On liking furries incidentally

cn: Discussion of erotic media but no graphic descriptions. I’d appreciate if commenters follow suit.

I’d define a furry as someone who is interested in or involved in the furry fandom. It isn’t *just* about interest in anthropomorphic animals, it’s about connection to a particular fandom tradition dating back to the 1970s. The furry fandom taps into a cross-cultural tendency to depict animal characters in a variety of forms, but that tendency is not in and of itself the same as being a furry.

There are plenty of popular works with animal characters that do not arise from the furry tradition, such as Redwall or Bojack Horseman. These works might be well-loved within the furry fandom, and if you *really* love them that might indicate that you would appreciate the furry fandom.  But fans of Bojack Horseman are not necessarily or even typically furries.

I’m not here to summarize the history and practices of the furry fandom. I want to talk about my personal experiences and impressions, as an occasional appreciator on the outside. And, I guess, this is a way of processing my own relationship to furries.

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Tagging AI art

In an earlier essay, I discussed three arguments about AI art, and why I disagree with them. First, it is argued that AI art violated the consent of artists used in training sets; second, that it hurts the livelihoods of artists; and third, that it is bad art.

Part of what inspired me to defend AI art was that the social network Pillowfort polled its users on what ought to be done about AI art. I was surprised to hear that more than half thought that AI art should be banned from the platform, and the vast majority thought it should at least be mandatory to label it as AI-generated. I’ve said repeatedly that I am not personally interested in AI art, but it feels so wrong to single out one particular category of content just because a lot of people don’t like it. I myself produce content that plenty of people don’t like (analytical essays), and there are plenty of popular varieties of content that I dislike but no one would ever think to ban. So I defend AI art not on its own merits, but because I am opposed to efforts to homogenize social media content.

However, let’s consider a couple of things about AI art that might make it particularly annoying or corrosive to a social media platform. Even someone who creates or follows AI art might be concerned about these, and advocate measures to control them. We’re talking about deception and spamming.

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Why doesn’t EA divest from crypto?

After Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) was arrested for massive fraud in November, there has been a reckoning in the EA movement to which SBF belonged. I’ve linked to several critics discussing how SBF’s actions could have been attributed to EA philosophy and practices, and even offered my own humble commentary.

Of course, it’s very easy to get distracted by philosophical arguments, and miss what’s staring in our face. The much more obvious takeaway from the whole affair is: EA was overinvested in cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency is evil, why were they invested in it at all?

Yes, fraud can come from any sector, and no, not every person involved in crypto is fraudulent to the same degree as SBF. No, SBF is not “proof” of the depravity of crypto. What SBF proves, is that EA has been supportive of, and dependent on crypto. EA insiders must have already known, and maybe some readers already knew, but I didn’t know! I didn’t know EA had so much crypto in it! Why is that? And why don’t they stop?

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A few things in defense of EA

I’m fairly well off these days. Between having a frugal upbringing, and being a tech worker married to another tech worker with no kids or debt, I think life has obviously been unfair in my favor. I want to give some of it away. For these reasons, I think a lot about the effective altruism (EA) movement, albeit as an outsider.

Most of the stuff I say about EA is fairly critical (and there’s more to come!), but I try to be measured in my criticism, because I don’t think it’s all bad. Compared to a lot of stuff PZ Myers says, I’m practically a supporter. In this article, I offer a begrudging and measured defense.

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Atheists who can’t even talk to theists

A Recurring Character

Among my many years participating in university atheist student groups, there was often someone who played the role of the asshole.

Atheists are, of course, stereotyped as angry assholes, although a lot of this is based on online activity. It’s very easy to be “internet angry”, when you’re merely energetic, enthusiastic, or opinionated. Plenty of people are loud in writing but soft-spoken in person. But I’m talking about atheists who were not merely internet angry, but IRL angry at religion, or otherwise assholes about it. It sometimes reached a point where other atheist students would whisper, “What’s up with them? Are they okay?”

I mean, everyone is an asshole to one degree or another. But mentally, I drew a line in the sand with this question: what if a theist walked through that door? Would this person be able to talk normally with them? Or would they try aggressively argue with them, or otherwise be a jerk?
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Risk neutrality in EA

Effective Altruism (EA) is a community focused on donating money to create the greatest good in the world. This is mostly (?) unobjectionable–but there’s problems. The EA community has a number of philosophical viewpoints that most external observers would consider absurd, and which materially affect their donating behavior.

In particular, many people in EA believe that the most efficient way to create the greatest good is by preventing extinction caused by AI. EA surveys suggest that about 18% of community members donate to “Long term & AI” causes, compared to 62% that donate for global health & development. Clearly concern about AI is not a unanimous viewpoint in EA, but you have to imagine the kind of community where everyone takes it seriously.

EA has been under the spotlight in current news because Sam Bankman-Fried–recently arrested for massive fraud at his cryptocurrency exchange FTX–was a vocal proponent of EA. More than a vocal proponent, he founded the FTX Future Fund, which committed $160M in charitable grants to various EA causes. At the top of Future Fund’s cause list? AI.

Although I’m critical of EA, I actually think it’s a bit unfair to pretend that they’re directly responsible for SBF’s fraudulent behavior. Instead I wanted to focus on some of SBF’s philosophical views, which are shared by at least some parts of the EA community. Specifically, let’s talk about the idea that charitable causes are risk-neutral.

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Ten things on Twitter that are already breaking

Twitter laid off 50% of its employees and 80% of its contractors, and then at least 16% more of its employees quit. At this point, I am massively rooting for Twitter to fail–purely for selfish reasons, as a tech worker who wouldn’t like to see CEOs rewarded for mistreating tech workers.

Last Friday, #RIPTwitter was trending on Twitter, and people seemed to think Twitter would stop working at any moment. I think the more likely timescale is not days, but months–but that’s just what I hear from people who work in that area. The website may not disappear immediately, but we’ll see a deterioration of services, eventually losing something that proves essential. I’m so interested to see what will deliver the killing blow.

Although Twitter seems to be working for now, we can actually see various services breaking in real time by tracking complaints on the r/Twitter subreddit. I did not confirm these issues, and some might only affect a certain subset of users, or may arise from pre-existing issues. But I think there’s a good chance that Twitter 2.0 is to blame. Here’s a top ten list so far.

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