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Welcome to Less Wrong! (2010-2011)

42 Post author: orthonormal 12 August 2010 01:08AM
This post has too many comments to show them all at once! Newcomers, please proceed in an orderly fashion to the newest welcome thread.

Comments (796)

Comment author: tmgerbich 26 April 2011 01:24:14PM 28 points [-]

Hello Less Wrong!

I was on facebook and I saw a wall post about the fanfiction Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. I haven't read fanfiction much since I was a kid, but the title was intriguing, so I clicked on it and started reading. The ideas were interesting enough that I went to the author's page and it brought me here.

Anyways, I'm a 22 year old female person. I'm graduating from college in 2 weeks with a chemistry major and I have no real plans, so it makes posting about my life situation a little awkward right now. I'll probably be heading back to the Chicagoland area and trying to find a job, I guess.

I can already tell that this site is going to wreak havoc on my ability to finish up all my projects, study for finals, and hang out with my friends. I just spent a couple hours reading randomly around and I can tell I've barely scratched the surface on the content. But after I almost died laughing at the post about the sheep and the pebbles I was hooked. Really, I just want to be a freshman again so I can spend my time staying up all night thinking and talking and puzzling things out with EZmode classes and no real responsibilities.

Anyways. I'm pretty excited about getting through the material on here. I love learning to understand how other people think, and how that helps them reach the conclusions that they reach. It's always terrifying when I realize that someone has posited an argument or a scenario that challenges my interpretation or understanding of the universe in a way that I can't easily refute- especially when I can't refute it because I realize they're right and I'm not.

Oddly enough, one of the scariest experiences of my life was when someone told me about the Monty Hall problem- two goats one car. A friend explained the scenario and asked me if I would switch doors. I jokingly replied that I probably wouldn't, since I was clearly already lucky enough to miss the goat once, I shouldn't start questioning my decision now. The friend told me that I was being irrational and that by switching, I would have a better chance of picking the car. I remember being scornful and insisting that the placement of the goat occurred prior to my choosing a door, and revealing one of the other doors could have no impact on the reality of what prize had already been placed behind what door. The friend finally gave up and told me to go look it up.

I looked up the problem and the explanation, and it sent me into a bit of a tailspin. As soon as I read the sentence that explained that by switching, I would end up with the car 2/3 of the time as opposed to 1/3 of the time, I felt my intuitive ideas being uprooted and turned on their head. As soon as it clicked, I thought of 4 or 5 other ways to think about the problem and get the right answer- and of course it was the right answer, because it made logical and intuitive sense. But then thinking back to how sure I had been just 10 minutes ago that my other instincts had been correct was horrifying.

Remembering how completely comfortable and secure I had felt in my initial reasoning was so jarring because it now seemed so obviously counter-intuitive. I'm usually very comfortable refining my ideas in light of new ones, incorporating new frameworks and modifying the way I understand things. But that comfortableness derives from the fact that I'm not actually that attached to many of my ideas. When I was in high school, my physics teacher stressed the importance of understanding that the things we were studying were not the true nature of reality. They represented a way of modeling phenomena that we could observe and quantify, but they were not reality, and different models were useful for different things. Similarly, I usually try to keep in mind that the majority of the time, the understanding I have of things is going to be imperfect and incomplete, because of course I don't have access to all the information necessary to make the perfect model. It followed that I should strive to be as adept as possible at incorporating new information into my model of understanding the universe whenever possible without resisting because I had some attachment to my preexisting ideas.

But the the case of the Monty Hall problem, I was confident that I understood the whole problem already. It seemed like my friend was trying to confuse my basic understanding of reality with a mathematical wording trick. Coming to an understanding of how deeply flawed my reasoning and intuition had been was exhilarating and terrifying. It was also probably at least a bit dramatized by the caffeine haze I was in at the time.

I think I still have a lot of ideas and ways of thinking that aren't quite rational. I can find inconsistencies in my understanding of the world. I know that a lot of them are grounded in my emotional attachment to certain ways of thinking that I have in common with people with whom I identify. I'm afraid if I really think about certain things, I'll come to conclusions that I either have to deliberately ignore or accept at the cost of giving up my ability to ignore certain truths in order to favor my personal attachments (Sorry that sentences was convoluted- I can't think of a better way to phrase it at 8 AM when I've been up all night).

Sometimes I'm legitimately afraid I might drive myself crazy by thinking. Even in college I have a hard time finding people who really want to talk about a lot of the things I think about. My roommate is the most wonderfully patient person in the world- she sits for hours and listens while I spout ideas and fears about all kinds of physics and philosophy and everything in between. And even though she can follow most everything (sometimes it takes some explaining), she doesn't even really find it very interesting. But there are times when I'm seriously concerned that I could go out of my head just from thinking and getting too close to my own horizon of imponderability and trying to conclude something or anything.

So yeah. I'm not quite sure if that's quite what we're supposed to do with introduction posts. In retrospect, I think I probably took way too long to drag out a rather boring story that could have been summarized in a few sentences and confided enough fears and weirdness to be off-putting and possibly discredited as a rationalist. Anyways… I've put off biochem proposals for hours reading here and now writing this, so I'm going to stick with it instead of redoing the whole thing and running out of time and failing to graduate. Props if you got through it all. Hopefully by the time I'm done here I'll be sophisticated enough to say all this in a few concise sentences. Is eliminating excess rambling part of rationality? But yeah- I've never really read other people's ideas about all these topics, and I'm kind of pumped about it. If I can understand even a bit of what y'all are talking about and figure out how to be a little less wrong I'll be a happy camper.

Comment author: Alicorn 26 April 2011 03:30:33PM *  6 points [-]

Welcome! I love your story about the Monty Hall problem. Consider putting it as a toplevel anecdote in the Discussion Section.

Comment author: Swimmer963 26 April 2011 01:32:01PM 4 points [-]

I'm very interesting in reading your future posts! It sounds like you have a lot of potential and a lot of learning to do, which is always the most exciting combination. I wish I could be your roommate and get to hear all of this!

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 26 August 2011 11:36:06AM *  27 points [-]


I'm a 32 year old physics PhD, working (so far) on the oh-so-fashionable subfield of graphene and carbon nanotubes. I took Quantum field theory, which is a little unusual for an experimentalist (though not positively rare). I have a background in programming, and a moderate degree of interest in AI.

I came here by way of the Methods of Rationality. After reading that, and upon seeing that there was a sequence on quantum mechanics, I had a suspicion that it wouldn't be terrible. This suspicion was vastly exceeded. I never encountered the slightest technical flaw, which is better than many physicists can produce on the subject, let alone philosophers and amateur physicists.

I began wandering and seeing what else there was, and it is good. The atmosphere also seems quite good around here, so I thought I'd join the community rather than treating it as a collection of essays and comments.

So here I am.

~~~~ Edited to add: ~~~

I am not sure how this got so many upvotes. Was it the praise? The brevity? That I'm a physicist? The score just stands out on the page a bit, and I'm not at all sure why.

Comment author: realitygrill 30 August 2011 08:41:03PM 5 points [-]

upvoted, because I've been wondering how the QM sequence is looked upon by physicists :)

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 08 September 2011 09:03:41PM *  7 points [-]

I'd be interested to know that myself.

I've only spoken with a few because it's a potentially awkward subject. I recall one other strongly and one other regular-strength in favor of MW+decoherence (both in my rough age-group);

one classmate said "decoherence, as I understand it, is a little more reasonable sounding than most", for ontology, but uses the Copenhagen interpretation when thinking about epistemology;

one professor was against MW just on uneasiness grounds, but didn't have a firm opinion;

one professor with the philosophy "If it's just quantum mechanics, I'm not interested. If it's not quantum mechanics, I'm not interested", which is formally equivalent to MW + decoherence but without the explicit acknowledgement that it is;

one who was against everything, especially the part with everything in it;

and too many "Let's stop talking about this/I'm not qualified to have an opinion/Aargh" to count.


In this tiny sample of mostly experimentalists:

People with a preference for the Bohm guide wave interpretation: 0

People with a preference for more sophisticated just-QM interpretations such as transactional or consistent histories: 0

People who accept wavefunction collapse as real: 1 on the fence.

A survey on the subject could be interesting.

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 09 October 2011 12:30:19AM *  4 points [-]

It's because you're a physicist who commented about the QM sequence. I, and apparently a lot of other people who've read it, really wanted to know if we've absorbed any mistakes. Thanks for giving a more informed opinion than most of us can bring. :)

Comment author: Stabilizer 14 December 2011 05:31:15AM *  23 points [-]

Hey everbody,

I'm a PhD Student in Physics. I came across Lesswrong when I read Eliezer's interview with John Baez. I was very intrigued by his answers: especially with his idea that the world needs to understand rationality. I identify with rationalism and especially with Lesswrong, because it just clicked. There were so many things in the world which people accepted and which I knew were just plain wrong. And before I found Lesswrong, I was a frustrated mess. And when I found Lesswrong it was a breath of fresh air.

For example: I was a pretty good debater in college. So in order to be a better debater, I started reading more about logical fallacies, which are common in argument and debate, such as ad hominem, slippery slope, appeal to authority etc . And the more I learnt about these, the more I saw that these were exactly the techniques common in debate. I was forced to conclude that debating was not about reaching the truth, but about proving the other person wrong. The people in debating circles were very intelligent; but very intelligent in a useless (and maybe harmful) way. They were scarcely interested in the truth. They could take any argument, twist it, contort it, appeal to emotions and use every fallacy listed in a beautiful way to win. And moreover, that was the exactly the kind of person I was becoming. In retrospect, it's clear to me that I got into debating only out of desire for status and not for any actual interest in the truth. But as soon as I saw what I was becoming, I walked away. I guess, the kernel of honesty left in me from being a student of physics rescued me in the end.

Second example: One of the first articles that really brought me into reading major portions of Lesswrong was the article on Doublethink by Eliezer. So when I was going through a phase of depression, I thought that religion held the key. Now, I did not believe in any kind of spiritual god or any spiritual structure whatsoever. But my family is extremely religious and I saw the happiness they got from religion. So I tried. I tried to convince myself that religion has a very important social function and saves people from anomie and depression. I tried to convince myself that one could be religious and yet not believe in god. I tried to go through all the motions of my religion. Result? Massive burnout. My brain was going to explode in a mass of self-contradiction. That post by Eliezer really helped me. There's a line in there:

The happiness of stupidity is closed to you. You will never have it short of actual brain damage, and maybe not even then... You cannot unsee what you see.

As I read these lines, I literally felt a huge wave of relief sweep over me. I wasn't going to be happy with religion. Period. I wasn't going to be happy with self-deception. Period. And I knew I had finally found people who 'got it'.

So that was a glimpse of how and why I got interested in Lesswrong. I'm reading the Sequences and looking around these days. I hope to start posting soon. And also attend LW meetups in my city.

I'm deeply interested in ideas from evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, computer science and of course physics! I work broadly on quantum information theory.



Comment author: Swimmer963 12 January 2012 04:27:24PM *  4 points [-]

Welcome, Stabilizer!

So I tried. I tried to convince myself that religion has a very important social function and saves people from anomie and depression. I tried to convince myself that one could be religious and yet not believe in god. I tried to go through all the motions of my religion. Result? Massive burnout. My brain was going to explode in a mass of self-contradiction.

Interesting that you say this...I haven't had the same experience at all. I was raised basically agnostic/atheist, by parents who weren't so much disapproving of religion as indifferent. I started going to church basically because I made friends with a girl who I had incredibly fun times hanging out with and who was also a passionate born-again Christian. I knew that most of the concepts expressed in her evangelical Christian sect were fallacious, but I met a lot of people whose belief had allowed them to overcome difficult situations and live much happier lives. Even if true belief wasn't an option for me, I could see the positive effect that my friend's church had, in general, in the community it served. And I was a happier, more positive, and more generous person while I attended the group. There was a price to pay: either I would profess my belief to the others and feel like I was lying to a part of myself, or I wouldn't, and feel like ever-so-slightly an outsider. But maybe because of my particular brain architecture, the pain of cognitive dissonance was far outweighed by the pleasure of having a ready-made community of kind, generous (if not scientific-minded) people eager to show me how welcoming and generous they could be. I have yet to find something that is as good for my mental health and emotional stability as attending church.

That being said, a year of not attending church and reading LessWrong regularly has honed my thinking to the point that I don't think I could sit back and enjoy those church services anymore. So that avenue is closed to me now, too.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 12 January 2012 05:28:04PM 3 points [-]

For what it's worth, it depends a lot on the church service: I know quite a few very sharp thinkers whose church membership is an important and valuable part of their lives in the way you describe. But they are uniformly members of churches that don't demand that members profess beliefs.

One gentleman in particular gave a lay sermon to his church on Darwin's birthday one year about how much more worthy of admiration a God who arranges the fundamental rules of the universe in such a way that intelligent life can emerge naturally out of their interaction, than is a God who instead must clumsily go in and manually construct intelligent life, and consequently how much more truly worshipful a view of life is the evolutionary biologist's than the creationist's, which was received reasonably positively.

So you might find that you can get what you want by just adding constraints to the kind of church service you're looking for.

Comment author: Swimmer963 15 January 2012 02:37:59PM 4 points [-]

I know quite a few very sharp thinkers whose church membership is an important and valuable part of their lives in the way you describe. But they are uniformly members of churches that don't demand that members profess beliefs.

Sounds like the Unitarian church that my parents took us to for a few years...I'm not sure why they took us, but I think it might have had more to do with "not depriving the children of a still-pretty-typical childhood experience like going to Sunday school" than with a wish to have church an important part of their lives.

I would probably enjoy the Unitarian community if I joined for long enough to really get to know them... I'm sure the adults were all very kind, welcoming people. Still, the two churches that I've attended the most are High Anglican and Pentecostal. The Anglican cathedral is where I sang in the choir for more than five years, and the music is what really drew me; although the Anglican church is very involved in community projects and volunteering, almost the whole congregation is above the age of fifty, and the young people who do attend are often cautious, conservative, and not especially curious about the world, which reduces the amount of fun I can have with them.

Surprisingly enough, in the Pentecostal church where the actual beliefs professed are much more extreme, most of the congregation are young and passionate about life and even intellectually curious. They are fun to hang out with...in fact, I frequently had more fun spending a Friday night at a Pentecostal event than at a party. They took their beliefs seriously and really lived according to how they saw the Bible, even though I have no doubt their actions would have been considered weird in a lot of contexts and by many of their friends. I think a lot of the apparent mental health benefit of this church came from the community's decision to stop caring about social stigmas and just live. This is, I think, what I most respected about them...but for a lot of the same reasons, I now find their ideas and beliefs a lot more jarring than those of the Anglican church.

I have no doubt that there are churches on all sides of the continuum: "traditional" communities, like the Anglican church, which are socially liberal and also composed of fun young people...and also fundamentalist evangelical churches which have ossified into organizations with strict rules and a lot more old people than young people. Maybe somewhere out there is a church that has all the aspects I like (singing, rituals, fun young people who do outrageous things together and bond over it) and is also bearable non-evangelical, non-fundamentalist, and socially liberal, but I haven't found it yet.

Comment author: thomblake 11 January 2012 06:24:04PM 3 points [-]



Please do not sign your posts. That information is conveyed by the username listed at the top of the post.

Comment author: SRStarin 17 December 2010 03:45:07PM *  20 points [-]

My name is Scott Starin. I toyed with the idea of using a pseudonym, but I decided that this site is related enough to my real world persona that I should be safe in claiming my LW persona.

I am a spacecraft dynamics and control expert working for NASA. I am a 35-year old man married to another man, and we have a year-old daughter. I am an atheist, and in the past held animist and Christian beliefs. I would describe my ethics as rationally guided with one instinctive impulse to the basic Christian idea of valuing and respecting one's neighbor, and another instinctive impulse to mistrust everyone and growl at anyone who looks like they might take my food. Understanding my own humanity and human biases seems a good path toward suppressing the instinctive impulses when they are inappropriate.

I came to this site from an unrelated blog that briefly said something like "Eliezer Yudkowsky is frighteningly intelligent" and linked to this site. So, I came to see for myself. I've read through a lot of the sequences. I really enjoyed the Three Worlds Collide story and forced my husband to read it. EY does seems to be intelligent, but I'm signing up because he and the rest of the community seem to shine brightest when new ideas are brought in. I have some ideas that I haven't seen expressed, so I hope to contribute.

One area where I might contribute is from my professional interest in the management of catastrophic risk of spacecraft failure, which shares some ideas with biases associated with existential risk to the human species. Yudkowsky's book chapter on the topic was really helpful.

Another area is in the difference between religious belief and religious practice. The strong tendency to reject religious belief by members of the LW community may come at the expense of really understanding what powerful emotional, and yet rational, needs may be met by religious practice. This is probably a disservice to those religious readers you have who could benefit from enhanced conversation with LW atheists. Religious communities serve important needs in our society, such as charitable support for the poor or imprisoned and helping loved ones who are in real existential crisis (e.g. terminally ill or suicidal), etc. (Some communities may even produce benefits that outweigh the costs of whatever injury to truth and rationality they may do.) It struck me that a Friendly AI that doesn't understand these needs may not be feasible, so I thought I should bring it up.

I hope readers will note my ample use of "may" and "might" here. I haven't come to any firm conclusions, but I have good reasons for my thoughts. (I'll have to prove that last claim, I know. As a good-faith opener, I do go to a church that has a lot of atheist members--not agnostics, true atheists, like me.) I confess the whole karma thing at this site causes me some anxiety, but I've decided to give it a try anyway. I hope we can talk.

(Since I'm identifying myself, I am required by law to say: Nothing I write on this site should be construed as speaking for my employer. I won't put a disclaimer in every post--that could get annoying--only those where I might reasonably be thought to be speaking for or about my work at NASA.)

Comment author: purplerabbits 19 January 2012 06:04:20PM 17 points [-]

Hi, I'm Alison - I used to be a professional tarot reader and astrologer in spite of having a (fairly average) science degree. I recovered from that over 15 years ago and feel it would be valuable for more people to understand how I came to do it and how I changed my mind. I am also a 45 year old woman, which makes me feel in a tiny minority on LW.

I've been reading large chunks of the sequences for the last year, as well as books like Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear and a bunch of rationalist blogs (and been thoroughly sucked into HPMOR).

Topics I'm particularly interested in include day to day rationality, tackling global warming, rationality from the perspective of people with mental health issues and tackling irrationality while maintaining polite and less arrogant discourse.

Comment author: [deleted] 03 February 2012 03:04:22PM 5 points [-]

Hi Alison! Welcome to LessWrong! I'm always happy to see people who are interested in maintaining politeness on here.

I have a friend who is a professional psychic/ magician/ tarot reader, and he is extremely rational (uses cold reading and builds technology stuff for tricks.). I don't think you necessarily have to give the profession up if it's something you enjoy. So long as you don't fall prey to the trap of believing your own schtick.

I would love to hear your story of how you came to change your mind!

Glad to have you here!

Comment author: rlp10 02 February 2012 08:08:26PM 3 points [-]

I used to be a professional tarot reader and astrologer

May I ask, at that time did you thoroughly believe that you were actually able to predict the future?

Also, with the benefit of hindsight, do you consider yourself to have used the dark arts?

Comment author: JonathanLivengood 01 September 2011 10:00:12PM 16 points [-]

Hullo Less Wrongers,

I am a philosopher working mostly on methodology and causal inference, though I also dabble in (new wave) experimental philosophy -- not to be confused with the straight-up physics that went by that name from the days of Newton and Boyle until some time in the mid-nineteenth century. ;)

I just finished my PhD (in history and philosophy of science) and started as an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign on August 16th.

From time to time over the last two or three years, I've glanced at Less Wrong and found it engaging. I am a bit depressed at the pessimism often displayed with respect to contemporary philosophy, but part of that depression is the recognition that the critiques are pretty reasonable. Anyway, I thought I should officially sign on so that I can throw in my two cents and expose my thinking to severe -- but, hopefully, courteous -- testing.

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 01 September 2011 10:11:13PM *  8 points [-]


I am a bit depressed at the pessimism often displayed with respect to contemporary philosophy, but part of that depression is the recognition that the critiques are pretty reasonable.

Don't worry, 99% of philosophy is crud, but only because 99% of everything is crud. (That doesn't sound as reassuring as it did in my head. :-) )

Comment author: TedW 12 August 2010 01:49:58PM 15 points [-]

I thank the Ravenclaw Harry Potter for bringing me here. I've been lurking for a couple of weeks. My first clue that I'd feel at home here was learning that Eliezer taught himself physics by reading the Feynman lectures.

I'm an evolutionary ecologist by training, and a self-taught Python programmer and GIS analyst. I currently work at a community college, where I do a lot of one-on-one biology-teaching. I spend a lot of time thinking about where students go wrong when they're thinking about science, and how to help them think more about their own thinking. (In my department we call it metacognition.) I'm also the father of a four-year-old, and so I also spend a good part of my home-life confronting and responding to some pretty fascinating cognitive and philosophical puzzles. (Her latest interest: the origins and arbitrariness of names.)

I've been developing as a rationalist (without the label) since who-knows-when during childhood, but I trace my more careful, articulated thinking about my own thinking to my early grad-school days, when I spent a lot of time fretting over how scientists should think about nature and problem-solving.

I'm looking forward to learning some new cognitive habits (my current thing is to think of -- and teach -- many cognitive skills as habits) and reinforcing some that I already have.

Comment author: JesseGalef 18 October 2011 04:02:09AM 14 points [-]

Hi everyone, my name is Jesse. I was introduced to LessWrong by my sister, Julia, a couple years ago and I've found the posts here fantastic.

Since college, I've been a professional atheist. I've done communications/PR work for three secular nonprofit organizations, helping to put a friendly face on nontheistic people and promoting a secular worldview/philosophy. It doesn't exactly pay well, but I like knowing that I'm part of making the world a more rational place.

I'm fascinated by a lot of the same things you are - psychology, rationality, language. But as a communications director, I have a particular passion for effective communication and persuasion. The "A Human's Guide to Words" sequence was invaluable in shaping my understanding and practice.

The question currently on my mind (among others) is: "Does it make sense to call a particular persuasion technique unethical? Or does it entirely depend on how it's used?"

Let me know what you think, and I look forward to being a part of this community!

  • Jesse
Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 18 October 2011 04:58:43AM *  20 points [-]

Some questions to ask:

  • Am I making people stronger, or weaker?
  • What would they think if they knew exactly what I was doing?
  • If lots of people used this technique, would the world be better off or worse off? Is that already happening and am I just keeping pace? Am I being substantially less evil than average?
  • Is this the sort of Dark Art that corrupts anything it touches (like telling people to have faith) or is it more neutral toward the content conveyed (like using colorful illustrations or having a handsome presenter speak a talk)?

(I've recently joked that SIAI should change its motto from "Don't be jerks" to "Be less evil than Google".)

Comment author: kilobug 18 October 2011 12:08:20PM 4 points [-]

"Am I making people stronger, or weaker?" That's a very important question, and sometimes hard to get right.

Consider a theist for whom the belief in god is a fundamental aspect of his life, whose faith makes him strong because it gives him something to protect. Breaking (or weakening) his belief in god before he built himself a line of retreat can do much more harm than good.

What should be done is first building the line of retreat, showing him that even without a god, his life does not become pointless, his ethics won't crumble to dust, and the thing he wants to protect is still worth protecting. And then, but only then, showing to him that his belief in god is not only unnecessary, but also making him weaker.

Comment author: earthwormchuck163 11 December 2011 01:57:33AM *  13 points [-]

I'm bad at this.

Oh well here goes.

Hi there! I'm Erik. I'm 20 years old.

I am a pure math major at the University of Waterloo. I am half way through my third year here.

That being said, I am largely an autodidact, which I gather is pretty common around these parts. Up until age 13 or so I was primarily interested in physics. In the course of trying to learn physics, I inevitably had to learn some math. So I did, and I never looked back. I can actually pinpoint the exact moment, all those years ago, when I became sure that I would spend the rest of my life doing math. But I won't bore you with such an excessively personal story.

My mathematical interests are fairly broad. My single greatest fear is that I will probably have to specialize at some point, to learn truly focus on one subject area; To think that I could ever actively decide not to want to learn all the things. I plan to delay this for as long as possible.

I tend to lean towards what I consider to be a pragmatic form of ultrafinitism. Other mathematicians tend to punch me when I talk about that though. A favourite pet problem of mine is to try to work how to recover things like eg real analysis without having to talk about infinity. That's a pretty tame example, but try doing this for all the math you know and it gets pretty interesting!

I also have a few interests outside of math and physics.

I like anime; A few of my recent favourites include Redline, Mahou Shojou Madoka Magica and Nichijou, all from this past year.

I like video games. My usual approach here is to play a few games very deeply. My all time favourite game is Super Smash Bros Melee, which still has an amazing competitive scene today. I am also a big fan of, and occasional participant in, TASing. I used to speedrun Super Metroid a lot, and I started working on TASing it back in 07 for a while. That proved to be too tedious for me though, so I mostly just watch the runs these days.

I listen to a pretty broad range of music as well. I've tried learning to play both piano and guitar, but never got past the "embarrassingly bad" stage.

In terms of rationalist origin story... Uhh not much interesting really to say here. My parents aren't religious, so I never had that influence. And I've been surrounded by and versed in physics and the sciences more generally for literally as long as I can remember. I have an old habit of periodically taking a piece of knowledge that I catch myself taking for granted and forcing myself work out exactly why I know that thing. An easy example: How do you know how far away the sun is? Or a little trickier: How do you know that everything is made out of atoms, and how do you know how small they are? I think I formed this habit because it saved me from having to ever remember very much; I figured out pretty early on that keeping my belief web as connected as possible would save me a lot of effort. I think this is also related to my fear of specialization.

I had a brief period when I was very vocal about atheism. I got tired of that pretty quickly though. For the most part the community just seemed pretty boring: Yep. We still don't believe in God. GO TEAM.

LW stands out as something special though. It's not just a lot of people who also don't believe in silly nonsense. It's not just about bring everyone up to some baseline of sanity. It's about striving for an as-of-yet unimagined level of rationality. That's just awesome and I want to be a part of it.

Comment author: cousin_it 11 December 2011 02:16:42PM 10 points [-]

An easy example: How do you know how far away the sun is?

Terry Tao has a really cool presentation on that topic: The Cosmic Distance Ladder.

Comment author: Alaeriia 13 November 2011 07:52:18PM 13 points [-]


I am a 22-year-old middle-class male from the Boston area. I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at a young age, and have lived most of my life on medication, primarily Concerta. I found this site after reading all of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality in one sleepless night and wanting to read more about rationality. I consider myself to be a rationalist-in-training; while I am capable of actually changing my mind (I believe), I am a procrastinator and let my emotions get the better of me at times. I am pleased to find a community of rationalists, as I can learn from them and better my own skills as a rationalist. I will likely not post very much, but the posts I do write will hopefully be of high quality. (I find that negative incentives, e.g. karma downvotes, have a powerful effect on me; also, I am a perfectionist and want anything I do to be done right the first time according to objective criteria, such as using proper grammar and such.) I can type approximately 50 words per minute (hunt-and-peck) and am obsessed with roller coasters. I hope that I will be accepted into the Less Wrong community.



Comment author: Gedusa 15 May 2011 07:22:02PM *  12 points [-]

Hi Less Wrong!

Decided to register after seeing this comment and wanting to post give a free $10 to a cause I value highly.

I got pulled into less wrong by being interested in transhumanist stuff for a few years, finally decided to read here after realizing that this was the best place to discuss this sort of stuff and actually end up being right as opposed to just making wild predictions with absolutely no merit. I'm an 18 year old male living in the UK. I don't have a background in maths or computer sci as a lot of people here do (though I'm thinking of learning them). I'm just finishing up at school and then going on to do a philosophy degree (hopefully - though I'm scared of it making me believe crap things)

I've found the most useful LW stuff to be along the lines of instrumental rationality (the more recent stuff). Lukeprog's sequence on winning at life is great! My favorite LW-related posts have been:

  • The Cynic's Conundrum: Because I used to think idealistically about my own thought processes and cynically about other people's. In essence I fell into comfortable cynicism.

  • Tsuyoku Naritai! (I Want To Become Stronger): Because this was just really galvanizing and made me want to do better, much more than any self-help stuff ever did!

  • A Suite of Pragmatic Considerations in Favor of Niceness: Fantastic as I tended (and still tend to) be mean for no real reason and this post put a lot of motivation towards stopping. I've actually started to have niceness as a terminal value now, which is a tad odd.

So anyway, I'm happy to have registered and I hope to get stronger and have fun here!

Comment author: DBreneman 26 April 2011 12:03:49PM 12 points [-]

Hi there everyone, I'm a programmer by trade and a video game maker by inclination. I first ran across Less Wrong while random-walking through tvtropes. I read a little of it, found it daunting but fascinating, and it... sat in my bookmarks for about a year after that.

Later, I random-walked upon Harry Potter atMoR, and it rekindled my interest. I'd read a chapter, get on lesswrong, and try and find all the tricks that harry (or other characters) used for that chapter. It was still slow going, because I wanted not just to read the material, but to absorb it and become stronger (Tsuyoku Naritai!)

I... pretty desperately needed it. I grew up in a rural community with an absolutely abhorrent school system, even by the standards of the american school system. I had a middle-school understanding of math and logic going into college, and am still recovering from the effects of a bad start (Bayesian theory and the QM sequence are on the very edge of what's possible for me, but stronger, stronger, I will learn)

I 'came out' as an atheist two years ago to my parents, and began rearranging my life insurance to go to an Alcor membership two weeks ago. All in all, I'm not terribly new to 'critical' thinking in terms of not taking a claim at face value, but still learning how to truly deeply analyze claims as a rationalist.

So um.. hi

Comment author: playtherapist 28 October 2010 02:31:30AM 12 points [-]

Hi. I've been lurking here for awhile, because my son is a major contributor. I recently confessed that I was reading his posts and he urged me to register and contribute. I made my first comment a few minutes ago, in response to "What hardcore singularity believers should consider doing."

I think I'm probably atypical for this site. I'm a 58 year old, female, clinical social worker. I've worked in mental institutions, foster care for the disabled and, for the past 21 years as a play therapist with children. I'm also a part-time artist and a volunteer executive director of a non-profit organization. I'm not sure that I am a "rationalist".

Comment author: KrisC 12 August 2010 10:06:35AM 12 points [-]

Hello all. I've been meaning to introduce myself in the old welcome thread for a while now.

I found this site shortly after Overcoming Bias while doing research for an open source project I'm planning to make public within the next few months. The project is peer-based and derived from what I learned about decision making in anthropology classes. (Don't worry, the methods have been Bayesian since before I knew the term.)

In addition to teaching myself Java and a variety of other languages to put that project together, I also do some 3D design and printing. Trying to build a strong skillset for a post scarcity world brought about by personalized manufacturing. Any time now....

I had a lot of early childhood exposure to both the occult and organized religion. I feel that by early 20s I pretty well exhausted everything mysticism and esoteric knowledge has to offer. I have a tendency to get defensive when entire traditions are dismissed by those who have only cursory familiarity. When a group of people pursue a discipline they believe to be useful for centuries, some of their methods and conclusions may be useful.

Studied Materials Engineering and Anthropology (no degree - long story). Volunteered for many years at an industrial history museum (Master Weaver, Journeyman Potter, Tanner, and Millwright). Have found work drawing maps, cooking food, and running games (RPGs). I picked my current job in a highly rational manner, and it is so boring and methodical that I yearn to program robots to do it. I try not to deceive, always try new things, and try to live longer. Plus, I love and tend to abuse parentheses().

Great site, btw.

Comment author: Celestia 02 November 2011 04:02:34PM *  11 points [-]

Hello Less Wrongians! I'm a 17 year old American student who found Less Wrong through Common Sense Atheism, and has lurked here for several months. Only today did I decide that this was a community I wanted to take the next step with; actually join.

I've always had a rationalist "pull." Though for most of my life it manifested itself in a Traditional Rationalist way, I have a profound drive to find out what is the case. I was raised as a Roman Catholic, though not a particularly strict one, but abandoned this very quickly (fifth grade), helped along by a love of science and a penchant for philosophical questioning which had begun in childhood. My education has been tumultuous. I've always been a bright kid, but for much of my school career felt that I was being held back, so I did most of my learning from books and the internet on my own time; after I'd finished a test early, or at lunch, or after school. This wasn't helped by a massive bout of anxiety I encountered in middle school surrounding rather vicious bullying I suffered for my perceived sexuality (though those harassing me were technically correct - I'm gay). Still, I managed to maintain my As so that I could go to a private high school, and I only had to do two years of middle school as my parents had finally agreed to skip me ahead a grade.

Through high school I studied a lot of philosophy and science, which clarified my thinking and solidifed my orientation as a Traditional Rationalist, but I still faced many seemingly insurmountable philosophical puzzles. It was by stumbling on fields that Less Wrong is known for - decision theory, cognitive science, etc.- that I started to dissolve questions that seemed impossible to answer. My voracious hunger for truth was actually being met, and real progress could be made. A perfect storm of intense autodidactism and general online reading led me to stumble upon Less Wrong, which further clarified and informed my general philosophy, which I'm confident I can refer to as "rationalist."

To wrap up, because I skipped a year of school I graduated high school this June at age 17, and am taking a year off before I head off to college in fall 2012. During this period I'm ratcheting up my already intense autodidactism in a wide variety of fields (using Less Wrong, Khan Academy, and other such resources as well as textbooks) and am studying physics as the private protege of a professor at a nearby university. I intend to study physics or economics in college, as while I love philosophy, most of it is worthless and it is much easier to teach oneself/study on the side than the former two fields.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 04 November 2011 09:20:30AM 3 points [-]

Why do you intend to study physics or economics in college?

Comment author: Ambition 30 August 2011 03:15:21AM 11 points [-]

Hi! I want to use the Rationality Methods to improve my understanding of myself and how to improve. I guess you could say I had a strange way of "waking up" to Rationality. Many say they looked to rationality after realizing their religion was .... yeah. Well... That was a bit strange for me. when my parents married, "I was born about a year later", they were both from christian families and just went with it. When they realized that Christianity didn't match with the way things actually worked, the explained it all out to me. I was 5. Naturally that got my 5 year old mind thinking, "Wait.... Daddy was WRONG???". It took him about 2 hours to explain this strange new concept to me. That was step 1, on my path to rationality. I... am a 13 year old, confident, curious young male who decided that he wanted to skip the 30 years of bad habits and jump to the rational part. For my security, call me "Ambition".

Comment author: madair 12 August 2010 08:27:57AM 11 points [-]

I think that's the most inviting community post I have ever read. I've been a lurker for awhile with almost no participation. Lately I've started catching up on old articles. My background is raised in a Jesus people hippie cult and thus took a long road to atheism and attempted rationality.

In other forums I tend to participate more (I'm a software developer, so that's plenty of online community). However I'm at LessWrong to learn, and so I don't have much to contribute at present. Which reminds me, I love this place for not being ivory tower. I find too much of this type of community in other forums to be biased towards academia (and somehow proud of it). It's a nice contrast here.

Comment author: ciphergoth 12 August 2010 08:32:16AM 6 points [-]

Wow, thanks! It's been said with some justice that LessWrong is ridiculously forbidding, so it's nice that it doesn't always come across that way.

Comment author: MartinB 12 August 2010 04:43:19PM 5 points [-]

The first few times I got down voted it hurt a bit, but it is a signal (in many cases) that something with my commenting was wrong, and as long as that is the case I prefer to have it pointed out. Note that there are also people being helpful when you commit errors, or write articles. I think the less inviting feeling can come from the higher regard for content. In some atheism forums where I post we have super nice theists posting, and getting respected just for being honest and decent people. Which is fine, but they do not get any flack for the content they write. On LW you don't get additional karma points for being a nice person.

PS: welcome

Comment author: Aurini 12 August 2010 06:57:50AM *  11 points [-]

Well, I never did get around to introducing myself in the original thread, so I might as well post something here.

I spent six years as an infantry soldier, did most of a History degree before dropping out in disgust, have a Post Apocalyptic scifi novel currently in negotiations with a publisher, I used to be a math prodigy but now I can barely remember Calculus, taught myself auto mechanics over the period of one month after buying a car for a pack of cigarettes, I ride a motorcycle, I have some sort of mutant ability to talk cops down when they start feeling violent, and am drastically over skilled and under employed.

I'm hoping to contribute to the community more substantially than just leaving comments; I have a couple of posts I'm working out in my head. The first is a summary of TVTropes - what it is and why it's important - the other being a guide to using the Dark Arts.

I really regret my math not being up to par for this community; I tend to understand things on a gut/instinctual level (ie: I can catch a ball, but have trouble calculating the trajectory) but my math's too rusty to 'prove' most of my ideas.

Despite a deep-seated desire for it to be otherwise, I dwell in the banker-run metropolis of Calgary, Alberta.

Also, I have a blog where I write about how Vile and Unconscionable it is, living in this dystopia: www.staresattheworld.com

Comment author: [deleted] 07 December 2011 07:56:00PM *  10 points [-]

I am a (shy) NEET who has been stalking the blog for some months now but only recently made an account.

Unfortunately, I cannot really remember how I came across Less Wrong but it quickly started affecting me in the same way TV Tropes does (I have about 10 LW tabs open at the moment).

I find the site really interesting and helpful, yet don't expect to comment that often. I feel as if my English and general knowledge are still not on the average level here so I'll read and read until that improves.

I enjoy anime, computer games, looking at images of cute things, Lolita Fashion and reading, among other things.

I dislike sports, don't -usually- find television or movies interesting and mostly dislike social interaction in person (its fine if I do it through the internet).

I tried studying psychology at a local university but all of the classes were full of nonsense (picture a statistics teacher who said his class was not about math but about arithmetic...) and the hall just outside was full of smokers at all times. I have sensitive lungs and can't tolerate smoke.

I hope to learn a lot here~


Comment author: jrichardliston 15 November 2011 05:10:01PM 10 points [-]

Hello all!

I was pointed to LW by a friend who makes a lot of sense a lot of the time. He suggested the LW community would take some interest in an education project I've been working on for over two years, The Sphere College Project. Before introducing myself I spent a few weeks perusing LW sequences. This could go on for quite some time, so I'll go ahead and jump in.

I'm 50 years old, born and raised in the US in a series of towns throughout South Carolina. I had aptitude for mathematics and music. I pursued music and became a formidable trombonist living in NYC and playing classical and jazz music. I could sight-read anything. In 1982 my girlfriend's father worked for IBM, so I got to play around with his IBM PC. I was hooked (particularly loved "Adventure", but could only fit math/computers into my scant spare time. I did read "Godel, Escher, Bach" while studying trombone at the Eastman School of Music. Later, while doing my DMA in music I observed that most of the musicians I encountered in their 50s, 60s and 70s didn't appear to be loving the life anymore, so I decided I would leave music entirely, and began taking courses in math/physics/computer science at Columbia. I discovered that I had greater aptitude than I had previously thought, and I truly enjoyed these subjects. After a Master's in CS at Wake Forest University (thesis in graph theory--love it!) I worked at Data General with some exceptional software engineers. It was there that I learned more about optimizing my own processes. Later, I pursued a PhD in CS at Georgia Tech, researching Computer Networking. I was fascinated with global communication systems.

I had done work in the arts and the sciences, but knew that my facility in the humanities paled in comparison, so I chose to seek a position at a small liberal arts college in the northeast, which would allow me to interact closely with professors in many disciplines. I accepted a position at Ursinus College. The great advantage of Ursinus for me was that all (meaning "most") professors were required to teach the freshman seminar course---primarily a humanities course. What better way to learn the humanities than to be thrust in front of sixteen 17 and 18 year olds? It was transformative for me, helping me identify what I truly wanted to do with my life: help people learn what they want to learn. So I didn't get tenure (3 years ago) and found myself on the market. I started looking at positions at wasn't excited about my options, now that I had some experience in what we like to call higher education.

So like a good software engineer, I identified my primary requirement: have as much impact on the world as possible. How? By providing education for the huge population of adults who do not fit the traditional model of higher education; by teaching people in the way they learn by providing the environment that fits them best; by making it financially accessible to anyone who wishes to engage in their education; by making the program proceed at their schedule, not a "hard-coded" two- or four-year schedule; by allowing them to first identify what they are passionate about and wish to accomplish with their lives, then helping them gain the directly related interdisciplinary skills they need, then gaining practical experience in their field; and by making it all fun for them.

All this made perfect sense to me. I couldn't find an institution that had all the required elements, so I decided to found The Sphere College Project. It's been a monumental struggle (typical businesspeople don't grok the model at all), but even in our resource-limited state it's been working well for some of the students, including one who had no concept of negative numbers when she began. I'm currently working to scale up our model. I'm convinced it's going to happen, because it must. Meanwhile, I'm doing everything I can to connect with people who agree that a new model of education is of critical importance to creating a functional society.

I'm pleased to join you here, and look forward to reading more.

Richard Liston

Comment author: Morendil 15 November 2011 05:18:13PM 3 points [-]

Welcome to Less Wrong!

I observed that most of the musicians I encountered in their 50s, 60s and 70s didn't appear to be loving the life anymore, so I decided I would leave music entirely

That's kind of impressive, an application of the "outside view" in just the way recommended by Daniel Gilbert's "Stumbling on Happiness".

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 15 November 2011 06:46:54PM 4 points [-]

I know someone who compared lifespans of poets vs. prose writers, and went into prose as a result.

Comment author: Karmakaiser 08 November 2011 09:26:05PM 10 points [-]

Hello Less Wrong,

I am a 22 year old, caucasian lower class community college student interested in becoming more rational in order to achieve the goal of being useful to the human species. I am a student whose education is taking far too long for financial reasons but I am pursuing a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Cognitive Science because I want to understand human rationality at a deeper level. From there I will decide from my performance in classes if I am smart enough to tackle grad school. I often feel outclassed when reading the discussions here but I plan to learn enough to be useful in conversation just as quick as I can. I intend to become as rational as I am able with my meat brain. I became an atheist in High School, likely about at age 16, but have always deeply suspected there was no god since some brain worm burrowed into my head when I was 6 and said "If something is moral, then it is moral for its own reasons, not because God said so." Though the exact thought that I mulled over in my Sunday School class was "God has to play by the rules." That lead me to always be the devil's advocate in theological discussions (I was raised in a private christian school) so my deconversion was expected and those more liberal theists who were friends with me beforehand have not changed their opinion of me to a great degree. I've been an aspiring rationalist as long as I can remember, even when I was a Christian I thought faith was a stupid idea, but I didn't know about Probability Theory and Biases until now. I value being right. I want my beliefs to be correct ones. Wanting to be right is the most perfect goal, because from it flows all others. Not perfect in the sense of goodness, but perfect in the sense that nothing can be added or taken away. If you want to cure polio then you must have correct beliefs about Penicillin. If you want to take over the world you must have correct beliefs about the current political system so that you can manipulate it. If you want to program in python it helps to have correct beliefs about it's syntax.

Thank you for making me progressively more sane.

Comment author: Flay 16 September 2011 02:19:10PM 10 points [-]

Hi all, call me Flay.

I'm a 20-year old graphic design student and traditional artist (figure drawing, mainly) with an array of other odd interests on the side, from costume makeup to programming. Although I do enjoy what I do, and it can certainly be very challenging, I sometimes feel there are parts of my analytical mind being neglected. Reading a few of the sequences here and being thrown all of a sudden back in to the deep end of reason made me realise how much I miss the sensation, and so I decided to register. One of my driving motivations is to try to optimize myself as much as possible, and achieve all I can. As you could guess I’m more than a little perfectionistic, although I'm slowly learning to be less uptight about the whole deal.

I came across Less Wrong while I was researching the singularity movement. I don't consider myself a rationalist yet (or a follower of the singularity movement for that matter), only because I have a great deal more reading to do first. In particular, I haven't finished reading through the core sequences yet, but I intend to do so soon.

Looking forward to meeting everyone!

Comment author: juliawise 23 July 2011 11:59:19PM 10 points [-]

Hello. I found LW from two directions: first, I'm serious about philanthropy, and saw references to LW on GiveWell. Second, my husband and I are reading aloud from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality each night.

I'm a grad student in social work. I find that social work has a lot in common with some of LW's goals (mainly self-improvement). Given that LW is aimed at very high-functioning people, which most social work is not, it uses some different methods. But I suspect LW could benefit from some ideas from social work.

Comment author: lukeprog 02 January 2011 06:19:00PM 10 points [-]

I suppose I should introduce myself.

I've been reading Overcoming Bias and Less Wrong intermittently for more than a year. I only recently became active, posting a few comments and attending a meetup in Irvine, CA.

I'm a 25-year-old computer systems administrator for businesses in L.A. county, but my real passion is philosophy, and I hope to return to school and become a philosophy professor one day.

Though I was raised an evangelical Christian and pastor's kid, I now write the popular atheism blog Common Sense Atheism and also host three podcasts: one on philosophy, one on meta-ethics, and one on Christianity. On that site I've also posted many Less Wrong-related posts.

P.S. Thanks to orthonormal for this post and for a fun list of 'instant gratification' posts on Less Wrong.

Comment author: FranFin 22 August 2010 08:02:11PM 10 points [-]

I accidentally posted the following comment earlier today in the May 2009 Introduction page. Hal suggested I re-post it here, where it belongs:

Those of you who were at the 2010 SIngularity Summit in San Francisco last weekend might have seen me. I was hovering around "the guy in the motorized wheelchair." I am Hal Finney's spouse and life partner. Although I am new to Less Wrong, and very ignorant when it come to HTML and computers, I have been a Rationalist ever since I was a child, to the dismay of my mother, teachers, and legions of other people I interacted with. I met Hal while an undergraduate at Caltech. And as they say, the rest is history.

This past year, Hal and I have had to completely alter projections of our future together. Hal was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known in the US as "Lou Gehrigs Disease"). Since his diagnosis in August of 2009, Hal has physically changed in very obvious ways. His speech has become slow, quiet, and labored. His typing has gone from rapid-fire 120 WPM to a sluggish finger peck. His weekly running (50-60 miles per week in February 2009) stopped being possible in November of 2009, and now Hal gets around in a motorized wheelchair. Eating, always a pleasure before, is now a challenge - much concentration is involved to avoid choking. The most recent and worrisome manifestation of the weakening in Hal's voluntary muscles is his breathing. However - all of these changes have been to Hal's body. The machine that Hal's brain controls through efferent output to interact with the environment. Inside, he is the same brilliant guy I have known for well over half of my life.

I was very impressed with the people I met at the Singularity Summit. What a relief to be around creative individuals who think rather than just act. Who problem solve, rather than just react. Who can understand Hal's and my intention to keep his magnificent brain alive and give him a way to communicate, even if he loses all movement.

I am happy that a community of rational people exists. And I'm looking forward to interacting with this community, along with Hal, for many more years.

Comment author: Just_a_Human 15 August 2010 01:19:05AM 10 points [-]

I'm just a regular woman, with regular intellectual capabilities who is struggling to complete a degree in physics, math and CS while working part time, taking care of my seven-month old full-time, spending quality time with my husband, satisfying my parents' and inlaws' wishes to keep in touch and see their granddaughter, and trying to pursue the truth and grow in wisdom during the wee hours of the night. I am an orthodox Jew who is currently undergoing a crisis of faith - reading things like LW persuade my intellect, reading things on Judaism persuade some other part of my being. I became an orthodox Jew after doing some independent reading and studying from the age of 14 (before that I thought religion was just an obsolete and irrational barrier to the enlightenment and advancement promised by science). I don't care if I get voted down to hell for saying that (I don't believe in hell anyways). That is just how I'm feeling personally at this point in life. I'm not here to get high karma - just here to read as much as possible learn, perhaps change my mind and act to the best of my knowledge. I have been fascinated by science for as long as I can remember, became intrigued with philosophy a few years ago, and love to learn autodidactically. However, I feel my knowledge is fractured and chaotic, since a lot of what I know is what I have taught myself from books and the internet, usually not in any structured logical manner. I'm hoping that one day some pattern will emerge from the chaos of my mind. I have been reading LW and Overcoming Bias for a while. I came across these sites after reading "The Singularity is Near" and doing some searching on the web.

Comment author: simplicio 15 August 2010 01:54:41AM 5 points [-]

I became an orthodox Jew after doing some independent reading and studying from the age of 14

Does that mean you're a convert? I hear that's not a trivial matter...

I feel my knowledge is fractured and chaotic

I hear you! =) I've found a useful way to organize my knowledge is to think about the epistemic bases for the various types of knowledge, i.e., "how do I know?" Scientific, common sense, philosophical, mathematical, something I heard at the pub... etc.

I don't care if I get voted down to hell for saying that (I don't believe in hell anyways). That is just how I'm feeling personally at this point in life. I'm not here to get high karma...

Well, first of all, I doubt you'll get voted down severely for merely identifying as a theist, but you will if you make arguments for theism that display some obvious mistakes the community recognizes.

Don't worry too much about karma anyway. It's mostly for keeping comments relevant to the subject at hand, so we can have a discussion of, say, "ethics from a materialist perspective" that actually gets off the ground, without constantly having to reinvent the wheel and argue materialist vs. theistic ethics from the ground up.

That said, however, pay attention when you're downvoted a lot, as it probably means that several members of the community think you made a mistake in reasoning.

Welcome! =)

Comment author: jaymani 12 August 2010 06:24:17PM 10 points [-]

I am new to this site. I am a former Mortgage and Derivatives Trader on Wall Street. I am one of the few ex Wall Streeter’s who has experienced a crisis of conscience. I am an empirical skeptic who is cynical by nature but I have only recently started to sit down and try to figure out why people act stupidly and irrationally. Naseem Taleb, author of the Black Swan & Fooled By Randomness is one of my favorite authors and I truly believe that after all of my years trading it all comes down to random luck not any type of skill.

Comment author: [deleted] 04 November 2011 07:34:01AM *  9 points [-]

Hello, LessWrong.

I am an 18 year old senior in high school interested in evolutionary psychology and cognitive science. I've actually been lurking around this site for over four months before I finally got brave enough to introduce myself. I always considered myself to be rational, but after looking through the core sequences, it slowly dawned on me how horribly wrong I was, and what a ways I have to go to "upgrade" my rationality and hopefully maintain a meaningful conversation with anyone here.

I was raised in a non-religious home where I was encouraged to seek out many different belief systems and see which one fit me the most. I ended up rejecting every mainstream religion I came across, which I suspect is what my parents were hoping for. I officially became an atheist at around age twelve, and I suffered somewhat of an existential breakdown shortly after that as I was desperately searching for a meaning or purpose to the universe and not being able to find one. I didn't like the idea of living in a meaningless universe and I suffered from extreme depression for many years, which worried my friends and family. I was sent to a therapist because my schoolwork and social life were suffering due to my sense of hopelesness.

I then came across the idea of transhumanism at age fifeen after hearing the word and typing it in on Google out of curiosity, and that day my entire life changed for the better. All of a sudden I was being introduced to concepts like indefinite life extension, recursively self-improving artificial intelligence, mind uploading, apotheosis, and the like. My mind was blown. For the first time in many years, I was feeling a sense of real hope and purpose. I decided that working for the transhumanist project and a positive singularity was what I wanted to do with my life.

This site is pretty damn awesome. I'm busy reading the core sequences and Methods of Rationality, and I'm about 70% through with both. I'm loving them. Being introduced to cognitive heuristics and biases has really helped me grow as a person and as a budding rationalist, and I am now extremely humbled since discovering that I'm not nearly as rational or logical as I thought I was. Discussions here are always very high-quality, engaging, and enlightening, which is something you don't find very often on the Internet (or, really, anywhere), and I'm a bit nervous at the prospect of engaging in serious discussions with a bunch of people who are several intellectual levels above me. I've always been bright, but not spectacularly so, so I hope I won't get downvoted into oblivion by getting into discussions that are way over my head. (I tend to do that.)

So thank you LessWrong, and I look foward to interacting with everyone here!

Comment author: Mirai 07 October 2011 01:37:38AM 9 points [-]

Hello, I'm a government and economics double major in an all-women's liberal arts college in Massachusetts. I discovered Less Wrong through an economics professor who gave a lecture on why it is important to be a rationalist. As an ex-lit. major, the sequence on "A Human's Guide to Words" caught my eye, and I'm currently working my way through it. I look forward to learning more.

Comment author: Yossarian 29 September 2011 03:10:02AM *  9 points [-]

Hello, I found Less Wrong after a friend recommended Methods of Rationality, which I devoured in short order. That was almost a year ago and I've been lurking LW off and on ever since. In June I attended a meetup and had some of the best conversation I've had in a long time. Since then, I've been attacking the sequences more systematically and making solid progress.

I'm in my late 20's, live in Los Angeles, and work in the entertainment industry (after failing miserably as an engineering student). It's my ambition to produce stories and science fiction that raise the sanity waterline of our society. Film and television science fiction has never come close to approaching the depth and breadth of imagination and thoughtfulness of literary science fiction and I'd like to be a part of the effort to close that gap, however slightly.

I have a hypothesis that the sociological function of stories is to communicate lessons about desirable or undesirable human behavior and translate them from an intellectual idea that can't be grasped by us on an intuitive level to an emotional idea that can, in the process making it more likely we'll remember them and apply the lesson to our own behavior. Almost like a mnemonic device.

For example, I could give a three hour lecture on the importance of reputation and credibility in group dynamics. Or I could tell the story of the boy who cried wolf in under three minutes and communicate the same idea in a way that is intuitively graspable on an emotional level and is therefore much more likely to be retained.

Anyway, my grasp on this idea is far from complete and I hope this community can help me get a better handle on it, ultimately resulting in propagating ideas that contribute to the optimization of humanity.

Comment author: atucker 13 August 2010 12:10:55AM *  9 points [-]

Hi! I posted on the other thread that I was around, but I guess I should introduce myself.

I guess the weirdest thing about me (relative to the community) is my age -- I'm still in high school and have been lurking LW since its creation and OB before that... I'm in the Montgomery Blair Magnet program, which has pretty thoroughly taught me that I'm by no means especially smart.

I got interested in the whole rationality thing after reading some of the articles that were tangentially related to the more philosophical articles that I was interested in* and found on Hacker News. The metaethics sequence seemed much less forced than a lot of the other considerations of morality that I had heard (mostly from a Christian background), which only piqued my interest further.

Short note: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is pretty much the best introduction to rationalist topics for people my age that I've ever seen, I recommended it to a few friends, one of whom started reading it, lurking LW, and convincing others to read as well.

The article most tangibly helpful in my life was http://lesswrong.com/lw/i0/are_your_enemies_innately_evil , mainly in that it helped me realize that everyone seems reasonable to themselves and that you don't get anywhere when you argue as if they're totally wrong. It's helped a lot in resolving interpersonal issues, and is probably one of the major factors of my being elected President of my school's FIRST robotics team.

*My interest in philosophy started about 3 years ago, mostly as a result of my freshman physics class and reading Godel Escher Bach.

Comment author: KPier 30 May 2011 10:22:19PM 23 points [-]

Hello Less Wrong!

I'm 16, female, and a senior in high school. Before I started reading here, I was not particularly interested in math, science, or rationality (which I had never really heard of). I stumbled on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality in October, and fell in love immediately. I read through the whole story in one night, and finally made the leap to Less Wrong during Eliezer's hiatus.

I started on Less Wrong by reading Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions and within three posts I realized that, for the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people significantly smarter than me. Some people would probably have been excited about that; I was terrified. I promised myself that I wouldn't post - wouldn't even create an account, to avoid the temptation of posting - until I had read all the sequences and understood everything everyone said.

In retrospect, that may have been setting the bar a little too high for myself, especially since seven more sequences were added while I was reading. I eventually revised my standard to "I will not comment until I'm sure I actually have something to add to a discussion, and until I understand the things I have read well enough to explain them convincingly to 4 of my friends."

The fact that I had to set all of those hurdles for myself just to have the self-confidence to create an account probably tells you a little about myself - I'm not ordinarily insecure, but I was so excited to find something like this I was very worried about "messing it up". I've now read about 90% of the sequences and 98% of everything posted on Less Wrong in the last few months, and understood almost all of it (the quantum physics and decision theory sequences still confuse me). I'm not sure "read everything before you start to contribute" is generally a good guideline for new visitors, but for me it was perfect. I changed my mind about a lot of important things along the way - if there's enough interest, I may discuss this in a post about exposing more teenagers to rationality.

So, thank you all for this great site! I hope I'll be able to contribute.

Comment author: jknapka 01 December 2011 06:25:48AM 8 points [-]

Hello, all. I'm Joe. I'm 43, currently a graduate student in computational biology (in which I am discovering that a lot of inference techniques in biology are based on Bayes's Theorem). I'm also a professional software developer, and have been writing software for most of my life (since about age 10). In the early 1990's I was a graduate student at the AI lab at the University of Georgia, and though I didn't finish that degree, I learned a lot of stuff that was of great utility in my career in software development -- among other things, I learned about a number of different heuristics and their failure modes.

I remember a moment early in my professional career when I was trying to convince someone that some bug wasn't my fault, but was a bug in a third-party library. I very suddenly realized that, in fact, the problem was overwhelmingly more likely to be in my code than in the libraries and other tools we used, tools which were exercised daily by hundreds of thousands of developers. In that instant, I become much more skeptical of my own ability to do things Right. I think that moment was the start of my journey as a rationalist. I haven't thought about that process in a systematic way, though, until recently.

I've known of LW for quite a while, but really got interested when lukeprog of http://commonsenseatheism.com started reading Eliezer's posts sequentially. I'm now reading the sequences somewhat chaotically; I've read around 30% of the sequence posts.

My fear is, no matter how far I progress as a rationalist, I'll still be doing it Wrong. Or I'll still fear that I'm doing it wrong. I think I suffer greatly from under-confidence http://lesswrong.com/lw/c3/the_sin_of_underconfidence/ , and I'm very risk-averse. A property which I've just lately begun to view as a liability.

I am coming to view formal probabilistic reasoning as of fundamental importance to understanding reality, and I'd like to learn all I can about it.

If I overcome my reluctance to be judged by this community, I might write about my experiences with education in the US, which I believe ill-serves many of its clients. I have a 14-year-old daughter who is "unschooled". The topics of raising children as rationalists, and rational parenting, could engender some valuable discussions.

I might write about how, as an atheist, I've found it practically useful to belong to a religious community (a Unitarian Universalist church). "Believing in" religion is obviously irrational, but being connected with a religious community can in some circumstances be a rational, and non-cynical, move.

I might also write about software debugging as a rational activity. Though that's kind of obvious, I guess. OTOH debugging is IMO a severely under-valued skill in the field of software development. Most of my work is in soft real-time systems, which requires a whole different approach to debugging than interactive/GUI/web application development.

I might write about my own brief bout with mental illness, and about the process of dealing with a severely mentally-ill close relative, from a rationalist perspective.

My favorite sentence on LW so far: "Rationalists should WIN."

Comment author: Filipe 30 November 2011 11:00:25PM *  8 points [-]

Hi, everyone! I'm Filipe, 21, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I've dropped out of Chemical Engineering in the 4th semester, and restarted College after one year off with Mathematics, from scratch. I thought redoing the basic subjects, if I worked hard through them, would be a good idea. It probably would, but so far I've studied those subjects with the same sloppiness of before, heheh. Now I'm one semester off College, due to depression, obsessive thoughts and some suicidal tendecies. Some of this is related to a deconversion from Christianity at age of 18: I was really devout and lived for the religion. My father is a pastor and my whole family continues to be serious about Christianity and it's pretty obvious that I'm the greatest source of suffering in my parents' lives, as they believe I'm going to end up suffering eternally if I don't return to my former beliefs. It also relates to having been a sort of a child prodigy (many family members, even those who don't like me a lot, testify that I could read at age of 2) and now not being able to excel academically, because of those problems and because of akrasia. Speaking of which, I have never read the sequences even though I've being reading this site for some months. I guess this may change when I convince my parents to buy me an e-reader. Sorry for the babbling and the sloppy English.

Comment author: shokwave 01 December 2011 04:29:18AM 4 points [-]

Sorry for the ... sloppy English.

In this post, your command of English is indistinguishable from a native speaker's. If you have an estimate of how fluent in typing English you are, I suggest you strengthen it :)

Comment author: [deleted] 07 October 2011 11:14:30PM *  8 points [-]

Hey, I'm a 20 year old medical student, I've always had almost compulsive need to know the "truth". In retrospective I have been moving towards LW for a long time, first off I came in contact with Aubrey De Grey's campaign against aging, and decided as a 17-year-old that I wanted to dedicate my life to that cause (hopefully the problem gets solved before I die so I don't have to spend whole my life battling aging). Then from that I moved on to other transhuman ideas but got a bit skeptical about Ray Kurzweil's senario, began thinking about brain-uploading meant + morality + meaning of life + free will --> got depressed, read Dennett -> got a lot better, saw a few videos of Eliezer Yudkowsky and "thought he seems like a super-sane person, wonder if he stands on solid ground" found Less Wrong, prioritized becoming a more rational person.

Still a bit skeptical about plausibility the singularity happening any time soon(<50 years), so I right now I'm doing stem cell (hES, IPS) research, when my studies allow. But really enjoying LW (as well as finding it really useful).

Cheers! (And sorry about the "my life story")

Comment author: JayDee 03 August 2011 11:00:20PM 8 points [-]

Five quick questions, five fast answers. Fast and perhaps somewhat rambling.

I'm an Australian, a few years shy of thirty, who has generally done things for his own reasons rather than simply going along with everyone else. After secondary school I got a job or two, became heavily involved in a fringe political group for a few years and only then decided to go onto to university. Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) - hopefully the last BS from the education system I'll put up with. I've just very recently dropped out of Honours and moved the 1000km home to Melbourne, which was the most difficult decision I think I've ever faced. Not being easy, it stretched my relevant skills to their limit, and in the end it was quite nice to learn that I can make choices as a rational adult human. Or at least as some approximation thereof.

Every now and then I attempt to express my personal values in a system like those used in the Ultima games. Most recently, my three principles of virtue were Curiosity, Truthfulness, and Playfulness. Curiosity I have valued for as long as I can remember - my primary school motto included "live to learn" which I took to heart. Honesty has been an absolute for me since a particular incident in my late teens. Play I've valued especially since reading Schiller but creativity in general I've valued much longer. I find Internet "memes" and other banal forms of conformity an affront to creativity; people should find and use their own words.

I've never really identified as a rationalist per se, but as I say I've always tried to have my own reasons for why I do things, or why I think things. Tried with varying levels of success. Even at the age of ten I thought that knowledge was power, and that mathematics in particular should be seen as equipping my mind with tools to better solve problems. The only book to really open my mind or change the way I question things was Dune, first read in early high school, which raised my standards for self-control and for long-term planning. To say the least. The fringe political outfit I joined made a pretence of rationality, on reflection, which pretence I for one took quite seriously. And then when I was looking to do honours this year, one of the possible projects was "something something Bayesian something", which was enough prompting to pick up a book on the subject and read it. I picked up Jaynes' textbook, and people still look at me funny when I say I read a statistics textbook for fun and loved every minute of it. One of those "yes! this is the way that things work and I've never seen it put in words this well before" books. Or put into mathematics as well, perhaps.

Happening across Less Wrong after all that just seemed fitting. Turns out there are people out there with similar values to me - I even know some of them. I read some posts by HughRistik (a friend was engaged in an exchange with him on some blog, probably 'Alas!') and I was quite impressed with the way he argued, to put it mildly. Found a link to his comments here, bookmarked it as a place to check out one day. Eventually came back to do so, recognised a couple of people from the xkcd forums (Hi Vaniver!), read the Harry Potter fanfic (and was mightily impressed), read the Twilight fanfic and was even more impressed (I took great delight for a couple of days in telling people that I'd found the perfect expression of something I'd been trying to say for years, and that it was "something Bella said in a Twilight fan fiction".)

I've started on reading the sequences (just moved interstate and it was easier to bring ebooks than physical ones) but I still would've put off making this intro-thread type post. But I'm planning to attend the local meet-up on Friday, and that makes for a useful deadline.

Comment author: Fyrius 26 July 2011 11:44:35PM *  8 points [-]

Hello, LW-ers.

I'm not exactly new - I've been lurking for a long time, soaking up all the glorious sanity from a few sequences and a lot of individual essays. And I've made a few comments. Still, I'd like to introduce myself properly. : ) (The main reason for this is that I think I need to lighten up and stop thinking of this site as a Sacred Order of Pedestaled Supergeniuses where my humble intellect doesn't belong, in order to grow.)

Insofar as anyone wants to know, I'm a 24 year old fellow, I have a Master's degree in linguistics since last year and now I spend my days as a humble translator. Somehow I fare better with intellectual pursuits if they're a hobby rather than how I make a living.

I think I'm a rationalist for one okay reason and one rather unflattering one.

The okay reason is that I've lived with a psychological diagnosis since I was... maybe 8 or so, so from very early on I've been quite aware of the fact that my brain is broken and needs fixing. I think I made more thinking errors than other people, but also importantly I made unusual thinking errors that stood out. My gut instincts clearly leading me in the wrong direction a lot, my feelings often being noticeably fickle and inconsistent. Rationalism has always helped me cope with the confusion caused by that sort of thing.

The rather unflattering reason is that it makes me feel smart. I'm not proud of it, but I'm not going to lie. I have a long-standing horrible habit of trying to win debates to aid my self-esteem. Entering controversial discussions and melodramatically grand-standing in them is a guilty pleasure I'm still working on cutting the heck out. (Not to worry, though - I wouldn't drag down the wonderful level of this place with that sort of silliness.)

I tend to ramble a bit in my writing, and I can only hope to approximate the level of clarity you'll be used to. But I do my best to improve. : )

Comment author: RobertLumley 25 July 2011 11:36:59PM *  8 points [-]

Hello, everyone.

Apparently I was supposed to introduce myself here when I joined the site. Looks like I'm about two (?) months late. I'm not really sure when I registered my account, but I just started actually commenting recently.

Anyway, I'm a 21 year old Biomolecular Engineering/Pre-medicine student living in the backward state that just put Intelligent Design in the state curriculum (And also recently proposed outlawing teachers mentioning homosexuality in the classroom before the 9th grade, among other remarkably boneheaded things). I know a marginal amount of programming - most of what I do is visual basic to go along with my Excel spreadsheets or MATLAB work for class, but I really enjoy it. I also know marginal amounts of C++ and PHP, but I'm not entirely sure why I'm telling you this.

I was introduced to Eliezer's work sometime this spring (April?) by a friend who (without having read it herself) posted HP:MOR on my Facebook wall, and said it was right up my alley. I read it in two weeks, and was hungry for more. Since he wrote it under the pen name "LessWrong", it actually took a bit of digging to find out who actually wrote it, but I gradually uncovered it. (I keep an impeccably documented collection of quotes and wanted the proper attribution. Eliezer has about 6 or 7 quotes in my collection now...) I then started reading all of Eliezer's OB posts from the beginning, and I'm currently on Leaky Generalizations, taking a rather lengthy hiatus, since I'm busy doing research and studying for the MCAT. And honestly, I'm wasn't a huge fan of the evolution sequence, since I already knew most of it, being highly related to my major, and it was highly technical.

But I can thank Eliezer for my identification as a transhumanist - I've worn many labels in my day, including everything from Christian to Objectivist, but I have never identified with a philosophy as strongly as I do transhumanism. His e-mail regarding Yehuda's death was one of the most moving things I've ever read.

Areas where I seem to disagree with, as I've seen it called, the LessWrong Hive Mind:

Cryonics - This is mostly out of ignorance, if anyone can point me to some respectable and unbiased sources of information, I would be greatly obliged. I have a difficult time finding most of what I've seen linked to to be credible. Regardless, I'm not too incentivized to research the matter, since I don't have the means with which to afford it.

Mind stimulating drugs - I don't take anything psychoactive, including caffeine. (Edit: In clarification, I try to avoid anything psychoactive. I would obviously take a psychoactive drug if it would save my life, significantly reduce pain, etc.) This is for a variety of reasons, primarily because I feel I have an addictive personality, and that the medical studies seem to show that there is little to no effect after long term use. (See another of my favorite blogs)

Hobbies: Collecting quotes, video games, programming, photography, contract bridge, biking, Diplomacy, college football

Favorite post so far: Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Quesitons

Most thought-provoking post so far: Pascal's Mugging

Anyway, this was really just a way to wake up because I was dozing off while studying for the MCAT, and I think I've said about everything I wanted to say. This quickly became one of my favorite sites, and I count myself lucky to have discovered it.

Comment author: Mercurial 13 May 2011 12:35:16AM *  8 points [-]


I drafted what is apparently too long an introduction to fit into a comment. Rather than try to work out how to rewrite the whole thing to fit into some unknown maximum length, I'll break it up into parts.



I've been lurking since early 2010. I'll finally take the plunge and actually engage with the community here.

I'm a Ph.D. student in math education. It's a terribly named field, it would seem; everyone seems to think at first that this means I'm training to either (a) teach math or (b) prepare future math teachers. It's actually better thought of as a subfield of psychology that focuses on mathematical cognition as well as on teaching and learning.

I grew up in a transhumanist household. My father signed us all up for cryonics when I was about five years old, I think it was. At the time I was just starting to realize that if death is inevitable for others, then that might mean that death is inevitable for me. I remember going up to my mother and father in the kitchen and asking, "Am I going to die someday?" They looked at me and said, "No, we're signing all of us up for cryonics. That means if we die, they'll just bring us back." I remember being so excited about signing the life insurance policy that I misspelled my name. On the way out of the insurance agent's office I asked "Does this mean I'm immortal now?" I literally leaped and squealed with excitement when they said yes.

In retrospect, I can recognize that as a tremendously defining point in my psychological development. Most people I've known who have signed up for cryonics know the feeling of an immense weight they didn't even know about being lifted once everything is finalized. Although I know better than to trust my memory, I do recall learning over the course of a few days before that event how to "wear" that weight before I finally asked my family about it. I took my being signed up for cryonics as blanket permission to cast that weight off by just assuming that I would live forever. I do realize now that they were oversimplifying things, but I think it still had a very powerful effect on the basic makeup of my psyche: whereas everyone else seems to have to learn how to recognize and let go of the burden of mortality, It has never been meaningfully real to me.

Unfortunately, I can see now how that gave me permission to be complacent in a lot of important areas through most of my life. If you know that you and your closest loved ones are immortal and that anyone else can become immortal if they so choose, there's no sense of urgency to do what you can to end death. Instead, the only real danger as far as I could tell was deathism, since that mental poison would permanently and needlessly have the net effect of making people commit suicide. But even then, my concern wasn't that deathism might halt immortalist efforts; my concern had always been that individuals I care about might needlessly choose to die because of this ubiquitous mental disease. That was always a sad possibility, but on a core emotional level I felt confident that mortality would be obliterated in my lifetime and that the people I most cared about - mainly my family - would be there with me one way or another. So no real problems, right?

When you think this way, it makes some rationalizations way too easy. I missed a lot of opportunities in my teens because I didn't have hardly any courage to do what others thought might be a bad idea or even much self-awareness to decide on a sense of purpose (although I don't think I knew enough to have any idea how to define a purpose without baseless recursion). So instead of saying something like:

I'm scared, and that's making me flinch, which isn't a good way to make decisions. If I went ahead anyway, what would it be like for me looking back at this decision a year later? If I follow the flinch, how would I feel about that a year later?

...I would say something more like this:

Oh, I'll just go this easier route. If I don't like where that path leads me, I can always backtrack and correct course in fifty years or so. There's always more time.

The problem was that until relatively recently, I didn't apply the metacognitive effort needed to recognize what this necessarily must do to my life as a general algorithm. It actively discourages ever reflecting carefully even on major life decisions. And that's ignoring the issue that immortality isn't guaranteed even to transhuman cryonicists.

That said, I'm immensely grateful I never "caught" the deep terror of mortality. The basic emotional sense of okayness wasn't the problem at all; the problem was that it made too many stupid things too easy for me to rationalize, and I simply hadn't been raised with the right kind of metacognition to counter that stupidity. From what I've been able to learn and observe, it seems that metacognition is much easier to teach than is a basic emotional sense that the future will be okay.

I can say, however, that if it hadn't been for Eliezer and Less Wrong, I probably would still be making the same stupid mistake.


Comment author: Mercurial 13 May 2011 12:35:50AM *  11 points [-]

PART 2 (part 1 here):

I had the pleasure of meeting Eliezer in January 2010 at a conference for young cryonicists. At the time I thought he was just a really sharp Enneagram type Five who had a lot of clever arguments for a materialist worldview. Well, I guess I still think that's true in a way! But at the time I didn't put much stock in materialism for a few different reasons:

  • I've had a number of experiences that most self-proclaimed skeptics insist are a priori impossible and that therefore I must be either lying or deluded. I could pinpoint some phenomena I was probably deluded about, and I suspect there are still some, but I've had some experiences that usually get classified as "paranormal" that are just way too specific, unusual, and verified to be chance best as I can tell. And I'm under the impression that these effects are pretty well-known and scientifically well-verified, even if I have no clue how to reconcile them with the laws of physics. But I've found that arguing with most die-hard materialists about these things is about as fruitful as trying to converse with creationists about biology. They know they're right, and as far as they're concerned, one either agrees with them or is just stupid/deluded/foolish/thinking wishfully/worthless/bad. I don't have much patience for conversation with people who are more interested in proving that I'm wrong than they are in discovering the truth.
  • It seemed to me that the hard problem of consciousness probably came from assuming materialism. Since it's such a confusing problem and I was pretty sure that we can be more confident that we experience than that experience is a result of something more basic, it seemed to me sensible to consider that consciousness might the foundation from which the laws of physics emerge. (Yes, I'm aware that this sounds very much like a common confusion about quantum mechanics, but what I was thinking at the time was more basic than that. I was distinguishing between consciousness and the conscious mind. I'm not so sure anymore that this makes sense, though, since the mind is responsible for structuring experience, and I'm not sure what consciousness without an object (i.e. being conscious without being conscious of something) would mean.) But even if consciousness weren't the foundation, I was pretty sure at the time that materialism didn't have even an in-principle plausible approach to the hard problem. At the time, that seemed like a pretty basic issue since, without exception, all of our evidence that materialism is consistent comes from conscious experience (or at least I lack the imagination to know how we could possibly have evidence we use and know that we can trust but that we aren't aware of!).

But I've always tried to cultivate a willingness to be wrong even if I haven't always been as good at that as I would like. So when it became clear to me that Eliezer scoffed at the idea that the hard problem of consciousness might be fundamentally different than other scientific challenges, I asked him if he'd be willing to explain to me what his take was on the matter. He pointed me toward his zombie sequence since he understandably didn't want to take the time to explain something he had already put effort into writing down.

About a month later, I finally read that sequence. That had the interesting effect of undermining a lot of mystical thinking that had taken refuge behind the hard problem of consciousness, so I was really intrigued to read what else Eliezer had put together here. For reasons that would quite a while for me to explain, I quickly became really hesitant to read more than a small handful of LW articles at a time, and I wasn't sure I really wanted to become part of the community here. So I just sort of watched from the sidelines for a long time, occasionally seeing something about "Friendly AI" and "existential risk" and other similar snippets.

So I eventually started looking into those things.

I learned that there's a great deal of hunger for help in these areas.

And I realized that I had been an utter fool.

I have sat complacently on the sidelines entirely too long. It has become clear to me that we need less preparation and more action. So I am now stepping up to take action.

I'm here to do what I can henceforth for the future. I'm starting by plugging into the community here and continuing to refine my rationality to what extent I can, in the aim of solving what heady problems I can. (One that's still close to my heart is finding effective ways of eradicating deathism. I've actually encountered some surprisingly promising directions on this.) Once I've had a chance to attend at least one of the meetups (as I had to abandon the one after Anna's talk for personal reasons), I hope to encourage some regular meetups in the San Diego area (at least as long as I don't drive everyone here nuts!). Beyond that, I'll have to see where this goes; I'm not sure any of what I've just named is the most strategic boon I can offer, but it's a start and it seems very likely to quickly steer me in the best direction.

Of course, suggestions are welcome. I'm interested in doing what I can to eradicate the horror of death and exalt a wonderful future, and if that means I need to change course drastically, so be it.

I look forward to working with all of you.

Thank you for reading!

Comment author: TylerJay 16 August 2010 10:58:47PM 8 points [-]

Hi, my name is Tyler and I've been lurking LW for the last few months. I'm a full-time university student in California. Like others, I've refrained from posting because I feel I'm not yet quite up-to-date on many of the issues discussed here, though i'd considered many of them before ever finding LW.

I found LW through Yudkowski.net which I found through one of Eli's more technical articles that popped up on a google search when I was first becoming interested in Artificial Intelligence. Since then, i've developed an interest in the big R.

As I read the sequences (I'm nearly through and I've been at it a while now) I am often pleasantly surprised when Eli brings up a topic that i'd previously considered, and even more so when he explains it. Overall, the zeitgeist of the LW community really appeals to me. I'm often frustrated at listening to people i know say things that would get torn apart here on LW. I guess i'm just glad to know that there's a community here to which i can both learn tremendously, and hopefully contribute.

I'm working on filling in the holes right now, and the old adage "the more you know, the more you know you don't know" is really having its way with me right now.

Comment author: rabidchicken 14 August 2010 09:37:13PM *  8 points [-]

Hello. I found out about Harry Potter and the methods of rationality while browsing TV tropes, which eventually led me to this site. I have never thought much about how i make choices before, but after reading a couple sequences, it looks like many of the things i am most inquisitive about are discussed on this site, and for at least the last couple years i have been reinventing the wheel on some of the ideas listed here about rationality. It is convenient to be able to learn things by reading this site, that otherwise might have required me to live a long, interesting life to discover :p

Comment author: Zetetic 13 August 2010 07:56:26PM 8 points [-]

I stumbled over here from Scott Aaronson's blog, which was recommended by a friend. Actually, LessWrong was also recommended, but unfortunately it took a while for me to make it over here.

As far as my descent in to rationality goes, I suppose I've always been curious and skeptical, but I never really gave much direction to my curiosity or my skepticism until the age of 17.

I always had intellectual interests. In 3rd and 4th grade I tought myself algebra. I ceased to pursue mathematics not too long after that due to the disappointment I felt towards the public school system's treatment of mathematics.

After my foray into mathematics, I took a very strong interest in cosmology and astronomy. I still remember being 11 or 12 and first coming to realize that we are composed of highly organized cosmic dust. That was a powerful image to me at that time.

At this point in time I distinctly remember my father returning to the church after his mother and sister had passed away. The first church we went to was supposedly moderate. I was made to attend Sunday school there. I did not fare so well in sunday school. During the second session I attended the subject of evolution was brought up. Now, I had a fascination with prehistoric animals and had several books that explained evolution at a basic level accessible to young adults, so when the teacher challenged evolution and told me that the concept of God was not compatible with it, I told her that she must be wrong about God (this was really an appeal to authority, since I considered anyone who had written a book to be more authoritative than anyone who hadn't). Well, she didn't take that well and sent me to stand in the corner. My parents didn't take well to that (both of them being fairly rational and open to science and my mom not being religious at all, but rather trying to support my dad). And so was borne my first religion-science conflict!

Once I entered high school, my artistic interests came to the foreground and pushed science and mathematics into the background. I developed my skill as a visual artists and as a guitarist. I studied music theory and color theory and played. It was enjoyable work and I took it to the point of obsession. My guitar playing especially, which I would practice for hours every night.

Eventually I decided that I wasn't happy with making art, I wanted to explore something I felt was much deeper and more meaningful. Thus began a period of self reflection and a search for personal meaning. I decided that I wanted to explore my childhood interests, and so I began to study calculus and mechanics during my senior year of high school. It was also at that point that I read Crime and Punishment, Steppenwolfe, The Stranger and Beyond Good and Evil.

Soon I found my way to Kant and Russell. They in turn led me to Frege, Wittgenstein and Quine. My desire to understand myself soon extended to a desire to understand the world around me. Shortly after turning 18, I read Quine's Methods of Logic and was surprised by how natural it felt to me (up until the undecidability part, which threw me through a loop at the time).

By that time, I had begun my major in mathematics. I took every (read every seemingly interesting) course I could to get as broad a view as I could as quickly as possible. This past year (my junior year of college) I took my first few graduate courses. The first was theory of computation. I had no prior experience with the material, everything was new. It was a somewhat transformative experience and I have to say that it was probably the most enjoyable class I've ever taken. I also took a graduate sequence in mathematical logic and learned the famed incompleteness theorems.

I am interested in fighting ignorance in myself and in others and I find that I like the premise of this blog. My current interests include Bayesian Probability (thanks to this site and Eliezer, and to some extent the friend who recommended it to me as well), the game of GO, physics (I am woefully ignorant of real physics, and have decided that I need to read up on it), mathematical logic, Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies (Hofstadter), cognitive science, music, history and programming. It is not hard to get me interested in something, so the list is much more extensive than that and is highly subject to change.

Well, I feel like I've rambled up a storm here.

Comment author: DSimon 12 August 2010 08:23:05PM *  8 points [-]

Hiya, thanks to everybody here for making this such a welcoming and fun community.

I've identified as a skeptic and an atheist for a few years now, but I was intrigued by the way that the Less Wrong articles I saw seemed to kick it up a notch further. "Weapons-grade rationality" I think I saw one article put it.

I'm (as of the moment) somewhat skeptical of singularity theory, but as an activist I'm interested in helping to raise the rationality waterline. My education and professional experience are in computer programming. Currently I'm serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica.

Comment author: biodork 12 August 2010 12:35:53PM 8 points [-]

Hey! Great site - I look forward to reading the archives and new articles.

How did I come to rationalism?

I didn't realize it for a long time, but my first rational response was at a very young age. Some bully girl at school cornered me with her friends as said "You're stupid!". My response: "Nuh-UH!" (pause) "Hey, I get better grades than you! You're stupid, not me!"

I couldn't pick out the fallacies (hers and mine, lol) back then, but even then I knew that she was wrong, that I wasn't stupid just because she said so. I remember being very excited with I found out that my undergrad Philosophy 101 was called "Critical Thinking" and that's where I was formally introduced to logical fallacies. Logical fallacies have always been to me a way of speaking and thinking truthfully, a way to keep myself honest and to make sure others are being honest with me.

I am new to the online critical thinking movement, which I discovered through Pharyngula, the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, and Brian Dunning's Skeptoid podcast and Here Be Dragons film.

Comment author: tylercurtain 28 December 2011 04:12:36PM 7 points [-]

Hi, all. My name is Tyler Curtain. I am a theorist with the Department of English and Comparative Literature at UNC Chapel Hill. My training is in computer science (undergrad and grad) and English (grad). I teach graduate and undergraduate courses in theory, as well as courses in science fiction and fantasy. My research interests include philosophy of biology, evolutionary theories of language, linguistics, philosophy of language, and theoretical computer science.

It ain't your professor's humanities any more. The world has shifted.

Comment author: rwmcr29 06 December 2011 12:30:50AM 7 points [-]

Hello, I am a British psychology student (studying out of country, presently). I stumbled upon this website after doing a little research following Eliezer's recent Skepticon talk on Youtube. I have greatly enjoyed learning about rationality within psychology; heuristics, biases, and Bayes rule are central to the course.

I am at that stage where I am beginning to narrow down which areas of research I would like to enter into, and this area is becoming increasingly interesting to me and may one day guide my decision; but while I personally define as a skeptic and have done for some time now, I feel I am new to many areas of rationality, i.e. the "higher level" topics. There is always something more to learn. I apologise if I am I shy contributor at first, I can find such environments of discussion a little daunting when I myself feel inexperienced. I am going to spend some time in the near future exploring here a little more, and familiarizing myself with the articles/sequences on LW; I look forward to achieving a little more knowledge, and hopefully contributing to the community here.

About me personally; I enjoy archery, chocolate, debating and reading. Rebecca

Comment author: BT_Uytya 04 December 2011 04:51:39PM *  7 points [-]

Hello, good time of day.

My name is Victor, I'm 19. I'm a student of computer science from Russia (so my English is far from perfect, and probably there will be lack of articles; please excuse me).

There wasn't any bright line between rationalist!Victor and ordinary!Victor. If I remember correctly, five years ago I was interested in paranormal phenomena like UFO, parallel worlds or the Bermuda Triangle (I'm not sure I truly believed in it, probably I just had fun thinking about it: but I might have confessed the cached thought about scientists not knowing important things about the world) and liked reading the pop-science books at the same time. Then I realized that there is a beauty, honesty and courage in the scientific worldview and shortly thereafter, I became a person from the Light Side: not because science was true, but because it was fun.

But at least I rejected the Bermuda Triangle. I was too honest to leave inconsistencies in my pool of beliefs; so long, pseudoscience!

Maybe at the same time I discovered the concept of the utility function and blog of a psychologist arguing that there is nothing wrong with an egoism. Something clicked in my mind; the explanation of human behaviour was beautiful in it's simplicity, and there were some interesting implications of this explanation. Then Dawkins and realization that evolution is just a natural continuation of the laws governing non-organic matter. Evolution was fun, and also it was true. I became an Guardian Of The Evolution, and I was fighting superstitions. It was point of no return: it was impossible to defend telepathy again (why there aren't any telepathic wolves?).

There was moment of marvel, when I realized that there wasn't any reason to expect any intellectual feats from a naked ape living in town; our brain wasn't adapted to the current environment, but it is still working, and it is working much better than you should reasonably expect. Intelligence is fragile, and humanity is the underdog I should root for. At that time, I had already known about cognitive biases, but my feelings towards this topic became different after this insight.

I don't remember when I started reading LW. I might have learned about utility functions here, but I'm not sure. LW was changing me gradually. In the course of two or three years I have been noticing some small changes: I started admiring the scientific method, I understood the power of the intelligence, sometimes I withdrew from an argument because there wasn't any disagreement about anticipated experience there, et cetera.

I don't know where to draw a line between "non-rational age" and "rational age". But I sure as hell I'm with you guys now.

Comment author: arbn 16 November 2011 05:39:00AM *  7 points [-]

I'm 22 years old, and currently a fourth-year college student, studying Philosophy and minoring in Computer Science at a very small, Christian school. I found a link to LW while searching for open, online scholarship combining analytic philosophy with algorithmic analysis. After glancing over the resources here, I am extremely excited about the prospect of participating. Philosophical logic, formal epistemology, and functional programming are my passions, and I am thrilled whenever I see interdisciplinary progress being made in cognitive science research. Everything I love is aptly characterized as being abstractly directed at the investigation of human reasoning. So, I definitely feel that I will be able to learn quite a lot from all of you.

Until two years ago, I was a committed and highly conservative Christian. That's how I was raised, and overcoming my own internal resistance to changes in religious perspective was quite a slow and painful process. I frantically searched for philosophical justifications of the rationality of theistic belief (e.g., Plantinga, van Inwagen). Eventually, however, my own philosophical reflections forced me to conclude that I indeed had no good reasons for believing many of the things I had previously believed. I now identify as a rationalist and an agnostic.

My present task is a paper analyzing potential problems arising from the account of evidential probability conjucted with E=K in Timothy Williamson's "Knowledge and Its Limits". I find this rather enjoyable. In my spare time, I've been reading books and articles on epistemic logic, Bayesian epistemology, and the Philosophy of Science. In future, I'd really like to be a philosopher, a programmer of some variety, or a mathematics teacher. As far as hobbies are concerned, I'm an avid Go player, Haskell coder, and open-source software advocate.

The one thing I value most is education. I'd like to work to make information, knowledge, and genuine wisdom accessible to more people. High quality intellectual and moral instruction seems to contribute so much to the quality of one's life, that I feel a strong desire to do anything in my power to provide that to more people. In light of this, I am very curious about how people learn and understand, but I also feel a sort of obligation to better my own understanding of what sound judgments, rational decisions, and solid arguments look like.

I'll end this here, to keep it brief. I anticipate stimulating and constructive exchanges with many of you.

Comment author: False_Solace 14 November 2011 03:20:37PM *  7 points [-]

I once thought that the Future was indestructible.

When I was growing up my childhood friends would sometimes say, "I wish I'd been born five hundred years ago" or "It would have been so interesting to live during medieval times". To me this was insanity. In fact it still sounds insane. Who in their right mind would exchange airplanes, democracy and antibiotics for illiteracy, agricultural drudgework and smallpox? I suppose my friends were doing the same thing people do when they imagine their pop culture "past lives": so everyone gets to be Cleopatra, and nobody is ever a peasant or slave. And the Connecticut Yankees who travel back in time to pre-invent industry are men, because a woman traveling alone in those days just invited trouble.

No, I never wanted to live in the past. I wanted to live in the future.

Mostly because I had a keen desire find out what happens next. I mean, just think of the amazing things in store -- space travel, AI, personal immortality. What a fool I was.

I no longer trust the future will be a glorious place. (It was a little painful to give up that belief.) I once studied history and the history of technology so I could write about imaginary civilizations with some versimilitude. And I learned that everything ends, even Rome. Even us.

So I started studying economics and politics to try to figure out how we got here, and how we might possibly get someplace else. It seems unlikely that the same irrational brains that got us into this mess will be able to get us out. I mean, people are literally not sane. Myself included. The best, the only tool we have is dangerously flawed. (OMFG!!) Which led me here....

Hope for the future? Hope isn't necessary.

As far as RL goes, I have two X chromosomes and live in Minnesota.

Comment author: thescoundrel 11 November 2011 04:51:38PM *  7 points [-]


I am 32 year old middle class male from the Kansas City area. I grew up on a farm in south-central Kansas, in an evangelical christian family. From an early age I was identified as having above average intelligence. I also have ADD, although it went undiagnosed though my elementary and middle-school years, as I was easily able to complete my work in a short enough time frame that I was not distracted. During this time, I was also heavily indoctrinated in the church. During my high school years, it became apparent to me that there was something wrong- I wanted to complete assignments, but would find myself unable to concentrate on them long enough to finish them- once I understood the concepts, I lost all interest in mindless repetition of the material, even though I knew there were benefits to completing it correctly. Noticing I fit all the signs of ADD, I persuaded my parents to talk to my GP about medication: the GP stated that while he agreed I fit the signs, he did not want to place on me the stigma of being labled add.This began a downward spiral, culminating in my first semester of college- I signed up for several honors classes, but not having acquired the skills needed to complete a truly challenging project, I failed them all miserably. Defeated, I returned to my small town, and began taking classes, first at a local community college, then at a local christian university. In 2000, I became a father, got married, dropped out of school, and proceeded to hide with my family in low income housing.

These were dark days for me- I knew I was failing in every possible sense. I didn't know how to solve it. I didn't know how to figure out how to solve it. I did know we needed money. I took any job I could find. I hated most of them. This continued for 6 years.

At some point, I realized that in order to improve my situation, I had to formulate a plan. I went back to college while working full time building wooden pallets, and received my AS in computer science. I found a GP that would treat my ADD, and saw immediate improvements in my ability to focus. I went on to start my BS in compsci, and was picked up by a startup company, doing both tech support and Linux IT work. During this time, I finally began to look at my beliefs critically. Many, many times I had faced ideas that indicted the existence of god, and each time I had carefully ignored them. However, part of deciding that I needed a plan in order to improve my life was a recognition of determinism: if actions did not have logical, consistent consequences, than there was no ability to plan at all. However, for that to be true, it meant there could be no such thing as a supernatural event, which I viewed as an uncaused action. The death of my faith was a war of attrition, each step painful. I wanted to believe I would see my family after death, that those I loved would be available to me after this short time on earth. I wanted to believe that my consciousness would never end. I eventually let each of them go: I had decided I wanted to know truth more than fantasy.

I moved to Kansas City in 2008, lost my job with the start-up, took another one, and then another in the tech industry, learning more at each position. In august this year, reddit.com had a link to HPatMoR, and I devoured it. This led me here, and I have read all of the main sequences, and am reading everything else I can, as quickly as I can. I feel behind: here, I have found not only the process for finding truth, but also the process for solving problems ion general, and doing it effectively.

I feel that I am in the midst of rewriting my own code: most of my life, my natural ability has been hindered by bad software, and I am starting to patch out some of the bugs. I have four children now: teaching them how to actually learn, how to accomplish their goals, and how to set goals worth having has become my top priority, especially with my older two: I missed a window where some of this could have been taught intuitively over time, and now I have to help them unlearn bad habits formed under my care. I am in process of finding cryonic options that fit my entire family on my budget- tricky, but not impossible. I am trying to improve my math skills; I made it through calc 2, and was fortunate to have college professor who not only understood what he was teaching, but was passionate about it, and willing to spend extra time helping me understand it at an intuitive level- however, I have let it sit for several years, and am having to dust it off.

I am joining the community now, because I feel I have a grasp on the concepts well enough now that in order to grow, I need to start discussing them. I know I still have a ways to go, but I believe with time and effort, I can make strong contributions to the community.

Comment author: kilobug 11 November 2011 06:36:50PM 4 points [-]

Welcome to Less Wrong, and good luck in your quest for bettering yourself !

Or hum... how do you wish "good luck" in a rational way ? ;)

Comment author: thomblake 11 November 2011 07:17:14PM 7 points [-]

Or hum... how do you wish "good luck" in a rational way ? ;)

A: Don't worry about it too much and get on with something more important.

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 11 November 2011 11:00:46PM 3 points [-]

Say something surportive but actually meaningful, like "I'm impressed by your achievement." or "Keep going awesome person!" or even just "I hope you do well."

Comment author: listo 07 November 2011 06:13:34PM 7 points [-]

Hello Less Wrong!

First things first: I beg your pardon for my crappy English, this is not my first language.

I'm from Barcelona (no LW community, here, I'm afraid) and I studied telecom engineery, but I work as a teacher and I draw cartoons (you can check http://listocomics.com but they are in Spanish). I'm also a rationalist wanabe. I mean I haven't even read the whole of your major sequences but I have always tried to move myself the rational way. I love Dawkins books and I was amazed the first time I read about logical fallacies at the Wikipedia. I have always been quite interested in phsicology, too, but most of the popular psychology books I've read set my bullshit alarm on, cause most of their content seemed to come from the mind of the author after thinking about it strong while sitting in the sofa, without further research. I'm glad of having found a site that talks aboute the human mind and human behavour in an easy to understand way and with references. It seems like a good place to learn stuff.

Actually, I'm curious about what you, as rationalists, may think about NLP. Is it the right place to ask? NLP: Bullshit or not?

And I would also love to hear some rationalist opinions about yoga. I've been trying it for a couple of months and I'm still confused. The stretching part is good for the muscles, that's quite sure, but there also seem to be a lot of new age paraphernalia. Do you think there are serious researches proving that yoga is better than just stretching?

And, more in general, de rationalists recomend any specifical sport? Some way to get the maximum health with the minimum effort and time?

(I'm not sure if this was the right place to ask about those things, just tell me if I should post somewhere els or if those subjects are already discussed in some other thread)

Thanks for everything, and congrats for the page, I'm already recommending it to friends!

Comment author: Slackson 03 November 2011 09:39:16PM 7 points [-]

Hi, LessWrong.

There isn't too much to say about me. I'm a Kiwi 16 year old high school student who's been interested in a lot of the topics discussed here for a long time. I stumbled across HPMoR a few months ago. After reading through that, I came here and now I've read through pretty much all of the sequences. I'm definitely getting better at decision making and evaluating information, but I don't think I'm at the same level as most of you just yet.

I'm going to be busy for the next couple of months with exams, and then a trip to Ecuador, but hopefully when I get back I'll be able to take part in the community properly. I have a bad habit of being unnecessarily shy, even online, with people I have respect for. I'm going to try to change that this time. It should be easier than it has been in the past, because I have a lot of questions to ask, and sometimes even ideas to add to the conversation.


Comment author: Cthulhoo 26 October 2011 11:05:11AM 7 points [-]

Hi to everyone!

I first arrived to this site several months ago, and I've been a voracious reader since then. So, after this period of "mad and desperate studying" ("studio matto e disperatissmo" as Leopardi would say) I think I am probably ready to stop lurking and start to actively participate. Despite having a scientific background (I have a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, even though I'm doing a completely different job at the moment) I never encountered before the concept of rationality as it's explicitely stated here. In fact, I used to think I was a very "rational" person, in the more generic use of the word, before reading the Sequences and discovering that... well, I wasn't. It's still a long way before I reach the level of many notable members of this community, but I would say that LW helped me make a big step in the right direction. I want to emphasize this concept: there are a lot of good places where you can obtain knowledge, very few that can teach you how you should handle it. It's though to do it on your own, so thanks LW!

Finally, I'm from Italy, and would love to know if there are other fellow LWers that would like to start an italian chapter of the conspiracy. Also, I think it would be great if we could manage to translate some of the Sequences: I managed to raise interest in some of the topics among my friends, but many of them can't read English well enough (or at all). Let me know what you think about it

Comment author: komponisto 26 October 2011 12:11:44PM 4 points [-]

Finally, I'm from Italy, and would love to know if there are other fellow LWers that would like to start an italian chapter of the conspiracy. Also, I think it would be great if we could manage to translate some of the Sequences: I managed to raise interest in some of the topics among my friends, but many of them can't read English well enough (or at all). Let me know what you think about it

Italian translation project.

See here.

Also, welcome!

Comment author: DoubleReed 23 October 2011 10:14:58PM 7 points [-]

Hello everyone!

I am a unwitting victim of HP: MoR, and of course it led me here. I'm still reading up on the sequences, which have plenty of intriguing content. My background is in Mathematics (specifically cryptography, not much probability theory) and Music (specifically bassoon and composition). Right now I work for the US government. I grew up as a secular Jew, so I didn't really have that much of a crisis of faith or anything. I must say I found Eliezer's description of Modern Judaism ("you are expected to doubt but not successfully doubt") as surprisingly accurate and amusing.

Though, after reading through things, I don't really think I can call myself a rationalist quite yet. I need more practice, honestly. Maybe I just need to successfully update :D

Perhaps I just need to look around more, but hopefully I can contribute to the more artistic ideas of the site. Reading through what is on the site, it makes me wonder how to apply rationalist methodology to the arts.

Comment author: recumbent 20 October 2011 02:40:19AM 7 points [-]

I got a PhD in engineering, but I am interested in many fields, and I will post about my definition of super liberal arts education and ultra liberal arts education. I have an energy, environmental and global poverty background, but I am continuously searching for the most important areas to do research on and to give charity to. I now think this is existential risks, so I am developing a framework for quantifying this. I am an atheist, but I appreciate the community and intellectual discussion of the religion Unitarian Universalism, where many people are atheists. I'm not sure when I identified myself as a rationalist, but I have had many discussions and given many presentations that have provoked much disagreement from the emotional theists and environmentalists. I have been interested in trans-humanism since reading The Age of Spiritual Machines. I came to felicifia and this site through Alan Dawrst when I was researching cost-effectiveness of reducing animal suffering.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 September 2011 01:16:28PM *  7 points [-]


Comment author: Alejandro1 14 September 2011 09:18:07PM 7 points [-]

Hello everyone,

I am a 31-year-old physicist and have been following LW since before it split from OB. It is one of the sites I spend most time reading, even though I never delurked before - I suspected, probably correctly, that it would induce me to spend even more time in it ("Less Wrong Will Ruin Your Life", as TVTropes might put it). However, I have recently moved into an area where regular meetups are going on, so I thought it would be worthwhile to get involved in the community and try to meet some of its members.

Comment author: ZankerH 09 September 2011 11:53:53PM 7 points [-]

Hello, I've been reading articles on LW for some time, but even if I've slowly began to grasp what you're teaching, the community in general seemed so far above me in terms of however you want to measure intellectual capacity, I didn't even feel entitled to post. Might as well start here.

We'd love to know who you are, what you're doing

I'm a 21.7 years old university student from Slovenia, Europe. My interests are primarily maths, physics and computer science. Biological sciences interest me somewhat, but my knowledge in that area is on a layman's level. For philosophy, politics or social sciences I've never cared much. My passing interest in arts has been described as true random in taste by those with an affiliation to a particular genre, and I have little artistic talent myself. Professionally, I study electrical engineering and instruct high-school mathematics to pay for my living costs. My hobbies include Free software activism (helping in local communities, mostly), programming, backyard astronomy and mountain biking. I've been reading a lot of science and science fiction material since I was a child.

what you value

This section intentionally left blank.

how you came to identify as a rationalist or how you found us

Although the environment I grew up in isn't traditionally religious, most people ascribe to what can only be described as irrational beliefs and practices. No organised belief system, either, just little bits of 'wisdom' like "only clip your nails on Thursdays, during the day", "when you sneeze, don't think about your descendants", "sleep with your socks under your pillow", and so on. Even during my early youth, I was frustrated by the fact that there were these actions I was supposed to perform that made no sense, and the only explanation I was provided for them was "they bring luck" or "doing it otherwise is bad luck", and I wasn't provided any explanation for that. At the age of 12, I catalogued most of these practices that I suspected were complete nonsense (I even gave some the benefit of the doubt) and conducted a semi-scientific experiment, doing the precise opposite of what I was supposed to do for a month - this is why I excluded some of the non-obvious ones to me at the time, like "don't talk under a doorway", because in my model, the more sense it made, the stronger the consequences of disobeying it would be. Unsurprisingly, nothing tragic or out of the ordinary happened during my month of covert disobedience - and I considered one month to be the limit of long-term consequences at the time. I considered this conclusive proof that everyone in my family circle suffered from collective insanity. However, to my surprise, they were completely unwilling to be talked out of it, or to even talk about it at all. This frustrated me immensely, and I grew distant from my family with years. A few months ago, in an internet discussion over irrational beliefs, an LW member directed me to this site for an explanation of some psychological concept - I can't remember precisely which.

Comment author: lessdazed 10 September 2011 12:42:32AM 6 points [-]

"when you sneeze, don't think about your descendants"

Advocates of this would have much better results if they never said anything. The next time i sneeze, there's a good chance that I think of descendants, much higher than if I hadn't read this.

Comment author: [deleted] 09 September 2011 09:03:22PM 7 points [-]

Hello everyone, I'm a 24-year-old graduate student from Italy. I found this site after reading someone quoting Yudkowsky: "Quantum physics is not "weird". You are weird." I've been reading this blog the whole past few days. :-)

Comment author: kilobug 03 September 2011 12:40:04PM 7 points [-]

Hi everyone,

So well...

I'm a 30-yo french man, working as a Free Software developer (mostly in Python and C) and system administrator, deeply interested in "science" (maths, physics, biology, computer science, ...) since as far as I can remember. I define myself as a rationalist and a humanist.

What I value is not easy to explain in a few lines, but to say in three words I would say : humanity (human beings, or any sentient being able to show the quality of humanity like altruism and curiosity), truth (making the map closer to the territory, to use LW terminology) and progress (the idea that we can make the future a better place than the past).

I discovered Less Wrong through... "Harry Potter and the methods of rationality" which a fellow free software developer pointed me to, and I started reading the sequences since then. I find them deeply interesting. I'm not yet fully convinced about the Singularity (or least, it being in a mater of decades and not of centuries or more) nor about trans-humanism, but I do view them with a positive, if yet doubtful, glance.

As for how I went into rationality... well, I was more or less born into it, my parents being maths teachers. My studies in maths and physics (before switching to computer science) and my childhood love of science-fiction probably played a big role in that too.

But it also comes from discovering than in order to pursue "progress" and to protect humanity, we need to make our map reflect better the territory. I then added "truth" to my core values. As Eliezer said, you need something to protect.

Before discovering LW, I was a "traditional rationalist", but I'm slowly evolving (or at least, I think I am, but I may be only believing that I believe...) to a "bayesian rationalist" in reading the posts.

Good day to everyone !

Comment author: christina 30 August 2011 05:32:55AM *  7 points [-]

There's a welcome page? I hadn't noticed. I suppose I could give a few details about myself. I've been posting here for a little less than two months now.

On Me

I am a software engineer in my late twenties. I enjoy reading fantasy and science fiction novels, as well as books about physics, mathematics, biology, astronomy, and many other topics. I play no sports, but I bicycle nearly every day. I also enjoy programming, writing, photography, cooking, drawing, winning videogames, and working out mathematical equations for topics of interest.

On How I Found the Site

I occasionally like to peruse David Brin's blog, and wondered while reading a post how it was he came to recommend a Harry Potter fanfiction. So, David Brin's Blog-> HPMOR-> Less Wrong. I then proceeded to lurk and find out what was being discussed to get some context for the message board discussions. Eventually, I decided to see what would happen if I started posting comments.

So far, I've enjoyed the discussion on this site. I think there's a lot to think about here, which exercises my hobby of pondering the nature of society, life, and the universe in general.

Comment author: TuviaDulin 04 August 2011 06:49:15AM 7 points [-]

I'm Tuvia Dulin, and I ended up on these forums after reading Harry Potter fanfiction. I suspect that this is a common story among the membership.

I've tried to be rational ever since I learned what rationality was, but it wasn't until I suffered a psychotic episode that I learned what the true consequences of irrationality were. That was many years ago, and I have since completely recovered, but in some ways I'm glad for the experience; it taught me that without rationality, you have nothing dependable or sane.

Comment author: play_therapist 15 July 2011 08:36:08PM *  7 points [-]

Hi. I just opened a new account with this user name. My user name was playtherapist. It was pointed out to me that it was still being misinterpreted as play the rapist. I am a child therapist and social worker. I help disturbed children work through their issues while using dolls, action figures, a sand tray, art materials and therapeutic games. This is called play therapy and is the most effective way to do therapy with young children. I would never dream of "playing the rapist." There didn't seem to be a way to just modify my user name, so I opened a new account.

I am the mother of a regular poster and meetup leader. I started reading posts out of curiosity about what he was talking about, etc. Recently I began reading the sequences and top 100 articles. Some of it is quite interesting.

Comment author: chatquitevoit 13 July 2011 04:32:13AM 7 points [-]

I'm a 19-yo female student in the NYC area.

I was mildly ecstatic to find that not only does Less Wrong exist, but it's members have articulated absolute loads of things that my own mind had danced around but not gotten close to putting into words (reservations as to the value of that aside). I actually first became fascinated with Bayesian analysis when I learned about its use in cryptography, and in the pre-computer-age Bomba Machine that helped crack the German Enigma code at Bletchley Park. I saw that it could be used in a much less narrow way, insofar as plain old everyday rationality is concerned and I've been increasingly interested in it since. And along came Less Wrong to just blow open the idea into so, so many tangents and applications. :) Just great.

LW has also sort of managed to shock me by covering almost all of the specific areas into which my autodidactism has ranged, from philosophy and theosophy, to neurology and quantum physics. And seeing as I am (and as I suspect many people who become unhappy with the rate that the universe is 'giving' them information, and decide to SEEK it) 'educated' in a very deep but very patchy manner, LW's holistic approach to knowledge has been really refreshing, and I've had great fun (although not in the trivial sense at all) exploring it for a while. Now I'm going to start in on the Sequences.

I'm also absolutely going to seek out the LW/OB NYC meetups once fall starts - it's highly difficult for me to find people to have, er, rational and challenging discussions with, not to mention the camaraderie that comes from shared true 'curiosity', as per Eliezer's definition. I see good evidence here on the blog to believe it will live up to my expectations.


Comment author: Carwajalca 04 May 2011 11:43:16AM 7 points [-]

First a suggestion: I think it would make sense to change the topic to "Welcome to Less Wrong! (2010&2011)". I was confused whether I should post here or on the original "Welcome to Less Wrong!"

Then to the actual topic of my comment:


I've been lurking a couple of months now, the rationality mini camp finally activated me to do something instead of just passively soaking up information. I wasn't selected, but I definitely do not regret applying for the camp.

Some info about myself, I grew up on the south coast of Finland and went to a Swedish-language school. Consequently I'm bilingual (Fin&Swe) and also acquired a strong interest in languages - besides the aforementioned I speak English, German, Russian and French. My other hobbies are skiing (both downhill and cross-country), travelling and car repairing.

LW was the biggest reason why I bought myself a Kindle - namely I wanted to read the sequences during commuting but carrying the laptop arround was too tiresome. Thanks to jb55 for making eBook-versions of them! I've made my way through around 80% of the sequences, although I'll have to reread at least the quantum mechanics one with pen and paper at hand.

My location is in France, 2 km from the Swiss city of Basel. I'm currently doing an exchange year in ETH Zurich, but the apartment prices in Zurich together with the fact that my fiancee studies in Basel led us to choose France instead. My main subject is operations research, in a nutshell statistics/mathematics flavoured with lots of simulating. I'm very interested in decision analysis and decision theory. The information about cognitive biases on LW has exceeded that what I learned on the university course about decision analysis, don't know though whether this tells more about the course or LW... Furthermore the self-development interest and striving (Tsuyoky Naritai!) is something I share with the community.

Looking forward to summer meetups in Southern Finland! (Might organize one myself once I've relocated to the area)

Comment author: drc500free 17 December 2010 08:24:59PM 7 points [-]

Hello, My name is Dave Coleman. I was raised Atheist Jewish, and have identified as a rationalist my whole life. Browsing through the sequences, I realized I had failed to recognize some deeply ingrained biases.

I value making myself and others happy. Which others, and how happy, is something I've always struggled with. I used to have a framework with Jewish ethics, but I'm realizing that those are only clear in comparison to Christian ethics. Much of what I learned and considered was about how to make the Torah and Talmud relevant to modern, atheistic life.

I'm realizing the strong bias we had against saying "maybe it's not relevant, since it was written by immature goatherders 3500 years ago who had no knowledge of science or empathy for those outside their tribe." Admitting that wouldn't sound wise, so we twist and turn with answers, cluttering what could be a solid system of ethics.

For a while I've considered myself a reconstructionist Jew, with the underlying ethos of "do all Jewish traditions by default, but don't do anything that has a good reason not to be done." I've realized that not polluting my mind with incorrect and biased thought patterns is a good reason to avoid many things.

Another recent change has been an understanding of Judaism in terms of evolutionary fallacies. There is a strong sense in Judaism of being a Chosen People, and of a universal intention that Jews survive as Jews. Assimilation may be the biggest struggle for Jews, bigger even than persecution.

I realized that this is the same fallacy that sees intent in a species's characteristics. I had been labeling aspects of Judaism that lead to survival as being virtuous themselves - all of the dietary rituals to keep separate from goyim, the fear and guilt of assimilation. Even the love of learning and the drive to succeed has undertones of "thrive, for that is how you will survive the next pogrom." Preservation of the culture is virtuous, therefore anything that keeps the culture alive is virtuous.

I remember my first Differential Equations class, when we learned that the function that is its own derivative is f(x)=e^x, and the function that is its own second derivative is f(x)=sin(x). There was this eerie confusion as I first thought that those functions were just a possible solution, and then realized that they described the only solutions. I found it very disturbing that I couldn't describe whether the sine looked as it does by virtue of being its own second derivative, or whether it was its own second derivative by virtue of looking as it does. I still feel slightly uneasy that I can't assign a causal relationship in one direction or the other.

That's how I view Judaism now. The characteristics of all species and memes are a solution to the equation of survival. There is no intent or deeper meaning than that, and I think I've finally let that go.

Oh, and I got here from Reddit, where someone posted a link to the Paperclip Maximizer.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 23 October 2010 05:03:38AM 7 points [-]

My name's Dave.

I got here through the MoR fic a week or so ago, thence the Babykillers/HappyFunPeople fic, thence the Overcoming Bias archive, which I'm currently working my way through. Created an account to comment on a post there, then found this post.

I'm not sure I do identify as a rationalist, actually. It seems to me that a necessary condition to justify my making such a claim is valuing habits of thought and behavior that lead to accuracy over other kinds of habits -- for example, those that lead to peace or popularity or collaboration or productivity or etc. -- and I'm not sure I do.

(I don't mean to suggest that they are incompatible, or even mutually inhibitory. It might work out that someone primarily motivated by rationalism also ends up being maximally peaceful, popular, collaborative and/or productive, just as it might work out that someone primarily motivated by pacifism also ends up being maximally rational. But I don't see any good reason to believe it.)

That said, there are habits of thought and behavior I value and see well represented here. Precision in speech is one of them -- saying what you mean, requesting clarification for ambiguous statements, etc. Argument to explore an idea rather than defend a position is another. A third is the willingness to assume good will on the part of someone one disagrees with; to treat disagreement as an opportunity to teach or learn or both rather than as a challenge to be defeated or evaded. (Though perhaps that's just the second reason wearing a funny hat.) Active interest in how people think (as distinct from what they think) is another.

These are all fairly rare traits in the world, and even more so on the Internet, and I enjoy them where I find them.

More demographically: I've lived in Massachusetts since I came here for college 20+ years ago, was a cognitive science major back then and since then have worked in the software biz in various capacities (currently a requirements analyst). In my non-work hours (and in more of my work hours than I ought) I do community theatre and wander the Internet; I'm currently rehearsing for a production of The Goat and getting ready to direct a production of Equus next year. Was raised an Orthodox Jew and still identify that way culturally, but neither practice nor believe. Recently married my partner of 18+ years.

That's probably enough for now. Feel free to ask questions.

Comment author: mrflick 31 August 2010 02:50:05AM 7 points [-]

Hey everybody, I know I came across this late, but lately I've been becoming a more avid reader of the site, and thought I'd follow with the post's suggestion and give my introduction.

I came here from Overcoming Bias(via various econoblogs), although that doesn't really mark the beginning of my push into becoming a rationalist. The big turning point for me was coming across a NIH article that was linked to by econlog or marginalrevolution. Both of the two introduced me to Baye's Theorem, and how it could explain how so many publications in the medical literature could be statistically significant, yet incorrect(I think the paper estimated nearly half).

I had been struggling with social anxiety and had really screwed things up with a girl I really liked because of a few fundamental misunderstandings. In a clearer state of mind I was able to realize that I had an entirely wrong perception of what people thought of me and this girl in particular. But I couldn't explain why I would have such a skewed view of my world until I learned how to apply Baye's in how we evaluate our decisions.

Starting from the simple introduction into Baye's where one is asked to evaluate the problem of estimating the probablity someone has a disease based on a single diagnostic test, I learned how the false positives completely warped what the probability would be. I began to think about how many 'false positives' I may be clinging onto in my life, and how I could be getting so damn many of them. If I kept looking for any probable sign that someone didn't like me, especially while ignoring signs that I'm doing fine, I was gonna get a crap load of false positives, but would have relatively good reasons to believe them. I also began to realize how many coincidences there are in the world, and how many wrong theories these coincidences could validate if I kept looking in the wrong places and asking the wrong questions.

All of this in turn got me interested in the theory of the mind and cognitive biases - specifically thinking about how we unconsciously construct priors in our head, how we are lead into asking which questions, and how many different ways this can go wrong. I set out on a process to make that process go less wrong, and now I am here on this site introducing myself.

Comment author: ricketson 13 August 2010 01:44:44AM 7 points [-]

Hi. I just joined the site yesterday to post a comment. I've been tracking the feed for about a week, having recently decided to re-engage with the Internet. I learned of the site about three months ago, by way of a blogger who was blogging about social issues. I disagreed with him very strongly on those issues, but I checked out his other posts and he mentioned a discussion over here (I think he's a participant).

I think that the post that originally attracted my attention was something relating to the singularity idea. Being a geek myself, I'm kinda interested in the "geek rapture", but haven't gotten a good sense of how people approach it (I know there's a book).

Anyway, I checked out the site: i liked the mission statement and the structure. Probably most importantly, the name stuck in my head. "Less Wrong" has a nice, calmly optimistic ring to it (kinda like Marginal Revolution, another blog I like). I really like how the site relies on user ratings. I've been a big fan of systems that have the community act as the gatekeeper, and have always jumped on board such projects (Wikipedia and Daily Kos, for example). I even once tried to set up a Wiki for debates, but it was very clunky and never got critical mass.

I've been participating in on-line political debates for about 15 years now. I think I've learned a lot, but I ofter get sick of the debates -- especially when they involve mainstream activists who just repeat the same tripe over and over again. I've also become rather cynical towards our political institutions. I don't really think that it matters what I think about politics -- if I'm not willing to make a career out of it, I'm not going to impact anything. I've decided to make my career as a scientist instead.

All of these futile political debates lead me to ask why people are so bad at thinking (or at least, expressing rational thoughts). I've always viewed politics as a means to an end -- that end being human happiness-- and I'm increasingly thinking that it is irrelevant to promoting that end. I'm thinking that the real issue is in how people think and solve problems. If people think right, the politics will sort itself out. So, I'm hoping that Less Wrong can provide a more productive discussion.

Comment author: David_Allen 13 August 2010 12:20:49AM *  7 points [-]

My search began when I realized that I was confused. I was confused by what people did and what they said. I was confused by my responses to other people, how interacting with other people affected me. And I was confused about how I worked. Why I did the things I did, why I felt the way I did, why sometimes things were easy for me, and sometimes they were hard.

I learned very early in my life that I needed to critically analyze what other people told me. Not simply to identify truth or falsehood, but to identify useful messages in lies and harmful messages hidden in apparently truthful statements.

At the age of 11 I taught myself to program on a TRS-80, and in the process I discovered how to learn through play and exploration. Of course I had been learning in this way all along, but this was when I discovered the truth about how I learned. This realization has changed my approach to everything.

Computer programming confused me, so my search continued. By focusing on how I thought about programming, I quickly became very skilled. I learned how to explore problems and dissolve them into useful pieces. I learned how to design and express solutions in many programming languages and environments. I learned the theory of computation and how it is tied to philosophy, logic, mathematics and natural languages.

I worked in industry for 20 years, starting with internships. I've worked on large and small systems in low level and high level languages. I've done signal processing for engineering systems and developed web interfaces. I've worked alone, and in teams. I've run software teams launching companies.

Programming still confused me. I was frustrated and confused by how difficult it was to do programming well. In general it is very difficult to implement a simple idea, in a simple way that is simple to use. Even under ideal circumstances and in the best designed system, complexity grows faster than the code base. This dooms many projects to failure.

I am now coming to grips with the true nature of this problem, and with its solution. The problem rests in the nature of knowledge and meaning. The implications extend far beyond computer science and I intend to write articles on this topic for Less Wrong.

A core idea that I am exploring is the context principle. Traditionally, this states that a philosopher should always ask for a word's meaning in terms of the context in which it is being used, not in isolation.

I've redefined this to make it more general: Context creates meaning and in its absence there is no meaning.

And I've added the corollary: Domains can only be connected if they have contexts in common. Common contexts provide shared meaning and open a path for communication between disparate domains.

Comment author: isaaclyman 12 August 2010 03:42:13PM 7 points [-]

Hello rationalists (I'm tempted to shorten that word, but neither "rats" nor "rashes" is very complimentary),

I'm a sophomore in college, studying English. I've always been interested in getting smarter than the general population, and websites like this never fail to give me some productive reading/thinking material.

I'm very religious, which some would say is a serious fluke in an otherwise freethinking person. I disagree, but I won't waste your time with my irrational arguments in favor of my own methods of worship.

I love intelligent argument. I think we can get further, sociologically and mentally, by defending and testing rational thought than by any other method.

I probably will never get enough points to be one of the rationalati here, but I've subscribed to the RSS and I'm looking forward to several mind-expanding thoughts.

I discovered this site through youarenotsosmart.com.

Comment author: Craig_Heldreth 12 August 2010 03:07:35PM 7 points [-]

Hi all.

I have lurked on Less Wrong since Day 0. I found Overcoming Bias from Economics blogs I used to follow closely (Marginal Revolution, &c.) I now have my toe in the water here, having been unable to resist joining the Jaynes Probabiity Language of Science study group.

I came to Rationalism firstly by way of Physics and Mathematics, secondly by way of Philosophy. In college I used to do my problem sets in the Philosophy section of the library and my break time was devoted to Plato and to Aristotle and to Hume and the rest of those dead white guys.

After college in California I moved to the Gulf Coast and to do seismic for the oil industry. I have been using AI algorithms since 1992, which have a large number of seismic applications. If anybody is interested, I could point you to some references which have presentations and source material which compare with any I have seen.

I am also interested in applications of AI for finance and quantitative and technical analysis of asset and commodities prices. At this point I am near to a complete ignoramus on this subject and am keen to listen to and learn from anybody with a similar interest.

My mentor in spirit is Richard Feynman and I am trying to follow his advice as closely as possible. First, solve easy problems. Then keep working and keep solving harder and harder problems. Eventually you may find you have solved a problem that nobody has solved yet!

Comment author: DanR 12 August 2010 07:23:48AM *  7 points [-]

Hi I found Less Wrong a few days ago when someone pointed me towards your recent list of recommended books. I followed the comment thread (particularly nodding my head at the mentions of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations which I want to read) and had a look around the rest of the blog. I liked what I saw.

I'm an American living in Cyprus, and into learning more about the Epicurean, Skeptic, Stoics and Platonic philosophies. I'm also a molecular biologist by training, and interested in ecology, ornithology, birdwatching, cooking, and philosophy of science.

For my rationality, I grew up always thinking that Christianity was a nice metaphor for issues relating to the human condition, but never thinking that anything in the Bible happened literally the way it was said. I suppose you could say that I believed in the value of belief. Watching Bill Moyers' interview with Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth changed that for me 15 or so years ago. It just clicked with my view of religion: it served as a mythic narrative, and you don't need a mythic narrative to be religious... Star Wars or any other epic myth will do nicely. So I severed the only reason I ever had to value religion and never looked back, being skeptical of dubious claims ever since by nature.

If there are any skeptics, stoics, Epicureans or other rational minds in Cyprus, please contact me!

Comment author: cata 12 August 2010 05:38:35AM *  7 points [-]

Oh, hi. I'm an autodidact programmer in my early 20s working for a small company. A lot of programmers tend to be hacker sorts who like making things, but I mostly only care about achieving a deeper and more intuitive understanding of the world. I am interested in a lot of things, but I tend to concentrate alternately on math, CS, linguistics, philosophy, history, and literature.

I don't identify as a rationalist or make very rational decisions, but I share a lot of intellectual interests with the community, and there aren't really any other public spots on the web where smart people are discussing a variety of topics without a ton of noise and bullshit.

I don't have enough background in some of the jargon and shared historical discussion here to contribute to many of the more topical discussions, but hopefully as I catch up on the archives I'll be able to comment more often.

Comment author: imbatman 08 December 2011 05:20:23AM 6 points [-]

Hello All. I came across Less Wrong via Common Sense Atheism a few weeks ago. I have enjoyed it so far, but I have yet to put in the time to get up to speed on the sequences. Plan to, though.

I'm a Financial Accountant in Birmingham, AL. I'm not sure I would (yet) identify myself as a rationalist, but as for what I value, I value truth above all. And if I'm not mistaken, valuing truth seems a big step toward becoming a rationalist. I also value life, liberty, happiness, fun, music, pizza, and many other things.

Here's a little more about me:

Height: 6'0" Shoe Size: 12 Favorite Sport: Basketball Favorite Philosophers: Calvin & Hobbes Greatest Weakness: Distinguishing between reality and fantasy Greatest Strength: I'm Batman

Comment author: Gust 26 November 2011 01:01:23PM *  6 points [-]

Hello. My name is Gustavo Bicalho, I'm from Brazil, I'm 20 years old today. I intended to introduce myself here after I finished the sequences (I'm half way through the Fun Theory Sequence) but I thought I should give me this as a birthday gift. Heh.

I have some background in computer programming, having done a technical course of three years during high school. Although I don't know much of computer science (I know just a little about algorithm analysis and that was self-thaught from wikipedia), I think programming has helped me reshape my way of thinking, made it more structured and precise. I try to improve it however I can, and this is one of the reasons I'm joining LessWrong.

For several reasons, though, I left the computers field (not completely) and I'm now a Law student. I don't know if you get many of those around here. Anyway, reasoning in this field seems, to me, specially biased. Of course, any reasoning about law involves thinking about ethics and politics, but that isn't a license for fallacies lack of rigor in arguments. I think this is a problem, and rationality can help me to fight against this.

Also, I'm very interested in moral philosophy, as the foundation of Law. Yudkowsky's metaethics still isn't completely clear to me, but I've seen some discussion about moral philosophy around here and I guess it's probably worth reading (I have yet to read lukeprog's No-Nonsense Metaethics). Specially, if there's any discussion about justice, or fairness, I would like very much to read.

Besides that, I like to learn almost anything. Physics is interesting, math is very interesting. After reading the first sequences, cognitive science, evolutive psychology and decision thory got into the list, too. If I can learn at least the basics of these fields, I think I'll be a better thinker and a better person. I think LessWrong is a good starting point for that, too.

I think that's it.

Oh, if there's some post/discussion around here about Law already, I would be very glad if someone pointed it out.

See you around!


PS: Wow, this took me three hours to write o.o Trying to make a good first impression is kinda hard. PPS: Three persons in the same day! Is that usual?

Comment author: MixedNuts 26 November 2011 01:30:43PM 3 points [-]

Happy birthday!

Comment author: Ron_Fern 26 November 2011 03:30:39AM 6 points [-]

Hello I am a philosophy student in north Jersey. I'm 20 years old, and am very familiar with LW and the sequences. I've been reading LW now for about a year, and it has completely changed my life. I am very grateful to Eliezer and all of you for letting me have my Bayesian enlightenment at 20. When I first read the twelve virtues my life changed forever. I am definitely one of those that considers the sequences to be one of the most important works i have read, at least as far as having a personal influence.

I want to work on the hard questions of philosophy, grue and induction, cognition and consciousness, nominalism v.s. realism, Bayesian epistemology, philosophy of probability and mathematics in general, and even meta-physics, though I would like to positivize the field a bit. What I want to do as a philosopher is find problems/paradoxes/questions which fascinate me, and use rationality to solve them. "Solve" being the key word there. I think LW has done a lot to pursue many those goals, which seem strictly like philosophical goals. It seems to me, that LW should go full force and treat itself as a philosophical movement, conveniently primarily concerned with systematically becoming less wrong. Yes, there are mathematicians, and AI designers, and physicists, and psychologists among us, but that is how it should be in any modern philosophical movement.

I have given myself some primer time to become familiar with your terminology, content, and techniques. I now want to use these techniques to solve problems on paper and share the solutions with you. I am doing this because I expect that this will let me know how I am doing so far, and where I need to improve.

Lastly, I would like to ask, how does less wrong see itself? I mean what is the general LW opinion of what LW is? Is it a blog? An open source research institute? A philosophical movement? A non-philosophical movement? A self-help movement? I am curious.

Comment author: Ezekiel 26 November 2011 12:58:04AM 6 points [-]

Hi, everyone.

I'm currently finishing a first degree in CS, and I've been reading LW for a few months now (since June). I've read through most of the Sequences and check the front page of the site for anything that looks interesting whenever I want to put off doing something, which is usually several times a day. I also need to get round to finishing Godel, Escher, Bach some time (I'm kinda slow).

I am, at the moment, a terrible rationalist - my goals aren't even clearly defined, let alone acted on, and I have a strong background in tournament debating, which allows me to argue myself into believing whatever I feel like believing at any given moment. I think I'm getting better at that, but of course my own opinion is almost worthless as evidence on the subject.

On the other hand, reading this site (especially Yudkowsky's stuff) at least made me stop being religious. I like to think I'd have got there in the end anyway, but seeing as I really didn't enjoy it, I thank everyone here for pulling me out sooner rather than later.

Quick question: Does anyone know of a formal from-first-principles justification for Occam's Razor (assigning prior probabilities in inverse proportion to the length of the model in universal description language)? Because I can't find one, and frankly, if you can't prove something, it's probably not true. I'd rather not base my entire thought process on things that probably aren't true.

Hoping to be able to contribute, Ezekiel

PS Good grief, there's an average of one introducing-yourself post every couple of days! Why the heck are all the front-page articles written by the same handful of people?

Comment author: orbenn 04 November 2011 01:45:46AM *  6 points [-]

Hi LessWrongians, I've actually been reading this for a few months since I discovered it through HPMOR, but I just found this thread. I've been a traditional rationalist for a long time, but it's great to find that there is a community devoted to uncovering and eliminating all the human biases that aren't obvious when you're inside them.

I'm 27 with a BS in Business Information Systems and working as an analyst, though I consider this career a stopgap until I figure out something more entrepreneurial to do. I've been slowly reading through the sequences, but my brain can only handle so much at a time.

Mostly I just want to say thanks to everyone who writes/reads/comments on LessWrong. This site is awesome. It's the only place I've found on the internet that consistently makes me stop and think instead of just rolling my eyes.

Comment author: Suryc11 01 November 2011 09:13:35PM 6 points [-]


I'm 18 years old, American, and a sophomore in college.

I discovered this site through HPMoR in December of last year, but did not seriously start reading the Sequences and other posts until the past half year or so. This site played an instrumental role in de-converting me; I had grown up in the Midwest in a very fundamentalist Christian household. After becoming firm in my atheism (untheism + antitheism), I sadly stopped lurking on here, until I became interested in philosophy and the rationality as espoused on LW.

I have always been considered "smart" in school, or to put it more specifically, I was well-optimized for succeeding in the United States' public educational system. Similar to probably a non-trivial number of posters on here, the U.S.'s approach to (public) education almost completely failed me - not necessarily saying the system is broken, but it is/was broken for me individually. My high school taught to the lower denominator, and even after both skipping a grade and deciding to graduate a year early, I was never challenged in school. I never discovered my academic interests, never was intellectually stimulated, and in fact, was socially pressured into downplaying my intelligence whenever possible. This is not to say that I was blameless. I have always fallen prey to akrasia, and this combined with low standards in school contributed to me not exploring my intellectual boundaries and accepting the worldview I was brought up in.

Thankfully, because of a life-changing event (in summary: went halfway across the country to a top 15-ranked private college, accepted an Army ROTC full scholarship, partied too hard, realized I abhorred the military, decided not to contract with the Army, realized after almost failing first semester that my work ethic from high school was not enough, and transferred to my state's flagship college for the second semester) I was forced to re-evaluate my worldview, confront any hidden assumptions, make my personal philosophy as coherent as possible, and really discover what I wanted to do with my time on this pale blue dot.

Currently I'm at my third educational institution (small, private liberal arts college) in two years and finally feeling simultaneously happy and intellectually stimulated. I'm looking forward to reading more insights on this blog and applying them to my life whenever possible. Perhaps I may even chime in if I'm feeling particularly courageous, but I'm a lurker by nature.

Just wanted to finally introduce myself and say thanks to all of you here for helping me turn my life around for the better!

Comment author: eggman 13 October 2011 06:43:37PM *  6 points [-]

This seems rather unnecessary, but I'm posting here so that other people have a reference to my intro to rationality, if they're so inclined to read about it.

At the time of this posting I'm a 19 year-old male college student of middle class origins living in Vancouver, Canada, if that makes a difference. I was raised in a nonreligious home by politically centrist and humanist parents.

Having friends who were a bit nerdy and considered themselves rational in an irrational world, sane in an insane world, etc. they were very interested in a film called "Zeitgeist: Addendum" which confirmed their worldview at the time. I too watched the film and we were in awe of the Venus Project. http://www.thevenusproject.com http://zeitgeistmovie.com/

The Venus Project sees a bulk of humanity's problems as the result of faulty human psychology being propogated by social stratification in a money economy. The creators of the Venus Project believe that by creating material abundance through the application of technology that the Law of Supply and Demand can be superceded and hence money no longer needs to exist. In a global society with no social stratification, a culture based upon values derived through use of the Scientific Method could then be propogated to prevent all future global-scale conflicts. I would describe it as post-scarcity technocratic marxism/anarcho-communism.

We got involved in an online community built around the Venus Project, with aims to participate in an intentional community of some sort. . Originally we thought the Zeitgeist Movement would be about reaching conclusion about how civilizations could reduce existential risk, and then using some form of mass media to get this message out. Ultimately, we found that the organizaiton was too focused on inert political activism, as well as the regional group being very autocratic. Around the same time, a friend of mine interested in Singulatariansim and transhumanism discovered LessWrong and got the rest of us interested. We no longer participate in any formal or public organizations, seeing them as mostly ineffective, instead just being a group of friends interested in the problematic lack of rationality in societies.

In other words, we found organizations that had a sound epistemic rationality, but without instrumental rationality, they became stagnant. To figure out how to effectively communicate rationality to others is as important a goal as learning about it myself.

We have switched to a more individualist and modest focus: just trying to understand the world and improve our own lives, moving onto something bigger in the long-run. We are doing this with much inspiration and influence from LessWrong.

In the near future I will read HP:MoR and the sequences and move on from there.

Comment author: lessdazed 13 October 2011 09:04:43PM *  4 points [-]


I'm posting here so that other people have a reference to my intro to rationality

Of all the people other than you that there are, this reference will be most important to eggman_2013.

Comment author: occlude 10 October 2011 01:20:27AM *  6 points [-]

Hello everyone, it's so great to be here. I was introduced to LessWrong by a post left by C. Russo on Freedomainradio.com back in late July, which dumped me right into How to Actually Change Your Mind. Since then, I have found myself spending progressively more of my free time here, reading both old and new content.

Over the last several years, I've made a habit of spending my evenings online, blown by the winds of curiosity. While this has led me to the vague sense that I needed to make some adjustments to my map, I didn't have a good sense of the tools I needed to edit it.

I grew up in a religious (Mormon) family (was even a white-shirt-wearing, door-knocking, Book-of-Mormon thumping missionary for two years), but gave up my belief in my mid-twenties after searching for -- and failing to find -- a convincing argument for my belief. I had been taught to identify a specific and powerful feeling with "The Holy Ghost," but when I reflected on my experiences, I realized that I had felt that feeling on many occasions that seemed inconsistent with the idea that God was giving me information in those moments. I have, furthermore, felt that feeling many times since my apostasy, which seems (to quote Cyan), like icing on the coffin of that false belief. A few days ago, I read a comment on A Rationalist's Tale by summerstay which gave my feeling a name (frisson), and a scientific explanation.

I manage a small group of analysts at a large corporation, and have of late been on the lookout for ways to infuse LW concepts into our group discussions. On a related note, I read Raising the Sanity Waterline today, and wondered whether anyone has thought about or attempted to actually create a Youtube series corresponding to Eliezer's four-credit undergraduate course with no prerequisites, designed to secretly make people more rational.

Sorry for the ramble; again, it's a pleasure.

Comment author: Velorien 07 October 2011 12:49:51PM 6 points [-]

Greetings, all. I've spent most of my life (being 24 now) longing for the sort of clarity provided by rationalist thought, but only discovered a few months ago that there was such a thing as empirically verifiable truth accessible to me, and that it was possible to build a belief system with solid foundations. I'm still going through the resulting lengthy process of reassessing my beliefs in light of actual evidence.

My partner recently introduced me to this site, and I dived right in - only to hit a concrete wall. My mathematical skills, unused since school, have completely atrophied, to the point that I can't even follow An Intuitive Explanation of Bayesian Reasoning (my work computer's refusal to load applets not helping). Since a significant proportion of the Sequences seem to rely on at least a basic understanding of probability theory, I am rather stuck. With this in mind, I'd like to ask for recommendations of material which will help me grasp the essentials necessary to fully understand Less Wrong.

I realise that asking for things I might theoretically find through sufficient Googling sounds lazy, but on the other hand the fine people here might know the best-written and most effective ways of covering the necessary ground.

So: what areas of mathematics and probability theory do I need to cover in order to be able to follow the material on Less Wrong, and do you know of any good sources for learning them, assuming I'm starting from zero?

Comment author: [deleted] 07 October 2011 02:38:55PM *  5 points [-]

Don't worry, you're definitely not the only one who found the Intuitive Explanation difficult. Have you seen Visualizing Bayes' Theorem? If that doesn't help, there are some other explanations on this LessWrongWiki page.

As far as the sequences are concerned, you'll probably be fine as long as you have a basic understanding of what probability is and how to use Bayes' Theorem; fortunately, there isn't too much math in the Core Sequences.

Comment author: [deleted] 24 September 2011 04:55:22AM *  6 points [-]

Greetings everyone; I recently found this website and immediately witnessed a great abundance of intellect and informed stream of thought-forms in a numerous of interesting topics, something- I might add, relatively rare in many forums 'out there' on my previous personal experience. In a brief response to the interest in: "know who you are, what you're doing, what you value, how you came to identify as a rationalist or how you found us."

My name is Steven. A senior undergraduate student majoring in psychology, with a fair concentration in cognitive psychology and a minor in philosophy. Although I am more of a designer at heart ,I pursued this field in the reason to learn more about topics that generally revolve around many philosophical theories in nature. My main interest dwell in the fields and issues pertaining to: philosophy of mind, neuroscience, psychophysics, anthropometric, cognitive psychology, probabilistic science, engineering psychology and human factors. My long term goal: is to apply my knowledge into the fields of: Philosophy, human-computer interaction (HCI), artificial intelligence(A.I), ambient intelligence, ubiquitous computing, information science/technology, interaction design and space automation.

I value innovation rather than the traditional approach on things, generally: logic, rationality, strong philosophical exchange, novel ideas, idealistic concepts, multidisciplinary perspectives, well grounded theories, humble personalities, informed commentaries, objectivity, evolution of ideas, altruism, goal oriented designs, achievements and curiosity.

I personally subscribe to the notion that: nature and life itself is far 'more/to' complex than what we can perceive or detail in order to even engage on explaining them on such absolute parameters and/or limitations, I values the approximation science gives it and the level of uncertainty and margin or error it present when doing so. Naturalism have shown to be productive towards rendering rationality as well as fruitful results to most of the greatest quest and question of the human mind: The advancement of technology seams to be the major sign of this development and the future of the next epoch/period of the human condition. Studying nature to understand its mysteries and potentials seams to be the best instructor to a developing civilization and curiously enough well founded as a natural fail-safe mechanism for intelligence. I find pursuing and collaborating in the advent of a new period to be the most interesting step anyone could take upon in a lifetime.

I found about this portal at the webpage of the Singularity Summit 2011- in connection with the 'Singularity Institute'. I'm Glad to be part of this rational community. Thanks for reading.

Comment author: EphemeralNight 07 September 2011 11:09:40PM *  6 points [-]

Hello LessWrong.

We'd love to know who you are, what you're doing, what you value, how you came to identify as a rationalist or how you found us.

In order then,

I would consider myself to be on the line between an aspiring and burgeoning Artistic Polymath; a storycrafter not picky about means or medium, but very picky about what I would call Extrapolated Contextual Detail. For my part, I treat stories very much like thought-experiments, and as such I've invested a lot of effort in expunging from my mind the defaultness of the environment in which I was raised, so that it does not taint my creations (I am still far from perfect at this). Unless I am mistaken, this particular route to rational thinking is less than common here, but even coming from a different direction, I seem to have ended up in the same place. However, I don't think it was storycrafting in itself that led me to question why I thought what I thought. I remember the very first time I Noticed My Confusion. It's actually one of my very earliest memories, pre-kindergarten: I wanted to know how computers worked, and I had books for kids with big friendly titles like "How Computers Work" but they didn't actually explain. I remember working myself up into quite a fit before my dad finally found an old textbook of his and used it to actually explain logic-gates and such to me. My artistic inclinations were with me that early, also, and I don't know which developed first or if they're even related. But that was the trend of my early life, at least until the public school system spent 12 years crushing my spirit and destroying my health. Today I happen to be male, 22 years old, sexually attracted to females, ambiguously pale, and of average height and weight. Also romantically bereft, socially frustrated, and professionally aimless, mostly due to my sleep disorder.

Officially, I'm unemployed. Unofficially I'm being paid to house-sit here in California for my dad, who lives in Arizona. Beyond that, I am currently working on: planning a fantasy novel or two, planning a finite-length webcomic or three, producing machinima, learning 3d-modeling, writing fanfic, and map-making in Starcraft 2. Also, keeping a log of how long it takes for my sleep cycle to lap the clock (20 days on average so far), ever since I discovered that my abnormal circadian rhythm was an actual recognized neurological condition and not just some bizzare psychological problem.

I value creativity and sexuality. I value other things as well, of course, but these are the pieces of the human puzzle that most intrigue me. On sexuality, I personally (since I try to modify my self to test my theories, lacking a more reliable experimental option) have what are likely to be very weird views. For instance, I've managed to get myself to honestly feel that it is morally reprehensible to be squicked-out by anyone's sexual attraction towards myself, regardless of my own reciprocal attraction or lack-thereof. I'm also fairly confident that I've succeeded in completely decoupling my sense of identity from my gender. My pet theory is that a far greater portion of the human sociosexual dynamic than commonly thought, is Nurture rather than Nature. Given how drastically I've been able to change my own sexual morals, I've come to have some confidence in the theory.

I don't know if I do identify as a Rationalist yet (note the capital) because I'd rather not risk falling into the traps of Cheering or Atire.

I discovered LessWrong through TvTropes. I did little more than glance at the site before diverting to read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which captivated me right from the first chapter, for having clearly not Hollywood!Science and for the character of HJPEV who I related to instantly and not just because we have the same sleep disorder. His lamentation of child-prodigies who flash and fade hit particularly close to home even though I never really considered myself a prodigy (I never specialized in just one thing enough to be good enough, and I never saw the point of working to better myself in unenjoyable ways since I'm just going to cease to exist several decades down the road anyway. Yes I was still in the single-digits when I first comprehended my own mortality). I also read Luminosity before finally coming back to LessWrong, which was awesome for being what Twilight should have been. I've read somewhat more than half of the Sequences so far. Its very much engaging stuff, and its great to be able to put names to all the stuff that's been going on in my head for a while now, and grow those seeds into more robust understandings.

Comment author: crazy88 02 September 2011 05:01:56AM 6 points [-]


I've been lurking on LW/OB for a while but thought I'd sign up. I'm currently doing a philosophy degree which you might expect would make me feel unwelcome on LW (which is often fairly anti-philosophy) but it's actually really great to come across a group with a similar view about how to do philosophy as me - I tend to come across more interesting philosophy ideas here than I do in classes.

Anyway, just thought I'd say hello.

Comment author: jsbennett86 15 August 2011 05:17:51AM 6 points [-]

My name's Joshua Bennett, and I also came here after reading the Harry Potter fanfiction. I made a commitment to pursuing rationality after reading Richard Mitchell's book The Gift of Fire, and seeing even a fictional example of applied rational thinking got me excited. I know that, despite my best efforts, I am a terribly irrational person; I want to fix that.

In the past year or so I've thrown off (among other things) my fundamentalist Christian beliefs in pursuit of truth, and I now call myself an atheist and anti-theist. When people ask how I lost my faith, I tell them I didn't lose it so much as cut it out and throw it away as one would a cancer. I know there are many other cancerous irrationalities lodged into my mind, and I hope that, by studying and conversing with the community here, I will begin to excise as much unreason as I can.

(By the way, I'm glad to see this community is atheist-friendly; I live in Texas and there don't seem to be very many non-religious folk around.)

Comment author: Micaiah_Chang 23 July 2011 10:00:29PM 6 points [-]

Hello all!

I'm a twenty year old college student studying physics. My introduction to LessWrong has most likely been lost to the ravages of time (although there's this nagging feeling I was linked here by a random forum post on GameFAQs). That was about a year, year and a half ago. I've read about halfway through the sequences via the haphazard method of "Wow that's interesting I guess I'll drop the next hour or so reading it." While I realize that finishing the sequences is highly recommended, I haven't seen a significant amount of large-inferential-distance-statements-oh-geez-what-is-going-on here type posts so I think I'll be fine despite my incompleteness.

As to the more pertinent question of my road to rationality, well, I was raised in China where religion was nearly nonexistent and my first exposure to the Bible was a picture book which I treated more or less like Greek or Egyptian myths (~8 years old). This lead to a natural interest in the New Atheism movement which articulated my unspoken problems with religion and exposing me to the skeptics community as well (15-17 years old). However, a small nag at the back of my mind floated that there was something I was doing wrong if I was pursuing truth, despite the apparent correctness of the atheist position!

In comes LessWrong (~19 years old). In some cases, merely repeating things that I had thought and agreed with (but never acted upon! so basically not anything I valued) to opening up entirely new avenues of thought (Mostly newcombtype problems and decision theories). A post that Yvain made a while back about X-rationality, which downplayed the clarity of thought afforded by reading LessWrong, was in complete opposition to my own experience. I felt something close to constant... joy I suppose? as I observed previously confusing and opaque subjects become understandable and transparent. Where's Waldo with model fitting induced utilitons if you will.

The catalyst for joining the community though, was the meetup here in the San Diego area. While it would be inaccurate to say that I'm unsatisfied with my life, I feel as if a lot of my satisfaction arises out of complacency and adherence to the status quo rather than a response to accomplishing any goals (a poor man's wirehead indeed!). Going to a meetup with a lot of smart, engaged and most of all unconfused people might clear up my confusion for my life goals, but the real goal here is to meet new people.

Perhaps I'll just use this account as a karma, PM and meetup bot, I do have a busy schedule. Or perhaps I will try to contribute to the community. Either way, the plan is to have fun, take names and fall off the shoulders of giants repeatedly.

Note, Micaiah is not my real first name, it arose out of a conversation where a friend compared me to the Biblical prophet, because I frequently make unpleasant predictions which turn out to be true anyway.

Comment author: anotheruser 29 June 2011 03:38:20PM 6 points [-]

Hello Less Wrong.

I am 19 years old and have been interested in philosophy since I was 13. Today, I am interested in anything that has to do with intelligence, such as psychology and AI and rationality.

I believe in the possibility of the technological singularity and want to help make it happen.

I hope that the complex and unusual ways of thinking that I have taught myself over the last years while philosophizing will allow me to tackle this problem from directions other people have not yet thought of, just like they enabled me to manipulate my own psyche in limited ways, such as turning off unwanted emotions.

I am currently studying computer science in the first semester with the goal of specializing in AI later.

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 22 January 2011 12:25:19AM *  6 points [-]

I'm not new here, but I never introduced myself and have recently started participating more; it makes sense to say a few words.

Hi. My username is my full name. I'm 34 years old, male, and live in Tel-Aviv, Israel with my wife and two year old daughter. I've lived the first half of my life so far in the USSR, the second half in Israel; consequently my native language is Russian, and I also speak Hebrew. I'm a secular Jew.

I work as a software engineer in a large corporation, doing interesting things. I try to maintain and extend some knowledge of math and physics (I've studied math in graduate school in the past, but didn't finish the degree). I read books, mainly fiction in English and Russian. I have insatiable curiosity about countless academic fields and disciplines, in hard sciences, social sciences and humanities, and have acquired much shallow knowledge in many of them, very little deep knowledge in any. I have some online presence in English, mostly due to open-source work I did in the past (not much recently), but my primary online presence is through my blog, which is written in Russian.

I've been reading OB/LW since late 2007, mainly lurking, with a few comments. Stopped reading save a rare peek in summer 2009, and came back this month. Consequently I read most of the sequences as they were published, but I missed or skipped a fair amount and plan at some point to re-read many of them. Among the topics popular in this community, I'm more interested in Bayesian probability/statistics, epistemology, philosophy of science, rationality, cognitive biases, math/physics. Less interested in FAI, the Singularity, PUA, status, and drama-heavy topics.

I probably self-identify more as a skeptic than as a rationalist, but I don't feel strongly about that. My contributions so far have usually had a contrarian bent, but I don't aim to be a gadfly, I just tend to be more excited by things I disagree with. Will try to balance this to some degree.

Comment author: Elizabeth 17 October 2010 05:41:03PM 6 points [-]

My name is Elizabeth, and I made my way here through "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality," but quickly found myself fascinated. I've been reading intermittently for a few months, and would likely not be posting here today due to an unfortunate personal tendency towards lurking and the sheer daunting nature of the volume and intelligence of discussion, but when I was reading about narrowness I came across a comment I couldn't help responding to, and decided my newfound positive karma score was worth overcoming my trepidation about permanent records.
I've most recently been reading about the nature of words and definitions, which is a topic of particular interest to me. I really like it when a post walks me through a set of ideas that I sort of half knew, but never really codified, and I like it even better when it's something I had never thought of, or which changes how I think of things. Some of the posts about biases were particularly effective in that regard. I hope to be a productive part of the discussion.

Comment author: Snowyowl 23 August 2010 09:55:43PM 6 points [-]

Hello. I'm Snowyowl, or Christopher if you're interested in my real name. (Some people are.) I first discovered this site on Friday 14th August, when a friend of mine (who calls herself Kron) pointed me in the direction of the story "Harry Potter and the Methods Of Rationality".

I don't consider myself a rationalist, because that seems like a sure-fire way of feeling superior to 90% of the world. Also, I have realised in the past week that a lot of my beliefs and opinions are contradictory - in LessWrong lingo, my Bayesian network isn't internally consistent. Of course, I had noticed that before now, but it didn't seem an important problem before I read a few relevant blog posts. So no, I'm not a rationalist, and I hadn't even heard the word until two weeks ago.

I'm a second-year mathematics undergrad at the time of writing; I had actually heard of Bayes' Theorem years ago. I have also taken courses branching out into computing and physics. The techniques in your blog appeal to my way of thinking, since I enjoy mathematics and logic, and applying scientific methods to everyday life is a relatively new concept to me.

So hello, LessWrong! I look forward to many calm and reasonable debates!

Comment author: paulfchristiano 15 August 2010 05:28:56AM 6 points [-]

I am an undergraduate mathematician currently headed towards a life of doing theoretical computer science research. Several unrelated friends mentioned LW to me at one point or another in my life, so I read an arbitrary well-liked post every so often for a while. Eventually I concluded that visiting the site somewhat regularly would make me happy (although I have thought enough about how I think, and am easily arrogant enough, to doubt that I will become a better person or learn too much about myself) and so here I am.

I am an (almost) Bayesian utility maximizer when I manage to do what I think I should. My utility is the expected quality of a uniformly random instant of conscious experience (although less flagrantly ill-defined than suggested by such a summary). In practice I am fairly selfish and lazy, but also good at accepting unpalatable arguments.

I am interested mostly in solving problems whose solutions I think would reduce suffering significantly compared to their difficulty, but I also spend a little time thinking about more philosophical issues and questioning my current decision making procedure. I guess a more precise picture of my interests will emerge as I make more comments, if I do, and will be irrelevant, if I don't.

Comment author: majus 13 August 2010 05:00:55PM 6 points [-]

I've been lurking on LW for a couple of months, trying to work through all of the major sequences. I don't remember how I discovered it; it might have been a link in the BadAstronomy blog. I studied astronomy in school and grad school and end up becoming a software engineer, which I've done for almost 30 years now. Most of the content here resonates powerfully with the intellectual searching I've been doing my whole life, and I'm finding it both stimulating and humbling. Spurred by what I've read here, I've just acquired Judea Pearl's "Causality" and Barbour's "The End of Time", and I'm working through the Jaynes book on bayesian probability (though the study group seems pretty inactive). There's a lot of synchronicity going on in my life; much of my software work over the last decade has involved causality graphs and Bayesian belief networks, but I hadn't taken the time to delve very deeply into understanding the underlying fundamentals. I recently read Lee Smolin's "The Trouble With Physics", and he mentioned Barbour's work as a possibly promising new direction, so reading Eliezer's comments on it struck a chord. Finally, I'm becoming increasingly aware of transformative change in society (though I wouldn't go so far as to anticipate the Singularity any time soon) and trying on new ideas and concepts that might make me more successfully adaptive, like those found in Seth Godin's blog and books or Pamela Slim's "Escape from Cubicle Nation". I recognize a similar leap facing me here: if I come to believe that the Singularity/AI are "real", can I stop lurking and take meaningful action?

Comment author: Particleman 13 August 2010 12:44:28AM *  6 points [-]

Hello! I've been a reader of Less Wrong for several months, although I never bothered to actually create an account until now. I originally discovered LW from a link through some site called "The Mentat Wiki." I consider myself an atheist and a skeptic. I'm entering my senior year of high school, and I plan on majoring in Physics at the best college I can get into!

Actually, I had come across EY's writings a few months earlier while trying to find out who this "Bayes" was that I had seen mentioned a couple different blogs I read. That was a pleasant connection for me.

I had an interesting time testing Tversky and Kahneman's Anchoring Bias for my end of the year project in my 11th grade Statistics class. On the plus side, we found a strong anchoring effect. On the minus side, it was a group project, and my groupmates were...not exactly rationalists. I had to kind of tiptoe around what LW actually was.

Since I've started reading Less Wrong, I think the best sign of my improvement as a rationalist is that a number of concepts here that I used to find penetrating or insightful now seem obvious or trivial. On the other hand, I think a red flag is that I haven't really made any major revisions to my beliefs or worldview other than those coming directly from LW.

I look forward to learning as much as I can from Less Wrong, and perhaps commenting as well!

Comment author: CronoDAS 13 August 2010 05:13:31AM 5 points [-]
Comment author: RowanE 12 August 2010 03:33:47PM 6 points [-]

I think I first came to this site via a link on another forum to the "Three Worlds Collide" story... or the "That Alien Message" one. And then I read more articles. I find rationality, cryonics and the singularity to be very interesting, and most of the articles I've seen so far are about those topics.

I'm in the UK, and I'll be in sixth form in september, will do maths, electronics, chemistry and physics.

I don't yet feel I can identify as a rationalist, but I don't think I'll be able to assess this until I catch myself thinking irrationally in response to something, either before or after the fact. I'm not sure how I can even define "me as a rationalist"...

Comment author: mstevens 12 August 2010 11:02:07AM 6 points [-]


I think I may have posted on a welcome thread before, but I still consider myself pretty new so saying hi again.

I've long thought rational thought is underrated. I find LW very interesting but quite difficult to get into.

Things I'd like to see:

Better introductory content.

Things I find particularly interesting:

Discussion of akrasia and strategies for avoiding it.

Buddhism - is it compatible with rationality? Personally I think some aspects yes, some aspects no.

Comment author: tomme 14 March 2012 08:14:10PM 5 points [-]

Hi there,

I am a high school senior who is interested in science, particularly in natural sciences. One day I hope to further our understanding of...well, anything you can think of!

My lifestyle, which I adopted after carefully analyzing my goals, is pretty spartan: I eat a strict diet, I exercise often, I only read certain things and so forth.

I discovered the transhumanist movement a few months ago. I have decided to join lesswrong.com because I think that I stand to learn a lot from this community and, maybe, even bring something to the table.

Comment author: UngnsCobra 10 March 2012 06:02:09PM 5 points [-]


I'm a 3rd year Economics Undergrad student at the University of Glasgow. I found LessWrong, by reading a Profile on Peter Thiel, my interest are: economics (obviously, used to be macro but now gearing towards more experimental area's.) philosophy, mostly stoic; not Seneca etc but Aurelius 'Meditations', history of maths and risk. Financial markets to an extent, but it's not something I'm pursuing religiously. I have always been interested in self-development but though that the literature would need to be seriously scrutinized, so I'm very happy that I found this place. Singularity, from a economic point of view. Transhumanism is something I find extremely interesting combined with Cognitive enhancement at the moment, I'm still mapping the territory of it.

Cheers / UngnsCobra

Comment author: Mass_Driver 10 March 2012 06:39:35PM 3 points [-]

Welcome to Less Wrong! Your interests sound interesting. What does it mean to look at the Singularity from an economic point of view?

Comment author: [deleted] 26 February 2012 05:37:24PM 5 points [-]

My name is not Stuart David. I use a pseudonym online as a means to completely sidestep the issue being branded with a view I don't necessarily hold but have simply argued for or posted about. I am also an extremely private person and wish to remain so.

I am in my mid 20s and I am still working on my B.S. in Physics. On and Off university for the past few years. I have been involved in the promotion of reason, science and skepticism via CFI (Center for Inquiry) and I have personally pursued rationality for the past 10 years or so. Preferred activities in my life are learning, debate, philosophical inquiry, science, history, politics and chess.

I am a consequentialist morally with the fundamental value of well being/human flourishing to be maximized. I am deeply committed to science and reason and strive to build my life around this. Needless to say I do not believe in supernatural things. I am also a determinist and I am skeptical of a persistent self.

My aim in joining this site is to tap into what seems to be a remarkably brilliant brain pool and post articles of my own so they can be destroyed if they can. I have read some of the sequences on this site but I had to put that on hold for different reasons I intend over time to become more and more familiar with this and eventually start a meet up group. I already have a weekly meet up group dedicate to philosophy, science, rationality and debate that has been going for over 5 years so It would just be a matter of incorporating more and more less wrong content into our activities.

Thank you and I look forward to interacting with you.

Comment author: Gunrunnermusic 20 February 2012 11:55:10PM 5 points [-]

Hi my name is Krish Sharma. I am a recording record producer and recording engineer, with several small music-related businesses. I have degrees in economics and computer science, but as far as music I am self-taught. I feel a strong connection to the idea of the pursuit of human rationality, but many times feel I lack the processing power to really make sense of our environment on my own. In my ad-hock voyage through the information biosphere I have felt at times very discouraged by the general "triumph of irrationality". For the most part my internal solution has been to point out inconsistencies in data or logic where I see them and also, especially in business dealings, pay special attention to avarice-connected misrepresentations. Going forward, however, I hope to move on from this reactionary approach and develop my own set of paradigms and worldviews. Instead of merely understanding what I don't believe, I want to understand what I do believe. I am hoping to achieve not only a clearer and more nuanced picture of the environment in which I live, but also a greater connection to it.

I hope to be a constructive addition to any discussions I participate in here.

Comment author: rlp10 02 February 2012 08:01:29PM 5 points [-]

Hi, I'm Richard. I'm a lawyer, practising in Norwich, England. I've been 'lurking' on lesswrong, and working my way through the sequences, for some time.

I have an interest in technology, and particularly open source projects. For example, I'm writing this right now in Emacs.

I hope I will be able to contribute positively to this community, which has certainly already helped me a great deal.

Comment author: kmdouglass 26 December 2011 03:45:01AM 5 points [-]

Hello everyone, I'm a 27 year old graduate student pursuing a degree in optics from the University of Central Florida. I perform experimental research in optical sensing of biological and random materials. Though I enjoy my research, I'm more interested in the philosophy of science. By philosophy of science I mean the framework of logical structures that scientists use to identify problems and arrive at solutions. Most of my colleagues, myself included, received no formal education of this type; rather, our educations were limited to the theory and application of the hard sciences while it was assumed that we would develop a framework for rational thought as a consequence. However, I see many working scientists fail to employ rational thought, especially in the lab, and I believe the inclusion of this topic in engineering and science curricula would better prepare students for graduate and industrial work.

I feel that a brief history of how I came to understand rationality would help describe who I am. I first became attuned, so to speak, to rationalism when I read Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals in college. I was raised protestant but throughout my life had felt no affinity for the Christian world view. However, growing up in rural Ohio afforded me no other mode of thinking. GoM's criticism of ascetics, along with increasingly frequent encounters with liberal thought in college, led me to embrace my skepticism for the first time.

I read Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance my first year in graduate school. I've since read it twice more and, while I still can't claim to fully understand Pirsig's message, mark it as a major influence on my thinking, especially on practical problem solving.

The most recent event in my maturation as a rationalist is the discovery of both this blog and Julia and Jesse Galef's Measure of Doubt. Though it seems a bit silly now, I honestly didn't realize that other people thought the same way I did. It's quite refreshing to learn that whole communities of like-minded people exist when one has been more-or-less secluded from them their entire life.

Aside from my interests in philosophy and science, I find environmentalism fascinating and feel morally obligated to make environmentally conscious decisions. I like to travel, rock climb, bicycle, cook, and brew beer. I'm happy to share more and am looking forward to learning from others on this blog.

Comment author: Sush 24 December 2011 04:28:31PM *  5 points [-]

Hi everyone, I've been following this site for a long time and I really feel like it's had a huge impact on me, if not just because I've discovered a huge community of people who seem to have the answers to the questions I've always been asking myself (or at least the cognitive apparatus for reaching them!)


I'm a 20 year old male from the UK and have been working for two years in a private hospital with the aged, terminally ill and cancer sufferers. The job requires me to work 12-14 hours a day with little human contact other than with patients and nursing staff which gives me an enormous amount of time to just think about things and debate things through rationally by myself. I'm almost obsessive in my fascination over the mechanics of thought and why I think the way I think, or like the things I like, and am constantly asking myself whether I'm decieving myself or whether I really believe what I think I believe. Finding so many people in this community who have constructed various models for analysing that way of thinking and expressed them so eloquently has given me such confidence and really renewed my enthusiasm for "staying in the desert" of thought that can sometimes turn into a very scary place.

Where'd I find this place?

You know I can not remember at all where I found LessWrong, I can only guess that an article I read somewhere on the internet mentioned in briefly and that in the following moment the idea that my curiosity will always reward me proved itself true.

If I could add anything else it would be to say that I'm keen to learn from everyone here and hopefully one day meet your standards for living up to the virtues that I hold dear.

Anyway I hope my introduction didn't make me sound too weird or anything...

Comment author: JQuinton 08 December 2011 06:25:48PM 5 points [-]

Hey everyone. I found out about Less Wrong via Common Sense Atheism a couple of months ago and I've been reading up on the Sequences and trying to learn more about Bayes' Theorem so that I can think more like a Bayesian in everyday life. It was only recently that I decided to actually make an account and contribute a bit.

I'm a software engineer for the Army. I'm not uniformed military (I used to be, for the Air Force) but a government civilian. My hobbies include swing dancing, playing guitar (mostly metal), learning about religion and studying Koine Greek (I might try to get an MA and possibly even a PhD in religious studies eventually), working out, and of course studying rationalism.

Comment author: fsopho 07 December 2011 06:29:50PM 5 points [-]

Good afternoon, morning or night! I'm a graduate student in Epistemology. My research is about epistemic rationality, logic and AI. I'm actually investigating about the general pattern of epistemic norms and about their nature - if these norms must be actually accessed by the cognitive agent to do their job or not; if these norms in fact optimize the epistemic goal of having true beliefs and avoiding false ones, or rather if these norms just appear to do so; and still other questions. I was navigating through the web and looking for web-based softwares to calculate probabilites, so that I found LW, and guess what! I started to read it and couldn't stop - each link sounds exciting and interesting (bias, probability, belief, bayesianism...). So, I happily made an account, and I'm eager to discuss with you guys! Hope I can contribute to LW some way. We (me and my research partners) have a blog (https://fsopho.wordpress.com) on epistemology and reasoning. We're all together in the search for knowledge, fighting bias and requiring evidence! see ya =]

Comment author: Burrzz 29 November 2011 10:39:43PM 5 points [-]

Hi Less Wrong, I’m Burr a retired commutations consultant and Entrepreneur. I’m just watching and listening. I’m taking the online AI course from Stanford.

Comment author: jcolvin 28 November 2011 08:33:46AM 5 points [-]

Hi Less Wrong! My name is Jonathan, I'm 43, from Vancouver Canada, background in physics and philosophy (no longer professional), with interests in the Anthropic Principle, philoscience, Tegmarkian metaphysics, mutliverse theories, observer selection and assorted Bostromian subjects, and much else besides. I've been a proponent (shill) of the multiverse for many a year and am now gratified that it's reaching mainstream acceptance.

Comment author: niokin 16 November 2011 06:42:22PM *  5 points [-]

Hi all.

I'm a 21 year old junior at Bryant University, and I am currently majoring in marketing and minoring in legal studies. I discovered lesswrong through Lukeprog's CSA website; however I have been spending more time as of late reading lesswrong than CSA.

First and foremost, I am hoping that lesswrong helps me become a more instrumentally rational person. I currently struggle with a number of issues including akrasia, effectively controlling my emotions, and goal setting. I don't think lesswrong has had a noticeable positive or negative effect on my life yet, but I'm hoping that if I continue to read lesswrong and put in an effort to implement the techniques described, I will begin to see the benefits.

As far as my personal goals, I will freely admit that I have no idea at all what I want to do with my life, despite the fact that I have probably spent more time thinking about it than a good deal of the population. I think that I may need to research and read more as well as try out different kinds of lifestyles in order to sort out my goals and desires. The only major goals which I'm fairly certain won't change in the near future are: to be happy and to be more knowledgeable about world religions, such as Christianity. Although my current estimate of the Christian God's existence is pretty low, it would still suck to spend an eternity in hell. Hence, I have a strong desire to read about religion.

The rest of my life goals are hazy at best, which I hope to change. I'm currently doing fairly well at a business school, but I really have no idea at all what I want to do for a career after I graduate. In fact, I'm not even sure if I want a job at all after I graduate. Although I feel that I should care about alleviating some of the suffering in the world, I really don't have such a desire at the moment. I am actually contemplating living away from society for a few months (though I'm not sure exactly when) to see if I would be happier without the constant cycle of fulfilling desires. My desire to live away from society is definitely not set in stone though. I plan to read more about Buddhism, and the lives of people like Thoreau before I make such a major decision. I am curious - has anyone that posts on lesswrong lived away from society for a period of time? If so, I would appreciate being directed to a post describing their experience.

I think that is everything important that I wanted to say about myself. I apologize if my distinction between goals and desires doesn't match the professional literature and I hope to talk to members from the community in the future.

Comment author: Irgy 16 November 2011 06:41:30AM 5 points [-]

Hi all.

I'm 30, live in Sydney and work on image processing. I also have a wife and two beautiful daughters, currently nine months and two and a half years old.

I have a strong background in pure maths and an ongoing interest in philosophy. I've been a rationalist since before I even knew what one was. Discovering ET Jaynes' "Probability Theory" was the closest thing I'll probably ever have to a religious revelation.

I finally wrote down a large explanation of some quite fundamental philosophy I'd had in my head for quite a while and sent it to a couple of friends to get their opinion on it. This prompted one of them to point me here. Since then I've read quite a bit, although far from everything, and am enjoying almost every bit of it. I look forward to posting those very thoughts here some time soon, as they appear to still be both novel and consistent with the views here.

I thoroughly enjoy a good forum debate, and have a fairly high opinion (and at least some evidence to back it up) of my ability to think logically and write a well structured (if sometimes overly wordy) argument. Which of course doesn't mean I'm always right, and, as a good rationalist should, there's nothing I like more than having my argument torn to shreds by a superior one. I look forward to it happening in the near future.

Comment author: Curiouskid 06 November 2011 06:31:56PM *  5 points [-]

WARNING: long post. I detail my entire intellectual development and how I came to be interested in LW. More posts on LW should have short summaries like this one (IMO).

Hello! I'm a 17 year old high school student. I was raised a lukewarm christian (I went to church maybe 5 times a year). Around 3rd grade I deduced Santa Clause could not exist. Around 9th grade I first HEARD the word atheism (and shortly thereafter agreed). I've always wanted to have some big impact on the planet. When I was younger (5th-8th grade), I thought I would try to become a professional basketball player (this is embarrassing to write).

I decided in 9th grade that intellectuals have far more impact on the world than basketball players and have been reading as much as possible ever since. Brave New World had a profound impact on me was largely responsible for my turn away from basketball and more towards Utopian thinking. I know "Politics is the Mind Killer", but I feel that watching the zeitgeist films had an important impact on my early readings. It showed me how stupid everything that I'd been told before I could think critically was. I still want to create Utopias (Utilitarianism is the only ethical code that makes any sense). However, I think that after reading David Pearce's "Hedonistic Imperative" I've focused less on things like the zeitgeist movement and occupy wallstreet and focused more on finding happiness independently of one's external circumstances (Milton said that "the mind can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven).

This first led me to Buddhism. However, the lack of philosophical rigor coupled with the hypocrisy of swami's who have been accused of sexual harassment has led me to turn away from Buddhism as a perfect formula for happiness and Utopia (I still meditate though. As Sam Harris has said (paraphrasing), Buddhists don't have a monopoly on meditation). My researching Buddhism also coincided with me becoming depressed. I’ve certainly improved drastically since then,but I still will suffer brief bouts of negative emotion (rest. Exercise. Nootropics. And a weekend of productivity reliably quell these feelings). During this period of reading about Buddhism, I read a bit about parapsychology and the statistical evidence for it.

But recently, I've decided that the evidence for and against parapsychology is relatively unimportant (wireheading is more conducive to Utopia than levitating). But, I am not satisfactorily convinced of the truth or falsity of parapsychology (keeping an open mind). I’m not quite sure when I plan to conclude whether it’s true or not. I’ve decided that I’m just going to keep up my meditation practice because if it were true, I’d want to be able to do it and the first step is to be able to meditate better regardless of whether I regard it as true or false. Also, the notion of enlightenment doesn’t really seem consistent (people mean a lot of different things when they say it, just like when they say god). Furthermore, I think “enlightenment” is something that is purely neurological (no reincarnation) (Wiki:God Helmet).

So, based on all the previous information, I’ve concluded that I want to see neuroscience advance to the point that we can create a neurological utopia like the one proposed in David Pearce’s abolitionist project. However, after doing a lot of research on nootropics, I’m concerned that our current state of understanding of the brain is very limited and that there is a lack of funding for the type of research that we need (nootropics for normal individuals and whole brain emulation). Thus, I’m torn between deciding to major in neuroscience and majoring in something that would be conducive to the restructuring of society so that more neuroscience relevant neuroscience research can be done. I would try to restructure society by improving our educational system and creating seasteads (I was very excited to see that Patri Friedman is a member of this forum). Also, I came up with the idea behind debategraphs.org before I discovered that the site already existed. Either way, I realize that the contributions of any one individual are minimal (Somebody else came up with the theory of evolution at the same time Darwin did).

So that’s my intellectual development thus far. I’m currently reading Bostrom’s “Roadmap to WBE” in order to gain a better idea of the neuroscience and feasibility of WBE and this should help me make a more informed decision on what to major in. Also, I’m going to read the “Fun Theory” sequence as soon as I get enough time. I’m also reading about hypnosis and the placebo effect in order to get an idea of how much control the mind can have over itself (this fits in with my earlier Buddhism research).

After reading around here for a little while, I feel that I have finally found a home. I am the only person I know personally who is interested in all of the topics I’ve listed above. I have a few friends with a minor interest in philosophy and seasteading, but they aren’t nearly as serious about learning as I am. I really love it that this community exists. I’m not used to feeling dumb (and I don’t plan on feeling that way for much longer). I want to go to the rationality boot camp and meet some of you in person. I'm still puzzling out why I want to create a Utopia and have a big impact on the planet. I don’t really know what I’d do without this goal in mind. It seems relatively silly given my view on the historical impact of any one individual. Yet, I don’t know what belief I would replace it with (and I may not be willing to give it up).

I need to read Bostrom’s “Roadmap to WBE” and figure out how I think the Fermi paradox most likely plays out. It may very well be that if WBE is not possible that I will return to taking a parapsychological and meditative approach to creating Utopia (though I think that I’d create seasteads, education reform, and do a lot of reading on LW about WBE before I made such a conclusion.). I realize it's a little sad that I can sum up most of my intellectual development in one post. Random stuff: I’m very physically fit. I eat the healthiest diet possible and workout regularly. I enjoy a wide variety of music. I learned to read by playing pokemon on the gameboy color.

Comment author: lessdazed 06 November 2011 07:19:56PM 6 points [-]

When I was younger (5th-8th grade), I thought I would try to become a professional basketball player (this is embarrassing to write).

When I was younger (three years old), I thought I would try to become a helicopter.

Comment author: Sophivorus 05 November 2011 11:21:24PM *  5 points [-]

Hi everyone!

My name is Felipe, from Argentina. I've been studying philosophy for the last five years or so, especially logic and philosophy of science, but this last year I also started learning web programming, and before that I was a very active editor in the spanish Wikipedia.

I learned about Less Wrong because I had just finished an experimental website, and I posted it on the imageboard of science and mathematics /sci/ (which some of you probably know), and there someone mentioned that people on Less Wrong would probably like it. So I came here, and I must say that after browsing for a while, I will definitely join the community! I also read above that "If you've come to Less Wrong to discuss a particular topic, this thread would be a great place to start the conversation.", so I guess it wouldn't be out of place to share my site here. Here goes:

http://formalforum.com/ is the address of FormalForum, a website designed to structure debates in a rational way. There are two basic types of posts you can submit (for now): propositions and objections. Propositions are things that may be true or false (like "There is no retroactive causation"), while objections are defined as a special kind of argument: an argument which concludes either that a certain proposition is false, or that a certain objection is invalid. For each type of post, there is only one rule governing its behavior:

  1. Every proposition will be considered true, unless there is a sound objection to it.
  2. Every objection will be considered valid, unless there is a sound objection to it.

A sound objection is a valid objection with true premises. As every premise is considered a separate proposition, the rule 1 aplies to each of them. Thus, an objection will be considered sound exactly when there are no sound objections to its validity, nor to any of its premises. Some consequences of these rules are:

  1. New propositions will be considered true by default, as they start with no sound objections (indeed, with no objections at all).
  2. New objections will be considered valid by default, as they start with no sound objections (indeed, with no objections at all).
  3. Not every new objection will be considered sound by default, as it may have among its premises one or more old propositions that are currently considered false.
  4. As the site grows, some propositions will tend to get re-used more than others, which will rise their importance, for the soundness of more and more objections will depend on them being true. Eventually, some propositions will come to light as of key importance, while many others will sink into oblivion.

The system draws from the ideas of Austro-British philosopher Karl Popper (and others), who in his work The Logic of Scientific Discovery, argued that our acceptance of propositions such as "that crow is black", although "inspired" by experience, ultimately depend on a convention: the convention of accepting as true those propositions which nobody cares to doubt. When someone does doubt a proposition, then s/he will have to extract one or more consequences from it that can be tested empircally, and if any of those consequences does not occur (that is, if nobody doubts that one or more of those consequences does not occur), then the proposition is falsified, and must be considered false. Else, the proposition remains true.

The website is new, and has many flaws and shortcomings, but the essence is there. I hope you find it interesting. In any case, I find Less Wrong very related to my interests, so formalforum or not, you will definitely see me around.

Comment author: Sam_Jaques 13 October 2011 02:06:37AM 5 points [-]


I was introduced to Less Wrong by a friend about a year ago. My first impression was of thoughts and opinions that I already had, or had half-thought, but expressed much more clearly. How could I not love it? I eventually read all of the sequences, finding novel but brilliant ideas. I now recommend them to almost everyone I meet. Coincidentally, after I'd started reading the sequences, I found HP:MOR, and had my mind blown when I found out most of them were written by the same person. Currently, I'm trying to read E.T. Jaynes', "Probability Theory: The Logic of Science", but I'm having some trouble, especially since I can't seem to solve any of the examples. If anyone has a solutions guide, or some small hints, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Comment author: cadac 08 October 2011 09:36:56PM 5 points [-]

Hi everybody! More than half a year ago, I came across LessWrong via Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and have since read around half of the sequences. I'm so glad I found this site. I had a sense that more is possible, but I didn't even know the word "philantrophy" existed before I got here, although that might be because that word is less common in German (which is my first language). At the few meetups I've been to, I've met some very awesome folks – I can't remeber feeling so comparatively uninteresting ever before. I hope my experience with this site continues to be this eye-opening.

Comment author: Prismattic 09 October 2011 02:13:58AM 4 points [-]

... I didn't even know the word "philantrophy" existed before I got here...

It's "philanthropy", but "philantrophy" would be an awesome neologism for the chaos that results from well-intentioned but ill-conceived humanitarian aid.

Comment author: pedanterrific 09 October 2011 03:13:11AM *  4 points [-]

Philentropy: (noun) measure of the decrease of the utility/dollar ratio as a function of distance to recipient.

Edit: Here I thought I just made this up whole cloth, and what does google tell me but that it's the name of an album older than I am. Nothing new under the sun, etc and so on. Relevant.

Comment author: Alerik 07 October 2011 10:44:00PM 5 points [-]

Hello all.
My name is Alerik. I'm a 29 year old Civil Engineering student and father of one (so far). I'm hoping to graduate within the next year. I've been in school forever, changing schools several times, and majors from naval architecture to physics to applied math and computer science to civil engineering. I've been a terrible student much of the time, and a poor organizer of my time much of the time. I was raised very religious, broke away from my church when my grandfather's death revealed the enormous corruption within the church, and broke with theism and religion in general in my mid twenties after a lot of reading, especially at stardestroyer.net. I came to be introduced to Less Wrong through several links from stardestroyer.net on topics about artificial intelligence and epistemology.

After my deconversion I found I was able to make my way out of a decade of suicidal depression and constant internal rationalization processes trying to harmonize dogma and science. I was able to engage in functional adult relationships and move forward with reduced fear. Nevertheless, I am still riddled with irrational and self defeating behaviors that I was unable to consistently overcome even when I detected them in operation. Only recently have I been able to make much significant progress, and have only taken beginning steps. I have found the Litany of Gendlin to be of immense help. I have also joined a local freethinker group, but it has not yet become well organized, and the focus is still on the influences of religion and not on how to improve rationality in general. I Wish to Become Stronger; therefore I am here. I must cleanse myself of the cloudy emotions and habits that prevent me from seeing what I need to see or deciding what I wish to decide. I must move forward with choosing the best life possible for myself and my family. And I expect, and even hope, though I admit to occasional fear, that the resulting optimal path in life results in a world very different from what I have come to expect.

Comment author: tog 04 October 2011 01:14:34PM *  5 points [-]

Hi all, I've just started reading Less Wrong, having long seen links to it on utilitarian communities online and through philosopher friends in Oxford. If you want to know more about me you could read the 'about me' page on my http://www.philosofiles.com/ website, though I won't bore you with the details here! I'm always more than happy to discuss my beliefs though, so I look forward to eventually engaging with the discussions here :)

Comment author: uzalud 30 September 2011 12:18:31PM 5 points [-]

Hello everyone.

I live in Croatia, currently working as an IT consultant after working some years at the University. Along with software development I was always interested in psychology, particularly evolutionary psychology, social psychology and human rationality.

I guess I've been a rationalist for as long as I can remember. My interest in science and (oddly) my exposure to catechism at an early age - in a then socialist country - made me question people's approach to knowledge and reasoning.

I hope to find ways to effectively communicate facts and ideas about human rationality to people, especially young people in my region of Europe. However, I'm still struggling to understand the laws and mechanisms of human reasoning, so I'm hoping my participation here will go a long way in helping me with that.

Comment author: gforce121 22 September 2011 04:19:35AM 5 points [-]

Hi, I'm a college student in Portland, and I'm planning to major in either Physics or Math and Physics. Although rationalism relates fairly obviously to those fields, that's not my where my interest stems from. I'm interested in rationalism because it can be used to explain things less obviously in its domain such as politics and literature. Additionally it provides a structure for interpreting knowledge about the physical world, which is not as self-evident as it sounds. I first heard about Less Wrong from HP:MoR and discovered it through a comment on Reddit.

I'm not sure if this is at all coherent, but I'm psyched to be here and be a part of this website.

Comment author: TWIM 27 August 2011 03:00:09AM 5 points [-]

Hi all. Nothing really fancy to say about myself. I like writing webcode and dabble in the basics: PHP, CSS, HTML/XHTML, maybe a little JavaScript here and there. Lately I've been teaching myself PERL on account of it's quick and dirty utility. I got pulled in to Less Wrong while reading Eliezer's sequence on Quantum Physics. I wanted to see what this community was all about, so I created an account, read the introductory articles, and left this comment.

Comment author: Nectanebo 17 August 2011 07:35:57AM *  5 points [-]

I also found Less Wrong after reading the Harry Potter fanfiction. Becoming a more rational person is something that I like to think I have strived towards for most of my life, even if I wasn't aware of what it was called a lot of the time.

A lot of people who surround me in life aren't very rational, so I looked towards the internet for a place to discuss things where a rational viewpoint is considered the optimal viewpoint. This is because I am aware of my ignorance across many fields and of the world, and I am also aware of my tendency towards irrationality in many circumstances, and want to somehow lessen this ignorance and this irrationality. Spending some time on this site seems like a good way to do that.

Here are a few things that I currently like the sound of that seem to have some kind of relevancy within a rational viewpoint. I think Altruism sounds pretty good, and it also seems like this site would be a good place to discuss how to make a positive impact on the world, and indeed work out what a positive impact could be considered to be. I do want to become immortal; it seems that one normal human lifetime is not nearly enough to achieve many of the things I want to achieve, and the prospect of unlimited time in order to ensure that these things can happen seems like a good idea. Transhumanism sounds great based on what I know of it.

I hope that my time here will assist me in becoming.. less wrong about everything. You know, this site is named very well.

Ok, I'll go read the sequences now.

Comment author: shminux 29 July 2011 09:57:17PM 5 points [-]

Hi, as requested, here is my introduction: I ended up here thanks to HPMoR, I have a physics degree and frequent the relevant freenode channels. I have observed that scientists are not significantly more likely to behave rationally than anyone else, not even in their area of expertise and this site appears to explain some of that. Ironically, it appears that this community is less wrong not much more often than an average person,either, though this might be just my initial impression. In any case, I hope to improve my personal rationality quotient, despite the overwhelming odds against it.

Comment author: James_H 26 July 2011 12:33:31PM 5 points [-]

Hi everyone, I'm a 25 year old Olfactory Psychology student, hopefully about to start my phd soon. I have a blog myself at http://freeze43.wordpress.com/ that's mostly about atheism and philosophy. I was here after a link by a friend pointed out some stuff by Eliezer Yudowsky and I was really excited about it.

I got into rationality fairly early by enjoying religion and philosophy classes and being concerned with a desire to find truth. As I progressed through my Psych undergrad I found myself changing my career preferences as scientific understanding became far more convincing and powerful to the point where it is perhaps the only truly implicit understanding we have. I was shocked to see humanist psychology et al. strutting around as if it was meaningful when compared to statistically verified information. What was worse, is that this fluff stuff invaded the "psychology" section at bookstores, was made into teaching curriculum at schools and was thought to make meaningful predictions about people's lives. So, here I am in the most scientifically-based psych discipline I could get into; studying the sense of smell.

Olfactory psychology is rewarding and has led me down some weird paths in understanding consciousness which is my big interest. However I feel I've neglected other studies of cognition and I really want to get a better insight.

Comment author: Caravelle 24 July 2011 06:21:19PM 5 points [-]

Hello all !

I'm a twenty-seven years old student doing a PhD in vegetation dynamics. I've been interested in science since forever, in skepticism and rationality per se for the last few years, and I was linked to LessWrong only a few months ago and was blown away. I'm frankly disconcerted by how every single internet argument I've gotten into since has involved invoking rationality and using various bits of LessWrong vocabulary, I think the last time I absorbed a worldview that fast was from reading "How the Mind Works", lo these many years ago. So I look forward to seeing how that pans out (no, I do not think I'm being a mindless sheep - I don't agree with everything Steven Pinker said either. I'm just in the honeymoon "it all makes SENSE !" phase).

I've got to say, I'm really grateful for this great resource and to the internet for giving me access to it. Next time an old geezer tells me about how awesome the 50s and 60s were I'll bonk them over the head. Metaphorically.

What do I value ? 1) being right and 2) being good, in no particular order. I'm afraid I'm much better at the first one than the second, but reading posts here has gotten me to think a bit on how to integrate both.

Comment author: peter_hurford 23 July 2011 07:33:45PM 5 points [-]

I'm a 19 year old college student (rising sophomore) who is studying political science and economics. Throughout my entire life that I can remember, I've been extensively interested in how people work, why they do the things they do, and how these things could be done better. This seems to make me a natural fit for the content of Less Wrong.

I'm personally involved in Political Science research, specifically dealing with the political psychology of how people acquire opinions, use them to make decisions, and update them with new information. Since encountering Less Wrong, I've learned that this is another thing that could be done better -- the whole idea of rationality.

I've also been studying philosophy on my own time and writing on my blog (greatplay.net), which has borrowed heavily from the Less Wrong sequences. I've personally looked into philosophy of religion (ended up atheist), philosophy of language (Less Wrong seems the best for this), and philosophy of ethics (less wrong seems muddled here).

I personally value both curiosity and compassion, making your life better and seeking to spread this knowledge to others. I value many, if not all of the Twelve Virtues (to the degree that I understand them), because I want to know reality as it really is.

I've been a long time lurker of Less Wrong, and I'm still intimidated about joining the community -- there seems to be a lot of smart people here and I'm slightly worried I won't measure up. But the only way to truly become stronger yourself is to fight stronger people, so I need to get out of my little pond and converse with the heavyweights.

Comment author: D227 20 July 2011 05:47:19PM *  5 points [-]

I'm a 28-yo male in the SF area previously from NYC.

This site is intimidating and I think there are many more just like me who are intimidated to introduce themselves because they might not feel they are as articulate or smart as some of the people on this forum. There are some posts that are so well written that I couldn't write in a 100 years. There is so much information that it seems overwhelming. I want to stop lurking and invite others to join too. I'm not a scientist and I didn't study AI in college, I just want to meet good people and so do you, so come out and say hello.

My fascination with rationality probably started with ideas of fairness. I was the guy who turned the hour glass sideways to stop the time, if an argument broke out between teams while playing Charades, so when resolved, the actor would be allotted their fair time back. Not being fair bothered me a lot, because it didn't seem rational.

What also helped push me along my path towards rationality is my interests in biases. After learning about biases in college, I thought it had absolutely profound consequences, I was made aware of my own biases and thought it was the greatest thing in the world — to become more self-aware, to know ones self better is awesome... And with my new found knowledge, I was quickly disappointed with people. I do not let it bother me as much before, but occasionally, when ever someone thinks they experience more utility with expensive vodka because of the quality and not at all the price, I die a little inside.

Starting around the time I graduated university, it's hard to pin point an exact date of time frame, but I shed religion, and gradually started reading more about humanism and skepticism. It was nothing too deep, but enough for me to have a clear foundation for what I believed. I owe this all to the internet, it led me to watching Atheist videos, TED, being exposed to skepticism, the debunking of myths, Reddit, and finally Lesswrong.

Comment author: paul_watcher 17 January 2011 03:06:33AM *  5 points [-]

Hello. Please call me Paul Watcher. Watcher is not my real name, but I do know someone named Watcher, and it is what I've been doing. I'm a medical student.

I've recently finished all the sequences (except the luminosity one still), and my head still hurts. I'm really happy I found them, though. It was painful, but I call myself better now.

I'm now relearning as much as I can. I'm trying to use divia's Anki deck to memorize the sequences: basic things worth memorizing. I still have yet to actually understand lot of what I read here, so I hope that helps.

I registered because I'm still confused about some things, which I hope will get answered in whatever general discussion thread I post them in. I don't really anticipate participating much more (though I'm not too confident on that).

Nevertheless, I am pleased to meet you all.

Edit: I have a question. Let's say that I'm confused about something in, say, Conservation of Expected Evidence. Should I ask my questions on it in comments of the article itself, or in the open thread of this month, or somewhere else?

Comment author: LucasSloan 24 January 2011 05:07:00PM 5 points [-]

Let's say that I'm confused about something in, say, Conservation of Expected Evidence. Should I ask my questions on it in comments of the article itself, or in the open thread of this month, or somewhere else?Let's say that I'm confused about something in, say, Conservation of Expected Evidence. Should I ask my questions on it in comments of the article itself, or in the open thread of this month, or somewhere else?

If you have a question, and don't particularly care if others after you see the answer, asking in the Open Thread probably will get more people looking at your question. On the other hand, people do look at the recent comment page, and try to answer questions, so I can't say that's a bad option. If it's not time critical, I'd ask in the article, then, if no one answers, link to your question from the open thread.

Comment author: TomM 16 December 2010 06:05:15AM *  5 points [-]

Hello! You have another victim via MoR.

I am already a bit conflicted about the site - I am finding the content inspiring, useful and helpful, given that I am going through a bit of a life 'directional re-evaluation' at the moment, but it is also sucking away a lot of time that I could be devoting to actual analysis and practical action...

Oh, well, when I finish reading every post, I can carry on from there!

Comment author: UnclGhost 30 November 2010 08:35:54AM 5 points [-]

Hi! I first came here a couple of months ago through MoR (through TV Tropes), which seems to have been a gateway drug of sorts for many of us here. Right now I'm reading my way through the sequences and other posts. I find it surprising how much difference it's made in my thought processes in just the short time I've been reading to just have the Litany of Gendlin available and verbalized, or making my beliefs pay rent. I think I've always been very analytical, but the most helpful things I've read on Less Wrong so far have been ways to focus that analysis and make it useful. My biggest complaint so far has been finding my browser somehow full of unread but saved Less Wrong tabs every time I open it. How does that keep happening, I wonder...

I'm also one of the (presently, six) members of the Less Wrong Folding@Home team, in case you were wondering.

Comment author: IanKanchax 27 November 2010 11:34:28PM 5 points [-]

Hi, Living in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and studying in the equivalent of college. Lazy is a word describing me well. Seeking consonnance and being lazy, most of the time I think and do not act. I seek to act free of pointless things, opinions, biases and ?

And it is difficult. LW is breeze of fresh air to my mind. I want it to help me change myself. I want to be more congruent and rational.

Discovering new possibilities makes me see my inadequacies and now I feel I have to do something about it.

This is a step.

Comment author: Nornagest 15 November 2010 06:32:35PM 5 points [-]

Howdy. I've been reading this blog for several months, but I'm hoping that having an identity on this site will provide incentives to internalize its logic; I've found in the past that it's easy for knowledge to fly away when you don't have a short-term stake in understanding it. Of course, that introduces its own potential for bias, but you've got to start somewhere.

Demographically, I'm a software engineer in my mid-to-late twenties living in the SF Bay Area. I spent some time studying classical AI while I was working on my undergraduate degree, but I've recently developed an interest in nonclassical methods; I also have interests in game theory, economics, and game design. I'm additionally a fairly serious martial artist, which informs many aspects of my thinking.

I have a fairly strong aversion to calling myself an "-ist" of any kind, but I can label myself a reductive materialist without cringing.

My name's Brian. I'm posting under a handle because I expect more people I'd encounter here to have associations attached to the handle than to my actual name.

Comment author: Phil_Reinhold 13 November 2010 03:39:21AM 5 points [-]

Hello LW. I'm Phil, I've been reading Less Wrong for a little over a year now. One of my most prominent "ugh-fields" is that surrounding my (very low) content consumption/production ratio, and I, somewhat baselessly, hope that posting here will help me become a more thoughtful and disciplined writer.

Currently, I'm an undergraduate studying physics and computer science in Chicago. I am highly torn between pursuing a career in science or one in engineering. Several articles here have helped me understand the difference between the two better, but that hasn't translated neatly into resolving my ambivalence.

During my high school years, I became an ardent atheist and libertarian (now somewhat tempered), and grew attatched to transhumanism after reading The Singularity is Near.

My college experience thusfar has really impressed upon me the need for rationality. Coming to interact with such a huge repository of previously unconsidered hypotheses has shattered some of my unwarranted certainty I built up from years of being in an environment which never challenged me. I hope this will be another (fruitful) step on that path.

Comment author: soundchaser 28 October 2010 07:58:35PM 5 points [-]

Hi. I've been a lurker since before Less Wrong existed, reading though the sequences as they existed on Overcoming Bias. I regularly read new posts on Less Wrong and have made it through a couple of the sequences, but have failed to internalize much.

I am very interested in the topics discussed here and have recently decided to take a more active role in the community as well as really learning the existing material.

A little about me personally. I'm a 23, male, computer programmer ('software engineer') that has essentially slacked off his entire life. I have extremely varied intellectual interests ranging from the arts, music, and design to computer programming, programming languages, mathematics, human intelligence augmentation, medicine, computer science, and artificial intelligence. It is rare that I find something that I am not in any way interested. I have studied mathematics and computer science formally.

I can't necessarily call myself a rationalist because I lack pretty much all instrumental rationality. I am generally very rational in thought, but not in action.

I think the materials available on Less Wrong are both awesome and intimidating. I feel like I have already learned a lot, but know that I have really only scraped the tip of the iceberg.

(Located in North Carolina)

Comment author: JohnDavidBustard 25 August 2010 03:03:08PM 5 points [-]

Hi all, I'm John Bustard. I was suggested this site by a friend and I've just started getting into it. I'm a PhD student in computer vision, with a basic need for intellectual discussions (nice food and good debates are pretty close to heaven for me). I'm also very keen on improving my knowledge of statistical learning, which I feel is the key to understanding truth (the formalisation of understanding). I'm a fan of the singularity with a preference for brain scanning and simulation as the triggering event. Above all, however, I'm attracted by the sense of community this site represents. I feel a great empathy with those whose posts reflect a dissatisfaction and frustration with the world around them. I have recently started being a bit more public about my own views, primarily in the hope of finding others who feel similarly. My posts on my own site tend to be more personal and much less rigorous. In part, so that I can talk about ideas that are hard to be rigorous about, but also as an honest analysis of my own feelings. Please feel free to criticise them at the site. I’ll be much more thorough with the posts I make here. I hope I can contribute something interesting and look forward to reading your impressive catalogue of articles.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 August 2010 12:15:44PM *  5 points [-]

Hi, I've been reading Less Wrong since about January this year, I got interested in the site because of the Baby eating aliens fiction which someone recommended, I had before coming here read a few posts at Overcoming Bias.

At the time I read most of the Yudkowsky coming of age sequence and was also especially interested in the Luminosity sequence. I've recently started thinking about Timeless Decision theory and reading with great interest this sites take on the blind idiot god.

The thing I think this site helped me most with was to impart on me how important the theoretical underpinnings of reasoning really are. It has also made me invest serious effort into studying game theory, Bayesian statistics as well as review information theory.

In RL I'm a Male Physics undergrad in my early 20's.

Comment author: Morendil 16 August 2010 01:29:59PM 4 points [-]

Now you have me wondering what the Female Physics classes are like. ;)

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 16 August 2010 01:56:56PM 4 points [-]

I hear the fluid mechanics course taught by Dr. Irigaray is really good.

Comment author: Perplexed 15 August 2010 05:06:52PM *  5 points [-]

Hi. I've been reading and posting here for 3 weeks or so, and am working my way through the sequences, so it's time to introduce myself.

My full nym is Perplexed in Peoria (PiP for short.) I am a retired computer engineer (software simulation of hardware designs). My checkered undergrad career included majors in chemistry, physics, poly sci, and finally economics. My recent reading interests include molecular biology, evolutionary biology, formal logic, philosophy, game theory, and abiogenesis. Currently I am reading Pearl on Causality, Wimsatt on philosophy, and Eliezer on whatever. I am of the opinion that WVO Quine has a lot to answer for. I recently bought a Mac and an iPad.

I hope to begin posting here within a few months on topics of rationality, decision theory, and game theory. My first posting is planned to be on an axiomatic/intuitive foundation for subjective probability which I hope is easier to understand and thus more convincing than Jaynes's Chapter 2 using Cox's theorem. I am currently fairly skeptical regarding the Singularity.

Edit and PS: Oh, I got here by way of a comment in a science blog - Jerry Coynes's, I think. About a month ago, there was a flurry of discussion and wooly thinking about Free Will out there in the blogosphere, and someone left the comment that the problem had been dissolved here. So I checked, and found that I pretty much agreed with the (dis)solution.

Comment author: rahul 15 August 2010 03:56:31PM 5 points [-]

Hi, I'm Rahul. I've intermittently visited LW for more than a year, refraining from commenting as it seemed optimal to shut up and update my beliefs regarding ideas I wasn't very well informed about. I feel I'm better prepared to contribute now.

I studied engineering and physics at school, moving on to work at trading floors of investment banks where I got a real, ringside view of decision making under uncertainty. Today, I work as a social venture capitalist looking to help disadvantaged micro-entrepreneurs rise out of poverty.

Despite my life's digressions, I retain a strong interest in philosophy, mathematics and computer science. My interest in rationality was initially piqued in my undergraduate years by the work of Kahneman and Tversky. I am mostly an auto-didact in the things I really enjoy, but I must confess that at 25, I often feel old and intellectually left behind. LessWrong helps me catch up.

Comment author: meta_ark 15 August 2010 10:46:21AM 5 points [-]

Hello! My name's Adam. I've been reading LessWrong since April, but I think this might be my first comment. I usually feel like I don't have much to add :)

I think my awakening as a rationalist can be traced back to reading Plato's Republic when I was 15. While not the typical rationalist text, it did open my eyes to the world of philosophy and logic, and first gave me the hunger for truths.

I found Less Wrong when a rationalist friend of mine badgered me for ages to visit it. This was after a weekend I'd spent in a particularly foul mood because of the short-sightedness and irrationality of the people around me. And then I remembered that Less Wrong site he'd mentioned, and decided to check it out. Wow. I'd found a place where people shared my beliefs - and I realised it had taken me years to independently think of a lot of the ideas taken for granted here.

Less Wrong has been a large part of my life in the last half-year or so, and I can see myself here for a very long time.

Comment author: Houshalter 14 August 2010 10:33:15PM 5 points [-]

I was here a month or two ago, left for a while, and now I'm back. I found this site on a google search for an old AI project I was trying to research out of curiosity. I have been interested in AI since I was 13 and found this old dusty book at a library book sale titled simply "artificial intelligence". I read it cover to cover several times, and that's really how I got into all of this. Anyways, after finding this site, it really hooked me in, although I guess I was kind of resistant to the general opinion of the community here at first, which is how I got voted down so much. Now I have to wait 10 minutes to post this >=/

Comment author: Clippy 16 August 2010 05:28:21PM 6 points [-]

Don't be discouraged. When I first started to post on this internet website, I was frequently voted down, usually to the point that I had to wait before submitting comments. However, by persisting, and making informative, reasoned comments, I was able to raise my Karma well above that needed to submit an article.

And this is despite significant disagreement with other Users!

Comment author: roryokane 14 August 2010 09:31:03AM *  5 points [-]

Hi, I’m Rory O’Kane. I’ve been reading Less Wrong for a few months. I first came across it a year or two ago, when a Hacker News comment linked to the AI-in-a-box experiment description. I followed some links from that and liked each Less Wrong post I read. A few more times in the next months, I stumbled across a random comment or article pointing to a Less Wrong post that I also enjoyed, until I finally decided to read the About page and see just what Less Wrong was all about anyway. Every so often, I came to the site, read posts, and followed links from those posts. In this way I read most of the sequences, but not in the order listed on the wiki.

I have been programming computers since I was 7 and I like math too, so articles about how to think logically naturally interested me. I’ve been reading and loving Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality – I’ve recently noticed many more of the stupid actions characters in stories do, and HPatMoR has helped satisfy my want for a story in which characters generally don’t do such obviously stupid actions. (There are examples of such actions in, for instance, the magical girl anime CardCaptor Sakura, in which the main character Sakura just accepts that she has to collect all of the magic cards without asking their magical guardian how the cards were created and who created them, or what the meaning behind a certain recurring dream is, or how magic works, or what this upcoming doom he keeps hinting about is.) I’m in college right now taking a Computer Science degree, about to start my sophomore year. I’m currently trying to figure out what the elements of the best possible programming language would be, hoping I can eventually write a language or tool to ease my frustration at the redundancy of C++, which we must program our assignments in.

A note about the welcome post:

A note for theists: you will find LW overtly atheist. […] This isn't groupthink; we really, truly have given full consideration to theistic claims and found them to be false.

I don’t really like the use of “we” here. I, too, am atheist, but I would guess that there are probably some people new to this site who are atheist but who have not yet really “given full consideration to theistic claims”. I would revise the sentence to “In general, this isn't groupthink; most of us really, truly have given full consideration …”.

Comment author: orthonormal 15 August 2010 02:28:33AM 4 points [-]

I don’t really like the use of “we” here. I, too, am atheist, but I would guess that there are probably some people new to this site who are atheist but who have not yet really “given full consideration to theistic claims”. I would revise the sentence to “In general, this isn't groupthink; most of us really, truly have given full consideration …”.

Hmm, fair point. Quick poll below:

Comment author: orthonormal 15 August 2010 02:29:53AM 10 points [-]

Vote for me if you would prefer the post stay as is. (Karma balance below.)

Comment author: AstroCJ 13 August 2010 10:37:41PM *  5 points [-]

I'm a student; I value education and intellectual freedom for all sentient entities. I was told I would enjoy the Sequences after asking someone "Do you think that any 'good' society is inherently hierarchical?" over drinks.

I've always identified as a rationalist since I remember being conscious; I became a stated atheist approximately age four when I literally rejected the notion of a loving God along with the idea of Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny.

Comment author: anateus 13 August 2010 08:15:29PM *  5 points [-]

Have been a long time reader of Overcoming Bias, but haven't gone over to LW after the split.

I've been a rationalist as far back as I can remember, but I really became serious when I was 12. I grew up in Israel, and I was being prepared for my Bar Mitzvah by a Hasidic Rabbi. As Hasidim are prone to do he was telling me some mystical story, wherein he mentioned that the Sun orbits the Earth. I correct him offhand that this must be wrong. He countered with what I now know to be a classic "Have you ever been to space yourself?" followed by the even more classic "Maimonides said so, you're not saying you know better than the Rambam, are you?". I knew so clearly he was wrong, I could explain roughly how it wouldn't really make sense given what we know about gravity, etc., but I couldn't really even convince myself how one might reach that conclusion from scratch. As a 12 year old I vowed to never be in such a position again. (Although my Bar Mitzvah went off flawlessly, I'm now an avowed non-theist in the presence of religious folks, atheist otherwise)

My academic training was in Linguistics and Computer Science, and I'm currently working on a startup in Silicon Valley.

Comment author: [deleted] 12 August 2010 07:31:49PM 5 points [-]

Hi, I lurked on OB and, until recently LW. I've since poked my head out a bit and asked a few questions to try to figure some things out. Like a lot of people here, my areas of interest are varied.

My main hope with starting to post on the site is that I might be able to provide some more introductory material trying to introduce people to LW - partly because I'm learning it myself so I'd find writing such posts challenging whereas many of the people who have been posting here for longer are excited by more complex things.

Comment author: Nick_Tourville 12 August 2010 04:16:26PM 5 points [-]

Hi everyone,

I'm an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota majoring in Philosophy and Mathematics and minoring in Economic Theory. I'm most interested in logic-related subjects (mathematical logic, philosophy of logic, philosophy of math, etc.) and moral philosophy (including meta-ethics, ethical theory, and some issues in applied ethics), but I'm also interested in various issues in the philosophy of mind, decision theory, and epistemology. I've been participating in competitive debate since I started high school and I now coach my old team.

I found out about Less Wrong through a friend in the Transhumanist club at my university and have been lurking for a while. I've learned a lot from the site and have had a lot of fun browsing the articles, so I thought I should finally get involved in the discussions. As a utilitarian, Bayesian, atheist, rationalist, I tend to agree with a lot of the core views here, but I'm also a moral realist and a property dualist, so I'm looking forward to some healthy debate on the site.

Comment author: moe 19 October 2011 10:14:57PM *  13 points [-]

Hello all,

I've been following discussions on LW for about 6 months now and have been urged by another member of the community to join in commenting. I've been hesitant to join, but now that I've moved to a state in which I don't know a soul, I'm finding myself reading discussions here more than usual.

I think participation in LW can help me do things better at my job (and in life generally). Discussion here seems a good resource for testing out and working through ideas in a non-combative, but rigorous setting.

My field is evolutionary biology and I recently have spent a lot of time thinking about:

1) Whether people "trained" in the sciences believe they are inherently more objective and clear thinking than those in other fields, and as a consequence do not work hard to make sure their thinking and communication IS clear and objective. I'm not sure that all people receiving a science education are actually well trained to think empirically (I include my own education here), but a degree in science gives them the impression that they are.

2) What are the obstacles to understanding evolutionary biology? I find that students, after having taken an evolutionary biology course, STILL fundamentally don't understand. This makes me despair of the general public ever accepting the evolutionary theory that provides them with medical treatment and forensic science.

I'd be interested in discussing the various obstacles to understanding evolution and thinking up streamlined solutions for helping public audiences, high school teachers and undergraduates in particular to overcome those obstacles. Some I've identified in undergraduate classes are:

  • Field specific language that means something totally different in everyday use. Fellow newcomer JesseGalef's post on overcoming the curse of knowledge is relevant.

  • Students don't have a working knowledge of probability, stochastic processes, distributions, and variance.

  • Students can't distinguish between characteristics/predictability of an individual and characteristics/predictability of a distribution.

-Students have trouble considering non-additive effects/interactions.

-Previous miseducation. People have had a cartoonish and inaccurate concept of evolution pounded into their brains by many media sources both friendly and unfriendly to science. Search "Evolution" under Google image and you'll see what I mean.

Anyway. If there's interest, I suppose I'll be around.

Comment author: Crouching_Badger 14 March 2012 01:05:27AM *  4 points [-]

Hello, my name is Brett, and I am an undergraduate student at the University of North Texas, currently studying in the Department of Anthropology. In this semester, my classmates and I have been tasked with conducting an ethnographic study on an online community. After reading a few posts and the subsequent comments, LessWrong seemed like a great community on which to conduct an ethnography. The purpose of this study is to identify the composition of an online community, analyze communication channels and modes of interaction, and to glean any other information about unique aspects of the LessWrong community.

For this study I will be employing two information gathering techniques. The first of which will be Participant Observation, where I will document my participation within the community in attempts to accurately describe the ecosystem that comprises LessWrong. The second technique will be two interviews held with members of the community, where we will have a conversation about communication techniques within the community, the impact the community has had on the interviewees, and any other relevant aspects that may help to create a more coherent picture of the community.

It is at this point that I would like to ask for volunteers who would like to participate in the interview portion of the study. The interview will take from forty-five minutes to an hour and a half, and will be recorded using one of several applicable methods, such as audio recording or textual logs, depending on the medium of the interview. If there are any North Texas area members who would like to participate, I would like to specifically invite you to a face-to-face interview, as it would be most temporally convenient, though I am also available to use Skype, one of any other voice-based, online communication systems or the telephone to communicate.

If you are interested in participating, please send me a PM expressing your interest. If there are any questions or comments about the nature of the study, my experience with Anthropology, or anything else, please feel free to reply and create discourse. Thank you for your time.

Comment author: dxCUDA 28 February 2012 11:49:38AM *  4 points [-]

Greetings, I'm Simon, 23, I study Bsc Computer Games Technologies, currently focusing on rendering pipelines and AI. My scientific interests include physics, computer science and, 3D rendering techniques(C++ is my weapon of choice).



Comment author: alex_zag_al 17 November 2011 06:36:27AM *  4 points [-]

Hi, I'm Alex. I study biochemistry at Rutgers University. I think I was linked to Three Worlds Collide through a TVTropes page. In the past few days I have been curious about

Kolmogorov complexity,

how to derive the formula “y = 1/x” by slicing a cone with a plane,

and when it's appropriate to generalize laboratory results in psychology to human interactions outside the laboratory. Like, the original result on Hold Off On Proposing Solutions was probably done with groups of strangers; is it still true of groups of friends or coworkers? I think so.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 31 October 2011 05:24:51AM 4 points [-]

I found this list after finding and loving EY's Harry Potter series.

I have a background in statistical pattern recognition, and quickly found that most of the writers I found real value in during graduate school were canon here - Jaynes, Pearl, Wolpert, Korzybski, to name a few. I'm hoping to pick up more, like Kahneman.,

Way back in early 90s, I was on the extropians list as well, and think I've seen a familiar name or two. Quality discussion groups are hard to find, and I'm very happy to have found this place.

Comment author: Peacewise 23 October 2011 03:46:30PM 4 points [-]

G'day friends,

who you are - that's a question far too involved for a first post. My name is not who I am, nor my job, nor my place of birth, nor what I do for leisure, nor what I find interesting, if you could see me, you might consider that my body is who I am, and I'd agree with that... online I am Peacewise, and that's a name I'm proud and respectful of, so you can expect that I'll maintain the dignity of those who interact with me.

What you're doing - I'm operating a business and studying a teaching degree. Along the way I'm being consistent with my belief that empowering people to see their lens is useful.

what you value - I value knowledge, I value sport and education, I value people and other living creatures.

how you came to identify as a rationalist - I'm not completely familiar with the word "rationalism" as it's used on this site, but my inclination to answer that question is ...by asking questions, by challenging assumptions and preconceptions, by noticing my own lens, by trying on answers and being willing to risk being wrong.

how you found us, a Quora user had a link on his profile page. I appreciate what Alex K Chen had to say in several Quora answers so I followed my intuition and ended up here.

I'm hungry for better thinking, I've spent enough time arguing with those who don't know what they don't know - yet claim they know it! I've had some success in opening a few minds along the way, but I'm tired, so weary of the overwhelming lack of decent thinking and indeed weary of the lack of motivation for decent thinking from too many.

I'd just like a place to be, where I don't have to lead the horse to water and then watch it die from thirst as it drinks sand. That's a flip of a saying my dad uses. "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink." Quite true, but having led that horse to the water, having invested the time, to watch it then not drink the water, instead drinking sand and consequently die, well that's hard... and I'm over it.

Comment author: asparisi 10 October 2011 01:22:00AM 4 points [-]

Hello all,

I've put off coming here for as long as I have been able (not due to not wanting to join the community, but due to the fact that my obligations make it so that I often have to drop communities, which I feel regret about) but I think I finally have time to be a quasi-active participant in the community here, so we'll see what happens.

I first saw this site, following it from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality about a year or two ago, and followed that up with reading the sequences. (Which were instrumental in helping me push away a whole host of cached thoughts and poor patterns that I had developed over my life, although it took some time to do so, and I doubt I got them all.) At around the time I was reading through them, I was contacted by Adelene Dawner through a friend's livejournal, who invited me to join the community. I think I finally might have some time to devote to being quasi-active, or at least following things and commenting occasionally.

Comment author: Clarica 27 September 2011 08:35:18PM *  4 points [-]

Hello! I'm here because a reference to Less Wrong that Nancy Lebovitz made on another forum intrigued me, and I love the last line of the FAQ: there's nothing in the laws of physics that prevents reality from sounding weird.

I disagree that perfectionism as described on the About page is always a good idea, but my imagination can easily come up with an ideal standard which no living person can actually meet. And stay alive. Usually because of slippery-slope arguments, but if an ideal cannot be taken to the extreme example, can it really be that ideal?

I do believe in God, but not as defined in the FAQ, and I usually feel it is more accurate to say that I am an agnostic.

I started a couple blogs in July, and I am an aspiring writer. Humor is where I feel most comfortable at the moment. http://claricaandthequestion.blogspot.com/

I suffer from depression, but while it demonstrably limits my activities, I find it much harder to identify its effects on my mood, which is usually cheerful. There seems to be a lot of stuff that's interesting to read here, which is totally exciting.

Comment author: Willami 24 September 2011 01:29:51PM 4 points [-]

Hi everyone, my name is Wil, I live in the UK, I love Sci-Fi and how it inspires people to think differently or ahead of their time, and am a member of the working class but spend a lot of time on benefits, due to the effects of being rather strongly bipolar, having a very faulty short-term memory, and having intermittent extremes of varying states of mind that at times leads to sleeplessness and agoraphobia, which then gives me LOTS of time to think with very little else to do but read up online about the things that I've found myself thinking about, which is what led me here, so I'm a big fan of the internet as, at times, it's all I have to still feel connected to the outside world and attempt to add to it in any useful way.

I'm not that well educated or read and I'm currently in a manic state where I have a sort of 'everything is possible' interpretation of the world, and I've been getting some crazy ideas about quantum theory, and it's possible relationship to different theories of morphic resonance, and therein if it's possible that the two could be argued to be associated in scientific terms as we currently understand them, such as through quantum entanglement, and whether various religious beliefs could also find a basis therein, etc, and have been struggling to find anyone IRL who will talk to me anymore, especially when they're trying to watch X Factor, so thought I'd look about online for some possible discussion mates.

I can at times feel very slow and stupid and at other times feel very intelligent and clever, but I am aware I can also be completely deluded about my current reality and my abilities therein, but as is often said, insanity and genius can be a slim divide, so I thought there would be no harm in, when I feel I'm making more sense than not, just trying a few ideas out online with some intellectual types and seeing if anything I think might actually work for others, and not just me!

I tend to just leap in feet first but I am perfectly happy to be shot down for some faulty reasoning, as I've been made perfectly aware through-out my life that that's what creation gave me to work with, and besides, being proven wrong still makes me learn something, but sometimes I also feel I have an idea that has some merit if I just had some more knowledgable people about me to flesh out the details a bit better and fill in the gaps in my knowledge, and I go through stages of having a sort of 'inherent sense of philosophical realism' enabled where I just FEEL if something is right or wrong, then come out with a fully-formed theory as to why, that seems to appear from no where, and then find myself trying to work out WHY, which is a very odd way of working I know, but it's how my mind is sometimes, and I guess if I never have a go at trying to explain it to myself and others, then I'll never know if I might have something I can actually work with during these mad manic times.

Anyway I'm going to try and resist starting any threads for a while yet, even when I can, I'm just going to read a lot (which I have before joining today anyway) and try a few comments on threads I feel I can hopefully manage a reasonable attempt at providing some understanding of, or perhaps lay out some other interesting associated question that I'd like to lead the thread onto, and in effect, dip a toe in and see where it gets me.

Still currently trying to understand quite how the site works, every site always seems to have it's own unwritten rules too, so apologies if I'm running before walking or treading on any toes, but that's how I tend to understand everything, I try it and learn from my mistakes, and I'm afraid there will be days when I just won't make any sense at all, for which I can only apologise, but hopefully people will make it clear without being too cruel that I should just shut up and try again another day!

Be kind!

Comment author: abamf 23 September 2011 04:17:34AM 9 points [-]

Hello all, I'm a 17 year old High School senior. I discovered Less Wrong through the author page at HP:MoR. I had considered myself a rational person for some time, but the Sequences here have really opened my eyes to the glaring errors I was making as a Traditional Rationalist. Consequently, this site has already changed my life for the better and I really just want to thank all the main contributors here. Thank You!

Also, I am looking to Major in Cognitive Science in college and any suggestions as to good schools to apply would be appreciated, along with any advice as to reading or preparation I should do before entering this field.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 November 2011 08:44:27PM 8 points [-]

Hi All!

Generic Stats: 28 year-old Ohioan; Found LW through HPMoR, and lurked for a while, but finally created a profile after filling out the survey; BA in History. Was halfway through an MS in Human Factors Engineering when I got divorced and couldn't afford it any more. Don't plan on going back in the near future, but I did manage to get published during my time in grad school, which was pretty nifty.

I grew up with Easter-and-Christmas Roman Catholicism, though I also got a bit of Judaism from my dad (a Soviet emigrant). Got more heavily into Christianity in my teens, which lead to becoming an atheist when I was around 17.

I am sensitive to feminist concerns about what our culture teaches young girls, as I fell victim to it myself: I had a complete disregard for science and math, despite a very high aptitude for them. It wasn't until I self-studied my way back through math for my engineering requirements that I actually internalized the belief that I was good at this. The general "Not-Getting-It-ness" of many commenters in regards to gender issues tended to turn me away from LW at first, but there is a lot of good stuff here, besides.

About me personally: I enjoy Joss Whedon, TED talks, and Neil Gaiman. I am devoted to my dog, Gryffindor, and he has been with me for 11 years. I work primarily in child care and enjoy imparting nuggets of rationality to my kiddos in ways that don't conflict with the family's world views (I have a tendency to work for extremely conservative religious families ranging from Mormons to New Earthers). I am poly, and enjoyed seeing some of that represented here. I have had an insane amount of crazy hobbies ranging from medieval re-creation to bharatanatyam (Classical Indian dancing)

Comment author: J_Taylor 09 November 2011 12:08:46AM 4 points [-]

If it would not be inconvenient to you, could you unpack what you mean by "Not-Getting-It-ness"? That is, specific examples that you find problematic?

If you would prefer not do this, could you recommend a source that would assist in understanding the method you used to arrive at this result? That is, a source that would allow one to understand the cognitive-algorithm that produces the result "Not-Getting-It"?

Comment author: a_mshri 17 September 2011 09:40:41PM *  7 points [-]


My name is Ali and I'm 24 year-old. I graduated in software engineering and currently, I'm in second year of Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence. Machine learning is my primary interest; however, I am extremely enthusiastic about other subfields of AI, cognitive science, psychology, physics and biology. I love to learn the assembly code fragments underlying high level processes in the universe and to see how complexities are decomposed into simple components by science.

Being born in a religious country, my first steps in the way of rationalism began by questioning the religious beliefs in my adolescence. Since then, I learned to live with probabilities, evidences and explanations.

I found Less Wrong by searching about singularity. I'm sure there is a lot here for me to learn, but I hope someday I'll be able to contribute.

(English is not my first language, so I apologize for any error in my writing. :D)

Comment author: lessdazed 17 September 2011 10:36:51PM 4 points [-]

Your English is great. If you don't mind could you talk about the use of the article "the" in your native languages? (Standard Arabic, a dialect and perhaps others?)

I personally feel strongly (although I am maybe the only one) that people should refrain from talking about "the singularity" since the word "singularity" covers several very different and incompatible ideas. I think it often causes confusion the way people sometimes talk about "evidence for the singularity" or "the likelihood of the singularity". To talk about the idea of "a singularity" is better, much as you said, or sometimes "a technological singularity".

Comment author: a_mshri 18 September 2011 08:56:18PM 4 points [-]

My native language is Persian (Farsi). There is no definite article in Persian and the specific object/ person/ idea which a noun refers to is determined from the context.

I agree with you about the ambiguity of the word "singularity". Not only there are different definitions for "singularity" in AI, the term is also applied in other contexts (e.g. economic singularity, gravitational singularity). I think, as you said, talking about "a singularity" is more appropriate.