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Wei_Dai comments on Think Before You Speak (And Signal It) - Less Wrong

22 Post author: Wei_Dai 19 March 2010 10:21PM

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Comment author: Wei_Dai 20 March 2010 06:02:07AM 2 points [-]

Is this a disguised plea to karma-enforce a more rigorous separation between "things that should be Open Thread comments" and "things that should be top-level posts"?

No, that wasn't my intention. I'll try to restate my main point more clearly:

To get your ideas to be taken seriously by others, get into the habit of thinking things through before you speak, and signal (or, when appropriate, just state) that you have done so. If you sometimes also like to throw around poorly thought out ideas for fun, then make it clear when you're doing that to avoid hurting your overall credibility.

Comment author: reaver121 20 March 2010 09:45:14AM *  3 points [-]

I agree that it would be a good idea to prevent hurting your credibility by signaling that you are either throwing out an idea to be torn apart or that you have thought long and hard about it. However, I still would err on the side of letting an idea out early. There are also downsides with thinking about an idea for too long :

  • you are less likely to find problems in your idea on your own
  • you possibly can get emotionally invested in your idea so you will have trouble in letting go when someone shoots it down
  • lost thinking time when your idea turns out to be false

A classical example is the Perpetuum Mobile. Time and time again there are people who believe that it will work. They invest time & money in something that's impossible as anyone with even a passing familiarity with thermodynamics can tell you.

I can only see one downside in letting it out early (besides hurt credibility) and that's that your future ideas will be taken less seriously. If you acquire a reputation for saying a lot of wrong and/or stupid ideas people will be quicker to just ignore you.

I think that the best way is to scrutinize your idea for basic soundness so that there are no obvious holes. Then the damage is minimal if it turns out to be wrong (obvious within your community off course. If you even dare to suggest Perpetuum Mobile with physicists if give you 5 seconds before they laugh you out in your face). Also, with the rise of the internet & libraries it's fairly easy to lookup if your idea wasn't already thought off and shot down.

Comment author: idlewire 24 March 2010 04:53:09PM 0 points [-]

So the real question is: "How will one's credibility be affected in the environment where the idea is presented?" which most likely depends on one's current credibility.

As of now, I don't have much karma so my risk of putting out poor ideas is more detrimental to this screen name. Eliezer could probably sneak in an entire subtly ludicrous paragraph that might go unnoticed for a while.

He has a history in reader's minds as well as the karma metric to make people ignore that flash in the back of their minds that something was off. They are more likely to think it was their own abberant thinking or that they had a flawed interpretation of a non-ludicrous idea he was trying to convey.

So it guess it just depends on how solid you think your idea and reputation are in making the decision on when to release an idea to a particular audience.

Comment author: h-H 20 March 2010 07:14:40PM *  0 points [-]

valid points, but isn't it quite easy to see when thinking has gone on for 'too long' without benefit?

nitpick:"I still would error on the side of", err not error :_)

Comment author: reaver121 22 March 2010 07:35:24AM 0 points [-]

nitpick:"I still would error on the side of", err not error

Corrected.

but isn't it quite easy to see when thinking has gone on for 'too long' without benefit?

I suspect that in most cases you will be right. However, I know a woman in my street who is convinced that she's empath and can, quite literally, sense people emotions (in the telepathic kind of way, not the body language kind). The first time I met here I tried (naively maybe) to convince her that her ability is impossible. I told her of confirmation bias, unconscious cold reading, that the senses are not completely reliable and so on. It didn't help. At this point, she is so invested in it that she will reject anything that denies her ability.

My point is that if she would have taken the time to discuss this with people (or at least read up on counter arguments on her own) it's possible she wouldn't believe in it now.