Posted by: Mark Waser | Mar 13, 2011

Über Rationalists Call For Shutdown of SL4 List


After the minor activity on the SL4 list around the subject of Universal vs. Local Friendliness, the following e-mails appeared from LessWrong denizens.

Gwern Branwen said:

The recent emails reminded me of the existence of SL4; I think it may be time to discuss shutting down the list.

Vladimir Nesov said:

Seconded. Only clueless post here now (outside of announcements), and their posts are not engaged by the old hands. The list web page needs links to LW/SIAI/FHI, with the list itself closed.

At the same time, LW doesn’t have SL4’s topics as official or to some extent actual focus of discussion. Closing SL4 would ideally call for creating an LW-based discussion focus on its topics, as a subreddit or as an officially endorsed topic in discussion area. Perhaps SL4 should wait for that to happen, if only as a reminder.

So, apparently, the currently unregulated SL4 list is enough of a threat that it needs to be shut down and moved to the regulated LessWrong even though as Nesov points out “LW doesn’t have SL4’s topics as official or to some extent actual focus of discussion.” I would have thought that, without ulterior motives, the possible rebirth of the SL4 list would have been cause for joy and celebration.

Indeed, Nesov’s comment that “posts are not engaged by the old hands” is also telling. My experience is that many posts are not honestly engaged by the old hands on LessWrong either. At best, you get ignored like this when you raise a valid but difficult question. Normally though, the karma system makes it quite apparent when your views aren’t welcome (even the “old hands” agree that karma does not primarily measure the quality or rationality of your post). Legitimate but unpopular arguments are ALWAYS side-tracked by the tactic of raising any strawman that wasn’t explicitly ruled out (or by unhelpful conversation-stopping evaluations like “unclear” or “confused” without any further explanations) and any attempts to stop the flood of strawmen and other rhetorical tactics are quickly blocked by karma. And asking legitimate questions about the karma system like here quickly leads to being pushed below the default visibility threshold.

While I made the suggestion that the “old hands” should “get out more”, I really don’t expect to see anything except the shuttering of SL4. They have their “bully pulpit” “echo chamber” and their shortsighted “rational” arguments don’t generally hold up outside it (which is why they make the “rational” choice and stay there and bemoan the fact of “others’ lack of rationality” for not listening to them). But the closing of one more “open” list, just when it gets some activity, is truly a shame (and a travesty of “rationality”).

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Responses

  1. > So, apparently, the currently unregulated SL4 list is enough of a threat that it needs to be shut down and moved to the regulated LessWrong even though as Nesov points out “LW doesn’t have SL4′s topics as official or to some extent actual focus of discussion.”

    SL4 was more heavily regulated than LW is. (Who’s the ‘list sniper’ on LW?)

    And ‘threat’? My suggestion was made purely in the interests of efficiency; fora which are not being used should be closed down and tidied up, much like dead code should be removed from a sourcebase. (This is especially true in the case of small communities like transhumanists/singulitarians.) It constitutes a distraction, a vulnerability, and is just overhead.

    SL4 offers nothing that LW does not – I didn’t respond to Vladimir’s suggestion because he’s basically suggesting just a tag like ‘sl4’. If he wants that, then he should go PM a bunch of article authors asking them to add that tag! We don’t need to wait the list closure on such a triviality.

    • The ‘list sniper’ on LW is the karma system — which has a *much* heavier hand than the SL4 list sniper ever did.

      It may be “efficient” to reduce diversity but it is generally unwise in the long run. And if the fora was truly not being used, then it would not be “a distraction, a vulnerability, and …. overhead”.

      And why do you deny the term ‘threat’ when you yourself claim that its a vulnerability. Methinks you doth protest too much (with internal inconsistencies).

      SL4 offers an open honest forum as long as you remain on topic, coherent, concise and reasonably non-repetitive. That is emphatically not true of SL4 where you can be voted into oblivion if your argument is unpopular (even if correct).

      Shuttering SL4 would be a huge loss — unless you need to restrict and control the conversation.

      • > It may be “efficient” to reduce diversity but it is generally unwise in the long run.

        *What* diversity?! LW is hugely more diverse than SL4 ever was on every metric – number of contributors, geographic locations, gender, subject, philosophical viewpoint, medium (fiction, nonfiction, poetry etc)

        > And why do you deny the term ‘threat’ when you yourself claim that its a vulnerability.

        A threat is not a vulnerability. As long as SL4 is running, it will pose a risk of becoming a spam conduit, of being compromised and hosting child porn, or of just hosting batshit insane screeds that will make everyone else look bad. (As a Wikipedian for the last 6 years, I know that even after half a decade, journalists and the general public still can’t reliably distinguish between what the Wikipedia community does and random vandalism edits.)

        And paranoidly accusing someone of inconsistency and lying to cover up a sinister agenda – yeah, if this is representative of your general contributions, I would not regret your silence. So maybe that should be listed as a positive for closing SL4…

        > SL4 offers an open honest forum as long as you remain on topic, coherent, concise and reasonably non-repetitive.

        Serious LOLs there. How long have you been on SL4? Does the name ‘John Clark’ ring any bells?

      • >> *What* diversity?! LW is hugely more diverse than SL4 ever was on every metric

        Hardly. There is a breath-taking uniformity of views on LessWrong. Your cited metrics are all really irrelevant except philosophical viewpoint — and there really is very little diversity there.

        >> And paranoidly accusing someone of inconsistency and lying

        And here you are with the standard tactic of throwing up insults and strawmen. I don’t feel that you’re out to get me. I never accused you of lying. And your lack of consistency and constantly shifting to avoid where you are inconsistent/wrong (no more comments about the list sniper?), speak for themselves.

        > > SL4 offers an open honest forum
        > Serious LOLs there. How long have you been on SL4? Does the name ‘John Clark’ ring any bells?

        A quick Google shows entries by me in 2004 and that seems about right. I certainly remember John K. Clark. Like everyone, he had some good ideas and some bad ideas and got frustrated when he was ridiculed and assaulted with rhetorical tricks. I also remember Richard Loosemore, whose banning pretty much put the skids on SL4 (so you’re right . . . . in that instance, SL4 was more regulated and direct and honest than LW).

        I note that you have stopped defending your claims that LW is an open forum and have instead decided that my silence is a positive for closing SL4. But, of course, you’re not advocating censorship and the prevention of free speech . . . . are you?

      • > Your cited metrics are all really irrelevant except philosophical viewpoint — and there really is very little diversity there.

        You don’t know LW very well, I think. We can’t even agree on utilitarianism (see Alicorn to name just the first deontological dissenter to come to mind, who has the third most karma on all LW!), much less anything more specific.

        > I never accused you of lying. And your lack of consistency and constantly shifting to avoid where you are inconsistent/wrong (no more comments about the list sniper?), speak for themselves.

        Oh? Then why the accusations of ‘ulterior motives’? I have always said that my motive is only efficiency; you say I have other motives. Hence, you think I’m lying about efficiency being my only motive.

        You’re quite guilty of shifting arguments and not responding yourself. I listed at least 3 practical reasons that the list was a vulnerability, none of which you have addressed. (Basic computer security: every installed or running program increases the ‘vulnerability surface’. If something is not being used significantly, its net benefit may be negative.)

        And I don’t need to discuss the list sniper further, when you do such a good job of listing interventions.

        > I note that you have stopped defending your claims that LW is an open forum and have instead decided that my silence is a positive for closing SL4.

        No, I think LW is an open forum. The only instance of deletion by Eliezer, Roko’s post, has been widely condemned by the community and is generally understood will never happen again.

        You criticize my own metrics for diversity (understandable, since none of them point the way you want them to) and offer none of your own except your own experience being downvoted. It would be helpful if you coined a new word, possibly ‘not-inclusive-of-Mark-Waserness’, rather than steal the existing word ‘diversity’.

        > But, of course, you’re not advocating censorship and the prevention of free speech . . . . are you?

        I was humorously implying that if closing SL4 would prevent low-quality speech like yours, then that was an additional and unforeseen benefit. I should have known better than to have been anything but grimly logical.

      • >> You don’t know LW very well, I think. We can’t even agree on utilitarianism

        I know LW very well. You all disagree on details but not on your fundamental views.

        >> why the accusations of ‘ulterior motives’? I have always said that my motive is only efficiency; you say I have other motives. Hence, you think I’m lying about efficiency being my only motive.

        Another strawman? Putting thoughts into my head? I don’t think that you’re lying. I think that it’s easily possible that you’re honestly subconsciously biased (never attribute to malice . . . . ). Not to mention that “efficiency” can spawn a whole raft of undesirable subgoals which certainly fit under the rubric of ulterior motives.

        Yes, you listed three reasons why you considered SL4 a vulnerability. The first is easily solved post hoc, the second is ludicrous, and the third was precisely the point that *I* was making. I didn’t feel the need to comment when you were making my point — unlike you who merely goes silent when I am doing such a good job.

        Lack of deletion is not the same as open. Dissenting opinions are quite thoroughly convinced that they should leave. And an easily achieved default visibility threshold is incredibly close to censorship while not having to defend such. There are also requirements for posting. How can you defend something with requirements as “open”?

        >> It would be helpful if you coined a new word, possibly ‘not-inclusive-of-Mark-Waserness’, rather than steal the existing word ‘diversity’.

        And yet another strawman. <sarcasm> It’s really all about me. And LW doesn’t *regularly* have complaints of this type from *numerous* people. </sarcasm> Like I said, lack of honest engagement. Instead of handling even the isolated cases, you improperly marginalize frequent cases and use that as an excuse to ignore them. Either you don’t know LW very well, you’re being deliberately disingenuous, or you’re subconscious biases are very much in control.

  2. Am with you Mark. LessWrong is MoreWrong. The LW/SIAI crowed is so hunkered down in their ideological trenches that they prefer to denounce dissenting voices as being on personal vendettas. Not unlike the Objectivist crowed, but more apt in policing the integrity of their discursive circle jerk. Pardon my French…

    I made the pledge to not engage with these folks anymore. Their arguments are low quality and their conduct is down right reprehensible. When I think that at some point someone that matters will take them seriously… My focus by now is to get the academic credentials and eventually publish what I have to say in academic journals.


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