Issues with referencing or validating known people or institutions in today's dysfunctional online world


Continuing the discussion from Essay (with valuable links): Economics, social attitudes toward FLO public goods, and "care work":

I’ve been playing around with how to present these ideas and how formal or informal to be here versus the blog. I agree that my essay on care-work could be a great blog post. I was thinking to mix that essay in with other posts more about us though. But for practical reasons, maybe I’ll just put it up as is.

On a side note, I thought about adding a footnote about related thoughts about Sam Harris’s podcast and the connection to crowdmatching. But I’m posting here to mention the meta issue of why I hesitated to do that.

So, Sam Harris has pushed in the right direction toward public goods with his podcast. He now completely rejects ad-based monetizing; makes excellent, human appeals for patronage (even emphasizing that the appeal does not apply to anyone for whom donating would be a financial hardship); and has pretty well accepted free dissemination and derivative use of the podcast even though he hasn’t actually applied a FLO license. Unfortunately, he has paywalled his Ask Me Anything episodes and some other non-rivalrous resources (while the asking of questions is arguably rivalrous, the episodes themselves should be freed — if only access to them weren’t needed to encourage patronage).

Some of his other of his podcast episodes get into topics relevant to, such as AI: Racing Toward the Brink where, toward the end, Eliezer Yudkowsky excellently and succinctly describes the “coordination problem” that we discuss around the snowdrift dilemma.

More concerns about prejudice from partisan people, guilt-by-association

I’m thinking through how to express things even in a comment like this. Sam gets into (snowdrift-unrelated) political issues at times that are quite controversial. Sometimes he’s misguided or missing something, sometimes he’s spot on. I respect him in many regards. But I don’t want to deal with people carelessly assuming things about my views based on the mere association with Sam Harris. Ironically, Sam has spoken of that very issue — that he won’t engage certainly people who he doesn’t know are problematic merely out of fear of guilt by association with people who may be problematic (or who he knows have troublesome reputations, deserved or not).

I avoid getting into the dysfunctional online debates on these things (something Sam himself has more recently emphasized; realizing how toxic the social media environment has led him to be careless in the past).

In one notable case, I heard a podcast (details not important for this point) featuring two people having a difficult but productive and personally respectful exchange. They were willing to laugh at each others’ emotional reactions and work to build understanding and find common ground. But on Twitter, I discovered two long threads that linked to the exact same excerpt from the podcast. The first thread bashed one participant with the most dismissive, condescending language, describing how they had been totally schooled (I’m using much more tame language here). The other thread was effectively identical but flipped which participant was seen honorably and which deserved the condescension. Probably close to zero of the commenters even listened to the whole conversation, but I don’t know if that would even have helped. The commenters were somehow segregated by Twitter into two echo-chambers. I doubt participants on either thread realized the other thread existed.

Anyway, I’m a bit more willing to talk personally here on our forum and have discussions with people internally in our community, with our better communication norms… I have some trepidation about tying us to any of the various thinkers referenced in my essay. I don’t want careless people saying “ is by people who like Sam Harris / David Graeber / Dmytri Kleiner…” and lumping us into some political box (prejudicial readers won’t notice the fact that even those three examples have conflicts with each other [Kleiner wrote a blog post even about being rudely dismissed by Graeber on Twitter]) .

Of course, it’s a totally dysfunctional intellectual reality if we can’t reference specific items from someone without constantly, repeatedly, preemptively qualifying that we don’t agree 100% with what the person says here or elsewhere. So, if we’re going to engage publicly with any of this, I guess we accept the risks… But I think the risks are real, and I want to be cautious.

I want the boldest, strongest push for the values stands for. I don’t want them sullied or dismissed by association to tangential values that various team or community members may support…


I’d suggest taking a look at’s marketing materials, because I think they do this just right.

They’re a cross-partisan group working to get money out of US politics, and they make that cross-partisanship a selling point. They pretty much don’t talk about other political issues. Whenever they promote other organizations that aren’t so politically neutral, they’ll make sure to promote a similar organization on the opposite side of the isle in the same breath. I imagine it’s also helpful that the cause involves a common enemy (corruption).

Especially their earlier materials

By now people have mostly gotten the point, I assume, and so sometimes they won’t always do the “promote organizations in pairs” thing anymore.

If you have trouble finding stuff, I can look through my old emails for some examples.