It seems like the internet in general, and social media broadly, e.g. LessWrong, has this problem that there's a lot of data. The data has to be filtered somehow. The main way data is filtered is by (1) recency, (2) backlinks, and (3) upvotes.

One problem is that these filters don't distinguish between stuff that's not upvoted or backlinked because it's not so good / interesting / important / novel / true / useful / etc., vs. stuff that's not upvoted or backlinked because it was hard to understand (or, easy to misunderstand as not good) and therefore didn't meet the threshold for being signal boosted. In other words, we aggregate signals of "I don't know about this yet" roughly the same way we aggregate signals of "This isn't good enough that it should be remembered much".

This seems like potentially a big problem, or rather, a big opportunity. Maybe there's good ideas that didn't spread much that we could revive. Maybe ideas would develop faster if people could expect that other people would remember "there's an open question here" rather than just not remembering. But IDK how big of an opportunity it is, so I wonder:

What are some examples of works (of any kind whatsoever) that were / are hard to understand, and so didn't get signal boosted when they were new enough to have attention directed to them to become understood, but instead got lost in the shuffle?

One of the famous examples around here is [Infrabayesianism](https://www.alignmentforum.org/posts/83DimRqppcaoyYAsy/job-offering-help-communicate-infrabayesianism). Maybe some of [Donald Hobson's work](https://www.lesswrong.com/users/donald-hobson) gives examples. What else?

New Answer
Ask Related Question
New Comment

2 Answers sorted by

Great question.

My joke answer is: probably Hegel but I don't know for sure because he's too difficult for me to understand.

My serious answer is Graham Priest, a philosopher and logician who has written extensively on paradoxes, non-classical logics, metaphysics, and theories of intensionality. His books are extremely technically demanding, but he is an excellent writer. To the extent that I've managed to understand what he is saying it has improved my thinking a lot. He is one of those thinkers who is simultaneously extremely big picture and also being super rigorous in the details and argumentation.

Ever since I first studied formal logic in my first year of undergrad, I always felt it had promise for clarifying our thinking. Unfortunately, in the next decade of my academic education in philosophy I was disappointed on the logic front. Logic seemed either irrelevant the questions I was concerned with or, when it was used, it seemed to flatten and oversimplify the important nuances. Discovering Priest's books (a decade after I'd left academic philosophy) fulfilled my youthful dreams of logic as a tool for supercharging philosophy. Priest uses the formalisms of logic like an artist to paint wonderous and sometimes alien philosophical landscapes.

Books by Priest in suggested reading order:

An Introduction to Non-Classical Logic: From If to Is. Cambridge University Press, Second Edition, 2008.

  • It's a great reference. You don't need to read every page, but it is very helpful to turn to when trying to make sense of the rest of Priest's work.

Beyond the Limits of Thought. Oxford University Press, Second (extended) Edition, 2002.

  • Presents the surprisingly central role of paradoxes throughout the history of philosophy.
  • The unifying theme is Priest's thesis that we humans really are able to think about the absolute limits of our own thought in spite of the fact that such thinking inevitably results in paradoxes.

One: Being an Investigation into the Unity of Reality and of its Parts, including the Singular Object which is Nothingness. Oxford University Press, 2014.

  • A study in the metaphysic of parts and wholes
  • A deeply counterintuitive but surprisingly powerful account based on contradictory entities

Towards Non-Being, 2nd (extended) edition. Oxford University Press, 2016.

  • An analysis of intensional mental states based on a metaphysics of non-existent entities.

Thank you! Will look at his stuff.

Science and Sanity by Korzybski is a great book but quite heavy. It's where "The map is not the territory" comes from. 

The Emprint Method by Leslie Cameron-Bandler is a great work about how to model mental processes but also very dense. 

Science and Sanity looks pretty interesting. In the book summary it says he stressed that strict logical identity doesn't hold in reality. Can you say more about how he builds up a logical system without using the law of identity? How does equational reasoning work for example?

3ChristianKl6mo
Instead of speaking about identity, Korzybski advocates speaking about relations.  You can say "New York is bigger than Austin" without asking whether or not Austin is a big or small city and New York is a big or small city. If you have a good map, whether or not "New York is bigger than Austin" holds on the map corresponds to whether it holds for the territory.  That example is trivial and I doubt it's very insightful on its own. Science and Sanity is a very complex book. 

New to LessWrong?