So my disastrous (and short-lived) tenure at SSC wasn’t ALL their fault– I charged in there brimming with enthusiasm for my attempt to replicate Arlie Hoschild’s experiment in empathy.  I really should have studied the rationalist community first, I had terrible sampling error and bias.

But my biggest fail is that I wasn’t honest with them.  Consider this exchange.

At this point I was trying to reform my comment style to conform to community standards, so I tried to steelman the argument that O’Keefe was not a trusted source or a journo, but a propagandist.  What I really should have said is, “yes, James O’Keefe IS icky”.  And Donald Trump is icky, Ann Coulter is icky, Charles Murray is icky, Richard Spencer is icky, Heather MacDonald is icky, Milo Yianoppoulis is icky, Kid Rock is icky and Steve Sailor is icky.  These guys are all icky.

What I mean by icky is I have a visceral reaction of revulsion, based on the combined e-history and visuals of these individuals.  I think there has to be a biological component to cause such a strong emotional reaction.   I wonder, do the right rationalists have a comparable visceral reaction to feminists, LGBT, antifa, Obama, Katy Perry, Hillary Clinton, SJWs?  Why are Red Tribe standard bearers so physically unattactive (old, creepy, gross, slimy)?  Does their lack of physical appeal sort incels and channers into the Red Tribe?  Why are all the valorized standard-bearers of the Red Tribe so physically and ideologically unappealing?

I learned a lot at SSC, and I understand myself a lot better.  I get that rationalism, BURGT (Bayesian Utility Rationalist Game Theory) and pure utility theory allow the construction of defenses of any possible human ideology/actions.  But I now think that rationalism is useless without moral theory.  I think philosophy is useless without the public sphere (Arendt).  The perfect exemplar of this would be Donald Trump’s behavior over Charlottesville.  It is rational, given the make-up of his base, but it is amoral, given the make-up of the country.

Nazis are icky.  White supremacists are icky.  And given the amount of SSC comments mirroring Trump’s “both sides do it equally–antifa is even worse” eumeme, there is a lot of support in the rationalist community for Trump’s position.  So this is what Scott Alexander has built– a coven for rational witches.  I heard a lot of argument about the Blue Tribe having equal representation at SSC, but its not equal in volume– liberal tendency commenters pretty much get shouted down– this is what we should expect given conservative tendency traits.

This is a really perceptive article, The Eternal Struggle.  It is one of the two things I read that made me excited about commenting at SSC, the other being UNSONG.  In Struggle Alexander speaks to the cultural evolution that has stranded the Red Tribe outside of traditional institutions and normative standards, and the formation of alternative media bubbles and the burgeoning Red Tribe hatred of academic communities.

Scott Alexander:

“Look. I read Twitter. I know the sorts of complaints people have about this blog. I’m some kind of crypto-conservative, I’m a traitor to liberalism, I’m too quick to sell out under the guise of “compromise”. And I understand the sentiment. I write a lot about how we shouldn’t get our enemies fired lest they try to fire us, how we shouldn’t get our enemies’ campus speakers disinvited lest they try to disinvite ours, how we shouldn’t use deceit and hyperbole to push our policies lest our enemies try to push theirs the same way. And people very reasonably ask – hey, I notice my side kind of controls all of this stuff, the situation is actually asymmetrical, they have no way of retaliating, maybe we should just grind our enemies beneath our boots this one time.”

But what Scott Alexander has done with SSC is just to form another coven.  Its pandering, and I hate pandering. Its disrespectful.  The answer to the disequilibriation of the conservative/liberal Cooperation/Competition Paradigm isn’t to pretend it isnt happening– it is to acknowledge WHY and seek solutions.   Liberals aren’t grinding conservatives beneath our boots– cultural evolution and technological progress are.  When one tribe is gaining reps (replications) and the other isn’t the eventual outcome is pretty certain.

I get the intent of SSC– a place for rational discussion between the two tribes.  But the tribes are no longer persuadable.  SSC has just devolved into rationalizing non-competitive Red Tribe ideology and giving cover to Trump.  The two tribes are diverging– and one side, the demographically and culturally endangered tribe, is moving farther and faster right.  Is the Blue Tribe supposed to move right now?  Because I doubt that will happen.

I tried to talk about asymmetrical polarization at SSC and was pretty much mocked.  I tried to talk about social physics and complexity science and was unsuccessful.  I think Cthulu swims left because of the Second Law.  But SSC commenters would rather not engage with those ideas.  Not sure that plugging your ears with rationalism is an adaptive evolutionary strategy, but watevs.

I wonder if Scott Alexander will say anything about Trump now… not holding my breath.





The Experiment That Failed

I’m increasingly disturbed by the ferocious polarization of America exposed by the 2016 election.  So when I read Arlie Hoschild’s book Stranger’s In Their Own Land I became all excited to scale the “empathy wall” for my own cohort (high IQ high SES high educational attainment).  The SSC commentariat is widely admired– I loved UNSONG, Scott Alexanders alternative kabbalist universe, and the two posts I was instructed to read were awesome.  I think a rationalist community is a noble goal, and the idea of a neutral space for discussion was appealing.  I could finally learn what made conservatives tick!  And scale the empathy wall.

Yet it did not go well.

This is pretty much how SSC saw me:

I was pretty much viewed as an attacker from day one– I was accused of being a troll, of being a moby, of being a sock-puppet for some banned-but-not-forgotten commenters, of being an “islamist” (apparently because I advocate islamic self-representative government instead of trying to bomb/drone muslims into secular democracy), of being a hater, of being a fake.

An SSC commenter hate-stalked my blog, made fun of my passion for social physics, chaos and complexity science, and then held a public shaming to absolve herself of all guilt and further humiliate me.


But I persevered…I tried to change my comment style, tried to learn all the SSC jargon (muggle-realism, incels, paperclips, steelmanning, redpill etc) and learn all the SSC rules and comment-eating monster trigger-words, while weaning myself of my near-pathological addiction to domain acronym speak, and trying to obey the Steelman Protocol.

But in the end, this is how I saw the SSC commentariat– as the Zygote monster from Blomkamp’s new Oats short.  This is sadly convolved with how extremely physically repulsive Trump is to me– I guess that is the real reason I couldn’t believe Trump got elected.  In my head Trump IS the Zygote monster, all mashed together with the worst parts of the Red Tribe, a thousand grasping greedy hands beslimed with blood and fluids.  And I’m sure Red Tribers hated Obama and HRC just as much.

Yeah, I wasn’t assimilated.  I mean, I was trying to fit in when I accidentally drove my up-armored Blue Tribe tendency humvee over an IED buried in my own psyche.

I couldn’t handle the “rationalist” discussion of the utility good of killing-terrorist-families.   I should have quit right there.  To be fair, I never got brave enough to admit to the SSC commentariat that I actually am a muslim revert, whereby I might have used Augustinian circles to explain that all muslims see themselves as part of the Ummah, and that muslims are all technically one tribe.  I thought the moral universe and one tribe theory (we are all h. sapiens sapiens, so we are all one) would have prevented this kind of discussion.   But no.

And I really just couldn’t stand it, so I behaved badly.   I just can’t muster any empathy for these people.  There is a difference between empathy and sympathy.  I feel sympathy for the Red Tribe…their cultural fitness is eroding.  But that isn’t empathy.  I can’t walk in their shoes, I can’t understand them, I can’t scale the wall.

It is said that the SSC comments section is like a dinner party.  Well, I unexpectedly threw up all over the table service during the fish course.  Commenting at SSC actually pushed me way further left.  I’m more Frank Rich than Arlie Hoschild after my little jaunt into cultural tourism.

And the worst thing is, this proves Haidt’s thesis, and doesn’t help at all with mine.

My thesis is that two peer phenotypes arose in the EEA, and polarization is happening because the Red Tribe is losing fitness parity in the 21st century environment.  The CCP is breaking down…but if that’s true, we can fix it!  We can use technology to reshape the adaptive landscape.

But instead it looks like Haidt is correct. And that means there’s no technology fix.

I’m just as complicit in this as the Red Tribe–that is the depressing truth.  “I hate them.”  “They are evil.”  I want to punch-back too.  And punching-back means no more outreach, no more trying to persuade the other side, no more trying to understand them.

If they don’t want to be helped,  just leave them behind.