Occasionally someone tweets about Cold Takes such that I want to respond. But I can't respond over Twitter because I don't tweet. So here are my thoughts on some tweets people have made. The vibe I’m going for here is kind of like if someone delivered a sick burn in person, then received a FAX 6 years later saying “Fair point - but have you considered that it takes one to know one?” or something.
@ezraklein on Rowing, Steering, Anchoring, Equity, Mutiny (11/30/21)
Some thoughts:— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) November 30, 2021
I'd like to see a lot more Steering in public debate, by which I mean more detailing of proposed far futures.
There's an opportunity for philanthropists and grant makers here. Journalism and academia undersupply Steering relative to its importance.
I think there's an obvious one Holden misses: Maintenance.— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) November 30, 2021
Sometimes the boat is going in a reasonable direction, or would be, but it's breaking down, or the crew is so poorly organized it can't make decisions, or even row effectively.— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) November 30, 2021
Those of us who focus on, say state capacity or democracy would fit here.
My other critique is Holden frames these as separate and even competing orientations, and confusion between them as a generator of unnecessary disagreement.— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) November 30, 2021
That's surely sometimes right. But ideally, it's wrong.
I'd suggest people rarely truly just favor one or the other approach.— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) November 30, 2021
Better to think of these as an integrated framework where you should understand the answer to each question for your worldview, and the worldviews you're interested in or arguing with.
So you'd start by answering where you're trying to Steer. Do you even know?— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) November 30, 2021
Then: Does Rowing or Mutiny get you closer?
What Maintenance is needed to get there?
What does Equity look like between here and there?
What should you try and Anchor?
I basically think I just agree with all of this. My post didn’t present them as mutually exclusive, just as sources of confusion (see this table where I categorize different non-exclusive combinations). “Maintenance” is a good one.
@Evolving_Moloch on Pre-agriculture gender relations seem bad (11/29/21)
Notice how the only time Matt and many others bother to discuss hunter-gatherer societies at all it’s just to affirm some broad generalization and culture war. They don’t care about the topic, they’re just memeing for attention. https://t.co/xlmKPw8YES— Will (@Evolving_Moloch) November 29, 2021
Also you should know that, while I do like the paper that post is based on, coding decisions like these are highly subjective and debatable. So re: 'possibility of female leaders' code, women lead women's spaces and initiations across HG societies (see https://t.co/z3YjZiuF5n) pic.twitter.com/WNo6Wi55PD— Will (@Evolving_Moloch) November 29, 2021
Among Andaman Islanders specialist who scarifies *both sexes* at initiation is a women, & she chooses the design--would you consider this a leadership role? Paper above doesn't seem to. Think I would, but debatable! Which gets to issue: you have to read, can't just accept codes! pic.twitter.com/GUHHNTKrIz— Will (@Evolving_Moloch) November 29, 2021
I've been working on project similar to this, coding male/female bias in various categories across HG societies for like 2 years now, & I've found it extremely challenging making those sort of coding decisions. There's great deal of unavoidable subjective decision making involved— Will (@Evolving_Moloch) November 29, 2021
I feel spiritually very on board with a comment like “You have to read, can’t just accept codes!” I ideally would’ve read all of the details, and I hope to come back and do this someday. Why didn’t I?
- I think I did check out a couple, but it was really logistically difficult for a number of them, as they were sourced from expensive out-of-print books and things like that. (I had a similar issue with the data on early violence cited by Better Angels of our Nature, and I’ve been slowly finding used versions of the books, compiling a little library, and planning to eventually dig through everything and see whether the whole picture comes crashing down. I might not finish that for a long time, but stay tuned!)
- I ultimately decided not to explore every angle I could, which could’ve taken weeks. Instead I figured: “I’ve dug further into this than any other concise presentation I’ve seen, and certainly further than the existing highly-cited sources (e.g., Wikipedia) seem to, so why not put out what I have, and if it spreads, maybe someone else will point out what I missed?” In a sense, then, this worked OK, and I basically endorse “Dig deeper than others have” as a better rule than “Do a full minimal-trust investigation every time.”
- Another factor was that I expect my conclusion to hold up based on a number of other subtler data points, such as the fact that Wikipedia’s “support” for good gender relations actually contained quite a bit of info that seemed to suggest bad gender relations, and the fact that the best source I’d found on hunter-gatherers overall seemed pretty down on the situation. (More at the full piece.)
- And indeed, if the above points are the biggest corrections out there, that really doesn’t seem to change the picture much. I do not think “women lead women’s spaces” is good enough! And yeah, I wouldn’t instinctively classify the example he gives as a “leader” in the sense of having political power over the society as a whole, though I’d guess there are a lot more details that matter in that case.