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Benquo comments on Be secretly wrong - Less Wrong

32 Post author: Benquo 10 December 2016 07:06AM

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Comment author: Benquo 09 December 2016 06:23:29PM *  1 point [-]

Claim 2: The social inhibition against making strong claims can interfere with the learning process by making people reluctant to articulate their beliefs, for reasons mostly unrelated to epistemic humility.

If you want to discuss this claim, I encourage you to do it as a reply to this comment.

Comment author: Viliam 12 December 2016 06:59:30PM 4 points [-]

One thing I dislike about public debates (outside of LW) is when I make a statement other people disagree with, and some of them keep bringing it up repeatedly later, in completely unrelated topics. My most extreme experience of this: on some website I once criticized a politician for doing something controversial, and one of his fans kept stalking me for a few months, and whenever I posted an unrelated article, he always posted a comment saying "hey, you are the guy who said that the politician X did a bad thing, but you are completely wrong!". (And I was like: "dude, how exactly is this relevant to my Gimp tutorial? can't we just keep the discussion on-topic?". Unfortunately, there was no way for me to remove comments, and the admins refused to classify this as a spam.)

Similarly, since I've posted a few LW links on Facebook, some people start to prefix their disagreements with me by: "If you call yourself a rationalist, you shouldn't believe X." (They refuse my offers to make bets about X, though. They just believe that it is inappropriate for a rational person to disagree with them. And no, I don't call myself a rationalist in such situations.)

So it feels like if you try to keep your identity small, you better register a separate nick for each article you post. Which of course would be too inconvenient. (Or maybe a nick per topic. Or rather, per opinion.)

Comment author: Lumifer 09 December 2016 08:21:13PM 1 point [-]

I've got pushback at LW for a similar idea :-/

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 10 December 2016 02:09:56AM *  4 points [-]

Contributions to Less Wrong generally either add value or subtract value. It's hard for a user to predict in advance which will be the case. I think Benquo is correct that the average Less Wrong user is excessively worried about subtracting value.

However, the law of equal and opposite advice applies. Just because the average Less Wrong user needs to hear Benquo's message doesn't mean you do.

The strategy of making confident though erroneous claims in order to get others to explain things to you is one that demonstrates almost no concern for the possibility that you are subtracting value.

I like reading objections that are friendly, coherent, non-obvious, plausible, interesting. But sometimes I get the impression you are making an objection just for the sake of making an objection, without thinking very hard about whether it's useful or accurate, and that gets tiresome. Especially since you never make toplevel posts yourself.

Comment author: Lumifer 10 December 2016 05:32:04AM 2 points [-]

Adding or subtracting value is at least a three-argument function (what, to whom, in which context) :-)

demonstrates almost no concern for the possibility that you are subtracting value

So don't dance around so much and say outright whether you think I do. I promise not to faint.

toplevel posts

You seem to consider posts much more valuable than comments. Why so? I usually find commentary more interesting and useful than the post itself.

Comment author: Viliam 12 December 2016 05:32:02PM 6 points [-]

Well, this is how I react to your debating style:

If I want to write a meaningful comment explaining something that feels important to me, I usually get a feeling "and now Lumifer will immediately reply with something predictably useless, and that will kill the whole debate". About half of the time I later feel I was right about this. This discourages me from writing meaningful comments.

On the other hand, when writing Facebook-style comments (more or less like this one, but shorter), I don't give a fuck about your reaction, because throwing inane stuff at each other is how the game is played.

To me it feels like you are defecting at some kind of Prisonner's Dilemma we have here, and then the only rational move for me is to also defect, or avoid the game.

It's not just the kind of the comments you write, but also that you reply to pretty much everything, whether you have something useful to contribute or not. It doesn't seem like you plan to change this, so... uhm, I actually can't even downvote you anymore... sigh.

You seem to consider posts much more valuable than comments. Why so?

Because posts containing as little value as your comments would immediately get downvoted.

Okay, that was a bit too aggressive. But your debating style is about attacking other people's ideas, and exposing as little as possible of your own (obviously, so you can't be attacked back in the same style). This is only possible because other people keep bringing new ideas. If everyone would switch to your style, it would be like Facebook. So other people are providing value, and you are giving them some negative reinforcement in return. Maybe you believe that this kind of predictable negative reinforcement is actually super valuable. I disagree.

Comment author: Raemon 12 December 2016 05:42:25PM 4 points [-]

This.

Comment author: Lumifer 12 December 2016 07:17:37PM *  0 points [-]

and now Lumifer will immediately reply with something predictably useless, and that will kill the whole debate

Why would it kill the debate? My shadow isn't that large and that dense that nothing will grow in it. I'll repeat what I said before: I'm ignorable. If you think my comment is useless, just skip past it.

Or do you think that there's something poisonous/infectious in my comments so that they create a zone of creep around them?

you are defecting at some kind of Prisonner's Dilemma we have here

What kind of a Prisoner's Dilemma do we have here? I've noticed that expression tends to be heavily overused to mean THOU SHALL ALWAYS COOPERATE OTHERWISE YOU ARE BAD and I'm not a very cooperative creature. Is there a Prisoner's Dilemma, technically speaking?

a bit too aggressive

Fails a reality check, too :-P

obviously, so you can't be attacked back in the same style

You are making the assumption that I'm mostly interested in collecting Internet Debate Points. That is not the case -- if I were, I wouldn't hang around at LW which isn't a terribly convenient place for such activities. And anyway, a bit upthread I'm being chided for "[t]he strategy of making confident though erroneous claims in order to get others to explain things to you". So what is it, am I making too few claims or too many?

So other people are providing value, and you are giving them some negative reinforcement in return.

That's a general-purpose argument against any criticism, isn't it?

LW's problem isn't only that good posts became scarce, it is also that nature abhors vacuum and so shit started to flow in to fill that empty space. If you want any content, that's easy, but you'd better set up some filters before the place gets filled with "Video using humor to spread rationality" and "This one equation may be the root of intelligence".

Comment author: Viliam 14 December 2016 11:11:15AM *  2 points [-]

Is this supposed to be yet another "confident though erroneous claim in order to get others to explain things to you"?

You see, I am unable to say when you are playing games and when you are not. I just have a rule of thumb of avoiding debates with people whom I suspect of playing games. I simply don't enjoy this kind of games.

The problem here is my lack of trust that you are debating in good faith (as opposed to trolling for reaction). Maybe I completely misjugde you. Maybe you are doing something that contributes to such misjudgement.

Comment author: Lumifer 14 December 2016 03:28:52PM *  0 points [-]

I am unable to say when you are playing games and when you are not

I don't see this as a problem :-) Moreover, I think that "playing games or not" is not a binary choice, but rather a position on a continuous scale -- I like conversations that operate on multiple levels simultaneously with a certain level of ambiguity.

I just have a rule of thumb of avoiding debates with people whom I suspect of playing games

Sure. I'm not jumping around yelling "Debate me! Debate me!". If you don't want to, well, just don't. Like I'm free to comment on your public postings, you are free to entirely ignore my comments.

my lack of trust

What do you have at stake so that you need a lot of trust?

Comment author: Jiro 24 December 2016 10:26:36PM 1 point [-]

I think that "playing games or not" is not a binary choice, but rather a position on a continuous scale -- I like conversations that operate on multiple levels simultaneously with a certain level of ambiguity.

Partially playing games is basically just playing games, for the same reason that a barrel that is half full of wine and half full of sewage is basically full of sewage.

Comment author: Lumifer 25 December 2016 02:59:01AM 2 points [-]

So you can't imagine someone being other than (a) completely, 100% dead serious; or (2) obviously joking and not trying to communicate anything but ha-ha funny? No intermediate stages at all?

Comment author: Screwtape 27 January 2017 04:55:20PM 0 points [-]

I would argue this claim understates the problem. In my experience, claims can be made at one of two levels, either strongly held or weakly held. One cannot perfectly phrase a claim such that nobody confuses one for the other, and other people tend to ignore weakly held claims.

It would be really useful to be able to say "I am moderately confident that the Purple party's policy will lead to Bad Things" and get feedback that raises or lowers my confidence in that claim. Most responses unfortunately will assume that I was more confident than I actually was. (This issue might be summarized as "Screwtape needs to spend less time on facebook.")

Something that might help lower this inhibition is an ability to retract or update on claims usefully. Technically, a blog lets you make a statement and then later edit the post or post an update, but you can't rely on people rereading the post or following your blog to see updates. This might be solved socially (a norm of checking someone still believes a claim before responding to that claim or propagating what they said?) or with technology (rss feeds and edit buttons on posts) but will probably need to be solved with a combination of the two.

Comment author: Benquo 27 January 2017 06:34:28PM *  0 points [-]

More time on non-Facebook venues that you already perceive to be better for this seems like a good partial solution.

Other things you can do are, instead of just focusing on the claim and probability, list what you see as the major considerations each way, and their evidential strength. Sometimes reporting the structure of your beliefs can be additionally helpful.

Specifying what you see as the major considerations will help you and others avoid double-counting evidence or giving arguments that aren't actually relevant (because you already believe them or don't accept their premises).