[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.

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