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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Friday, August 29, 2008

Resartus, Google, and Linear Algebra

Mencius Moldbug is trying to help start something called Resartus:

For simplicity, I'll describe Resartus in the present unconditional tense, as though it actually existed and I, not Lex and Daniel, was its designer and administrator. Please remember that neither of these statements is true. The consuls may or may not use any of the ideas below. If you don't like their decisions, please don't complain to me.

Resartus is a social revision engine. … Resartus is designed to complement Wikipedia - a remarkably valuable and useful service, though untrustworthy in general and often malignantly deceptive on controversial issues. Think of it as Wikipedia for controversial material and (perhaps eventually) original research, and you won't be too far off.

………

A social revision engine exists to help you, the reader, make up your mind about a controversial issue without appealing to external authority. For example, Wikipedia's policy suggests:
Material that has been vetted by the scholarly community is regarded as reliable; this means published in peer-reviewed sources, and reviewed and judged acceptable scholarship by the academic journals.

Material from mainstream news organizations is welcomed, particularly the high-quality end of the market, such as The Washington Post, The Times in Britain, and The Associated Press.
Here at UR, we refer to these fine institutions collectively as the Cathedral. Note that La Wik does not stoop to filling us in as to why we should believe the Cathedral. It is simply infallible, like the Vatican. Om mane padme hum. "Trust the computer. The computer is your friend."

The process by which the "scholarly community" and the "mainstream news organizations" produce their reliable material is quite different from the process by which the Vatican produces its. The claim that the former is infallible - or even nearly infallible, or even fallible but eventually convergent toward the truth - is not one to be scoffed at. The Cathedral is a grand old edifice, a fabulous achievement of Western civilization. It is full of many fine people, many of whom do excellent work. As a whole, I don't trust it at all and I think it needs to go. But this is just my own two cents. If you do trust the Cathedral, you have much less need for Resartus.
One way to accomplish the goal of making it easier to find non-consensus opinions is to start with something like Google. Google will mainly deliver consensus opinions first but minor changes could enable other viewpoints to to be delivered and distinguished from each other and the consensus.

Google is able to deliver consensus viewpoints first by creating a matrix of which pages link to each other and first using linear algebra to find the eigenvector with the largest eigenvalue and then using that eigenvector to rate sites. Apparently, that eigenvector will deliver conventional liberal sites first. If Google (or Resartus) kept track of eigenvectors with the dozen or so largest eigenvalues, and users could select which one they wanted, other viewpoints would be easier to find.

I suppose the largest eigenvalue would be associated with conventional liberal sites, the second component would be associated with conventional conservative sites (also known as “the Great Library of Tlön,” with my earlier comments here), and others would be associated with libertarians, marxists, paleoconservatives, etc. This might even be a remedy for the common idea that, if you are opposed to the consensus view, you must believe in standard conservatism.

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