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”).