John Vervaeke

Discuss the wiki-tag on this page. Here is the place to ask questions and propose changes.

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Hmm, I don't currently feel on the margin super excited about wiki pages like this, but maybe I am wrong? Not sure what our content policy should be here, and seems like a good time to discuss.

I think I'd feel much better about this page if it was oriented around the thesis rather than around the person; ie, if the page were named "Crisis of Meaning", with an intro paragraph which cited Vervaeke's writing on the subject.

I'm not sure what cluster you are trying to point to by saying "wiki pages like this".

For this page in particular: I've been hearing more and more about Vervaeke, so I wanted to find out what the community has already figured out about him. It seems like the answer so far is "not much", but as the situation changes I'm excited to have some canonical place where this information can be written up. He seems like an interesting enough guy, or at any rate he seems to have caught the attention of other interesting people, and that seems like a good enough reason to have some place like this.

If that's not a good enough reason, I'm curious to hear of a concrete alternative policy and how it applies to this situation. Vervaeke isn't notable enough to have a page on Wikipedia. Maybe I could write a LW question asking something like "What do people know about this guy?" Or maybe I could write a post with the above content. A shortform post would be easy, but seems difficult to find (not canonical enough). Or maybe you would recommend no action at all?

The key thing is something like "do we want to have lots of content organized by people?". Currently the wiki has basically no entries for people (we have one for Eliezer, but none for Scott Alexander or Lukeprog for example), and while I haven't though super much about this question, the status quo seems at least mildly good to me, because there is both an ethos of the site of focusing on ideas instead of people, and because writing about people is often kind of dicey and will push the whole wiki towards a much more defensible style. 

I would have very little objection to having an article like this that tries to summarize some of his core ideas, or focuses on some kind of intellectual culture around him, but it feels like if we have this article, then we open up a hole of writing hundreds of articles about everyone who is vaguely related to rationality stuff. 

Some thoughts in response:

  • I agree that it's better to focus on ideas instead of people. I might have a disagreement about how successfully LessWrong has managed this, so that from your perspective it looks like this page is pushing the status quo toward something we don't want vs looking from my perspective like it's just doing things more explicitly/transparently (which I prefer).
  • I agree that writing about people can be dicey. I might have disagreement about how well this problem can be avoided.
  • Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you mean by "defensible style", but I'm taking it to mean something like "obsession with having citations from respected sources for every assertion, like what you see on Wikipedia". So the concern is that once we allow lots of pages about people, that will force us to write defensibly, and this culture will infect pages not about people to also be written similarly defensibly. I hadn't thought of this, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. It seems possible to have separate norms/rules for different kinds of pages (Wikipedia does in fact have extra rules for biographies of living persons). But I also don't think I can point to any particularly good examples of wikis that cover people (other than Wikipedia, which I guess is sort of a counterexample).
  • I agree that summarizing his ideas or intellectual culture would be better, but that takes way more work, e.g. to figure out what this culture is/how to carve up the space, how to name it, and figuring out what his core ideas are.

Thanks for these thoughts, and sorry for the delay in responding. 

I think one thing that feels particularly off about this article, is the degree to which it really doesn't tell me why I should care, if i don't know who Anna Salamon or Tyler Alterman or Alex Ray are. Like, the citations themselves are just references to other people. 

I would really dislike a wiki that is full of articles like this, and would feel really alienated if I was a new user showing up, since it really feels like it expects me to know who all of these people are, and why I should care about their opinion (Tyler isn't even an active LessWrong user, and in general I want to really avoid forcing all LessWrong users to become familiar with all the in-person rationality community details and drama and social network). 

I do think this can be relatively easily fixed by even just adding a very rough summary of his ideas and perspectives to the article, and adding meta-data about the degree to which people have talked about his work and thoughts.

I think for now, the action I would actually recommend is asking a top-level question, which in some sense gives a place for a bunch of people to voice their thoughts and opinions (though it might not get much engagement). And then use the answers to that question as a basic scaffold to fill in this article while being more idea-focused. 

Thanks, I like your rewrite and will post questions instead in the future.

I think I understand your concerns and agree with most of it. One thing that does still feel "off" to me is: given that there seems to be a lot of in-person-only discussions about "cutting edge" ideas and "inside scoop" like things (that trickle out via venues like Twitter and random Facebook threads, and only much later get written up as blog posts), how can people who primarily interact with the community online (such as me) keep up with this? I don't want to have to pay attention to everything that's out there on Twitter or Facebook, and would like a short document that gets to the point and links out to other things if I feel curious. (I'm willing to grant that my emotional experience might be rare, and that the typical user would instead feel alienated in just the way you describe.)

I will try rewriting things in a way that feels like it addresses these problems.

Edit: I have now done so. It's still not great, and I still think I am marginally against having this page at all, but still not super confident.

Currently the wiki has basically no entries for people (we have one for Eliezer, but none for Scott Alexander or Lukeprog for example)

There do seem to be stubs for both Scott Alexander and Lukeprog, both similar in size to this Vervaeke page. So I think I'm confused about what the status quo is vs what you are saying the status quo is.

Huh, I notice they don't show up in search, probably because they are marked as stubs, or something (somewhat surprised by this). I think we imported them to not break old links, but I am not sure whether I would want to have them actually show up in search and in other wiki-tag lists (both their current state, but even in a more fully completed state).

The EA Forum wiki has stubs for a bunch of people, including a somewhat detailed article on Carl Shulman. I wonder if you feel similarly unexcited about the articles there (if so, it seems good to discuss this with people working on the EA wiki as well), or if you have different policies for the two wikis.

Yep, I feel similarly, though overall think the EA Forum is pursuing a cultural strategy that is somewhat different from ours that makes it a bit less costly, but not much. I have generally been open about various cultural concerns I've had about the EA Forum when talking to CEA.

I'm general I think that the LW intellectual culture is unfortunately insular, and it seems like these sorts of wiki entries that link out to other resources can push the culture to be more aware of other intellectual communities with similar aims.

But I do think that whoever edited this particular entry used a linking style not native to LW, and it should be changed to a link style that LW uses.