Great post. As a follow up, I think it'd be interesting to check whether the fields you mentioned as being "healthier" have these supportive peer review protocols.

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I feel like the future world is going to be very ugly and lacking in art, beauty, poetry and prose. We focus so much on STEM which is important but not everything needs to be about function. We need to support the poets and dreamers of the future too.

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I fear that there are intellectual areas that are essentially nothing but MAS. Sure, economics might suffer from this effect to a small degree but there are other features of a discipline which can act to virtually guarantee that no one who isn't a member of the MAS (not a literal list of people but a commitment to elevating certain kind of work they do regardless of value) has the ability to challenge it.

1) The tasks required to gain expertise/authority in the discipline should be maximally selective for sharing the MAS viewpoint.

For instance, you might elevate works that are particularly aversive and hard to understand and require that very book be understood in detail that no one who isn't invested will engage in. If you don't feel that author has value you won't invest so you will lack authority to critisize. OTOH many of the tools that create barriers to entry in economics have other value so even if you think area X in econ is all bullshit you may still find it worthwhile to learn the mathematics that lets you speak it's language.

2) The area should minimize the ability of anyone in another area to formulate 'valid' criticism. In other words it should have its own distinct methodology which it claims unique authority to judge and not accept standards or methods people from other disciplines could correct then on.

For instance, in economics a mathematican can come along and point out failures in the math or a physicist could come along and claim they can better fit the data with a different model and challenge the economist to a degree. OTOH in an area like literary criticism or 'continental' philosophy the discipline is really the only arbiter of how to apply those standards.

3) The discipline should minimize the ability to check work in small pieces. Nothing is settled until everything is settled. In other words the tenured professors should always be able to come along and explain why a first year grad student's claimed refutation is invalid (unlike math where u can break one link and no claims about context can defease it).

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Based on the percent of students given As, economics could be seen as less of an MAS and more of a "mean" field, fitting with its relatively honest reporting of p-values:


On the other hand, I was skeptical of that finding given the low frequency with which econ journals publish null results:


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Part of this is interesting to me as insight into a semi-alien field. I wonder to which degree part of some of these "cultural" differences are due to the existence of a version of arXiv for a field: where papers are available and read and often cited often months before publication (I hear in maths many don't even bother publishing at all!).

My experience in physics is that citations are more important than publications, and other gate-keeping institutions tend to bend to those. Sure, publishing at a super-top journal is still an invaluable achievement, but not the sort of thing without which a career is impossible.

Which means that if you see a chance to steer a genius closer to the problems you work on you have an incentive to go for it if:

A) You have reasonable chances of ending up a co-author

B) You have reasonable chances of them citing your work in that area

C) You believe they may contribute to make your problem seem "sexier" and thus improve chances that all your papers will have a boost in citations

Then if course you expect to see bubble-like dynamics where everyone races to write papers on the newest sexy thing as success is less correlated with the quality of your work than how relevant it is to the work of others.

And you see things like Horndeski's theory of gravity going almost completely unnoticed for three decades before someone sexy finding out about it and it becoming a hot topic (at which point Horndeski had quit physics to focus on his painting career).

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