Bringing up EY/LW in a positive way in unrelated online discussions got me labeled a weirdo once or twice. I recall having to leave one forum because of the hostility. I am tempted to say that this was for the best, but it could be just the sour grapes fallacy.
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.
Eliezer seems to be really really bad at acquiring or maintaining status. I don't know how aware of this fault he is, since part of the problem is that he consistently communicates as if he's super high status.
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.
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 li...
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 ...
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.
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.)
"Even When Contrarians Win, They Lose" http://www.overcomingbias.com/2007/09/even-when-contr.html
This is not just a plausible story – I have personally known people where similar stories have played out, and have read about others. It has happened to varying degrees with Ted Nelson, Eric Drexler, Douglas Engelbart, Doug Lenat, David Deutsch, Alfred Russel Wallace, Hugh Everett, and, yes, me.
I one time asked for advice here and the responses felt overly demeaning and presumptuous and largely ignored trying to help in favor of lambasting me for being in the situation at all. It was not a response I had been expecting and it made me feel bad and less likely to ask somewhat personal questions in the future. I don't think anyone replying was intending to cause me any harm and it wasn't a big deal in any sense of the word. But I felt disappointed with the outcome and the community.
I'm sure anyone sufficiently interested could find this out of my post history, but the details aren't particularly interesting. To a third party it probably won't seem like much at all, but at the time to me it wasn't a good feeling.
I've seen at least one or two such occurrences like this on LW. There is a very cold and, well, rational tone to the responses here. Overall, I think it's good, since there are plenty of other forums for people to go to get encouragement. But if this is your go-to forum for life advice, and you are going through something difficult and personal that you decide to share, the responses might not give you a warm fuzzy feeling.
Rationality is about winning. If your goal is to give people advice that they will accept, imbuing your message with hopefulness and cheer will assist you in that goal. If your goal is to get people to continue asking for advice, slapping a "Working as intended" on their complaints about your advice-giving technique is an abysmal failure.
Using terms that I picked up here which are not well known, or mean different things in different contexts
Also, I sometimes over pattern match arguments and concepts I've picked up on Lesswrong to other situations, which can result in trying to condescendingly explain something irrelevant.
Well, I've found that advice about time management of which this site has tons, is not really helpful. It is not the lack of a system to organize my efforts but a lack of persistence that has always been a bottleneck for me.
I probably spend too much time on LW than is warrented, but otherwise I don't have a particular story of backfired advice that comes to mind.
Agreed. The biggest way LW has backfired is eating up free time that provides a very questionable ROI. I've spent quite a bit of time procrastinating on here, and the amount of actionable advice I've put into practice is quite low.
The advice I have put into practice usually works pretty well, but that's mostly a function of me realizing that it slots in well to my existing habits/ways of thinking.
Same, though in my case it is likely that that time was mostly funging against other internet timewasters not my worktime.
Describing myself as a "rationalist" pretty much automatically makes a bad impression, no matter how much you explain afterwards that you value emotion and passion and humanity and you're totally not a Straw Vulcan or an Objectivist.
I can recall one instance of bad advice on a particular subject (I don't want to be specific). In retrospect it should have been obvious that the person giving the advice lacked the experience to give it, but it's hard to judge someone's credentials over the internet.
Some of the media recommendations have been bad; of course no recommendation is perfect, but in my limited experience LW's strike rate is worse than e.g. TV Tropes (which may just be a factor of the latter containing a lot more detail and having more contributors).
I can't think of anything on which LW did backfire, but some points on which LW is rather about neutral. I think it is valuable to list this neutral data points too.
I find myself arguing over the quality and content of LessWrong posts with friends, one close friend in particular. He questions the aspirations and qualifications of LW in general and some posts/authors we were discussing in particular. And I find myself at least partly agreeing with his assessments. Not because of his rhetoric or my wish for consent. Rather because it is convicing.
According to my parents, certain behaviors are immoral if you can explain why you're doing them.
Overreacting to a parent listening in on your phone call or using physical coercion (not hitting me, just grabbing me and blocking my movements) when they claim good intentions? Teenage hormones.
Stating that you have a precommitment to react negatively to people who wiretap or use force on me, even when it's costly for me to do so? Morally wrong.
[Yes, I realize that the actual moral here is "Don't tell people you understand the concept of precommitments, just pretend to be an irrational actor". This isn't an example of advice being wrong, just an example of advice needing to be clarified.]
Not really advice, but I started talking about feminism here and immediately dropped in karma. The people arguing against me produced unbacked assertions contrary to my points, not doing a modicum of research. My responses took one to two hours of research.
If you care about the answer to a question and not just feeling happy because you think you're right, you should do the research on your own. I spend a lot of time arguing against atheists on /r/DebateReligion, and I have to do the research for them. (Guess what: 2,000 years of people practicing a religi...
Several weeks ago I wrote a heavily upvoted post called Don't Be Afraid of Asking Personally Important Questions on LessWrong. I thought it would only be due diligence if I tried to track users on LessWrong who have received advice on this site and it's backfired. In other words, to avoid bias in the record, we might notice what LessWrong as a community is bad at giving advice about. So, I'm seeking feedback. If you have anecdotes or data of how a plan or advice directly from LessWrong backfired, failed, or didn't lead to satisfaction, please share below.