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eternal_neophyte comments on How I'd Introduce LessWrong to an Outsider - Less Wrong

4 Post author: adamzerner 03 May 2017 04:32AM

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Comment author: eternal_neophyte 03 May 2017 10:17:35AM *  5 points [-]

He's really, really smart.

This is the kind of phrasing that usually costs more to say than you can purchase with it. Anyone who is themselves really, really smart is going to raise hackles at this kind of talk; and is going to want strong evidence moreover ( and since a smart person would independently form the same judgement about Yudkowsky, if it is correct, you can safely just supply the evidence without the attached value judgment ).

Fiction authors have a fairly robust rule of thumb: show, don't tell. Especially don't tell me what judgement to form. I'd tack on this: don't negotiate. Haggling with a person over their impressions of a group of other people with suggestions like it's still possible that the techniques may be useful to you, right? immediately inspires suspicion in anyone with any sort of disposition to scepticism. Bartering mays simultaneously creates the impression of personal uncertainty and inability to demonstrate while coupling it to the obvious fact that this person wants me to form a certain judgement.

If I were to introduce a stranger to LessWrong I'd straightforwardly tell them what it is: it's where people attracted to STEM come go to debate and discuss mostly STEM-related ( and generally academic ) topics; with a heavy bias towards topics that are in a the twilight zone between sci-fi and feasible scientific reality, also with a marked tendency for employing a set of tools and techniques of thought derived from studying cognitive science and an associated tendency to frame discussions in the language associated with those tools.

Comment author: adamzerner 03 May 2017 05:27:51PM *  1 point [-]

Thanks for calling this out. I was imagining explaining it to a friend or family member who is at least somewhat charitable and trusting of my judgement. In that case, I expect them to not raise hackles, and I think it's useful to communicate that I think the authors are particularly smart.

However, if this were something that were posted on Less Wrong's About page, for example, I could definitely see how this would turn newcomers away, and I agree with you. Self-promoting as "really, really smart" definitely does seem like something that turns people off and makes them skeptical.

Comment author: eternal_neophyte 03 May 2017 05:36:29PM 1 point [-]

Thank you for being gracious about accepting the criticism.

Comment author: adamzerner 03 May 2017 05:57:32PM 0 points [-]