Re-reading your post, it looks like you’re mostly objecting to people feigning ignorance when a word they don’t like comes up, which I agree is an annoying thing to do. I’m curious about whether you also object to people saying things like:
“Incel is a horrible word; it conflates ‘men who are sad about not having any sex’ with ‘misogynistic and violent men’. I worry that its popularity will influence people to be more hostile towards any man who complains about romantic loneliness.”
“I dislike rationlists’ usage of ‘defect’, it’s seemed to have broadened to the point of meaning ‘any behavior I dislike or think is wrong’. I wish we’d all just agree to taboo that word and specify exactly what we’re objecting to instead.”
What if the thing you’re trying to say is “I think the categorization scheme implied by your use of <word> is wrong, and will cause you to make wrong predictions?” This was the first thing that came to mind when I read your example about “chemicals”—I objected to my dad’s use of “chemicals” a few years ago, and it led to us discussing how that term conflates “has a scary-sounding name” with “has any evidence of being harmful at all”. My dad previously thought that willowbark extract might be healthier/less harmful than aspirin, despite them both having the same active ingredient (salicylic acid).
I agree that people don’t always want to debate about whether they’re making a category error; if someone says they want to avoid food with chemicals and I object to their categorization scheme and they say “I’m not interested in debating that, please respect my food preferences so we can finish this shopping trip”, then I should definitely drop the issue. But are your preferences that I shouldn’t even bring it up?
(I might be typical minding somewhat here; I’ve gotten a lot of mileage from various rationalist friends asking me to taboo certain words in discussion, which forces me to think more carefully and often causes me to notice distinctions that I was eliding. So I like the tool of striking words from my vocabulary!)
This is my go-to equivalent scenario that doesn’t sound so paradoxical:
Suppose you work at a bar frequented by young people, some of whom can legally drink alcohol and some of whom can’t. You’re trying to collect evidence for the statement “All underage people at this bar are drinking non-alcoholic drinks.” One way you could approach this is by going up to a sample of your patrons, carding them to learn their age, and checking the glasses of the ones who are underage. If you check the glasses of a lot of underage people, and none of them are drinking alcohol, that’s good evidence. But another thing you can do is check everyone’s glasses, and only card the people who are drinking alcohol. If you card a bunch of people who are drinking alcohol, and all of them are overage, then that’s also good evidence.
Similarly, there are two ways I could collect evidence for the statement “All ravens are black”. Every time I see a raven, I could remember to check that it’s black; or every time I see a non-black thing, I could remember to check that it’s also not a raven. But given that there’s an immense quantity of non-black things, and that my mind does not automatically categorize objects by color, the second approach doesn’t sound like something I could actually do. And so it doesn’t feel like observing a yellow banana is evidence for all ravens being black.
Yeah, a lot of Bay Area rationalistsphere people currently live in group houses. I have the impression that this is true of NYC rationalistsphere as well, but less true in other cities.
And yeah, I suspect that a lot of confusion arises from eliding “people who read LessWrong and other rationalist blogs and identify as rationalists” and “a specific social circle of Bay Area and NYC inhabitants who know each other IRL (even if they originally met through online rationalist communities).” The latter group does in fact tend to live in group housing; I have very little idea about the former.
As another Bay Arean rationalist, I can confirm that a large part of my rationalist social circle lives in group houses in the Berkeley/Oakland area. I’m a bit surprised that you haven’t encountered this as well?
Generally the group houses are 3-5 rationalists in their twenties or early thirties living together—sharing common spaces, but having private bedrooms (or bedrooms shared only with a romantic partner.)
I suspect that the prevalence of group housing is in part due to Bay Area rent being really high (making it more attractive to share an apartment/house as opposed to rent a one-bedroom on one’s own). I also have the vague impression that current 20-30-year-olds in the US are more likely to live in group housing than has been true in previous generations? (Many of my non-rationalist friends in this age group also live in group houses.)
I am interested.