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Comment author: Morendil 28 November 2016 06:41:50PM 2 points [-]

I realize I haven't given a direct answer yet, so here it is: I'm in, if I'm wanted, and if some of the changes discussed here take place. (What it would take to get me onboard is, at the least, an explicit editorial policy and people in charge of enforcing it.)

[Link] Newcomb's problem divides philosophers. Which side are you on?

-1 Morendil 28 November 2016 06:34PM
Comment author: sarahconstantin 27 November 2016 10:52:41AM 23 points [-]

Specifically, I think that LW declined from its peak by losing its top bloggers to new projects. Eliezer went to do AI research full-time at MIRI, Anna started running CFAR, various others started to work on those two organizations or others (I went to work at MetaMed). There was a sudden exodus of talent, which reduced posting frequency, and took the wind out of the sails.

One trend I dislike is that highly competent people invariably stop hanging out with the less-high-status, less-accomplished, often younger, members of their group. VIPs have a strong temptation to retreat to a "VIP island" -- which leaves everyone else short of role models and stars, and ultimately kills communities. (I'm genuinely not accusing anybody of nefarious behavior, I'm just noting a normal human pattern.) Like -- obviously it's not fair to reward competence with extra burdens, I'm not that much of a collectivist. But I think that potentially human group dynamics won't work without something like "community-spiritedness" -- there are benefits to having a community of hundreds or thousands, for instance, that you cannot accrue if you only give your time and attention to your ten best friends.

Comment author: Morendil 27 November 2016 11:11:26AM 5 points [-]

There was a sudden exodus of talent, which reduced posting frequency, and took the wind out of the sails.

I'd be wary of post hoc ergo propter hoc in this context. You might also have expected that by leaving for other projects these posters would create a vacuum for others to fill. It could be worth looking at why that didn't happen.

Comment author: sarahconstantin 27 November 2016 10:27:46AM 17 points [-]

1: the general move of the internet away from blogs and forums and towards social media.

In particular, there seems to be a mental move that people make, that I've seen people write about quite frequently, of wanting to avoid the more "official"-seeming forms of online discussion, and towards more informal places. From blogging to FB, from FB to Tumblr and Twitter, and thence to Snapchat and other stuff I'm too old for. Basically, people say that they're intimidated to talk on the more official, public channels. I get a sense of people feeling hassled by unfriendly commenters, and also a sense of something like "kids wanting to hang out where the grownups aren't", except that the "kids" here are often adults themselves. A sense that you'll be judged if you do your honest best to write what you actually believe, in front of people who might critique it, and so that it's safer to do something that leaves you less exposed, like sharing memes.

I think the "hide, go in the darkness, do things that you can't do by daylight" Dionysian kind of impulse is not totally irrational (a lot of people do have judgmental employers or families) but it's really counterproductive to discourse, which is inherently an Apollonian, daylight kind of activity.

Comment author: Morendil 27 November 2016 10:38:52AM 2 points [-]

Yes, and this would be a general trend - affecting all community blogs to some extent. I was looking for an explanation for the downfall of LessWrong specifically, but I suppose it's also interesting to consider general trends.

Would you say that LessWrong is particularly prone to this effect, and if so because of what properties?

Comment author: SatvikBeri 27 November 2016 09:59:52AM 4 points [-]

My theory is that the main things that matter are content and enforcement of strong intellectual norms, and both degraded around the time a few major high-status members of the community mostly stopped posting (e.g. Eliezer and Yvain.)

The problem with lack of content is obvious, the problem with lack of enforcement is that most discussions are not very good, and it takes a significant amount of feedback to make them better. But it's hard for people to get away with giving subtle criticism unless they're already a high-status member of a community, and upvotes/downvotes are just not sufficiently granular.

Comment author: Morendil 27 November 2016 10:33:22AM 8 points [-]

This feels like a good start but one that needs significant improvement too.

For instance, I'm wondering how much of the situation Anna laments is a result of LW lacking an explicit editorial policy. I for one never quite felt sure what was or wasn't relevant for LW - what had a shot at being promoted - and the few posts I wrote here had a tentative aspect to them because of this. I can't yet articulate why I stopped posting, but it may have had something to do with my writing a bunch of substantive posts that were never promoted to Main.

If you look at the home page only (recent articles in Main) you could draw the inference that the main topics on LessWrong are MIRI, CFAR, FHI, "the LessWrong community", with a side dish of AI safety and startup founder psychology. This doesn't feel aligned with "refining the art of human rationality", it makes LessWrong feel like more of a corporate blog.

Comment author: Morendil 27 November 2016 09:49:58AM 3 points [-]

We have lately ceased to have a "single conversation" in this way.

Can we hope to address this without understanding why it happened?

What are y'all's theories of why it happened?

Comment author: rasthedestroyer100 30 June 2016 12:02:57PM 2 points [-]

"No one knows what science doesn't know."

This sort of anthropomorphic bias leads to conceptual errors. 'Science' is the method of acquiring knowledge and the collection of acquired knowledge to which the method is rigorously applied. It is incapable of knowing anything independently of what individuals know; in fact, it can't know anything at all without some knowing individual to practice it. And to be sure, we can know things 'science doesn't know': we know we are in love, that we are happy or sad, that we played baseball for the first time when we were 6 years old at the park in Glens Falls, etc.

Comment author: Morendil 30 June 2016 10:43:46PM 1 point [-]
Comment author: Dagon 08 February 2016 03:10:14PM 13 points [-]

Do keep in mind that if a friend actually follows through, you've significantly raised the stakes of saying "no" later.

Comment author: Morendil 10 February 2016 08:57:33AM 2 points [-]

Absolutely - so don't be insincere in the setup. If you think "no way", say "no way".

Comment author: Morendil 10 February 2016 08:52:20AM 2 points [-]

Yup. I learned the business version of this early in my consulting career. One of my consultant buddies, David Schmaltz, calls it a "Dedication Test". It's a small habit with huge positive effects.

Comment author: Morendil 30 December 2015 10:08:52PM 9 points [-]

Donated $300. Happy New Year!

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