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Our Phyg Is Not Exclusive Enough

26 [deleted] 14 April 2012 09:08PM

EDIT: Thanks to people not wanting certain words google-associated with LW: Phyg

Lesswrong has the best signal/noise ratio I know of. This is great. This is why I come here. It's nice to talk about interesting rationality-related topics without people going off the rails about politics/fail philosophy/fail ethics/definitions/etc. This seems to be possible because a good number of us have read the lesswrong material (sequences, etc) which innoculate us against that kind of noise.

Of course Lesswrong is not perfect; there is still noise. Interestingly, most of it is from people who have not read some sequence and thereby make the default mistakes or don't address the community's best understanding of the topic. We are pretty good about downvoting and/or correcting posts that fail at the core sequences, which is good. However, there are other sequences, too, many of them critically important to not failing at metaethics/thinking about AI/etc.

I'm sure you can think of some examples of what I mean. People saying things that you thought were utterly dissolved in some post or sequence, but they don't address that, and no one really calls them out. I could dig up a bunch of quotes but I don't want to single anyone out or make this about any particular point, so I'm leaving it up to your imagination/memory.

It's actually kindof frustrating seeing people make these mistakes. You could say that if I think someone needs to be told about the existence of some sequence they should have read before posting, I ought to tell them, but that's actually not what I want to do with my time here. I want to spend my time reading and participating in informed discussion. A lot of us do end up engaging mistaken posts, but that lowers the quality of discussion here because so much time and space has been spent battling ignorance instead of advancing knowledge and dicussing real problems.

It's worse than just "oh here's some more junk I have to ignore or downvote", because the path of least resistance ends up being "ignore any discussion that contains contradictions of the lesswrong scriptures", which is obviously bad. There are people who have read the sequences and know the state of the arguments and still have some intelligent critique, but it's quite hard to tell the difference between that and someone explaining for the millionth time the problem with "but won't the AI know what's right better than humans?". So I just ignore it all and miss a lot of good stuff.

Right now, the only stuff I can be resonably guaranteed is intelligent, informed, and interesting is the promoted posts. Everything else is a minefield. I'd like there to be something similar for discussion/comments. Some way of knowing "these people I'm talking to know what they are talking about" without having to dig around in their user history or whatever. I'm not proposing a particular solution here, just saying I'd like there to be more high quality discussion between more properly sequenced LWers.

There is a lot of worry on this site about whether we are too exclusive or too phygish or too harsh in our expectation that people be well-read, which I think is misplaced. It is important that modern rationality have a welcoming public face and somewhere that people can discuss without having read three years worth of daily blog posts, but at the same time I find myself looking at the moderation policy of the old sl4 mailing list and thinking "damn, I wish we were more like that". A hard-ass moderator righteously wielding the banhammer against cruft is a good thing and I enjoy it where I find it. Perhaps these things (the public face and the exclusive discussion) should be separated?

I've recently seen someone saying that no-one complains about the signal/noise ratio on LW, and therefore we should relax a bit. I've also seen a good deal of complaints about our phygish exclusivity, the politics ban, the "talk to me when you read the sequences" attitude, and so on. I'd just like to say that I like these things, and I am complaining about the signal/noise ratio on LW.

Lest anyone get the idea that no-one thinks LW should be more phygish or more exclusive, let me hereby register that I for one would like us to all enforce a little more strongly that people read the sequences and even agree with them in a horrifying manner. You don't have to agree with me, but I'd just like to put out there as a matter of fact that there are some of us that would like a more exclusive LW.

Comments (513)

Comment author: TheOtherDave 15 April 2012 06:24:55AM 13 points [-]

My $0.02 (apologies if it's already been said; I haven't read all the comments): wanting to do Internet-based outreach and get new people participating is kind of at odds with wanting to create an specialized advanced-topics forum where we're not constantly rehashing introductory topics. They're both fine goals, but trying to do both at once doesn't work well.

LW as it is currently set up seems better optimized for outreach than for being an advanced-topics forum. At the same time, LW doesn't want to devolve to the least common denominator of the Internet. This creates tension. I'm about .6 confident that tension is intentional.

Of course, nothing stops any of us from creating invitation-only fora to which only the folks whose contributions we enjoy are invited. To be honest, I've always assumed that there exist a variety of more LW-spinoff private forums where the folks who have more specialized/advanced groundings get to interact without being bothered by the rest of us.

Somewhat relatedly, one feature I miss from the bad old usenet days is kill files. I suspect that I would value LW more if I had the ability to conceal-by-default comments by certain users here. Concealing sufficiently downvoted comments is similar in principle, but not reliable in practice.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 15 April 2012 07:58:20PM 9 points [-]

I suspect that I would value LW more if I had the ability to conceal-by-default comments by certain users here.

My LessWrong Power Reader has a feature that allows you to mark authors as liked/disliked, which helps to determine which comments are expanded vs collapsed. Right now the weights are set so that if you've disliked an author, then any comment written by him or her that has 0 points or less, along with any descendants of that comment, will be collapsed by default. Each comment in the collapsed thread still has a visible header with author and points and color-coding to help you determine whether you still want to check it out.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 16 April 2012 02:15:32AM 3 points [-]

(blink)

You are my new favorite person.
I am, admittedly, fickle.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 15 April 2012 08:35:33PM *  3 points [-]

And for discussion and top-level posts, there is already the friends feature:

http://lesswrong.com/prefs/friends/

(You can also add someone as a friend from their user page.)

There is something that appeals to me about this "roll your own exclusive forum" approach.

Comment author: Percent_Carbon 15 April 2012 10:09:47AM 6 points [-]

This creates tension. I'm about .6 confident that tension is intentional.

You're suggesting a strategy of tension?

To be honest, I've always assumed that there exist a variety of more LW-spinoff private forums where the folks who have more specialized/advanced groundings get to interact without being bothered by the rest of us.

Aw. And they didn't invite nyan_sandwich. That's so sad.

He or she should get together with other people who haven't been invited to Even Less Wrong and form their own. Then one day they can get together with Even Less Wrong like some NFL/AFL merger, only with more power to save the world.

There would have to be a semaphore or something, somewhere. So these secret groups can let each other know they exist without tipping off the newbs.

Comment author: Percent_Carbon 16 April 2012 04:38:20AM 5 points [-]

There's probably no need for the groups to signal each other's existence.

When a new Secret Even Less Wrong is formed, members are previously formed Secret Even Less Wrongs who are still participating in Less Wrong are likely to receive secret invites to the new Secret Even Less Wrong.

Nyan_sandwich might set up his secret Google Group or whatever, invite the people he feels are worthy and willing to form the core of his own Secret Even Less Wrong, and receive in reply an invite to an existing Secret Even Less Wrong.

That might have already happened!

Comment author: TheOtherDave 15 April 2012 03:48:43PM 3 points [-]

You're suggesting a strategy of tension?

Nothing nearly that Macchiavelian, more of a strategy of homeostasis through dynamic equilibrium.

Comment author: Armok_GoB 17 April 2012 02:38:33PM 3 points [-]

I have tried, and failed, to launch elitist spinof subcomunities like that multiple times.

Comment author: brilee 15 April 2012 02:55:12PM 9 points [-]

From Shirky's Essay on online groups: "The Wikipedia right now, the group collaborated online encyclopedia is the most interesting conversational artifact I know of, where product is a result of process. Rather than "We're specifically going to get together and create this presentation" it's just "What's left is a record of what we said."

When somebody goes to a wiki, they are not oging there to discuss elementary questions that have already been answered; they are going there to read the results of that discussion. Isn't this basically what the OP wants?

Why aren't we using the wiki more? We have two modes of discussion here: discussion board, and wiki. The wiki serves more as an archive of the posts that make it to main-page level, meaning that all the hard work of the commenters in the discussion boards is often lost to the winds of time. (Yes, some people have exceptionally good memory and link back to them. But this is obviously not sustainable.) If somebody has a visionary idea on how to lubricate the process of collating high-quality comments and incorporating them into a wiki-like entity, then I suspect our problem could be solved.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 April 2012 06:21:37PM 8 points [-]

Why aren't we using the wiki more?

This is a really good question.

I don't use the wiki because me LW acount is not valid there. You need to make a seperate acocunt for the wiki.

That seems like an utterly stupid reason in retrospect, but I imagine that's a big reason why no one is wikiing.

Comment author: beoShaffer 15 April 2012 09:22:37PM *  11 points [-]
Comment author: David_Gerard 14 April 2012 10:51:29PM *  21 points [-]

If anyone does feel motivated to post just bare links to sequence posts, hit one of the Harry Potter threads. These seem to be attracting LW n00bs, some of whom seem actually pretty smart - i.e., the story is working to its intended purpose.

Comment author: Larks 14 April 2012 10:17:35PM 19 points [-]

I agree. Low barriers to entry (and utterly generic discussions, like on which movies to watch) seem to have lowered the quality. I often find myself skimming discussions for names I recognize, and just read their comments - ironic, given that once upon a time the anti-kibitzer seemed pressing!

Lest this been seen as unwarranted arrogance: there are many values of p in [0,1] such that I would run a p risk of getting personally banned in return for removing the bottom p of the comments. I often write out a comment and delete it, because I think that, while above the standard of the adjacent comments, it is below what I think the minimal bar should be. Merely saying new, true things about the topic matter is not enough!

The Sequence Re-Runs seem to have had little participation, which is disappointing - I had great hope for those.

Comment author: RobertLumley 15 April 2012 12:40:01AM 8 points [-]

The Sequence Re-Runs seem to have had little participation, which is disappointing - I had great hope for those.

As someone who is rereading the sequences I think I have a data point as to why. First of all, the "one post a day" is very difficult for me to do. I don't have time to digest a LW post every day, especially if I've got an exam coming up or something. Secondly, I joined the site after the effort started, so I would have had to catch up anyway. Thirdly, ideally I'd like to read at a faster average rate than one per day. But this hasn't happened at all, my rate has actually been rather slower, which is kind of depressing.

Comment author: hesperidia 15 April 2012 04:41:41AM 5 points [-]

I've actually been running a LW sequence liveblog, mostly for my own benefit during the digestive process. See here. I find myself wondering whether others will join me in the liveblogging business sooner or later. I find it a good way to enforce actually thinking about what I am reading.

Comment author: atorm 15 April 2012 06:13:19PM 6 points [-]

I read them, but engaging in discussion seems difficult. Am I just supposed to pretend all of the interesting comments below don't exist and risk repeating something stupid on the Repeat post? Or should I be trying to get involved in a years-old discussion on the actual article? Sadly, this is something that has a sort of activation energy: if enough people were discussing the sequence repeats, I would discuss them too.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 15 April 2012 02:18:30PM *  5 points [-]

The Sequence Re-Runs seem to have had little participation, which is disappointing - I had great hope for those.

Perhaps we could save users one click by putting the summary of the article on the top of the main page with links "read the article" and "discuss the article" below. Sometimes saving users one click increases the traffic significantly.

Comment author: Konkvistador 16 April 2012 03:34:59PM *  3 points [-]

The Sequence Re-Runs seem to have had little participation, which is disappointing - I had great hope for those.

Organizing reading the squence into classes of people (think Metaethics Class of 2012) that commit to reading them and debating them and then answer a quizz about seems more likely to get participation.

Comment author: brilee 15 April 2012 02:49:02AM 16 points [-]

[meta] A simple reminder: This discussion has a high potential to cause people to embrace and double down on an identity as part of the inner or outer circles. Let's try to combat that.

In line with the above, please be liberal with explanations as to why you think an opinion should be downvoted. Going through the thread and mass-downvoting every post you disagree with is not helpful. [/meta]

Comment author: David_Gerard 15 April 2012 08:59:33AM *  8 points [-]

This discussion has a high potential to cause people to embrace and double down on an identity as part of the inner or outer circles. Let's try to combat that.

The post came across to me as an explicit call to such, which is rather stronger than "has a high potential".

Comment author: buybuydandavis 15 April 2012 05:49:43AM *  22 points [-]

Lest anyone get the idea that no-one thinks LW should be more phygish or more exclusive, let me hereby register that I for one would like us to all enforce a little more strongly that people read the sequences and even agree with them in a horrifying manner. You don't have to agree with me, but I'd just like to put out there as a matter of fact that there are some of us that would like a more exclusive LW.

I can understand people wanting that. If the goal is to spread this information, however, I'd suggest that those wanting to be part of an Inner Circle should go Darknet, invitation only, and keep these discussions there, if you must have them at all.

As someone who has been around here maybe six months and comes everyday, I have yet to drink enough kool aid not to find ridiculous elements to this discussion.

"We are not a Phyg! We are not a Phyg! How dare you use that word?" Could anything possibly make you look more like a Phyg than tabooing the word, and karmabombing people who just mention it? Well, the demand that anyone who shows up should read a million words in blog posts by one individual, and agree with most all of it before speaking does give "We are not a Phyg!" a run for it's money.

Take a step back, and imagine yourself at a new site that had some interesting material, and then coming on a discussion like this. Just what kind of impression would it give you?

Of course, if you just want to talk to the people who you consider have interesting things to say, that's fine and understandable. In fact, I think this discussion serves your purpose well, because it will chase away new folks, and discourage those who haven't been here long from saying much.

Given the current list software, sharing that infrastructure between who want a pure playground and those who want new playmates creates an inevitable conflict. It is possible to have list filtering that is more fine grained, and offers more user control, that mitigates much of the problem. That would be a better solution than a Darknet, but it's work.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 15 April 2012 05:57:52AM 9 points [-]

imagine yourself at a new site that had some interesting material, and then coming on a discussion like this.

I'm amused by the framing as a hypothetical. I'm far from being an old-timer, but I've been around for a while, and when I was new to this site a discussion like this was going on. I suspect the same is true for many of us. This particular discussion comes around on the gittar like clockwork.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 15 April 2012 06:36:24AM 3 points [-]

What impression did it leave you?

Comment author: David_Gerard 15 April 2012 08:58:36AM *  17 points [-]

In my case it left the impression that (a) this was an Internet forum like any other I've been on in the past seventeen years (b) like all of them, it behaved as though its problems were unique and special, rather than a completely generic phenomenon. So, pretty much as normal then.

BTW, to read the sequences is not to agree with every word of them, and when I read all the rest of the posts chronologically from 2009-2011 the main thing I got from it was the social lay of the land.

(My sociology is strictly amateur, though an ongoing personal interest.)

Comment author: buybuydandavis 15 April 2012 03:27:22PM 6 points [-]

(a) this was an Internet forum like any other I've been on in the past seventeen years

This is hardly my first rodeo, but this place is unlike any others I've been on for exactly the point at issues here - the existence of a huge corpus written overwhelmingly by one list member that people are expected to read before posting and relate their posts to. The closest I've come to such attitudes were on two lists; one Objectivist, one Anarchist.

On the Objectivist list, where there was a little bit of "that was all answered in this book/lecture from Rand", people were not at all expected to have read the entire corpus before participating. Rand herself was not participating on the list, so there is another difference.

The Anarchist list was basically the list of an internet personality who was making a commercial venture of it, so he controlled the terms of the debate as suited his purposes, and tabooed issues he considered settled. Once that was clear to me, I left the site, considering it too phygish.

I'd imagine that there are numerous religious sites with the same kind of reading/relating requirements, but only a limited number of those where the author of the corpus was a member of the list.

Comment author: Nornagest 15 April 2012 09:57:22PM 12 points [-]

To LW's credit, "read the sequences" as a counterargument seems increasingly rare these days. I've seen it once in the last week or two, but considering that we're now dealing with an unusually large number of what I'll politely describe as contrarian newcomers, I'll still count that as a win.

In any case, I don't get the sense that this is an unknown issue. Calls for good introductory material come up fairly often, so clearly someone out there wants a better alternative to pointing newcomers at a half-million words of highly variable material and hoping for the best -- but even if successful, I suspect that'll be of limited value. The length of the corpus might contribute to accusations of phygism, but it's not what worries me about LW. Neither is the norm of relating posts to the Sequences.

This does give me pause, though: LW deals politely with intelligent criticism, but it rarely internalizes it. To the best of my recollection none of the major points of the Sequences have been repudiated, although in a work of that length we should expect some to have turned out to be demonstrably wrong; no one bats a thousand. A few seem to have slipped out of the de-facto canon -- the metaethics sequence comes to mind, as does most of Fun Theory -- but that doesn't seem to be so much a response to criticism as to simple lack of interest or lesser development of ideas. It's not a closed system, not quite, but its visa regulations seem strict, and naturalization difficult.

What can we do about this?

Comment author: David_Gerard 16 April 2012 07:03:02PM 12 points [-]

What can we do about this?

Reply not with "read the sequences", but with "This is covered in [link to post], which is part of [link to sequence]." ? Use one of the n00b-infested Harry Potter threads, with plenty of wrong but not hopeless reasoning, as target practice.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 15 April 2012 11:13:31PM 4 points [-]

This does give me pause, though: LW deals politely with intelligent criticism, but it rarely internalizes it. To the best of my recollection none of the major points of the Sequences have been repudiated,

I think that you've got a bigger problem than internalizing repudiations. The demand for repudiations is the mistake Critical Rationalists make - "show me where I'm wrong" is not a sufficiently open mind.

First, the problem might be that you're not even wrong. You can't refute something that's not even wrong. When someone is not even wrong, he has to be willing to justify his ideas, or you can't make progress. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him think.

(As an aside, is there an article about Not Even Wrong here? I don't remember one, and it is an important idea to which a lot are probably already familiar. Goes well with the list name, too.)

Second, if one is only open to repudiations, one is not open to fundamentally different conceptualizations on the issue. The mapping from one conceptualization to another can be a tedious and unproductive exercise, if even possible in practical terms.

A few seem to have slipped out of the de-facto canon -- the metaethics sequence comes to mind

I've spent years on a mailing list about Stirner - likely The mailing list on Stirner. In my opinion, Stirner has the best take on metaethics, and even if you don't agree, there are a number of issues he brings up better than others. A lot of smart folks on that list, and we made some limited original progress.

Stirner is near the top of the list for things I know better than others. People who would know better, are likely people I already know in a limited fashion. I thought to write an article from that perspective, contrasting that with points in the Metaethics sequence. But I don't think the argument in the Metaethics sequence really follows, and contemplating an exegesis of it to "repudiate" it fills me with a vast ennui. So, it's Bah Humbug, and I don't contribute.

Whatever you might think of me, setting up impediments to people sharing what they know best is probably not in the interest of the list. There's enough natural impediment to posting an article in a group; always easier to snipe at others than put your own ideas up for target practice. There's risk in that. And given the prevalence of akrasia here, do we need additional impediments?

What can we do about this?

One thing that I think would be helpful to all concerned is a weighted rating of the sequence articles, weighted by some function of karma, perhaps. If some sequences have fallen out of canon, or never were in canon, it would be nice to know. Just how much support any particular article has would be useful information.

Comment author: Nornagest 15 April 2012 11:24:05PM *  2 points [-]

As an aside, is there an article about Not Even Wrong here? I don't remember one, and it is an important idea to which a lot are probably already familiar. Goes well with the list name, too.

Not that I know of, although it's referenced all over the place -- like Paul Graham's paper on identity, it seems to be an external part of the LW canon. The Wikipedia page on "Not Even Wrong" does appear in XiXiDu's list of external resources -- a post that's faded into undeserved obscurity, I think.

As to your broader point, I agree that "show me where I'm wrong" is suboptimal with regard to establishing a genuinely open system of ideas. It's also a good first step, though, and so I'd view a failure to internalize repudiation as a red flag of the same species as what you seem to be pointing to -- a bigger one, in fact. Not sufficient, but necessary.

Comment author: David_Gerard 15 April 2012 03:40:38PM *  2 points [-]

That's an important difference, but I don't think it's one for the social issues being raised in this post or this thread, which are issues of community interaction - and I think so because it's the same issues covered in A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy. This post is precisely the call for a wizard smackdown.

Comment author: ParagonProtege 15 April 2012 04:40:51PM 2 points [-]

Just curious, was the anarchist Fgrsna Zbylarhk?

Comment author: buybuydandavis 15 April 2012 09:26:33PM 3 points [-]

DIng! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

Yeah, that's the one. I don't begrudge a guy trying to make a buck, or wanting to push his agenda. I find him a bright guy with a lot of interesting things to say. And I'll still listen to his youtube videos. But his agenda conflicts with mine, and I don't want to spend energy discussing issues in a community where one isn't allowed to publicly argue against some dogma in philosophy. That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 15 April 2012 09:05:29PM 2 points [-]

to read the sequences is not to agree with every word of them,

I'm sure. What I wonder is how much the sequences even represent a consensus of the original list members involved in the discussion. In my estimation, it varies a lot. In particular, I doubt EY carried the day with even a strong plurality with both his conclusions and argument in the metaethics sequence.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 April 2012 09:36:42PM 2 points [-]

I'm sure. What I wonder is how much the sequences even represent a consensus of the original list members involved in the discussion.

I doubt even Eliezer_2012 would agree with all of them. They were a rather rapidly produced bunch of blog posts and very few people would maintain consistent endorsement of past blogging output.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 15 April 2012 03:54:29PM 2 points [-]

I was going to say essentially this, but the other David did it for me.

Comment author: yew 16 April 2012 12:50:55AM *  2 points [-]

I can understand people wanting that. If the goal is to spread this information, however, I'd suggest that those wanting to be part of an Inner Circle should go Darknet, invitation only, and keep these discussions there, if you must have them at all.

Hmm. I generally agree with the original post, but I don't want to be part of an inner circle. I want access to a source of high insight-density information. Whether or not I myself am qualified to post there is an orthogonal issue.

Of course, such a thing would have an extremely high maintenance cost. I have little justification for asking to be given access to it at no personal cost.

Spreading information is important too, but only to the extent that what's being spread is contributing to the collective knowledge.

Comment author: Percent_Carbon 15 April 2012 08:42:52AM 25 points [-]

I've lurked here for over a year and just started posting in the fan fic threads a month ago. I have read a handful of posts from the sequences and I believe that some of those are changing my life. Sometimes when I start a sequence post I find it uninteresting and I stop. Posts early in the recommended order do this, and that gets in the way every time I try to go through in order. I just can't be bothered because I'm here for leisure and reading uninteresting things isn't leisurely.

I am noise and I am part of the doom of your community. You have my sympathy, and also my unsolicited commentary:

Presently your community is doomed because you don't filter.

Noise will keep increasing until the community you value splinters, scatters, or relocates itself as a whole. A different community will replace it, resembling the community you value just enough to mock you.

If you intentionally segregate based on qualifications your community is doomed anyway.

The qualified will stop contributing to the unqualified sectors, will stop commending potential qualifiers as they approach qualification, and will stop driving out never qualifiers with disapproval. Noise will win as soon as something drives a surge of new interest and the freshest of the freshmen overwhelm the unqualified but initiated.

Within the fortress of qualification things will be okay. They might never feel as good as you think you remember, but when you look through that same lens from further ahead you might recognize a second Golden Age of Whatever. Over time less new blood will be introduced, especially after the shanty town outside the fortress burns to the ground a couple times. People will leave for the reasons people leave. The people left will become more insular and self referential. That will further drive down new blood intake.

Doomed.

What are you going to do about it?

The best steps to take to sustain the community you value in this instance may be different than the best steps to take to build a better instance of the community.

Comment author: David_Gerard 16 April 2012 11:22:50AM *  9 points [-]

I suspect communities have a natural life cycle and most are doomed. Either they change unrecognisably or they die. This is because the community members themselves change with time and change what they want, and what they want and will put up with from newbies, and so on. (I don't have a fully worked-out theory yet, but I can see the shape of it in my head. I'd be amazed if someone hasn't written it up.)

What this theory suggests: if the forum has a purpose beyond just existence (as this one does), then it needs to reproduce. The Center for Modern Rationality is just the start. Lots of people starting a rationality blog might help, for example. Other ideas?

Comment author: Armok_GoB 17 April 2012 01:59:28PM 2 points [-]

This is a good idea if and only if we can avoid summoning Azartoth.

Comment author: XiXiDu 15 April 2012 09:54:17AM *  11 points [-]

The best way to become more exclusive while not giving the impression of a cult, or by banning people, is by raising your standards and being more technical. As exemplified by all the math communities like the n-Category Café or various computer science blogs (or most of all technical posts of lesswrong).

Comment author: Konkvistador 15 April 2012 06:16:21PM *  16 points [-]

Edit: Eliminated text to conform to silly new norm. Check out relevant image macro.

Comment author: Bugmaster 15 April 2012 10:05:42PM 4 points [-]

Beats me. And yet I find myself going along with the new norm, just like you.

One of us... One of us...

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 15 April 2012 10:48:07PM *  5 points [-]

And yet I find myself going along with the new norm, just like you.

Well stop it. We should be able to just call a cult a cult.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 15 April 2012 08:32:18PM 4 points [-]

To avoid guilt by association?

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 16 April 2012 06:49:17AM *  5 points [-]

It's whimsical, I like it. The purported SEO rationale behind it is completely laughable (really, folks? People are going to judge the degree of phyggishness of LW by googling LW and phyg together, and you're going to stand up and fight that? That's just insane), but it's cute and harmless, so why not adopt it for a few days? Of all reasons to suspect LW of phyggish behavior, this has got to be the least important one. If using the word "phyg" clinches it for someone, I wouldn't take them seriously.

Comment author: RobertLumley 15 April 2012 12:24:13AM *  13 points [-]

I think your post is troubling in a couple of ways.

First, I think you draw too much of a dichotomy between "read sequences" and "not read sequences". I have no idea what the true percentage of active LW members is, but I suspect a number of people, particularly new members, are in the process of reading the sequences, like I am. And that's a pretty large task - especially if you're in school, trying to work a demanding job, etc. I don't wish to speak for you, since you're not clear on the matter, but are people in the process of reading the sequences noise? I'm only in QM, and certainly wasn't there when I started posting, but I've gotten over 1000 karma (all of it on comments or discussion level posts). I'd like to think I've added something to the community.

Secondly, I feel like entrance barriers are pretty damn high already. I touched on this in my other comment, but I didn't want to make all of these points in that thread, since they were off topic to the original. <Warning: Gooey personal details> When I was a lurker, the biggest barrier to me saying hi was a tremendous fear of being downvoted. (A re-reading of this thread seems prudent in light of this discussion) I'd never been part of a forum with a karma system before, and I'd spent enough time on here to know that I really respected the opinions of most people on here. The idea of my ideas being rejected by a community that I'd come to respect was very stressful. I eventually got over it, and as I got more and more karma, it didn't hurt so much when I lost a point. But being karmassassinated was enough to throw all of that into doubt again, since when I asked about it I was just downvoted and no one commented. (I'm sure it's just no one happened to see it in recent comments, since it was deep in a thread.) I thought that it was very likely that I would leave the site after that, because it seemed to me that people simply didn't care what I had to say - my comments for about two days were met with wild downvoting and almost no replies, except by one person. But I don't think I am the only person that felt this way when ey joined LessWrong. </Gooey details>

Edit: Hyperlink messed up.

Edit 2: It just now occurred to me to add this, and I've commented enough in this thread for one person, so I'm putting it here: I think all of the meetup posts are much more harmful to the signal to noise ratio than anything else. Unless you're going to them, there's no reason to be interested in them.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 April 2012 12:55:28AM 5 points [-]

I eventually got over it, and as I got more and more karma, it didn't hurt so much when I lost a point. But being karmassassinated was enough to throw all of that into doubt again

Get a few more (thousand?) karma and you may find getting karmassassinated doesn't hurt much any more either. I get karmassassinated about once a fortnight (frequency memory subject to all sorts of salience biases and utterly unreliable - it happens quite a lot though) and it doesn't bother me all that much.

These days I find that getting the last 50 comments downvoted is a lot less emotionally burdensome than getting just one comment that I actually personally value downvoted in the absence of any other comments. The former just means someone (or several someones) don't like me. Who cares? Chances are they are not people I respect, given that I am a lot less likely to offend people when I respect them. On the other hand if most of my comments have been upvoted but one specific comment that I consider valuable gets multiple downvotes it indicates something of a judgement from the community and is really damn annoying. On the plus side it can be enough to make me lose interest in lesswrong for a few weeks and so gives me a massive productivity boost!

When I was a lurker, the biggest barrier to me saying hi was a tremendous fear of being downvoted.

I believe you. That fear is a nuisance (to us if it keeps people silent and to those who are limited by it). If only we could give all lurkers rejection therapy to make them immune to this sort of thing!

Comment author: RobertLumley 15 April 2012 01:04:05AM 4 points [-]

I think if I were karmassassinated again I wouldn't care nearly as much, because of how stupid I felt after the first time it happened. It was just so obvious that it was just some idiot, but I somehow convinced myself it wasn't.

But that being said, one of the reasons it bothered me so much was that there were a number of posts that I was proud of that were downvoted - the guy who did it had sockpuppets, and it was more like my last 15-20 posts had each lost 5-10 karma. (This was also one of the reasons I wasn't so sure it was karmassassination) Which put a number of posts I liked way below the visibility threshold. And it bothered me that if I linked to those comments later, people would just see a really low karma score and probably ignore it.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 15 April 2012 08:20:44PM *  3 points [-]

the guy who did it had sockpuppets, and it was more like my last 15-20 posts had each lost 5-10 karma.

I think you can't give more downvotes than your karma, so that person would need 5-10 sockpuppets with at least 15-20 (EDIT: actually 4-5) karma each. If someone is going to the trouble of doing that, it seems unlikely that they would just pick on you and nobody else (given that your writings don't seem to be particularly extreme in some way). Has anyone else experience something similar?

Comment author: pedanterrific 15 April 2012 10:26:23PM 3 points [-]

It's some multiple of your karma, isn't it? At least four, I think- thomblake would know.

Comment author: thomblake 16 April 2012 10:30:12PM 2 points [-]

Yes, 4x, last I checked.

Comment author: thomblake 16 April 2012 10:35:38PM 2 points [-]

Creating sockpuppets for downvoting is easy.

(kids, don't try this at home).

Just find a Wikipedia article on a cognitive bias that we haven't had a top-level post on yet. Then, make a post to main with the content of the Wikipedia article (restated) and references to the relevant literature (you probably can safely make up half of the references). It will probably get in the neighborhood of 50 upvotes, giving you 500 karma, which allows 2000 comment downvotes.

Even if those estimates are really high, that's still a lot of power for little effort. And just repeat the process for 20 biases, and you've got 20 sockpuppets who can push a combined 20 downvotes on a large number of comments.

Of course, in the bargain Less Wrong is getting genuinely high-quality articles. Not necessarily a bug.

Comment author: steven0461 16 April 2012 10:59:10PM *  2 points [-]

If restating Wikipedia is enough to make for a genuinely high-quality article, maybe we should have a bot that copy-pastes a relevant Wikipedia article into a top-level post every few days. (Based on a few minutes of research, it looks like this is legal if you link to the original article each time, but tell me if I'm wrong.)

Comment author: wedrifid 15 April 2012 01:14:14AM 2 points [-]

I should note that I have never actually been in your shoes. I haven't had any cases where there was unambiguous use of bulk sockpuppets. I've only been downvoted via breadth (up to 50 different comments from my recent history) and usually by only one person at a time (occasionally two or three but probably not two or three that go as far as 50 comments at the same time).

(This was also one of the reasons I wasn't so sure it was karmassassination)

That would really mess with your mind if you were in a situation where you could not yet reliably model community preferences (and be personally confident in your model despite immediate evidence.)

Take it as a high compliment! Nobody has ever cared enough about me to make half a dozen new accounts. What did you do to deserve that?

Comment author: RobertLumley 15 April 2012 01:25:32AM 8 points [-]

It was this thread.

Basically it boiled down to this: I was suggesting that one reason some people might donate to more than one charity is that they're risk averse and want to make sure they're doing some good, instead of trying to help and unluckily choosing an unpredictably bad charity. It was admittedly a pretty pedantic point, but someone apparently didn't like it.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 April 2012 06:51:17AM 3 points [-]

Basically it boiled down to this: I was suggesting that one reason some people might donate to more than one charity is that they're risk averse and want to make sure they're doing some good, instead of trying to help and unluckily choosing an unpredictably bad charity. It was admittedly a pretty pedantic point, but someone apparently didn't like it.

That seems to be something I would agree with, with an explicit acknowledgement that it relies on a combination of risk aversion and non-consequentialist values.

Comment author: pedanterrific 15 April 2012 01:37:03AM 1 point [-]

The former just means someone (or several someones) don't like me. Who cares? Chances are they are not people I respect, given that I am a lot less likely to offend people when I respect them.

Presumably also because people you respect are not very likely to express their annoyance through something as silly as karmassassination, right?

Comment author: shminux 14 April 2012 09:36:32PM 3 points [-]

I think you want it more tiered/topic'ed, not more exclusive, which I would certainly support. Unfortunately, the site design is not a priority.

Comment author: tut 15 April 2012 06:36:36PM 5 points [-]

What you want is an exclusive club. Not a cult or phyg or whatever.

Comment author: gwern 15 April 2012 08:00:04PM 0 points [-]

There's only one letter's difference between 'club' and 'phyg'!

Comment author: tut 16 April 2012 12:24:33PM 1 point [-]

And there is only one letter's difference between paid and pain. The meaning of an English word is generally not determined by the letters it contains.

Comment author: TimS 15 April 2012 01:02:39AM *  10 points [-]

Let's be explicit here - your suggestion is that people like me should not be here. I'm a lawyer, and my mathematics education ended at Intro to Statistics and Advanced Theoretical Calculus. I'm interested in the cognitive bias and empiricism stuff (raising the sanity line), not AI. I've read most of the core posts of LW, but haven't gone through most of the sequences in any rigorous way (i.e. read them in order).

I agree that there seem to be a number of low quality posts in discussion recently (In particular, Rationally Irrational should not be in Main). But people willing to ignore the local social norms will ignore them however we choose to enforce them. By contrast, I've had several ideas for posts (in Discussion) that I don't post, but I don't think it meets the community's expected quality standard.

Raising the standard for membership in the community will exclude me or people like me. That will improve the quality of technical discussion, at the cost of the "raising the sanity line" mission. That's not what I want.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 15 April 2012 08:51:51PM *  5 points [-]

If you're interested in concrete feedback, I found your engagement in discussions with hopeless cases a negative contribution, which is a consideration unrelated to the quality of your own contributions (including in those discussions). Basically, a violation of "Don't feed the clueless (just downvote them)" (this post suggests widening the sense of "clueless"), which is one policy that could help with improving the signal/noise ratio. Perhaps this policy should be publicized more.

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 16 April 2012 01:32:35PM 3 points [-]

I support not feeding the clueless, but I would like to emphasize that that policy should not bleed into a lack of explaining downvotes of otherwise clueful people. There aren't many things more aggravating than participating in a discussion where most of my comments get upvoted, but one gets downvoted and I never find out what the problem was--or seeing some comment I upvoted be at -2, and not knowing what I'm missing. So I'd like to ask everyone: if you downvote one comment for being wrong, but think the poster isn't hopeless, please explain your downvote. It's the only way to make the person stop being wrong.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 15 April 2012 10:51:06PM *  2 points [-]

Case in point: this discussion currently includes 30 comments, an argument with a certain Clueless, most of whose contributions are downvoted-to-hidden. That discussion shouldn't have taken place, its existence is a Bad Thing. I just went through it and downvoted most of those who participated, except for the Clueless, who was already downvoted Sufficiently.

I expect a tradition of discouraging both sides of such discussions would significantly reduce their impact.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 April 2012 04:06:05PM *  6 points [-]

I expect a tradition of discouraging both sides of such discussions would significantly reduce their impact.

While I usually share a similar sentiment, upon consideration I disagree with your prediction when it comes to the example conversation in question.

People explaining things to the Clueless is useful. Both to the person doing the explaining and anyone curious enough to read along. This is conditional on the people in the interaction having the patience to try to decipher the nature of the inferential distance try to break down the ideas into effective explanations of the concepts - including links to relevant resources. (This precludes cases where the conversation degenerates into bickering and excessive expressions of frustration.)

Trying to explain what is usually simply assumed - to a listener who is at least willing to communicate in good faith - can be a valuable experience to the one doing the explaining. It can encourage the re-examination of cached thoughts and force the tracing of the ideas back to the reasoning from first principles that caused you to believe them in the first place.

There are many conversations where downvoting both sides of a discussion is advisable, yet it isn't conversations with the "Clueless" that are the problem. It is conversations with Trolls, Dickheads and Debaters of Perfect Emptiness that need to go.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 16 April 2012 05:35:57PM 2 points [-]

Startlingly, Googling "Debaters of Perfect Emptiness" turned up no hits. This is not the best of all possible worlds.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 April 2012 03:49:24AM 14 points [-]

Let's be explicit here - your suggestion is that people like me should not be here. I'm a lawyer, and my mathematics education ended at Intro to Statistics and Advanced Theoretical Calculus.

No martyrs allowed.

I don't propose simply disallowing people who havn't read everything from being taken seriously, if they don't say anything stupid. It's fine if you havn't read the sequences and don't care about AI or heavy philosophy stuff, I just don't want to read dumb posts about those topics that come from someone having not read the stuff.

As a matter of fact, I was careful to not propose much of anything. Don't confuse "here's a problem that I would like solved" with "I endorse this stupid solution that you don't like".

Comment author: TimS 15 April 2012 11:39:36PM 2 points [-]

Fair enough. But I think you threw a wide net over the problem. To the extend you are unhappy that noobs are "spouting garbage that's been discussed to death" and aren't being sufficiently punished for it, you could say that instead. If that's not what you are concerned about, then I have failed to comprehend your message.

Exclusivity might solve the problem of noobs rehashing old topics from the beginning (and I certainly agree that needing to tell everyone that beliefs must make predictions about the future gets old very fast). But it would have multiple knock-on effects that you have not even acknowledged. My intuition is that evaporative cooling would be bad for this community, but your sense may differ.

Comment author: Emile 15 April 2012 11:10:11AM 7 points [-]

I, for one, would like to see discussion of LW topics from the perspective of someone knowledgeable about the history of law; after all law is humanity's main attempt to formalize morality, so I would expect some overlap with FAI.

I don't mind people who haven't read the sequences, as long as they don't start spouting garbage that's already been discussed to death and act all huffy when we tell them so; common failure modes are "Here's an obvious solution to the whole FAI problem!", "Morality all boils down to X", and "You people are a cult, you need to listen to a brave outsider who's willing to go against the herd like me".

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 15 April 2012 05:19:08PM *  14 points [-]

Why in the name of the mighty Cthulhu should people on LW read the sequences? To avoid discussing the same things again and again, so that we can move to the next step. Minus the discussion about definitions of the word phyg, what exactly are talking about?

When a tree falls down in a LessWrong forest, why there is a "sound":

Because people on LW are weird. Instead of discussing natural and sane topics, such as cute kittens, iPhone prices, politics, horoscopes, celebrities, sex, et cetera, they talk abour crazy stuff like thinking machines and microscopic particles. Someone should do them a favor, turn off their computers, and buy them a few beers, so that normal people can stop being afraid of them.

Because LW is trying to change the way people think, and that is scary. Things like that are OK only when the school system is doing it, because the school system is accepted by the majority. Books are usually also accepted, but only if you borrow them from a public library.

Because people on LW pretend they know some things better that everyone else, and that's an open challenge that someone should go and kick their butts, preferably literally. Only strong or popular people are allowed to appear better. What's worse, people on LW have the courage to disagree even with some popular people, and that's pretty much insane.

When a tree falls down in a LessWrong forest, why there isn't a "sound":

There are no known examples of families broken when a family member refuses to submit to eternal knowledge of the Scriptures. (Unless such stories are censored here, of course.)

There are no known examples of violence or blackmail towards a former LW participant who decided to stop reading LW. (Unless such stories are censored here, of course.)

Minus the typical internet procrastination, there are no known examples of people who have lost years of their time and thousands of dollars, ruined their social and professional lives in their blind following of the empty promises LW gave them. (Unless such stories are censored here, of course.)

What next? Any other specific accusations? If no, why in the name of the mighty Cthulhu are we even worrying about the phyg-stuff? Just because someone may find throwing such accusations funny? Are we that prone to trolling?

Let's talk about more fruitful topic, such as: "is there a way to make Sequences more accessible to a newcomer?"

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 16 April 2012 06:44:23AM 27 points [-]

Because people on LW are weird. Instead of discussing natural and sane topics, such as cute kittens, iPhone prices, politics, horoscopes, celebrities, sex, et cetera, they talk abour crazy stuff like thinking machines and microscopic particles. Someone should do them a favor, turn off their computers, and buy them a few beers, so that normal people can stop being afraid of them.

No, that isn't it. LW isn't at all special in that respect - a huge number of specialized communities exist on the net which talk about "crazy stuff", but no one suspects them of being phygs. Your self-deprecating description is a sort of applause lights for LW that's not really warranted.

Because LW is trying to change the way people think, and that is scary. Things like that are OK only when the school system is doing it, because the school system is accepted by the majority. Books are usually also accepted, but only if you borrow them from a public library.

No, that isn't it. Every self-help book (of which there's a huge industry, and most of which are complete crap) is "trying to change the way people think", and nobody sees that as weird. The Khan academy is challenging the school system, and nobody thinks they're phyggish. Attempts to change the way people think are utterly commonplace, both small-scale and large-scale. And the part about books and public libraries is just weird (what?).

Because people on LW pretend they know some things better that everyone else, and that's an open challenge that someone should go and kick their butts, preferably literally.

Unwarranted applause lights again. Everybody pretends they know some things better than everyone else. Certainly any community does that rallies around experts on some particular topic. With "preferably literally" you cross over into the whining victimhood territory.

What's worse, people on LW have the courage to disagree even with some popular people, and that's pretty much insane.

The self-pandering here is particularly strong, almost middle-school grade stuff.

You've done a very poor job trying to explain why LW is accused of being phyggish.

There are no known examples of families broken when a family member refuses to submit to eternal knowledge of the Scriptures. [...] There are no known examples of violence or blackmail towards a former LW participant who decided to stop reading LW. [...] Minus the typical internet procrastination, there are no known examples of people who have lost years of their time and thousands of dollars, ruined their social and professional lives in their blind following of the empty promises LW gave them.

This, on the other hand, is a great, very strong point that everyone who finds themselves wary of (perceived or actual) phyggishness on LW should remind themselves of. I'm thinking of myself in particular, and thank you for this strong reminder, so forcefully phrased. I have to be doing something wrong, since I frequently ponder about this or that comment on LW that seems to exemplify phyggish thinking to me, but I never counter to myself with something like what I just quoted.

Comment author: David_Gerard 16 April 2012 11:16:32AM *  23 points [-]

It's not the Googleability of "phyg". One recent real-life example is a programmer who emailed me deeply concerned (because I wrote large chunks of the RW article on LW). They were seriously worried about LessWrong's potential for decompartmentalising really bad ideas, given the strong local support for complete decompartmentalisation, by this detailed exploration of how to destroy semiconductor manufacture to head off the uFAI. I had to reassure them that Gwern really is not a crazy person and had no intention of sabotaging Intel worldwide, but was just exploring the consequences of local ideas. (I'm not sure this succeeded in reassuring them.)

But, y'know, if you don't want people to worry you might go crazy-nerd dangerous, then not writing up plans for ideology-motivated terrorist assaults on the semiconductor industry strikes me as a good start.

Edit: Technically just sabotage, not "terrorism" per se. Not that that would assuage qualms non-negligibly.

Comment author: loup-vaillant 16 April 2012 05:05:34PM 12 points [-]

On your last point, I have to cite our all-*cough*-wise Professor Quirrell

"Such dangers," said Professor Quirrell coldly, "are to be discussed in offices like this one, not in speeches. The fools […] are not interested in complications and caution. Present them with anything more nuanced than a rousing cheer, and you will face your war alone.

Comment author: paper-machine 16 April 2012 11:50:26AM *  3 points [-]

Nevermind that there were no actual plans for destroying fabs, and that the whole "terrorist plot" seems to be a collective hallucination.

Nevermind that the author in question has exhaustively argued that terrorism is ineffective.

Comment author: David_Gerard 16 April 2012 12:02:23PM 10 points [-]

Yeah, but he didn't do it right there in that essay. And saying "AI is dangerous, stopping Moore's Law might help, here's how fragile semiconductor manufacture is, just saying" still read to someone (including several commenters on the post itself) as bloody obviously implying terrorism.

You're pointing out it doesn't technically say that, but multiple people coming to that essay have taken it that way. You can say "ha! They're wrong", but I nevertheless submit that if PR is a consideration, the essay strikes me as unlikely to be outweighed by using rot13 for SEO.

Comment author: jacoblyles 14 October 2012 07:03:27PM *  4 points [-]

Nevermind the fact that LW actually believes that uFAI has infinitely negative utility and that FAI has infinitely positive utility (see arguments for why SIAI is the optimal charity). That people conclude that acts that most people would consider immoral are justified by this reasoning, well I don't know where they got that from. Certainly not these pages.

Ordinarily, I would count on people's unwillingness to act on any belief they hold that is too far outside the social norm. But that kind of thinking is irrational, and irrational restraint has a bad rep here ("shut up and calculate!")

LW scares me. It's straightforward to take the reasoning of LW and conclude that terrorism and murder are justified.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 16 April 2012 09:33:48AM 17 points [-]

Thanks for comments. What I wrote was exaggerated, written under strong emotions, when I realized that the whole phyg discussion does not make sense, because there is no real harm, only some people made nervous by some pattern matching. So I tried to list the patterns which match... and then those which don't.

My assumption is that there are three factors which together make the bad impression; separately they are less harmful. Being only "weird" is pretty normal. Being "weird + thorough", for example memorizing all Star Trek episodes, is more disturbing, but it only seems to harm the given individual. Majority will make fun of such individuals, they are seen as at the bottom of pecking order, and they kind of accept it.

The third factor is when someone refuses to accept the position at the bottom. It is the difference between saying "yeah, we read sci-fi about parallel universes, and we know it's not real, ha-ha silly us" and saying "actually, our intepretation of quantum physics is right, and you are wrong, that's the fact, no excuses". This is the part that makes people angry. You are allowed to take the position of authority only if you are a socially accepted authority. (A university professor is allowed to speak about quantum physics in this manner, a CEO is allowed to speak about money this way, a football champion is allowed to speak about football this way, etc.) This is breaking a social rule, and it has consequences.

Every self-help book (of which there's a huge industry, and most of which are complete crap) is "trying to change the way people think", and nobody sees that as weird.

A self-help book is safe. A self-help organization, not so much. (I mean an organization of people trying to change themselves, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, not a self-help publishing/selling company.)

The Khan academy is challenging the school system, and nobody thinks they're phyggish.

They are supplementing the school system, not criticizing it. The schools can safely ignore them. Khan Academy is admired by some people, but generally it remains at the bottom of the pecking order. This would change for example if they started openly criticizing the school system, and telling people to take their children away from schools.

Generally I think that when people talk about phygs, the reason is that their instinct is saying: "inside of your group, a strong subgroup is forming". A survival reaction is to call attention of the remaining group members to destroy this subgroup together before it becomes strong enough. You can avoid this reaction if the subgroup signals weakness, or if it signals loyalty to the currect group leadership; in both cases, the subgroup does not threaten existing order.

Assuming this instinct is real, we can't change it; we can just avoid triggering the reaction. How exactly? One way is to signal harmlessness; but this seems incompatible with our commitment to truth and the spirit of tsuyoku naritai. Other way is to fall below radar by using an obscure technical speach; but this seems incompatible with our goal of raising the sanity waterline (we must be comprehensive to public). Yet other way is to signal loyalty to the regime, such as Singularity Institute publishing in peer-reviewed journals. Even this is difficult, because irrationality is very popular, so by attacking irrationality we inevitable attack many popular things. We should choose our battles wisely. But this is the way I would prefer. Perhaps there is yet another way that I forgot.

Comment author: gwern 16 April 2012 02:44:47PM 6 points [-]

No, that isn't it. Every self-help book (of which there's a huge industry, and most of which are complete crap) is "trying to change the way people think", and nobody sees that as weird.

Seriously?

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 16 April 2012 06:46:03PM 3 points [-]

Which part of my comment are you incredulous about?

Comment author: gwern 16 April 2012 07:00:51PM 12 points [-]

That nobody sees self-help books as weird or cultlike.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 16 April 2012 08:32:19PM *  1 point [-]

redacted

Comment author: Username 14 April 2012 09:44:16PM 11 points [-]

I think the barrier of entry is high enough - the signal-to-noise ratio is high, and if you only read high-karma posts and comments you are guaranteed to get substance.

As for forcing people to read the entire Sequences, I'd say rationalwiki's critique is very appropriate (below). I myself have only read ~20% of the Sequences, and by focusing on the core sequences and highlighted articles, have recognized all the ideas/techniques people refer to in the main-page and discussion posts.

The "sequences"[9] are several collated series of Yudkowsky's blog posts, and there are eighteen sequences in all. The indexes for just the four "core sequences"[10] are somewhere north of 10,000 words. Those link to over a hundred and fifty 2,000-3,000-word blog posts. That's about 300,000-450,000 words for those four, and around a million words for the lot.[11] With a few million more words of often-relevant comments. For comparison, the Lord Of The Rings trilogy is 473,000 words.[12] As such, "You should try reading the sequences" is LessWrong for "fuck you."

Comment author: drethelin 15 April 2012 04:45:23PM 2 points [-]

It's not a barrier to entry if no one actually HAS to surmount it.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 April 2012 09:54:41PM *  8 points [-]

You should try reading the other 80% of the sequences.

Comment author: David_Gerard 14 April 2012 10:55:55PM 10 points [-]

As far as I can tell (low votes, some in the negative, few comments), the QM sequence is the least read of the sequences, and yet makes a lot of EY's key points used later on identity and decision theory. So most LW readers seem not to have read it.

Suggestion: a straw poll on who's read which sequences.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 15 April 2012 02:28:35AM *  23 points [-]

I've seen enough of the QM sequence and know enough QM to see that Eliezer stopped learning quantum mechanics before getting to density matrices. As a result, the conclusions he draws from QM rely on metaphysical assumptions and seem rather arbitrary if one knows more quantum mechanics. In the comments to this post Scott Aaronson tries to explain this to Eliezer without much success.

Comment author: amit 14 April 2012 11:41:37PM 5 points [-]

used later on identity

Yes.

and decision theory

No, as far as I can tell.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 April 2012 12:23:17AM *  5 points [-]

the QM sequence is the least read of the sequences, and yet makes a lot of EY's key points used later on identity and decision theory.

Something I recall noticing at the time I read said posts is that some of the groundwork you mention didn't necessarily need to be in with the QM. Sure, there are a few points that you can make only by reference to QM but many of the points are not specifically dependent on that part of physics. (ie. Modularization fail!)

Comment author: David_Gerard 15 April 2012 12:38:39AM 3 points [-]

That there are no individual particles is something of philosophical import that it'd be difficult to say without bludgeoning the point home, as the possibility is such a strong implicit philosophical assumption and physics having actually delivered the smackdown may be surprising. But yeah, even that could be moved elsewhere with effort. But then again, the sequences are indeed being revised and distilled into publishable rather than blog form ...

Comment author: wedrifid 15 April 2012 01:07:58AM 6 points [-]

That there are no individual particles is something of philosophical import that it'd be difficult to say without bludgeoning the point home, as the possibility is such a strong implicit philosophical assumption and physics having actually delivered the smackdown may be surprising.

Yes, that's the one thing that really relies on it. And the physics smackdown was surprising to me when I read it.

But yeah, even that could be moved elsewhere with effort.

Ideal would seem to be having the QM sequence then later having an identity sequences wherein one post does an "import QM;".

Of course the whole formal 'sequence' notion is something that was invented years later. These are, after all, just a stream of blog posts that some guy spat out extremely rapidly. At that time they were interlinked as something of a DAG, with a bit of clustering involved for some of the bigger subjects.

I actually find the whole 'sequence' focus kind of annoying. In fact I've never read the sequences. What I have read a couple of times is the entire list of blog posts for several years. This includes some of my favorite posts which are stand alone and don't even get a listing in the 'sequences' page.

Comment author: ciphergoth 15 April 2012 07:30:51AM 8 points [-]

Yes! I try to get people to read the "sequences" in ebook form, where they are presented in simple chronological order. And the title is "Eliezer Yudkowsky, blog posts 2006-2010".

Comment author: [deleted] 15 April 2012 03:34:00AM 6 points [-]

I actually find the whole 'sequence' focus kind of annoying. In fact I've never read the sequences. What I have read a couple of times is the entire list of blog posts for several years. This includes some of my favorite posts which are stand alone and don't even get a listing in the 'sequences' page.

Totally, there are whole sequences of really good posts that get no mention in the wiki.

Comment author: Desrtopa 15 April 2012 12:18:20AM *  5 points [-]

I've read it, but I took away less from it than any of the other sequences. Reading any of the other sequences, I can agree or disagree with the conclusion and articulate why. With the QM sequence, my response is more along the lines of "I can't treat this as very strong evidence of anything because I don't think I'm qualified to tell whether it's correct or not." Eliezer's not a physicist either, although his level of fluency is above mine, and while I consider him a very formidable rationalist as humans go, I'm not sure he really knows enough to draw the conclusions he does with such confidence.

I've seen the QM sequence endorsed by at least one person who is a theoretical physicist, but on the other hand, I've read Mitchell Porter's criticisms of Eliezer's interpretation and they sound comparably plausible given my level of knowledge, so I'm not left thinking I have much more grounds to favor any particular quantum interpretation than when I started.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 April 2012 11:03:36PM 5 points [-]

A poll would be good.

I've read the QM sequence and it really is one of the most important sequences. When I suggest this at meetups and such, people seem to be under the impression that it's just Eliezer going off topic for a while and totally optional. This is not the case, the QM sequence is used like you said to develop a huge number of later things.

Comment author: David_Gerard 14 April 2012 11:08:41PM *  12 points [-]

The negative comments from physicists and physics students are sort of a worry (to me as someone who got up to the start of studying this stuff in second-year engineering physics and can't remember one dot of it). Perhaps it could do with a robustified rewrite, if anyone sufficiently knowledgeable can be bothered.

Comment author: ciphergoth 15 April 2012 07:34:03AM 3 points [-]

The negative comments I've heard give off a strong scent of being highly motivated - in one case an incredible amount of bark bark bark about how awful they were, and when I pressed for details, a pretty pathetic bite. I'd like to get a physicist who didn't seem motivated to have an opinion one way or the other to comment.

It would need to be someone who bought MWI - if the sole problem with them is that they endorse MWI then that's at least academically respectable, and if an expert reading them doesn't buy MWI then they'll be motivated to find problems in a way that won't be as informative as we'd like.

Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 15 April 2012 09:53:44AM 23 points [-]

The Quantum Physics Sequence is unusual in that normally, if someone writes 100,000(?) words explaining quantum mechanics for a general audience, they genuinely know the subject first: they have a physics degree, they have had an independent reason to perform a few quantum-mechanical calculations, something like that. It seems to me that Eliezer first got his ideas about quantum mechanics from Penrose's Emperor's New Mind, and then amended his views by adopting many-worlds, which was probably favored among people on the Extropians mailing list in the late 1990s. This would have been supplemented by some incidental study of textbooks, Feynman lectures, expository web pages... but nonetheless, that appears to be the extent of it. The progression from Penrose to Everett would explain why he presents the main interpretive choice as between wavefunction realism with objective collapse, and wavefunction realism with no collapse. His prose is qualitative just about everywhere, indicating that he has studied quantum mechanics just enough to satisfy himself that he has obtained a conceptual understanding, but not to the point of quantitative competence. And then he has undertaken to convey this qualitative conceptual understanding to other people who don't have quantitative competence in the subject, either.

I can recognize all this because I am also an autodidact and I have done comparable things. It's possible to do this and get away with making only a few incidental mistakes. But it is a very risky thing to do. You run a high risk of fooling yourself and then causing your audience to fool themselves too. This is especially the case in mathematical physics. Literally every day I see people asking questions on physics websites that are premised on wrong assumptions about physical theory. I don't mean questions where people say "is it really true that...", I mean questions where the questioner thinks they already understand some topic, and the question proceeds from this incorrect understanding, sometimes quite aggressively in tone (recently observed example).

My opinion about the Sequences is that someone who knows nothing about QM can learn from them, but it's worth getting a second opinion, even just from Wikipedia, since they present a rather ideological point of view. Also, when you read them, you're simply not hearing from someone who has used quantum mechanics professionally; you're hearing from an autodidact who thinks he figured out the gist of the subject - I'd say, very roughly, he gets about 75% of the basics, and the problems are more in what is omitted rather than what is described (e.g. nothing, that I recall, about the role of operators) - and who has decided that one prominent minority faction of opinion among physicists (the many-worlds enthusiasts) are the ones who have correctly discerned the implications of QM for the nature of reality. The fact that he espouses, as the one true interpretation, a point of view that is shared by some genuine physicists, does at least protect him from the accusation of complete folly. Nonetheless, I can tell you - as one autodidact judging another - he's backed the wrong horse. :-)

If you want an independent evaluation of the Sequences by physicists, I suggest that you post this as a question at Physics Stack Exchange. Ask what people think of them, and whether they can be trusted. There's a commenter there, Ron Maimon, who is the most readily available approximation to what you want. Maimon is quantitatively competent in all sorts of advanced physics, and he was once a MWI zealot. Now he's more positivistic, but MWI is still his preferred language for making ontological sense of QM. I would expect him to offer qualified approval of the Sequences, but to make some astute comments regarding content or style.

Since it is a forum where everyone gets a chance to answer the question, with the best replies then being voted up by the readership, of course such a question would also lead to responses by people who don't believe MWI. But this is the quickest way to conduct the experiment you suggest.

Comment author: ciphergoth 15 April 2012 10:36:06AM 12 points [-]

Excellent idea - done. Thank you!

Comment author: Rain 19 April 2012 12:43:17AM *  2 points [-]

Result from Ron Maimon's review of the QM sequence:

I skimmed a majority of the articles, and there are no glaring errors that I could find, but there is an unnecessary verbosity which is best eliminated by reading a terser introduction to the Everett interpretation. The amount of text that is presented is not commensurate with the amount of insight.

(more at the link from ciphergoth's post)

Comment author: XiXiDu 15 April 2012 11:28:19AM *  1 point [-]

If you want an independent evaluation of the Sequences by physicists, I suggest that you post this as a question at Physics Stack Exchange.

Excellent idea - done. Thank you!

You could also ask for an independent evaluation of AI risks here.

Comment author: ciphergoth 15 April 2012 12:44:01PM 6 points [-]

That seems less valuable. The QM sequences are largely there to set out what is supposed to be an existing, widespread understanding of QM. No such understanding exists for AI risk.

Comment author: Username 16 April 2012 04:23:06AM *  7 points [-]

Working on it.

In all seriousness though, I often find the Sequences pretty cumbersome and roundabout. Eliezer assumes a pretty large inferential gap for each new concept, and a lot of the time the main point of an article would only need a sentence or two for it to click for me. Obviously this makes it more accessible for concepts that people are unfamiliar with, but right now it's a turn-off and definitely is a body of work that will be greatly helped by being compressed into a book.

Comment author: Alsadius 15 April 2012 04:39:11PM 4 points [-]

You should try reading the other 80% of the sequences.

Fuck you.

Comment author: David_Gerard 14 April 2012 10:53:28PM *  5 points [-]

Downvoted for linking to that site.

... what?

Comment author: Alsadius 15 April 2012 06:22:41PM *  2 points [-]

It's both funny and basically accurate. I'd say it's a perfectly good link.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 April 2012 07:41:14PM 5 points [-]

David is making a joke, because he wrote most of the content of that article.

Comment author: David_Gerard 15 April 2012 08:55:28PM *  7 points [-]

Tetronian started the article, so it's his fault actually, even if he's pretty much moved here.

I have noted before that taking something seriously because it pays attention to you is not in fact a good idea. Every second that LW pays a blind bit of notice to RW is a second wasted.

See also this comment on the effects of lack of outside world feedback, and a comparison to Wikipedia (which basically didn't get any outside attention for four or five years and is now part of the infrastructure of society, at which I still boggle).

And LW may or may not be pleased that even on RW, when someone fails logic really badly the response is often couched in LW terms. So, memetic infections ahoy! Think of RW as part of the Unpleasable Fanbase.

Comment author: thomblake 16 April 2012 10:05:31PM 2 points [-]

Memetic hazard warning!

Comment author: David_Gerard 16 April 2012 10:27:51PM 3 points [-]

ITYM superstimulus ;-)

Comment author: thescoundrel 15 April 2012 01:42:01AM 7 points [-]

Reading the comments, it feels like the biggest concern is not chasing away the initiates to our phyg. Perhaps tiered sections, where demonstrable knowledge in the last section gains you access to higher levels of signal to noise ratio? Certainly would make our phyg resemble another well known phyg.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 April 2012 01:55:36AM 9 points [-]

Maybe we should charge thousands of dollars for access to the sequences as well? And hire some lawyers...

More seriously, I wonder what people's reaction would be to a newbie section that wouldn't be as harsh as the now-much-harsher normal discussion. This seems to go over well on the rest of the internet.

Sort of like raising the price and then having a sale...

Comment author: Bugmaster 15 April 2012 08:42:52AM 3 points [-]

This sounds like a good idea, but I think it might be too difficult to implement in practice, as determined users will bend their efforts toward guessing the password in order to gain access to the coveted Inner Circle. This isn't a problem for that other phyg, because their access is gated by money, not understanding.

Comment author: TrE 15 April 2012 07:02:17AM 1 point [-]

Sounds like a good idea, would be an incentive for reading and understanding the sequences to many people and could raise the quality level in the higher 'levels' considerably. There are also downsides: We might look more phyg-ish to newbies, discussion quality at the lower levels could fall rapidly (honestly, who wants to debate about 'free will' with newbies when they could be having discussions about more interesting and challenging topics?) and, well, if an intelligent and well-informed outsider has to say something important about a topic, they won't be able to.

For this to be implemented, we'd need a user rights system with the respective discussion sections as well as a way to determine the 'level' of members. Quizzes with questions randomly drawn from a large pool of questions with a limited number of tries per time period could do well, especially if you don't give any feedback about the scoring other than 'you leveled up!' and 'Your score wasn't good enough, re-read these sequences:__ and try again later.'

And, of course, we need the consent of many members and our phyg-leaders as well as someone to actually implement it.

Comment author: Rain 14 April 2012 09:49:08PM 7 points [-]

Stop using that word.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 April 2012 09:53:36PM 4 points [-]

You mean the one that shouldn't be associated with us in google's search results?

I'll think about it.

Comment author: pedanterrific 14 April 2012 10:04:01PM 4 points [-]

Suggestion: "Our Ult-Cay Is Not Exclusive Enough"

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 15 April 2012 09:12:18AM *  11 points [-]

I feel pain just looking at that sentence.

I sure as hell hope self-censorship or encryption for the sake of google results isn't going to become the expected norm here. It's embarassingly silly, and, paradoxically, likely to provide ammunition for anyone who might want to say that we are this thing-that-apparently-must-not-be-named. Wouldn't be overly suprrised if these guys ended up mocking it.

The original title of the post had a nice impact, the point of the rhetorical technique used was to boldly use a negatively connotated word. Now it looks weird and anything but bold.

Also, reading the same rot13-ed word multiple times caused me to learn a small portion of rot13 despite my not wanting to. Annoying.

Comment author: pedanterrific 15 April 2012 03:11:09PM 2 points [-]

Yes, well... I don't give a phyg.

Comment author: David_Gerard 15 April 2012 05:11:54PM 3 points [-]

Your comment would have been ridiculously enhanced by this link.

Comment author: wedrifid 14 April 2012 11:03:48PM *  4 points [-]

In fact, edit your post now please Nyan. Apart from that it's an excellent point. "Community", "website" or just about anything else.

"You're a ...." is already used as a fully general counterargument. Don't encourage it!

Comment author: [deleted] 14 April 2012 11:12:49PM 13 points [-]

I want to keep the use of the word, but to hide it from google I have replaced it with it's rot13: phyg

Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 15 April 2012 01:27:07AM 16 points [-]

And now we can all relax and have a truly uninhibited debate about whether LW is a phyg. Who would have guessed that rot13 has SEO applications?

Comment author: radical_negative_one 15 April 2012 06:46:43PM 2 points [-]

Just to be clear, we're all reading it as-is and pronouncing it like "fig", right? Because that's how i read it in my head.

Comment author: ParagonProtege 14 April 2012 11:50:30PM 3 points [-]

Upvoted for agreeing and for reminding me to re-read a certain part of the sequences. I loath fully general counterarguments, especially that one.

That being said, would it be appropriate for you to edit your own comment to remove said word? I don't know (to any signifigant degree) how Google's search algorithms work, but I suspect that having that word in your comment also negatively affects the suggested searches.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 April 2012 12:03:00AM *  4 points [-]

That being said, would it be appropriate for you to edit your own comment to remove said word?

Oh, yeah, done.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 15 April 2012 08:13:51PM 2 points [-]

What if users were expected to have a passing familiarity with the topics the sequences covered, but not necessarily to have read them? That way, if they were going to post about one of the topics covered in the sequences, they could be sure to brush up on the state of the debate first.

Comment author: paper-machine 15 April 2012 08:18:28PM *  2 points [-]

If you've found some substantially easier way to become reasonably competent -- i.e., possessing a saving throw vs. failing at thinking about thinking -- in a way that doesn't require reading a substantial fraction of the sequences, you're remiss for not describing such a path publicly.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 15 April 2012 08:26:15PM *  8 points [-]

I would guess that hanging out with friends who are aspiring rationalists is a faster way to become rational than reading the sequences.

In any case, it seems pretty clear to me that the sequences do not have a monopoly on rationality. Eliezer isn't the only person in the world who's good at thinking about his thinking.

FWIW, I was thinking along the lines of only requesting passing familiarity with non-core sequences.

Comment author: jsteinhardt 15 April 2012 09:56:01PM 2 points [-]

I read A Human's Guide to Words and Reductionism, and a little bit of the rest. I at least feel like I have pretty good familiarity with the rest of the topics covered as a result of having a strong technical background. The path is pretty clear, though perhaps harder to take --- just take college-level classes in mathematics, econ, and physics, and think a lot about the material. And talk to other smart people.

Comment author: XiXiDu 17 April 2012 03:16:56PM *  6 points [-]

First they came for the professional philosophers,

and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a professional philosopher.

Then they came for the frequentists,

and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a frequentist.

Then they came for the AI skeptics,

and I didn't speak out because I wasn't skeptical of AI.

and then there was no one left to talk to.

Comment author: Bugmaster 15 April 2012 12:57:06AM 5 points [-]

I personally come to Less Wrong specifically for the debates (well, that, and HP:MoR Wild Mass Guessing). Therefore, raising the barrier to entry would be exactly the opposite of what I want, since it would eliminate many fresh voices, and limit the conversation to those who'd already read all of the sequences (a category that would exclude myself, now that I think about it), and agree with everything said therein. You can quibble about whether such a community would constitute a "phyg" or not, but it definitely wouldn't be a place where any productive debate could occur. People who wholeheartedly agree with each other tend not to debate.

Oh, and by the way, there are other strategies for dispelling the public perception of your community being a "phyg", besides using rot13. Not being an ultra-exclusive "phyg" is one of such strategies. If you find yourself turning to rot13 instead, then IMO the battle has already been lost.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 April 2012 01:30:05AM 10 points [-]

I don't see why having the debate at a higher level of knowledge would be a bad thing. Just because everyone is familar with a large bit of useful common knowledge doesn't mean no-one disagrees with it, or that there is nothing left to talk about. There are some LW people who have read everything and bring up interesting critiques.

Imagine watching a debate between some uneducated folks about whether a tree falling in a forest makes a sound or not. Not very interesting. Having read the sequences it's the same sort of boring as someone explaining for the millionth time that "no, technological progress or happyness is not a sufficient goal to produce a valuable future, and yes, an AI coded with that goal would kill us all, and it would suck".

Not being an ultra-exclusive "phyg" is one of such strategies.

The point of my post was that that is not an acceptable solution.

Comment author: Bugmaster 15 April 2012 02:52:41AM *  0 points [-]

I don't see why having the debate at a higher level of knowledge would be a bad thing.

Firstly, a large proportion of the Sequences do not constitute "knowledge", but opinion. It's well-reasoned, well-presented opinion, but opinion nonetheless -- which is great, IMO, because it gives us something to debate about. And, of course, we could still talk about things that aren't in the sequences, that's fun too. Secondly:

Imagine watching a debate between some uneducated folks about whether a tree falling in a forest makes a sound or not. Not very interesting.

No, it's not very interesting to you and me, but to the "uneducated folks" whom you dismiss so readily, it might be interesting indeed. Ignorance is not the same as stupidity, and, unlike stupidity, it's easily correctable. However, kicking people out for being ignorant does not facilitate such correction.

The point of my post was that that is not an acceptable solution.

What's your solution, then ? You say,

I for one would like us to all enforce a little more strongly that people read the sequences and even agree with them in a horrifying manner. You don't have to agree with me, but I'd just like to put out there as a matter of fact that there are some of us that would like a more exclusive LW.

To me, "more exclusive LW" sounds exactly like the kind of solution that doesn't work, especially coupled with "enforcing a little more strongly that people read the sequences" (in some unspecified yet vaguely menacing way).

Comment author: Zetetic 15 April 2012 07:56:17AM 2 points [-]

Firstly, a large proportion of the Sequences do not constitute "knowledge", but opinion. It's well-reasoned, well-presented opinion, but opinion nonetheless -- which is great, IMO, because it gives us something to debate about. And, of course, we could still talk about things that aren't in the sequences, that's fun too. Secondly:

Whether the sequences constitute knowledge is beside the point - they constitute a baseline for debate. People should be familiar with at least some previously stated well-reasoned, well-presented opinions before they try to debate a topic, especially when we have people going through the trouble of maintaining a wiki that catalogs relevant ideas and opinions that have already been expressed here. If people aren't willing or able to pick up the basic opinions already out there, they will almost never be able to bring anything of value to the conversation. Especially on topics discussed here that lack sufficient public exposure to ensure that at least the worst ideas have been weeded out of the minds of most reasonably intelligent people.

I've participated in a lot of forums (mostly freethough/rationality forums), and by far the most common cause of poor discussion quality among all of them was a lack of basic familiarity with the topic and the rehashing of tired, old, wrong arguments that pop into nearly everyone's head (at least for a moment) upon considering a topic for the first time. This community is much better than any other I've been a part of in this respect, but I have noticed a slow decline in this department.

All of that said, I'm not sure if LW is really the place for heavily moderated, high-level technical discussions. It isn't sl4, and outreach and community building really outweigh the more technical topics, and (at least as long as I've been here) this has steadily become more and more the case. However, I would really like to see the sort of site the OP describes (something more like sl4) as a sister site (or if one already exists I'd like a link). The more technical discussions and posts, when they are done well, are by far what I like most about LW.

Comment author: Bugmaster 15 April 2012 08:28:04AM 3 points [-]

I agree with pretty much everything you said (except for the sl4 stuff, because I haven't been a part of that community and thus have no opinion about it one way or another). However, I do believe that LW can be the place for both types of discussions -- outreach as well as technical. I'm not proposing that we set the barrier to entry at zero; I merely think that the guideline, "you must have read and understood all of the Sequences before posting anything" sets the barrier too high.

I also think that we should be tolerant of people who disagree with some of the Sequences; they are just blog posts, not holy gospels. But it's possible that I'm biased in this regard, since I myself do not agree with everything Eliezer says in those posts.

Comment author: Zetetic 15 April 2012 03:25:33PM 2 points [-]

Disagreement is perfectly fine by me. I don't agree with the entirety of the sequences either. It's disagreement without looking at the arguments first that bothers me.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 April 2012 04:01:30AM 2 points [-]

Sequences do not constitute "knowledge", but opinion.

What is the difference between knowledge and opinion? Are the points in the sequences true or not?

Read map and territory, and understand the way of Bayes.

No, it's not very interesting to you and me, but to the "uneducated folks" whom you dismiss so readily, it might be interesting indeed. Ignorance is not the same as stupidity, and, unlike stupidity, it's easily correctable. However, kicking people out for being ignorant does not facilitate such correction.

The thing is, there are other places on the internet where you can talk to people who have not read the sequences. I want somewhere where I can talk to people who have read the LW material, so that I can have a worthwile discussion without getting bogged down by having to explain that there's no qualitative difference between opinion and fact.

To me, "more exclusive LW" sounds exactly like the kind of solution that doesn't work, especially coupled with "enforcing a little more strongly that people read the sequences" (in some unspecified yet vaguely menacing way).

I don't have any really good ideas about how we might be able to have an enlightened discussion and still be friendly to newcomers. Identifying a problem and identifying myself among people who don't want a particular type of solution (relaxing LW's phygish standards), doesn't mean I support any particular straw-solution.

Comment author: Bugmaster 15 April 2012 04:56:59AM 4 points [-]

What is the difference between knowledge and opinion? Are the points in the sequences true or not?

Some proportion of them (between 0 and 100%) are true, others are false or neither. Not being omniscient, I can't tell you which ones are which; I can only tell you which ones I believe are likely to be true with some probability. The proportion of those is far smaller than 100%, IMO.

Read map and territory, and understand the way of Bayes.

See, it's exactly this kind of ponderous verbiage that leads to the necessity for rot13-ing certain words.

...without getting bogged down by having to explain that there's no qualitative difference between opinion and fact.

I believe that there is a significant difference between opinion and fact, though arguably not a qualitative one. For example, "rocks tend to fall down" is a fact, but "the Singularity is imminent" is an opinion -- in my opinion -- and so is "we should kick out anyone who hadn't read the entirety of the Sequences".

Identifying a problem and identifying myself among people who don't want a particular type of solution (relaxing LW's phygish standards), doesn't mean I support any particular straw-solution.

When you said "we should make LW more exclusive", what did you mean, then ?

In any case, I do have a solution for you: why don't you just code up a Greasemonkey scriptlet (or something similar) to hide the comments of anyone with less than, say, 5000 karma ? This way you can browse the site in peace, without getting distracted by our pedestrian mutterings. Better yet, you could have your scriptlet simply blacklist everyone by default, except for certain specific usernames whom you personally approve of. Then you can create your own "phyg" and make it as exclusive as you want.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 15 April 2012 01:44:08PM *  5 points [-]

In any case, I do have a solution for you: why don't you just code up a Greasemonkey scriptlet (or something similar) to hide the comments of anyone with less than, say, 5000 karma?

This would disrupt the flow of discussion.

I tried this on one site. The script did hide the offending comments from my eyes, but other people still saw those comments and responded to them. So I did not have to read bad comments, but I had to read the reactions on them. I could have improved by script to filter out those reactions too, but...

Humans react to the environment. We cannot consciously decide to filter out something and refuse to be influenced. If I come to a discussion with 9 stupid comments and 1 smart comment, my reaction will be different than if there was only the 1 smart comment. I can't filter those 9 comments out. Reading them wastes my time and changes my emotions. So even if you filter those 9 comments out by software, but I won't, then the discussion between two of us will be indirectly influenced by those comments. Most probably, if I see 9 stupid comments, I will stop reading the article, so I will skip the 1 smart one too.

People have evolved some communication strategies that don't work on internet, because a necessary infrastructure is missing. If we two would speak in the real world, and a third person tried to join our discussion, but I consider them rather stupid, you would see it in my body language even if I wouldn't tell the person openly to buzz off. But when we speak online, and I ignore someone's comments, you don't see it; this communication channel is missing. Karma does something like this, it just represents the collective emotion instead of individual emotion. (Perhaps a better approximation would be if the software allowed you to select people you consider smart, and then you would see karma based only on their clicks.)

Creating a good virtual discussion is difficult, because our instincts are based on different assumptions.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 April 2012 06:37:00AM 6 points [-]

what did you mean, then ?

I mean that I'd like to be able to participate in discussion with better (possibly phygish) standards. Lesswrong has a lot of potential and I don't think we are doing as well as we could on the quality of discusson front. And I think making Lesswrong purely more open and welcoming without doing something to keep a high level of quality somewhere is a bad idea. And I'm not afraid of being a phyg.

That's all, nothing revolutionary.

Comment author: Bugmaster 15 April 2012 08:10:08AM 3 points [-]

I mean that I'd like to be able to participate in discussion with better (possibly phygish) standards.

It seems like my proposed solution would work for you, then. With it, you can ignore anyone who isn't enlightened enough, while keeping the site itself as welcoming and newbie-friendly as it currently is.

And I'm not afraid of being a phyg.

I'm not afraid of it either, I just don't think that power-sliding down a death spiral is a good idea. I don't need people to tell me how awesome I am, I want them to show me how wrong I am so that I can update my beliefs.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 April 2012 06:34:10AM 4 points [-]

Read map and territory, and understand the way of Bayes.

See, it's exactly this kind of ponderous verbiage that leads to the necessity for rot13-ing certain words.

Specifically 'the way of'. Would you have the same objection with 'and understand how bayesian updating works'? (Objection to presumptuousness aside.)

Comment author: Bugmaster 15 April 2012 08:06:05AM 5 points [-]

Probably. The same sentiment could be expressed as something like this:

The map is not the territory; if you understood how Bayesian updating works, you would know that facts and opinions are qualitatively the same.

This phrasing is still a bit condescending, but a). it gives an actual link for me to read an educate my ignorant self, and b). it makes the speaker sound merely like a stuck-up long-timer, instead of a creepy phyg-ist.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 April 2012 09:36:25AM *  6 points [-]

I personally come to Less Wrong specifically for the debates (well, that, and HP:MoR Wild Mass Guessing). Therefore, raising the barrier to entry would be exactly the opposite of what I want, since it would eliminate many fresh voices, and limit the conversation to those who'd already read all of the sequences (a category that would exclude myself, now that I think about it), and agree with everything said therein. You can quibble about whether such a community would constitute a "phyg" or not, but it definitely wouldn't be a place where any productive debate could occur. People who wholeheartedly agree with each other tend not to debate.

A 'debate club' mindset is one of the things I would try to avoid. Debates emerge when there are new ideas to be expressed and new outlooks or bodies of knowledge to consider - and the supply of such is practically endless. You don't go around trying to artificially encourage an environment of ignorance just so some people are sufficiently uninformed that they will try to argue trivial matters. That's both counterproductive and distasteful.

I would not be at all disappointed if a side effect of maintaining high standards of communication causes us to lose some participants who "come to Less Wrong specifically for the debates". Frankly, that would be among the best things we could hope for. That sort of mindset is outright toxic to conversations and often similarly deleterious to the social atmosphere.

Comment author: Bugmaster 15 April 2012 10:02:37AM 1 point [-]

You don't go around trying to artificially encourage an environment of ignorance just so some people are sufficiently uninformed that they will try to argue trivial matters.

I wasn't suggesting we do that, FWIW.

That sort of mindset is outright toxic to conversations and often similarly deleterious to the social atmosphere.

I think there's a difference between flame wars and informed debate. I'm in favor of the latter, not the former. On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of communities where everyone agrees with everyone else. I acknowledge that they can be useful as support groups, but I don't think that LW is a support group, nor should it become one. Rationality is all about changing one's beliefs, after all...

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 15 April 2012 08:09:07AM *  2 points [-]

limit the conversation to those who'd already read all of the sequences (a category that would exclude myself, now that I think about it), and agree with everything said therein

(italics mine)

How did you arrive at that idea?

The point isn't to agree with the stuff, but to be familiar with it, with standard arguments that the Sequences establish. If you tried to talk advanced mathematics/philosophy/whatever with people, and didn't know the necessary math/philosophy/whatever, people would tell you some equivalent of "read the sequences".

This is not the rest of the Internet, where everyone is entitled to their opinion and the result is that discussions never get anywhere (in reality, nobody is really interested in anyone's mere opinion, and the result is something like this). If you're posting uninformedly and rehashing old stuff or committing errors the core sequences teach you not to commit, you're producing noise.

This is what i love about LW. There is an actual signal to noise ratio, rather than a sea of mere opinion.

Comment author: Bugmaster 15 April 2012 08:14:30AM 4 points [-]

The point isn't to agree with the stuff, but to be familiar with it

nyan_sandwich said that the Sequences contain not merely arguments, but knowledge. This implies a rather high level of agreement with the material.

The point isn't to agree with the stuff, but to be familiar with it, with standard arguments that the Sequences establish.

I agree, but:

If you tried to talk advanced mathematics/philosophy/whatever with people, and didn't know the necessary math/philosophy/whatever, people would tell you some equivalent of "read the sequences".

I am perfectly fine with that, as long as they don't just say, "read all of the Sequences and then report back when you're ready", but rather, "your arguments have already been discussed in depth in the following sequence: $url". The first sentence merely dismisses the reader; the second one provides useful material.

Comment author: David_Gerard 15 April 2012 09:03:08AM 5 points [-]

nyan_sandwich said that the Sequences contain not merely arguments, but knowledge. This implies a rather high level of agreement with the material.

Yesss ... the sequences are great stuff, but they do not reach the level of constituting settled science.

They are quite definitely settled tropes, but that's a different level of thing. Expecting familiarity with them may (or may not) be reasonable; expecting people to treat them as knowledge is rather another thing.

Comment author: Grognor 14 April 2012 09:41:29PM *  4 points [-]

Upvoted.

I agree pretty much completely and I think if you're interested in Less Wrong-style rationality, you should either read and understand the sequences (yes, all of them), or go somewhere else. Edit, after many replies: This claim is too strong. I should have said instead that people should at least be making an effort to read and understand the sequences if they wish to comment here, not that everyone should read the whole volume before making a single comment.

There are those who think rationality needs to be learned through osmosis or whatever. That's fine, but I don't want it lowering the quality of discussion here.

I notice that, in topics that Eliezer did not explicitly cover in the sequences (and some that he did), LW has made zero progress in general. This is probably one of the reasons why.

An IRC conversation I had a while ago left me with a powerful message: people will give lip service to keeping the gardens, but when it comes time to actually do it, nobody is willing to.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 April 2012 10:08:00PM 20 points [-]

I notice that, in topics that Eliezer did not explicitly cover in the sequences (and some that he did), LW has made zero progress in general. This is probably one of the reasons why.

This is a pretty hardcore assertion.

I am thinking of lukeprog's and Yvain's stuff as counterexamples.

Comment author: Grognor 14 April 2012 10:12:31PM *  11 points [-]

I think of them (and certain others) as exceptions that prove the rule. If you take away the foundation of the sequences and the small number of awesome people (most of whom, mind you, came here because of Eliezer's sequences), you end up with a place that's indistinguishable from the programmer/atheist/transhumanist/etc. crowd, which is bad if LW is supposed to be making more than nominal progress over time.

Standard disclaimer edit because I have to: The exceptions don't prove the rule in the sense of providing evidence for the rule (indeed, they are technically evidence contrariwise), but they do allow you to notice it. This is what the phrase really means.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 April 2012 10:30:00PM 3 points [-]

Your edit updated me in favour of me being confused about this exception-rule business. Can you link me to something?

Comment author: Grognor 14 April 2012 10:32:22PM *  5 points [-]

"The exception [that] proves the rule" is a frequently confused English idiom. The original meaning of this idiom is that the presence of an exception applying to a specific case establishes that a general rule existed.

-Wikipedia (!!!)

(I should just avoid this phrase from now on, if it's going to cause communication problems.)

Comment author: komponisto 16 April 2012 02:36:43AM *  2 points [-]

I suspect the main cause of misunderstanding (and subsequent misuse) is omission of the relative pronoun "that". The phrase should always be "[that is] the exception that proves the rule", never "the exception proves the rule".

Comment author: thomblake 16 April 2012 08:42:35PM 1 point [-]

Probably even better to just include "in cases not so excepted" at the end.

Comment author: David_Gerard 14 April 2012 11:04:04PM *  4 points [-]

you end up with a place that's indistinguishable from the programmer/atheist/transhumanist/etc. crowd, which is bad if LW is supposed to be making more than nominal progress over time.

Considering how it was subculturally seeded, this should not be surprising. Remember that LW has proceeded in a more or less direct subcultural progression from the Extropians list of the late '90s, with many of the same actual participants.

It's an online community. As such, it's a subculture and it's going to work like one. So you'll see the behaviour of an internet forum, with a bit of the topical stuff on top.

How would you cut down the transhumanist subcultural assumptions in the LW readership?

(If I ever describe LW to people these days it's something like "transhumanists talking philosophy." I believe this is an accurate description.)

Comment author: [deleted] 14 April 2012 11:21:56PM 5 points [-]

Transhumanism isn't the problem. The problem is that when people don't read the sequences, we are no better than any other forum of that community. Too many people are not reading the sequences, and not enough people are calling them out on it.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 April 2012 10:18:38PM *  1 point [-]

Exceptions don't prove rules.

You are mostly right, which is exactly what I was getting at with the "promoted is the only good stuff" comment.

I do think there is a lot of interesting, useful stuff outside of promoted, tho, it's just mixed with the usual programmer/atheist/transhumanist/etc-level stuff.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 April 2012 09:50:29PM 5 points [-]

Thanks.

I was going to include something along those lines, but then I didn't. But really, if you haven't read the sequences, and don't care to, the only thing that seperates LW from r/atheism, rationalwiki, whatever that place is you linked to, and so on is that a lot of people here have read the sequences, which isn't a fair reason to hang out here.

Comment author: wedrifid 14 April 2012 11:56:56PM 12 points [-]

I agree pretty much completely and I think if you're interested in Less Wrong-style rationality, you should either read and understand the sequences (yes, all of them), or go somewhere else.

I don't consider myself a particularly patient person when it comes to tolerating ignorance or stupidity but even so I don't much mind if people here contribute without having done much background reading. What matters is that they don't behave like an obnoxious prat about it and are interested in learning things.

I do support enforcing high standards of discussion. People who come here straight from their highschool debate club and Introduction to Philosophy 101 and start throwing around sub-lesswrong-standard rhetoric should be downvoted. Likewise for confident declarations of trivially false things. There should be more correction of errors that would probably be accepted (or even rewarded) in many other contexts. These are the kind of thing that don't actively exclude but do have the side effect of raising the barrier to entry. A necessary sacrifice.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 April 2012 12:04:34AM 1 point [-]

The core-sequence fail gets downvoted pretty reliably. I can't say the same for metaethics or AI stuff. We need more people to read those sequences so that they can point out and downvote failure.

Comment author: Vaniver 15 April 2012 01:14:19AM 11 points [-]

The core-sequence fail gets downvoted pretty reliably. I can't say the same for metaethics or AI stuff. We need more people to read those sequences so that they can point out and downvote failure.

Isn't the metaethics sequence not liked very much? I haven't read it in a while, and so I'm not sure that I actually read all of the posts, but I found what I read fairly squishy, and not even on the level of, say, Nietzsche's moral thought.

Downvoting people for not understanding that beliefs constrain expectation I'm okay with. Downvoting people for not agreeing with EY's moral intuitions seems... mistaken.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 15 April 2012 06:21:13AM 10 points [-]

Downvoting people for not understanding that beliefs constrain expectation I'm okay with.

Beliefs are only sometimes about anticipation. LessWrong repeatedly makes huge errors when they interpret "belief" in such a naive fashion;—giving LessWrong a semi-Bayesian justification for this collective failure of hermeneutics is unwise. Maybe beliefs "should" be about anticipation, but LessWrong, like everybody else, can't reliably separate descriptive and normative claims, which is exactly why this "beliefs constrain anticipation" thing is misleading. ...There's a neat level-crossing thingy in there.

Downvoting people for not agreeing with EY's moral intuitions seems... mistaken.

EY thinking of meta-ethics as a "solved problem" is one of the most obvious signs that he's very spotty when it comes to philosophy and can't really be trusted to do AI theory.

(Apologies if I come across as curmudgeonly.)

Comment author: wedrifid 15 April 2012 06:29:51AM 2 points [-]

EY thinking of meta-ethics as a "solved problem" is one of the most obvious signs that he's very spotty when it comes to philosophy and can't really be trusted to do AI theory.

He does? I know he doesn't take it as seriously as other knowledge required for AI but I didn't think he actually thought it was a 'solved problem'.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 15 April 2012 09:23:14AM 6 points [-]
Comment author: wedrifid 15 April 2012 09:47:40AM 4 points [-]

From my favorite post and comments section on Less Wrong thus far:

Take metaethics, a solved problem: what are the odds that someone who still thought metaethics was a Deep Mystery could write an AI algorithm that could come up with a correct metaethics?

Yes, it looks like Eliezer is mistaken there (or speaking hyperbole).

I agree with:

what are the odds that someone who still thought metaethics was a Deep Mystery could write an AI algorithm that could come up with a correct metaethics?

... but would weaken the claim drastically to "Take metaethics, a clearly reducible problem with many technical details to be ironed out". I suspect you would disagree with even that, given that you advocate meta-ethical sentiments that I would negatively label "Deeply Mysterious". This places me approximately equidistant from your respective positions.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 15 April 2012 09:57:40AM 4 points [-]

I only weakly advocate certain (not formally justified) ideas about meta-ethics, and remain deeply confused about certain meta-ethical questions that I wouldn't characterize as mere technical details. One simple example: Eliezer equates reflective consistency (a la CEV) with alignment with the big blob of computation he calls "right"; I still don't know what argument, technical or non-technical, could justify such an intuition, and I don't know how Eliezer would make tradeoffs if the two did in fact have different referents. This strikes me as a significant problem in itself, and there are many more problems like it.

(Mildly inebriated, apologies for errors.)

Comment author: gjm 15 April 2012 11:19:56PM 4 points [-]

Are you sure Eliezer does equate reflective consistency with alignment with what-he-calls-"right"? Because my recollection is that he doesn't claim either (1) that a reflectively consistent alien mind need have values at all like what he calls right, or (2) that any individual human being, if made reflectively consistent, would necessarily end up with values much like what he calls right.

(Unless I'm awfully confused, denial of (1) is an important element in his thinking.)

I think he is defining "right" to mean something along the lines of "in line with the CEV of present-day humanity". Maybe that's a sensible way to use the word, maybe not (for what it's worth, I incline towards "not") but it isn't the same thing as identifying "right" with "reflectively consistent", and it doesn't lead to a risk of confusion if the two turn out to have different referents (because they can't).

Comment author: thomblake 16 April 2012 09:26:01PM 1 point [-]

Eliezer equates reflective consistency (a la CEV) with alignment with the big blob of computation he calls "right"

He most certainly does not.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 15 April 2012 08:15:47PM 2 points [-]

To take Eliezer's statement one meta-level down:

what are the odds that someone who still thought ethics was a Deep Mystery could come up with a correct metaethics?

Comment author: wedrifid 15 April 2012 01:19:12AM 2 points [-]

Random factoid: The post by Eliezer that I find most useful for describing (a particular aspect of) moral philosophy is actually a post about probability.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 April 2012 01:40:57AM 4 points [-]

Metaethics sequence is a bit of a mess, but the point it made is important, and it doesn't seem like it's just some wierd opinion of Eliezer's.

After I read it I was like, "Oh, ok. Morality is easy. Just do the right thing. Where 'right' is some incredibly complex set of preferences that are only represented implicitly in physical human brains. And it's OK that it's not supernatural or 'objective', and we don't have to 'justify' it to an ideal philosophy student of perfect emptyness". Fake utility functions, and Recursive justification stuff helped.

Maybe there's something wrong with Eliezer's metaethics, but I havn't seen anyone point it out, and have no reason to suspect it. Most of the material that contradicts it is obvious mistakes from just not having read and understood the sequences, not an enlightened counter-analysis.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 15 April 2012 04:43:15AM 8 points [-]

Metaethics sequence is a bit of a mess, but the point it made is important, and it doesn't seem like it's just some wierd opinion of Eliezer's.

Has it ever been demonstrated that there is a consensus on what point he was trying to make, and that he in fact demonstrated it?

He seems to make a conclusion, but I don't believe demonstrated it, and I never got the sense that he carried the day in the peanut gallery.

Comment author: Vaniver 15 April 2012 01:42:52AM 11 points [-]

Hm. I think I'll put on my project list "reread the metaethics sequence and create an intelligent reply." If that happens, it'll be at least two months out.

Comment author: wedrifid 15 April 2012 06:41:11AM 2 points [-]

Maybe there's something wrong with Eliezer's metaethics, but I havn't seen anyone point it out, and have no reason to suspect it.

The main problem I have is that it is grossly incomplete. There are a few foundational posts but it cuts off without covering what I would like to be covered.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 April 2012 06:42:36AM 2 points [-]

What would you like covered? Or is it just that vague "this isn't enough" feeling?

Comment author: wedrifid 15 April 2012 06:47:18AM 5 points [-]

What would you like covered? Or is it just that vague "this isn't enough" feeling?

I can't fully remember - it's been a while since I considered the topic so I mostly have the cached conclusion. More on preference aggregation is one thing. A 'preferences are subjectively objective' post. A post that explains more completely what he means by 'should' (he has discussed and argued about this in comments).

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 15 April 2012 03:00:46AM 4 points [-]

Maybe there's something wrong with Eliezer's metaethics

Try actually applying it to some real life situations and you'll quickly discover the problems with it.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 April 2012 03:28:40AM 1 point [-]

such as?

Comment author: David_Gerard 14 April 2012 11:00:51PM *  13 points [-]

I notice that, in topics that Eliezer did not explicitly cover in the sequences (and some that he did), LW has made zero progress in general. This [people not reading them] is probably one of the reasons why.

Um, after I read the sequences I ploughed through every LW post from the start of LW to late 2010 (when I started reading regularly). What I saw was that the sequences were revered, but most of the new and interesting stuff from that intervening couple of years was ignored. (Though it's probably just me.)

At this point A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy is apposite. Note the description of the fundamentalist smackdown as a stage communities go through. Note it also usually fails when it turns out the oldtimers have differing and incompatible ideas on what the implicit constitution actually was in the good old days.

tl;dr declarations of fundamentalism heuristically strike me as inherently problematic.

edit: So what about this comment rated a downvote?

edit 2: ah - the link to the Shirky essay appears to be giving the essay in the UK, but Viagra spam in the US o_0 I've put a copy up here.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 15 April 2012 01:50:50AM 5 points [-]

What I saw was that the sequences were revered, but most of the new and interesting stuff from that intervening couple of years was ignored.

I suspect that's because it's poorly indexed. This should be fixed.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 April 2012 01:57:38AM 4 points [-]

This is very much why I have only read some of it.

If the more recent LW stuff was better indexed, that would be sweet.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 15 April 2012 03:08:26AM 8 points [-]
Comment author: David_Gerard 15 April 2012 08:09:13AM 2 points [-]

Yeah, I didn't read it from the wiki index, I read it by going to the end of the chronological list and working forward.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 April 2012 11:57:53PM *  2 points [-]

Am I in some kind of internet black-hole? That link took me to some viagra spam site.

Comment author: David_Gerard 15 April 2012 12:04:04AM *  5 points [-]

It's a talk by Clay Shirky, called "A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy".

I get the essay ... looking in Google, it appears someone's done some scurvy DNS tricks with shirky.com and the Google cache is corrupted too. Eegh.

I've put up a copy here and changed the link in my comment..

Comment author: Manfred 15 April 2012 10:59:00PM 2 points [-]

I notice that, in topics that Eliezer did not explicitly cover in the sequences (and some that he did), LW has made zero progress in general. This is probably one of the reasons why.

<shameless self-promotion> My recent post explains how to get true beliefs in situations like the anthropic trilemma, which post begins with the words "speaking of problems I don't know how to solve." </shameless self-promotion>

However, there is a bit of a remaining problem, since I don't know how to model the wrong way of doing things (naive application of Bayes' rule to questionable interpretations). well enough to tell whether it's fixable or not, so although the problem is solved, it is not dissolved.

Comment author: Bugmaster 15 April 2012 01:00:56AM 2 points [-]

I notice that, in topics that Eliezer did not explicitly cover in the sequences (and some that he did), LW has made zero progress in general.

How do you measure "progress", exactly ? I'm not sure what the word means in this context.

Comment author: faul_sname 14 April 2012 10:20:27PM 2 points [-]

Where, specifically, do you not see progress? I see much better recognition of, say, regression to the mean here than in the general population, despite it never being covered in the sequences.

Comment author: Multiheaded 15 April 2012 07:32:01AM *  2 points [-]

LW has made zero progress in general

I'm insulted (not in an emotional way! I just want to state my strong personal objection!). Many of us challenge the notion of "progress" being possible or even desirable on topics like Torture vs Specks. And while I've still much to learn, there are people like Konkvistador, who's IMO quite adept at resisting the lure of naive utilitarianism and can put a "small-c conservative" (meaning not ideologically conservative, but technically so) approach to metaethics to good use.

Comment author: Alsadius 15 April 2012 03:46:55PM 1 point [-]

Demanding that people read tomes of text before you're willing to talk to them seems about the easiest way imaginable to silence any possible dissent. Anyone who disagrees with you won't bother to read your holy books, and anyone who hasn't will be peremptorily ignored. You're engaging in a pretty basic logical fallacy in an attempt to preserve rationality. Engage the argument, not the arguer.

Comment author: paper-machine 15 April 2012 04:07:05PM 7 points [-]

Expecting your interlocutors to have a passing familiarity with the subject under discussion is not a logical fallacy.

Comment author: Alsadius 15 April 2012 06:14:33PM 0 points [-]

There's ways to have a passing familiarity with rational debate that don't involve reading a million words of Eliezer Yudkowsky's writings.

Comment author: bryjnar 17 April 2012 11:17:59AM 2 points [-]

I know you say that you don't want to end up with "ignore any discussion that contains contradictions of the lesswrong scriptures", but it sounds a bit like that. (In particular, referring to stuff like "properly sequenced LWers" suggests to me that you not only think that the sequences are interesting, but actually right about everything). The sequences are not scripture, and I think (hope!) there are a lot of LWers who disagree to a greater or lesser degree with them.

For example, I think the metaethics sequence is pretty hopeless (WARNING: Opinion based on when I last read it, which was over a year ago). Fortunately, I don't think much of the discussion here has actually hinged upon Eliezer's metaethics, so I don't think that's actually too much of an issue.

I'm not even that worried about a convinced Yudkowsky disciple "righteously wielding the banhammer"; I suspect people making intelligent points wouldn't get banned, but you seem to be suggesting that they should be ignored.

Perhaps a more constructive approach would just be to list any of the particularly salient assumptions you're making at the start of the post? e.g. "This post assumes the Metaethics sequence; if you disagree with that, go argue about it somewhere else"

Comment author: XiXiDu 15 April 2012 09:13:05AM 2 points [-]

Lest anyone get the idea that no-one thinks LW should be more phygish or more exclusive, let me hereby register that I for one would like us to all enforce a little more strongly that people read the sequences and even agree with them in a horrifying manner.

I haven't read most of the sequences yet and agree with most of what those lw members are saying of who you'd like to see more of.

Most of the criticisms I voice are actually rephrased and forwarded arguments and ideas from people much smarter and more impressive than me. Including big names like Douglas Hofstadter. Quite a few of them have read all of the sequences too.

Here is an example from yesterday. I told an AI researcher about a comment made on lw (don't worry possible negative influence, they are already well aware of everything and has read the sequences). Here is part of the reply:

I don't need to justify myself. Rather, those who claim to be taking risks from AI seriously need to justify why they themselves aren't researchers in AI.

...

I'd argue that further researching and extending a formal framework like AIXI is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of AI. There's plenty of other ways to make progress that are far less amenable to analysis.. those are the ones which we should really be concerned about. Actually, it's quite surprising that nobody who (publically) cares about AI risk has, to the best of my knowledge, even tried to extend the AIXI framework to incorporate some notion of friendliness...

I would usually rephrase this at some point and post it as a reply.

And this is just one of many people who simply don't bother to get into incredible exhausting debates with a lesswrong mob.

Without me your impression that everyone agrees with you would be even worse. And by making this community even more exclusive you will get even more out of touch with reality.

It is relatively easy to believe that the only people who would criticize your beloved beliefs are some idiots like me who haven't even read your scriptures. Guess again!

Comment author: Wei_Dai 15 April 2012 07:14:11PM *  3 points [-]

Actually, it's quite surprising that nobody who (publically) cares about AI risk has, to the best of my knowledge, even tried to extend the AIXI framework to incorporate some notion of friendliness...

UDT can be seen as just this. It was partly inspired/influenced by AIXI anyway, if not exactly an extension of it. Edit: It doesn't incorporate a notion of friendliness yet, but is structured so that unlike AIXI, at least in principle such a notion could be incorporated. See the last paragraph of Towards a New Decision Theory for some idea of how to do this.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 April 2012 06:29:53PM 4 points [-]

It is relatively easy to believe that the only people who would criticize your beloved beliefs are some idiots like me who haven't even read your scriptures. Guess again!

That post is part of the reason I made this post. Shit like this from the OP there:

I happen to value technological progress as an intrinsic good, so classifying a Singularity as "positive" or "negative" is not easy for me.

!!!

I don't expect that if everyone made more of an effort to be more deeply familiar with the LW materials that there would be no disagreement with them. There is and would be much more interesting disagreement, and a lot less of the default mistakes.

Comment author: David_Gerard 16 April 2012 06:51:40PM 8 points [-]

Um, you seem to me to be saying that someone (davidad) who is in fact familiar with the sequences, and who left AI to achieve things well past most of LW's participants, are a perfect example of who you don't want here. Is that really what you meant to put across?

Comment author: Bruno_Coelho 15 April 2012 10:16:08PM 1 point [-]

When EY are writing the sequences what percentage of population he was hoping to influence? I suppose a lot. Then now some people are bothered because the message began to spread and in the meantime the quality of posts are not the same. Well, if the discussion become poor, go to another places. High technical guys simple don't get involve in something they see is hopeless or not interesting, like trying to turn people more rational or reduce x-risks.