META: To SL4's readership

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Thu Aug 31 2006 - 00:22:18 MDT

Over the last few days, I was busy preparing for a talk I have just
given this afternoon, and so I was not able to attend to events with as
much care as I might have wished. I had to write 8,000 words in three
days and that left little eloquence remaining to be used in quieting ruckus.

If you're a new subscriber, please rest assured that recent events on
SL4 are not typical. I think that this, these events of August 2006, is
the worst I can ever recall seeing it. I hope it does not happen again.

I suspect that SL4's policies need to be clarified. In particular, I
think that the front page needs to make clear that SL4 is a moderated
list, that the moderation is autocratic rather than democratic, that
some baby may get thrown out occasionally with the bathwater and this is
the cost we all pay, that moderation policies may be criticized all you
like but we will go on doing it anyway, that this is the foundation and
the price of SL4's existence, and if you don't like it there are plenty
of other mailing lists.

I am also thinking of prominently displaying, under the title of "Whim
Death", a policy notice to the effect that while List Snipers will
usually act only for some kind of cause (not that this means that
Snipers have to justify themselves, or anything), the List Owner himself
reserves the right to ban anyone, at any time, without even giving a
reason. Moreover, the List Owner confesses in advance that all thus
banned are blameless, guiltless and virtuous; and the List Owner
himself, a fool and a knave; and those thus banned should not feel
shamed, but rather, proud of their own thus-demonstrated superiority to
the List Owner. But nonetheless the List Owner reserves the right of
Whim Death, and has exercised it in the past, and will exercise it as
whim takes him, possibly on you; and this is part of the foundation of
SL4, which no one is required to agree with or approve of, but which
they should nonetheless be warned of.

My hope is that if people understand from the beginning that the policy
of Whim Death exists, then it will not generate so much acrimony on SL4
when I make the decision to ban someone, and not everyone would have
made the same decision themselves, if it were their own mailing list.

Please remember: No one died. No one has even been expelled from the
entire Internet. There are other mailing lists.

This list is, in the end, a party held in my living room. I surely
don't ask you to be grateful for that, or respect me for it, and Heaven
forbid that I should ask you to bow before me; but from time to time, I
might kick someone out of my living room. That's life. (Not death.)

I am now (a) exhausted and (b) need to get back to studying nonclassical
logic. So say what you like tomorrow, but at midnight, California time,
12AM on September 1st, this thread and all related threads cease to exist.


Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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