Less Wrong Lacks Representatives and Paths Forward

In my un­der­stand­ing, there’s no one who speaks for LW, as its rep­re­sen­ta­tive, and is *re­spon­si­ble* for ad­dress­ing ques­tions and crit­i­cisms. LW, as a school of thought, has no agents, no rep­re­sen­ta­tives – or at least none who are open to dis­cus­sion.

The peo­ple I’ve found in­ter­ested in dis­cus­sion on the web­site and slack have di­verse views which dis­agree with LW on var­i­ous points. None claim LW is true. They all ad­mit it has some weak­nesses, some unan­swered crit­i­cisms. They have their own per­sonal views which aren’t writ­ten down, and which they don’t claim to be cor­rect any­way.

This is prob­le­matic. Sup­pose I wrote some crit­i­cisms of the se­quences, or some Bayesian book. Who will an­swer me? Who will fix the mis­takes I point out, or canon­i­cally ad­dress my crit­i­cisms with counter-ar­gu­ments? No one. This makes it hard to learn LW’s ideas in ad­di­tion to mak­ing it hard to im­prove them.

My school of thought (Fal­lible Ideas – FI – https://​​fal­liblei­deas.com) has rep­re­sen­ta­tives and claims to be cor­rect as far as is known (like LW, it’s fal­li­bil­ist, so of course we may dis­cover flaws and im­prove it in the fu­ture). It claims to be the best cur­rent knowl­edge, which is cur­rently non-re­futed, and has re­fu­ta­tions of its ri­vals. There are other schools of thought which say the same thing – they ac­tu­ally think they’re right and have peo­ple who will ad­dress challenges. But LW just has in­di­vi­d­u­als who in­di­vi­d­u­ally chat about what­ever in­ter­ests them with­out there be­ing any or­ga­nized school of thought to en­gage with. No one is re­spon­si­ble for defin­ing an LW school of thought and deal­ing with in­tel­lec­tual challenges.

So how is progress to be made? Sup­pose LW, vaguely defined as it may be, is mis­taken on some ma­jor points. E.g. Karl Pop­per re­futed in­duc­tion. How will LW find out about its mis­take and change? FI has a fo­rum where its rep­re­sen­ta­tives take re­spon­si­bil­ity for see­ing challenges ad­dressed, and have done so con­tin­u­ously for over 20 years (as some rep­re­sen­ta­tives stopped be­ing available, oth­ers stepped up).

Which challenges are ad­dressed? *All of them*. You can’t just ig­nore a challenge be­cause it could be cor­rect. If you mis­judge some­thing and then ig­nore it, you will stay wrong. Silence doesn’t fa­cil­i­tate er­ror cor­rec­tion. For in­for­ma­tion on this method­ol­ogy, which I call Paths For­ward, see: https://​​curi.us/​​1898-paths-for­ward-short-sum­mary BTW if you want to take this challenge se­ri­ously, you’ll need to click the link; I don’t re­peat all of it. In gen­eral, hav­ing much knowl­edge is in­com­pat­i­ble with say­ing all of it (even on one topic) up­front in fo­rum posts with­out us­ing refer­ences.

My crit­i­cism of LW as a whole is that it lacks Paths For­ward (and lacks some al­ter­na­tive of its own to fulfill the same pur­pose). In that con­text, my crit­i­cisms re­gard­ing spe­cific points don’t re­ally mat­ter (or aren’t yet ready to be dis­cussed) be­cause there’s no mechanism for them to be ra­tio­nally re­solved.

One thing FI has done, which is part of Paths For­ward, is it has sur­veyed and ad­dressed other schools of thought. LW hasn’t done this com­pa­rably – LW has no an­swer to Crit­i­cal Ra­tion­al­ism (CR). Peo­ple who chat at LW have in­di­vi­d­u­ally made some non-canon­i­cal ar­gu­ments on the mat­ter that LW doesn’t take re­spon­si­bil­ity for (and which of­ten in­volve con­ced­ing LW is wrong on some points). And they have told me that CR has crit­ics – true. But which crit­i­cism(s) of CR does LW claim are cor­rect and take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the cor­rect­ness of? (Tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for some­thing in­volves do­ing some ma­jor re­think­ing if it’s re­futed – ad­dress­ing crit­i­cism of it and fix­ing your be­liefs if you can’t. Which crit­i­cisms of CR would LW be shocked to dis­cover are mis­taken, and then be ea­ger to reeval­u­ate the whole mat­ter?) There is no an­swer to this, and there’s no way for it to be an­swered be­cause LW has no rep­re­sen­ta­tives who can speak for it and who are par­ti­ci­pat­ing in dis­cus­sion and who con­sider it their re­spon­si­bil­ity to see that is­sues like this are ad­dressed. CR is well known, rele­vant, and makes some clear LW-con­tra­dict­ing claims like that in­duc­tion doesn’t work, so if LW had rep­re­sen­ta­tives sur­vey­ing and re­spond­ing to ri­val ideas, they would have ad­dressed CR.

BTW I’m not ask­ing for all this stuff to be perfectly or­ga­nized. I’m just ask­ing for it to ex­ist at all so that progress can be made.

Anec­do­tally, I’ve found sub­stan­tial op­po­si­tion to dis­cussing/​con­sid­er­ing method­ol­ogy from LW peo­ple so far. I think that’s a mis­take be­cause we use meth­ods when dis­cussing or do­ing other ac­tivi­ties. I’ve also found sub­stan­tial re­sis­tance to the use of refer­ences (in­clud­ing to my own ma­te­rial) – but why should I rewrite a new ver­sion of some­thing that’s already writ­ten? Text is text and should be treated the same whether it was writ­ten in the past or to­day, and whether it was writ­ten by some­one else or by me (ei­ther way, I’m tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity. I think that’s some­thing peo­ple don’t un­der­stand and they’re used to peo­ple throw­ing refer­ences around both vaguely and ir­re­spon­si­bly – but they haven’t pointed out any in­stance where I made that mis­take). Ideas should be judged by the idea, not by at­tributes of the source (refer­ence or non-refer­ence).

The Paths For­ward method­ol­ogy is also what I think in­di­vi­d­u­als should per­son­ally do – it works the same for a school of thought or an in­di­vi­d­ual. Figure out what you think is true *and take re­spon­si­bil­ity for it*. For parts that are already writ­ten down, en­dorse that and take re­spon­si­bil­ity for it. If you use some­thing to speak for you, then if it’s mis­taken *you* are mis­taken – you need to treat that the same as your own writ­ing be­ing re­futed. For stuff that isn’t writ­ten down ad­e­quately by any­one (in your opinion), it’s your re­spon­si­bil­ity to write it (ei­ther from scratch or us­ing ex­ist­ing ma­te­rial plus your com­men­tary/​im­prove­ments). This writ­ing needs to be put in pub­lic and ex­posed to crit­i­cism, and the crit­i­cism needs to ac­tu­ally get ad­dressed (not silently ig­nored) so there are good Paths For­ward. I hoped to find a per­son us­ing this method, or in­ter­ested in it, at LW; so far I haven’t. Nor have I found some­one who sug­gested a su­pe­rior method (or even *any* al­ter­na­tive method to ad­dress the same is­sues) or pointed out a rea­son Paths For­ward doesn’t work.

Some peo­ple I talked with at LW seem to still be de­vel­op­ing as in­tel­lec­tu­als. For lots of is­sues, they just haven’t thought about it yet. That’s to­tally un­der­stand­able. How­ever I was hop­ing to find some de­vel­oped thought which could point out any mis­takes in FI or change its mind. I’m seek­ing pri­mar­ily peer dis­cus­sion. (If any­one wants to learn from me, btw, they are wel­come to come to my fo­rum. It can also be used to crit­i­cize FI. http://​​fal­liblei­deas.com/​​dis­cus­sion-info) Some peo­ple also in­di­cated they thought it’d be too much effort to learn about and ad­dress ri­val ideas like CR. But if no one has done that (so there’s no an­swer to CR they can en­dorse), then how do they know CR is mis­taken? If CR is cor­rect, it’s worth the effort to study! If CR is in­cor­rect, some­one bet­ter write that down in pub­lic (so CR peo­ple can learn about their er­rors and re­form; and so per­haps they could im­prove CR to no longer be mis­taken or point out er­rors in the crit­i­cism of CR.)

One of the is­sues re­lated to this dis­pute is I be­lieve we can always pro­ceed with non-re­futed ideas (there is a long an­swer for how this works, but I don’t know how to give a short an­swer that I ex­pect LW peo­ple to un­der­stand – es­pe­cially in the con­text of the cur­rently-un­re­solved method­ol­ogy dis­pute about Paths For­ward). In con­trast, LW peo­ple typ­i­cally seem to ac­cept mis­takes as just some­thing to put up with, rather than some­thing to try to always fix. So I dis­agree with ig­nor­ing some *known* mis­takes, whereas LW peo­ple seem to take it for granted that they’re mis­taken in known ways. Part of the point of Paths For­ward is not to be mis­taken in known ways.

Paths For­ward is a method­ol­ogy for or­ga­niz­ing schools of thought, ideas, dis­cus­sion, etc, to al­low for un­bounded er­ror cor­rec­tion (as op­posed to typ­i­cal things peo­ple do like putting bounds on dis­cus­sions, with dis­cus­sion of the bounds them­selves be­ing out of bounds). I be­lieve the lack of Paths For­ward at LW is pre­vent­ing the re­s­olu­tion of other is­sues like about the cor­rect­ness of in­duc­tion, the right ap­proach to AGI, and the solu­tion to the fun­da­men­tal prob­lem of episte­mol­ogy (how new knowl­edge can be cre­ated).