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

PhilGoetz comments on Lesswrong Potential Changes - Less Wrong Discussion

17 Post author: Elo 19 March 2016 12:24PM

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

Comments (88)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 29 March 2016 12:18:43AM *  3 points [-]

Re. "Reducing total negative karma" as a goal--

Negative karma is already less common than positive karma. This is good, since it would be bad if the "average user" couldn't post. But without a justified target for what the proper amount of negative karma is, setting "reduce negative karma" as a goal isn't reasonable. How do we know we don't already have the right amount? Or too little?

Comment author: Elo 29 March 2016 01:28:31AM -1 points [-]

negative karma

There is an underlying assumption of what "negative karma" means. It hopefully means things like:

  • this post is wrong
  • this is a badly expressed opinion

and various other reasons for downvote. If we assume that enough downvotes means we are not effectively communicating useful thoughts, then we want to minimise that. Of course this may not be representative if say; our number of active accounts doubles in size; we should expect more negative karma as a factor of the number of people in the conversation.

As we know; what get's measured get's optimised for - I want to keep the measuring options various and several so that we optimise in the general direction of less bad stuff more good stuff.

Comment author: Lumifer 29 March 2016 02:47:41AM 1 point [-]

If we assume that enough downvotes means we are not effectively communicating useful thoughts, then we want to minimise that.

But if we assume that enough downvotes means we are effectively filtering out the stupid stuff, then we want to maximize that.

I agree with PhilGoetz that "less negative karma" is a bad goal. It's trivially reachable by eliminating downvotes, for example.

Comment author: Elo 29 March 2016 03:20:14AM 0 points [-]

"less negative karma" is a bad goal. It's trivially reachable by eliminating downvotes, for example.

it's a terrible goal on it's own, it's definitely not to be taken on it's own. If not taken to the extreme of aiming for zero downvotes or something stupid like that; I think it represents a (maybe bad) measure of how disagreeable we are.

If you think it's completely unrepresentative I will take it out; I was of the opinion that it can show something; and is worth checking up on, probably not optimising for.

Comment author: Lumifer 29 March 2016 05:27:29AM 1 point [-]

Yes, I think that's quite right: the amount of negative karma might be a useful indicator (together with other indicators), but it's not a good target for optimization.

Comment author: gjm 29 March 2016 10:09:48AM 1 point [-]
Comment author: Lumifer 29 March 2016 02:54:56PM 1 point [-]

No, it's even simpler than that. Think about using salt in cooking -- if you produce an oversalted dish that's a problem that you should notice and fix, but talking about minimizing the amount of salt is silly (I'm talking gastronomically, not nutritionally).

Comment author: gjm 29 March 2016 03:18:16PM 0 points [-]

I think there are two separate things going on here.

  • It might (at present) be beneficial to reduce X, but the optimal level might not be zero.
  • Treating X as a target for optimization might be harmful.

(Here X is "amount of salt" for your oversalted dish, and "amount of downvoting" for present-day LW.)

Addressing the alleged "too much negative karma" problem by prohibiting downvotes would be bad in both respects. But whatever target we might pick, aiming for exactly that level of downvoting and optimizing would likely give bad results, whereas picking a target level of saltiness in your dish and optimizing might work just fine.

Comment author: Lumifer 29 March 2016 04:06:36PM 1 point [-]

whereas picking a target level of saltiness in your dish and optimizing might work just fine.

The point is that you optimize for taste and let saltiness fall where it may. Similarly, LW should optimize for some metric of "goodness" and let negative karma be whatever it has to be to produce that deliciousness.

Comment author: gjm 29 March 2016 05:55:56PM 0 points [-]

optimize for taste

Of course. But that may be ill-specified and hard to measure, and something else may be a usable proxy.

Your (perfectly correct) point is that optimizing a poorly chosen proxy (e.g., minimizing the amount of salt) can produce very poor results. My point is that even if you have what looks like an excellently chosen proxy, as soon as you start optimizing it your (or others') ingenuity is liable to turn up ways to improve it while making what you care about worse.

(None the less, proxy measurements are really useful. I believe we are agreed that at the very least they're worth keeping an eye on as a rough guide, provided you also keep an eye on whether they're ceasing to be useful proxies.)