What I Believe

A week or two ago I wrote up a post on Tumblr, entitled “What I Believe”. It was my attempt at a work-in-progress accounting of my politics, philosophy, and worldview. I’m cross-posting it here. Hopefully I can cajole the other authors into writing similar posts, and we can compare and contrast our differences. That would be fun!

While I’m at it, worth mentioning: We have an irc channel! If you want to say hi, point your client to irc.upstandinghackers.com and hop into #status451.


I believe in objective truth and objective reality. There is a category of things for which we can definitively say they are true. Gravity is real, at 9.8 m/s^2. I believe that truth and reality have intrinsic value, and that it is important to always stay calibrated to them.

I believe in the value of data and information. I believe in driving decisions by data as much as possible. I believe there is intrinsic value in collecting information for its own sake, in order to have a better understanding of things and to make better decisions.

I believe in pragmatism, practicality, and usefulness. Things that do not have actionable consequences on the world usually do not matter. The perfect is the enemy of the good. An 80% solution that gets adopted is better than a 100% solution that never ships. A conclusion of this I hate to admit is that Javascript is the best programming language.

I believe in stewardship. I believe that taking this attitude is an important virtue. We should all strive to take care of ourselves, each other, our community, and our environment, in order to leave them better than when we found them.

I believe in individualism. I believe that at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is making a positive impact on individuals, not groups, not countries, not identities. The measure of success isn’t whether this group or that group wins whatever battle. It’s how many people go home happier at the end of the day.

I believe in agency and personal responsibility. I believe that people are happier and more prosperous when they take ownership over their lives and choices. I believe that greater things are accomplished when individual people are held responsible for their actions and outcomes.

I believe in accountability. Both holding people accountable to each other, and holding people accountable to reality. I believe that it is important to make sure that people keep their commitments and fulfill their responsibilities. I believe it is important to always make sure things are held accountable to reality, by ensuring they are practical, realistic, and sustainable.

A consequence of this is that I believe that often times we must make hard decisions, trading off different downsides. These are not arbitrary. These are not one human oppressing another. These reflect real-world hardships, constraints imposed by reality. I believe it is very important to recognize these for what they are, and work to resolve and improve them instead of passing blame around.

I believe that crediting people with agency is a sign of respect. I believe that infantilizing people is an insult. I believe that assuming other people are problems to work around does them a disservice, denying them of their humanity. I believe, for example, that the implicit assumption that minorities lack the ability to participate in various institutions, and must be carried through them, is an incredibly bigoted attitude. Paternalism is not good.

I believe in mentorship and apprenticeship. I think that life is the best education. I believe that hands on experience is usually better than book theory. I believe it is important for older, wiser, and more experienced people to mentor novices and help them grow as people.

I believe in meritocracy over credentialism. I believe that everybody should have the chance to demonstrate their ability, regardless of their background or history. I value strongly the fact that my own industry holds this in high regard, and am saddened by trends in the opposite direction.

I am aggressively anti-identity. I think the obsession with identity politics does everyone a disservice. By focusing on identity, you stop focusing on the people behind the identity. The identity takes on a life of its own, and when its interests diverge from the interests of its individuals, those individuals suffer. It is much better to approach people as a holistic synthesis of all that they are, than to stereotype them as members of identity groups.

I believe in the value of syncretism, of borrowing the best from everyone so that we are all better off. I believe in consciously building better cultures. There are good things and bad things about each cultural tradition. I believe in aggressively sharing and elevating the good things, and aggressively culling the bad things. Culture does not have to be a package deal. I do not believe it is a bad thing to reject one’s existing culture in favour of making a better one.

Along the same lines, I believe in the value of taking ownership over one’s personal identity. Just as we can cherrypick the best elements of culture to build a better one, we can cherrypick the best elements of personal culture to become better ourselves. I eat Asian food whenever I can, and prefer their tech and consumer goods to American ones. I listen to Northern European music. I value character virtues held important in British tradition. I appreciate Germanic family traditions. I like the cosmopolitan amenities and attitudes of blue state urbanism, but also believe in the importance of hospitality and self-sufficiency valued in red states. I do this all because, when combined, they make me a better person than the things I was raised with.

I am a committed political pacifist and non-interventionist. I believe that force should be used only in a last-ditch effort at self defense, when everything else has failed. I believe, at both the personal and political level, in the non-aggression principle. I believe that part of respecting other people is appreciating that they will do things differently from me, and that I have no right to tell them not to. I believe in the right to be neutral, and not to be conscripted into others’ battles.

I reject the idea of obligation to action. People are always allowed to opt out. I believe that it is better to do nothing than to do the wrong thing. I believe that most artificial social interventions for which we have data have not worked out, and that heuristically we should prefer to make fewer of them, per In Praise Of Passivity.

I believe in the value of well-designed boundaries, interfaces, and encapsulations. I believe that it is important to create political structures and social institutions that facilitate this. I believe that in this world, people will have irreconcilable differences between each other. By encapsulating those differences behind robust interfaces, we can cooperate effectively despite our differences. My go-to example of this is the supermarket. Safeway, Sobeys, Pirate Joe’s, are encapsulation technologies that let me cooperate with farmers. Maybe they’re horrible racists. Maybe they belong to a religious faith that would have me executed. It doesn’t matter; all that matters is that we cooperate towards the shared goal of making me a sandwich.

I believe that this applies just as much to social and personal interactions as it does to group and institutional interactions. By hiding potentially controversial details about ourselves and focusing on commonalities and shared experiences, we can come together and build happier, supportive communities.

As an addendum to that, I believe that we can have healthy, constructive relationships at varying levels of intimacy. I can maintain valuable friendships with political partisans, for example; we simply avoid talking about politics. I still love my bigoted and homophobic family members, I just focus on our shared history. It is not always important for the people around me to fully accept every element of me, and often going-along-to-get-along is the better thing to do.

I believe in the value of evolutionary thinking. Things change, everything is always in flux, and stasis is death. Individuals as well as systems change in response to incentive pressures, and evolutionary dynamics are always in play. I believe that this is a good and healthy thing, as it ensures we are always on a quest for constant self improvement. I believe that this is a fundamental element of reality, and cannot and should not be denied. I believe that attitudes, behaviours, and policies designed to prevent this will always and inevitably have grave consequences, as we become bogged down by dead weight ideas we refuse to reject.

I believe, as a descriptive statement of truth about the world, that at the end of the day, might makes right. I believe that ultimately this is true, and attempts to conceal it or fool ourselves into denial are damaging. I believe that this is a very unfortunate fact about the world, and work to set a better example in my own life. But ultimately, because might makes right, any better system will ultimately depend on the mightiest person making the conscious choice to maintain the better system.

I believe in a sort of nomadism. I believe that in some sense everybody starts from scratch, and it is on them to set out in life and blaze their own trail. I believe that often times, physical relocation is a necessity and preventing or resisting that is postponing the inevitable. Physical stasis is death as much as memetic stasis is.

I believe that in virtually every circumstance, exit is preferable to voice. I believe that, when things are not going the way you want, it is usually more effective to leave and go your own way, rather than changing the existing way. I believe that this is best captured by a great hacker axiom: “Don’t fix a broken system; build its replacement”.

I believe that being explicit is always better than being implicit. Communication is hard, and subtle signals will be misread. It is always better to be honest, direct, and straightforward. It is always important to speak and act in good faith.

I believe that authenticity is very important, and that pomp and circumstance are wastes of time. I value being down to earth and appreciate others who are as well. I’d rather eat at a hole-in-the-wall than at a fancy restaurant. I’d rather wear jeans than a suit. I’d rather be raw and honest with people than putting on airs. Pretension is infuriating.

I believe that consent matters. I believe that, as individuals are the ultimate arbiters of what is good for them, disrespecting and violating their consent means imposing badness on them. I believe this on the personal level, not taking advantage of people or acting against their wishes. I believe this on the political level: policies imposed by force on unwilling political participants are violations of consent. This fairly straightforwardly leads me towards a libertarian mindset.

I believe that sometimes conflict is inevitable, and as long as you have acted honestly and honourably, and attempted as much compromise as possible, it is not immoral to prioritize your interests over the interests in conflict with them. It is ultimately your job to advocate for your interests, and if you don’t, nobody will.

My word is my bond. I believe it is important to take commitments seriously. A violation of a promise is a very bad thing, trivially avoided by not making the promise in the first place. In the economic world, I believe that mutually agreeable contracts are a very important and valuable technology for holding people accountable to their commitments.

I believe that ethics is nothing more than an attempt at a heuristic to maximize human flourishing. Formalisms are fine, but there is no perfect system. The best we can do is pursue norms and guidelines that will tend towards better outcomes. A corrolary of this is that abstractions only matter if they are good heuristics. I don’t care which political party wins, eg., I care that their actions have good outcomes.

I have little patience for incompetence and shoddy quality. I believe that things worth doing are worth doing well. I believe it is right and good to judge things based on their quality outcomes, and to insist on good ones.

I hold the merchant mindset. Nothing is set in stone. Everything is flexible and negotiable, and it is usually possible to find mutually beneficial agreements. It is always acceptable to assert and negotiate your needs.

I believe that taking care of the environment is important, but that environmentalism is dangerous. Common environmentalism acts like a religion, treating it as a sacred, inviolable thing. I believe that this causes us to make bad decisions, and focus on high-visibility-low-impact things. I believe that eliminating all pollution is an unrealistic goal, and that it is important to stay grounded in the world of reality when evaluating the merits of environmental policy. I believe that, for most environmental issues, market mechanisms are more effective than policy interventions or cultural changes.

I believe that it is important, when criticizing something, to understand why it is the way it is. Very little is arbitrary, and if you wish to improve something it is important to understand what the something is you are trying to improve. Chesterton’s Fence should not be torn down.

I believe that belonging to a community is important for human well being. I believe that religious traditions are humans’ evolved solution to this problem. While I myself am not religious, I appreciate the value that churches bring to peoples’ lives. I believe that the increasing secularization of society, and the shift away from churches, will be bad if we do not come up with better communities.

I believe that people, all people, are deserving of respect-by-default. However, I believe that I am not obligated to respect people who have betrayed me, acted dishonourably, or have otherwise taken actions not worthy of respect.

I believe that people are not equal. Individuals are individuals and have unique strengths and weaknesses. Some people are good at one thing, others good at some other thing. I believe that the dream of a society of strict equality is a fantasy, will never be achieved, and that the pursuit of it is highly damaging. I believe instead that it is more important for everyone to find the position in society that works for them.

I believe that things are ethical problems only when they are not solvable in principle. Once they are solvable in principle, they cease to be ethical problems and start to be engineering problems. I believe this is good, as engineering problems are much easier to solve. For example, I do not believe access to water is a justice issue, unless someone’s access is being intentionally blocked. Provision of water is a purely engineering challenge.

I believe in the right to free association. It is reasonable for people to wish to curate those who they interact with, including or excluding people for arbitrary reasons. I believe that ensuring everyone has access to a space that works for them is more important than ensuring they have access to every space.

I believe in the value of free speech. Ideas should never be suppressed. Suppression of ideas loses valuable information. How can you tell if an idea is good or bad if you are not able to communicate it?

I reject the notion of blasphemy, be it secular or religious. Words are symbols, they cannot in themselves harm us. People have the right to say what they like, in whichever words they choose. Nothing is off limits for humour.

I believe in the right to self defense, up to and including lethal force. However I would prefer at all times to resolve conflicts by other means, if possible.

I believe in the right to take informed risks. I think it is a gross ethical violation for society to attempt to protect people from themselves. Any such protections should be provided in an advisory capacity only.

I believe in the power of drugs to improve the human experience. Drugs are powerful and potentially dangerous, but that they have dramatic benefits for those willing to accept the tradeoffs. For example, I consume daily the performance-enhancing drugs caffeine and nicotine. These improve my performance on my job, and we all benefit as a result.

I believe in letting people eat the consequences of their own actions. If we bail people out whenever they fail, they will never learn not to fail. I believe it is more important to facilitate the process of bouncing back than it is to prevent failure in the first place. Crash early, crash often.

I believe that social and economic mobility is more important than social and economic equality. As long as people are empowered to make their own success, I am not concerned if they choose not to do so.

I believe in the right to bear arms. Not because of any wider political reason, but purely because rifles are fun.

I believe in the power of human innovation. I believe that the march of technology eventually solves most problems that we deem intractable. I believe the future will be better than the past.

I believe in transhumanism. I look forward to the days when cyborgs walk among us. I believe that we can use technology to improve human capabilities and the human experience, and I believe that this is a very very good thing. I believe in using medical technology to become the person you wish to be.

I believe in the power of feedback loops and self-regulating systems. With the right system of feedback loops in place, a single action can solve a problem permanently. Without it, constant effort is required.

I believe in getting things done more than in doing things. Most people wish to measure their progress in terms of effort expended. I believe that wasted effort is zero value. Work smarter, not harder. Progress is measured by proximity to one’s goal, not by how long one runs.

I believe in effective altruism. When doing charity, it is very important that we do not waste our scarce resources. Often times peoples’ most effective contributions are not the obvious, visible ones. For most people, donating an hour of their salary is more effective than volunteering an hour of their time at a charitable organization. I believe that things like this are the most important ways to be charitable.

I believe that traditional-ish gender roles are mostly right for most
people most of the time. I believe that the proliferation of gender politics and unconventional genders and sexualities are a net negative for most people. I believe most people would be happier if they embraced traditions. That said, I believe that for some people these traditions and norms are very, very wrong (such as myself), and I wholeheartedly believe that it is important for alternatives to be available for them. Further, I believe it is nobody’s business how one chooses to live their life, and that we should respect everyone and treat them with kindness, regardless of what roles they choose to take.

I believe that money is a useful tool for keeping people accountable. I
believe that most of the complaints people have about money and wealth are actually complaints about people abusing their power. I believe that power derived from money, even though it ends up poorly, is fairer than power derived from other mechanisms, which would end up worse.

Advertisements

About Simon Penner

Injecting compassion and humanity into political discussion. Disagreements welcome, but you must be kind and charitable.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What I Believe

  1. Kevin says:

    Your paragraph about Transhumanism is making me rethink my mostly negative opinion about cosmetic surgery. Thanks

    Like

  2. Salty Pickles says:

    I believe I can fly
    I believe in Season 2 of Firefly
    451 is the best blog around
    Burn the fucking system to the ground

    Like

  3. nimelennar says:

    (This may post multiple times; please delete any spares).

    I’m actually a little surprised, based on your previous posts, at how we agree on nearly everything.

    My main problem isn’t with some of the arguments that you make, but with how you resolve the conflicts between them.

    For instance:
    “We should all strive to take care of ourselves, each other, our community, and our environment, in order to leave them better than when we found them.” Agreed, just quoted for later contrast.

    “The measure of success isn’t whether this group or that group wins whatever battle. It’s how many people go home happier at the end of the day.” Agreed – although I’d add that I believe that taking fifty-one people down two steps from “perfect happiness” to “contentment, for the most part,” and, at the same time, raising fifty people one step from “constant anxiety about the future” to “temporary stability” is a net gain, not a net loss. Even though more people are made happier, and their increase in happiness is greater in the previous situation, I believe that it’s better to use the rope to pull the people drowning in the river up to the shoreline, rather than using it to lift people from the comfortable shelter to the luxurious shelter.

    “I believe, for example, that the implicit assumption that minorities lack the ability to participate in various institutions, and must be carried through them, is an incredibly bigoted attitude. Paternalism is not good.” This is my first actual disagreement: I completely disagree with your framing of this issue.
    I don’t believe that your ideological opponents are arguing that “minorities lack the ability to participate in various institutions, and must be carried through them.” I believe they’re arguing that:
    * The institutions themselves respond differently to the exact same ‘participation’ when that participation is by (or is perceived by the institution to be by) a member of a visible minority.
    * Because of historical inequalities, the average member of a visible minority is not likely to have the same entry point into these institutions as the average member of the majority would.
    * Therefore, assistance given to a member of a visible minority is more likely to have a larger benefit towards that person, compared to helping a member of the majority, and it is in the interest of promoting equality of *opportunity* (since equality of outcomes is never guaranteed) to provide assistance to those who have been historically proven to encounter more difficulties in navigating certain institutions.
    I believe that those three points are all true.

    “I am aggressively anti-identity. I think the obsession with identity politics does everyone a disservice. By focusing on identity, you stop focusing on the people behind the identity. The identity takes on a life of its own, and when its interests diverge from the interests of its individuals, those individuals suffer. It is much better to approach people as a holistic synthesis of all that they are, than to stereotype them as members of identity groups.” – Here’s where I see a conflict with “how many people go home happier at the end of the day.”
    In a world where everyone judges everyone else solely as an individual: yes, you’re absolutely right. That’s the ideal situation. However, you’ve expressed an preference for pragmatism over idealism, and I believe that the pragmatic view is: our brains are designed to generalize. That’s what they do. It’s something that a person can fight within their own brain, but as a trend within society, I don’t believe that it can be fought. If a person walks down the street and sees an unfamiliar police officer, they’re going to react based on their previous interactions with police officers, positive or negative, not based on who that person is as a person, and they’ll continue to treat that person as a stereotype until that person is within their Dunbar group.
    Since there are groups of people (for instance, many Evangelical Christians) who are aggressively against people with certain identities, I believe it is in the interest of people sharing those identities to band together based on that identity and use the increased leverage given by that group membership to fight for their rights. In the long run: yes, each of those people want to be seen as a person first. But I believe that, in the interest of going home happier at the end of the day, they need to band together.
    I believe that desegregation would never happened (to the extent that it has) without the Civil Rights Movement. African Americans needed to band together and make their voices heard. I believe that if they hadn’t, there would probably still be Jim Crow laws in effect.

    To the same note: “I believe, as a descriptive statement of truth about the world, that at the end of the day, might makes right. I believe that ultimately this is true, and attempts to conceal it or fool ourselves into denial are damaging. I believe that this is a very unfortunate fact about the world, and work to set a better example in my own life. But ultimately, because might makes right, any better system will ultimately depend on the mightiest person making the conscious choice to maintain the better system.” – I agree, but I believe this to be almost completely opposed to your statement on identity, especially when it comes to pragmatism. If “might makes right,” and a group of people have more collective might than a single person, then by asking people to not form groups based on common interests and identities, I believe you are asking those who possess those identities and interests to surrender their might, and thus their desire to influence what is “right,” to those who *will* form groups and use their own ideas of what is “right.” And if that group defines the interest or identity as “not right,” then, well, let’s just say that I believe that things will happen to those people which won’t increase their happiness at the end of the day.

    “I believe that in virtually every circumstance, exit is preferable to voice. I believe that, when things are not going the way you want, it is usually more effective to leave and go your own way, rather than changing the existing way. I believe that this is best captured by a great hacker axiom: ‘Don’t fix a broken system; build its replacement’.” – Agreed, but only to the point where it starts to conflict with “might makes right.” If you’re in a lake, then riding the waves alone on a small speedboat allows you much more freedom. On the open ocean, that small speedboat is likely to get capsized by the much greater swells, and, if a tidal wave is on the way, then (if you can’t make it to land and high ground) you should get yourself onto the biggest ship that will have you to survive it. Just make sure that there are enough lifeboats available before you board.

    “I believe that authenticity is very important, and that pomp and circumstance are wastes of time. I value being down to earth and appreciate others who are as well. I’d rather eat at a hole-in-the-wall than at a fancy restaurant. I’d rather wear jeans than a suit. I’d rather be raw and honest with people than putting on airs. Pretension is infuriating.” – I am different things to different people. If I contradict myself, well, I contradict myself. I contain multitudes. Putting on a suit, to me, does not mean “pretension,” it means that I am adopting a more professional identity in respect for the circumstance or for the people I am with. The more professional me who wears a suit is no less me than the wisecracking punster in jeans, is no less me than the programmer in a buttoned shirt, is no less me than the Scout leader in a neckerchief, is no less me than the determined swimmer doing laps at the pool, is no less me than the romantic who writes love poetry, is no less me than the guy curled up on a chair in his pyjamas reading a book and shutting out the world entirely. I am not one; I am many, and I believe that switching from one of those many to another that better matches the circumstance is not pretension.

    Besides, I believe that I look damned good in a suit.

    “I believe that consent matters. I believe that, as individuals are the ultimate arbiters of what is good for them, disrespecting and violating their consent means imposing badness on them. I believe this on the personal level, not taking advantage of people or acting against their wishes. I believe this on the political level: policies imposed by force on unwilling political participants are violations of consent. This fairly straightforwardly leads me towards a libertarian mindset.” – Again, in a perfect world, I’d agree. In practice, though, for one example, I believe that Canada has made more people go home happier at the end of the day with Medicare than the U.S. has had by refusing it. And, although I believe that there are healthy Canadians who would prefer their tax dollars didn’t go towards paying for care of cancer victims, to them I say: tough. It’s about pragmatism. For another example, you talk about stewardship and caring for the environment, but I believe that before regulations were forced on companies against their will, Los Angeles looked a lot different:
    https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/O5bIUmAMvUIEW4kuEYO15X54o8b339tiTLfNGTc4SwfxPwSM9IPFIzMgaiXNAxHuimD0KKHdND8HZXsH_2XjUy7ODJOw-1SPykQKrANs3ZIhd1x8r-ag5BdNCAyOwDgrOlw2haw

    “I believe that ethics is nothing more than an attempt at a heuristic to maximize human flourishing. Formalisms are fine, but there is no perfect system. The best we can do is pursue norms and guidelines that will tend towards better outcomes. A corrolary of this is that abstractions only matter if they are good heuristics. I don’t care which political party wins, eg., I care that their actions have good outcomes.” – I have a different view, but I don’t believe my view is in conflict with yours. For one thing, I believe you’re confusing “ethics” and “morals.” Ethics, I believe, is a formal system tied to the concept of “professionalism.” That is, a lawyer who says, “My client admitted to me that he did it” might not be doing anything morally wrong, but is acting against the established and codified ethics of the profession of “lawyer” and should be rightly tossed out of that profession on her ear, regardless of the morality of whether what she did was “right” or “wrong”: it was *clearly* unethical. On the other hand, I believe “morality” is the story we tell ourselves about who we are and why we do what we do. For some people, that story is “God says…” For you, I believe that your morality seems to stem from “It results in the best outcome to…” Myself, I believe that my morality tends towards, “When I die, I want my story to have read…”

    “I believe that taking care of the environment is important, but that environmentalism is dangerous. Common environmentalism acts like a religion, treating it as a sacred, inviolable thing. I believe that this causes us to make bad decisions, and focus on high-visibility-low-impact things. I believe that eliminating all pollution is an unrealistic goal, and that it is important to stay grounded in the world of reality when evaluating the merits of environmental policy. I believe that, for most environmental issues, market mechanisms are more effective than policy interventions or cultural changes.” Disagree (see picture of LA, largely rid of smog by regulation, above). I believe that we’ve known we’re at the brink of a very, very, slippery slope for decades now, and I believe the market forces have completely failed to deal with it. I believe that policy interventions are little better, but have had at least some effect: see the ban of ozone-depleting CFCs.

    “I believe that belonging to a community is important for human well being. I believe that religious traditions are humans’ evolved solution to this problem. While I myself am not religious, I appreciate the value that churches bring to peoples’ lives. I believe that the increasing secularization of society, and the shift away from churches, will be bad if we do not come up with better communities.” – I believe that this is 100% diametrically opposed to your statement on identities. I don’t see how religious identity is a better thing than any other kind of identity, and I believe history shows religion causing just as much or more evil, in every respect, as it causes good.

    “I believe that people, all people, are deserving of respect-by-default. However, I believe that I am not obligated to respect people who have betrayed me, acted dishonourably, or have otherwise taken actions not worthy of respect.” – I’ll quote something I saw recently in response:

    “Sometimes people use ‘respect’ to mean ‘treating someone like a person’ and sometimes they use ‘respect’ to mean ‘treating someone like an authority’
    and sometimes people who are used to being treated like an authority say ‘if you won’t respect me I won’t respect you’ and they mean ‘if you won’t treat me like an authority I won’t treat you like a person’
    and they think they’re being fair but they aren’t, and it’s not okay.”
    Source: http://stimmyabby.tumblr.com/post/115216522824/sometimes-people-use-respect-to-mean-treating

    I believe that everyone is deserving to be treated with respect-as-a-person. This is not something that anyone can lose. I believe that strangers are deserving of respect-as-an-authority when it comes to being a “person with basic decency.” This is something that someone can lose. I believe that a person is deserving of “respect-as-an-authority” for the profession that they are in. This is something that they can lose. But everyone – you, me, Trump, Hitler, Stalin, Dylann Roof, Anders Breivik: I believe that they are all deserving of respect-as-a-person, even though I concede that, apart from you and myself, I don’t consider any of the people I listed to be worthy of any other kind of respect.

    “For example, I do not believe access to water is a justice issue, unless someone’s access is being intentionally blocked. Provision of water is a purely engineering challenge.” – Again, agreed in theory, but not in practice. I believe that if someone does not have access to the same potable water as everyone else, solely because of the circumstances of their birth (location and parentage), that is a justice issue. It is unjust for something that someone has no control over to dominate their quality of life (see also my previous comments about minorities).

    “I believe in the value of free speech. Ideas should never be suppressed. Suppression of ideas loses valuable information. How can you tell if an idea is good or bad if you are not able to communicate it?” – I believe that there are certain ideas that we know are bad without them having to be evaluated. I believe that “[X group] or [Y identity] are not deserving of respect-as-a-person,” and their associated messages of “it is okay to [do bad things] to people in that group or with that identity” fall into a very narrow pocket of speech, like fraud, libel, and speech essential to criminal conduct, which do not deserve protection.

    “I believe in letting people eat the consequences of their own actions. If we bail people out whenever they fail, they will never learn not to fail. I believe it is more important to facilitate the process of bouncing back than it is to prevent failure in the first place. Crash early, crash often.” – I’m don’t believe that I know where you draw the distinction between “bailing someone out” and “facilitating the process of bouncing back.”

    I believe that I agree unconditionally with pretty much everything else that you’ve said other than what I’ve listed above, although I believe that it would be totally in character for me to have missed one or two points in my read-through.

    I believe I’m done.

    ~Nim.

    Like

    • Simon Penner says:

      This is a really long post. Thanks for making it! I appreciate the effort you’ve put in and hope I can do it justice with a reply. I’m going to write the reply inline, and do it as I read, so apologies in advance for any inconsistencies or errors.

      Before writing anything, I want to stress that this writing, like my original post, is “epistemic status: exploratory”. I’m trying to make sense of various half-formed ideas flying around in my head, not trying to make a timeless declaration of objective truth. Everything is provisional, and open to change.

      PRE-EDIT: I am up to the point in your post where you link the picture of LA smog, and it occurs to me that a lot of our disagreements appear to be coming from you generalizing my position. When I wrote this document, I intended it to lay out my position on things. I did not intend it to lay out the optimal or correct position on things for all people. In many cases I feel like your criticisms could be addressed with “ok, so then those example people should have different beliefs from me!” which is fine and reasonable.
      —-

      > The measure of success isn’t whether….
      I agree, with caveats, to your response. It’s kind of a bs cop-out on my part, but: “it depends on the specifics; decide on a case by case basis”. I wasn’t trying to draw a distinction between different ways of optimizing peoples’ happiness. I was trying to highlight that, in general terms, when deontological and utilitarian reasoning systems come in conflict, I prefer the utilitarian ones. I wasn’t trying to make a strong claim on how you would measure things in a utilitarian perspective. Your response seems to be getting more into the specifics of that, and I’m not disagreeing. I’m saying that I don’t have a rigourous definition of what the best measurement of utility is, but that I believe in principle that it is a good way to ground your perspective.

      —-

      > I believe, for example, that the implicit assumption…
      I straight up disagree. I’m willing to credit a large amount of the difference to the fact that I am not American and had to figure out all your strange norms around race relations on the fly. But I straight up disagree the things you base your position on are true. Further, I’m not really interested in arguing this either way. I’m happy to agree to disagree, as I believe that conversations on this subject are not possible to be constructive. That said, I will make a broad, open ended response anyway, as a gesture of good faith.

      > I don’t believe that your ideological opponents are arguing…
      I don’t think they’re arguing that either. I don’t think they are consciously aware of the fact that this is what they’re doing. But I believe that this accurately captures the practical results.

      I mean, I’d argue that my opponents actually admit this is true, but not in so many words. Because, say for example that because of a history of evil oppression, certain minorities respond differently to the exact same participation in Harvard (an institution). It is a true fact about America, that Harvard, as it exists right here right now, plays an important part in our society as it exists right here right now. If some minority group ‘responds differently’ to Harvard and must have accommodations made, this means definitionally that they are not fully capable of participating in this institution, while others are.

      If one imagines we live in a world where everything is arbitrary, then drawing the conclusion “it’s not better or worse, just different, and it’s Harvard that has to change” is reasonable. But I believe that specific details of what Harvard is and how it works are causally responsible for our society (which, overall, is very good), and consequently, if one person responds differently to Harvard, it’s on them.

      Also, just to reiterate: I don’t actually believe that a given minority group is intrinsically less capable of succeeding at Harvard for any reason, nature or nurture, their fault or others. I think that everyone can succeed if they do the hard work and sacrifice needed, and I interpret attitudes such as the one being presented as the “soft bigotry of low expectations”

      > * Because of historical inequalities…
      I categorically reject all arguments that start this way, unless they also carry an explicit causal argument from how those specific inequalities were present, to specific failings today. Because we all suffered historical inequalities. My grandparents generation were thrown in internment camps in WWII. The generation before them were raped and murdered in the Russian revolution. For the better part of ten generations before them, they were formally politically oppressed, banned from various public offices, often punitively taxed. They had their deeply held sacred religious beliefs (namely, pacifism) directly and consistently violated. In the 1600s they were often tortured and murdered for being not-catholic.

      Like, _*everyone*_ has stories like this. But they got over it. Because life is hard, history is horrible, and we’re all doing our best. I’m not going to sit here and argue that someone’s past is irrelevant to their present. But it seems to me that often this is used as an excuse over-broadly, and so I can no longer accept it as an argument absent specific details.

      And finally, food for thought
      > the average member of a visible minority is not likely to have the same entry point…
      US Citizenship is the greatest privilege that a human can hold. And this actually _is_ a privilege. You either have it, or don’t, based primarily on birthright, and it confers explicit legal perks to you that are unavailable to others. I _tripled_ my income by moving here, and all I’ve got is a 3 year temp visa. Trump’s threatening to take it away (via NAFTA renegotiation), and as it is, it can basically be revoked by a pissed off customs agent for no reason whatsoever. Some people have severely handicapped entry points to society, and that’s just life. Sometimes things are not fair.

      > Therefore, assistance given to a member of a visible minority…
      I agree with this in principle, but do not believe that this adequately describes what happens in practice in the US. I base my understanding on a combination of arguments from first principles, personal experience, and descriptions/explanations from advocates of the current state of affairs. This is too long and complicated to get into in a comment response. But the short version is that you can’t just look at a situation with disparate outcomes and put your thumb on the scale until they’re the same. This doesn’t actually fix anything, it’s just patronage, extracted on threat of imprisonment from some to benefit others. Actually fixing things involves understanding the specifics that are causing the disparate outcomes, and addressing those root causes.

      The recent Slate Star Codex article, Against Murderism (https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/06/21/against-murderism/) is helpful. In my experience, the overwhelming majority of such assistance in practice in the US looks like this:

      1) member of $GROUP is not succeeding as much as others
      2) This must be due to racism! All the others have an arbitrary and irrational hatred towards $GROUP
      3) Therefore the solution is to just override those bigots and force the outcome we want.

      Meanwhile, to use an example that will definitely not endear me to anyone: I believe that right now, in the US, certain minority groups underperform others in software development ability. Consequently, the objectively correct thing for employers to do, is to end up with a workforce on which those minorities are under-represented. This does NOT reflect racism on the part of employers, but a realistic, reasonable, and rational preference for quality.
      I believe that this is true in large part because of a lack of opportunity to learn and experiment on the part of these minority groups. I’ve been programming since I was 10 years old, and it’s insanity to think that someone who didn’t have that opportunity is just as good as me. The correct response to the racism that creates this scenario is to address the reasons why they never got the opportunity to program when they were ten years old.

      —-

      > “I am aggressively anti-identity…
      It seems you may have misunderstood me, I can’t tell. I was not trying to make some lofty argument from first principles about this position. I was saying that I believe on the object level that my perspective results in better outcomes. It has been my empirical experience that when people or institutions intentionally interact with people as members of a group, instead of as individuals, those individuals end up worse off.

      It actually doesn’t seem like you’re disagreeing with me? Because you acknowledge that my perspective is the ideal. And in writing out my original document the intention was to outline the ideal that I work towards in my own life. It seems like you’re saying not that my position is bad, but that it is unrealistic? So be it. I aspire to greatness, not mediocrity, and if I don’t make it all the way, at least I made it part of the way.

      > Since there are groups of people…
      I have a few feelings in response to what you said here but actually I’m not confident in my position here, I am still undecided on my position. But, like I said, a few things.
      1) It sounds to me like the world would be a better place if those evangelicals treated people as individuals, not identities
      2) Being against certain identities is not something I worry about particularly strongly, because identities are adopted, not intrinsic. If you really don’t like how a certain person or group acts towards a given identity, then don’t adopt that identity in front of them.
      2b) If the above feels strongly unreasonable to you, then we are using different definitions of identity. It is difficult to describe specifically what I mean by this, because I’m unclear on exactly what you mean by it. But if you feel we are in conflict over this, I can elaborate once you bring more detailed criticisms
      3) I’m not actually sure that identity group-level action is the most effective way to counter this kind of prejudice. For example, I think that the best tactic used by LGBT people in getting gay rights accepted was individual personal appeal. Closeted gay folks going up to loved family or long time friends who were anti-gay and saying “see, I’m gay, and you like me. I was gay all along, and you didn’t even notice. We’re just like you! We have more similarities than differences, and this shouldn’t come between us’.

      > I believe that desegregation….
      I don’t know nearly enough about US history to make a meaningful comment on this

      —-
      > I agree, but I believe this to be almost completely opposed to your statement on identity, especially when it comes to pragmatism. …
      I agree with everything you just said (I think; there’s a lot of nuance), and all I have to say about it is “yep. This sucks. Man the world sucks some times”.

      When I say “I believe might makes right” I am not saying this is how things should be, in an ideal world. I’m saying I believe this is how things are, in our world, and so it is a good idea to keep this in mind when you’re working towards something better.

      It is objectively true that whatever coalition of people that has the most force, wins. They get to set the rules. This is a loaded statement and has a lot of stuff packed into it, but, like, they get to set the rules. For example, at the incredibly high level, the reason we enjoy a relatively peaceful, cooperative, democratic society, is because people with immense amounts of power use that power to make our society this way. Or, possibly, to stop people from changing society to some other way. High minded philosophical rights matter for exactly zero, when a man with a gun is barking orders.

      Part of the point I was trying to make in this passage is that the relatively peaceful, relatively prosperous society we have right now is EXTREMELY RARE AND VALUABLE, and it exists mostly because everyone with the capability to destroy it, chooses not to. Consequently, we should a) be incredibly grateful for what we have; and b) understand how and why we have what we have, and do whatever it takes to make sure that the people with might don’t override it. In fact, I am incredibly worried right now that various factions on all sides are taking advantage of the Trump chaos to do exactly this, and I hope it works out alright.

      —–

      > Agreed, but only to the point where it starts to conflict with “might makes right.”…
      I’m unclear on what you mean by this paragraph. Again, to appeal to my familial history, from about 1500 to 1900, the story of my family was “we built some farms and made some food and were having a good time. Then some local tyrant came along and started making threats and demands. So instead of negotiation with him or fighting back (voice) we just fucked off to somewhere quieter (exit)”.

      —-

      > “I believe that authenticity is very important,…
      This paragraph of mine is probably best read as a direct criticism of some specific local cultural affectations, and is probably not relevant to most other people. I have nothing against suits.

      —-

      > “I believe that consent matters….
      > I believe that Canada has made more people go home happier…
      I strongly disagree. I think the Canadian system is significantly worse than people think it is, and the US system significantly better. Neither are perfect, both have glaring flaws that cause massive tragedy, but I’ve enjoyed both and I’ve made my choice.

      Further, properly evaluating this claim requires having a utility function that we judge the actions of the government against, and one of the big points of disagreement we can have is on whether utility is a positive value or an integral value. I believe that some things the government does have dramatically negative utility, such that it is better to forego some positive improvements in order to avoid such costs. I have some pretty specific beliefs about government in this regard, and especially about medical policy, and I stand by my position.

      To counter your cancer example, the Canadian medical system covers chiropractic, and I _think_ it also covers homeopathy. Both of these things are fake medicine that don’t do anything. I’m not going to go look up hard numbers, but instead make a hypothetical-principle argument: do you accept that there is some amount of wasteful spending above which it is reasonable to say “actually no maybe this was a bad idea”. If, hypothetically, the Canadian system spends $100M on cancer treatment every year, but also wastes $5B on homeopathy, would you still agree that Medicare is the pragmatically correct tradeoff? I wouldn’t; in my hypothetical (which is definitely hypothetical and does not correspond to real world numbers in this respect) the amount of waste generated while servicing that $100M of cancer it not worth it, and society is worse off because of it.

      Granted, the flip side of this is that perhaps the amount of waste is low enough that I would have to change my position. I actually don’t know, because I am lazy, and have zero ability to change this, so I am rationally ignorant of the specifics. But my point is that a) this tradeoff exists and is an empirical question, not an ideological one; and b) centralizing systems, almost as a law of nature, generate waste like this, and so it is reasonable to _default_ to being against them on these grounds, so that if someone proposes such a system, the benefits need to obviously outweigh these costs in order to convince me to be in favour of them.

      > but I believe that before regulations were forced on companies against their will, Los Angeles looked a lot different:…
      Cop out answer: I don’t know that the 2005 picture is better than the 1968 picture, because I don’t know enough about LA to know what all the tradeoffs are. It could be, for example, that a side effect of those regulations is that 50,000 more Angelinos live in poverty. Or it could not. I don’t know, and that’s my point. Questions like this are almost always more complicated than they seem and I’m skeptical of anybody who appears to be overly confident towards them.

      Further, part of the calculation involves the question: How much to LA residents value their local environment? Most people act-as-if they assume the answer is “infinity”, and that this answer is the same for all people in all locations. I do not agree, and in general, I put positive value on individual agency. So while I, personally, value taking care of environment, and I think it would be better if others did as well, it is more important to me that they get what they want, than that they give me what I want. If other people are fine living in an environmentally degraded place, It’s not my business to say otherwise. If other people want make their personal tradeoffs at a different spot, that’s their right, as far as I’m concerned.

      As a real-world example of this tradeoff: I think this is ongoing, but in the recent past Ecuador has been grappling with the idea of disturbing a pristine tropical wilderness preserve in order to tap massive oil reserves underneath. It’s really easy to say “no, the environment matters”, but Ecuador isn’t a rich western nation. It’s poor, underdeveloped, and these reserves offer a massive potential to increase the quality of life of its citizens. It’s not immediately obvious to me that the benefits of that particular environment outweigh the benefits of economic development.

      —-

      > I have a different view, but I don’t believe my view is in conflict with yours. For one thing, I believe you’re confusing “ethics” and “morals.”
      Probably! I’m not a philosopher. I appreciate your correction. Your response is great and valuable and has given me more tools to consider this. Thanks 😀

      —-

      > “I believe that taking care of the environment is important…
      Most policy interventions in the recent past have been actively counterproductive. Energy efficiency standards have _increased_ emissions above what they would otherwise have been, by dropping the cost of energy consumption (I don’t have the links handy but this has been shown in academic research). Single-use plastic bags emit substantially less carbon over their total lifecycle than paper or canvas ones do in common usage patterns. People fight density in their urban environment, in the name of environmentalism, even though increasing population density (especially in certain specific areas with temperate climates) is the most effective thing you can do to minimize environmental impact. Perhaps the policy interventions of thirty years ago were good; that was before my time and I don’t know. But I still believe my statement is broadly true, if you scope it to (say) the past fifteen years.

      Secondly, “I believe market mechanisms are preferable to policy mandates” is _not_ the same as “aw fuck it, just let people do what they do, the free market will work things out”. What I mean by this is that I believe that (for example) a cap-and-trade scheme is significantly better at achieving environmental impact goals than a blanket ban on things would be, all else equal.

      Full disclosure: I am fundamentally unconvinced that global warming is an urgent pressing problem. Note that this is not the same thing as saying “is not real”, and it is not the same thing as saying “I believe it’s wrong”. My current position can best be summarized as:
      1) I am ill-equipped to make a truth judgement on this subject
      2) People claiming to speak authoritatively on this subject come across to me as untrustworthy
      3) People who claim that this is an urgent pressing problem do not appear to act in ways that meaningfully solve the problem, even when they claim they are
      4) There are entire classes of solution (eg. geoengineering) that are being categorically ignored. If this really was the Worst Possible Problem, we would be entertaining all solutions, not just convenient or simple ones
      5) It is not clear to me that the consequences of global warming and rising sea levels are actually problems. To use one example, if the consequence is “sea levels rise by 3 inches a year”, well, that gives us a really really long time to move inland, so what’s the big deal?

      —-

      > “I believe that belonging to a community is important for human…
      > I believe that this is 100% diametrically opposed…
      Then we are not using the word “identity” to mean the same thing. I don’t think that identity has anything to do with having a local community you are friends with and can rely on to help you when times are tough. I don’t think that identity has anything to do with systems of meaning.

      Further, this part of my post is intended to be an observation: “I have noticed that people tend to be happier in situations like this, even though society speaks as if the opposite is true, and this may be a useful pro tip for living a happier life”. This stands in contrast to my position on identity, which is more normative and ideal than descriptive and observational: “I believe people would be happier if they stopped focusing on identities so much”.

      —-

      > “Sometimes people use ‘respect’…
      This is a really good point, and something I haven’t considered. I have to sit and think on this more, but I _think_ that what I mean by respect is some combination of “treating them like a fellow human being who intrinsically matters” and “being willing to give small pro-social gifts to them as tokens of good faith”. “Respect” as in ‘not immediately dismissing their position as irrelevant or unimportant. “Respect” as in holding the door open for them when they’re behind you. “Respect” as in being willing to make minor personal sacrifices in order to help them.

      I guess I’m using “respect” to mean “(try to) treat as a member of the in-group”.

      > I believe that everyone is deserving to be treated with respect-as-a-person….
      Obviously, I disagree, but what is right for me may not be right for you. You keep doing that! The world is better off for it.

      To clarify what I mean by, say, people losing my respect: if you try to punch me, I’m not holding the door open for you. If you slander me behind my back, I’m not inviting you to get lunch with me. If you ask me for help, but helping you involves undermining something important to me, you can fuck right off; your goals no longer matter-by-default to me.

      One thing that may be helpful in understanding my point of view is that I generally don’t want to universalize anything. I perceive a lot of people coming to positions like “everyone gets basic respect” as being motivated by an attitude of “everyone deserves this basic thing”. But there’s a difference between “everyone should receive X” and “everyone should give X”. I am happy to say, eg, that it is other peoples’ responsibility to give basic respect to other people. I’m not going to worry too much about my excluding people who are marginal to my life, because there’s a whole wide world out there for them to find what they want. I respect people by default because it is a good thing, but if they lose that respect I’m not losing sleep over it. After all, their parents probably still love them.

      —-

      > “For example, I do not believe access to water is a justice issue
      The way you write about this makes it clear to me that we are using differing definitions of things.

      To roll with this example: If Alice and Bob do not have access to clean water right now, but they could dig a canal to bring clean water in, and then they would have clean water, that is not a justice issue. That is an engineering issue. This is because the simplest solution to their problem is to pay a guy with a backhoe to dig a canal.

      Conversely, if there was already a canal, but a dude with a gun cut off the canal for whatever reason, that _is_ a justice issue, because the _only_ solution to it involves politics (namely, stopping the canal czar from denying them water).

      We should normatively want as many things as possible to be reclassified from justice issues to engineering issues, because engineering issues are orders of magnitude easier to solve. In democratic society, justice issues are almost always solved with “step one: convince a majority of the voters that this is important”. I can rent a backhoe and dig a canal much much more easily than I can convince (321M / 2 + 1) people that this is important.

      My classification of things as justice issue vs engineering issue is 100% a function of the optimal way to solve them. You may say it is unjust that someone born in rural Africa doesn’t have access to water. I agree! That really sucks. But characterizing it as a justice issue is not useful because that doesn’t bring you any closer to solving it. Characterizing it as an engineering issue is, because it does.

      For a different example: Let’s say, somehow, magically, you’re teleported to Mars. You now lack access to air. Is this a justice issue? I say no. It’s an engineering issue, because the simplest solution is “find an air tank”. What I mean when I say “justice issue” is “it must be solved using principles of political justice”. And, sure, you could solve your Mars problem by convincing the people of Earth to stage a rescue mission where they airlift an airlock dome to Mars for you to breath in. But this isn’t very helpful, because by the time they do that you will have suffocated. It is much, much easier to just treat it as an engineering problem, go find an air tank, and call it a day. My interest at the end of the day is _not_ to reduce injustice, but to reduce the actual problems that it causes. Sometimes the best way to do that is to actually eliminate the injustice. But often times it’s easier to just route around it and make it irrelevant.

      And, pre-emptively: if your response to this is something along the lines of: “but what if it’s impossible to find an air tank, and you _need_ the people of earth to solve your problem”. In that case then yes, it is a justice issue. But a) that violates the stipulations I put in the original post. And b) that really really sucks because your problem just got a million percent harder.

      EDIT AFTER WRITING THIS WHOLE RESPONSE: it occurs to me that it might be more instructive to rephrase it thusly:
      Everything that is pointed to as a ‘justice issue’ can be subcategorized into either “physical” issues or “social” issues. Physics issues involve constraints imposed by reality or the environment, and social issues involve problems caused by other people. Physics issues are much much easier to solve than social issues. Whenever an issue can plausibly be characterized as having elements of both physics and social causes, it is usually a much better use of resources to solve it via the physics route and not the social route.

      —-

      > I believe that there are certain ideas that we know are bad without them having to be evaluated
      I fundamentally disagree. If you can’t express to me how you know something is bad, it is reasonable to be very strongly skeptical of your claim that it is bad.

      > I believe that “[X group] or [Y identity] are not deserving of respect-as-a-person,”
      I disagree. I can name many Xs and Ys for which that is true. Psychopathic serial killers, for instance. I think it is reasonable to allow someone to make the public statement “fuck serial killers. If your friend is a serial killer, punch him in the face”. I also think it’s reasonable to counter that with “how about no. Don’t punch people”. What I _don’t_ think is reasonable is saying “if anyone says that phrase, I will punch him in the face”.

      > “it is okay to [do bad things] to people in that group or with that identity”…
      Heuristically, I don’t think that it is ever ok to do bad things to people based purely on a group affiliation of identity. This is not inconsistent with the previous paragraph; It is reasonable for me to be ok with speech without being ok with its conclusions. If one believes that certain ideas should not be uttered, because of their intrinsic danger, then as far as I’m concerned, your actual problem is that the people who are listening to you are so retarded that they lack the critical thinking skills to be able to discuss an idea without adopting or advocating it. If that actually is the case, that your listeners are that retarded, then I might be convinced to change my position on this subject, however if that is true, then a foundational assumption of my philosophy is threatened and literally this entire document is forfeit.

      I think that fraud is not the same thing as this, because fraud involves an element of violating a commitment. Expressing ideas is not the same thing as making a commitment and then violating it.

      I am not convinced that libel should be a crime. I remain undecided on this subject, and am open to having my mind changed.

      “Speech essential to criminal conduct” I don’t know what this means.

      I think that the closest thing I could reasonably be convinced of, regarding restrictions on speech, is that knowingly stating falsehoods is unacceptable. This is a grossly impractical rule on which to construct legal restrictions and requirements, however, as truth value is often Turing-complete and so you are unable to know ahead of time whether a thing is acceptable to say under this rule. Therefore I would prefer any legal system to err on the side of caution and allow more, rather than less, speech.

      Finally, this criticism of free speech avoids what I see as the two most critical reasons for why free speech is important. The first is that speech is a substitute for violence. Broadly speaking, the alternative to someone saying “fuck purple people” isn’t everyone being fine with purple people. It’s racist vigilantes murdering purple people. Policing speech does not police thinking, it just suppresses and displaces it. I would much prefer people use violent words than violent actions, across the board.

      Secondly, the reason it is important to allow bad people to say bad things, is not because they have some critical right to be able to say bad things. It’s to prevent us from becoming evil in trying to stop them. A hallmark of every evil, bad, absolutist, totalitarian, and/or fascist regime in history is the suppression of speech critical of the regime. The reason that free speech norms are so important, is because once you admit exceptions to it, people get very very good at arguing that their personal enemies satisfy those exceptions, and down that path lies ruin. To reify this, the reason why we should allow nazis free speech rights, is _*not*_ because it’s important to hear their ideas. The reason is because if we agree “it is ok to ban nazis from speaking” then suddenly assholes and sociopaths s society start figuring out how to argue that their enemies, opponents, rivals, and competitors are nazis and therefore should be banned from speaking. I don’t think I need to elaborate on why this is bad.

      And as supporting evidence of the previous paragraph: this very blog has been accused of being a white supremacist platform. The SPLC was asked for comment and everything! (They concluded we were _not_ a white supremacy blog). The nice dude at Popehat has been going around calling it Status1488 and characterizing us all as Nazis. An influential functional programmer tried to whip up a hate mob against me after misunderstanding a pun on Twitter. These things happen, and it’s better to have to deal with the occasional racist crank spewing hatred than it is to allow people and organizations such as this blog to be suppressed fraudulently.

      —-

      > I’m don’t believe that I know where you draw the distinction between “bailing someone out” and “facilitating the process of bouncing back.”…
      This is a good point. I spoke sloppily and should have caught this in editing, but I don’t edit my work because I’m a lazy shit so yeah.

      I’d need specific scenarios to refine the nuance of my position, but in general: preventing people from failing is bad, helping people who have failed to try again is good, lowering the cost of failure is maybe good, depending on how you do it and what it costs you (eg spending $10k to make failure cost $1k less is bad, spending $1k to make failure cost $10k less is good, etc etc)

      —-

      Overall that was a really great post, and I appreciate you taking the time to leave it. Several of your responses have caused me to reevaluate my positions, and one of them even flipped it.

      Meaningful takeaways that I want to thank you for:
      * My understanding of and use of the word “identity” appears to be idiosyncratic and I should be more careful about this in the future
      * I don’t understand the difference between ethics and morals and this is likely to lead to confusion if I don’t resolve this
      * There is probably some inconsistency between my feelings on identity and my feelings on community and I should explore these in more depth and work them out
      * “Respect” is an overloaded term that means more than I thought it does, and I should separate out these constituent components in future lines of reasoning

      Thanks again for writing this comment and I hope you enjoy my reply

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s