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A Less Wrong Q&A with Eliezer (Step 1: The Proposition)

16 Post author: MichaelGR 29 October 2009 03:04PM

I don't know if I'm the only one, but I've always been a bit frustrated by Eliezer's BloggingHeadsTV episodes. I find myself wishing that Eliezer would get more speaking time and could address more directly some of the things we discuss at LW/OB.

Some of you will surely think: "If you want more Eliezer, just read his blog posts and papers!"

Sensible advice, no doubt, but I think that there's something special (because of how our brains evolved) about actually seeing and hearing a teacher, and I find it very helpful to see how he applies rationality techniques in "real time". But I'm not just looking for a dry lecture, I want more Eliezer because I enjoy listening to him (gotta love that sense of humor), and I bet many of you do too.

Here is my suggestion:

If the Less Wrong community thinks it's a good idea and if Eliezer agrees, I will create a "Step 2: Ask Your Questions" post in which the comments section will be used to gather questions for Eliezer. Each question should be submitted as an individual comment to allow more granularity in the ranking based on the voting system.

After at least 7 days, to give everybody enough time to submit their questions and vote, Eliezer will sit down in front of a camera and answers however many questions he fells like answering (at a time of his choosing, t-shirt or hot cocoa in a mug imprinted with Bayes' theorem are optional), in descending order from most to least votes, skipping the ones he doesn't want to answer. If Eliezer feels uncomfortable speaking alone for an extended period of time, he can get someone to read him the questions so that it feels more like an interview.

The video can then be uploaded to a hosting service like Youtube or Vimeo, and posted to Less Wrong.

In short, it would be a kind of Less Wrong podcast, something that many other sites do successfully.

Yay or nay?

Update: Eliezer says "I'll do it."

Update 2: The thread where questions were submitted can be found here.

Update 3: Eliezer's video answers can be found here.

Comments (33)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 29 October 2009 09:34:52PM 16 points [-]

I'd do it.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 29 October 2009 04:01:03PM 10 points [-]

I much prefer text to speech, because it's faster and allows random access. For that reason I've hardly ever watched bloggingheads, and I doubt I'd watch the proposed video. Also, this proposition isn't for a real time dialog, but spoken answers to written questions supplied in advance.

Has Eliezer done TED yet? I'd watch that.

Comment author: RobinZ 29 October 2009 04:28:01PM 4 points [-]

What's special about the talk being at TED, precisely?

Comment author: RichardKennaway 29 October 2009 04:45:10PM 5 points [-]

What's special about the talk being at TED, precisely?

The audience.

Speakers at TED are addressing a wide variety of smart and successful people, and therefore must compose their talks to communicate what actually matters outside their own circle, and make it worth that audience's time and $6000 a year to listen.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 30 October 2009 02:05:36AM *  2 points [-]

Speakers at TED are addressing a wide variety of smart and successful people, and therefore must compose their talks to communicate what actually matters outside their own circle, and make it worth that audience's time and $6000 a year to listen.

Yes, they're well-prepared, but they're lowest common denominator. I think I've learned less from TED talks than from any other source by or about the same person. eg, compare Bruce Bueno de Mesquita's TED talk to his interviews by Russ Roberts. I haven't listened to his hour+ talk on Iran, but I think I listened to a talk that contained 20 minutes on Iran that was much better than his 20 minute TED talk.

Maybe they're good if you just want 20 minutes to filter the person for actual learning later.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 29 October 2009 05:27:23PM *  3 points [-]

It's a distinctly high-status event.

Comment author: Wilka 30 October 2009 09:11:21AM 3 points [-]

Text is faster than speech, but if the video isn't important (e.g. with BHTV) you can listen to them during times that you couldn't read. Such as driving, or walking.

I listen to a lot of podcasts on my way to and from work, and it effectively doesn't use extra time in my day - I'd be travelling anyway, so I might as well make good use of the time.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 30 October 2009 11:08:31AM 1 point [-]

My mileage varies, in the most literal sense. My commute is about half the length of a TED talk.

Comment author: MichaelGR 30 October 2009 02:46:36AM *  2 points [-]

Has Eliezer done TED yet? I'd watch that.

I'm not sure how TED works. Do they have to invite you to speak? Can you submit your name?

Eliezer, have you ever been invited to TED? Have you considered trying to submit your name as a potential speaker?

I'm not sure if the TED format would make for something very interesting for LW readers, though. It's 18 minutes max (iirc), so Eliezer would probably only have time for an introduction to a few concepts. I'd much prefer a longer Q&A like the one I suggested above.

Comment author: MichaelGR 29 October 2009 04:39:44PM *  2 points [-]

I prefer text to speech too. But it doesn't have to be one or the other.

I find both to be complementary, and I feel that the few times that I've seen Eliezer speak (at Singularity Summit, BHTV, etc) have made him more "real" to me and added something to my reading of his texts.

I just want more of that, I guess.

Update: Just to be clear, are you saying you would like a Q&A but in text format instead of video, or that you don't want a Q&A at all and prefer the usual blog posts?

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 30 October 2009 01:55:01AM 1 point [-]

I much prefer text to speech, because it's faster and allows random access

Can't do much about the random access (ie, skimming), but you can speed up speech a lot.

Comment author: SilasBarta 29 October 2009 11:45:10PM 1 point [-]

Agreed -- text is better.

Comment author: Alicorn 29 October 2009 04:14:56PM 1 point [-]

TED seconded.

Comment author: gwern 31 October 2009 06:16:31PM 0 points [-]

Add my vote to text. I'd point out that text is far more accessible, in the disabilities sense (eg. my own hearing-impaired self; the bloggingheads interviews are almost unlistenable to me).

Comment author: LucasSloan 31 October 2009 07:29:03PM 3 points [-]

I am in favor of this idea, and support a video format. If necessary, I am willing to transcribe the audio.

Comment author: MichaelGR 04 November 2009 04:10:09AM 2 points [-]

Thank you for the transcribing offer. Anything that makes this more accessible is welcome, and it might even get those who don't care about video to check it out.

Comment author: LucasSloan 04 November 2009 06:16:23AM 2 points [-]

It seemed the best way to cut through the debate on video vs. audio vs. text. Audio is easy to produce from a video, and so is text, just not as. This is me overcoming the bystander effect to (hopefully) get this on video, the format that best for satisfying all comers to the debate.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 31 October 2009 04:51:29PM 2 points [-]

For all the people who said they prefer text to audio, how about having a "Q&A with Eliezer" thread?

Comment author: gwern 31 October 2009 06:14:32PM 1 point [-]

Why not do both and transcribe the audio as well?

Comment author: AndrewKemendo 30 October 2009 02:17:41AM 2 points [-]

Perhaps this could be expanded to be Q&A for the people the readers agree would comparably elucidate on all manners rationality/AGI such as Wei Dei and Nesov rather than a single person.

To me it gives a broader perspective and has an added benefit of eliminating any semblance of cultishness, despite Mr. Yudkowski's protests of such a following.

Comment author: alexflint 29 October 2009 04:25:19PM 2 points [-]

I support the idea

Comment author: cousin_it 29 October 2009 03:33:41PM *  -2 points [-]

I'm definitely out - the idea feels too cultish. But if many people want to participate, go ahead.

Comment author: RobinZ 29 October 2009 03:57:56PM 2 points [-]

I don't believe a Q&A is necessarily cultish - you could perfectly well ask questions to elucidate points on which you believe Eliezer to be confused, not just to gain more opinions to clone - but I have to say I'm out as well.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 29 October 2009 09:34:15PM *  4 points [-]
Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 29 October 2009 05:05:06PM *  1 point [-]

I agree that the way this post is written is kinda cultish (MichaelGR, wake up!), but the idea of interviews isn't at all. On the other hand, such things should be cleared with the interviewee first.

Comment author: MichaelGR 29 October 2009 05:50:30PM 4 points [-]

Wake up from what? Guess I should've added a disclaimer about some parts of this being tongue-in-cheek to avoid the "cultish" accusations... I thought it was pretty transparent, but I guess nothing is obvious on the internet.

Anyway, I think Eliezer has a lot of interesting things to say and the BHTV episodes have left me on my appetite.

What's cultish about wanting to set up a Q&A (something that Slashdot, Digg, etc have been doing for a long time)?

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 29 October 2009 05:55:12PM 0 points [-]

What's cultish about wanting to set up a Q&A (something that Slashdot, Digg, etc have been doing for a long time)?

That was covered by the "idea of interviews isn't [cultish] at all", while tongue-in-cheek part obviously didn't register.

Comment author: MichaelGR 29 October 2009 06:13:14PM *  2 points [-]

My mistake was probably to carry assumptions I have about other online communities to Less Wrong, where the rules are different. I guess next time I'll just write:

"Anyone interested in doing a Q&A? If so, I suggest we find someone to interview and then rank questions by voting."

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 29 October 2009 11:22:58PM 1 point [-]

Another vote for text. Speech has an amazingly low bandwidth.

Comment author: wedrifid 02 November 2009 08:54:30PM 1 point [-]

If the Less Wrong community thinks it's a good idea and if Eliezer agrees, I will create a "Step 2: Ask Your Questions" post in which the comments section will be used to gather questions for Eliezer.

I'm waiting!

Comment author: MichaelGR 03 November 2009 08:23:52PM 1 point [-]

I'm waiting!

Am I the only one who read that in the voice of Vizzini from the Princess Bride?

Anyway, I'm just waiting to make sure that all the regulars had a chance to see this and vote/comment (I figure some people might only come once a week).

Unless there is a show-stopper very soon, I will go to Step 2 of the plan.

Comment author: komponisto 30 October 2009 08:55:09PM 1 point [-]

I like the idea.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 30 October 2009 06:50:27AM 1 point [-]

I'd definitely watch this. I think I have a better attention span for lectures than text.