Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

lukeprog comments on Thoughts on the Singularity Institute (SI) - Less Wrong

252 Post author: HoldenKarnofsky 11 May 2012 04:31AM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (1262)

You are viewing a single comment's thread. Show more comments above.

Comment author: lukeprog 10 May 2012 08:52:36PM *  29 points [-]

On April 7th, Richard posted to Facebook:

LessWrong has now shown its true mettle. After someone here on FB mentioned a LW discussion of consciousness, I went over there and explained that Eliezer Yudkowsky, in his essay, had completely misunderstood the Zombie Argument given by David Chalmers. I received a mix of critical, thoughtful and sometimes rude replies. But then, all of a sudden, Eliezer took an interest in this old thread again, and in less than 24 hours all of my contributions were relegated to the trash. Funnily enough, David Chalmers himself then appeared and explained that Eliezer had, in fact, completely misunderstood his argument. Chalmers' comments, strangely enough, have NOT been censored. :-)

I replied:

I haven't read the whole discussion, but just so everyone is clear...

Richard's claim that "in less than 24 hours all of my contributions were relegated to the trash" is false.

What happened is that LWers disvalued Richard's comments and downvoted them. Because most users have their preferences set to hide comments with a score of less than -3, these users saw Richard's most-downvoted comments as collapsed by default, with a note reading "comment score below threshold", and a plus symbol you can click to expand the comment and the ensuing thread. This happens regularly even for many LW regulars like Will Newsome.

What happened was not censorship. Richard's comments were not "relegated to the trash." They were downvoted by the community, and not merely because Eliezer "took an interest" in the thread again. I have strongly disagreed with Eliezer on LW before and had my comments massively UP-voted by the community. LessWrong is not community of mindless Eliezer-drones. It's a community of people who have learned the skills of thinking quantitatively for themselves, which is one reason it can be hard for the community to cooperate to get things done in general.

Chalmers' comments weren't "censored" because (1) nobody's comments on that thread were actually censored, to my knowledge, and (2) the community thought Chalmers' comments were valuable even when they disagreed with them.

Richard, I find your comment to be misleading to the point of being dishonest, similar to the level of dishonesty in the messages that got you banned from the SL4 mailing list: http://www.sl4.org/archive/0608/15895.html

I've appreciated several of the articles you've written for IEET and H+, and I wish you would be more careful with your communications.

As you can see, the point of my comment wasn't to "abuse" Richard, but to explain what actually happened so that readers could compare it to what Richard said had happened.

At that point, Abram Demski commented:

I humbly suggest that the debate end here. (I do not predict anything useful coming out of a continued debate, and I'd prefer if we kept on the interesting track which the conversation turned to.)

...and Richard and I agreed.

Thus, I will say no more here. Indeed, given Richard's reaction (which I might have predicted with a bit more research), I regret having raised the issue with him at all.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 11 May 2012 01:52:33AM *  6 points [-]

This happens regularly even for many LW regulars like Will Newsome.

(Though to be fair I think this sort of depends on your definition of "regularly"—I think over 95% of my comments aren't downvoted, many of them getting 5 or more upvotes, in contrast with other contributors who get about 25% of their comments downvoted and usually end up leaving as a result.)

Comment author: army1987 11 May 2012 09:41:40AM -1 points [-]

Well, if someone's comments are downvoted that regularly and still they stay LW regulars, there's something wrong.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 12 May 2012 02:06:02PM 2 points [-]

Why? This isn't obvious to me. If the remaining comments are highly upvoted and of correspondingly high quality then it would make sense for them to stick around. Timtyler may be a in a similar category.

Comment author: army1987 12 May 2012 04:16:34PM 3 points [-]

If I counted right, only 9 of Timtyler's last 100 comments have negative scores as of now.

25% would be a lot. It'd mean that you either don't realize or don't care that people don't want to see some types of comments.

Comment author: Manfred 11 May 2012 02:30:43PM *  3 points [-]

With them or with us?

Comment author: army1987 11 May 2012 03:55:39PM -1 points [-]

Most likely with them.

Comment author: shminux 10 May 2012 09:10:51PM *  7 points [-]

I fail to see anything that can be qualified as an ad hominem ("an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it") in what you quoted. If anything, the original comment by Richard comes much closer to this definition.

Comment author: Richard_Loosemore 11 May 2012 12:51:26AM 1 point [-]

shminux.

I refer you to http://www.theskepticsguide.org/resources/logicalfallacies.aspx for a concise summary of argument fallacies, including ad hominem...

"Ad hominem An ad hominem argument is any that attempts to counter another’s claims or conclusions by attacking the person, rather than addressing the argument itself."

My original argument, that Luke took so much exception to, was one made by many people in the history of civilisation: is it censorship when a community of people collectively vote in such a way that a dissenting voice becomes inaudible? For example, if all members of Congress were to shout loudly when a particular member got up to speak, drowning out their words, would this be censorship, or just their exercise of a community vote against that person? The question is debatable, and many people would agree that it is a quite sinister form of censorship.

So my point about censorship shared a heritage with something that has been said my others, on countless occasions.

Now, did Luke accept that MANY people would agree that this kind of "shouting down" of a voice was tantamount to censorship?

Far from accepting that this is a commonplace, he called my comment "misleading to the point of being dishonest". That is not a reference to the question of whether the point was or was not valid, it was a reference to my character. My level of honesty. Which is the standard definition of an ad hominem.

But of course, he went much further than this simple ad hominem. He said: "Richard, I find your comment to be misleading to the point of being dishonest, similar to the level of dishonesty in the messages that got you banned from the SL4 mailing list: http://www.sl4.org/archive/0608/15895.html"

This is also an example of a "Poisoning the Well" attack. Guilt by association.

Furthermore, he makes a slanderous claim of bad character. He refers to "... the level of dishonesty that got you banned from the SL4 mailing list". In fact, there was no dishonesty in that episode at all. He alludes to the supposed dishonesty as if it were established fact, and uses it to try to smear my character rather than my argument.

But, in the face of this clear example of an ad hominem attack (it is self-evident, hardly needing me to spell it out), you, shminux, see nothing. In fact, without explaining your reasoning, you go on to state that you find more evidence for ad hominem in my original remarks! I just looked again: I say nothing about anyone's character (!), so how can there be evidence for me attacking someone by using an ad hominem?

Finally, Luke distorted the quote of the conversation, above. He OMITTED part of the conversation, in which I supplied evidence that there was no dishonesty on my part, and that there was massive evidence that the banning occurred because Yudkowsky needed to stop me when I suggested we get an outside expert opinion to adjudicate the dispute. Faced with this reply, Luke disappeared. He made only ONE comment (the one above) and then he ignored the reply.

He continues to ignore that evidence, and continues to slander my character, making references to "Indeed, given Richard's reaction (which with a bit more research I might have predicted), I regret having raised the issue with him at all."

My "reaction" was to supply evidence.

Apparently that is a mark against someone.

Comment author: dlthomas 11 May 2012 03:35:04AM 7 points [-]

For example, if all members of Congress were to shout loudly when a particular member got up to speak, drowning out their words, would this be censorship, or just their exercise of a community vote against that person?

One thing to note is that your comment wasn't removed; it was collapsed. It can still be viewed by anyone who clicks the expander or has their threshold set sufficiently low (with my settings, it's expanded). There is a tension between the threat of censorship being a problem on the one hand, and the ability for a community to collectively decide what they want to talk about on the other.

The censorship issue is also diluted by the fact that 1) nothing here is binding on anyone (which is way different than your Congress example), and 2) there are plenty of other places people can discuss things, online and off. It is still somewhat relevant, of course, to the question of whether there's an echo-chamber effect, but carefull not to pull in additional connotations with choice of words and examples.

Comment author: jkaufman 12 May 2012 02:24:36AM 4 points [-]

"Guilt by association" with your past self?