Wanna save the world? Learn to write shorter essays with good summaries.
The EA Hivemind is limited by communication skill, attention and time.
Brevity costs you time but saves other people time (saves net time for everyone)
you'll get faster at brevity as you practice
More people having a complete knowledge of the EA blogosphere helps us move forward
My current process:
Write a summary listing all the insights. Essay will probably then be redundant.
Give myself permission to stop if I'm time-constrained
Consider rewriting essay, optimizing for:
- Subtle nuances
- Sharing your thought process to help others use it to generate their own insights
- Sharing details if applicable (so others can critique your work)
- More brevity
(If the above all made sense to you, you can stop here and go read something else. If not, continue reading my ironically long essay)
Epistemic Effort: I tried to practice what I'm preaching, so I could experience pitfalls myself and adapt the content to reflect it. Spent 5 minutes of pure thinking about unforeseen consequences
I. Why brevity?
This week, there was some juicy drama/controversy in the EA community about intellectual honesty. I spent a lot of time discussing it. Then, when I was done discussing the juicy drama, I thought "I should actually get up-to-speed on recent developments across the EA blogosphere, instead of just participating in juicy drama, and proactively participate in the 'improve EA intellectual integrity' project".
I made a cursory attempt to do so. Then I remembered: there's a lot of content, and the most rigorous content is long, and then I felt overwhelmed and gave up.
I suspect I am not alone in this sort of thing.
Having more people up to speed on the latest developments is crucial, so we don't keep rehashing the same arguments. We need people checking each other's work (because even the most prestigious people and orgs make lots of mistakes and are much more uncertain than people realize). We need creative ideas for solving problems. We need more people understanding the problem-space so they can pick concrete things to work on.
To get there, I think we need better communication.
There's a lot of axes to communication (such as being rigorous, being attention-grabby and persuasive enough for people to actually read, etc). But one simple axis is "brevity."
II. Is the rest of your essay necessary?
Will people understand and be persuaded your summary? If not, why?
1). Do they understand why the idea is important?
If not, consider making the case in more detail, or telling a story (that can easily connect with via past emotions to make the case more salient). Depending on how complicated your idea is, you may need to approach this from multiple angles.
2) Do they understand the details of the idea well enough to execute on it?
Maybe, if you're teaching a complicated skill or concept, you really need a full essay to explain it at all. In that case, use the summary to explain what you hope they'll get out of the full text, so they can decide if they want that now.