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I agree. But this is half the solution. The other half is an authoritative source that tracks the arguments and evidence for various hypotheses and theories. So a layperson can understand the basic argument and the strength of the evidence for or against it in about 15 minutes, but fractal in nature so that one can descend all the way down to the raw data if they choose. Something like Wikipedia, except for hypotheses and theories about how existence works. Then we can just link people to a source that outlines the flaws in their pet theories.

Side note: I think diet advocates and climate enthusiasts would be in for a bit of a shock from such a resource when they have to deal with the fact that epidemiology and model building are some of the weakest forms of evidence. But I digress.




This is something I have had at the back of my mind for a few years now - a website that lets people upload hypotheses and link evidence that supports or rejects the hypothesis.

Such a website would allow people to gain insights, by gathering individual bits of evidence observed in various news articles, research papers, etc. and linking them together to form a larger picture.


No way, I've always wanted to create something like this too. This person https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20477924 also shares our idea:

> I would love to see this baked into a social network as a substrate for semi-structured debate.

Gaining insight and collecting disparate facts to form a bigger picture, an "argument map", with the ability for others to collaborate--that's exactly it.

However in addition to all the great use cases you've outlined, I also see potential for personal use, particularly in making structured decisions.

For example, purchasing decisions: researching to buy or not to buy widget X (in my case recently, sentiment analysis on stocks). With the creation of a simple browser plugin that allows you to highlight text and quickly add it to the map, it would make it easy to centralize all misc pieces of information supporting/rejecting a decision. Supporting "evidence" added this way will automatically link to the source, and optionally snapshot the page to ensure context of the particular supporting evidence is never lost.

I think it would be a fun project to create. If you ever think to actually work on this, or if you're interested in working on this together, let me know!


Me too! I would also love to build this, and I've actually been thinking about it for ~5 years! This is one of the projects I was always planning to work on if I didn't need to worry about money. I don't want to monetize the site with ads, and I also didn't want to worry about chasing after donations. I was thinking that the core product could possibly be monetized for businesses to make better decisions, but that would be too risky (since most startups fail), and it would also dilute the vision (Wikipedia-scale fact database with weighted nodes and edges, to find answers and probabilities for humanity's biggest questions.) I should have really started working on it a long time ago.

I actually just started seriously thinking about it again over the last few weeks, so this HN comment thread is really surprising! I'm definitely interested in helping with development, and maybe sponsorship at some point in the future.

EDIT: This HN thread was the kick I needed to get started, although I don't know how much time I'll be able to spend on it. I'm really busy with my startup, so this will have to be an evening/weekend project for now. I've just registered FactGraph.org. (I'm not 100% sure about the name, but I haven't been able to think of any better names.)


Alright your recent edit has convinced me. I'm down to work on this together if you are! I'll send you an email once my day's over.

Names like KnowledgeGraph etc were what I came up with previously. I'll check my notes, think I had a few other good ones..


Hey, I've just started a Discord group for people who are interested in this kind of project. Please send me an email if you would like to join! (In my profile.)


Will do!



Hello, I've just started a Discord group for people who might be interested in this kind of project. Please send me an email if you would like to join! (In my profile.)


Kialo has something a lot like what you want. The wheel widget on the splash screen lets you see explore the arguments and counterarguments and then drill down.

https://www.kialo.com/the-rebel-alliance-would-defeat-the-un...

https://www.kialo.com/should-people-have-the-right-and-means...


I don't think super sound argumentation is really the solution to everything. There is this documentary Fog of War about the Vietnam War and one lesson there is that rationality alone won't save us. On the contrary it might have almost provoked nuclear war. ;)

About the side note, what forms of evidence do you think are stronger?


What else than rationality would be better? Gut feelings? Emotional arguments?

I guess you probably mean something like "taking into account human element", but all I can see when someone says "rational thinking isn't a solution" is something that boils down to "2+2 = 4 doesn't feel right to me, 2 cows plus 2 apples is not like 4 cows, therefore math isn't the answer". There are rules to thinking, and just because some people fail to use those rules correctly, doesn't mean the rulebook is bad.

(I don't know if by reference to provoking a nuclear war you mean MAD, but I think there's a solid argument that MAD saved us from nuclear war, and if people relied instead on more emotional calculus, we'd nuke ourselves to extinction a long time ago.)


Very much agree, let's not forget that this kind of thinking is most likely the reason Steve Jobs is not anymore among us. Rational reasoning does certainly not always lead to the best outcome, but on average, it does.

> What else than rationality would be better? Gut feelings? Emotional arguments?

Beliefs. :(


Who says argument maps rely on rationality? Many arguments are based on emotions and subjective values. Those can also be represented in the tool.


Yeah, but people utilize the reputation of institutions (like the NYT, Wikipedia, universities, churches, public figures, etc) all the time to add legitimacy to their ideology. If we want to spread a rational understanding of the world, then we need our own trusted institution. I think Wikipedia has shown that a user edited source can be a positive influence in this area. It's not sufficient, but it would help. Right now you have people flinging one-off scientific articles at each other and almost nobody who does this has any clue how actually important (or, more often, not) these articles are.


Hello, I've just started a Discord group for people who might be interested in this kind of project. Please send me an email if you would like to join! (In my profile.)


This fractal debating is kind-of captured by Kialo [0], not that it makes much difference on anyone's opinion.

[0] https://www.kialo.com/should-hpv-vaccinations-be-compulsory-...




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