[Feature Idea] Epistemic Status

Epistemic Sta­tus: My best guess (but, epistemic effort was “talked to like 2-3 peo­ple about it and it felt good to each of us”)

I’ve been think­ing about a num­ber of is­sues re­lat­ing to “what are the stan­dards sup­posed to be on LessWrong, any­way?”, with an un­der­stand­ing that there are differ­ent stages of idea de­vel­op­ment. I’d like the site to have a (valid) rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing epistem­i­cally sound. I also think that of­ten in the early stages of idea-for­ma­tion, it’s im­por­tant to be in a looser, playful brain­stormy mind­set.

A pos­si­bil­ity is to ac­tu­ally make Epistemic Sta­tus a for­mal field in the Post sub­mis­sion form. In the­ory peo­ple can just do this fine with­out spe­cial fields, but hav­ing it be an offi­cial part of the site helps steer the cul­ture of the site.

I’m cur­rently imag­in­ing two fields: an freeform text field that peo­ple can write what­ever they want into, and a mul­ti­ple-choice field with a few spe­cific op­tions, most likely be­ing:

  • Empty (both for back­wards com­pat­i­bil­ity and for posts that for what­ever rea­son don’t neatly fit into the epistemic sta­tus frame­work)

  • Ex­plo­ra­tory (for brain­storm­ing, off-the-cuff or other early stage idea gen­er­a­tion. Cor­re­spond­ingly, cri­tiques of these posts should lend them­selves to a more playful/​brain­stormy at­mo­sphere)

  • My Best Guess (for when you’re pretty sure the idea is ac­tu­ally good and are now ready for se­ri­ous cri­tique)

  • Author­i­ta­tive (for when you are mak­ing a strong or clear-cut claim that you are con­fi­dent is well backed by leg­ible ev­i­dence)

The main cost of this is that ev­ery ad­di­tional UI el­e­ment comes with some com­plex­ity, and small bits of com­plex­ity can add up over time. But I think this would be good both for shap­ing how peo­ple ap­proach writ­ing on LessWrong, as well as com­ment­ing.