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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: 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: Bugmaster 14 March 2012 08:21:02PM 1 point [-]

I only read certain things

What kinds of things, out of curiosity, and why do you read them and not other things ?

Comment author: tomme 14 March 2012 08:38:03PM *  2 points [-]

Nonfiction because: my faulty brain sometimes mistakes fiction for reality(e.g., I used to believe that Santa is real) and cognitive economy - there is a finite amount of knowledge I can store, so I would rather make sure it's accurate, truthful, useful knowledge.

Comment author: Peacewise 13 April 2012 03:44:55AM 0 points [-]

tomme, welcome to lesswrong, gday I'm Peacewise.

re

I used to believe that Santa is real

Fair crack mate, "Santa" is a standard fiction/lie perpetrated by society and parents, hardly something to be used as evidence of a "faulty brain". In fact its more likely to be evidence that your brain was and is functioning in a developmentally normal state.

I suggest you reconsider your position on fiction, since you state

so I would rather make sure it's accurate, truthful, useful knowledge

there is indeed plenty of accurate, truthful and useful knowledge within the realm of fiction. Shakespeare has plenty of accurate and useful knowledge about the human condition, just to give you one counter example. "Out damned spot, out " by lady Macbeth is an example of how murder and the guilt caused by the act of murder affects the human mind. (Macbeth, Act 5, scene 1.) Lady Macbeth cannot get the imagined blood stains off her hands after committing murder.

Humans are subjective creatures, by experimenting with fiction you'll be looking into the human condition, by avoiding fiction you are dismissing a large subset of truth - for truth is subjective as well as objective.

Comment author: tomme 13 April 2012 04:30:54AM 0 points [-]

I suggest you reconsider your position on fiction

I now believe that fiction could be useful because it conveys experience. For example, The Walking Dead, the Tv series I am watching at the moment, has a complex interplay characters, as it shows how humans interact in a plethora of situations.

Most people don't have that in mind when they bump into fiction. But, as I said, if you don't have enough experience, and you need a quick dose, sometimes fiction can help you.

Comment author: Bugmaster 14 March 2012 08:48:35PM 1 point [-]

Nonfiction because: my faulty brain sometimes mistakes fiction for reality...

In this case, how do you know what is fiction (and therefore you shouldn't read it) and what is not (and therefore you should read it) ?

and cognitive economy - there is a finite amount of knowledge I can store, so I must be sure that it is accurate knowledge.

Can you elaborate ? I'm curious about the topic because I've heard this statement from several of my friends, but I can't quite wrap my head around it.

In the interests of full disclosure, I personally do read fiction: primarily because I find it enjoyable, but also because it sometimes enables me to communicate (and receive) ideas much more effectively than nonfiction (f.ex., HPMoR).

Comment author: tomme 15 March 2012 01:01:19PM 0 points [-]

In this case, how do you know what is fiction (and therefore you shouldn't read it) and what is not (and therefore you should read it) ?

I look for background info on the piece I consider reading and read its abstract.

Can you elaborate ?

See the reply below. I'm not good at explaining this stuff.

Horace wrote that the purpose of literature is "to delight and instruct". It delights precisely because it's instructive and it's up to you to decide whether you only need precise information(nonfiction) or embedded information(fiction).

Comment author: Bugmaster 15 March 2012 10:54:02PM 1 point [-]

I look for background info on the piece I consider reading and read its abstract.

What about pieces that blend truth and fiction, such as historical novels or most newspaper articles ?

See the reply below. I'm not good at explaining this stuff.

Fair enough, but I'm still curious. Do you participate in any activities that you find enjoyable, but ultimately not very useful in the long term ? I'm not trying to be glib here; I genuinely want to learn about your way of thinking.

Comment author: tomme 16 March 2012 10:26:35AM 1 point [-]

What about pieces that blend truth and fiction, such as historical novels or most newspaper articles ?

I don't usually read those kinds of pieces.

Do you participate in any activities that you find enjoyable, but ultimately not very useful in the long term ?

No, I only take part in activities that have some long-term benefit.

Comment author: Bugmaster 16 March 2012 05:53:08PM 0 points [-]

No, I only take part in activities that have some long-term benefit.

That makes sense. What algorithm are you using to decide which activities have some long-term benefit ?

Comment author: tomme 16 March 2012 07:10:55PM *  0 points [-]

Pros&Cons and projected outcomes.

Comment author: Bugmaster 16 March 2012 11:05:34PM 2 points [-]

Right, but how do you evaluate pros and cons, and project outcomes ? Obviously you wouldn't take an action that has more cons than pros, and therefore has a poor projected outcome, but that doesn't tell me much.

For example, what made you decide to begin spending time on writing posts on Less Wrong, as opposed to spending that time on reading quantum physics books, or lifting weights, or something ?

Comment author: Incorrect 14 March 2012 08:53:48PM 2 points [-]

Can you elaborate ? I'm curious about the topic because I've heard this statement from several of my friends, but I can't quite wrap my head around it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interference_theory

New memories can interfere with the recall of old ones if they are similar.

That doesn't necessarily mean fiction is likely to cause problems.

Comment author: Bugmaster 14 March 2012 09:36:17PM 0 points [-]

That doesn't necessarily mean fiction is likely to cause problems.

I guess it depends, in part, on how similar the knowledge you deem important is similar to works of fiction. To use a trivial example, I doubt that any work of fiction would cause me to forget what 2 + 2 is equal to.

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

Hi!

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: UngnsCobra 11 March 2012 02:15:42PM 2 points [-]

I'm fairly new to singularity etc. but from what I have read so far. Looking at singularity as a if scenario through Brain Emulation's (uploading). How would this affect the economy regarding, emplyment, growth etc. So far I have found papers looking at economics of singularity from Robin Hanson. I'm struggling finding other source's so I would be very grateful if someone would like to contribute.

Comment author: gwern 11 March 2012 06:20:46PM *  2 points [-]

I don't really know of any myself. It's hard to do economics about such divergent and unclear scenarios, and economists typically do them as jokes (eg. Paul Krugman's paper on investing in a relativistic time travel framework). And there seem to be penalties - that Hanson paper from 2008 still has not been published 4 years later, for example.

Comment author: UngnsCobra 11 March 2012 09:19:27PM 1 point [-]

(To gwern and Will_Newsome) Haha that's great, it's a somewhat juvenile undertone in Krugman's writing in this paper. that's exactly the kind of paper's i'm looking for - paper's that are something of a outlier in the field of economics, if any other paper's come's to mind in the same direction it would be appreciated.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 11 March 2012 06:49:46PM 5 points [-]

For those who are interested.

This paper, then, is a serious analysis of a ridiculous subject, which is of course the opposite of what is usual in economics.

Comment author: Balofsky 01 March 2012 01:57:42AM 2 points [-]

Hi!

I'm Balofsky (keeping first name blank), and I am a 24 year old undergraduate student in St. Paul, Minnesota. Interests include anything liberal art-ish, Judaism, politics and memorizing random facts I'll probably never need in real life.

Comment author: gwern 01 March 2012 04:07:03AM 0 points [-]

Re beoShaffer's mention of Anki, if you haven't heard of it before, it's a suggestion to use spaced repetition.

Comment author: beoShaffer 01 March 2012 02:27:58AM 1 point [-]

I'll probably never need in real life.

Have you tried Anki?

Comment author: Balofsky 13 March 2012 01:59:45AM 0 points [-]

Interesting, I'll look into it. I didn't meant to retract my introduction, by the way- hit the wrong button.

Comment author: beoShaffer 13 March 2012 03:37:05AM 0 points [-]

It happens.

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).

Cheers

-dxCUDA

Comment author: thomblake 28 February 2012 02:19:11PM 0 points [-]

A google group has just started recently for Lw folks interested in making games: http://groups.google.com/group/lesswrong-gamemakers

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: pedanterrific 27 February 2012 05:31:41AM 2 points [-]

Wow, that must be some kind of record.

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: [deleted] 17 February 2012 12:03:21AM 2 points [-]

Hello. I'm Michael. I'm an English major, still in undergrad, but my passion is library science. I'm not as big on research as I am on systems of research and information exchange. I prefer work to thought but I don't like mindless labor either, so I've tried to squeeze into the narrows of academic librarianship, hoping for a happy medium where I can do something that helps people learn and keeps me from growing unread and "set in my ways."

I'm only stopping here because it's the next interesting, "honest" place I've come across and I want to extract what I can from it and enjoy the community for a while. I used to be a southern Christian who did not really respond to reality in anyway. I knew that one was suppose to "believe" in this truth or that truth, but the idea of belief corresponding to some reality never occurred to me until I ran afoul of a Kent Hovind seminar and was forced to reconcile beliefs to reality.

I've lurked and read here and there on Less Wrong and Overcoming Bias. I know already it's a community of extreme intensity which I like. I've no predictions so I'm just going to enjoy it while I can.

Comment author: TimS 17 February 2012 01:06:10AM 0 points [-]

Welcome to LessWrong.

If you have anything you'd like to talk about, may I suggest the current open thread.

Comment author: Deanushka 05 February 2012 11:36:05PM 2 points [-]

Hi, I am Dean

I am a software developer with many years experience in web based design and development. I think of myself as a ideas person and am deeply interested in AGI. My only real experience is that of research such as reading and youtube so I am something of an armchair AI investigator. I have a few ideas of my own and hope to contribute one day.

Look forward to interacting with you all in a positive way.

Regards, Dean

Comment author: komponisto 06 February 2012 12:03:20AM 0 points [-]

many years experience in web based design and development

Wow. It scares me that the internet has now been around long enough that one can speak of "many years' experience" in such domains.

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: LaisteBreen 01 February 2012 06:30:22PM 2 points [-]

Hi, I'm Laiste. I have been on a inner search to find myself, my meaning, my life..my happiness. I have found so many people speak in ways that make no sense to me - overly positive, self deceptive and the list goes on and on. In my search for understanding, I happened along this site, and for the first time, what I am reading, I GET. I do not hold any degrees or formal education, but my mind is my greatest asset. I am very much interested in many of the articles as it all relates to lifes journeys, but what brought me here was "The Science of Winning at Life"

Comment author: erspringer 01 February 2012 05:32:28PM 0 points [-]

Hello everyone. Erik here. A while back I've realized that there's a lot a don't know. Just wanting to know more. Not sure of what I want to know more of. I just want to learn more.

Comment author: TheFalseProphet 24 January 2012 04:32:38PM 0 points [-]

I am an animator, writer, comic book maker by trade.

However I have a deep interest in psychology, mental illness and the brain.. As these themes surround the art I make and so I am interested in engaging in discussion to learn current scientific theories about these issues...

You can see the type of animation I make here: http://vimeo.com/26954632

Look forward to participating in good discussions soon.

Gwynn.D.Earl

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: RichardKennaway 27 March 2012 01:21:05PM 0 points [-]

Hi there (belatedly)! I believe we've met, way back when.

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: juliawise 02 February 2012 09:07:03PM 2 points [-]

tackling irrationality while maintaining polite and less arrogant discourse

I'm with you! There's quite a culture divide between "win the argument" and "get along", and since I spend more time in the latter camp, Less Wrong was unpalatable for me at first.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 03 February 2012 04:14:23PM 2 points [-]

There's also "point out errors", which is different from "win the argument".

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: 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: 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: [deleted] 26 December 2011 03:56:08AM 1 point [-]

Do you do any photoacoustic tomography, or is your work purely optical? I'm a math grad student in that area.

I'm also from Ohio, the Cincinnati area. Hi!

Comment author: kmdouglass 26 December 2011 01:12:30PM 1 point [-]

No, I do not do any work in that area, though I am vaguely familiar with it, having attended a few talks on the subject. However, the mathematics of solving the associated inverse problem is extremely relevant to the type of work that I do.

It's great to meet another Ohioan. I was just driving through Cincinnati a few days ago.

Cheers, -kmd

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!)

Me

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: 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.

Cheers!

-Stabilizer

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: Stabilizer 13 January 2012 02:51:55AM 0 points [-]

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.

I used to have that kind of brain architecture for quite some time, and I kind of miss it. But as I started studying more and more physics, it just became harder and harder. So, I guess the trade-off got really skewed at some point of time.

I have to mention that my religiosity kind of went through cycles. There was a time when I was an internally-militant (not very outspoken) atheist, followed by a period of considerable appreciation for religion, and again followed by a (currently) pretty comfortable atheism. If I think back to my first episode of atheism (religion was my default state as I was born in a pretty religious family), I guess I was pretty uncomfortable with it, in the sense that I felt that a lot more needed to be explained. In the intervening episode of religiosity, I appreciated the exact things that you mention about religion, but I just didn't like all the baggage, i.e. the time and money spent in rituals. My religion was Hinduism, which is highly ritualistic, but enjoys some nice philosophies. I still like some of the philosophy but I dislike most of the ritual.

Comment author: Swimmer963 15 January 2012 02:42:25PM 0 points [-]

I appreciated the exact things that you mention about religion, but I just didn't like all the baggage, i.e. the time and money spent in rituals.

Funny. That's probably a brain architecture thing, too, but I really enjoy a lot of the High Anglican rituals at the church where I used to sing in choir. The traditional carols that all of us know by heart, every single word... The ministers and the bishop in their beautiful robes leading the choir in a procession around the cathedral while we sing in insane harmony... Stuff like the ritual of turning out all the lights and everyone leaving in the dark on Maundy Thursday (day before Easter Friday) to symbolize Jesus' death. It's all very theatrical, and very moving, and usually makes me cry.

I have a feeling that you might be talking about a different kind of ritual, though, if you're frustrated by the amount of time and money spent on them.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 January 2012 07:22:46PM 2 points [-]

Building and running a church, paying for a bishops education and the time he works there, training children to sing, and all of the time people spend there is not a small investment. Multiply that by all the churches in the world, and add the cost of various missions and church plants to spread religion, or the charities which do their work sub-optimally because they take religion more seriously then saving lives and I imagine that the figure would become inappropriately ludicrous. Not that just eliminating religion would make us all much more efficient, humans are very gifted at wasting time and money.

Comment author: Swimmer963 16 January 2012 09:19:12PM *  2 points [-]

I've heard that argument before, and it does have a lot of weight. In this case, though, are we talking about religion or about costly ritual? Both are cultural phenomena, and they're frequently found together, but there are religions that aren't into ritual at all, like Quakers, who are best known for their simple, silent style of prayer and worship, and don't go around building fancy cathedrals). And there are costly "rituals" which are not related to religion at all: football, for example, or theatre.

Agreed that churches which run charities may run their sub-optimally from an atheist's point of view, since a lot of the time one of the unstated aims of their charity is to convert people. (This used to make me furious when I attended the Pentecostal church mentioned in one of the parent comments.) But we were talking about ritual, and I was specifically talking about deeply moving, meaningful rituals. It just so happens that the ones that have meaning to me are religious in nature. I know a lot of people find arts and theatre meaningful, and likely there are people who find watching sports meaningful, in a similar way. There's some kind of human instinct to gravitate towards activities that are communal, repetitive, and have a sense of tradition that imbues them with meaning. There's also a human instinct to think superstitiously, which I don't share much, and which makes it hard for me to really enjoy those meaningful moments in church.

Nitpick: yes, paying for a bishop's work and teaching children to sing is something that happens "under religion's umbrella." That doesn't make it bad! I learned to sing better through the church choir (for which I was paid a monthly stipend for the community service of singing during Sunday worship!) than I would have in the $400-per-month children's choir, which I probably wouldn't have been allowed into...most people thought I was tone deaf until I proved them wrong. Bishops who organize community events and charities are doing something good for the community, whether or not it's sub-optimal, and face it...are any human activities run optimally? Yes, it's possible to have a better community-runner than a church, but the amount of money that goes into churches right now does produce something of value!

Comment author: Swimmer963 16 January 2012 09:18:22PM 0 points [-]

I've heard that argument before, and it does have a lot of weight. In this case, though, are we talking about religion or about costly ritual? Both are cultural phenomena, and they're frequently found together, but there are religions that aren't into ritual at all (like <Quakers>(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quakers), who are best known for their simple, silent style of prayer and worship, and don't go around building fancy cathedrals). And there are costly "rituals" which are not related to religion at all: football, for example, or theatre.

Agreed that churches which run charities may run their sub-optimally from an atheist's point of view, since a lot of the time one of the unstated aims of their charity is to convert people. (This used to make me furious when I attended the Pentecostal church mentioned in one of the parent comments.) But we were talking about ritual, and I was specifically talking about deeply moving, meaningful rituals. It just so happens that the ones that have meaning to me are religious in nature. I know a lot of people find arts and theatre meaningful, and likely there are people who find watching sports meaningful, in a similar way. There's some kind of human instinct to gravitate towards activities that are communal, repetitive, and have a sense of tradition that imbues them with meaning. There's also a human instinct to think superstitiously, which I don't share much, and which makes it hard for me to really enjoy those meaningful moments in church.

Nitpick: yes, paying for a bishop's work and teaching children to sing is something that happens "under religion's umbrella." That doesn't make it bad! I learned to sing better through the church choir (for which I was paid a monthly stipend for the community service of singing during Sunday worship!) than I would have in the $400-per-month children's choir, which I probably wouldn't have been allowed into...most people thought I was tone deaf until I proved them wrong. Bishops who organize community events and charities are doing something good for the community, whether or not it's sub-optimal, and face it...are any human activities run optimally? Yes, it's possible to have a better community-runner than a church, but the amount of money that goes into churches right now does produce something of value!

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: [deleted] 11 January 2012 06:33:11PM 0 points [-]

I have a Physics question for you: is time continuous? I mean, is any given extent of time always further divisible into extents of time?

Comment author: Stabilizer 13 January 2012 02:59:28AM 0 points [-]

I'm sorry, I really don't know. In fact, I don't think I even know what the majority opinion is among physicists (if there is one).

At the face of it, it seems like if spacetime is discrete, then up until now, the unit of discreteness is small enough to allow us to do calculus (which assumes continuity) with impunity, even at the smallest of scales our experiments go to. So, as far as experimental evidence goes, there's no reason to believe in discreteness. But I guess your question is whether there are any theoretical arguments which suggest discreteness... to which I really don't have an answer. If I understand some interesting argument in the future, I'll get back to you.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 January 2012 08:49:55PM 0 points [-]

Thanks, I'll look forward to it.

Comment author: kilobug 11 January 2012 06:46:53PM 2 points [-]

As far as I understand it : any time smaller than Planck's time (around 10^-43 second) is not meaningful, because no experiment will ever be able to measure it. So the question is kinda pointless, for all practical purpose, time could be counted as integer units of Planck's time.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 January 2012 09:41:28PM 0 points [-]

I've read that too, but I get confused when I try to use this fact to answer the question. On the one hand, it seems you are right that nothing can happen in a time shorter than the Planck time, but on the other hand, we seem to rely on the infinite divisibility of time just in making this claim. After all, it's perfectly intelligible to talk about a span of time that is one half or one quarter of Planck time. There's no contradiction in this. The trouble is that nothing can happen in this time, or as you put it, that it cannot be meaningful. But does this last point mean that there is no shorter time, given that a shorter time is perfectly intelligible?

Suppose for example that exactly 10 planck times from now, a radium atom begins decay. Exactly 10 and a half planck times from now, another radium atom decays. Is there anything problematic in saying this? I've not said that anything happened in less than a Planck time. 10 Planck times and 10.5 Planck times are both just some fraction of a second and both long enough spans of time to involve some physical change. If there's nothing wrong with saying this, then we can say that the first atom began its decay one half planck length before the second. This makes a half Planck length a meaningful span of time in describing the relation between two physical processes.

Comment author: Cthulhoo 11 January 2012 11:08:42PM 4 points [-]

Well, the correct answer up to this point is that we don't know. We would need a theory of quantum gravity to understand what's happening at this scale, and who knows how many ither step further we need to move to have a grasp of the "real" answer. Up to now, we only know that "something" is going to happen, and can make (motivated) conjectures. It may indeed be that time is discretized in the end, and talking about fractions of planck time is meaningless: maybe the universe computes the next state based on the present one in discrete steps. In your case, it would be meaningless to say that an atom will decay in 10.5 Planck times, the only thing you could see is that at step 10 the atom hasn't decayed and at step 11 it has (barring the correct remark of nsheperd that in practice the time span is too short for decoherence to be relevant). But, honestly, this is all just speculation.

Comment author: [deleted] 12 January 2012 03:22:22PM *  0 points [-]

Thanks for the response, that was helpful. I wonder if the question of the continuity of time bears on the idea of the universe computing its next state: if time is discreet, this will work, but if time is continuous, there is no 'next state' (since no two moments are adjacent in a continuous extension). Would this be important to the question of determinism?

Finally, notice that my example doesn't suggest that anything happens in 10.5 planck times, only that one thing begins 10 planck times from now, and another thing begins 10.5 planck times from now. Both processes might only occupy whole numbers of planck times, but the fraction of a planck time is still important to describing the relation between their starting moments.

Comment author: Cthulhoo 12 January 2012 10:41:47PM 1 point [-]

Warning: wild speculations incoming ;)

I wonder if the question of the continuity of time bears on the idea of the universe computing its next state: if time is discreet, this will work, but if time is continuous, there is no 'next state' (since no two moments are adjacent in a continuous extension). Would this be important to the question of determinism?

I don't think continuous time is a problem for determinism: we use continuous functions every day to compute predictions. And, if the B theory of time turns out to be the correct interpretation, everything was already computed from the beginning. ;)

Finally, notice that my example doesn't suggest that anything happens in 10.5 planck times, only that one thing begins 10 planck times from now, and another thing begins 10.5 planck times from now. Both processes might only occupy whole numbers of planck times, but the fraction of a planck time is still important to describing the relation between their starting moments.

What I was suggesting was this: imagine you have a Planck clock and observe the two systems. At each Planck second the two atoms can either decay or not. At second number 10 none has decayed, ad second 11 both have. Since you can't observe anything in between, there's no way to tell if one has decayed after 10 or 10.5 seconds. In a discreet spacetime the universe should compute the wavefunctions at time t, throw the dice, and spit put the wavefunctions at time t+1. A mean life of 10.5 planck seconds from time t translates to a probability to decay at every planck second: then it either happens, or it doesn't. It seems plausible to me that there's no possible Lorentz transformation equivalent in our hypothetical uber-theory that allows you to see a time span between events smaller than a planck second (i.e. our Lorentz transformations are discreet, too). But, honestly, I will be surprised if it turns out to be so simple ;)

Comment author: [deleted] 13 January 2012 08:52:11PM *  0 points [-]

In a discreet spacetime the universe should compute the wavefunctions at time t, throw the dice, and spit put the wavefunctions at time t+1.

Do you think you could explain this metaphor in some more detail? What does 'computation' here represent?

Comment author: thomblake 13 January 2012 08:59:22PM 1 point [-]

Just a side-note... I don't think this was supposed to be a 'metaphor'.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 January 2012 09:52:53PM 0 points [-]

Fair enough. How does the view of the universe as a computer relate to the question of the continuity of time?

Comment author: nshepperd 11 January 2012 10:49:16PM *  1 point [-]

For a start the classical hallucination of particles and decay doesn't really apply at times on the planck scale (since there's no time for the wave to decohere). There's just the gradual evolution of the quantum wavefunction. It may be that nothing interesting changes in the wavefunction in less than a planck time, either because it's actually "blocky" like a cellular automata or physics simulation, or for some other reason.

In the former case you could imagine that at each time step there's a certain probability (determined by the amplitude) of decay, such that the expected (average) time is 0.5 planck times after the expected time of some other event. Such a setup might well produce the classical illusion of something happening half a planck time after something else, although in a smeared-out manner that precludes "exactly".

Comment author: [deleted] 12 January 2012 03:28:55PM 0 points [-]

That's a good point about decay, but my example only referred to the beginning of the process of decay. I wasn't trying to claim that the decay could take place in less than one, one, or less than one trillion planck times. The important point for my example is just that the starting points for the two decay processes (however long they take) differ by .5 planck times. Nothing in the example involves anything happening in less than a Planck time, or anything happening in non-whole numbers of Planck times.

Comment author: kilobug 12 January 2012 03:46:02PM 0 points [-]

But the thing is : how can you measure that the decay differs by .5 Planck times ? That would require an experimental device which would be in a different state .5 Planck times earlier, and that's not possible, according to my understanding.

Comment author: [deleted] 12 January 2012 03:58:13PM 0 points [-]

Good point. I agree, it doesn't seem possible. But this is what confuses me: no measuring device could possibly measure some time less than one Planck time. Does it follow from this alone that a measuring device must measure in whole numbers of Planck times? In other words, does it follow logically that if the planck time is a minimum, it is also an indivisible unit?

This is my worry. A photon travels across a planck length in one planck time. Something moving half light-speed travels across the same distance in two planck times. If Planck times are not only a minimum but an indivisible unit, then wouldn't it be impossible for some cosmic ray (A) to move at any fraction of the speed of light between 1 and 1/2? A cosmic ray (B) moving at 3/4 c couldn't cover the Planck length in less time than A without moving at 1 c, since it has to cover the planck length in whole numbers of planck times. This seems like a problem.

Comment author: kilobug 12 January 2012 04:48:40PM 1 point [-]

It could be like that something moving at 3/4 c will have, on each Planck time, a 3/4 chance of moving of one Planck length, and a 1/4 chance of not moving at all. But that's how I understand it from a computer scientist point of view, it may not be how physicists really see it.

But I think the core reason is that since no signal can spread faster than c, no signal can cross more than one Planck length over a Planck time, so a difference of less than a Planck time can never be detected. Since it cannot be detected, since there is no experimental setting that would differ if something happened a fraction of Planck time earlier, the question has no meaning.

If time really is discreet or continuous doesn't have any meaning, if no possible experiments can tell the two apart.

Comment author: [deleted] 12 January 2012 06:45:25PM 4 points [-]

If time really is discreet or continuous doesn't have any meaning, if no possible experiments can tell the two apart.

Of course, given any experiment, spacetime being discrete on a sufficiently small scale couldn't be detected, but given any scale, a sufficiently precise experiment could tell if spacetime is discrete at that scale. And there's evidence that spacetime is likely not discrete at Planck scale (otherwise sufficiently-high-energy gamma rays would have a nontrivial dependency of speed on energy, which is not what we see in gamma-ray bursts). See http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v462/n7271/edsumm/e091119-06.html

Comment author: [deleted] 12 January 2012 05:02:01PM 0 points [-]

The difference between discreet or continuous time is a concern of mine because it bears on what it means for something to be changing or moving. But I'm very much in the dark here, and I don't know what physicists would say if asked for a definition of change. Do you have any thoughts?

Comment author: [deleted] 11 January 2012 10:03:55PM 2 points [-]

In your example you're using the term "now". That term already implies a point in time and therfore an infinitely divisible time. The problem is that while you certainly could conceive of a half planck time you could never locate that half in time. I.e. an event does not happen at a point in time. It happens anywhere in a given range of time with at least the planck length in extend. Now suppose that event A happens anywhere in a given timeslice and event B happens in another timeslice that starts half a planck time after the slice of event A. You can not say that event B happens half a planck time after event A since the timeslices overlap and thus you cannot even say that event B happens at all after event A. It might be the other way round. So while in your mind this half planck length seems to have some meaning in reality it does not. Your mind insists on visualizing time as continuous and therefore you can't easily get rid of the feeling that it were.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 January 2012 10:13:30PM *  0 points [-]

Why do you say that the time slices overlap? It seems on your set up, and mine, that they do not. The point seems to be just that nothing can happen in less than a Planck time, not that something cannot happen in 10.5 Planck times. The latter doesn't follow from the former so far as I can see. But I'm not on firm ground here, and I may well be mistaken. (ETA: But at any rate my example above doesn't involve anything happening in 10.5 Planck times. Everything I describe in that example can be said to occur in a whole number of planck times.)

And 'now' doesn't imply infinite divisiblity: we could have moments of time whether or not time is infinitely divisible, and we would need to refer to them to talk about the limit between two planck times anyway. And we cannot arrive at moments by infinite divisibility anyway, since moments are extensionless, and infinite division will always yield extensions.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 January 2012 10:21:20PM *  2 points [-]

Ah, english is not my native language. With "event B happens in another timeslice that starts half a planck time after the slice of event A" I meant timeslice B starts half a planck length after timeslice A started, so the second half of A overlaps with the fist of B.

B does not happen at 10.5 planck times after now. It happens somewhere between 10 and 11 planck times after "now" and you cannot tell when. Do not visualize time as a sequence of slices.

Edit: My point is, it's simply impossible to visualize time. If your brain insists on visualizing it, you will never understand. Because whenever you visualize a timeslice you visualize it with a clear cut start and a clear cut end. But that's not how this works.

Edit2: Maybe I'm just reading your response wrong. My point is that the precision in your example is the problem. There is no event that happens at a time with a precision smaller than one planck length. So 10.5 is just as wrong as 0.5.

Comment author: [deleted] 12 January 2012 03:20:05PM 0 points [-]

Ahh, I see, I think I misunderstood you. I'm not sure I understand why A and B overlap. The claim about Planck times is that nothing can happen in less time. Does it follow from that that all time must be measured in whole numbers of Planck times? A photon takes one Planck time to pass through one Planck length, but I can't see anything problematic with a cosmic ray passing through one Planck length in 10.5 Planck times. In other words does the fact that the Planck time is a minimum mean that it's an indivisible unit?

I don't think anything in my example relies on visualizing time, or on visualizing it as a series of slices. But I may be confused there. Do you have reason to think that one cannot visualize time? I suppose I agree that time is not a visible object, and so any visualization is analogical, but isn't this true of many things we do visualize to our profit? Like economic growth, say. What makes time different?

Comment author: [deleted] 13 January 2012 07:22:44AM 3 points [-]

The claim about Planck times is that nothing can happen in less time.

No. The claim is that nothing is located in time with a precision smaller than the planck time.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 January 2012 03:28:32PM 0 points [-]

I don't really doubt that you're right. Most everything I read on the subject agrees with or is consistant with what you're saying. But the idea is still very confusing to me, so I appreciate your explanations. Let me try to make my troubles more clear.

So far as I understand it, a Planck time is a minimum because that's the time it takes the fastest possible thing to pass through the minimum possible length. If something were going 99% the speed of light, or 75% or any percentage other than 100%, 50%, 25%, 12.5% etc. then it would travel through the Planck length in a non-whole number of Planck times. So something traveling at 75% the speed of light would travel through the Planck length at 1.5 Planck times. Maybe we can't measure this. That's fine. But say something were to travel at a constant velocity through two Planck lengths in three Planck times. Wouldn't it just follow that it went through each Planck length in 1.5 Planck times? It may be that we can't measure anything with precision greater than whole numbers of Planck times, but in this scenario it wouldn't follow from that that time is discontinuous.

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

Cheers!

-Stabilizer

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

Comment author: Peacewise 11 January 2012 03:45:58PM 1 point [-]

I was forced to conclude that debating was not about reaching the truth, but about proving the other person wrong. G'day -Stablizer,

Welcome to lesswrong, I'm quite new here too. I read your intro and think you would probably thoroughly devour Edward De Bono's "I am right, you are wrong". I agree with you regarding debating (and criticism) and so does De Bono, he writes about it quite elegantly.

Cheers, peacewise.

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: Nornagest 11 December 2011 11:45:15PM 2 points [-]

Parallax effects are a surprisingly good reason to reject heliocentrism. Wrong, of course, but it does seem to fail the sniff test -- and about all the Greeks had to work with were sniff tests of varying sophistication.

Although now I kind of wonder how Aristarchus' critics explained his observations.

Comment author: gwern 11 December 2011 11:21:12PM 1 point [-]

That was long, but very good. People underestimate the ancient Greeks - it's awesome to see the whole set of calculations laid out. (This reminds me guiltily of a post I keep meaning to write doing something similar for Atomism.)

Comment author: wedrifid 11 December 2011 02:04:42PM *  1 point [-]

I'm bad at this.

First thing you can do to become better at this: Don't start by telling people you are bad at it. If it was really important that we know that you are bad at it we could probably figure it out for ourselves!

Comment author: Optimind 10 December 2011 02:25:10AM *  5 points [-]

Greetings fellow user & producer of thoughts!

My parents named me Jonathan, I'm 20 and born in Copenhagen. I'm honored to find such a high quantity, high concentration of high quality minds. My dad (not very generous with compliments) told me recently that I've always been wierd, much more conscious about everything since very young. I'm also about the fastest learner I know of. Two major weaknesses would be that I'm mortal and my English is very unpracticed in terms of output. I value: Consciousness, Intelligence, Practicality, Good decision making, Well thought out ideals and sticking to them, Self-control - including the ability to control what I value, what feelings I have linked to which ideas, control of my mindsets and the ability to switch freely between them.

I woke up this morning after 3 hours of sleep (and no, aside from power naps I don't practice polyphasic sleep, yet.), I didn't feel the slightest bit nervous about going to the math exam, that I had only 2 days earlier, by chance, when tidying up my inbox realized I was registered on. The fact that I still hadn't read half of the math book for the semester which just inferred I would have to learn while being examined made me focused, not nervous.

But I'm so super extremely fantastically pleased to learn of the existence of lesswrong.com, that just minutes ago I was nervous about writing this.

After my exam I had a talk with my friend about my recent progress and obstacles in context of my life purpose, which would be fitting to present now I reckon.

Three ways of of naming it would be: The way to Universal Genius/The journey to becoming a 3rd millennium polymath/Self-development with no reason or intentions of limits on proportions.

It's my first candidate to something I find fully valid as a meaningful purpose of my life. It both feels more right and enjoyable than anything, but I think that is because it is backed by my reasoning (or rational thought). I won't go in depth with that unless there is interest (also since I'm assuming LW actually might be a place where others could've come to the same conclusion as me), but I'll touch my reasoning shortly.

All of which I do, I want to do optimally, my brain is my tool for doing so. I do not know the limits of either mine nor the brain in general, and therefore see only disadvantages in setting them for myself. If (insert whatever), I'll do that better with a better brain, so I better train that brain.

So to not make this a book length comment; I told my friend that epistemology was my current main objective to worry about. That led to him to suggest me to learn about Bayes statistics and referred me to LW to start learning about it.

Let the learning commence!

Comment author: beoShaffer 10 December 2011 04:08:36AM 4 points [-]

Hi, Optimind. I'd suggest starting with either An Intuitive explanation of Bayes Theorem or An Intuitive Explanation of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Intuitive Explanation of Bayes’ Theorem. After that all of the sequences(except maybe the quantum mechanics one) are worth reading.

Comment author: Optimind 13 December 2011 12:54:13AM 1 point [-]

Thanks! Bayes theorem seems very useful, though I haven't gotten through it all yet. I'm not a good reader yet.

Have you got any idea how far is my goal from everybody elses in here?

Comment author: Bugmaster 13 December 2011 01:55:00AM 1 point [-]

FWIW, my own intuitive explanation of Bayes' Theorem -- which may be inaccurate and wrong -- usually begins somewhat like this:

Let's say that, one morning, you walk outside your front door, and immediately slip in a puddle of water and twist your ankle. Did CIA agents put the puddle there just to hurt you ? Well, according to the theorem,

a). That's the wrong question to ask; a better question is, "how likely is it that CIA agents made that puddle ?"
b). To answer that question, you need to keep in mind that puddles can happen for all kinds of reasons (rain, sprinklers, etc.), not just due to the machinations of CIA agents.

Of course, no intuitive explanation is a substitute for math...

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: gwern 08 December 2011 07:49:23PM 2 points [-]

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.

Interesting combination. Coming via CSA, I'm guessing you're the 'understand the enemy to defeat it' or 'how could such a strange thing as religion work' kind of atheist?

Comment author: JQuinton 08 December 2011 10:10:25PM 1 point [-]

Yeah, I think it's probably a combination of both. Maybe somewhere down the road I'll be sneaking in rationalism while talking or teaching about religion? That's the goal, anyway.

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: [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~

-Marcy

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: 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: J_Taylor 04 December 2011 08:46:31PM 1 point [-]

Welcome, Victor.

Perhaps you'll find this funny:

http://earthfireinstitute.org/2010/02/a-telepathic-cry-of-the-heart/

Comment author: BT_Uytya 04 December 2011 10:30:12PM 3 points [-]

It remembered me the elementary particles of monarchy (the "kingons" ) of Terry Pratchett.

Since each kingdom can have one and only one king, in the case of death of king his heir becomes a new king instantly. So, if you carefully torture a king, you can use those particles to send a message faster than the speed of light.

Comment author: yissar 03 December 2011 11:56:38AM 2 points [-]

Hello,

I am Yissar, living and working out of the UK. I assert that the human condition has many flaws due to biases: cognitive, cultural, emotional, biological, behaviour, ethical.

I think and believe that dealing with the biases is the only way to solve the human condition and create a mind fot for the future. It is time for guided evolution.

Comment author: Apteris 02 December 2011 12:07:41PM *  2 points [-]

Hello LessWrong,

I've been reading the website for at least the past two years. I like the site, I admire the community, and I figured I should start commenting.

I like to think of myself as a rationalist. LW, along with other sources (Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins) has contributed heavily (and positively) to my mental models. Still, I have a lot of work to do.

I like to learn. I like to discuss. I used to like to engage in heated debates, but this seems to have lost some of its appeal recently--either someone is wrong or isn't, and I prefer to figure out which it is (and how much), point out the error in either my or his thoughts, and move on.

Procrastination is a major problem for me. Risk-aversion too. I've lost many dollars to them. I'm working on it, although not as hard as I should (read: desperately hard). I've been having a lot of fun, in fact, ever since I realised that just because you're aware of your biases doesn't mean you're no longer subject to them. :-|

There are a few areas where, after I do my due diligence, I will ask the LW community for help. How to properly learn (spaced repetition and (memorising better) [http://lesswrong.com/lw/52x/i_want_a_better_memory/] are of particular interest to me) and how to convince others of your perspective are two topics of particular concern.

In closing, I'd like to say I was very glad there was a Zurich LW meetup recently (even though I couldn't attend) and there should be more Europe meet-ups. Preferably on the mainland because trains are moar better than planes.

Apteris

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: shokwave 01 December 2011 06:30:49AM 0 points [-]

I think I suffer greatly from under-confidence

If you have the time and inclination to test this, you can use this site to discover your level of under- or over-confidence, and adjust appropriately.

In any case, welcome to LessWrong! I look forward especially to hearing about the process of unschooling; there is (very rightly) an impression here on LessWrong that raising a child is one of the hardest tasks; it seems like also taking responsibility for their education is even more daunting!

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: Filipe 01 December 2011 06:10:43AM *  0 points [-]

I haven't learned how to upvote comments yet. I'll upvote yours when I have.

Comment author: shokwave 01 December 2011 06:23:20AM *  0 points [-]

The little thumbs-up and thumbs-down at the bottom left of each comment. EDIT: how to retract...

Comment author: Filipe 01 December 2011 06:52:20AM 1 point [-]

Heheh, thanks.

Comment author: lessdazed 30 November 2011 11:33:01PM 2 points [-]

suffering in my parents' lives

How can an effect like that have only one cause?

Comment author: Filipe 30 November 2011 11:38:11PM 0 points [-]

Do you mean that their source of suffering = me + misguided beliefs, not just me?

Comment author: lessdazed 01 December 2011 03:33:28AM 1 point [-]

Basically, yes.

Comment author: Filipe 01 December 2011 06:44:50AM 1 point [-]

I agree, but now I'm not sure how I'd rephrase it.

Comment author: lessdazed 01 December 2011 07:53:34AM 2 points [-]

There's no law that says reality must be describable in simple English.

I don't criticize what you wrote! I ask you to not believe a thing merely because the thing is the exact meaning of words you selected, when you selected those imperfectly-fitting words because there were none better.

Comment author: Filipe 01 December 2011 08:15:31AM *  0 points [-]

Ah! I see. Thank you.

Comment author: Filipe 30 November 2011 10:44:46PM 0 points [-]

Hi, everyone! I'm Filipe, 21, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I've dropped out 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 six semesters 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 all my family continues to be serious about Christianity, and I'

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: 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!

Gust

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: Suryc11 28 November 2011 02:20:10AM 0 points [-]

Do you go to law school in the U.S.?

I ask because I have been considering that route.

Comment author: brazil84 28 November 2011 10:44:52AM 8 points [-]

P.S. Since the focus of this discussion board is rationality, I will throw out a couple extra questions, with my own answers.

  1. Law school entails an investment of 3 years of your life and perhaps $150k in tuition. How much time and energy should you spend studying and researching the pros and cons of law school and lawyering before you make the decision to attend?

  2. If you attend a law school where only X% of the class finds suitable employment and career prospects, what is the probability that you will end up in that group?

As to the first question, law school cost about $60k to attend when I went. To my credit, I worked for many months with an attorney family member and satisfied myself that I wanted to be an attorney before attending law school. However, I spent just 5 minutes or so researching my subsequent job and career prospects before attending. In hindsight, this was pretty boneheaded.

As to the second question, that probability is probably a lot lower than your gut is telling you. See, law school is much more competitive than college; which in turn is much more competitive than high school. It's natural to forget this fact and assume that you will be one of the top guys in law school just like you were in high school and college. Personally, I was less successful in law school than I would have predicted. Also, my career has been less successful than I would have predicted.

The bottom line is that as a rationalist, you should probably (1) spend a lot of time and effort talking to law school graduates before you go; and (2) assume that you are probably an ordinary schmuck in terms of predicting outcomes.

Comment author: Suryc11 28 November 2011 03:52:03PM *  1 point [-]

Thank you for a well thought-out reply.

I have had misgivings about the law path for essentially the reasons you mention, and especially after much research. I know that being an attorney is not as glamorous as television shows make it out to be and I realize that the high income figures often reported for lawyers are skewed (as in the top law firms pay the most to the top law school grads, and the rest are stuck with little to nothing). I also understand that with the American economy the way it is and the large surplus of aspiring lawyers, the field is even more competitive today. I appreciate you confirming this first-hand.

The only problem is that at this point in my life, I feel like I have no other choice. I am currently a sophomore in college at a relatively good private liberal arts college. I have little aptitude (at least, little in terms of a comparative advantage) in the traditional hard sciences - biology, chemistry, physics - so medical school or grad school in those fields is not an option. I also am not especially talented at math and have never taken a computer science class, so computer programming (I mention it because it is frequently lauded here on LW as a lucrative career choice) is not an option either. Grad school in the fields I am interested in - political science, economics, and philosophy - is not particularly appealing due to the glut of grad school graduates in the social sciences and the large time investment.

My comparative advantages lie in being able to read quickly with high comprehension, write analytically, and think logically. I want to make enough money to live well and to be able to donate to the cause(s) I am/will be interested in.

What do I have left besides law school? (not purely a rhetorical question, by the way)

One other question: In your personal, but informed, opinion, would graduating from a top-14 or top-20 law school in the top 25-50% of my class 'guarantee' me a job? In this economic climate and in the near future?

ETA: Are there any specific situations where you would recommend law school? Such as receiving a scholarship or getting into a top law school.

Comment author: TimS 29 November 2011 03:22:10AM 2 points [-]

One other question: In your personal, but informed, opinion, would graduating from a top-14 or top-20 law school in the top 25-50% of my class 'guarantee' me a job? In this economic climate and in the near future?

If you are accepted into the top three schools (Yale >>> Harvard, Standford), you are very likely to be employed as a lawyer. Especially since the economy will have improved a bit during the passage of time at law school. If you in admitted into the top 4-8, you can feel somewhat comfortable. The rest of the top tier is unclear.

If you are not admitted into a first-tier school (the definition is a bit amorphous), then it is unclear whether law school makes economic sense. Everything I've heard says that third or fourth-tier schools are a terrible economic decision.

I'm not sure if brazil's reference to section stacking actually occurs, but he is right that most find law school much harder than college. Much, much harder.

If you want gossip on Bigfirm life, you could search this blog but be aware that their target audience is associates at those types of firms (and most lawyers do not work at those types of firms).

Comment author: brazil84 29 November 2011 02:55:46AM 4 points [-]

What do I have left besides law school? (not purely a rhetorical question, by the way)

I think this is a good question and unfortunately I don't have an answer. For like 50 or 60 years, law school was a good way for a reasonably smart person to have a reasonably prestigious well-paying career. Most importantly, if it didn't work out you would not be facing financial ruin. But now it seems the law school train has left the station. Actually, it seems like higher education in general is not the good deal it once was.

Quite possibly there are more opportunities now than ever before but they require more creativity to find.

In your personal, but informed, opinion, would graduating from a top-14 or top-20 law school in the top 25-50% of my class 'guarantee' me a job? In this economic climate and in the near future?

I am not really informed on this question since I graduated law school 15 years ago. It's also really hard to get good information on this sort of question since so many people have an agenda or an axe to grind. You might try asking on a few of the law school discussion boards.

Are there any specific situations where you would recommend law school? Such as receiving a scholarship or getting into a top law school.

I do think it's worth considering if you get a bona fide scholarship. In that case, your main risk is 3 years of your life. Just beware of the "section stacking scam." That's where the law school gives you a scholarship contingent on maintaining a certain grade point average and then puts all the scholarship students in the same section. Guaranteeing that a very large percentage will lose their scholarship.

Going to a top-rated law school is still a bit dangerous. You may land a high-paying job only to get laid off or discover that you hate your high paying job.

Comment author: Gust 28 November 2011 10:25:51AM 0 points [-]

No, I study in Brazil. I don't know how's the job market and the quality of law schools there in the U.S.... I guess I could tell you what I think about the experience I'm having here, but I suspect it would be wildly different from what you'd have there.

Comment author: brazil84 28 November 2011 03:42:23AM 6 points [-]

I am a practicing attorney in the United States. I would suggest you think long and hard before going to law school. There have been big changes in the state of legal education over the last 10 years and the consequences of those changes are only recently coming to light.

Most importantly (1) in real dollars the cost of attending law school has pretty much doubled in the last 10 or 15 years; and (2) at the same time, the bankruptcy code has been amended to make it practically impossible to get student loans discharged in bankruptcy. The upshot is that if graduate law school and cannot find a high-paying job, you are screwed. To make matters worse, most law schools have a tendency to "gild the lilly" as far as their placement statistics go.

Comment author: Morendil 26 November 2011 01:50:12PM 2 points [-]

Three persons in the same day! Is that usual?

Most recent previous instance I could find: ten days ago. You could say it's not unusual. :)

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

Happy birthday!

Comment author: Gust 26 November 2011 01:36:08PM 0 points [-]

Thank you!

Comment author: Ron_Fern 26 November 2011 06:25:20AM *  1 point [-]

So what if anything is the standard lesswrong approach to Nelson Goodman's grue problem? If there is any paradox I could imagine someone posing against LW, I would imagine it would be the Grue problem.

(damn down voters edit): Not that I think it would pose any real threat. Just curious, I'm sure LW has a brilliant solution. And if not it can def be made by assembling the bits of other posts. I would really like to know why this got down voted.

Comment author: KPier 26 November 2011 06:49:07AM 2 points [-]

There's a fair bit of discussion here, but I wouldn't say it's the standard approach to the problem. If you haven't read Occam's Razor or some of the stuff on hypothesis complexity, reading that might help.

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: wedrifid 26 November 2011 06:41:22AM 2 points [-]

Lastly, I would like to ask, how does less wrong see itself?

A kinda nifty blog.

Comment author: komponisto 26 November 2011 03:52:00AM 3 points [-]

An open source research institute?

I would like to see it become this. And not just for AI ethics/decision theory either. I'd like to see an entire "LW science" movement, where we tackle things like quantum gravity.

Yes, I know it's a dream. For now.

</frank honesty>

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2011 03:55:10AM 1 point [-]

That would be fun.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2011 03:43:58AM *  2 points [-]

Welcome!

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.

That's a huge amount of philosophy to look at. Might I suggest narrowing your interests down a bit, at least at first? It's very easy to read a little bit of everything, but much harder to contribute something non-trivial to every field.

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.

It seems to be a little bit of all of those things. Some people here are rabidly anti-philosophy, and so if LW overtly called itself a philosophical movement, those people would probably end up evaporating off. On the other hand, some people would very much like to see the self-help aspects of LW become secondary to the more philosophical or technical aspects. Like everything else, it's a bit hard to pin down to a distinct category.

Comment author: Ron_Fern 26 November 2011 06:29:45AM 0 points [-]

Narrowing my interests is probably not an option. The fact that I can practically work on anything and still be a philosopher is one of the things that appeals to me about the field, but maybe that has something to do with why it so rarely done competently :/ My only other option is to work my butt off, but I know that to be a generalist and contribute takes lots of work. I do specialize in what I like to call algorithmic philosophy, and philosophy of mathematics, but that is only because I think they are of great import to my other fields of interest.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2011 08:19:37AM 0 points [-]

When I was your age (and how much I rue the saying of this) I also felt this way. I hope it works out better for you than it did for me.

Comment author: Ron_Fern 26 November 2011 04:36:28AM *  1 point [-]

Being anti-philosophy is something philosophy needs. Not in a boring, the field is dead Rorty sense. In a, these are scientific questions with definite right and wrong answers, kind of way.

I don't think anyone is ever really anti-philosophy; perhaps my imagination is so daft that I can't imagine someone with different tastes. I think philosophy has really frustrated a lot of truth seekers because it was being done poorly. Even in analytic philosophy, only ever so rarely does a tool from analytic philosophy come about that could not be compared to using a stick to break apart and probe matter.

Lesswrong needs to solve philosophical problems to do its job, whether to build AI, or systematically cause rationality. It needs to solve scientific problems too, but lesswrong's practice seems to consist primarily in long winded, immersive, and concentrated discussion, using previously established technical terminology and calculi, with the aim of settling the truth value of some claim. The method of argument is the method of philosophy. This mixed with the philosophical nature of much of the content here on LW, are enough for me to think of LW as a philosophical movement. But a philosophical movement separated from the long western tradition stretching back to plato.

I like to think of LW as a philosophical movement, analogously to that famous internet meme about that statistician which goes something like this:

Derp was late to his probability class, and quickly jotted down the HW for that week's class. He worked on it for quite a while. When he got there next week, he told his professor that he found the HW harder than usual. Derp's professor informed him that what he had jotted down was not the HW, it was three unsolved conjectures. Derp then presented those proofs with the help of his professor as his dissertation.

LW solves some seemingly unsolvable philosophical dilemmas in a similar fashion; and if the average LW user is somehow helped in solving open and VERY DIFFICULT philosophical problems in the manner of insanely competent philosophers, by not thinking of him/herself as a philosopher, or by just treating philosophical problems as trivial HW, then who gives a damn? "Philosophy" is a pretty lame word anyway, "Lesswrongianism" however, that's a badass word. If you guys want us to be called "LWers" instead of "philosophers" I don't care, as long as we still solve the open philosophical problems of the previous and new century.

Comment author: steven0461 26 November 2011 05:02:50AM 2 points [-]

"Lesswrongianism" however, that's a badass word.

It would be badderass in a dead language. "Minorifalsianism" or something.

Comment author: Ron_Fern 26 November 2011 05:08:50AM 0 points [-]

"Minorfalsology" is totally the best word for it.

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: cousin_it 04 December 2011 06:29:47PM *  1 point [-]

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)?

Maybe Kevin T. Kelly's work will fit your bill? Also see the discussion on LW.

Comment author: lessdazed 26 November 2011 06:54:58AM 0 points [-]

assigning prior probabilities in inverse proportion to the length of the model in universal description language

What if instead of assigning prior probabilities to rules governing the universe in inverse proportion to the rules' length, we assigned equal prior probabilities to rules governing the universe and assigned probabilities to states of the world based on the sum of the probability of each universe that could produce that state of the world times the probability that universe would produce it (as many universes would have randomized bits in their description)? I think the likelihood of outputting a string of a hundred ones in a row would then be greater than that of outputting 0001010010100110100010000100100010100100110101101000000101101111110110111101001001100010001011110000.

We could then revisit our assumption that in the rules' world, all are equally likely regardless of length. After all, if there is a meta-rule world behind the rule world, each rule would not be equally likely as an output of the meta-rules because simpler rules are produced by more meta-rules; their relationship is as that of states of the world and rules above.

This would reverberate down the meta-rule chain and make simpler states of the world even more likely.

However, this might not make any sense. There would be no meta-meta-...meta-rule world to rule them all, and it would be turtles all the way down. It might not make sense to integrate over an infinity of rules in which none are given preferential weighing such that an infinite series of decreasing numbers can be constructed, nor to have effects reverberate down an infinite chain to reach a bottom state of the world.

Comment author: PhilosophyTutor 26 November 2011 05:42:14AM *  0 points [-]

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.

I suspect you will never find one. To get the scientific process off the ground you have to start with the linked assumptions "the universe is lawful" and "simpler explanations are preferable to more complex ones". Those are more like mathematical axioms than positions based on evidence.

The reason being, you can explain absolutely any observation with an unboundedly large set of theories if you are allowed to assume that the laws of the universe change or that complex explanations are kosher. The only way to squeeze the search space down to a manageable size is to check the simplest theories first.

Fortunately it turns out we live in a universe where this is a very fruitful strategy.

ETA: I'm relatively new here: Whoever downvoted this could you perhaps explain your thinking?

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2011 05:47:10AM 2 points [-]

Fortunately it turns out we live in a universe where this is a very fruitful strategy.

As I understand it, that is the justification.

Comment author: Ezekiel 26 November 2011 11:47:19AM 0 points [-]

Upvoted for pointing out that Yudkowsky already dealt with the issue. I'd forgotten. I'm still not completely happy, but I guess sometimes you do hit rock bottom...

Comment author: beoShaffer 26 November 2011 01:14:13AM *  1 point [-]

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)?

http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Occam's_razor Not sure if thats in depth enough, but I think it does a pretty good job. -edit the apostrophe seems to break the link, but the url is right.

Comment author: Ezekiel 26 November 2011 02:12:53AM *  0 points [-]

Thanks, but that proof doesn't work for the formulation of Occam's Razor that I was talking about.

For example, if I have a boolean-output function, there are three "simplest possible" (2 bit long) minimum hypotheses as to what it is, before I see the evidence: [return 0], [return 1], and [return randomBit()]. But a "more complex" (longer than 2 bit) hypothesis, like [on call #i to function, return i mod 2] can't be represented as being equivalent to [[one of the previous hypotheses] AND [something else]] so the conjunction rule doesn't apply.

I think the conjunction-rule proof does work for the "minimum entities" formulation, but that one's deeply problematic because, among other things, it assigns a higher prior probability to divine explanations (of complex systems) than physics-based ones.

Comment author: Chalybs_Levitas 19 November 2011 06:44:58AM 2 points [-]

Hello, I am Alexander, and also a number of variations on Chalybs Levitas (depending on the screenname parameters of the site I'm signing up to).

I don't consider myself a rationalist, yet. I still have a lot to learn, but I've started working my way through the Sequences, and I've started my walk through the other articles, by opening a new tab at each new link.

I value language, and I am practicing my craft as a writer (I'm terrible) as well as studying Japanese (also terrible there).

I chose Japanese as the foreign language to study first in part because I want to move to Japan, and I've signed up to the site because one of the things I've learned through reading the articles and Mr. Yudowsky's fiction is that people are not pessimistic enough in preparing their plans. I tried to apply pessimism to my current plan to live in Japan, and I don't think I got it right. I'm hoping to learn more, and to work out answers I would not have found on my own, by talking with the community here.

Phew.

Nice meeting you all, ~Alexander

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: [deleted] 17 November 2011 08:20:03AM 1 point [-]

Hi Alex! Welcome to Less Wrong. I'm pretty new here also, so if you want someone to work through Sequences with, let me know.

Three Worlds Collide is great! I also recommend Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which was also written by Yudkowsky.

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: [deleted] 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: 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: gwern 15 November 2011 07:08:29PM 0 points [-]

I'm amused; that's like some twisted literature version of Newcomb's dilemma - if you would seriously consider choosing between prose and poetry on that basis, then Omega filled only one box. Or something like that.

Comment author: rhollerith_dot_com 15 November 2011 06:25:07PM *  0 points [-]

Agree: the vast majority are not rational enough to be able to do that.

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

Salutations,

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.

Sincerely,

Alaeriia

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

Greetings,

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: Oscar_Cunningham 11 November 2011 10:59:03PM 0 points [-]

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.

Awesome.

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: 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: 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: Abbey 11 November 2011 10:01:26AM *  0 points [-]

I am 29 and i am working as self empoyed and I am single high school graduate but also in teaching business I am from Ethiopia, East Africa. Anyone interested to get me any legal job in Australia please do so!

Comment author: Curiouskid 10 November 2011 02:00:56AM 2 points [-]

Anyone care to be my chavruta? I think this thread is a good place for finding people of similar ability levels (considering how recently we've found this site, not our education levels).

http://lesswrong.com/lw/6j1/find_yourself_a_worthy_opponent_a_chavruta/

Comment author: [deleted] 10 November 2011 09:26:45PM 4 points [-]

Why don't you write a bit more about yourself? This is an introduction thread, after all! :)

I might be interested in exploring and discussing this site. I often feel like I missed the boat on being able to engage in the discussions of the sequences. I generally just don't bother commenting on them, even when I have something to say, since it seems like the discussions on them are pretty much dead. I am doing the sequence re-read threads, but they only post about 1-2 a day. I wouldn't mind someone to go through them faster with, and actually have discussions about!

Either way, welcome to Less Wrong!

Comment author: Curiouskid 10 November 2011 10:39:13PM 2 points [-]

I have introduced myself already.

Sounds like a plan! I'm going to have to catch up with where they are in the sequence reruns, but I can start in medias res.

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: kilobug 11 November 2011 11:01:33AM 2 points [-]

Welcome to Less Wrong !

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: [deleted] 10 November 2011 12:51:56AM *  1 point [-]

could you recommend a source that would assist in understanding the method you used to arrive at this result?

Of course! I tend to agree with orthonormal - in writings by men, women are often talked about as the "Other" and not the audience.

EY has written a similar argument . But then in this piece, he makes multiple accusations that women tend to talk about men as "Other" without ever providing any sort of evidence to back it up. He just takes it as some obvious de facto truth that doesn't even need justification. I personally was put off at this.

Some more good ones to read include this argument which mentions that you shouldn't forget the historical context/ culture that people are coming into these discussions from, and this piece, which posits that the essence of the "Taking Offense" is a percieved lowering of social status.

I also recommend a quick perusal of the comments therein.

From my personal experience, one of the early things I did upon finding Less Wrong (after some explorations in the sequences) was to click on the tags of subjects I was interested in (gender, social, etc). Somehow, a vast majority of the articles' comment sections ended up devolving into repetitive arguments about PUA. Looking back, this was probably due to my navigating by clicking on links within the article I was already reading, which lead me to stay within a subject range that could devolve into PUA discussions, and not so much that PUA is in fact mentioned in the vast majority of posts. My opinions on this (although probably more positive than you would expect of an average female) are a whole different subject which I can expound upon if need be, but I assume that you could guess how a female would feel when she goes to a blog supposedly about rationality, and all the comments are about PUA.

Finally, I would like you to imagine yourself as the only male in a Women's Studies class. Even if the language always remains respectful and your classmates encourage your participation, I'm sure you can visualize many respectful debates where you would get frustrated that the other members of your class just don't "Get It"...LW is a similar situation, just with the genders reversed.

I would like to mention that I have in fact been the only female in engineering classes, and would like to point out that any time your race/gender/belief system is in the vast minority, there is bound to be additional pressure there. My views on that subject best summed up by these comics .

Finally, I would like to comment that in my introduction, I was operating in a social interaction mode (aka I was posting in a "Introduce Yourself" thread (social interaction), not a "Let's Have A Rational Discussion" thread (factual/debating interaction). Even a polite request (such as the one made) to rationalize my feelings would not be acceptable in most social spheres outside of LW. (unless the claim I made was completely outside reality, such as "I was driven away by the intense focus of the LW community on ice cream." In which case a "Say whaaat?" is a completely acceptable response, lol) Here it is de rigeur. I wouldn't be surprised if this also tended to draw away many women. (And I would like to clarify that I am not trying to attack you personally at all, I am just using your response as an example of the LW culture.)

Comment author: Optimind 18 April 2013 04:00:27AM 1 point [-]

Even a polite request (such as the one made) to rationalize my feelings would not be acceptable in most social spheres outside of LW."

I realize this post is quite old, but there's clearly a norm of conversation I'm not understanding. I don't want to cross peoples boundaries, but I have a hard time understanding them.

Could you be so kind to explain to me why one would be offended by that?

Comment author: J_Taylor 04 December 2011 07:30:26AM *  1 point [-]

Sorry for not responding to this sooner. Thank you for explaining your view. I have only two statements to make.

  • Apologies for failing to abide by the relevant norms of conversation. (This is not sarcasm. Without body language, it is hard to demonstrate this. However, perhaps I can express myself better with this photograph of a chimpanzee.)

http://www.ebookanoid.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/embarrassed-chimp.jpg

If I were to anthropomorphize, the chimp would be thinking the chimp equivalent of "D'oh."

  • After the recent romance thread (which was not qualitatively worse than the previous threads), stating that Lesswrong has a "Not-Getting-It-ness" with regards to gender is perhaps something of an understatement.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/08/27/science/chimp.reach533.jpg

If I were to anthropomorphize this chimp, the chimp would be thinking the chimp equivalent of "Really, folks? Really?"

Comment author: [deleted] 10 November 2011 12:54:23AM -1 points [-]

PS- I really which there were a "Preview" button, or a way to edit posts in Not-A-Tiny-Text-Box.

I'll be doing some editing now, but it will only be clarity, not content. :)

Comment author: Nornagest 10 November 2011 12:56:44AM 3 points [-]

Chrome lets you edit the size of its textboxes by dragging the lower right corner. Don't know if the same goes for any other browsers.

Comment author: [deleted] 10 November 2011 01:17:35AM 1 point [-]

Oh, wow! That's super-helpful! Thanks!

Comment author: Desrtopa 10 November 2011 12:58:40AM 1 point [-]

You can do it in Firefox, but I didn't realize this until you pointed it out just now.

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: Curiouskid 08 November 2011 03:07:38AM 1 point [-]

Welcome to LW!

I love your comics. I'm going to use them so that I don't forget my spanish. I'm currently doing a little research (for myself) on NLP-type stuff. If you want a comprehensive source, then this is what I'm going to be purchasing shortly.

http://www.amazon.com/Oxford-Handbook-Hypnosis-Handbooks/dp/0198570090/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320721250&sr=8-1

I'm not expert on yoga (but I've done a bit). I find that pure meditation is better for the mind than yoga (there is a lot of secular research that shows that meditation is good in a lot of ways for the mind). And I find that pure exercise is better for the body than yoga. some people like to mix the two. I don't.

Most people have a misconception about meditation where they think you have to be sitting with really straight posture in order to meditate. This just isn't true. I run and meditate all the time. Running is very good for exercise and is very conducive for meditation (especially if you just go in a straight line or on a treadmill).

I know that there is quite a bit of research on exercise and the mind. But most of it has to do with cardiovascular and not with weight training. I do both, I personally think running is better for the mind (and doesn't require a lot of technical detail on proper form).

Dawkins's "Selfish Gene" was one of my first "rationalist" books.

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: Optimind 19 December 2011 03:48:20PM 0 points [-]

We sound alike. I'm curious where are you from?

"On the other hand, I would have to take care of myself which would take a lot of time." Borrow 4 Hour Work-Week (by Timmothy Ferris) at your local libary, then that shouldn't be a problem if your just closely as smart as you seem. Yes, the title sounds like a get-rich-quick scheme (he has even made fun of it later himself.). But he's actually very sensible and practical minded, not very brilliant philosophically though.

Comment author: wedrifid 19 December 2011 04:06:13PM 0 points [-]

We sound alike. I'm curious

Alike indeed.

Comment author: Curiouskid 06 November 2011 08:03:11PM 0 points [-]

I've decided I'm going to tackle the sequences one at a time. I'm going to create a folder on my desktop for each sequence. I'm going to have a word document with all the insights I've had relating to a particular topic within the sequence. I think I'm going to start with "the craft and the community", "Yudkowsky's coming of age", and "fun theory" (These seem to directly answer my question of how I can help create a utopia).

Comment author: lessdazed 07 November 2011 07:31:36AM 0 points [-]

One reason to post what one is going to do is to establish a form of accountability for oneself. That's a good reason to post something like this, there are also other good reasons to post something like this. There are even bad rasons to post something like this. Do you mind sharing your reasons?

Comment author: Curiouskid 07 November 2011 11:18:22AM 0 points [-]

Not at all, first of all, it's useful for me to write all this out because then I can see the driving force behind all the books I choose to read whereas normally I don't go through this entire through process every time I choose something to read. second, I did ask for some specific advice for how navigate this forum. Obviously I asked because I wanted to know the answer. third, I want to learn, so if somebody has already read similar material for similar reasons, I want them to comment and give me some advice on which books to read and which ones not to read and to tell me if they see any flawed reasoning in my post. fourth, I'd love to make some friends on these forums. There are people here who are graduating early from high school (something I might do) and they could offer some advice when it comes time for me to make that decision. fifth, I've been talking about how little I know for a while, but if there were any way I could help the forum or offer up some insight that hadn't been thought of, I will do so.

Comment author: lessdazed 07 November 2011 05:10:07PM *  0 points [-]

One good way to set about learning something is to start with the specific sub-section you are most motivated to learn. It's good you have identified those.

Nonetheless, there are tradeoffs involved - some things might build on others, for example, so all else equal there might be a best order to read things in.

I recommend the first five subsequences of How To Actually Change Your Mind, A Human's Guide to Words, and Reductionism.