Our Phyg Is Not Exclusive Enough

EDIT: Thanks to peo­ple not want­ing cer­tain words google-as­so­ci­ated with LW: Phyg

Less­wrong has the best sig­nal/​noise ra­tio I know of. This is great. This is why I come here. It’s nice to talk about in­ter­est­ing ra­tio­nal­ity-re­lated top­ics with­out peo­ple go­ing off the rails about poli­tics/​fail philos­o­phy/​fail ethics/​defi­ni­tions/​etc. This seems to be pos­si­ble be­cause a good num­ber of us have read the less­wrong ma­te­rial (se­quences, etc) which in­noc­u­late us against that kind of noise.

Of course Less­wrong is not perfect; there is still noise. In­ter­est­ingly, most of it is from peo­ple who have not read some se­quence and thereby make the de­fault mis­takes or don’t ad­dress the com­mu­nity’s best un­der­stand­ing of the topic. We are pretty good about down­vot­ing and/​or cor­rect­ing posts that fail at the core se­quences, which is good. How­ever, there are other se­quences, too, many of them crit­i­cally im­por­tant to not failing at metaethics/​think­ing about AI/​etc.

I’m sure you can think of some ex­am­ples of what I mean. Peo­ple say­ing things that you thought were ut­terly dis­solved in some post or se­quence, but they don’t ad­dress that, and no one re­ally calls them out. I could dig up a bunch of quotes but I don’t want to sin­gle any­one out or make this about any par­tic­u­lar point, so I’m leav­ing it up to your imag­i­na­tion/​mem­ory.

It’s ac­tu­ally kindof frus­trat­ing see­ing peo­ple make these mis­takes. You could say that if I think some­one needs to be told about the ex­is­tence of some se­quence they should have read be­fore post­ing, I ought to tell them, but that’s ac­tu­ally not what I want to do with my time here. I want to spend my time read­ing and par­ti­ci­pat­ing in in­formed dis­cus­sion. A lot of us do end up en­gag­ing mis­taken posts, but that low­ers the qual­ity of dis­cus­sion here be­cause so much time and space has been spent bat­tling ig­no­rance in­stead of ad­vanc­ing knowl­edge and di­cussing real prob­lems.

It’s worse than just “oh here’s some more junk I have to ig­nore or down­vote”, be­cause the path of least re­sis­tance ends up be­ing “ig­nore any dis­cus­sion that con­tains con­tra­dic­tions of the less­wrong scrip­tures”, which is ob­vi­ously bad. There are peo­ple who have read the se­quences and know the state of the ar­gu­ments and still have some in­tel­li­gent cri­tique, but it’s quite hard to tell the differ­ence be­tween that and some­one ex­plain­ing for the mil­lionth time the prob­lem with “but won’t the AI know what’s right bet­ter than hu­mans?”. So I just ig­nore it all and miss a lot of good stuff.

Right now, the only stuff I can be res­on­ably guaran­teed is in­tel­li­gent, in­formed, and in­ter­est­ing is the pro­moted posts. Every­thing else is a minefield. I’d like there to be some­thing similar for dis­cus­sion/​com­ments. Some way of know­ing “these peo­ple I’m talk­ing to know what they are talk­ing about” with­out hav­ing to dig around in their user his­tory or what­ever. I’m not propos­ing a par­tic­u­lar solu­tion here, just say­ing I’d like there to be more high qual­ity dis­cus­sion be­tween more prop­erly se­quenced LWers.

There is a lot of worry on this site about whether we are too ex­clu­sive or too phy­gish or too harsh in our ex­pec­ta­tion that peo­ple be well-read, which I think is mis­placed. It is im­por­tant that mod­ern ra­tio­nal­ity have a wel­com­ing pub­lic face and some­where that peo­ple can dis­cuss with­out hav­ing read three years worth of daily blog posts, but at the same time I find my­self look­ing at the mod­er­a­tion policy of the old sl4 mailing list and think­ing “damn, I wish we were more like that”. A hard-ass mod­er­a­tor righ­teously wield­ing the ban­ham­mer against cruft is a good thing and I en­joy it where I find it. Per­haps these things (the pub­lic face and the ex­clu­sive dis­cus­sion) should be sep­a­rated?

I’ve re­cently seen some­one say­ing that no-one com­plains about the sig­nal/​noise ra­tio on LW, and there­fore we should re­lax a bit. I’ve also seen a good deal of com­plaints about our phy­gish ex­clu­sivity, the poli­tics ban, the “talk to me when you read the se­quences” at­ti­tude, and so on. I’d just like to say that I like these things, and I am com­plain­ing about the sig­nal/​noise ra­tio on LW.

Lest any­one get the idea that no-one thinks LW should be more phy­gish or more ex­clu­sive, let me hereby reg­ister that I for one would like us to all en­force a lit­tle more strongly that peo­ple read the se­quences and even agree with them in a hor­rify­ing man­ner. You don’t have to agree with me, but I’d just like to put out there as a mat­ter of fact that there are some of us that would like a more ex­clu­sive LW.