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Viliam comments on Project Hufflepuff: Planting the Flag - Less Wrong

38 Post author: Raemon 03 April 2017 06:37PM

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Comment author: Viliam 10 April 2017 09:38:24AM 2 points [-]

I agree that "cohorts happen automatically", and the organisations that prevent this usually care explicitly about the next generations, whether we are talking about the Scout movement, religious groups, or academia. Ignoring this would be detrimental to the rationalist movement in long term.

Understandably, most of us have negative connotations associated with "spreading the word". It is yet another "motte and bailey" situation, where on some level it's true that increasing the number of people who e.g. read Less Wrong is not our terminal value, that gaining followers is almost orthogonal to being 'less wrong', and that trying to be attractive for too many people could dilute the message; but on the other hand, it can easily become reversed stupidity, something like people refusing to eat food just because Hitler did that.

There are two basic ways how can rationality movement could disappear from the world. One is gradual shrinking: people individually deciding that e.g. Pascal's wager actually makes sense, or that making their political faction win is more important than getting statistics and logic right, or otherwise trade rationality for something more appealing. The other is gradually becoming a group of old farts, whose debates are gradually reduced to talking over and over again about the things that happened decades ago. -- Where do we see ourselves, as a group, 50 years from now? (Conditional on Singularity not happening, humanity not going extinct, etc., or course.)

Of course, if we are not willing to enter a "loose confederation" with the previous generations, we should not expect a different approach from the next generations. Telling them to "read the Sequences" would be like telling us to "read Science and Sanity"; maybe one in a hundred would do, but nothing would change as a result, anyway.

Seems like two things need to be done, probably in this order:

1) Agree on a larger definition of "confederation of reason", "scions of Bacon", or whatever we decide to call it. Yes, this will be difficult, it goes against our nitpicking instinct, and it is going to rub many people the wrong way.

2) Make a strategic effort to recruit people, a lot of them (not just a few mathematical prodigies), into the "confederation of reason". This could mean joining what other organisations are already doing, instead of reinventing the wheel. This again goes against our instincts.

I expect that many rationalists will be not able to overcome their insticts on these matters, so we should not expect a wide consensus here. Instead, a few people who like this idea should just create a team, and do it. Which is how generally things get done.