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Velorien comments on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2010-2011) - Less Wrong

42 Post author: orthonormal 12 August 2010 01:08AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comment author: kilobug 07 October 2011 03:28:31PM 1 point [-]

Welcome !

The "Intuitive Explanation" is very interesting, but not always the easiest to grasp. The most important thing to understand the Sequences is the beginning, understanding how to compute (even if you do it manually, by "counting" women of each possible cases) the chance of having cancer knowing you have a positive mammography.

For the rest, I would advise you to start reading the Sequences, and stopping when you find something that you don't understand, and then trying to learn that part of maths. You're free to ask for pointers or hints when you find such a "blocker".

What you'll need is base of probability theory, a tiny bit of vector algebra (or anything that can help you grasp the concept of n-dimensional space, with a huge n) for the quantum mechanics sequence, and the understanding of what a "function" is in maths. The rest should go easily.

Comment author: lessdazed 13 October 2011 09:16:57PM 0 points [-]

I have a unique way of explaining Bayes' Rule that has so far helped zero people out of the one who has looked at it. The advantage is that it is very different than other ways, so if those are confusing, you could give it a try.

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 08 October 2011 09:51:47PM 0 points [-]

Welcome to Less Wrong!

Comment author: jsalvatier 07 October 2011 03:08:29PM 0 points [-]