I've been a LessWrong organizer since 2011, with roughly equal focus on the cultural, practical and intellectual aspects of the community. My first project was creating the Secular Solstice and helping groups across the world run their own version of it. More recently I've been interested in improving my own epistemic standards and helping others to do so as well.

Raemon's Comments

Have epistemic conditions always been this bad?

My understanding is that Texas is still printing textbooks that do ‘evolution is just a theory’ and don’t mention the age of the universe (and that this has been consistent for the past few decades, and Texas is a large enough market that it distorts overall textbook trends)

Have epistemic conditions always been this bad?

To be fair, ’ask questions and get bearings’ seems like what this post is doing, but since it’s harder to actually go check for things vs share hot takes I’m worried about where things‘d go by default 

Have epistemic conditions always been this bad?

It seems important to remember, like, I dunno man previously we just had Christianity et all telling us what to think, blacklisting communists, etc. 

There are some changes re: attention span that seem real, and it's a plausible hypothesis that the internet has interacted with tribalism in newly-bad ways, but I don't see a strong reason to assume this is the case, and think the next step is "actually go do real empiricism" before trying to Do Something About It.

2018 Review: Voting Results!

One of the more noteworthy-bits here, I think, is that "Are Minimal Circuits Daemon Free?" not only moves up relative to other AF posts, but is in the top-10 overall.

2018 Review: Voting Results!

Here are the AF-user results (including both AF and non-AF posts)

Embedded Agents101  
The Rocket Alignment Problem81
Local Validity as a Key to Sanity and Civilization61
Arguments about fast takeoff60
Coherence arguments do not imply goal-directed behavior53
Toward a New Technical Explanation of Technical Explanation43
The Tails Coming Apart As Metaphor For Life43
Will AI See Sudden Progress?41
Robustness to Scale40
Open question: are minimal circuits daemon-free?38
Paul's research agenda FAQ36
Specification gaming examples in AI34
Clarifying "AI Alignment"31
Anti-social Punishment27
The Intelligent Social Web24
Is Science Slowing Down?22
Research: Rescuers during the Holocaust21
An Untrollable Mathematician Illustrated20
Why everything might have taken so long20
The Costly Coordination Mechanism of Common Knowledge19
Bottle Caps Aren't Optimisers19
The Loudest Alarm Is Probably False18
Prediction Markets: When Do They Work?18
A voting theory primer for rationalists18
Unrolling social metacognition: Three levels of meta are not enough.18
On Doing the Improbable18
Toolbox-thinking and Law-thinking17
Optimization Amplifies17
2018 AI Alignment Literature Review and Charity Comparison16
A Sketch of Good Communication15
A LessWrong Crypto Autopsy14
Spaghetti Towers13
Argument, intuition, and recursion13
Understanding is translation13
Inadequate Equilibria vs. Governance of the Commons12
The Pavlov Strategy12
Challenges to Christiano’s capability amplification proposal12
Varieties Of Argumentative Experience11
Beyond Astronomical Waste11
What makes people intellectually active?11
My attempt to explain Looking, insight meditation, and enlightenment in non-mysterious terms10
Naming the Nameless10
Act of Charity10
Unknown Knowns10
Meta-Honesty: Firming Up Honesty Around Its Edge-Cases9
Conversational Cultures: Combat vs Nurture (V2)9
Realism about rationality9
Preliminary thoughts on moral weight9
Argue Politics* With Your Best Friends8
Player vs. Character: A Two-Level Model of Ethics8
Towards a New Impact Measure8
On the Loss and Preservation of Knowledge7
Caring less7
On the Chatham House Rule7
Lessons from the Cold War on Information Hazards: Why Internal Communication is Critical5
Historical mathematicians exhibit a birth order effect too5
Decoupling vs Contextualising Norms4
Is Clickbait Destroying Our General Intelligence?4
The Bat and Ball Problem Revisited4
Being a Robust, Coherent Agent (V2)3
Noticing the Taste of Lotus1
The funnel of human experience1
Competitive Markets as Distributed Backprop0
Public Positions and Private Guts-1
Expressive Vocabulary-1
Everything I ever needed to know, I learned from World of Warcraft: Goodhart’s law-1
Explicit and Implicit Communication-3
Give praise-3
Birth order effect found in Nobel Laureates in Physics-4
How did academia ensure papers were correct in the early 20th Century?-5
Metaphilosophical competence can't be disentangled from alignment-6
Two types of mathematician-6
Affordance Widths-47
Coordination as a Scarce Resource

I also liked these posts but felt fairly overwhelmed by them all showing up at once.

2018 Review: Voting Results!

I had been worried about this earlier in the design-process for the review. A major reason I didn't object to the system we ended up with is...

...well, if you tell people "evaluate these posts for truth/usefulness", but clearly the results of the vote are going to translate into prestige, it seems like it makes the situation worse rather than better if you try to pretend otherwise.

But I think I might be interested in experimenting in another direction next year, where the vote isn't focused on relative ranking of posts at all, instead it's more like a survey where people answer qualitative questions, like:

  • Have you thought about the ideas in this post in the past year?
  • Do the ideas in this post seem important?
  • How do you feel about this post's epistemics
  • Should this post appear in a public-facing Best of LW book?
  • Should this post appear in an inward-facing, high-context LW Journal?
2018 Review: Voting Results!

Truth/Usefulness vs Prestige/Reputation

A worry I have with our voting system this year is that it felt more like "ranking posts by prestige" than "ranking them by truth/usefulness." It so happens that "prestige in LW community" does prioritize truth/usefulness and I think the outcome mostly tracked that, but I think we can do better.

The reason I'm worried is a) I'd expected, by default, for these things to be jumbled together, and b) whatever you thought of Affordance Widths, it seems pretty unlikely for it's "-140" score to be based on the merits of the post, rather than people not wanting the author represented in a Best of LW book.

I think reputational effects matter and it's fine to give people an outlet for that, but I think it's better if we ask those questions separately from questions of truth, and usefulness. (And, I think the vote and overall Review process is more interesting if truth/usefulness is the primary thing getting looked into)

It so happens I don't think Affordance Widths was in the top 35 posts, and not something I'd have included in the book on its merits (not because it was wrong – it seems like a basically true model to me – just because there was other stuff that was better). But, right now I'd assume that we'd get similar results from any post by a similarly unpopular author, even if the ideas in the post were quite important.

I think it's pretty important for the community to be able to engage with that sort of thing, and maybe collectively decide "okay, we're not putting this in our public facing book for reputational reasons, but we should at least be able to evaluate it clearly in our inward facing review process."

And meanwhile, the fact that that post's score was clearly determined reputationally reinforces some of my prior-worries about the vote getting truth and prestige jumbled together.

LW Update 2018-12-06 – Table of Contents and Q&A

Yeah, the Related Questions feature doesn't currently really do it's job.

Curious about your preferences between:

  • Make them more prominent (any combination of "they show up on frontpage, they show up more visibly on the question page, and give the OP author a notification")
  • Just deprecate the feature (it originally was trying to do an oddly specific thing that I thought made sense, which I'm currently less confident was worth it)
2018 Review: Voting Results!

I agree, just looking for Pareto improvements if they exist (since we didn’t try much at all this year for them, it seemed plausible such things existed)

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