congratulatory. That said, it seems exactly the right place to let racists share their thoughts.

    I say this from a utilitarian orientation, that accepts racism will probably always be with us to some degree and in some form. Given that, it seems the most practical way to dissipate and minimize its effects is some degree of inclusion of racist voices, so long as it is constrained to civil expression styles where the lack of any rational underpinnings can easily be exposed. The civil constraint also prevents the use of racists' most (perhaps only) effective propagation tool: emotional inflammation. If the discourse is kept dry, it's kept in its proper place. Those with strongly held views are heard, but disallowed from irrational, chaotic and distructive persuasion.

    In this way we acknowledge the truth of some of our kindred while keeping a firm boundary around their ability to actually impact the lives of the rest of us.

    CSS, for reasons I don't fully understand atm, did a good job of keeping discourse civil and dispassionate, and is therefore really the right place to accomplish this hearing of racist (and other plainly socially evil) threads of our society.

    10 votes
  6. [6]
    skybrian
    Link
    A long article defending the New York Times from Will Wilkenson, a conservative writer who apparently has connections to many people involved. Slate Star Codex enthusiasts should probably...

    A long article defending the New York Times from Will Wilkenson, a conservative writer who apparently has connections to many people involved.

    Slate Star Codex enthusiasts should probably apologize to Cade Metz

    The level of contempt for the New York Times is unwarranted, ideological, and totally out of control. Yeah, the place has plenty of problems. It’s a massive bureaucratic institution that is, thanks to its incredible reach and the nature of its mission, inevitably at the center of the national and global conversation about issues that people are literally killing each other over. (That’s often the story!) It gathers and publishes an epic amount of information at a furious pace in a way that requires thousands of thorny judgment calls every single day. So yeah, it’s gonna fuck up. Because it is massively influential, people are going to be pissed off by those fuck-ups — all the time.

    This can lead to a radically distorted picture, since the astonishing amount of stellar, expert reportorial and editorial judgment embodied in each and every edition is completely invisible. The New York Times (and the Post and the Journal) nails difficult judgment calls like Stephon Curry nails threes. But just imagine if ESPN only ever showed clips of the superhuman, laser-guided mayor of downtown shooting airballs and clanking it off the side of the backboard. It happens! Well, that’s what’s going on here. So I’m going to pound the table and insist, once again, that the New York Times ranks among our best and most valuable institutions devoted to the rapid discovery and dissemination of relevant and/or interesting truths about the human world — news.

    Believe it or not (but you should believe it), the culture of the Times (and similar outfits) is profoundly committed to objectivity, verifiable fact and unbiased reporting. (When I write fact-heavy opinion pieces for the Times, they get fact-checked, which is not pretty rare.) Does it suffer from bias? Of course it does! It is produced by humans. Is it hampered by a lack of viewpoint diversity? Of course it is! Sorting and self-selection dynamics push all sorts of professions in the direction of cultural and ideological homogeneity. However, the same dynamic affects informal, leisure-time affinity groups, like the SSC community, in spades.

    [...]

    In contrast, the sub-group of rationalists around Scott Siskind tends, as he tends, to be pretty dismissive of the observation that it’s a real problem that they are overwhelmingly white and male and clustered in a very narrow of range of heavily white, male analytical symbol manipulation occupations. That they mostly don’t see, and mostly don’t care, that this very dismissiveness counts as evidence of the sort of self-selection bias they dismiss illustrates the problem. Communities like this are almost always inwardly focused and naturally evolve toward serving the social and emotional needs of the types of people who opt in and stick around. It doesn’t matter if a community is explicitly organized around ideals of objectivity, truth-orientation and unbiased rationality if the community in fact functions to serve different needs. The incentives that structure and bind communities push members toward the performance of the community’s values in the conventionally accepted style. But it’s a small miracle when the norms of performance faithfully embody the community’s professed values and reliably generate the intended output.

    I learned this the hard way when I was a serious Ayn Rand devotee in my early-to-mid-twenties. One thing the Objectivist community taught me to do was to regard the skeptical distrust, eye-rolling heavy sighs and antagonism of outsiders as evidence of their irrationality and a validation of my specialness in getting it. I think SSC-style rationalists are rather less prone to this, since, according to Bayesian principles, the simple fact that smart, well-informed people disagree with you counts as at least weak evidence that you’re wrong and ought to move you at least a little bit in their direction. But the same commitment, if wedded to community standards for the performance of rationality misaligned with avowed principles, will tend to summon the cunning of motivated cognition, which can easily lead you to find a million reasons to conclude that people who disagree with you are actually less smart and informed than they may seem. It can lead you to diagnose disagreement in a way that neutralizes its intellectual force by “explaining” the non-rational mechanisms that produce it. Members of “rah-rah Reason!” communities, just like members of any other sort of community, can always find a way to trap themselves inside their bubble. It’s a homo sapiens specialty! That’s why it can be hard to see that the biases you’re not concerned about and let each get away with dismissing make you untrustworthy — and that that’s why you’re not more widely trusted.

    Despite its many problems, the Times is widely trusted. But that creates its own problems for a generally trustworthy fact-gathering enterprise. Nearly everyone is motivated to conceal, bend or shade the truth to their advantage, especially to the New York Times — because it is extraordinarily reliable and, therefore, widely trusted. If you can pull one over on a Times reporter and get them to shout your preferred story through their megaphone, a huge number of people will believe it. That’s why the SSC community is more disgruntled about Metz’s piece than they would be if it had appeared at, say, Buzzfeed (which has great journalists but less reach and trust). And that’s another reason why it’s literally impossible for the Times, and other outlets with similar reputations for accuracy and journalistic integrity, to not constantly fuck up.

    10 votes
    1. [5]
      thundergolfer
      Link Parent
      The first sentence of what you quoted sums up the most embarrassing part of this whole situation. There were so many rationalist pro-SSC comments absolutely seething at The New Tork Times because...

      The first sentence of what you quoted sums up the most embarrassing part of this whole situation. There were so many rationalist pro-SSC comments absolutely seething at The New Tork Times because they ran one bad article giving light criticism about a bunch of privileged rich people. It was a reaction totally blown out of proportion.

      Their bluster reminded me of my own teenage ranty behaviour about Islam when I was into Sam Harris. Embarrassing behaviour for people who think themselves rational, and I’m so glad I’ve grown up past furiously commenting when my favourite RationalMan gets braced. Now I just get ranty about climate change and animal rights.

      8 votes
      1. [3]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        The way I see it is that Scott Alexander has lots of readers and they aren't necessarily serious about trying to be rationalists. They're just readers, and often fans. I guess that's a no true...

        The way I see it is that Scott Alexander has lots of readers and they aren't necessarily serious about trying to be rationalists. They're just readers, and often fans. I guess that's a no true Scottsman argument, though.

        5 votes
        1. [2]
          thundergolfer
          Link Parent
          Yeah that seems likely for at least some of them. Though given Scott Alexander's recent article that included the 'outburst' about public schooling, is he even trying to be a rationalist?

          They're just readers, and often fans.

          Yeah that seems likely for at least some of them. Though given Scott Alexander's recent article that included the 'outburst' about public schooling, is he even trying to be a rationalist?

          3 votes
          1. skybrian
            Link Parent
            Yeah, I don’t think so. I’m not sure who is? There are communities of “rationalists” but I think that’s more the name of the community and their common culture. There was an outpouring of...

            Yeah, I don’t think so. I’m not sure who is? There are communities of “rationalists” but I think that’s more the name of the community and their common culture.

            There was an outpouring of storytelling from that article where people largely talked about what education was like for them growing up. I don’t see an attempt to get a grip on what things are like for most children.

            This doesn’t seem a whole lot different from how such things usually go in a forum where a lot of smart young people talk. (I didn’t see many parents or teachers weighing in.)

            I think the primary output of this community is a lot of unusual writing and conversation, but not every essay is a winner.

            1 vote
      2. thundergolfer
        Link Parent
        I've since read the whole article not just the quotes and I loved the take. Pretty much exactly who I feel about the situation.

        I've since read the whole article not just the quotes and I loved the take. Pretty much exactly who I feel about the situation.

        1 vote
  7. [16]
    Deimos
    Link
    Scott Aaronson's response/thoughts, as someone that spent a lot of time talking to the reporter for the article (or the original version of it, at least): A grand anticlimax: the New York Times on...

    Scott Aaronson's response/thoughts, as someone that spent a lot of time talking to the reporter for the article (or the original version of it, at least): A grand anticlimax: the New York Times on Scott Alexander

    9 votes
    1. [15]
      RNG
      Link Parent
      It is strange that the so-called rationalist community has a... closeness? proximity? to the alt-right community. Is it simply a shared anger about inaccuracies of mainstream information as...

      The trouble is, it never presents the idea that rationalism also can be an off-ramp from extremism—i.e., that it can provide a model for how even after you realize that mainstream sources are confidently wrong on some issue, you don’t respond by embracing conspiracy theories and hatreds, you respond by simply thinking carefully about each individual question rather than buying a worldview wholesale from anyone.

      It is strange that the so-called rationalist community has a... closeness? proximity? to the alt-right community. Is it simply a shared anger about inaccuracies of mainstream information as mentioned above? Is it an intentionality to de-radicalize the far right?

      I'm sure Scott Alexander and I share many of the same values, but what exactly about his background puts him in the orbit of the likes of Douglas Murray and Nick Land? To the point of quoting or analyzing the positions of a person whose only really known for being a famous racist?

      I don't condone this "guilt by association" cancelling of people that the Twitter mob does for simply associating with racists, but the association is bizarre, especially considering that Scott Alexander seems to be a thoughtful progressive. Why should Scott ever even think about Murray much less know his position on UBI?

      Then you have these mixes of the two camps like large parts of the new atheist movement, Sargon of Akkad (and associated "anti-SJW" acts), and Jordan Peterson that are this weird synthesis of psuedo-intellectualism with the alt-right.

      What is the tying thread here? Why are these seemingly disparate groups part of the same online spaces? Is it simply white guys who think they are way smarter than they actually are? /s

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        Macil
        Link Parent
        The tying thread to Murray: the SSC community questions everything, they see peddlers of pseudoscience question progressive orthodoxy, they assume those people were cancelled specifically for...

        The tying thread to Murray: the SSC community questions everything, they see peddlers of pseudoscience question progressive orthodoxy, they assume those people were cancelled specifically for questioning progressive orthodoxy instead of for their bad science, they assume progressives are just too emotionally/politically biased to consider the science, and they never look into it properly themselves because it might involve backing down and they've taught themselves to ignore every argument that looks like it's coming from a SJW. It fits the narrative that rationalists are just better at unemotionally considering science, so they believe it, even though it's really an example of the opposite.

        Whenever a story comes out of an academic getting fired (for being racist, for doing bad science, etc), they always identify with the academic, thinking it's another example of science being censored by emotional biases.

        16 votes
        1. skybrian
          Link Parent
          You’re making a lot of broad-brush accusations without evidence here. Without specific examples, this is just peddling nasty stereotypes.

          You’re making a lot of broad-brush accusations without evidence here. Without specific examples, this is just peddling nasty stereotypes.

          6 votes
      2. [11]
        kfwyre
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Good question. My theory is that a lot of extremist ideology hides behind “rational” reasoning as a way of masking itself. Some people consciously perpetuate this, but I think that many others...

        Good question.

        My theory is that a lot of extremist ideology hides behind “rational” reasoning as a way of masking itself. Some people consciously perpetuate this, but I think that many others only see the “rational” arguments put forth by people like that and assume the unsavory conclusions are drawn from cold logic.

        For example, some people peddling “race realism” are doing it because they hate black people but know stating that outright is socially disadvantageous, so they shield it behind a more acceptable framework. Others then see their arguments and end up adopting the viewpoint based on its espoused logic, adopting “race realism” primarily not out of prejudice but out of what they believe to be intellectual honesty.

        There’s a twist of the knife here too. Even if someone does have an emotional response to the unsavory conclusions put forth by this rationality, the precepts of logic insulate against weighing that. Someone might genuinely find the conclusions of “race realism” contemptible, but under the framework by which they came to that conclusion they also are encouraged to put aside that sentiment and ignore the alarm bells ringing in their conscience.

        12 votes
        1. [4]
          RNG
          Link Parent
          This reminds me a bit of Natalie Wynn's "Incels" video [1] that discusses her concept of "negative epistemology", where the more racist or otherwise abhorrent the conclusion, the more accurate it...

          This reminds me a bit of Natalie Wynn's "Incels" video [1] that discusses her concept of "negative epistemology", where the more racist or otherwise abhorrent the conclusion, the more accurate it must be since any more positive interpretations are simply progressive revisionism or someone "trying to be nice." This is a concept u/Macil came to basically independently in their comment [2].

          [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fD2briZ6fB0
          [2] https://tildes.net/~tech/v57/silicon_valleys_safe_space_slate_star_codex_was_a_window_into_the_psyche_of_many_tech_leaders#comment-66rk

          9 votes
          1. [3]
            skybrian
            Link Parent
            No, we are not talking about Incels at all. This is another example of free-associating to people you don’t like.

            No, we are not talking about Incels at all. This is another example of free-associating to people you don’t like.

            4 votes
            1. [2]
              Kuromantis
              Link Parent
              But @RNG isn't talking about incels specifically, he's talking about a worldview that's shared with (perhaps not all) incels (and definitely not just incels) and used incels as an example because...

              But @RNG isn't talking about incels specifically, he's talking about a worldview that's shared with (perhaps not all) incels (and definitely not just incels) and used incels as an example because that's the video he got this theory from, right?

              9 votes
              1. skybrian
                Link Parent
                That doesn’t make it better though. It’s still associating a distasteful worldview with unspecified people who might have posted in an unspecified forum that’s somehow associated with a certain...

                That doesn’t make it better though. It’s still associating a distasteful worldview with unspecified people who might have posted in an unspecified forum that’s somehow associated with a certain author. This is pretty far removed.

                I think it’s just hard to talk about large, amorphous groups of people you don’t like. For example, we could talk about who social justice warriors are and what they believe, and why they believe it. Everyone would have different people in mind based on different things they’ve read or experienced. There would be no way to come to any conclusion.

                It seems like we have to get back to talking about specific things? If you want to talk about things that people write in a certain forum that you think are problematic then one way to do it might be to link to examples. Alternatively we could share personal experiences if they seem relevant, but then there should be some storytelling involved.

                Or we could talk about how forum X is poorly moderated, but which forum, and what’s an example of a topic that went off the rails?

                6 votes
        2. [6]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          You seem to be talking about some unspecified extremists, but it’s not clear who they are or how they relate to Scott Alexander, his readers, or Rationalists (themselves rather vague communities...

          You seem to be talking about some unspecified extremists, but it’s not clear who they are or how they relate to Scott Alexander, his readers, or Rationalists (themselves rather vague communities of people with varying opinions and temperaments).

          I know you’re trying to answer the question, but it seems like this is getting off-topic, and talking about unspecified racists in this context seems like guilt by free-associating to people you don’t like.

          4 votes
          1. [5]
            kfwyre
            Link Parent
            Sorry, I should have been more clear: I was simply addressing the part of the post that was asking about the coziness between rationalism and extremism. I wasn’t intending to comment on Scott...

            Sorry, I should have been more clear: I was simply addressing the part of the post that was asking about the coziness between rationalism and extremism.

            I wasn’t intending to comment on Scott Alexander or SSC at all. I don’t know much about them beyond the few things that I’ve read and generally quite liked. I’m not trying to indict him, the SSC community, or rationalists at large of extremism. Instead, I was more trying to identify that it’s been my perception that rationalism is often used as a “palatable” method of supporting unpalatable ideas, and I think those that center themselves in rationalist worldviews are particularly susceptible to allowing, supporting, and even following that misdirection. That’s definitely not true of everyone who subscribes to rationalism though, and I don’t mean to imply that.

            6 votes
            1. [4]
              skybrian
              Link Parent
              I don’t know quite what you mean, but if you’re wondering why there are often posts entertaining weird ideas in forums like LessWrong, I think this is taking a philosophical approach? Often,...

              I don’t know quite what you mean, but if you’re wondering why there are often posts entertaining weird ideas in forums like LessWrong, I think this is taking a philosophical approach?

              Often, philosophers will entertain weird ideas to see where they go. If you follow what seems like a logical chain of reasoning to a bizarre conclusion then probably something has gone wrong somewhere, but it can be interesting to try to figure out where. Or, someone might argue that the bizarre conclusion might be right after all, but in a philosophical context, that’s usually not, like, a political commitment to the idea.

              This isn’t to say that forum posters are trained philosophers, but you could say that they are imitating the conversational norms of philosophy where bizarre ideas are seriously discussed. And maybe this seems like a dreadfully high-status way to put it, but it’s the same thing college students might do in response to a philosophy class.

              When this gets too close to hot-button political issues then the resulting conversation can go off the rails pretty fast. There is a norm to avoid “culture war” topics in most rationalist forums, or to allow them only in certain places. Exactly what’s a “culture war” topic is only loosely defined and basically up to the moderators, who may not step in unless the conversation persists. It definitely includes racism and anti-racism though.

              It seems to me that people who are attracted to philosophical discussions are often going to like participating in rationalist forums because they conspicuously follow philosophical norms. It’s also true that they may bring bad ideas with them.

              By my own standards, I am being unacceptably vague, but I could find specific examples of weird ideas if needed.

              4 votes
              1. [3]
                kfwyre
                Link Parent
                I think we might be talking about different things here, as I'm also having difficulty connecting what you're saying with my words. I think your experience with rationalism comes from being...

                I think we might be talking about different things here, as I'm also having difficulty connecting what you're saying with my words.

                I think your experience with rationalism comes from being embedded in those communities and gives you an insider perspective of someone embedded in the community, and I genuinely think that's a very valuable perspective to have (lived experience matters a lot to me!).

                My experience, as someone not in those communities, comes from people interacting with others in non-rationalist spaces. As such, the rationalism I see looks very different from what you experience, and I think this is outright poisoned by people who use it in the manner I describe -- to support, say, Holocaust denialism.

                You probably have a very positive view of rationalism as it has no doubt been valuable to you individually and as part of your community, and I do not want to take that away from you at all. My lived experience, however, is that my guard automatically goes up the moment someone starts upholding cold rationality as a paradigm, because I find that it is commonly weaponized to support abhorrent ideology. I also believe that some people fall for the trap and believe that the abhorrent ideology is the natural outcome of "impartial" rationality.

                My concern isn't for people like you, and in fact, I get frustrated on your behalf because I feel like those people are pissing in your cereal. They are taking the framework you find so valuable and using it, deliberately and unethically, for ill. You unfortunately get stuck with the fallout from that, which is undeserved. I feel similarly about when socially justice minded people, who I very much consider myself in community with, use victim/oppressor frameworks to justify their own abusive behaviors, for example. It's a distortion of a valuable framework that unfortunately poisons the well for wider discourse.

                The result of this is larger topics like this one, where we can't even discuss SSC without attending to associations with extremism -- not because SSC or Alexander itself were necessarily extremist, but because the framework under which they operate is so widely used as a mechanism for extremism elsewhere that to not address it feels like neglect.

                8 votes
                1. [2]
                  skybrian
                  Link Parent
                  I appreciate that you see the problem with poisoning the well. I still have to ask, though: when you’re thinking about those other people in some non-Rationalist communities who engage in...

                  I appreciate that you see the problem with poisoning the well. I still have to ask, though: when you’re thinking about those other people in some non-Rationalist communities who engage in Holocaust denial, why do you think “the framework under which they operate” has much of anything to do with SSC or Rationalists?

                  Is there more to this framework than claiming an association with science or using the word “rational?” Or is it more like confusing liberals and libertarians, or democracy and Democrats, or being objective and Objectivism, or science and Scientology?

                  It reminds me of how negative political advertising works sometimes. We need to make sure we’re not falling for it ourselves, making associations between different groups of people based on superficial similarities.

                  I wonder sometimes if it was a bad idea for the Rationalist community to go by that name. It seems to have stuck, though. I don’t think we can stop anyone from calling themselves rational or realist, whatever their ideas.

                  5 votes
                  1. kfwyre
                    Link Parent
                    This is a good question, but I’m probably not the right person to answer it, as I really don’t have any connection to or view of rationalist spaces, their communities, SSC, etc. When I entered the...

                    This is a good question, but I’m probably not the right person to answer it, as I really don’t have any connection to or view of rationalist spaces, their communities, SSC, etc. When I entered the conversation I was trying to link rational thinking and extremism, but it definitely appears that “rational” as a term is carrying more weight here than it should given its proximity to “rationalism” as you have experienced it. I think a way of better stating things would be that I was talking more about people that put a premium on “facts and logic”-based discourse rather than those that would explicitly identify as rationalist.

                    I do think it’s worth asking your question to others though, as I can see from some comments here and elsewhere that some people do link SSC/Alexander with some extremist views like white supremacy or racism, and I think it’s worth disentangling whether that’s an overreach of guilt by association or a legitimate criticism. Based on what little I know, my perception is that it’s an overreach, but I honestly don’t know enough to confidently say.

                    5 votes
      3. skybrian
        Link Parent
        Being interested in genetics and IQ is itself suspicious to some, and attractive to others. I would guess it’s a side-effect of political polarization.

        Being interested in genetics and IQ is itself suspicious to some, and attractive to others.

        I would guess it’s a side-effect of political polarization.

        3 votes
  8. [9]
    vaddi
    (edited )
    Link
    This theme/story keeps popping around but I always fail to understand what's at stake here. Maybe I get put off by all the writing in this blog and its companion subreddit before understanding...

    This theme/story keeps popping around but I always fail to understand what's at stake here. Maybe I get put off by all the writing in this blog and its companion subreddit before understanding what is it that all this people are talking about, and being able to form my own opinions about it. But from skimming both the blog and the subreddit I get the feeling that it is mainly people who think that they are smarter than the rest of the world. Should I give it a second try to better understand the phenomenon?

    EDIT: corrects phrasal verb and typo.

    8 votes
    1. [3]
      rkcr
      Link Parent
      As a casual reader of SSC before all this kerfuffle went down, I'll say that at its core, it was about trying to reason about the world. It was about curiosity, and trying to come up with answers...

      As a casual reader of SSC before all this kerfuffle went down, I'll say that at its core, it was about trying to reason about the world. It was about curiosity, and trying to come up with answers to things you wonder about in a rational way.

      I only ever read SSC, which I thought was generally fair and level-headed. I never got involved with the comments on the site nor the subreddit. Perhaps things are more toxic there (in fact, I know at some point SSC disassociated itself from the subreddit).

      10 votes
      1. vaddi
        Link Parent
        Thanks, seems like a fair point of view.

        Thanks, seems like a fair point of view.

        1 vote
      2. skybrian
        Link Parent
        He's still a moderator for r/slatestarcodex, but there was a subreddit that got spun off (r/themotte).

        He's still a moderator for r/slatestarcodex, but there was a subreddit that got spun off (r/themotte).

        1 vote
    2. [5]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      I would recommend reading the new blog if you think it's interesting. Or not. If an article is particularly good, it will likely be posted here (and other places). As for reading comments, I'm not...

      I would recommend reading the new blog if you think it's interesting.

      Or not. If an article is particularly good, it will likely be posted here (and other places).

      As for reading comments, I'm not sure it's worth getting into. Average quality drops off quite a bit. LessWrong is where some people post more serious articles, but it's often pretty dry reading. The comments on the subreddit are pretty ordinary. I do read them occasionally, but I don't think you're missing much.

      Further background: the "rationalist community" has a lot of people who are definitely trying to be smarter. There is a lot of talk about cognitive biases and how to avoid them.

      It's unclear how much this has helped, and mostly people are aware of that too. I think people there are more openminded and iconoclastic than most and sometimes that's helpful (like noticing the pandemic early). Other times, it doesn't go much of anywhere.

      There are traditions about keeping yourself humble, like posting predictions and then grading yourself on how well you did. Scott Alexander does this every year. Also see his mistakes page.

      On the other hand, in a recent post, he was so glowingly enthusiastic about another member of the rationalist community that I thought it was pretty embarrassing.

      I can't tell you how many times over the past year all the experts, the CDC, the WHO, the New York Times, et cetera, have said something (or been silent about something in a suggestive way), and then some blogger I trusted said the opposite, and the blogger turned out to be right.

      So, it's a good read but you need to be skeptical.

      5 votes
      1. [4]
        vaddi
        Link Parent
        So SSC is basically a personal blog and a community of readers and commenters? And LessWrong is a forum for like minded people where anyone can post? It amazes me how such small internet...

        So SSC is basically a personal blog and a community of readers and commenters? And LessWrong is a forum for like minded people where anyone can post? It amazes me how such small internet communities can create so much drama irl. And even more so, how can a community grow around a single blogger.

        6 votes
        1. [3]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          Yes, you got it. It's blogging all the way down. The history is a bit different, though. Originally there was Overcoming Bias, which is Robin Hanson's blog and still going. (By the way, if you...

          Yes, you got it. It's blogging all the way down. The history is a bit different, though.

          Originally there was Overcoming Bias, which is Robin Hanson's blog and still going.

          (By the way, if you think some of the ideas talked about rationalist community are a little strange, this is nothing compared to Robin Hanson, who sometimes writes about far-future stuff like economics after everyone uploads themselves to the cloud.)

          Overcoming Bias used to be a group blog with Eliezer Yudkowsky. When he left and started LessWrong, it was a forum, but Yudkowsky wrote daily in-depth blog posts that were the heart of it. (Collections of these classic posts are now known as "The Sequences." They've been edited and repackaged as e-books and audiobooks, which I think is a bit much, but they're pretty interesting.)

          A lot of other people started posting there too, among them Scott Alexander, who later went and started his own blog. The LessWrong community now is what remains after some of the main writers left.

          There are also real-world meetups and social gatherings. I haven't made it to any of them yet.

          4 votes
          1. [2]
            vaddi
            Link Parent
            Is this a Californian/Bay Area only thing, or has it expanded? I'm asking because I find it funny that a group of people, from a small point on the globe, hanging out and talking online made it to...

            There are also real-world meetups and social gatherings. I haven't made it to any of them yet.

            Is this a Californian/Bay Area only thing, or has it expanded?
            I'm asking because I find it funny that a group of people, from a small point on the globe, hanging out and talking online made it to the news, where they are depicted as some sort of Masonry. The first time I encountered a thread about this topic I got the idea that this was some cult level stuff that I should avoid.

            4 votes
            1. skybrian
              Link Parent
              Scott Alexander has encouraged readers to organize meetups all over the world (before the pandemic, that is), but the largest community is in Berkeley. There are some group houses in Berkeley and...

              Scott Alexander has encouraged readers to organize meetups all over the world (before the pandemic, that is), but the largest community is in Berkeley. There are some group houses in Berkeley and a few other places, but that's "the rationalist community" and predates his blog.

              5 votes
  9. [2]
    reifyresonance
    Link
    Discussion from when Scott took down his blog: https://tildes.net/~tech/pzt/scott_alexander_has_deleted_his_slate_star_codex_blog_due_to_the_new_york_times_planning_to_reveal (If these kind of...

    Discussion from when Scott took down his blog: https://tildes.net/~tech/pzt/scott_alexander_has_deleted_his_slate_star_codex_blog_due_to_the_new_york_times_planning_to_reveal

    (If these kind of link posts aren't helpful because the tag/search system is pretty good and people use it, let me know please.)

    7 votes
    1. vaddi
      Link Parent
      This post just became helpful because it made me try the tag system for the first time :P

      This post just became helpful because it made me try the tag system for the first time :P

      4 votes
  10. [2]
    stu2b50
    (edited )
    Link
    I have to wonder, the crux of the original conflict is still unanswered: why was Metz so insistent on using Alexander's real name? Of the "original" article, it literally appears once, in one...

    I have to wonder, the crux of the original conflict is still unanswered: why was Metz so insistent on using Alexander's real name? Of the "original" article, it literally appears once, in one sentence, as not even the main subject of the sentence:

    The allure of the ideas within Silicon Valley is what made Scott Alexander, who had also written under his given name, Scott Siskind, and his blog essential reading.

    Which just seems weird to me? Typically journalist are fine with meeting out reasonable demands. People giving interviews with modulated voices, people having their faces blurred in footage, and so forth.

    Just seems like a whole lotta hullabaloo over very little.

    The article itself seems fine. It does spend perhaps a disproportionate amount of time on how Alexander's writing flirted with, well, not so scrupulous folk (although it didn't mention the weird offshoot subreddit with, uh, very unscrupulous ideas), but I suppose it is the most controversial aspect, and the one that most intersects with current events; the rest of the story would be pretty banal.

    5 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      Yes, from the point of view of someone who reads the blog, the quotes from it are so tiny that you get little idea of what Scott Alexander was writing about. It's not really an article about him...

      Yes, from the point of view of someone who reads the blog, the quotes from it are so tiny that you get little idea of what Scott Alexander was writing about. It's not really an article about him as a writer, it's more like gossip about which people are talking to each other.

      The New Yorker article works better as an introduction, and also as gossip. If you're curious about his writing, reading some of the top ten articles on the about page would be better.

      7 votes
  11. skybrian
    Link
    Matthew Yglesias starts out writing about Scott Alexander and the New York Times article and ends up writing more about Effective Altruism. He thinks the New York Times article entirely missed...

    Matthew Yglesias starts out writing about Scott Alexander and the New York Times article and ends up writing more about Effective Altruism. He thinks the New York Times article entirely missed what should be controversial about Scott Alexander’s writing.

    In defense of interesting writing on controversial topics

    5 votes