High-IQ discourse: correctness is more important than consensus

Sometimes it seems there’s too much counter-signalling and intellectualism signaling online. It’s as if the most mortal sin online is to be perceived as narrow-minded about an issue or not understanding it fully, even if such understanding goes against the prevailing ‘tribal’ narrative. The Jordan Peterson community is ostensibly opposed to postmodernism, yet comments that defend postmodernism, or at least try to ‘steelman’ it, sometimes do quite well, which for awhile struck me as odd. It would be like on a Bernie Sanders forum Bernie supporters up-voting pro-Hillary comments, which you never see. Or folks on /r/LateStageCapitalism praising capitalism (which according to the rules is an automatic ban).

As discussed in I Can Tolerate Anything Except Factual Inaccuracies, correctness and signaling open-mindedness, even if it means scoring points for the ‘outgroup’, bestows status. But it can be problematic for a few reasons: first, it can create confusion among lurkers or those who don’t understand steel-manning. If you’ve just finished watching some Jordan Peterson videos on postmodernism and than you go to the official Jordan Peterson sub and see people defending postmodernism or contrarian signaling it (and then such people are praised for doing so) either you will be confused or see it as a sort of betrayal. Second, by elevating contrarian discourse, the focus may be derailed.

But I think everyone can appreciate a good steelman because it demonstrates a sufficiently strong understanding an issue, that one can argue both sides of it. I have found that if you don’t steelman, someone else will, and it costs you some credibility. Even members of the same ‘tribe’ will appreciate the effort of steelmanning, because it demonstrates you understand the issue well enough to be an authority and worthy of one’s time, instead of just another person with an unsubstantiated opinion.

And this leads to the next point: for smart people, correctness is more important than consensus. And second, that facts precede values, not the other way around. Much of online discourse, especially on high-IQ communities, is about debating the correctness of individual premises, not the intrinsic or prima facie ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ of something . It’s not about whether gun control is right or wrong or good or bad, or if rent control does or does not work, but whether if the arguments bought forth on either side of the debate are correct. That is why on Bitcoin subs, for example, posts that are critical of Bitcoin do surprisingly well, but ra-ra cheerleading is frowned up, and posts that are too optimistic tend to be poorly received unless the argument is extremely compelling and thoughtful. High-IQ people don’t want to be told something is right or wrong or good or bad, but rather want to be convinced something is correct.

This also relates to internal value systems vs. external ones. Less intelligent communities tend to have strong external system but weaker internal ones. The external system is explicit and obvious and is directed against an ‘outgroup’ (such as capitalists, democrats, conservatives, etc.) or centered around a ‘thing’ (such as sports team, a make or model of car, etc.). Smarter communities, however, have a stronger internal system, which is more implicit. Hacker news has a strong internal value system but an weak external one. This means there are a lot of implicit rules, but few explicit ones. A strong external system may mean more explicit rules and fewer implicit ones. The implicit system has a way of enforcing quality without having to be overbearing about it.