In favour of terseness

I like posts that are con­cise and to the point. Posts like that max­i­mize my in­for­ma­tion/​effort ra­tio. I would re­ally like to see ex­pe­rienced ra­tio­nal­ists sim­ply post a list of things they be­lieve on any given sub­ject with a short ex­pla­na­tion for why they be­lieve each of those things. Then I could go ahead and ad­just my be­liefs based on those lists as nec­es­sary.

Sadly I don’t see any posts like this. Pre­sum­ably this is be­cause of the so­cial con­ven­tion where you’re ex­pected to back up any pub­lic be­lief with ar­gu­ments, so that other peo­ple can at­tempt to poke holes in them. I find this strange be­cause the ar­gu­ments peo­ple pre­sent rarely have any­thing to do with why they be­lieve those things, which makes the whole ex­er­cise a gi­ant dis­trac­tion from the main point that the au­thor is try­ing to bring across. In or­der to pre­vent this kind of de­rail­ment, posters tend to cover their ar­gu­ments with end­less qual­ifi­ca­tions so that their sen­tences read like this: “I per­son­ally be­lieve that, in cases X Y Z and un­der cir­cum­stances B and C, ce­teris paribus and bar­ring ob­vi­ous ex­cep­tions, it seems safe to say that mur­der is wrong, though of course I could be mis­taken.” The prob­lems with such ex­ces­sive ar­gu­men­ta­tion and qual­ifi­ca­tion are three­fold:

  1. The post be­comes less read­able: The in­for­ma­tion/​effort ra­tio is low­ered.

  2. It be­comes much more difficult to tell what the au­thor gen­uinely be­lieves: Are they re­ally un­sure or just try­ing to ap­pear hum­ble? Is that their true ob­jec­tion, or just an ar­gu­ment?

  3. De­spite ev­ery­thing, some­one is STILL go­ing to miss the point and re­ply that some­times kil­ling peo­ple is ok in cer­tain situ­a­tions, and then the next 100 com­ments will be about that.

By con­trast, terse­ness makes posts more read­able and makes it less likely that the main point is mi­s­un­der­stood. So if we as a com­mu­nity could just re­lax the de­mand for ar­gu­men­ta­tion and qual­ifi­ca­tion some­what, and we all fo­cussed on de­bat­ing the main points of posts in­stead of get­ting side­tracked, then per­haps ex­pe­rienced ra­tio­nal­ists here could write nice and con­cise posts that give clear and di­rect an­swers to com­pli­cated ques­tions. In­stead, some of the se­quences are so long and in­volve so many ar­gu­ments, counter-ar­gu­ments and dis­claimers that I feel the point is lost en­tirely.