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

Comment author: solipsist 19 December 2014 03:39:34AM -1 points [-]

In other words, open threads die after about 4 days.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 20 December 2014 07:48:49PM *  0 points [-]

That's probably when people are like "I will rather wait for another open thread, so my comment has more visibility". If we will have open threads more frequently, that moment might just come sooner.

However, I am in favor of an experiment.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 20 December 2014 07:29:03PM *  1 point [-]

These links should be... somewhere, at a permanently visible place, not only in this article. The sidebar perhaps?

Comment author: Sarunas 19 December 2014 02:23:17PM *  0 points [-]

2) Admit your weakness. Leads to low status, and then opposition from outsiders.

That sounds similar to a standard job interview question "What is your greatest weakness?". In that situation, perhaps a standard advice how to answer this question - emphasize how one intends to overcome that weakness and what weaknesses one has conquered in the past - is applicable here as well?

Edit. Although perhaps you meant that the very act of letting outsiders to define what is and what is not a weakness leads to low status.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 19 December 2014 11:47:40PM 0 points [-]

In the job interview, you are explicitly given the task to describe your weakness. And you probably choose one that is relatively harmless. Something like "I am very rational, but sometimes I am underconfident". So that's different.

Comment author: gothgirl420666 18 December 2014 11:22:27PM *  1 point [-]

Great point, I didn't think of it that way.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 19 December 2014 10:36:09AM *  1 point [-]

Thanks! On the other hand, lest I prove too much, each of these ways can work:

1) Irrationality does not have to be fatal. Dilbert makes a living complaining about irrationality of companies, and yet those companies make billions of profit.

2) Open source software exposes all their bugs, and still many open-source projects are respected. (Although this may be because their exposed weakness is incomprehensible for most people, so on the social level it is as if they exposed nothing.)

3) Most organizations have people with privileged access to information, and don't expose everything to public. Most organizations have a clear boundary between a non-member and a member, between a non-manager and a manager. People don't question this, because it's business as usual.

So probably the problem here is that LessWrong is not an organization, and that LessWrong is somehow not sufficiently separated from MIRI. Which feels ironical, because I am on LessWrong every day, and I mostly don't know what people in MIRI are working at now, so the separation clearly exists from my view; but it may not exist from an outsider's view, for whom simply LessWrong = Eliezer, and MIRI = Eliezer (so if Eliezer said something low status on LessWrong, it automatically means MIRI is low status). So my conclusion is that compartmentalization has an important role, and Eliezer failed to do it properly.

In real life, we usually don't have much data about leaders of high-status organizations. From the outside they seem like boring people, who only do their work and that's all they ever do. (Think about what it did for Bill Clinton's career when the details of his sex life became public.) I understand the desire to be influential and to be free to expose whatever you want about yourself, but it probably doesn't work this way. By exposing too much, you limit your status. Powerful people do not enjoy freedom of speech in the same way popular bloggers do. Eliezer went the popular blogger way. Now we need a way to promote MIRI which does not mention Eliezer.

Comment author: gothgirl420666 18 December 2014 06:51:31PM *  6 points [-]

Yes, but I don't think the negative press LessWrong receives is simply because journalists are fickle creatures. I think there is something inherent to the culture that turns outsiders off.

My guess is that Eliezer, MIRI, and LWers in general are strange people who believe strange things, and yet they (we) are pretty confident that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Not only that, but they believe that the future of humanity is in their hands. So at best, they're delusional. At worst, they're right... which is absolutely terrifying.

Also, like I said, Eliezer is a big dork, who for example openly talks about reading My Little Pony fanfiction. The idea that such a goober claims to be in charge of humanity's destiny is off-putting for the same reason. I wonder if to most people, Eliezer pattern-matches better to "weird internet celebrity", kind of an Amazing Atheist figure, than to "respectable intellectual" the same way e.g. Nick Bostrom might. We can see in presidential elections that Americans don't trust someone who isn't charismatic, tall, in good shape, etc. to run the country. So, of course, the average person will not trust someone who lacks those qualities to save the world. It's an ivory tower thing, but instead of ivory it's more like green play-doh.

I think Eliezer's lack of "professionalism" in this sense probably has its upsides as well. It makes him more relatable, which helps him establish an audience. It makes his writings more fun to read. And it is probably easier for him to communicate his ideas if he isn't trying to sanitize them so they meet a certain standard. MIRI in general seems to favor an "open book, keep it real, no bullshit" approach, as exemplified with how lukeprog wrote on this forum that it was disastrously managed before he took over, and all he had to do was read Nonprofits for Dummies. From a PR standpoint, that seems unequivocally stupid to publicly admit, but he did it anyway. I feel like this philosophy has its benefits for MIRI as a whole, but I can't quite put my finger on what they are.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 18 December 2014 11:03:41PM 6 points [-]

Now I feel like every group that tries to do something faces a trilemma:

1) Deny your weakness. Leads to irrationality.

2) Admit your weakness. Leads to low status, and then opposition from outsiders.

3) Deny your weakness publicly, only admit them among trusted members. Leads to cultishness.

Comment author: gothgirl420666 17 December 2014 09:30:36AM *  16 points [-]

Eliezer is kind of a massive dork who also has an unabashedly high opinion of himself and his ideas. So people see him as a low-status person acting as if he is high-status, which is a pattern that for whatever reason inspires hatred in people. LessWrong people don't feel this way, because to us he is a high-status person acting as if he is high-status, which is perfectly fine.

Also, one thing he does that I think works against him is how defensive he gets when facing criticism. On Reddit, he occasionally will write long rants about how he is an unfair target of hate and misrepresentation when someone brings up Roko's basilisk. Which may be true, but feeling the need to defend yourself to such an extent is very low status behavior. Just the other day I saw him post on facebook a news story which portrayed the secular solstice in a positive light with the caption "FINALLY SOME HONEST JOURNALISM!!!!!" or something like that. This is just not a good look. I wonder if he could hire an image consultant or PR person, it seems like that would be something that could make FAI more likely.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 18 December 2014 01:46:35PM *  7 points [-]

For some reason this reminds me of a scene from Game of Thrones, where one person says "knowledge is power", and the other person responds by threatening their life, and they saying "no, power is power". (Unspecific to avoid spoilers.)

The point is, some kinds of power depends on context, some don't. Generally, respecting people for their intellectual or artist skills is context-dependent. You don't get status by being good at maths among people who consider maths low status. You don't get status for writing good fan fiction among people who consider fan fiction low status. You don't get status for being able to debate rationality among people who consider rational debating low status. -- More universal sources of status are money, and ability to harm people. Because almost everyone is afraid of harm, and almost everyone needs money.

When dealing with journalists, it is useful to realize that journalists have this kind of destructive power. Dealing with a journalist is like meeting a thug in a dark street. You don't want to make him angry. If you get out alive, you should consider it a success, and not complain about small inconveniences. In a long term, if you live on that dark street, you should try to "befriend" the thug, so that he will not attack you, and may even agree to attack people you don't like.

How specifically to "befriend" journalists? Well, this is exactly what PR is about. You treat them with respect, invite them on conferences when you give them free food, and offer help with writing articles. Because they usually have small salaries and have to write a lot of articles, so by giving them free food and making part of their work for them, you make them happy. If you keep them hungry and unrespected, they may randomly attack you.

Comment author: Kawoomba 16 December 2014 11:54:34PM 1 point [-]

I wonder how much of that negative view comes from the two or three people on RW who in the past have invested a lot of time and energy describing LW in the most uncharitable way, successfully priming many readers.

If this is true, or a major factor, then creating a new website is unlikely to be the solution. There is no reason to assume the anti-fans won't just write the same content about the new website, highlighting "the connection" to LW.

Far removed from starting with a "clean slate", such a migration could even provide for a new negative spin on the old narrative and it could be perceived as the anti-fans "winning", and nothing galvanizes like the (perceived) taste of blood.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 18 December 2014 01:23:42PM *  1 point [-]

Yep. At this moment, we need a strategy, not just how to make a good impression in general (and we have already not optimized for this), but also how to prevent active character assassination.

I am not an expert on this topic. And it probably shouldn't be debated in public, because, obviously, selective quoting from such debate would be another weapon for the anti-fans. The mere fact that you care about your impression and debate other people's biases can be spinned very easily.

It's important to realize that we not only have to make a good impression on Joe the Rational Internet Reader, but also to keep social costs of cooperating with us reasonable low for Joe. At the end, we care not only about Joe's opinion, but also about opinions of people around him.

Comment author: shminux 16 December 2014 07:26:03AM 14 points [-]

Eliezer's writing, fiction and non-fiction tends to attract hostility, and all LWers are automatically labeled "Yudkowskians". On a somewhat related note, the idea of AGI x-risk he's been pushing for years has finally gone mainstream, yet the high-profile people who speak out about it avoid mentioning him, like he is low-status or something.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 16 December 2014 09:51:48PM *  12 points [-]

I remember reading an article on Overcoming Bias long ago which predicted exactly this. In general, not just about AGI. That in many areas, first people who go there are those who ignore social conventions (otherwise they wouldn't be first). But when the area becomes successful, there comes the second wave of people who are following a safe path to success. The people from the second wave usually don't credit the people from the first wave, so the public perceives this second wave as the founders.

Eliezer did say and write many things. Some of them are now perceived as low status, some as high status. The safe road to success is to repeat only the high status things, and to never mention Eliezer. (Plus do some other high status things unrelated to Eliezer.)

Comment author: ctintera 16 December 2014 11:05:29AM *  1 point [-]

Many people (specifically, people over at RationalWiki, and probably elsewhere as well) see the community as being insular, or as being a Yudkowsky Personality Cult, or think that some of the weirder-sounding ideas widely espoused here (cryonics, FAI, etc) "might benefit from a better grounding in reality".

Still others reflexively write LW off based on the use of fanfiction (a word of dread and derision in many circles) to recruit members.

Even the jargon derived from the Sequences may put some people off. Despite the staunch avoidance of hot-button politics, they still import a few lesser controversies. For example, there still exist people who outright reject Bayesian probability, and there are many more who see Bayes' theorem as a tool that is valid only in a very narrow domain. Brazenly disregarding their opinion can be seen as haughty, even if the maths are on your side.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 16 December 2014 09:09:39PM *  0 points [-]

I wonder how much of that negative view comes from the two or three people on RW who in the past have invested a lot of time and energy describing LW in the most uncharitable way, successfully priming many readers.

There are many websites on the internet with a dominant author, specific slang, or weird ideas. People usually ignore them, if they don't like them.

I am not saying that LW is flawless, only that it is difficult to distinguish between (a) genuine flaws of LW and (b) successfuly anti-LW memes which started for random reasons. Both of them are something people will complain about, but in one case they had to be taught to complain.

Comment author: bramflakes 13 December 2014 11:53:00AM *  13 points [-]

I wonder is this because most humans can't find joy in the merely real, praising deities and trusting in other supernatural stuff like signs and horoscopes, so disbelieving and living in reality is abnormal?

or more prosaically, because the sequences are written in an idiosyncratic semi-autobiographical style with few citations and often grandiose language, and many people are immediately turned off by that

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 16 December 2014 08:47:57PM 0 points [-]

with few citations

Few citations compared with what? Certainly not an average website.

View more: Next