10 Year Blog Anniversary

Ten years ago today this blog began with this post. Since then we’ve had 3,772 posts, 104 thousand comments, & over 15 million page views. This started as a group blog, and later became my personal blog, and I’ve been posting less the last few years as I focused on writing books.

I still have mixed feelings about putting in effort to write blog posts, relative to longer more academic articles and books. I agree that a blog post can communicate a useful and original insight in just a few paragraphs to thousands, while an academic article or book might be read by only tens or hundreds. But a much higher fraction of academic readers will try to build on my insight in a way that becomes part of our shared accumulating edifice of human insight. My hope is even if the fraction of blog readers who also do this is small, it is large enough to make a comparable total number. Because if not, I fear blogging is mostly a waste.

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  • marshall bolton

    You are hopefully not saying that my reading of your blog is a waste? Through my optics: One person saved is one person saved.

  • Matthew Light

    If you want your ideas to be generally discussed, you want them easily accessible for people to read and talk about. Especially if your ideas are controversial in academia.

  • Without this blog I would have never come up with the ideas in my academic article “The Fermi paradox, Bayes’ rule, and existential risk management” published in Futures.

  • dat_bro06

    I appreciate all the public posts over the years. Maybe the IRS will let you write it off as a charitable deduction. OB is an important countervailing force against the overwhelming stupidity/ shortsightedness of the human species.

  • I would love it if you wrote more books. I would find it less useful if you only wrote academic papers, as they’re usually intentionally inaccessible.

    As for the edifice of insight, it’s more of an iceberg or rhizome – much deeper than the visible set of responses.

  • Ari

    Congratulations. Reading this blog the first time was like following young Einstein. Just like TC, I think you are one of our most important thinkers. I wish you would get more coverage.

    I think one of the great things about blog is that it can be linked, and knowledge can be spread. I don’t know whether for better decisions of human kind, we need small academic to know the better answers, or public to be better informed.

  • Great work Robin.

    “My hope is even if the fraction of blog readers who also do this is small, it is large enough to make a comparable total number.”

    A simple way to make the fraction larger: link to anyone who responds to a blog post of yours in an intelligent way. You get what you incentivize. For most bloggers, traffic is an incentive.

    I think you underestimate the impact your blog has had. Seems to me a lot of your ideas have seen wide adoption.

  • zarzuelazen27

    The big weak point in conventional academia is the highly fragmented nature of knowledge – a lot of extremely bright people in academia, but the branches of knowledge are isolated from each other due to over-specialization. Since knowledge is synergistic, even within individual fields, full understanding and appreciation can never be obtained where the fields remain separated.

    That’s where this blog comes in. Robin has ‘big picture awareness’, the ability to integrate many disparate fields together into a coherent whole, and so the other academics can never be as fast or as strong as Robin can be.

    Big picture awareness exposed the missing link in rationality – categorization and concepts. Whereas deduction (logic) and induction (probability theory) were reasonably well understood, abduction (explanations and concepts) were not.

    Over the past decade, I saw how to integrate all the different branches of explanatory (deep) knowledge. It’s all done with the notion of a ‘concept cloud’ – it is the integration of many different concepts into coherent categories that forms these ‘clouds’ – and these concept clouds are what constitute ‘explanations’ or ‘theories’. The concepts are not seperate from the theories (the concepts *are* the theories) and this is recursive – smaller concept clouds can be combined into larger ones.

    ‘I was blind, but now I see’. Look:

    Reality Theory


  • Ronfar

    Your blogging is also good marketing for your books.

  • My impression is that your blogging almost single-handedly popularized signaling theory in popular sociology.

  • burger flipper

    I think you do underestimate the importance of blogs.

    I know an offhand comment I made here led to a NY times story about betting markets and elections (adanthar confirmed the story was inspired by this blog):



    I also “commissioned” “Thinking Fast and Slow” in Cowen’s dream book thread back in ’08:

    (I think Cowen commented once that that thread was at least partly responsible for the book, but I might be misremembering.)

    It’s crazy how ideas spread. Do you even get to do “Age of Em” without this blog (and even if so, does anyone notice?)

  • Blogs are often responsible for other people’s books, so if books can have a large effect, blogs can do so as well. For example, Bostrom’s book is mainly responsible for the idea of AI risk being popular (which is unfortunately a bad thing, since there is no risk to speak of), but Eliezer was responsible for Bostrom’s opinions without having to write any books or articles.

  • I am tempted to say that most academic blogs are just a form of intellectual masturbation, but then again, so are most scholarly articles and academic books! But since we can’t predict ahead of time which academic articles, books, or blog posts will have an impact on future work, we are (collectively) better off by having as many new ideas as possible …

  • ttttttttttt

    Here’s an idea if you want maximum reach AND influence….self-publish books and articles, and offer it all for free online via your blog. Best of both worlds…of course, you won’t make so much money, but you don’t make money from blogging either, but then again it is a tool to get your name out to sell books…