Dec 01, 2010
One issue that has been discussed here before is whether Less Wrong is causing readers and participants to behave more rationally or is primarily a time-sink. I recently encountered an example that seemed worth pointing out to the community that suggested mixed results. The entry for Less Wrong on RationalkWiki says " In the outside world, the ugly manifests itself as LessWrong acolytes, minds freshly blown, metastasising to other sites, bringing the Good News for Modern Rationalists, without clearing their local jargon cache." RationalWiki has a variety of issues that I'm not going to discuss in detail here (such as a healthy of dose of motivated cognition pervading the entire project and having serious mind-killing problems) but this sentence should be a cause for concern. What they are essentially talking about is LWians not realizing (or not internalizing) that there's a serious problem of inferential distance between people who are familiar with many of the ideas here and people who are not. Since inferential distance is an issue that has been discussed here a lot, this suggests that some people who have read a lot here are not applying the lessons even when they are consciously talking about material related to those lessons. Of course, there's no easy way to tell how representative a sample this is, how common it is, and given RW's inclination to list every possible thing they don't like about something, no matter how small, this may not be a serious issue at all. But it did seem to be serious enough to point out here.