What are our domains of expertise? A marketplace of insights and issues

We have recently obtained evidence that a number of people, some with quite interesting backgrounds and areas of expertise, find LessWrong an interesting read but find limited opportunities to contribute.

This post is an invitation to engage, in relative safety but just a little beyond saying “Hi, I’m a lurker”. Even that little is appreciated, to be sure, and it’s OK for anyone who feels the slightest bit intimidated to remain on the sidelines. However, I’m confident that most readers will find it quite easy to answer at least the first of the following questions:

  • What is your main domain of expertise? (Your profession, your area of study, or even a hobby!)

...and possibly these follow-ups:

  • What issues in your domain call most critically for sharp thinking?

  • What do you know that could be of interest to the LessWrong community?

  • What might you learn from experts in other domains that could be useful in yours?

Comments like the following, from the “Attention Lurkers” thread, suggest untapped resources:

I’m a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist. [...] I lurk because I feel that I’m too philosophically fuzzy for some of the discussions here. I do learn a great deal. Anytime anyone wants to discuss prenatal diagnosis and the ethical implications, let me know.

My own area of professional expertise is computer programming—perhaps one of the common sub-populations here. I’m also a parent, and have been a beneficiary of prenatal diagnosis (toxoplasmosis: turned out not to be a big deal, but it might have been). My curiosity is often engaged by what goes on “behind the scenes” of the professions I interact with as an ordinary citizen.

Yes, I would be quite interested in striking up a conversation about applying the tools discussed here to prenatal diagnosis; or in a conversation about which conceptual tools that I don’t know about yet turn out to be useful in dealing with the epistemic or ethical issues in prenatal diagnosis.

Metaphorically, the intent of this post is to provide a marketplace. We already have the “Where are we?” thread, which makes it easier for LessWrongers close to each other to meet up if they want to. (“Welcome to LessWrong” is the place to collect biographical information, but it specifically emphasizes the “rationalist” side of people, rather than their professional knowledge.)

In a similar spirit, please post a comment here offering (or requesting) domain-specific insights. My hunch is, we’ll find that even those of us in professions that don’t seem related to the topics covered here have more to contribute than they think; my hope is that this comment thread will be a valuable resource in the future.

A secondary intent of this post is to provide newcomers and lurkers with one more place where contributing can be expected to be safe from karma penalties—simply answer one of the questions that probably comes up most often when meeting strangers: “What do you do?”. :)

(P.S. If you’ve read this far and are disappointed with the absence of any jokes about “yet another fundamental question”, thank you for your attention, and please accept this apophasis as a consolation gift.)