Robin Hanson just published a post titled “Classic Style Intellectual World”. It’s short, so I recommend reading it, as it sets up this question, but in short it suggests that many intellectual activities are organized in a way similar to the way paintings on the walls of Renaissance churches are. That is, small spaces are allocated to lower-status artists where they are rewarded mainly for blending in well with architecture and surrounding context and only already high-status artists are asked to be more creative by giving them large spaces where they might do something less conforming (but not too non-conforming!). The parallel he draws is that lower-status intellectuals are expected to talk within the frame society and other intellectuals have already set up for them within a frame sized to match their status, while higher-status intellectuals are allowed a larger frame in which they may be more creative, the point being that status drives permitted creativity (that is, creativity that will not be ignored in obscurity) rather than creativity and innovation (or whatever traits are ostensibly sought in intellectuals) being what confers high status.
So the question I pose here is, how much does LW look like this picture Robin has painted? Specifically, is it that high readership, karma, post scores, etc. accumulates to authors who are the best at whatever it is you think the values of LW are or do those things go to those who best work “within the system” with LW value satisfaction as secondary concern?