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plethora comments on CFAR’s new focus, and AI Safety - LessWrong

30 Post author: AnnaSalamon 03 December 2016 06:09PM

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Comment author: plethora 07 December 2016 06:34:22AM 0 points [-]

Online communities do not have a strong comparative advantage in compiling and presenting facts that are well understood. That's the sort of thing academics and journalists are already paid to do.

But academics write for other academics, and journalists don't and can't. (They've tried. They can't. Remember Vox?)

AFAIK, there isn't a good outlet for compilations of facts intended for and easily accessible by a general audience, reviews of books that weren't just written, etc. Since LW isn't run for profit and is run as outreach for, among other things, CFAR, whose target demographic would be interested in such an outlet, this could be a valuable direction for either LW or a spinoff site; but, given the reputational risk (both personally and institutionally) inherent in the process of generating new ideas, we may be better served by pivoting LW toward the niche I'm thinking of -- a cross between a review journal, SSC, and, I don't know, maybe CIA (think World Factbook) or RAND -- and moving the generation and refinement of ideas into a separate container, maybe an anonymous blog or forum.

Comment author: satt 07 December 2016 11:17:14PM *  1 point [-]

But academics write for other academics, and journalists don't and can't. (They've tried. They can't. Remember Vox?)

Would that be Vox, Vox, or Vox?

Edit, 5 minutes later: a bit more seriously, I'm not sure I'd agree that "academics write for other academics" holds as a strong generalization. Many academics focus on writing for academics, but many don't. I think the (relatively) low level of information flow from academia to general audiences is at least as much a demand-side phenomenon as a supply-side one.

Comment author: Good_Burning_Plastic 08 December 2016 09:47:33AM *  1 point [-]

Many academics focus on writing for academics, but many don't.

Given "publish or perish", usually the latter won't stay in academia for long.

Comment author: satt 10 December 2016 03:58:06PM 0 points [-]

I'd be reluctant to go as far as "usually", but yes, publish-or-perish norms are playing a role here too.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 08 December 2016 08:22:00AM *  0 points [-]

Academics write textbooks, popular books, and articles that are intended for a lay audience.

Nevertheless, I think it's great if LW users want to compile & present facts that are well understood. I just don't think we have a strong comparative advantage.

LW already has a reputation for exploring non-mainstream ideas. That attracts some and repels others. If we tried to sanitize ourselves, we probably would not get back the people who have been repulsed, and we might lose the interest of some of the people we've attracted.