LW has a BDFL already. He’s just not very interested and (many) people don’t believe he’s able to restore the website. We didn’t “come to believe” anything.
An additional additional point is that the dictator can indeed quit and is not forced to kill themselves to get out of it. So it’s actually not FL. And in fact, it’s arguably not even a dictatorship, as it depends on the consent of the governed. Yes, BDFL is intentionally outrageous to make a point. What’s yours?
I’ve done my fair bit of product management, mostly on resin.io and related projects (etcher.io and resinos.io) and can offer some help in re-imagining the vision behind lw.
that’s awesome. I’m starting to hope something may come of this effort.
Who is empowered to set Vaniver or anyone else as the BDFL of the site? It would be great to get into a discusion of “who” but I wonder how much weight there will be behind this person. Where would the BDFL’s authority eminate from? Would he be granted, for instance, ownership of the lesswrong.com domain? That would be a sufficient gesture.
Please consider a few gremlins that are weighing down LW currently:
Eliezer’s ghost—He set the culture of the place, his posts are central material, has punctuated its existence with his explosions (and refusal to apologise), and then, upped and left the community, without actually acknowledging that his experiment (well kept gardens etc) has failed. As far as I know he is still the “owner” of this website, retains ultimate veto on a bunch of stuff, etc. If that has changed, there is no clarity on who the owner is (I see three logos on the top banner, is it them?), who the moderators are, who is working on it in general. I know tricycle are helping with development, but a part-time team is only marginally better than no-team, and at least no-team is an invitation for a team to step up.
the no politics rule (related to #1) -- We claim to have some of the sharpest thinkers in the world, but for some reason shun discussing politics. Too difficult, we’re told. A mindkiller! This cost us Yvain/Scott who cited it as one of his reasons for starting slatestarcodex, which now dwarfs LW. Oddly enough I recently saw it linked from the front page of realclearpolitics.com, which means that not only has discussing politics not harmed SSC, it may actually be drawing in people who care about genuine insights in this extremely complex space that is of very high interest.
the “original content”/central hub approach (related to #1) -- This should have been an aggregator since day 1. Instead it was built as a “community blog”. In other words, people had to host their stuff here or not have it discussed here at all. This cost us Robin Hanson on day 1, which should have been a pretty big warning sign.
The codebase, this website carries tons of complexity related to the reddit codebase. Weird rules about responding to downvoted comments have been implemented in there, nobody can make heads or tails with it. Use something modern, and make it easy to contribute to. (telescope seems decent these days).
Brand rust. Lesswrong is now kinda like myspace or yahoo. It used to be cool, but once a brand takes a turn for the worse, it’s really hard to turn around. People have painful associations with it (basilisk!) It needs burning of ships, clear focus on the future, and as much support as possible from as many interested parties, but only to the extent that they don’t dillute the focus.
In the spirit of the above, I consider Alexei’s hints that Arbital is “working on something” to be a really bad idea, though I recognise the good intention. Efforts like this need critical mass and clarity, and diffusing yet another wave of people wanting to do something about LW with vague promises of something nice in the future (that still suffers from problem #1 AFAICT) is exactly what I would do if I wanted to maintain the status quo for a few more years.
Any serious attempt at revitalising lesswrong.com should focus on defining ownership and plan clearly. A post by EY himself recognising that his vision for lw 1.0 failed and passing the batton to a generally-accepted BDFL would be nice, but i’m not holding my breath. Further, I am fairly certain that LW as a community blog is bound to fail. Strong writers enjoy their independence. LW as an aggregator-first (with perhaps ability to host content if people wish to, like hn) is fine. HN may have degraded over time, but much less so than LW, and we should be able to improve on their pattern.
I think if you want to unify the community, what needs to be done is the creation of a hn-style aggregator, with a clear, accepted, willing, opinionated, involved BDFL, input from the prominent writers in the community (scott, robin, eliezer, nick bostrom, others), and for the current lesswrong.com to be archived in favour of that new aggregator. But even if it’s something else, it will not succeed without the three basic ingredients: clear ownership, dedicated leadership, and as broad support as possible to a simple, well-articulated vision. Lesswrong tried to be too many things with too little in the way of backing.
Reminds me of the motto “Strong Opinions, Weakly Held”. There’s no point having a blurry opinion, or not expressing what you believe to be the most likely candidate for a good way forward, even if it’s more likely by only a small margin. By expressing (and/or acting on) a clearly expressed, falsifiable opinion, you expose it to criticism, refutation, improvement, etc. And if you hold it weakly, then you will be open to reconsidering. Refusing to make up your mind, and kindof oscilating between a few options, perhaps waiting to see where the wind blows, has its advantages, but especially when it comes to getitng things done, is most often a clear loser. Despite this, our brains seem to prefer it instinctively, maybe due to some ancestral environment echoes about being proven wrong in the eyes of the tribe?
You appear to be arguing about definitions. I’m not interested in going down that rabbit hole.
Which in turn depends on what you mean by “artificial”.
I don’t use the word consciousness as it’s a complex concept not really necessary in this context. I approach a mind as an information processing system, and information processing systems can most certainly be distributed. What that means for consciousness depends on what you mean by consciousness I suppose, but I would not like to start that conversation.
There are still many intermediate steps. What does it mean “to be conscious of a sensory input”? Are we talking system 1 or system 2? If the brain is composed of modules, which it likely is, what if some of them are digital and able to move to where the information is and others are not? What if the biological part’s responses can be modelled well enough to be predicted digitally 99.9% of the time, such that a remote near-copy can be almost autonomous by means of optimistic concurrency, correcting course only when the verdict comes back different than predicted. The notion of the brain as a single indivisible unit that “is aware of an input” quickly fades away when the possibilities of software are taken into account, even when only part of you is digital.
Surely the point at which your entire sensory input comes from the digital world you are somewhat uploaded, even if part of the processing happens in biological components. what does it mean to “travel” when you can receive sensory inputs from any point in the network? There are several rubicons to be crossed, and transitioning from “has tiny biological part” to “has no biological part” is another, but it’s definitely smaller than “one day an ape, the next day software”. What’s more, what I’m arguing is not that there aren’t disruptive steps, but that each step is small enough to make sense for a non-adventurous person, as a step increase in convenience. It’s the theseus ship of mind uploading.
This whole conversation sounds to me like people arguing whether width or height is a more important factor to the area of a rectangle. Or perhaps what percentage of the total each is responsible for.
It seems we humans are desperate to associate everything with a single cause, or if it has multiple causes, allocate causality to x% of multiple factors. However, success quite often has multiple contributing factors and exhibits “the chain is as strong as its weakest link” type behaviour. When phrased in terms of the contribution width and height make to the area of a rectangle, a lot of the conversation sounds like a category error. A lot of the metaphors we try and apply quite simply do not make sense.
The truly insidious effects are when the content of the stories changes the reward but not by going through the standard quality-evaluation function.
For instance, maybe the AI figures out that the order of the stories affects the rewards. Or perhaps it finds how stories that create a climate of joy/fear on campus lead to overall higher/lower evaluations for that period. Then the AI may be motivated to “take a hit” to push through some fear mongering so as to raise its evaluations for the following period. Perhaps it finds that causing strife in the student union, or perhaps causing racial conflict, or causing trouble with the university faculty affects its rewards one way or another. Perhaps if it’s unhappy with a certain editor, it can slip through bad enough errors to get the editor fired, hopefully replaced with a more rewarding editor.
Got a project we worked on for my startup covered on hackaday.com!
I don’t know, I haven’t done the effort estimation. It just looks like more than I’d be willing to put in.
One hypothesis is that LessWrong.com is a low priority item to them, but they like having it around, so they are averse to putting in the required amount of thought to evaluate a change, and inclined to leave things as they are.
I think it is unlikely it will have as much benefit as you expect, and that the pain will be bigger than you expect. However, if you add the fact that your drive may help you learn to program, then the ROI tips the other way massively.
By the way, an alternative explanation for the fact that so many developers are here but so few (or none) actually contribute to LW code, is that they’re busy making lots of money or working on other things they find exciting. This is good news for you, because making the changes may be easier than I originally estimated. As long as you are determined enough.
The issue is that the content does get written. It just doesn’t find its way here.
I admire your optimism and determination. It’s not my intention to convince you not to try. Even if you don’t succeed, and it’s not impossible that you could succeed, you will certainly get a lot out of it. So take my negativity as a challenge, and prove me wrong :).