2020 Review: The Discussion Phase

LessWrong is currently doing a major review of 2020 — looking back at old posts and considering which of them have stood the test of time.

There are three phases:

  • Preliminary Voting (completed)

  • Discussion (ends Jan 11th)

  • Final Voting (ends January 25th)

We’re now in the Discussion Phase, and there are 402 posts that got at least one upvote in the Preliminary Voting Phase. The full list is here. Now is the time to dig into those posts, and for each one ask questions like “What did it add to the conversation?”, “Was it epistemically sound?” and “How do I know these things?”.

The Less Wrong team will award at least $2000 in prizes to the reviews that are most helpful. (We might or might not make a Best of 2020 book.)

If you’re an author and for whatever reason don’t want one or more of your posts in the Review or considered for the book, contact any member of the team (e.g. email Ray Arnold at raemon777@gmail.com ).

Why Review?

The overall goal of the annual review is to revisit old posts with additional context and distance. Did an idea that seemed promising pan out? Was something that didn’t seem that exciting come up over and over again? Was something that you strong-upvoted the day it came out as good as you thought, and the sort of thing everyone should be sure not to miss?

But all that will show up in the votes. Why write text about the posts instead of just voting? Five reasons:

  1. Reward authors. Writing a review puts a name to the number, and helps motivate authors through reading the impact they had on people. (Note that nominations used to fill this role.)

  2. Share experiences. You might have changed how you thought or acted because of a post, but did other people? Talking about our reactions helps ground our impressions of how other people reacted.

  3. Summarize and analyze. Coming back to a post a year later, you might have a better sense of how it fits into the bigger picture, and recording that in a comment will make the post more intelligible to future readers. It’s also quite useful for authors to see what people took away from their posts; a summary that seems like it missed the point might prompt another post that better approaches the target.

  4. Test and verify. As something moves from “something we talked about for a week” to “something that people will remember about 2020″, it helps to do some digging and share what you find. Did the speculation check out? Did someone’s review of a book capture its point? If there was major criticism (or it’s a position in an ongoing controversy), is that context present (or at least linked to)?

  5. Reason together. Was there something about the post that confused you? Are you trusting something because other people seem to be trusting it? This is a good opportunity to interrupt information cascades, notice gaps, and elaborate on explanations.

Also, if you were the author, a self-review is a good opportunity to join the conversation. What were you hoping your post would accomplish? What was hard or easy about writing it? What would you have done differently?

You’ll be able to see the voting results for all of the nominations on this page, which might be useful for helping pick which posts to discuss.

Go forth and think out loud!