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

Lumifer 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. Show more comments above.

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.)

Comment author: Lumifer 29 March 2016 06:05:33PM 0 points [-]

even if you have what looks like an excellently chosen proxy

That, however, is not the case here.

Comment author: gjm 29 March 2016 08:28:39PM 0 points [-]

I agree. (Did you expect me not to? If so, I apologize for anything misleading in what I wrote.)