Welcome to polymath

From: <Majordomo@cco.caltech.edu>
Date: Mon Dec 14 1998 - 19:04:24 PST

Welcome to the polymath mailing list!
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[Last updated on: Mon Dec  8 13:05:44 1997]
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List purpose and all that:
Over the years the extropians email list has hosted some unusually high
quality discussions.  Many contributors have left the list, however, to
avoid the many lesser discussions which also appear there.  So to keep
these high quality discussions going, we (Damien Sullivan and Robin
Hanson) have created the "Polymath" mailing list.  Its purpose is the
same as Perry Metzger's purpose in creating the extropians list
(paraphrased): "as a clubhouse for like-minded people, not as an
outreach tool," and "as a place where polymaths could swap ideas."
To reduce the lesser quality discussions, however, we have chosen a more
restrictive admission policy.  Robin has suggested a peer review
process, but at the moment I (Damien) am the main gatekeeper of
membership.  Perry Metzger has voiced interesting support for this,
despite probably not knowing who I am:
"I must admit to being a big believer in the selection mechanisms of a
single judgemental (but usually right) individual over the selection
mechanisms of a large crowd averaging its preferences. Of course, the
preferences of an individual selected at random rarely coincide with
my own. However, the selected preferences of some selected individuals
coincide with my own far, far better than those of a random crowd.
Decor selected by an individual with "taste" is far better than
randomly selected decor. In general, parties with well selected sets
of guests are far more frequently the ones I wish to attend than those
with self-selected guests. I strongly suspect that a list with
selected membership will be more interesting (at least for a time)
than one with a self-selected membership.
My one concern in all such things is, however, that fresh ideas tend
to come from fresh individuals. After a while, doubtless the
"polymath" list will become stale. However, I've ceased to be upset by
such things. A good dinner party has a beginning, middle and end --
one is rarely upset by the fact that it cannot go on forever. A good
book has a finish, too -- without an ending, one has soap
opera. Periodically, one must accept that a discussion clique, mailing
list, news group, or other discussion forum has outlived its
usefulness, and create a new one. I hope that this one is interesting
and provocative in its lifetime, and I'm happy to be here at the start
so I get to watch all the good bits."
Received on Mon Dec 14 20:26:40 1998

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