From: Richard Loosemore (email@example.com)
Date: Wed Dec 14 2005 - 10:56:04 MST
Jef Allbright wrote:
> I am increasingly frustrated by the observation and experience that on
> the various transhumanist lists, a graph of posting frequency by
> individual would show a hump, with those who have enthusiastic but
> relatively incomplete thinking posting far more than those who have
> more coherent views or those who may not have strong views at all.
> This is to be expected, but it tends to promote regression to the mean
> more than leading-edge growth.
> Creative growth requires diverse input, but mining these transhumanist
> lists for nuggets of leading edge ideas, or planting seeds of thought
> when a fertile opportunity seems to be presented, provides such sparse
> payback that I and many others question whether we've long since past
> the point of diminishing returns.
> I think we've reached the point that we need new tools--an improved
> framework--for collaborative thinking including concept mapping,
> argument mapping, and shared knowledge that goes qualitatively beyond
> the wiki and the email list. I don't have the available bandwidth to
> create this or even to organize such a project, and I see it coming
> just around the corner with all the growing awareness of "web 2.0" and
> social software, but I would be very interested in contributing some
> time and resources to such a project.
> - Jef
I have also had exactly the same thought, and I was planning to set up
some kind of mechanism to do this in the near future. Since I am not
quite ready to try it out, I will float the best ideas I have and
(mindful of the negative feedback that this post *itself* will attract)
hope that the suggestions themselves don't disappear into the usual
What about a web site organized around "evolving essays", of the
1) Someone starts with an encyclopaedia-like, hierarchical topic list,
which is supposed to be the set of categories within which essays (which
will end up being encyclopaedia entries) are stored.
2) This framework is debated, but the debate takes the form of
restatements of the topic list, which are then voted on in some way. So
for example, if I think that a branch of the topic list headed by the
topic "AGI Goal Systems" should be split into
AGI Goal Systems
... then it is up to me to suggest this, and to provide two headline
paragraphs (no more than one para for each subtopic) that describe the
3) If an aelaboration of the topic tree is sanctioned, it first comes in
as a "provisional" branch, and it is then up to someone to suggest an
essay that describes the topic.
4) People give feedback to the poster of the essay, and the feedback
goes privately (no back and forth argument at this stage) to the poster.
This person is supposed to incorporate the suggestions into the essay
5) When the essay writer has done editing the essay it is resubmitted to
the list, and all, including the original reply folks, are invited to
say whether this is coherent enough to stand. (Coherent according to
various criteria TBD).
6) If someone strongly disagrees with the coherence of the essay, they
must say so at this point, but there should be a fairly high threshold
for rejection (you cannot simply disagree with it, you have to posit
7) Dissenting opinions are also allowed. If an individual or a group
believes that a particular entry is incomplete or wrong or bad in some
way, it can write a coherent reply in the form of an essay, and send it
through the same process.
What I have in mind through this process is the collaborative writing of
an extremely hierarchical book.
Another note: I think that we should make some allowance for background
knowledge, but I am not sure how to do this. For example, if someone
well studied in philosophy makes comments about an issue that is, say,
about hardware design, there ought to some way to give those comments
less weight than if they come from a software or hardware engineer. And
vice-versa of course. This is a little difficult, as it might imply
people voluntarily submitting their claimed areas of expertise, which
might not go over too well.
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