RE: Papers vs. Email & Books

Billy Brown (
Fri, 15 Jan 1999 08:09:03 -0600

Robin Hanson wrote:
> The related thing that most strikes me is the unfortunate
> lack of paper-length contributions on the topics which
> frequently appear on this list.
> I think you can infer some things about a topic from
> the length of contributions made on it. If you only
> ever see short contributions on a topic, you might
> reasonably infer that people don't really take it that
> seriously. Either they don't care enough about it to
> take the next step, or the topic doesn't withstand
> careful scrutiny; those people who tried to write
> longer analyses realized it's all bunk and gave up.

Part of the problem is the nature of the topics we discuss. Honestly, how many of us are qualified to write a rigorous analysis of a topic that spans half a dozen disciplines? A detailed justification of any particular Singularity scenario, for example, requires an understanding of every field of technology you want to take into account, plus a bit of political science, history and economics. It is very easy to be overwhelmed by the impossibility of covering the entire topic, and end up writing nothing at all.

The traditional solution, of course, is to pick a sub-topic you can do justice to. Unfortunately that doesn't work well when dealing with future scenarios, because the different components are often mutually interdependent. What we really is a better mechanism for doing on-line collaboration - perhaps a web site set up for use as a moderated discussion/collaboration forum.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I