March 5, 2016

Trends and Disagreements in the Rationalist Community

Edited from my personal notes format again.

Question: What are the trends and disagreements in the rationality community this month?

Motivation: I want to know what's up, and I want to make a difference. Avoiding the valley of bad rationality seems useful. Also the community has a distinct motte-and-bailey going on about whether rationality means "whatever wins" or the flavor of the LW sequences and diaspora.

That's a fine thing to have, in one direction: we can talk about our latest and greatest ideas, play with those flavors, invite others to join in, and when we encounter disagreement we should rightly take a step back into our core principles to ask "Wait, is this actually what wins?"

But I sometimes see it happening the other way: using the "whatever wins" banner as an enticement to get others to join in, and use our supposed intentions as a general defense for our methods. Methods we aren't centralized enough to even all agree on.

Method: Look at some major blogs. Give a quick summary of each and try to name our felt sense about a) how authoritative they are and b) whether they agree with each other.

Sources: Lesswrong Main, Lesswrong Discussion

Answer: Lesswrong main: seems to navel-gaze lately. It rehashes. It struggles to curate itself. Latest posts are Meetups, trying to distill CFAR stuff, estimating the value of people in Effective Altruism, LW karma charts, speculating about medical conditions, gamifying goals.

LW discussion: I see people chatting about LW's decline, but what do they do about it? I see continued argument about the place for politics and productivity hacks.

AI fermi paradox speculation. They make a background assumption that FAI is hard, unsurprisingly.
AI safety. Using analogies to the past, notable inability to bridge inferential gaps with people out of the OB/LW sphere

High school advice: Get GED and skip to college, or leverage private school. Get college's large wealth and power boost. Meta advice: break down skills important to making choices in
general (value awareness, prediction accuracy, agency) and check that you're stacking your character.

Media to follow... gwern's recommendations well-received

PSA about air quality, gathering what-should-be-universal statistical literacy, trying to propagate lists of high-value PSAs in general

Disagreement: is altruistic deception necessary?

I'm nowhere close to done but I'm way over time.

LW is decidedly not the zeitgeist, and it knows it's not.

People are complicated, reality is complicated, it would be surprising to have succint summarizations.

Could I do a poll of what people read, what 'tenets' people work with? What such polls already exist?

Have I spent five minutes actually imagining what a group both coordinated and flexible enough to all change their minds on a dime would actually look like?
.... Damn, it would look like the mormon church.

Featured/Promoted: try to establish what canon is well-known at the moment

Refine what it is I'm looking for.

Old LW surveys, SSC surveys, see if gwern does surveys

This tumblr post by Scott Alexander about rationalist tumblr

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