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E Pur Si Muove (samaltman.com)
647 points by firloop on Dec 14, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 827 comments



Shortly prior to the recent US presidential election, I worked next to a nice, smart young man from California who went to a well-known progressive university in the bay area. Politics was very rarely discussed at work, but in the weeks before the election, there was some cross talk in the isles.

He trusted me enough to message me privately that he was planning to vote for Trump. At that time, I was quite anxious about the thought of a Trump presidency, but I'm pretty far along the open-minded scale, so we chatted about it privately a bit.

My co-worker asked me to not speak about his position and to not let anyone else know about it, because he feared that his 'out of place' political views would, in his words, 'indirectly limit his career options.'

Why he supported Trump is pretty irrelevant, but I found his opinion reasonable, though I disagreed with his overall choice.

You know what? I agreed with his concern at the time, and I still agree with it. Consciously and otherwise, I think that quite a few of the fine progressive folk that we find ourselves surrounded by here in the bay area would hold such an opinion against him in important ways.

I think that a pretty big chunk of Trump's votes came from people who would otherwise not have voted for him...but did so because they sensed, correctly, that their thoughts, ideas and voices were being marginalized (and demonized) by progressives.

At this point, I can't imagine a path forward that has much of a chance of bearing fruit.


> I think that a pretty big chunk of Trump's votes came from people who would otherwise not have voted for him...but did so because they sensed, correctly, that their thoughts, ideas and voices were being marginalized (and demonized) by progressives.

That may be what you personally felt in this single personal anecdote, but it is not at all supported by the results for the bay area in the election[1].

There were an enormous number of Trump voters who explicitly stated that they voted for him because he was the only national candidate to criticize things like NAFTA and other policies which directly hurt them and/or people they knew. Presented with a series of bad options, they picked the guy who spoke to their concerns and naively wrote off the outlandish comments as news-cycle spam. Go back and look at the contested areas in Michigan and Pennsylvania where Trump did well. Or go back and listen to the town hall Bernie Sanders did after the election in West Virginia where Trump performed well-- you can listen directly to what swayed them the most. It wasn't a fear of retribution from progressive tech bosses for non-progressive ideas. It was jobs.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/california-preside...


OP is talking about the fact that people did not want to talk about their voting choice, for fear of criticism and being ostracized.

My mom - and almost all of her friends - are also in that group. What was so surprising about her group of friends was that NONE of them talked about who they were going to vote for, prior to the election - EVEN TO EACH OTHER. AFTER the election they were all shocked to find they all felt the same way and almost all had voted for Trump.

Their silence was directly a consequence of the doxx culture that would have meant their entire lives would be thrown into ruin for sharing their point of view.

Progressive culture in the US has become toxic. The sooner people realize this, the better.


> Their silence was directly a consequence of the doxx culture that would have meant their entire lives would be thrown into ruin for sharing their point of view.

You are making that claim where the evidence is people speculating about a case where they decided not to test the veracity of your claim.

Is there any evidence that your Mom and her friends would have been fired for expressing their political views?

I'm asking because here in the South people who voted for Trump a) express their views when I talk to them, and b) then go on about their day. Frustration, contention, and disagreements, and confusion abide but that's largely a function of Trump's high-noise rhetorical strategy and people (esp. older/retired) getting all their news from a single source. (Btw-- what happened to the stereotype of the proud/responsible U.S. working man reading multiple newspapers at the breakfast table? Is that just a myth of a bygone era?)


It's not worth the risk. What evidence would you like them to present? When progressive people take it upon themselves to call up the employers of people who they disagree with until those people are let go, the evidence is there, in plain sight.


My mom and her friends do not live in the South. That really should have been your first clue.

About reading multiple newspapers at the breakfast table... well, we've spent the last 50 years destroying the family life, time, and perception of our media and journalism that would lead to that behavior, not to mention social media. Why would it survive?


As an outsider to American politics. This is 100% my vision also.

I know a lot of people that have moderate views that are simply shut down by liberals. As a response, they hide and vote for Trump.

I see it as their way to elect someone that is not afraid to go against the accepted view of the elites and therefore going against all that political correctness nonsense.


What "political correctness nonsense"?


Firing people for providing criticism of a company's diversity police, while citing science, and letting your friends in media drag the plaintiff through the mud.

Cancelling events and boycotting sponsors because their speaker line up isn't sufficiently in line with imaginary industry demographics. Or even because a blind selection process, the thing people say they want, ends up selecting a wrongthinker.

Bullying comet-chasing scientists into tearful apologies over their choice of shirt. Or a self deprecating joke. That's just in STEM, you see the same in comedy, in politics, etc.

In each instance, a pitchfork wielding mob was summoned with social media outrage by bad faith actors. And get this, they are the ones who also loudly complain about trolls.

The rule to make sense of it is quite easy: when they do it to you, it's just consequences for speech. When it happens to them, it's targeted harassment that makes people feel unsafe and someone needs to step in and ban it.


'Citing science'. I can think of a few other groups throughout history who have said awful things and backed it up with 'science'.


Yeah! Like Stanford Medical School in 2017. http://stanmed.stanford.edu/2017spring/how-mens-and-womens-b...


Thanks for the link


Sure, you can use science for evil things, like you could use a hammer to hit somebody on the head and a car to run somebody over. The problem here is not hammers and cars. If Damore were challenged on scientific grounds and refuted as such, it'd be fine (tbh, many people did exactly that and stopped there, and they were doing it right). But he was chased out as a heretic, not as someone who wrote scientific paper that was less than solid. He was chased out because him questioning this particular dogma is incompatible with being employed at this place, and because the culture we have now does not allow Google to be perceived as tolerating heretics.


One of the examples is trying to find offense in anything - literally from milk and pumpkin spice lattes to national anthem and math and logic as a basis of science. It's ok to think whether our actions could hurt anybody and adjust accordingly, but when it turns into obsessive offense mining and paranoid banning of anything that could that could be construed as offensive to anybody (usually only by the same people who do the banning, not even by the people that they purport to protect) - for some people it is just too much. It's a difference between reasonable hygiene and OCD when a person washes the hands for 4 hours. The first is great, the second is a debilitating disease. Many people feel the American culture has crossed the boundary into the disease and keeps marching on.


> because he feared that his 'out of place' political views would, in his words, 'indirectly limit his career options.' Why he supported Trump is pretty irrelevant, but I found his opinion reasonable, though I disagreed with his overall choice.

I think in SV, it is a completely reasonable precaution. If you openly declare you are, say, a communist (I don't mean "support Obamacare", I mean real communist, as in nationalize everything, ban private property, etc.), chances that people would shun you and that hurts you carrier are pretty small. If you say you voted for Trump, chances are higher, and I've heard people say as much pretty much open text.


> I think that a pretty big chunk of Trump's votes came from people who would otherwise not have voted for him...but did so because they sensed, correctly, that their thoughts, ideas and voices were being marginalized (and demonized) by progressives.

I'm not sure this observation has much value. Voting for a candidate that shares your values in a time when those values aren't popular is equivalent to doing so when those values are popular. Either way you're voting for a candidate that shares your values. I'm never going to place a spite-vote for someone who doesn't support my views just because my views are unpopular.

And in any case, I think certain views should be demonized. Expressing disparaging things about gay people (the example from the article) should be viewed with the same revulsion as we would today view the historical opinion that people of color were in some way "better suited" for slavery. The view that some people are somehow "less than" shouldn't be tolerated. The paradox of tolerance is very real.


> The paradox of tolerance is very real.

True but we aren't talking about things at that extreme. We were talking about an unwillingness to talk about your policital candidate, for fear of how "liberals" would treat you.

That should be alot more worrying to people than I think it is.


Leaning in from outside the US, the path forward is obvious.

"Progressives" should embrace guns and reject abortion.

That would make them palatable to these mysterious deplorables that seem to hold sway over the US political system, giving them access to the halls of power.

Then said progressives, having kept their powder dry, could expend it on what really matters - convincing the deplorables that science is a thing, and that climate change will kill us all if we don't act.


I know this is a joke and I also think American gun laws could need some adjustment.

That said what I've always been told is to start with myself: maybe my "opponents" are dumb.

That doesn't help anything but my ego.

Instead I'd recommend looking into common ground or another way to present my arguments.

I disagree deeply with a good number of you but still I think most of you don’t realize most of the time since I either shut up or at least present my views somewhat carefully in the hope that someone might get some inspiration.

I've also changed my own, long held opinions on certain topics (e.g. drug policy) not because anyone here ridiculed me but because somebody took the time to explain instead of shouting troll, downvoting and flagging.

I wish more people here would opt for that solution.


Yeah, I probably phrased my post overly provocatively but I wasn't trying to be funny, just logical. And thank you for a reasoned and courteous response. My thoughts were:

1) Mass shootings are horrific, and it seems insane that anyone can own an assault rifle with such low barriers, but at the same time, death from gun violence is statistically low compared to, say, auto accidents. If being in favour of stricter gun regulation to save a few tens of thousand of lives (in a country of hundreds of millions) means alienating a huge percentage of the population, then why not let that one slide. Things will be no worse than they are now.

2) Many people (certainly me) would say that abortion is a woman's right but even if abortion is illegal, back street abortions will still take place. They may be in unsanitory and dangerous conditions, and some deaths will result. But again, statistically speaking, that will only impact a small percentage of the population.

3) Climate change however, seems like it presents an existential danger that could wipe us out as a species. Our growth driven economies seem unequipped to deal with this ultimate tragedy of the commons. Statistically, it will kill 100% of us, or severely degrade our grandchildren's lives, unless we somehow get our shit together on a global scale.

To use a crappy analogy, imagine we're all locked inside a giant container with limited air. There's a blocked air vent at the top, which we can only reach of we all stand on each other's shoulders - i.e. cooperate.

In such circumstances, why continue bickering over what music we should play while we wait for suffocation? Surely it would be better to listen to the other guys music, if it got him onside, and allowed us to move away from our tribal stances and work together on some action against the common threat.


While climate change is extremely serious, I don’t think there are any models that show it causing human extinction. The second half of your statement is more accurate to show degradation. But pairing it with extinction makes it harder to see your point through the hyperbole.


If only those gun violence victims knew they were more likely to die in an auto accident, that would totally change things. Are you saying the effects of both should only be taken as death statistics?

The effects of mass shootings isn't just about the amount of people killed. It's about the anxiety it creates nationally or globally. That's basically what makes terrorism so powerful, but it's not as easy to measure those effects and what they can lead to.


Sad that, it seems, any political comment with a spark of humour on here is voted down.

From G.K. Chesterton: "A critic once remonstrated with me saying, with an air of indignant reasonableness, “If you must make jokes, at least you need not make them on such serious subjects.” I replied with a natural simplicity and wonder, “About what other subjects can one make jokes except serious subjects?” It is quite useless to talk about profane jesting. All jesting is in its nature profane, in the sense that it must be the sudden realization that something which thinks itself solemn is not so very solemn after all.

... The thing which is fundamentally and really frivolous is not a careless joke. The thing which is fundamentally and really frivolous is a careless solemnity. If Mr. McCabe really wishes to know what sort of guarantee of reality and solidity is afforded by the mere act of what is called talking seriously, let him spend a happy Sunday in going the round of the pulpits. Or, better still, let him drop in at the House of Commons or the House of Lords. Even Mr. McCabe would admit that these men are solemn — more solemn than I am. And even Mr. McCabe, I think, would admit that these men are frivolous — more frivolous than I am. Why should Mr. McCabe be so eloquent about the danger arising from fantastic and paradoxical writers? Why should he be so ardent in desiring grave and verbose writers? There are not so very many fantastic and paradoxical writers. But there are a gigantic number of grave and verbose writers; and it is by the efforts of the grave and verbose writers that everything that Mr. McCabe detests (and everything that I detest, for that matter) is kept in existence and energy. How can it have come about that a man as intelligent as Mr. McCabe can think that paradox and jesting stop the way? It is solemnity that is stopping the way in every department of modern effort. It is his own favourite “serious methods;” it is his own favourite “momentousness;” it is his own favourite “judgment” which stops the way everywhere." - from Heretics, 1905

https://www.ccel.org/ccel/chesterton/heretics.xvi.html


Are you kidding? Progressives openly reject science when it doesn't fit their ideology. We saw that with the response to Damore.


You don't know why Damore was fired and neither does anyone else publicly know. His 'manifesto' is a poorly written rant that leaves holes for people to project their ideology onto, like you are right now. What he wrote was neither progressive nor even conservative, but a naive, meandering diatribe with cherry-picked evidence, all of which would have been water under the bridge if it wasn't blown up by a slow press cycle.


Here is Stanford Medical school on the subject, from just this past Spring: http://stanmed.stanford.edu/2017spring/how-mens-and-womens-b...

And a highly cited study from 2013 addressing Damore's topic directly: http://atavisionary.com/study-index/intelligence-psychometri...

The evidence is not 'cherry picked'. It is abundant, comprehensively researched, and well replicated. Take a trip to Google Scholar yourself. It is certainly not 'fringe'. That's why the public reaction was so absurd. Damore was fired for exactly the type of phenomenon Sam Altman is talking about in this post.


Neither of these links you provide have to do with Damore's rant, nor are they mentioned in his claims.

Damore wasn't arguing that men's and women's bodies were different - he was taking papers about biological differences and stretching them to supporting his unfounded claims that social differences are based on biology, not social constructs, because he was upset at Google's programs that fight social biases. Some of his citations are cherry picked nonsense, for example the big five analyses saying women are neurotic [1], which have been discredited as being weak lexical factor analysis that can't be attributed to biology [2] (like gender).

The fact that you think these papers are relevant to Damore's memo just further proves the vagueness of his diatribe, and demonstrates your own willingness to project your own views onto it.

[1] https://www.bradley.edu/dotAsset/165918.pdf

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3903487/


The first link is an article from Stanford Medicine on the overwhelming evidence for the evolved biological cognitive differences between men and women, how this shapes their interests and average cognitive strengths. It's not a paper, it's a comprehensive review of the research presented to inform the public. Did you even read it?

> There was too much data pointing to the biological basis of sex-based cognitive differences to ignore, Halpern says. For one thing, the animal-research findings resonated with sex-based differences ascribed to people. These findings continue to accrue. In a study of 34 rhesus monkeys, for example, males strongly preferred toys with wheels over plush toys, whereas females found plush toys likable. It would be tough to argue that the monkeys’ parents bought them sex-typed toys or that simian society encourages its male offspring to play more with trucks. A much more recent study established that boys and girls 9 to 17 months old — an age when children show few if any signs of recognizing either their own or other children’s sex — nonetheless show marked differences in their preference for stereotypically male versus stereotypically female toys...

The second link is about the advantage men have in mechanical reasoning and how it likely contributes to their representation in STEM fields. It's the title of the paper.


Observational correlation != causation. If you had read the articles you'd posted, you see that neither of them claim attributable biological causes to differences in gender behavior and social biases.

From the Stanford article (which is not peer reviewed):

>Trying to assign exact percentages to the relative contributions of “culture” versus “biology” to the behavior of free-living human individuals in a complex social environment is tough at best. Halpern offers a succinct assessment: “The role of culture is not zero. The role of biology is not zero.”

Yet again, Damore's paper wasn't making the argument that observational biological differences exist, the point of which you've missed because you're eagerly still trying to prove it right now. Damore's diatribe was that Google's combating of social bias was wrong, and he cherry picked specific data and stretched evidence to falsely support his viewpoint. Which, in context to this thread, is still neither progressive nor conservative and continuing to be proven vague.


> Damore's diatribe was that Google's combating of social bias was wrong

No, it wasn't. In fact, the exact opposite: he literally says "I hope it's clear that I'm not saying that ... we shouldn't try to correct for existing biases".


Damore didn't reference your [1] to quote that "women are neurotic", he used it to quote that "greater nation-level gender equality leads to psychological dissimilarity in men’s and women’s personality traits".

Your [2] doesn't even cite [1], and in any case, [1] has almost 800 citations, while [2] is only cited by the author herself in her other papers. Seems like a stretch to call [1] "discredited".


[2] is the one of the most recent criticisms of the Big Five method, which is the crux used in [1]. If [2] cited every paper that used the Big Five method incorrectly as biological factor analysis, it would be in the hundreds.

Number of citations is terrible metric to defend a paper because the reason [2] has less citations is because [2] was published 3 years ago, while [1] was published almost a decade ago.

Appeals to popularity are logic fallacies for a reason.


[1] had almost 100 citation in its first 3 years, while [2] still has no citation by anyone else other than its author. If [2] really had discredited an entire field of research, I'd imagine that anyone at all would talk about it even once.



You are bringing up paper which had literally zero impact in 3 years it's been out. Why should I waste time reading it? Clearly, no scientist who has ever read it has found it worth to even mention it. The burden to show that it is relevant is on you.


I really wish Silicon Valley was a place where a man's ideas could be critiqued without the need to attack the man.

You have the base for a really good argument that could sway people who are on the fence about the issue but when you say things like "vagueness of his diatribe" you alienate the people you want to change the most.


Unfortunately, most of the deplorables would just find new reasons to hate Democrats, because their party preference is rooted in tribalism rather than in policy, and you'd scare off lots of lefties who don't think the state should be outlawing important medical procedures.


> Unfortunately, most of the deplorables would just find new reasons to hate Democrats

That is objectively false - Trump won because white voters in the rust belt swung 25 points from Obama to Trump. If you were right that they voted only Republican out of tribalism then Obama would never have won those states.


Trump would have lost if he lost 80,000 votes in three states that could swing the electoral college. That doesn't sound as big a swing as 25 points.


Why not? Trump didn't win them by much, but it can still be a big swing if Obama won these states by a lot. A quick google shows that this appears to be the case.

Trump may have won michigan by only 10k votes, but Obama had a margin of half a million in 2012.


I said "most," not "all." A 25 point swing among white voters in the rust belt does not come anywhere close to disproving "most."


Trump used and continues to use racial dog whistles in his speeches and official tweets. It's part of the reason 90-95 percent of African Americans vote for anyone else over a GOP candidate given the opportunity - if you hear it, it's hard to accept anything else from that speaker. Trump got close to the same vote percentages as historical GOP presidential candidates, Trump is not special in that people departed from their normal behavior to vote for him in some large silent wave.


I don't mean to be trite, but are you saying this person voted for Trump to "own the libs"?

Doing something out of spite like that is a pretty miserable experience...


> are you saying this person voted for Trump to "own the libs"?

No, that's not what I said nor is it what I implied. He voted for Trump because, among other reasons, he thought Mrs. Clinton was a terrible candidate and would make a terrible president, and he personally weighed that more heavily than what he knew of Trumps disadvantages.

I don't agree with that assessment, but it is reasonable.


>I think that a pretty big chunk of Trump's votes came from people who would otherwise not have voted for him...but did so because they sensed, correctly, that their thoughts, ideas and voices were being marginalized (and demonized) by progressives.

I read that as "we wouldn't vote for Trump, but did anyways because of how progressives see us". Maybe I misread this.


> I read that as "we wouldn't vote for Trump, but did anyways because of how progressives see us". Maybe I misread this.

Yep. I know a great many people who voted for that reason. They felt marginalized, and their vote was the only way they could strike back - because talking could ruin their lives.


Besides how you feel about it, how does your friend feel about it? Have his expectations been met?


I believe that he feels like he made a mistake.


The author says that it's safer to discuss "controversial" ideas in Beijing than America, but I wonder if that's partly because the ideas in question aren't actually controversial in Beijing. Presumably the ideas the author has in mind are those that might be interpreted to impugn certain disadvantaged groups. But if I found it more easy to say "gay people are degenerates" in Beijing, I don't think I would take that as evidence that free speech norms are more robust there--it might just mean that homophobia is the norm.


Yeah, whatever points this article had were completely marred by terrible examples.

Saying it's easier to talk about things in China vs US. I've been to China and you can get thrown in jail for saying the type of things we say re. our political environment. My friends there have to speak in whispers in public while people in SF have no problem raging about our politicians.

And saying we should "allow people to say disparaging things about gay people if we want them to be able to say novel things about physics". At its least a really poor choice of words there. The choice of words makes it sound like it's okay to stand aside while they spout bigotry. Perhaps he meant it's okay to say it, but we should argue against it - but unfortunately for him that point was not made because the intention of the article was to support free speech. Bad example.


> Yeah, whatever points this article had were completely marred by terrible examples.

The article isn't that complicated. He meant to say exactly what he did say.

Which makes sense, given the entire point of tolerating free speech is that people are free to say terrible things, not "moderately uncomfortable" things.

Executive summary: (1) Open societies are more innovative. (2) Silicon Valley is becoming less tolerant of divergent viewpoints. (3) This is primarily culture-driven, but will likely have an effect on innovative science, which by definition starts as sounding somewhat crazy.


> (2) Silicon Valley is becoming less tolerant of divergent viewpoints.

As measured by what? Are there people being jailed for expressing a divergent opinion, or being refused service in restaurants/hotels/shops/etc, or unable to find employment?

For the latter point, employment, some people are likely to pick one of the few examples that routinely get reused in this discussion - such as Damore + Google, or Eich + Mozilla. But are these kind of things actually happening at an increasing rate? Because I recall similar things happening in the 2000s, and 90s, and I wasn't around before but they likely did too (and go back a few decades earlier, and it'd be saying something like "women can be engineers just like men" or "black people can be doctors just like white people" that'd get you ostracized, so yeah). So unless you have actual data showing that there has been an increase in people getting fired/being denied employment in the past 5-10 years for having divergent viewpoints, there's nothing there.

If your main measure for "less tolerant of divergent viewpoints" is "people being mean to you on Twitter", well yeah, that's part of living in an open society. In fact one could equally argue that people feeling more empowered to call out things they disagree with is the very hallmark of an open society.


People are actively trying to make others "unemployable" so, yes, unable to find employment.


My main measure for that happened is that Sam Altman feels like that may be happening.

Appeal to authority, but I admit he's in a better place than I to see whether it is or isn't in funding circles.


> I've been to China and you can get thrown in jail for saying the type of things we say re. our political environment.

It's jail vs sacking; different aspects of the same reaction.


Huh? In SF I can walk down the street or go into a restaurant and hear people saying how bad Trump is. In China if someone hears you, they will report you and you will be taken in. How in the world is this the same reaction?


Try explaining to your colleagues at work that the distribution of certain traits is slightly different in different genders and see what happens. In at least one company this didn't go well. The reaction is the same because those in power punish instead of explaining, only the aspect is different. Obviously I much prefer the SF version as at least I'm not in jail and can look for work somewhere else, but the feeling of lost freedom is in there, in many people.


That's a pretty terrible example. Instead try telling people in SF how great Trump is, and see how many friends you make.

(Not that this reflects my opinion of Trump.)


To give another example, imagine if the in a short while the Supreme Court rules that in favor of the CO baker and says that he is not compelled to create a cake for a gay wedding. Would you feel safe expressing support for the decision at a lunch with your team?


A lot of people think you have to watch what you say in China, and they almost always are people who have never been there. There are very specific political things you can't do, but otherwise literally not one gives a shit about you. You can say what you want, and unless you specifically go organize a large group of people and screaming in public something politically sensitive, no one cares. Ideally in a society we don't want those people anyways.


We don’t want organized political activists? Maybe you don’t, but I would say the US, for example, is better off thanks to Rosa Parks, MLK, and those other pesky people that “go organize a large of people and scream in public something politically sensitive.”


> You can say what you want, and unless you specifically go organize a large group of people and screaming in public something politically sensitive

note: screaming includes what we would call "organizing" and "protesting", including simply using online groups to form such protests.

So, yes, you do have to watch what you say. If you criticize the government for corrupt police or a chemical plant explosion that caused unjust deaths, you can expect to be locked up for an unspecified amount of time and forced to sign a confession of wrongdoing.

Heck, even if you're outside of China you have to watch what you say. Book dealers in Hong Kong have been abducted and held indefinitely in China for selling the wrong books. So much for "one country, two systems"


I found that to be the case in Cuba. It actually felt more liberating than a typical American city, in that I could walk down the street alone drinking a beer at night in the middle of the city without fear. However, I also know that, like most totalitarian regimes, they'll allow a good bit of flex until they decide not to anymore, and then the crackdown is swift.


You should try central Europe - you can walk the city with beer in hand AND not have a dictator that can imprison you for life for banality.


As a tourist that's how you felt, but did you speak to the people who live there? What you'll find is a people scared to criticize their dictatorship government, which is incredibly rich and lives a life of luxury whilst their citizens are very poor.


Yep, I did. In fact, our government-provided tour guide was pretty open about that. I'm sure he felt that he could be open with us because the government largely doesn't care that much about micromanaging the impressions tourists get. So monitoring what he tells us simply is not a high priority. They care about long-term domestic control.

My point was just that for any short amount of time in most totalitarian states, you're unlikely to encounter the arbitrary crackdowns that have a chilling effect on free expression for people who live their permanently.


Care to clarify what do you mean by "Ideally in a society we don't want those people anyways."? Everything happens around you and me are politics. Do you really think a 1984-like PRC is best of the citizen there. I don't think so.


Also, perhaps the authors status in San Francisco means that any comments he makes will be more likely to get attention (and hence criticism) than in China.


In China, the author is a visiting foreign multimillionaire — the type of person whose conversation will be enthusiastically received no matter the content.


That would likely be the reaction in whatever country he was visiting. Being multimillionaire and foreign makes the difference.

Contracts with government == money+jobs == votes -> power.

Contracts with politician owned company == money -> power.


I thought it was ironic that earlier today I read an article about China's (by way of private companies) "Social Ranking" score from Wired[1], part of it entails journalist Liu Hu being part of the "Supreme People's Court black list" and the fallout that it entailed.

It's convenient to be a tourist sometimes.

1. https://www.wired.com/story/age-of-social-credit/


Holy sh that is incredibly disturbing.


The challenge Sam Altman would not dare - try to go to Tiananmen Square on June 4th and talk about what happened in 1989.


The range of controversial subjects in China is incredibly narrow, but the punishments worse.

For the most part, no one in your every day life gives a shit what you say or do.

For Americans and nationals of other privileged countries there is even more tolerance for the controversial subjects.


this is exactly the case. Try saying "taiwan is an independent country" in beijing and see how well that statement is received


Seems like a sensible theme to explore but is this data or conjecture? I'd make a similarly anecdotal conjecture that you'd be met with rigorous debate but your social character standing won't be affected by bringing this topic up, nor would it be socially acceptable for your opponent to use ad hominem at any point. This is the theme the author is addressing.


but one can put you in jail and the other can't.


Saying Taiwan is another country won't put you in jail. Unless you're actually working towards this goal.

Saying hiring more male software engineers may not be that wrong, however, do put you out of your job.


Even Justin Bieber is banned because 'he has engaged in a series of bad behaviours, both in his social life and during a previous performance in China, which caused discontent among the public', and he isn't even politically active or anything. China's public sphere is highly controlled.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/21/justin-bieber-...


Or this, just showed up on my Twitter stream:

>A Chinese man has been jailed for a year for stamping on a portrait of Mongol ruler Genghis Khan, after being found guilty of inciting ethnic hatred.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42364214?ocid=socialflow_...


> it might just mean that homophobia is the norm

Or it could mean nobody understands your English. Does @sama even speak Chinese?


I think this is a radical simplification of what is a complex problem. Genetic engineering as a whole is known to be an area strewn with moral hazards, and not least harks back to some of the darkest days of 20th century science.

Having an ethical outlook isn't a form of heresy, it's a form of societal safety. We need to accept that some of these ideas (probably not all - it's always difficult to get on the right side of the line) are inherently dangerous.

Particularly when we start involving healthcare, a "move fast/break things" type approach can be extremely detrimental, for example.


> We need to accept that some of these ideas ... are inherently dangerous.

This line of reasoning leads to censorship. It's the same line of reasoning used by every dictator and demagogue as well as China today. Why? The idea of democracy seems dangerous to a king.

Ideas are not dangerous. Ideas are never dangerous. Ideas acted upon might cause danger or harm, but an idea itself never does, never has, and never will cause harm directly.

Open debate of ideas, or the testing of opposing ideas to find the best among them, is necessary for progress... not only to find and establish new ideas, but to question widely held ideas today in the hopes of finding something better. To have open debate--to find the best ideas--you need to listen to ideas with which you might not agree, or which you might find--if acted upon--dangerous.


Yes, some ideas are inherently dangerous. An idea of atoms splitting leads to an atomic bomb, for instance.

Some substances, tools, machines, etc are also inherently dangerous, and can't be made not to be.

Does this mean that we should never use a saw, light a fire, or discuss [insert a controversial topic here]?

Somehow people came up with protocols to work with inherently dangerous material things that lower the risk of a serious injury to acceptable bounds. I don't see why this would not apply to inherently dangerous ideas.

I'd hazard to say that for the last 2500 years quite a few devices were invented in this space, allowing to think much of the previously unthinkable without turning into ravaging monsters or becoming insane. I suspect that we could just continue using these devices (e.g. "freedom of speech", "critical thinking", separation of author's personality form their ideas, etc), instead of running in terror from "dangerous ideas" while swinging a banhammer.


> Yes, some ideas are inherently dangerous. An idea of atoms splitting leads to an atomic bomb, for instance.

You're missing the parent's point. An idea not being acted upon is not dangerous. The idea of splitting atoms is not dangerous and the atomic bomb is not dangerous: An atomic bomb getting built (the idea being acted upon) is dangerous.

Why are full disclosure policies recommended by security researchers? Why is open source healthy for security in general? Why is "security through obscurity" frowned upon? Because it is important to be able to discuss threats in order to better protect yourself from them.

Burying your head in the sand is just a shitty tactic for dealing with danger. Being able to discuss controversial ideas is extremely important, whether it's to better protect yourself from them (eg. extreme-right ideology) or to independently research facts hidden from you by people who don't have your best interests in mind (eg. north korean censorship).

And let's be honest here, from what I've seen of my (left leaning) twitter feed, Sam is being attacked extremely harshly for his "controversial" post. If people here think that the article is wrong, this is a terrible way to prove it so.


Leave the security community out of it. Your rhetorical questions are not at all settled dogma in the community.

> Why are full disclosure policies recommended by security researchers?

This is still a somewhat controversial issue. Coordinated or "responsible" disclosure appears to be advocated by most security researchers. Meanwhile, the full-disclosure mailing list still exists, but the activity on the list is far lower than it once was.

> Why is open source healthy for security in general?

This is also controversial. Open source software has its fair share in-the-wild 0days. The "many eyes" theory only works if there actually are many friendly eyes, and so far, it seems like that is not true. Nobody does this crap for free.

> Why is "security through obscurity" frowned upon? Because it is important to be able to discuss threats in order to better protect yourself from them.

"Security through obscurity" does not come from the "information must be free" community. The phrase comes from the idea that you should assume that your adversary knows everything about the defenses you have set up.


> An idea not being acted upon is not dangerous.

A gun not being fired is not dangerous. A deadly virus that is contained is not dangerous. Ideas are seeds; action is impossible without them. All you're doing is pushing the responsibility one step further; instead of preventing the spread of ideas we have to prevent their effects. Now instead of dealing with the cause, we have to deal with the symptoms.

A meme like "immigrants are the source of all our problems" is a dangerous idea, because of the actions it can directly cause. Preventing its spread is just good mental hygiene.

Cults are another place where ideas are most certainly dangerous; but this time for the individual. So is any religion/ideology people are willing to die for.

Most ideas are not dangerous. Also, I might be completely wrong; if I lived in Galileo's time, I might be claiming heliocentricity is a dangerous idea.


A meme like "immigrants are universally good for our country" is also a dangerous idea.


Beyond what 'scrollaway wrote, I'd add that even granting some degree of danger inherent to an idea, it's only because dangerous is synonymous with powerful, which - in case of science and technology - is usually synonymous with useful.

So the idea of atoms splitting leads to atomic bombs, which - when used on people - are evil, but it also leads to nuclear power plants (and by extension, to fixing current energy problems in an environmentally-friendly way), it leads to new scanning methods in medicine, it leads to improvements in agriculture, etc., and it leads to many similarly powerful spin-off ideas. Hell, it could open up the Solar System for us if people weren't scared shitless of it. Sure we got MAD, and we pointed a lot of nukes at each other, but we survived, and so far we're much better off with the idea of splitting atoms than without it.

And genetic engineering, while opening us up for new kinds of dangers, also has so much more potential than nuclear physics. It has the theoretical capacity of solving most of the problems of humanity, from food supply and environmental damage, to sickness, decay and death. I'd say that the biggest moral hazard here is not pursuing it.

And ultimately, let's not forget that scientific ideas are either good or bad models of the world, and whatever practical danger that comes of it is because of people who go apeshit and exploit achievements of science and technology to further their insanity. So maybe let's focus on restricting the impact of dangerous groups of people. As for the ideas themselves, to quote Eugene T. Gendlin:

  What is true is already so.
  Owning up to it doesn't make it worse.
  Not being open about it doesn't make it go away.
  And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
  Anything untrue isn't there to be lived.
  People can stand what is true,
  for they are already enduring it.


Ideas being dangerous is one of the reasons that free speech is important. If they weren’t dangerous to someone nobody would bother opposing them.


Having an ethical outlook is a great idea. And it's good to criticise ideas you think are unethical.

The point of the post is that just because a person presents an unethical idea doesn't make that person universally unethical. The point is to separate the ideas from the person presenting them, so that people can feel free to present novel ideas without fearing damage to their reputation if the ideas are unpopular.


> The entire point of the post is to separate the ideas from the person presenting them.

But that wasn't the entire point of the post. The post also didn't like people criticizing life-extending research, when the examples were people criticizing the direction of the research itself.

The post was hazy about what, exactly, it wanted people to stop doing, but it seemed to dislike any criticism.

Whether the "life extension is bad for the environment" argument was a good argument or not, criticism of the ethics of work must be part of free discussion.


The article made the distinction between criticism of an idea and criticism of the person behind the idea. "Of course we can and should say that ideas are mistaken, but we can’t just call the person a heretic. We need to debate the actual idea." It says right there that criticism of an idea is welcome.


Moreover, "heresy" implies that a person becomes heretic - socially despicable - by embracing an idea. This is what the author opposes. And for good reason - embracing the concept of heresy means you're only allowed to think things sanctioned by the current sociopolitical philosophy. And since every society has some amount of batshit insane ideas it believes, allowing for heresy means cutting out the safest / most peaceful way of correcting that insanity.


It's fine to criticise the ethics of the work. Beneficial, in fact. The problem arises when you can't separate the ethics of the work from the ethics of the person doing the work.

When "this is a bad idea, maybe you should stop" becomes "you are a bad person".


It's fine in theory to criticise the ethics of the idea alone, but there can be a limit to that.

If the CEO of a mining company has the "ingenious, un-PC idea" to increase mining profits by lobbying Congress and donating to sympathetic lawmakers to ease EPA regulations so he can dump mercury directly in the river, my ethical argument against the idea is that it damages the environment and the people in the communities, possibly for generations.

If his answer is "I know that, but I value profits more," what is left to discuss about the ethics of the idea? We agree on the facts of the matter.

All that's left is for me to say "I think your moral framework is very different from mine," which is really not that different from my saying "I think you are a bad person."


But can't you see the difference here? There is no argument that dumping mercury in a river is good for society, the environment or anything else. It's only "good" for this companies profits and even the real value there is a question given the impact on most people working there.

But extending human life? Maybe it will be bad. Maybe people will keep having children at the same rate and with no one dying anymore the whole planet is completely full of selfish people who don't care about others of the environment. Maybe only the rich will have access, block everyone else from getting it and control the world by simply out living anyone who is in their way.

But what comparable things do we actually see in history? In every country I'm aware of, once basic survival is taken mostly for granted people stop having kids as quickly and often as they can. In fact these days people often wait so long they depend on science to make birth even possible in their advanced age. And most people have, at most, 2 kids.

Imagine if we lived 10k years. Some people might say "well, lets have our kids right now so we can give up 18 years or so now and then have the rest to ourselves" but I suspect most people would say "what's the rush?". Some would even say "why invest 18+ years to extend my legacy to someone I can't control, can only marginally influence for a decade or two? In 10k years they're bound to solve death all-togher. I'll be my own legacy! And if, after 9,900 years they still haven't done it, I can always reproduce then". Imagine not wondering if there was a Troy, we could just ask the people who lived there. In society, we tend to be safe from some tragedy until most people who lived it are dead then we fall in the same trap again. What if they didn't die?

I say all that to say, it is not remotely obvious that extending human life is in the same category of behavior as dumping mercury in the river to make a few bucks so the consequences should not be the same or even similar.


Sure, life-extension is a nuanced question, but the topic under question is whether we should ever criticize the person presenting an "outside-the-box, maybe un-PC" idea, rather than criticize the idea itself.

My mining company example was much closer to the kinds of ideas that are actually pushed by people in the real world, quite frequently, more so than the article's anecdote about life-extension being criticized.

I'm saying that some people seem to pursue profits in such a way that they clearly have a moral framework that doesn't match mine, and arguing over the ethics of the idea with them is fruitless.

Did whoever it was at Volkswagen who had the bright idea to make cars have a system to detect when they were being tested, and change their emissions accordingly, really need someone to debate with about the ethics of the idea? I don't think that was a case of someone with a simple lack of knowledge of the ethical arguments.

These are the kinds of "innovations" people are coming up with in the real world, more-so than life-extension. People are going to create new apps that allow microloans with Bitcoin, with usurious rates, and market them to poor people. People are going to create dolls that listen to your kids and use the info to market toys to them. People are going to create devices to allow you to monitor your health, and sell the info to drug companies, or even to employers. There are going to be plenty of Bad Ideas where the people peddling them know the ethical arguments against them. At some point, we get to criticize the people coming up with these ideas as well.


On the other hand, people not only drive, but also oppose progress; as a smarter than me person (don't remember who it was) said: Science advances one funeral at a time (it's basically like evolution). If people stop dying (barring accidents), we'll basically stop advancing as well.


Aging eventually impairs the brain. If life extension is possible, it will have to protect pretty much all your organs from aging, and why would the brain be excluded?


Paradigm shifts would become much more rare due to ossification of power structures in intellectual and business arenas.


Again, you're preseenting assumptions. We don't know that things will still work that way if people lived radically longer. You certainly don't know that well enough to shun people who try to find out.


Fearing damage to your reputation if your ideas are unpopular is literally how society works. Unethical ideas aren't just unethical out of the ether, they usually involve harming someone or some group. Putting those ideas forward should come with risk to yourself because it definitely comes with risks to others.


This is a reasonable point in the abstract, but it doesn't account for the current reality in which "Look, I found a heretic" affords such outsized rewards in karma (or social cachet, or the personal satisfaction of having taken down a baddie, or whatever you want to call it).

Fifty years ago, you could say women are too dumb to program computers and still keep your job and be invited to dinner parties, and now you would be fired and shunned. Progress, right? The problem is, that power - the power to destroy careers of people who have done something bad - is not being wielded consistently or sparingly. We're aiming it at misogynists and homophobes, and also their defenders, and also people aren't defending them per se but kinda sound like they are if you only read the headline.

(But the point of the essay is not that Brendan Eich and James Damore shouldn't have been fired; it's that the "Brendan Eich and James Damore should be fired" position has caused a chilling effect on open dialogue.)


Nitpicking here, but your example was somewhat ironic, as 50 years ago, Computer were predominantly programmed by women [1] , so the heretical idea would have been to say that men should be programming computers.

[1] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/computer-programmi...


"Programmer" was a data entry job that we automated away. They were basically compiling flowcharts that were written by "systems analysts" doing the work we would call programming.

It's like an "EPROM programmer", which is a tool to make the hardware run the software.


In the old days it was thought that only the implementation of an idea could cause harm. The only evidence I've seen presented that the idea itself is harmful rests upon an assumption it will obviously be implemented or you wouldn't be thinking about it. It's aenthema to a free thinker.


Fair fair but to be clear the one example in this article is calling someone unethical who is working to implement an idea.

"people working on this must be really unethical"


It is not clear or obvious that allowing people to live longer is unethical. Resorting inmediately to an ad hominem is not an appropriate form of debate.

No individual has a moral obligation to debate ideas. However if debate is shut down with fallacious arguments it limits the ability for the idea to progress.

If this happens too often then progress will be slowed. That is the point of this post.


But the argument isn't fallacious and it's not an ad hom...

Extending life expectancy will increase human population and harm our environment and that harm to the environment will harm future generations so individuals working towards extending life expectancy are hurting future generations and that's unethical which makes them unethical. You can disagree with the argument but it's not fallacious.


By that argument all medical care is unethical.

Regardless ideas need to be discussed divorced from the people presenting them. Medical care is no more or less ethical because Hitler is making the argument.


Yes but this isn't about presenting an argument, the one example given in this blog post is about someone working towards a goal. If that goal is unethical and the person is working towards it we should be able to call them unethical. It's not about whether Hitler is saying medical care is good, it's about whether someone working to exterminate the Jews can be called unethical.


Everyone has done something that caused harm at some point. If that is the bar to declare a person unethical then we all are. In this framework you are right but it makes the label useless.

Most people would require action which creates direct (not second order as in this example) harm of a large magnitude before applying the label to a person.

In any case labels mean different things to different people in emotionally charged subjects. Which is why they don't have a place in honest debate.


>Most people would require action which creates direct (not second order as in this example) harm of a large magnitude before applying the label to a person.

That doesn't make any sense. If I directly try to eradicate the Jews I'm immoral, if my actions just have a second or third order effect of eradicating the Jews then I'm not? Most people probably use the direct vs second order distinction when it's themselves who are doing something unethical via second order effects but that's just to save some cognitive dissonance. If I know my actions have second order effects of hurting lots of people and I still do it that's unethical.

>In any case labels mean different things to different people in emotionally charged subjects. Which is why they don't have a place in honest debate.

Reality isn't an honest debate, reality is realpolitik. People are likely to be emotionally charged when they're told that it's okay they're being hurt because it's just a second order effect after all. Learn to deal with that emotion and argue against it, not make posts on the internet opining for something which never existed.


> If I directly try to eradicate the Jews I'm immoral, if my actions just have a second or third order effect of eradicating the Jews then I'm not?

This is a common moral principle; it is found in, for instance, the classical Christian doctrine on homicide, where directly willed killing is (leaving aside war and capital punishment) categorically prohibited, but killing (even when it is a certain result, or as nearly so as practically occurs) incidental to some act with a different end is not categorically prohibited, but judged according to the proportionality of the risked harm of the act with the harm it was avoiding. (Self-defense doctrine in American, and some other, law is ultimately strongly influenced by this principle, though it diverges a bit from it.)


First order effects are easily anticipated such that intent can be assumed. Second order effects are not always obvious even to experts in the field and so require debate and consideration. Intent is unlikely in this case without evidence to the contrary.

Of course If your definition of unethical doesn't require intent to harm then this is a meaningless distinction. Another Reason why labels are unhelpful.


>Extending life expectancy will increase human population

[citation needed]

>harm our environment

[citation needed]

>individuals working towards extending life expectancy are hurting future generations

[citation needed]

We don't know any of those things. You can debate it. Even passionately so, but it's wrong and dangerous to assume your unproven beliefs are facts and label people based on them.


And yet here we're discussing an idea for which you personally believe that someone or some group will be harmed but it is not certain, some of us would say it's not even likely. Some of us would even say it would be a great benefit to society and have the opposite affect you claim.

But because you believe (perhaps even irrationally) that the idea could harm you give yourself, and anyone who thinks as you do, the right to damage people's reputation. History has shown this to be very dangerous behavior.


> just because a person presents an unethical idea doesn't make that person universally unethical.

Reminds me of a Kill the Poor sketch by Mitchell and Webb.


I think the difference is if you consider the /idea/ inherently dangerous, or the potential /outcome/ dangerous.

Yes, it's subtle, but the current shift in the US is towards ideas being dangrous


The criticism quoted wasn't about ethical problems in genetic engineering research. It was about life extension as a goal.

I can imagine a debate about that, but I can't see how it is appropriate to create a toxic environment for life extension advocates.

Apparently these researchers / advocates found the environment so toxic they were motivated to move. Perhaps they were over-reacting but it seems likely something is wrong.

And "move fast / break things" applied to human biology research is entirely an insertion of the commenter, not remotely an implication of Altman's piece.


The idea that "ideas can be dangerous" is a dangerous idea.


> We need to accept that some of these ideas are inherently dangerous.

We created atom bombs. Some say AI can destroy humanity (perhaps Sam himself) but here we are, I don’t think you can stop science.. it’s what makes us human.


You can definitely stop science. There's a reason we don't secretly infect populations with various diseases just to see what happens anymore.


> anymore

and I'd also add "to the best of our armchair knowledge"


And to yours, I'd add "for values of 'anymore' smaller than last 30 years", and kindly remind everyone that US military used to spray pathogens on its own, unsuspecting populace, in order to experimentally explore the areas of bioweapons defense and offense.


yeah honestly puzzled why that's so downed since there are still living person whom did that shit, it is not even one generation past and this place is like "we're the supreme moral force of the world! hurr durr"!


I thought yours a very interesting, worthwhile and thought-provoking comment. I'm puzzled why it's voted down. Maybe too succinct. 3^4 words good, 3^2 words baad?


it's because rule#324 subsection 20 of this site

"usa did nothing wrong"


Certain religions have effectively stopped science at the local/regional scale.

Religion is the anathema to science.


Are you saying ideas you consider inherently dangerous are good candidates for censoring?


> We need to accept that some of these ideas (probably not all - it's always difficult to get on the right side of the line) are inherently dangerous.

ostracizing hypothetical talks is the problem here, not pursuing the unethical goal; just talking about what part of the goal makes it unethical is being shut down (according to the article)


What do you mean by "ethical outlook?" Who doesn't have one? You may not agree with their ethics, but they're there. If you're talking about shared ethics, that's known as morality.


Complex indeed, it's a multidimensional balancing act.

Both technology and ethics can progress and regress across a huge range of concepts. Too much unexamined progress (of either tech or ethics) in one area can lead to terrible outcomes.

Being able to debate and have these conversations is essential to finding the balance.

I'm reading this as complaint about opinions condemning discussion of certain concepts, which is fair. But to ignore that other concepts face the same type of condemnation in China is... amazing.


That's exactly what the blog post wasn't realizing. Throwing out ethics is like throwing out law and order because it inhibits you from doing whatever you'd like to do. Does anyone really think they can stand upright against the winds when the weather turns nasty?

Just like laws, ethics are there for a reason, and the social changes going on are happening for a reason.


It's critical to understand that it's not an intentional simplification. Altman and the rest of the rarified VC-connected people on both coasts are very, very disconnected from what its like to live in the lower or middle classes and especially what it's like to be a part of a systemically marginalized community.


This isn't happening in only SF, or only in tech. It's happening all over, and across the spectrum of ideas.

Is the argument that social media is tearing apart our society correct? I think it goes deeper than that, and that it's tech in general. We've grown impatient with right-swipe, immediate communication (whether through texting or calling on a cell phone; remember when you had to find a phone, or wait until you got to home/work?), immediate gratification. No time or desire to think things through, just react.

The happiest time in the past 25 years was the first half of 2016, when I swore off almost all tech for 7 months, road tripped, and visited with people--strangers--and learned what made them tick. Guess what--not technology. And I was relaxed, happy, free.

Technology isn't the cause of a toxic society, but it definitely is a/the catalyst.


The lack of patience seems right on to me. I get the feeling that a lot of these discussions where people feel afraid to speak their mind are issues where the orthodoxy feels it has resolved the issue and moved on to talking about something new. They're tired of having conversations they see as repetitive. And when someone questions some part of that perceived-resolved issue, there's a lack of patience to, as they see it, go back and discuss it in a rational and level-headed manner and, instead, a it's easier to apply a stigmatized label that connotes that the person is somehow behind the times and move on to talking about the subjects that interest them.

With more patience could come calm and reasoned responses that could help move other people towards a more progressive outlook. But I agree that our society and the somewhat-recent trend towards immediacy of everything in our lives has led to a desire to have the same immediacy in conflict resolution. We don't tolerate as many diverging opinions because they'd take too long to integrate.


Thank you, this goes a long way to explaining why some people say "but it's ${CURRENT_YEAR}" as if that were an argument.


The happiest you've been is taking a 7 month road trip vacation? That's not really surprising or novel. Most people feel relaxed, happy and free when they have nothing tying them down (whether or not technology is in the picture).


I still remember my excitement after getting my first iphone (4), and how fast later i realized that my happiness visibly worsened. Now after 25 years working in IT I’m saving money to start a new life in the countryside. I tremble when some people says we must teach programming to children.


I'm extremely aware of this as someone who is socially conservative in terms of abortion, gay marriage, trans issues, etc (seriously not trying to start a flame war).

It's weird knowing that a large portion of the country has similar values to me, but in a major city I can never mention these things or I'll immediately become unemployable. It doesn't matter that these things have zero impact on my behavior at work; you just can't say that you believe certain things are right/wrong if it goes against norms.


From my perspective, I don't want to work in an environment where people are voicing their opinion that (e.g.) gay marriage is illegitimate or wrong. How am I supposed to work with someone who thinks a huge part of my life is immoral? I would have an incredibly hard time believing that that person was taking me seriously, really wanted to work with me, wasn't going to undercut me, or trusted me.

It's not that you can't have these opinions or voice them -- but it's also not the case that the people who are most affected by those opinions are going to feel OK about it.


I totally empathize with this perspective. It would never be appropriate for coworkers to criticize (directly or indirectly) your lifestyle, identity, or personal decisions.

With regards to your statement "I would have an incredibly hard time believing that that person was taking me seriously, really wanted to work with me, wasn't going to undercut me, or trusted me.", in many ways I totally respect that concern.

But I also think it may be symptomatic of how our approach to these topics has become non-constructive. We've too closely tied support for a person with support for everything they do/believe. To my thinking, whether I take you seriously or want to work with you has nothing to do with the aforementioned topics, and entirely with how you behave/execute at work. And if I'm going to undercut you at work because I disagree with your beliefs, the issue isn't that I disagree with you, it's that I'd be willing to undercut anyone I work with.


That's totally fair -- and I appreciate that you're willing to engage seriously about these things!

Your last point is well-taken. It may even be the case these days that the majority of people who hold views similar to yours think the way you do. But I think we need to take into account the uncertainty that people in these situations face. It's hard to know what the other person is thinking -- and if all you know is that person's opinion, it's hard to know what's going on when you're not looking. Bigotry is often dressed up in talk and behavior that seems polite, even respectful at first glance, but that is ultimately materially harmful.

For example, I think a lot of LGBTQ people from religious backgrounds have had an experience of being told that their family or community will "love the sinner, but hate the sin" -- and then subsequently being subjected to unfair and harmful treatment (bullying, psychological abuse, ostracism, being disowned).


You as well!

This is a really good reminder that there is indeed a tragic past of marginalized groups being treated poorly and receiving harm/violence. And there still is in certain areas, meaning that even though my standpoint may be that "of course I value them as a person", from the recipient's standpoint that cannot be assumed, and indeed it may be safer not to. This is super important to keep in mind, and at times may be worth stating explicitly (if the topic comes up/is appropriate) when talking about this with folks. I can't assume they know I believe this.


> How am I supposed to work with someone who thinks a huge part of my life is immoral?

Isn't that a restriction you are putting on yourself? As I see it, it is your requirement that someone has to share your point of view, and to get it to be so has to be your cost, not theirs.

Everyone things something someone else is doing or thinking is immoral all the time. It even has the composition problem: I think its immoral to sabotage people because you think its immoral! Thus who is the immoral!

> It's not that you can't have these opinions or voice them -- but it's also not the case that the people who are most affected by those opinions are going to feel OK about it.

I agree. There is a price you pay when you have a contrarian view point. You must. However today that is not vocal disagreement, its firing people and exile. Some twitter mob victims have become unemployable. Thats not reasonable to me.


I guess this is a cultural thing. As an irreligious person in a mostly religious country (Turkey), I don't really feel anxious sharing the same workspace or classroom with religious people, unless they are murderous/violent fundamentalists. Apart from that, about every person I encounter have ideas different to mine, also WRT what's moral or not. A vegan might think it's immoral to consume meat, a pious person might think it's immoral to not believe in the one true God, a conservative person might think that fiddling with marriage undermines family values, et cetera, ad infinitum. I eat meat, am irreligious, and support marriage to be something the individuals define for themselves[1]. Should I avoid all the vegans, all the religious, and all the conservative people? Is it practical at all to only coexist with people similar to us? Should we part ways with anybody that disagrees us? Most of my family is somewhat religious Muslims, and some practising Christians, should I just dump them because they think my irreligiousness is immoral and I'm sinning?

Well my answer is no. See, I'm secure of my ideas, and respect people's ideas, and am not reluctant to hear criticism about the way I live my life or what ethical values or philosophical stances I have. And I prefer living among everyone no matter what they think of the way I live. Otherwise it's living in herds. But I should respect that the US society is transforming and maybe it's expectable that these particularly fragile topics like gender issues or racial issues are very hard to discuss. But if people like you are going to avoid anti-marriage-equality people, what you'll end up is going to be segregation and polarisation, which will only alienate you among them and them among you, undermining society and progress. The fact is no matter how logical or correct your opinion is, one has to convince others if the question regards them. Otherwise all the glory, should you win at your cause, is going to be temporary---until the opposers are going to be strong enough to undo what you did. And you end up with a bipartisan vicious cycle.

[1] Actually I beleive that all the marraiges should count as civil unions for the state, and that the persons themselves should define what it means and how it is lived.


I work with vegans who think the fact that I use and consume animal products is immoral. They regularly make smug or passive-aggressive comments. And frankly I don't give a shit, and it doesn't stop us from working together.


There is not a long history of vegans killing people for their meat eating beliefs. You are wrong to equate the two.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_violence_against_LG...


But isn’t it simplistic to equate all transphobic people with murderers who commit violence against trans people?

Would you also be scared of working with men because they typically commit homicides more than women?

I think being afraid of your life simply because someone is a bigot who hasn’t exhibited any violent behavior is on you, not the bigot. A small number of bigots are violent and dangerous, that doesn’t mean all are.


But isn’t it simplistic to equate all transphobic people with murderers who commit violence against trans people?

When your life is on the line, it is generally wise to err on the side of caution. If you assume someone openly transphobic is a threat to your life and you are wrong, you are at worst being rude to them. If you assume they aren't a threat to you and are wrong, you may end up dead (or maimed or otherwise egregiously harmed).

With those stakes on the table, the only logical thing to do is to vet people you can trust, not give assholes the benefit of the doubt that maybe they are merely assholes and won't violently assault and/or murder you.


By that reasoning you should avoid everyone right? Because all people have a potential for violence.

The odds of a trans person being murdered by a transphobic person are phenomenally low. I think you need to balance risk vs return. Just like driving a car has costs and risks it may be worth it to get to the grocery store.


No, not really. Most people are not violent without good reason. But if you are gay, trans or in any group that gets targeted for violence by irrational people without any provocation beyond being a member of that group, you need to consider that open verbal hostility is a potential indicator of willingness to harm you in some way.


How grounded is this in data? I think there are two questions that need to be answered. First, it is not a given that everyone is capable of violence. There are some people who will not carry out violence, this is pretty much the vast majority. But it’s hard to predict who can commit violence and who will not. Given this small amount of people who commit violence, what is the probability of people with open verbal hostility who commit violence?

Without answering these two questions it is rather illogical to have your behavior change at all to someone who engages in open verbal hostility.

But you also need to distinguish between verbal hostility that is threatening vs non-threatening (ie, “I really don’t like people of class X.” Vs “I am going to punch people of class X in the face.”)

This also doesn’t account for the people are aren’t gay or trans yet are also targeted by irrational people (eg, Las Vegas victims).


How grounded is this in data?

It is very grounded in data.

I have had college classes on Intro to Psychology, Social Psychology and Negotiation and Conflict Management. I spent a lot of time in therapy and have done a lot of reading on social subjects and so forth. I was a military wife and history major and I have an AA in Humanities. The one urban planning conference I managed to attend, I went to all the social lectures rather than, say, design stuff.

I probably can't readily produce the kind of data you would like to see and I am sure I don't want to bother. Your remarks make it pretty clear to me that it would be a waste of my time. There would be no convincing you of anything.

I am leaving this remark here primarily for the benefit of other people, plus to give notice that if I don't reply further, it isn't some tacit acknowledgement that you are right. I just don't really want to play this game. That's all.

I will add for clarity's sake that the phrase willing to harm you in some way was carefully chosen. It doesn't assert violent intent. People can do you enormous harm without being violent and it is shockingly common for people to be willing to do some kind of material harm, even if they are disinclined to be violent. Marginalized peoples very much need to be leery of that fact.


While you certainly have a lot of experience and impressive education, I’m not sure how this shows how willing people are to commit violence. Or whether this is a significant probability. Or even an attention worthy probability.

Through your studies have you been able to identify evidence for a range or risk / odds ratio difference of haters to commit violence vs the standard population?

This is certainly hard to quantify, but seems important if it’s going to impact how you interact with people and how you recommend others interact with people.

I’m a bit disturbed that you seem unwilling (or unable) to discuss this and end the thread with “just trust me.” I certainly would like to trust you, but I try to shape my worldview through evidence and defendable evidence.


No, I am not unwilling to discuss this. I just sometimes hit my limit for putting up with being dismissed and treated with contempt on HN for being the wrong kind of nerd.

As I already stated as clearly as I know how, violence is not required to do serious harm to a person. To try to elucidate:

I have a life threatening medical condition and was also homeless for nearly six years. I was quite open about that on HN and other forums. My only goal was to find a means to earn money online as a solution to my situation.

I got a lot of flak from people in forums who wanted me to shut up about my problems because they liked wearing their goodness on their sleeve, we're unwilling to help me in any way and my presence made them uncomfortable. I often could not even get answers to my questions. I was accused of panhandling the internet and my goal of learning to make money online was completely dismissed by many people, making it that much harder to accomplish.

Treating a seriously ill homeless person like their desire to earn a living is not valid is not far from allowing someone to die by standing by and doing for them. You could compare it to denying blacks treatment at a white hospital, which is exactly how the black inventor of blood transfusions died following an accident where he couldn't get the blood he needed because he was the wrong color.

People who are in certain categories can be at significant risk if being egregiously harmed by the actions or inactions of other people, without violence being any part of it. People are shockingly comfortable with such things, which is an underlying principle that keeps things like racism alive.

We can, for example, measure harm to African Americans in terms of both trillions of dollars and in terms of disease and death. Most people don't really want to hear it. Recent articles calling for reparations to Blacks get routinely dismissed as "meh, everyone has been taken advantage of at some point." The idea of reparations has no traction, though the ongoing death toll for African Americans is routinely in the news.

The more eye catching incidents where Blacks get shot and killed by cops is really a very minor portion of the death toll. A much larger portion comes from historical redlining and White NIMBYism, which has forced people of color into neighborhoods with terrible air quality and substandard housing. Respiratory problems have gone up dramatically and the effect of living in neighborhoods with terrible air quality can be measured in dollars, incidence of disease and mortality.

A study in India found that male children receive slightly better care than female children. For example, a sick boy was more likely to be taken to a doctor the same day. A sick girl was more likely to be sent to bed with plans to see a doctor in the morning if she did not improve.

Girls in this study were absolutely not being abused. In most cases, they weren't even really neglected. They just weren't doted on like boys.

The consequences of these small differences in treatment could be measured in terms of mortality. Girls had a measurably higher death rate.

Marginalized people with any kind of survival instinct are wise to give a wide berth to anyone giving voice to open hostility to their kind. Such people can have a great deal of power to help them into the grave without ever lifting a finger to commit violence, sometimes simply by not lifting a finger to help when they need it. Often, the rest of the world will look on and see no wrong doing.

Having been subjected to such treatment as a homeless person, it us both horrifying and deeply psychologically scarring. My fundamental trust in humans has been irreparably harmed. And homelessness is curable. You get off the street, you aren't homeless anymore. But you don't stop being gay, trans, Black etc.

The most charitable interpretation I can find for how others behaved towards me is that they are incredibly ignorant of some things and blind to the serious consequences of their actions and inaction. That was not much comfort at the time it was happening and has done little to help me make my peace with it.


> Marginalized people with any kind of survival instinct are wise to give a wide berth to anyone giving voice to open hostility to their kind. Such people can have a great deal of power to help them into the grave without ever lifting a finger to commit violence, sometimes simply by not lifting a finger to help when they need it.

This makes no sense. Avoiding people whom you perceive as having hostility in their words is not a good strategy for finding a support network. A good strategy to is find people who have demonstrated that they are willing to 'raise a finger' and including them in your life. While there is a negative correlation between those two groups, excluding the former group from your search for the latter will limit your ability to build a strong support network.


That does not fit with my experience. Giving openly hostile people the benefit of the doubt never resulted in me finding hidden allies. It merely wasted a lot of my time and got me actively crapped on.

So let me ask: are you a member of a marginalized group? Because I can't help but wonder at the reasons behind our very different point of views.


A bigot, by what I think is a reasonable definition, is someone whose prejudices are resistant to contrary evidence. If someone is irrational in that way, then it is rational for me not to trust them, especially if their prejudices concern me directly. The fact that everyone, including me, has their own prejudices is not germane.

If someone is angry about something all the time that really (from my POV) shouldn't concern them, it doesn't make them a murderer that should be locked up right now, no, but it could nevertheless reasonably make me wonder if they are dangerous or will "go postal" at some point.


That’s an interesting perspective. Do you feel the same about other groups than bigots? What about people with mental illness? Would you not want to work with a schizophrenic in case they forget to take their meds?

Do you think religious people are irrational? Are you one those people who freak out when a Muslim steps onto the subway? It seems like your line of reasoning would mean you don’t want any Muslims working at your company. That’s pretty messed up.

Comically, thinking that bigots or Muslims might go postal at some point is highly irrational. It’s like worrying about meteor strikes. So since you’re irrational, you might snap. Therefore people with your mindset should avoid working with you?


There are so many questions and assumptions here that I don't see the point in trying to unravel them all.

Instead, I'll just say neither schizophrenics nor Muslims are necessarily bigots.

Also, you're assuming I'm neither schizophrenic nor Muslim, which is funny. How do you know?


I'd encourage you to think of this from the perspective of the person who's fearing for their life. It's rational to assume that the likelihood of someone potentially harming you is much higher if they're vocally expressing hatred about your identity.


It the fear is irrational, then it’s really not that wise to try to think from their persective. Since that irrationally might make someone flip. Like those people who self radicalize.

Now, this is quite different if someone is expressing or advocating violence. But some old catholic lady being against gay marriage represents zero threat of violence. Especially if she isn’t vocally expressing the hatred at work, but does something outside of work.

The issue I have is that simply expressing disagreement “I hate class X” is not a threat compared to “I want to cause grevious harm to class X.”


Plus, saying "I believe it is wrong for people to do X" is not the same as saying "I hate people who do X". So a lot of the use of the word "hate" in this discussion is unjustified.


Conservatives who are against say gay marriage aren't necessarily saying they hate gays. There are lots of completely benign reasons why people might believe that gay marriage shouldn't be a thing.


What does that have to do with it. The history of it doesnt make it less or more immoral.


Little late to the discussion so I am not sure this will be seen...

I think I can change two works of your statement and make it a criticism of the Bay Area.

From my perspective, I don't want to work in an environment where people are voicing their opinion that (e.g.) supporting Trump is illegitimate or wrong. How am I supposed to work with someone who thinks a huge part of my life is immoral? I would have an incredibly hard time believing that that person was taking me seriously, really wanted to work with me, wasn't going to undercut me, or trusted me.

It's not that you can't have these opinions or voice them -- but it's also not the case that the people who are most affected by those opinions are going to feel OK about it.

The issue I have with this perspective is that it is not applied equally. I do think you should get protection but I think that same protection should be applied to all groups. Next week I could say in front of my team "All Trump supporters are deranged psychopaths." I would get a few odd looks, my manager might tell my privately to tone it down. If I said the same thing about LQBT folk I would guess I have a 50% chance of being fired.

This feels like a double standard to me and makes me question if the people who support diversity and inclusion really mean it or if they only want what they approve.


It's interesting that you'd compare supporting Trump with being LGBTQ, part of a minority or a woman. One is a conscious decision, the other one is part of who one is. You might be a Trump supporter today and a Trump detractor tomorrow, but minorities don't get to change their gender identification, skin color or the reproductive organs they were born with. Trying to compare the two is ludicrous.

The victimization complex Trump supporters seem to have internalized is such a bizarre thing.


>How am I supposed to work with someone who thinks a huge part of my life is immoral?

So everyone needs to ensure they hold no oppinions you might find offensive or be homeless? It goes both ways: how am I supposed to work with someone who thinks it's ok to ostracize people for personal beliefs?


I agree, we're making the same general point -- it does seem crazy to ask someone to "ensure they hold no offensive opinions". So why, for example, should the opinions of the person who wants to speak their mind about the immorality of gay marriage get precedence over the opinions of the person who thinks they should be allowed to get married?


I agree with that. "Don't go around pissing off co-workers" is a sensible rule. But it's also our responsibility to not look for reasons to be offended. If you ask me about something I'm not going to lie. But I'm not going to shove it in your face either, if I think it might offend.


I’m an atheist. I’ve worked with people who thought I’m going to hell. What am I going to do, get them all fired?

No. Just be polite and respectful to your colleagues. Not every stone needs to be turned.


And it is your right not to work with that person, whether that means you choosing to leave or take internal action depending on circumstances (e.g. threats). However, who is entirely exempt from ostracizing others for their beliefs? For every person there is some universe of beliefs that are seen as such a threat to their reality, principles, or well-being that they will fight those beliefs and their representatives. That universe of beliefs may differ in size or relative merit on the basis of evidence for each person, but it exists.


I work with people like that all the time. I don't give a shit. As long as they aren't doing anything to directly harm me, then let them have their stupid opinion. It's better than the alternative of social oppression, because I'm sure I have some stupid opinions as well.


> How am I supposed to work with someone who thinks a huge part of my life is immoral?

Have you never worked with people with different religious beliefs?


> but in a major city I can never mention these things or I'll immediately become unemployable.

The situation isn't great right now, I agree. But wild exaggeration doesn't help. It just makes people that you might be able to convince that the situation isn't great dismiss everything you are saying because of that wild exaggeration. Or at least some of those people, there may be an age divide here. But the point is if you want to be maximally persuasive you should avoid wild exaggeration.

I live in a major city in the US. I know two or three quite vocal Trump supporters. Yes, they face social sanctions. Yes, it might affect their career on the margin when it comes time to look at e.g. who to promote or who to lay off. No they aren't unemployed, much less unemployable.


I appreciate the feedback. That wasn't intended to be an exaggeration, that is often how I perceive the situation (look at Brendan Eich), but it is certainly fair to consider whether that perception truly reflects reality.


I think you're missing a key distinction. The problem is not that merely that you hold a political belief-- as you say, this by itself is over-the-top and unreasonable.

The problem rather is that your particular political belief is viewed as being actively hostile towards people themselves or towards their friends or family or others. Voicing opposition towards gay marriage comes across as an attack on all gay people. That's where the reaction comes from.

A political belief that's not treated as openly hostile towards others (for example, supporting charter schools or something) doesn't get this reaction, of course. It's not merely that "you just can't say that you believe certain things are right/wrong if it goes against norms"; you're missing the nuance here.


The issue is that with just a little bit of lather, it's possible to construe virtually any controversial opinion as "an attack" on the people that may be affected by it, however tangentially. Nothing in life is free and it is rare that there is a clean "perfect compromise" waiting to be discovered, which means that most trade-offs will have groups that can interpret the activity as hostile, even if their group is totally unaddressed ("Why does group Z get that thing and group Y only gets this thing?").

If we accept this argument that some opinions or positions are unconscionable because they are fundamentally "against" other people, we end up on a slippery slope, and the situation in SF is somewhere on that slope (in my opinion, nowhere near the bottom).

Everyone wants in on the sympathy train and everyone loves shaming and silencing their opponents. We have to be careful to actively protect civil dialogue from such encroachments, because while they may feel sympathetic and nice at the time, that self-righteous reward system gets put on a feedback loop and drowns out everything else.

If we've already seen people getting agitated into conflating arguments over the semantics and technicalities of a dry legal instrument like marriage with their individual right to self-existence and safety, that's proof of this phenomenon in itself.


What I would take away from that notion is that large is relative. A large portion of the country still has fewer people than New York City.

I am of course, not trying to start a flame war either, but my take on it is that those sorts of issues would be inappropriate to bring up at work or in a job interview in the first place, regardless of your position.

Based on your description, I believe I probably espouse the opposite position on those issues, and even though I work at a large tech company in NYC I still don't bring them up at work.

That said, I can totally see where you're coming from. I have a friend who ended up being a pretty staunch Donald Trump supporter, and I watched as a lot of colleagues ostracized him (even though he never really brought it up at work).

It takes hard work to see past issues that divide us. In the case of my friend, I always just try to focus on our shared interests. It's what has kept us friends.

In closing...there are of course different degrees of ideas that people will tolerate, and it may just be that large cities have spoken, and they don't want intolerant people in their ranks.

shrugs, walks away


That's a great point and worth clarifying. I agree that neither side is super appropriate to bring up at work. I'm referring more so to circumstances like your friend who is a Trump supporter.

It also gets murkier nowadays because companies are expected to take stances on social issues, and with certain ones are criticized when they don't.


Companies have always been expected to take stances on social issues. Within living memory, companies in many parts of the country were required by law to segregate their customers by race. In other parts of the country, many companies were expected to do this as well, although it wasn't a legal requirement. Similar things were true for companies' treatment of same-sex couples, unmarried heterosexual couples, single women, and non-Christians.

The main difference I see is that the expected stances are more liberal than they used to be, and the penalties for failing to conform tend to be much less severe.


If they don't want intolerant people in their ranks though, then what would that make them?



I don't mind people being socially conservative, you can have whatever opinions you want about how you think people should live their lives or whatnot, and I'm perfectly willing to discuss them with you. I may not understand how you came to hold those views, but that likely goes both ways.

What I'm not OK with, however, is people not respecting other people's rights to have their own views. And that goes from calling them names to refusing to serve them in their business to refusing to offer them the health insurance they want.

Edit: Just to be clear, I agree that merely expressing views should not result in an online inquisition. That people whose views I generally agree with do makes me very uncomfortable, and I agree with Sam Altman that this makes it difficult to have serious discussions.


I've lived in cities on both sides of the political coin and can comfortably say that this is consistent for both liberal-dominant and conservative-dominant cities. I think part of the problem is that a lot of the issues you mention are seen as moral rather than ideological because peoples' values become so deeply rooted once they've spent enough time in like-minded communities (and perhaps some of the issues were really a question of morality to begin with). Beyond that, there's a heightened degree of generalization of "the other" when you're in a homogeneous community - if you support anything that aligns with an opposing political party, people will tend to project other values onto you that are generally associated with that party, regardless of whether or not you've expressed them.


One of things no one talks about: correlations. I have seen several of people lose their careers after become right wing spokespeople. These people work in difficult, ambiguous fields including patent prosecution (IP Law) and network security analysis. The fields are all about considering probable outcomes from ambiguous or untrustworthy data. They weren't pushed from their jobs; they stopped being able to juggle the ideas. Both employer and employee wanted them to leave by the time the left. They never succeeded again.

This terrifies me.


Can you elaborate? I don't think I understand what you mean.


He is claiming becoming more right wing makes somebody less likely to understand statistics.

Personally I think leftists, rightists and centrists are terrible at grokking stats because the human brain can't handle multifaceted realities very well.

It is possible for instance that all political positions are correct, even the apparently contradictory ones because they are part of the Elephant (the one with the blind men).


Of the places I've lived (not necessarily in order):

- Deep South (18 years - born + raised) - Boston MA (5 years @ college then job) - NYC (6+ years) - Los Angeles (1yr @ startup) - San Diego (1yr @ startup) - Bay Area (6 years, including 4+ at household name tech company)

I found the Bay Area (and SF in particular) to be the most intolerant, rigid and inflexible culture I've ever lived and worked in. I've never encountered such a self-righteous, smug and viscerally hostile attitude to other parts of the country, especially the South and Midwest (where I grew up). Someone literally told me once that "people from the South eat their children" in a half joking tone.

I don't think you can call it "racism" per se, but definitely the most oppressive form of prejudice I've ever encountered, by far, was found among people I worked and came in contact with in the SF Bay Area.

EDIT: Of course, I met (and stayed friends) with really amazing people in SF Bay Area. People with different viewpoints than mine that really expanded my horizons along a lot of different axes. And the raw intelligence of most people I interacted with - technical and otherwise - is off the charts. But the attitudes I mentioned above were expressed frequently enough to leave an impression on me.


Okay. I grew up in small town Louisiana, across the street from a swamp, where a baby alligator once crawled up into our ditch. Coming to California, and then to San Francisco, felt like shrugging off a weight I'd never realized I'd been carrying. I think what you're experiencing is value mismatch. When the culture won't bend the way you're used to, it can seem as though it's resistant to bending at all. But you yourself admit that the Bay Area accommodates "people different viewpoints than mine that really expanded my horizons along a lot of different axes". Not that I wouldn't say the same about my birthplace: it's just biased at a different point in the multidimensional space of personality.


> I think what you're experiencing is value mismatch. When the culture won't bend the way you're used to, it can seem as though it's resistant to bending at all.

If I need to match a culture's values in order to have an open discussion, that culture is intolerant.


No one is absolutely tolerant of every other position. The question is to what degree one is willing to tolerate (or more important: accept) other points of view.


While this is a good point, it’s exactly the statement Altman is making. The complaint is that the degree to tolerate is too low and that is harmful to society.

No one is calling for absolute tolerance where Nazi pedophiles and sexually harass people. But perhaps firing the CTO of Mozilla because be donated to Prop 8 is too strict a level of intolerance.


To add to that as someone who grew up in Dallas, Texas, has lived in what many consider the most "liberal" parts of the U.S., and now back in Dallas (Texas forever); The thing I hear the most from people who have moved to Dallas recently or visiting is "Everyone here is so nice". I hear it all the time. Even work colleges who are in town for business. I heard one say a few weeks ago how nice people are here after somebody waited a little longer holding a door open than what is considered normal.

I guess I've lived here most of my life and it's normal to me. You can literally strike up a conversation without almost anyone random and you won't get a disdained look back.

I think, in Texas at least, don't know about other areas of the south, many people will be surprised from how open people are in the cities. Now, in rural areas... yeah, no promise there. Rural people will love you at first site, but if you mention anything anything that contradicts their bible or the right to have a gun, most likely not. The cities surprise people who visit here though. They were not expecting the acceptance of things they thought everyone in the south was against.


> The thing I hear the most from people who have moved to Dallas recently or visiting is "Everyone here is so nice"

I lived in Dallas, it was the only place I've lived where people would yell "faggot" at me on the street. People there aren't that friendly if you look different.


All these people saying SF is less tolerant than the Deep South are almost certainly not gay.

I came out in college in a big city in TX and it was fucking brutal.

Someone who thinks SF is intolerant has no fucking clue what real intolerance looks like.


Or perhaps they have had different experiences from you?


Intolerance based on thoughts you have a choice to verbalize is markedly different than intolerance based on physical/physiological attributes you can't control. Someone having a bad experience because they expressed an unpopular opinion in SF seems bad if you've never been the target of disdain for just existing.


Why are they markedly different?

Ive found it's much easier to shrug off discrimination based on my skin color than it is to shrug off discrimination based on my core beliefs.

I'd love to see some research on this - do people who can be discriminated against based upon sexual orientation (which can be hidden) have it a lot easier than people who can be discriminated against based on skin color (which they obviously can't hide)?


> Ive found it's much easier to shrug off discrimination based on my skin color than it is to shrug off discrimination based on my core beliefs.

Are you white?


I am not white, and indeed, discrimination based on skin color is much easier to shrug off for me, than discrimination based on thoughts or beliefs. I think it's because I equate my identity to my thoughts and beliefs, and not my skin color. This perhaps also comes from stoic philosophy, i.e. I don't bother to think about things I can't control such as my skin color.


I think, in Texas at least, don't know about other areas of the south, many people will be surprised from how open people are in the cities. Now, in rural areas... yeah, no promise there. Rural people will love you at first site, but if you mention anything anything that contradicts their bible or the right to have a gun, most likely not. The cities surprise people who visit here though. They were not expecting the acceptance of things they thought everyone in the south was against.

Is the contradiction here intentional self parody?


No, I'm saying there is a difference between Dallas, Austin, Houston, San Antonio and the rest of Texas, like rural east and west Texas.

I think you have to compare apples to apples here. San Fran to Dallas/Houston/etc. You can't compare rural west Texas to San Fran or the rural wine country around SF to Dallas.


I understood what you meant, I was wondering if you noticed that you, as a self-proclaimed open-minded Houstonite, made a broad brush stereotype about "Rural people".


Well, I didn't say it definitively. But I suppose you can say that. But this whole thread is one giant stereotype to begin with, so yeah. From my observation is what I should have said.

And I'm in Dallas, way better than Houston ;)


Dallaganian?


I think we mostly also use -ite.. Dallasite


We call ourselves Houstonians in Houston.


Have you considered that the culture of hospitality in Texas might be related to the values found in the Bible you are so quick to dismiss?

Values are like the vitamins of culture: You don't notice how helpful they are until you get scurvy.


Culture of hospitality exists is many other places that has nothing to do with Bible. Example Afghanistan


Also due to ancient tradition. My general experience is traditional cultures are nicer. Hospitality is usually a sacred value, e.g. Bible's story of Abraham unwittingly being a host to God.


Your point of course stands, but this example may not be ideal. It is a country where the predominant religion follows ideas very closely related to those in the Bible.


I think this is absolutely true, but you'd think the Quakers would have left some wholesomeness in the Northeast as well, right? I would hope that we don't need to depend on religion, hundreds of years later, to instill good values in our children.


> Deep South (18 years - born + raised)

If I may ask, where, more specifically?

I grew up in southern California, and my wife grew up in Columbus, Georgia. We met in the midwest and lived there 15 or so years, and so visited Columbus frequently. For the last 4 months of her dad's life, we lived in Columbus.

We've lived in the SF Bay Area for the past 8 years.

> [SF Bay Area ...] most intolerant, rigid and inflexible culture

I think I know what you're getting at, and I don't necessarily disagree out of hand.

I will say that there is an enormous difference in day to day racial tension in west Georgia compared to the SF Bay Area. In Columbus, from McDonalds to hospitals, there was barely submerged but obvious tension between blacks and whites.

I don't mean this to be a counter to what you're saying, I think it's a different thing.


>I will say that there is an enormous difference in day to day racial tension in west Georgia compared to the SF Bay Area. In Columbus, from McDonalds to hospitals, there was barely submerged but obvious tension between blacks and whites.

Probably because Columbus GA is 45% black and San Francisco is only 6.4% black. Hard to have black/white tension when one of those groups comprises such a small percent of total population.


But San Francisco is also 33.3% Asian and over 15% Hispanic. The white to non-white percentages are very close between both locations. And while the story of Asian Americans in SF is not the same as Black Americans in the South, it was hardly a picnic for them (for one example, Angel island).


That's an interesting point.

As someone who grew up in a poverty-stricken neighborhood of Boston, I'm also familiar with tension, and I remember it being far more racially-defined within the poor communities than elsewhere. Upon moving to nicer areas, however, the tension felt more like rich vs poor, with race (very sadly) often signaling to someone's level of wealth. They also seemed less tension-prone overall, in comparison to the poorer communities.

What I mean to say is that:

1. Tension between races seemed to primarily exist at the poorer levels, and that at the wealthier levels, the tension between classes very much overrode any tension between races.

2. Wealthy communities just seem to be more educated and accepting, as they see the better [1] individuals of all races of people.

I haven't spent too much time in the Bay Area, but would you possibly say that:

1. The wealth inequality in the Bay Area creates enough of a class divide to where the racial divide isn't noticeable?

2. Alternatively, does the racial diversity in the wealthy of the Bay Area remove stigmas that result in racism altogether?

I'd be interested in your thoughts! I'm not aiming to counter either, but just curious.

[1] By 'better,' I don't mean to pass judgment on any people; just that people in worse conditions in life will often be forced or incentivized into worse actions. For example, a child's friend is far less likely to steal their toy or game in a wealthier community than poorer. It's not evil, it's just worse conditions resulting in worse actions.


Outrage culture in the Bay is strong, and it makes many conversations here impossible or uninteresting.

However, I think Sam occupies a rare position that he may be blind to: He is famous and the media is paying attention to what he says. That makes saying interesting things, which require taking risks, more dangerous, because more strangers are listening to him, his comments are more likely to be removed from their context, and reporters seeking clicks will deliberately misconstrue him.

So while I don't think he's wrong, I think his perception of this environment of outrage and right-thinking is exaggerated by his own celebrity. Famous people are forced to be more careful in what they say. That is less true for the rest of us.


as a counterpoint, i have a similar geographical history and felt and saw more raciscm in the south than elsewhere (although to be fair, it wasn't vastly more so).

what you're feeling in that smugness is an exercise of social power on you. my guess is that you're white, which is why you didn't feel racism in the south but did feel the smugness of the "coastal elite" (and why you tie those two things together in your mind).


Yeah, I also want to bet that they're straight.


I want to respond with a bender quote, "this is the worst kind of oppression, the kind against me"

But honestly your comment is so vague I'm unsure exactly what you want to be heard from your words

Can you clarify what kinds of oppression you noticed in SF and the kinds you noticed in other places

When you speak so indistinctly everyone is forced to fill the holes themselves

Those that agree that SF is oppressive will fill those holes with their own aggravating experiences and those that see SF as progressive will read your comment as "I just want to tell my coworkers that their lifestyle is offensive to god but SF is too intolerant of me and my wants"


> self-righteous, smug and viscerally hostile attitude to other parts of the country

I'm not sure what this has to do with "political correctness." People being jerks isn't the same as demarcating hate speech and saying that it has no place in public discourse.

I think what happens is that someone will propose something that another constituency worries will have violent outcomes for them, and they push back saying "that's unacceptable." Then the first party gets defensive and says that they're being tone policed instead of engaging with the substance of the complaint. For people like me (white men) this can sometimes be the first time when our presuppositions are challenged, or that we're told that we might not be totally objective, rational observers in a chaotic universe and its very very easy to get defensive.

Further, it's important to understand that people who worry about "PC" as a threat to the free exchange of ideas are actively having their rhetoric coopted by others on the far right who are actively trying to move the overton window into a place where they are able to espouse things like racism in public without backlash.


Considering that 50% of the people in the Bay Area are foreign born, and have no experience of the South, I find your comment "a self-righteous, smug and viscerally hostile attitude to other parts of the country" to be hyperbolic. May be you are projecting based upon a few interactions ?


People don't need to have experienced something firsthand in order to have a "self-righteous, smug and viscerally hostile attitude" towards it. In fact, they are more likely to be hostile to things they haven't experienced. This seems to be genetically programmed, as it transcends cultures and history.


Have you seen this clip?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFYRkzznsc0

The man is an elected official in Alabama. Also an idiot and a bigot who think only Christians can be elected to Congress. It's okay to look down on him for being ignorant, but a lot of the comments attack his regional accent. That's not okay.


Exactly right


I think the use of the word "tolerance" here muddies things.

To the extent that tolerance is a virtue, it refers to tolerating other people for what they are, not what they do. There are gray areas here of course, but there are plenty of places where that distinction is clear.

I don't think political tolerance is inherently virtuous. If a coworker tells me they don't think women are suited for technical work then I don't feel any moral obligation to be "tolerant" of that viewpoint.


> To the extent that tolerance is a virtue, it refers to tolerating other people for what they are, not what they do. There are gray areas here of course

The gray areas are miles wide in many cases. Tolerance of what people are is fairly easy for most people to agree on, but in some cases what people do and what people are is disagreed upon. That is, to some degree, the crux of the debate about homosexuality still. People disagree on whether it's something people do, or are. At the same time, an older debate under similar grounds (but, ironically with less evidence for it being towards the are end of the spectrum) is religion. Are you a Christian, Jew or Muslim, or do you just practice those religions?

I don't think boiling it down to are and do particularly helps for a lot of the really controversial topics we are currently dealing with.


Except you're conflating a person thinks with what they do. It is still entirely possible for your hypothetical coworker to give a more honest evaluation of a female colleague's tech work than for one who was a women's rights firebrand and perhaps prone to overlook poor female performance because of his or her own biases. You are right to demand impartiality where judgment affects another person's equality. It's unfair however to assume without evidence that someone is incapable of impartiality because of what they think.


I am reminded of an old quote from George Washington:

"It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support." [1]

"Tolerance" has a clear power dynamic. One group allows another group to exist. It is therefore shouldn't be looked at as the ultimate goal of a just society. Instead we should simply ask that people are "good citizens."

Whether your coworker believes women don't make good tech workers should be irrelevant to you. What should matter is whether they are a good employee and whether their views manifest themselves in anyway that hurts anyone else (e.g. they should not be in a position to supervise other employees if they can't prevent their beliefs from harming those employees)

[1] - https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-06-02-...


Have you heard this? I have not. I have heard people make the case that there are very minor biological differences between men and women, and seen them get tainted with the brush of holding a far different view.


As if southerners aren't constantly cursing or making fun of "San Francisco values".


Honestly - in my experience, they are not. I didn't know anything about SF before I moved there. No one around me in the South ever talked about it. Now that I go back home and I mention I lived in SF I may hear people say something along the lines of "wow they are really liberal out there aren't they?". Nothing along the lines of the vitriol I hear in the Bay Area.


People in the south don't think about San Francisco at all. Only the Fox News anchors based in New York but charged with representing the politics of the south care about San Francisco.


This is not true. I live in the South (Nashville) and I've heard (and overheard) multiple disparaging comments about people from the coasts. It's not like they're obsessed, but they talk about NY and CA as much as NY and CA talked about the South when I lived in both places.


People in SF don't think about the south either besides in political discussions.


Or when it's time for BBQ.


Couldn't agree more. They are too busy having a great life down there. I definitely miss a lot of aspects of that culture.


Precisely.


Irrelevant to his original point. That Southerners do the same does not justify San Franciscans doing it as well.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tu_quoque


What do you consider southerners?

As recently as two nights ago I helped entertain some startup founders from SF who were genuinely suprised that Houston (the 4th largest, soon 3rd largest city in the US) wasn't just a few strip malls.


Houston is always surprising to people who've never been there (and was surprising to me when I first moved there as a 19-year-old kid). It's among the friendliest places I've ever lived. And, for all its horrible traffic, the drivers are among the most polite I've seen, as well (though they drive terrifyingly fast on average). It's one of the biggest/best cities that nobody's ever heard of or thought about. Great music, arts, and food, on par with the best cities in the US, as well.

As an aside, there was a study many years ago about the friendliest cities, and New York and Houston were at the top of the list; both were considered surprising by the authors, I guess based on reputation. While the deep south was way down the list well into the "unfriendly" category, which also seemed surprising to the authors given the reputation for "southern hospitality", but I'm from the deep south and I wasn't surprised, at all. The deep south is, by and large, insular and mistrustful of outsiders, except in a few larger cities. Poverty makes for higher crime, as well (one of the tests of "friendliness" included leaving a wallet in public places and seeing whether it made it back to its owner with cash intact...in NYC and Houston it almost always did, in some other places, not so much), and the south is pretty poor on average.

But, Houston is not a "southern" city. It is an international city with a huge amount of people who've moved there from other states and countries. It doesn't feel southern, though it does feel like other big Texas cities to some degree. I don't really consider Texas the south, though small-town Texas kinda looks like small-town Georgia or whatever. But, also, small-town California is kinda like small-town Texas...lots of cow towns, oil towns, and farm towns, just like Texas. And, tends to be Republican-leaning, just like small-town Texas.


One follow-on to your final paragraph: the thing is that small-town Texas (depending on the area) does look a lot different from Georgia.

It's probably got a good deal more Latinos (Angleton, or any town as you head west), it's probably got more Vietnamese and folks of Vietnamese descent (coastal towns, Port Arthur), it's probably got a more functioning economy (notable exceptions like Rockport).

In some ways (if you look up the statistics above) rural Texas most resembles rural California.


I agree with you; rural Texas is more like western rural cities than the deep south, including California. I pretty much always argue that Texas is not part of "the south", and often get ranted at because Texas is so far south...it's as southern as you can get in the US, but I think its character is just so different from SC, NC, GA, AL, etc. that it doesn't make sense to group them in most conversations.


Honestly, as a native of (urban) NC, I felt like TX was very similar when I visited. And the few Texans I went to school with didn't seem to feel too out of place in NC either. We've both got nice people, growing and diverse cities, a solid college education system, and super religious people everywhere just to keep you on your toes... Really the biggest differences I could tell was that TX got hotter and you have crazy long stretches of road with nothing at all on them (which is indeed a uniquely western thing).

But I think the whole concept of "deep south" vs the "new south" is where you see the differences come into play. Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Asheville, and many other NC areas, are great, diverse places that have far more in common with Dallas/Austin/Houston than with whatever the stereotypical image of "the south" is that most folks have in their heads. So in other words, I think TX is just as southern as NC is, and that isn't necessarily anything to be ashamed of.


I would expect you to get ranted at because of its alignment with the Confederacy in the Civil War, which otherwise pretty much defines "the South" as a geographic term in common usage. South = Confederate states, North = Union states, West = a few physically separate states and various non-state territories at the time. At least with the North and the South, less so with the West, these groupings lasted long after the end of the civil war due to the effects of reconstruction and cultural identity related to the outcome of the war.


We're really not.


Oh please. Y'all campaign against San Francisco values. Pelosi is basically a code word for it even though she's from a Baltimore political dynasty.

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=644311...

San Francisco values gets repeated by Newt Gingrich, Bill O'Reilly, Hannity, Rush, ... at every opportunity. Sorry to link to Breitbart, but here's Roy Moore ranting on about San Francisco.

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/12/03/hes-said-...

Who exactly is he ranting to?


Why are you associating those douchebags with the south? Newt I get, but aren't the rest of them in NYC?

The real divide in this country is rural vs. urban. Cities in the south are plenty progressive, and rural areas in the rest of the country are plenty conservative.

I've lived in Boston and Atlanta, and Atlanta is a much more tolerant, friendly place.


Even Newt’s been in the DC machine for decades, he probably doesn’t even watch college football.


Roy Moore and Newt Gingrich are about as South as South gets and they definitely campaigned against San Francisco values. Newt Gingrich essentially defined the modern Republican Party's approach to campaigning and governing.


First, Roy Moore lost. It wasn't a resounding loss, but he did lose.

Second, acting like an entire region as a monoculture is stupid and unproductive. We're all very, very different, and while there are some trends that are more prevalent in a region, that doesn't mean that the people who believe those things are backwards. Perhaps it means that you just haven't tried to see things from their perspective.

The lack of empathy and the unwillingness to consider that other people have different backgrounds and codes of ethics and a dogmatic insistence that "this way is the right way" is what's killing our cohesion as a country. And, as a whole, I've seen more of the "live and let live" philosophy in Atlanta than in a whole lot of supposedly liberal places.


Yes, you are all very, very different. So are we.

But it remains that really starting with Gingrich that conservatives have mounted a long media campaign against liberals which has been personified as Pelosi and codewritten as San Francisco values.

The reverse is not the case. This was one sided but it was also Gingrich and Republicans only path to power. It worked as an election strategy but not as a governing philosophy. So if you are complaining about the cohesion of the country, you really should start there.

I lived in the South. I have family in the South.


But I feel like you're blaming the victims. It was actually people like Rupert Murdoch who set up the whole "our culture is being destroyed by PC run amok" thing, and they did it to gin up ratings for Fox News and to gain power.

We're all vulnerable to cultural brainwashing. I think that's part of what the article is complaining about. It's hard to be an iconoclast, especially when you're treated as an immoral person if you dare to think for yourself.

Again, the way to save the country is to call out all demonization of "the other". Of course I call it out when I see it, to the point where my liberal friends think I'm conservative and my conservative friends think I'm liberal.


Fox News dates to 1996. Newt Gingrich (Atlanta suburbs) was already Speaker by then and had been recruiting and training candidates on his methods for close to a decade. He started as a pro-environment wonk Republican back bencher but saw this perfection of Nixon's Southern Strategy as his only path to power.

It worked.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Fox_News

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_strategy

To be a real iconoclast, and I don't see Altman as any sort of iconoclast, you have to take your lumps. You have to be indifferent to your lumps.


>I've lived in Boston and Atlanta, and Atlanta is a much more tolerant, friendly place.

Care to say what you experienced in Boston?


It's been 35 years since I lived in the Boston area, so this may have changed some -- I certainly hope it has! -- but the ethnic animosities there shocked me, as someone who moved there from the DC area and had the idea that Northern cities would be more tolerant. I moved into an apartment in East Cambridge in 1982, in what was, unbeknownst to me before I got there, a Polish neighborhood, only to learn that a few weeks earlier, a Black residence on the same street had been firebombed.


> Oh please. Y'all

Please don't personalize or (so to speak) group-ize this here. I know the feelings are strong, but this temptation needs to be resisted because it leads to battle, which is incompatible with thoughtful exchange. You did it again downthread ("you" vs. "we") and it strikes me as no coincidence that this subthread is by far the worst of the ones I've scrolled through so far. Which I'm sure is not your intent and is definitely not all your responsibility—it's just that things predictably happen this way, given such initial conditions.


I lived in the South and I know what y’all means. Given what Altman was writing about I’ll put this down as unintentional irony.


I'm sure you know more about the American South than I do. But the point is that you're damaging HN by taking this thread in a significantly worse direction. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15926503 and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15927904 are not helping. Please stop this now.


Dude, you are not making any sense. I cited a CIA report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Explain yourself.


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