# References & Resources for LessWrong

**A list of references and resources for LW**

*Updated: 2011-05-24*

**F**= Free**E**= Easy (adequate for a low educational background)**M**= Memetic Hazard (controversial ideas or works of fiction)

## Summary

* Do not flinch*, most of LessWrong can be read and understood by people with a previous level of education less than secondary school. (And Khan Academy followed by BetterExplained plus the help of Google and Wikipedia ought to be enough to let anyone read anything directed at the scientifically literate.) Most of these references aren't prerequisite, and only a small fraction are pertinent to any particular post on LessWrong. Do not be intimidated, just go ahead and start reading the Sequences if all this sounds too long. It's much easier to understand than this list makes it look like.

Nevertheless, as it says in the **Twelve Virtues of Rationality**, scholarship is a virtue, and in particular:

It is especially important to eat math and science which impinges upon rationality: Evolutionary psychology, heuristics and biases, social psychology, probability theory, decision theory.

**Contents**

## LessWrong.com

This list is hosted on LessWrong.com, a community blog *devoted to refining the art of human rationality - the art of thinking*. If you follow the links below you'll learn more about this community. It is one of the most important resources you'll ever come across if your aim is to **get what you want**, if you want

**. It shows you that there is more to most things than meets the eye, but more often than not much less than you think. It shows you that even smart people can be completely wrong but that most people are**

*to win**not even wrong*. It teaches you to be careful in what you emit and to be skeptical of what you receive. It doesn't tell you what is right, it teaches you how to think and to become

*less wrong*. And to do so is in your own self interest because it helps you

**to attain your goals**, it helps you to

**achieve what you want**.

- About Less Wrong
**F****E** - FAQ
**F****E** - Less Wrong wiki (The wiki about rationality.)
**F** - Less Wrong discussion area
**F** - The Sequences (The most systematic way to approach the Less Wrong archives.)
**F****E** - Sequences in Alternative Formats (HTML, Markdown, PDF, and ePub versions.)
**F****E** - List of all articles from Less Wrong (In chronological order.)
**F** - Graphical Visualization of Major Dependencies (Dependencies between Eliezer Yudkowsky posts.)
**F****E** - Eliezer's Posts Index (Autogenerated index of all Yudkowsky posts in chronological order.)
**F****E** - Eliezer Yudkowsky's Homepage (Founder of LW and top contributor.)
**F****E** - Less Wrong Q&A with Eliezer Yudkowsky: Video Answers
**F****E** - An interview with Eliezer Yudkowsky (Parts 1, 2 and 3)
**F****E** - Eliezer Yudkowsky on Bloggingheads.tv
**F****E** - Best of Rationality Quotes 2009/2010
**F****E** - Less Wrong Rationality Quotes (Sorted by points. Created by DanielVarga.)
**F****E** - Comment formatting
**F****E**

A few articles exemplifying in detail what you can expect from reading Less Wrong, why it is important, what you can learn and how it does help you.

- Yes, a blog.
**F****E** - What I've learned from Less Wrong
**F****E** - Goals for which Less Wrong does (and doesn't) help
**F****E** - Rationality: Common Interest of Many Causes
**F****E** - How to Save the World
**F****E** - Reflections on rationality a year out
**F****E**

**Artificial Intelligence**

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultra-intelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an "intelligence explosion," and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. — I. J. Good, "Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine"

- AI Foom Debate
**F** - Intelligence explosion
**F****E** - Why an Intelligence Explosion is Probable
**F** - The Nature of Self-Improving Artificial Intelligence (Audio)
**F** - SIAI Reading List: Artificial Intelligence and Technology Acceleration Skeptics
- SIAI Reading List: Artificial General Intelligence and the Singularity
- So You Want To Be A Seed AI Programmer
**F** - Levels of Organization in General Intelligence
**F** - Artificial Intelligence: A History of Ideas and Achievements
**F** - Publications | Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
**F** - Some Singularity, Superintelligence, and Friendly AI-Related Links
**F** - Introduction to Artificial Intelligence (index)
**F****E**

The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else. — Eliezer Yudkowsky, Artificial Intelligence as a Positive and Negative Factor in Global Risk

- Recommended Reading for Friendly AI Research
**F** - A review of proposals toward safe AI
**F** - Friendly AI: a bibliography
**F** - Creating Friendly AI 1.0 (The Analysis and Design of Benevolent Goal Architectures)
**F** - What is Friendly AI?
**F****E** - Knowability Of FAI
**F** - Bostrom & Yudkowsky, "The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence" (2011)
**F** - Paperclip maximizer
**F****E** - From mostly harmless to civilization-threatening: pathways to dangerous artificial general intelligences
**F****E** - A compact list of Eliezer Yudkowsky's positions (Reasons to take friendly AI serious.)
**F****E** - The Basic AI Drives
**F** - Catastrophic risks from artificial intelligence
**F** - Super-intelligence does not imply benevolence (Videos)
**F** - Coherent Extrapolated Volition (CEV)
**F****M** - Shaping the Intelligence Explosion
**F****E** - Machine Ethics is the Future
**F** - Who’s Who in Machine Ethics
**F** - Mitigating the Risks of Artificial Superintelligence
**F**

Not essential but an valuable addition for anyone who's more than superficially interested in AI and machine learning.

- A Gentle Introduction to the Universal Algorithmic Agent AIXI
**F** - School in Logic, Language and Information (ESSLLI)
**F** - Good Freely Available Textbooks on Machine Learning
**F** - Learning About Statistical Learning
- Learning about Machine Learning, 2nd Ed.
- Bayesian Reasoning and Machine Learning
**F**

The term “Singularity” had a much narrower meaning back when the Singularity Institute was founded. Since then the term has acquired all sorts of unsavory connotations. — Eliezer Yudkowsky

- Three Major Singularity Schools, Eliezer Yudkowsky
**F****E** - The Singularity FAQ
**F****E** - Brief History of Intellectual Discussion of Accelerating Change
**F****E** - The Singularity: A Philosophical Analysis
**F****E** - Special Report: The Singularity (IEEE Spectrum)
**F****E****M** - The Coming Technological Singularity (The original essay by Vernor Vinge.)
**F****E****M** - Technological singularity
**F****E****M** - The Singularity Is Near, Ray Kurzweil
**E****M** - Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind
**E** - Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence
**E** - There’s More to Singularity Studies Than Kurzweil
**F****E** - Tech Luminaries Address Singularity (IEEE Spectrum. (2008, June).)
**F****E****M** - Economics Of The Singularity (Hanson, R. (2008).)
**F****E** - What did you learn about the singularity today?
**F** - The Singularity Hypothesis: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment (Bibliography)
**F****E** - Yes, The Singularity is the Biggest Threat to Humanity
**F****E** - What should a reasonable person believe about the Singularity?
**F****E** - An overview of models of technological singularity
**F** - Hard Takeoff Sources
**F**

**Heuristics and Biases**

One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision. — Bertrand Russell

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge. — Charles Darwin

The **heuristics and biases** program in cognitive psychology tries to work backward from biases (experimentally reproducible human errors) to heuristics (the underlying mechanisms at work in the brain).

- Cognitive biases, common misconceptions, and fallacies.
**F****E** - Cognitive Biases Potentially Affecting Judgment of Global Risks
**F** - Ugh fields (The Ugh Field forms a self-shadowing blind spot)
**F****E** - The Apologist and the Revolutionary
**F****E** - Generalizing From One Example
**F****E** - Self-fulfilling correlations
**F** - The scourge of perverse-mindedness
**F****E** - Dunning–Kruger effect
**F****E** - Procrastination
**F****E**

**Mathematics**

Here's a phenomenon I was surprised to find: you'll go to talks, and hear various words, whose definitions you're not so sure about. At some point you'll be able to make a sentence using those words; you won't know what the words mean, but you'll know the sentence is correct. You'll also be able to ask a question using those words. You still won't know what the words mean, but you'll know the question is interesting, and you'll want to know the answer. Then later on, you'll learn what the words mean more precisely, and your sense of how they fit together will make that learning much easier. The reason for this phenomenon is that mathematics is so rich and infinite that it is impossible to learn it systematically, and if you wait to master one topic before moving on to the next, you'll never get anywhere. Instead, you'll have tendrils of knowledge extending far from your comfort zone. Then you can later backfill from these tendrils, and extend your comfort zone; this is much easier to do than learning "forwards". (Caution: this backfilling is necessary. There can be a temptation to learn lots of fancy words and to use them in fancy sentences without being able to say precisely what you mean. You should feel free to do that, but you should always feel a pang of guilt when you do.) — Ravi Vakil

- Habits of Mathematical Minds
**F****E** - How to Develop a Mindset for Math
**F****E** - How to learn math?
**F****E** - How Do You Go About Learning Mathematics? (Here another version.)
**F****E** - How to Read Mathematics
**F** - A Learning Roadmap: From high-school to mid-undergraduate studies
**F**

- The Khan Academy (World-class education for free (1800+ videos).)
**F****E** - Just Math Tutotrials (FREE math videos for the world!)
**F** - BetterExplained (There’s always a better way to explain a topic.)
**F****E** - Steven Strogatz on the Elements of Math (A very basic introduction to mathematics.)
**F****E** - Mathematics Illuminated
**F**

- The Princeton Companion to Mathematics (Reference for anyone with a serious interest in mathematics.)
- Concrete Mathematics: A Foundation for Computer Science (A solid and relevant base of mathematical skills.)
- The Art and Craft of Problem Solving
- Mathematical Logic
**F** - Free Mathematics eBooks
**F** - Free Online Mathematics Textbooks
**F** - Interactive Mathematics Miscellany and Puzzles
**F** - math.stackexchange.com (Q&A for people studying math at any level.)
**F** - MathOverflow
**F** - wolframalpha.com (Check your math!)
**F**

Probabilities express uncertainty, and it is only agents who can be uncertain. A blank map does not correspond to a blank territory. Ignorance is in the mind. — Eliezer Yudkowsky

Math is fundamental, not just for LessWrong. But especially Bayes’ Theorem is essential to understand the reasoning underlying most of the writings on LW.

- Probability is in the Mind
**F****E** - My Bayesian Enlightenment
**F****E** - What is Bayesianism
**F****E** - Bayes' Theorem Illustrated (My Way)
**F****E** - An Intuitive (and Short) Explanation of Bayes’ Theorem
**F****E** - An Intuitive Explanation of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Intuitive Explanation of Bayes’ Theorem
**F****E** - An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes' Theorem
**F****E** - A Technical Explanation of Technical Explanation (More Bayes. Many writings rely on this page.)
**F** - Bayes' theorem
**F****E** - You, A Bayesian
**F****E** - Visualizing Bayes’ theorem
**F****E** - The Nature of Probability (Video talk between Eliezer Yudkowsky and the statistician Andrew Gelman.)
**F****E** - Probability Theory: The Logic of Science , E. T. Jaynes (Free draft available.)
- Probability Theory With Applications in Science and Engineering, E. T. Jaynes
**F** - Bayesian Probability Theory (Bayesian approach) vs. Frequentist Probability Theory (Frequentist approach)
**F** - Probability Theory As Extended Logic
**F** - Introduction to Bayesian Statistics, William M. Bolstad
- Bayesian statistics (Scholarpedia)
**F** - Bayesian probability (Wikipedia)
**F** - Bayes’ Theorem (A whole crowd on the blogs that seems to see more in Bayes’s theorem.)
**F** - Bayesian Epistemology (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
**F** - Monty Hall problemformally proven using Bayes' theorem
**F** - Monty Hall, Monty Fall, Monty Crawl
**F** - The Bayesian revolution of the sciences
**F** - Bayesian data analysis
**F** - What to believe: Bayesian methods for data analysis
**F** - Probability Booklist
- An Introduction to Probability Theory and Its Applications
- Aumann's agreement theorem (Agreeing to Disagree)
**F**

- Mr. Spock is Not Logical
**F****E** - Logic
**F****E** - Mathematical logic
**F****E** - Introduction to Boolean algebra
**F** - Boolean algebra
**F** - Boolean logic
**F** - First-order logic
**F** - First-Order Logic, Raymond M. Smullyan
- Propositional calculus
**F** - Introduction to Mathematical Logic
**F** - Introduction to Logic, Alfred Tarski
- Introduction to Mathematical Logic, Alonzo Church
- Possible Worlds: An Introduction to Logic and Its Philosophy
**F** - Gödel Without Tears
**F** - Second-order logic
**F** - An Introduction to Non-Classical Logic
- Logical Labyrinths
- Stephen Cook's lecture notes in computability and logic
**F** - How to Prove It: A Structured Approach
- Proofs are Programs: 19th Century Logic and 21st Century Computing
**F** - Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning: Induction and analogy in mathematics
- The Cartoon Guide to Löb's Theorem
**F** - Symbolic Logic: An Accessible Introduction to Serious Mathematical Logic
**F**

All the limitative theorems of metamathematics and the theory of computation suggest that once the ability to represent your own structure has reached a certain critical point, that is the kiss of death: it guarantees that you can never represent yourself totally. Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, Church’s Undecidability Theorem, Turing’s Halting Theorem, Tarski’s Truth Theorem — all have the flavour of some ancient fairy tale which warns you that “To seek self-knowledge is to embark on a journey which … will always be incomplete, cannot be charted on any map, will never halt, cannot be described.”

— Douglas Hofstadter 1979

- Foundations of mathematics
**F****E** - Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction
**E** - What Is Mathematics? An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods
**F** - The Mathematical Experience
- What is Mathematics: Gödel's Theorem and Around
**F** - Metamath (Constructs mathematics from scratch, starting from ZFC set theory axioms)
**F** - The Mathematical Atlas (Clickable Map of Mathematics)
**F**

- Introductory Mathematics: Algebra and Analysis (Bridges the gap between school & university work.)
- Naive Set Theory
- Proofs from THE BOOK, Martin Aigner
- Principles of Mathematical Analysis, Walter Rudin
- A Classical Introduction to Modern Number Theory
- Reading List: Graph Isomorphism
- A Measure Theory Tutorial (Measure Theory for Dummies)
**F** - Topology Without Tears
**F** - Category Theory for Beginners
**F** - Category Theory for the Mathematically Impaired (A Short Reading List)
**F** - TheCatsters' Category Theory Videos
**F** - Foundations of Algebraic Geometry
**F** - Elements of Information Theory
- The “no self-defeating object” argument, and the vagueness paradox
**F** - Vanity and Ambition in Mathematics (A few posts by multifoliaterose.)
**F**

**Decision theory**

It is precisely the notion that Nature does not care about our algorithm, which frees us up to pursue the winning Way - without attachment to any particular ritual of cognition, apart from our belief that it wins. Every rule is up for grabs, except the rule of winning. — Eliezer Yudkowsky

Remember that any heuristic is bound to certain circumstances. If you want X from agent Y and the rule is that Y only gives you X if you are a devoted irrationalist then ¬irrational. Under certain circumstances what is irrational may be rational and what is rational may be irrational. Paul K. Feyerabend said: "All methodologies have their limitations and the only ‘rule’ that survives is ‘anything goes’."

- Decision theory
**F** - Decision Theory (LW Wiki)
**F** - Timeless Decision Theory, by Eliezer Yudkowsky
**F** - What is Wei Dai's Updateless Decision Theory?
**F** - Good and Real (Rationality & Decision Theory)
- Newcomb's paradox
**F** - Newcomb's Problem and Regret of Rationality
**F** - The Meta-Newcomb Problem
**F** - Pascal's Mugging (Finite version of Pascal's Wager.)
**F**

Game theory is the study of the ways in which

strategic interactionsamongeconomic agentsproduceoutcomeswith respect to thepreferences(orutilities) of those agents, where the outcomes in question might have been intended by none of the agents. — Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

- Game theory (Wikipedia)
**F** - Game Theory (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
**F** - Strategy
**F** - Mixed strategy Nash equilibrium
**F****E** - Nash equilibrium
**F** - Prisoner's dilemma
**F** - Gambit: Software Tools for Game Theory
**F** - Game Theory with Ben Polak
**F** - Game Theory — Open Yale Courses
**F** - Game Theory 101
**F** - Von Neumann, Morgenstern, and the Creation of Game Theory: From Chess to Social Science
**F** - Game theory: mathematics as metaphor
**F** - The History of Combinatorial Game Theory
**F**

**Programming**

With Release 33-9117, the SEC is considering substitution of Python or another programming language for legal English as a basis for some of its regulations. — Will Wall Street require Python?

Programming knowledge is not mandatory for LessWrong but you should however be able to interpret the most basic pseudo code as you will come across various snippets of code in discussions and top-level posts outside of the main sequences.

Python is a general-purpose high-level dynamic programming language**.**

- python.org
**F** - Dive Into Python (Python from novice to pro)
**F** - learnpythonthehardway.org
**F** - A Byte of Python
**F** - Python in a Nutshell, Second Edition
- Python for Software Design
- Python Cookbook
- Learning Python, 3rd Edition
- Free eBook Programming Tutorial

for Python Games!**F** - Probability and Statistics for Python programmers
**F**

Haskell is a standardized, general-purpose purely functional programming language, with non-strict semantics and strong static typing.

- haskell.org
**F** - hackage.haskell.org/platform/ (All you need to get up and running.)
**F** - Learn Haskell in 10 minutes
**F** - Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!
**F** - Programming in Haskell
- Real World Haskell
**F** - The Haskell Road to Logic, Maths and Programming
- Pearls of Functional Algorithm Design (Techniques of reasoning about programs in an equational style.)
- Write Yourself a Scheme in 48 Hours
**F** - Haskell tutorial by Conrad Barski
**F**

- Programming Language Pragmatics, Michael L. Scott
- Practical Foundations for Programming Languages
**F** - Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs
**F** - How to Design Programs (An Introduction to Computing and Programming)
**F** - projecteuler.net (Learn programming and math by solving problems)
**F** - GitHub (Social Coding)
**F** - The FTP Site (Functional Programming)
**F** - Syntax and Semantics of Programming Languages
- Bootstrapping (compilers)
**F** - Low-level programming language
**F** - Assembly language
**F** - Quine (computing) (Self-producing program)
**F** - Probabilistic Programming
**F****E** - A Field Guide to Genetic Programming
**F**

**Computer science**

The introduction of suitable abstractions is our only mental aid to organize and master complexity. — Edsger W. Dijkstra

One of the fundamental premises on LessWrong is that a universal computing device can simulate every physical process and that we therefore should be able to reverse engineer the human brain as it is fundamentally computable. That is, intelligence and consciousness are substrate-neutral.

- Computer science
**F****E** - Introduction to Computer Science & Programming: Free Courses
**F****E** - Exploring Computational Thinking
**F****E** - What is computation?
**F****E** - Complexity Explained: The Complete Series
**F** - Computation Finite and Infinite Machines, Marvin Minsky
- Introduction to the Theory of Computation, Michael Sipser
- The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software, Charles Petzold
**E** - Programming Language Pragmatics, Michael L. Scott
- Introduction to Algorithms, Thomas H. Cormen
- Concrete Mathematics: A Foundation for Computer Science (Mathematics that support advanced computer programming and the analysis of algorithms.)
- Computability, Complexity, and Languages: Fundamentals of Theoretical Computer Science
- An Introduction to Kolmogorov Complexity and Its Applications
- Theoretical Computer Science (Q&A site for theoretical computer scientists and researchers in related fields.)
**F** - The Original 'Lambda Papers'
**F** - The Design of Approximation Algorithms
**F**

**(Algorithmic) Information Theory**

- An Introduction to Information Theory
**F****E** - Information vs. Meaning
**F****E** - Omega and why maths has no TOEs
**F****E** - What is Solomonoff Induction?
**F****E** - Occam's Razor
**F** - Decoherence is Simple
**F** - Kolmogorov complexity
**F** - An Introduction to Kolmogorov Complexity and Its Applications
- Solomonoff Induction (An introduction to Solomonoff's approach to inductive inference.)
**F** - Algorithmic information theory
**F** - Algorithmic probability
**F** - Solomonoff Induction (SIAI Blog)
**F** - Information theory
**F** - Entropy in thermodynamics and information theory
**F** - The Unknowable (Free book by Gregory Chaitin)
**F**

**Physics**

A poet once said, "The whole universe is in a glass of wine." We will probably never know in what sense he meant that, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look at a glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe. — Richard Feynman

- The Road to Reality
- The Feynman Lectures on Physics
- Usenet Physics FAQ
**F** - So You'd Like to Learn Some Physics...
**F** - 100 Videos for Teaching and Studying Physics
**F** - From Eternity to Here (The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time)
- Carl Sagan's Apple Pie
**F****E**

You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother. ~ Albert Einstein

- Introduction to Differential Geometry and General Relativity
**F** - Lecture Notes on General Relativity
**F** - The General Relativity Tutorial
**F** - Modern Physics: General Relativity
**F**

An electron is not a billiard ball, and it’s not a crest and trough moving through a pool of water. An electron is a mathematically different sort of entity, all the time and under all circumstances, and it has to be accepted on its own terms. The universe is not wavering between using particles and waves, unable to make up its mind. It’s only human intuitions about QM that swap back and forth. — Eliezer Yudkowsky

I am not going to tell you that quantum mechanics is weird, bizarre, confusing, or alien. QM is counterintuitive, but that is a problem with your intuitions, not a problem with quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics has been around for billions of years before the Sun coalesced from interstellar hydrogen. Quantum mechanics was here before you were, and if you have a problem with that, you are the one who needs to change. QM sure won’t. There are no surprising facts, only models that are surprised by facts; and if a model is surprised by the facts, it is no credit to that model. — Eliezer Yudkowsky

- The Quantum Physics Sequence
**F** - And the Winner is... Many-Worlds! (MWI)
**F** - The Everett Interpretation
**F** - "Quantum Computing since Democritus" course notes
**F** - Consistent Quantum Theory
**F** - Lecture series on quantum mechanics from Oxford's undergraduate course.
**F** - Learning Material on Quantum Computing
**F**

- Foundations of Physics (Journal Devoted to the Conceptual Bases and Fundamental Theories of Modern Physics)
**F****E****M** - FQXi (Foundational Questions Institute
**)****F****E****M** - Theory of everything (TOE)
**F****E****M** - Theories of Everything and Godel's theorem
**F****M** - List of unsolved problems in physics
**F** - The Born Probabilities
**F****M** - Scott Aaronson on Born Probabilities
**F****E** - Eliezer Yudkowsky and Scott Aaronson on Born Probabilities (Video talk.)
**F****E** - Born rule (One of the key principles of quantum mechanics.)
**F** - Spin-statistics theorem
**F** - Why we need the spin-statistics theorem
**F****E** - Entropy
**F** - Entropy (arrow of time)
**F** - Beyond the Reach of God
**F****E** - Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics
- The Universes of Max Tegmark
**F****E****M** - The mathematical universe (Level IV Multiverse/Ultimate Ensemble/Mathematical Universe Hypothesis)
**F****E****M**

**Evolution**

(Evolution) is a general postulate to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must henceforward bow and which they must satisfy in order to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow — this is what evolution is. — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

- Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett
- The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, Richard Dawkins
**E** - 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution
**F****E** - Evolution: 24 myths and misconceptions
**F****E** - Micro- and macroevolution (Image)
**F****E** - Evolutionary Theory: Mathematical and Conceptual Foundations
- Talk.origins (Discussion and debate of biological and physical origins.)
**F****E** - Human Evolution Education Resources
**F** - Genetic Algorithms and Evolutionary Computation
**F** - Evolution of Adaptive Behaviour in Robots by Means of Darwinian Selection
- Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body
- The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution
- Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
- Why Evolution Is True
- Universal Darwinism
**F** - Bayesian Methods and Universal Darwinism
**F** - Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer
**F****E**

**Philosophy**

There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination. — Daniel Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, 1995.

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language. — Wittgenstein

- Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
- Good and Real (Demystifying Paradoxes from Physics to Ethics)
- nickbostrom.com
**F** - Quantum Mechanics and Philosophy: An Introduction
**F** - Metaphilosophical Mysteries
**F****E**

Everything of beauty in the world has its ultimate origins in the human mind. Even a rainbow isn't beautiful in and of itself. — Eliezer Yudkowsky

- The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self & Soul
- Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness
- The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self
- Consciousness (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
**F** - 7681 free papers on consciousness in philosophy and in science.
**F** - Neuroscience of Ethics
- Intelligence (Definitions)
**F****E**

Levels of epistemic accuracy.

- The Simple Truth (This essay is meant to restore a naive view of truth.)
**F****E** - Probability is in the Mind
**F** - Not technically a lie
**F****E** - Falsehood
**F****E** - Bullshit (Not even wrong)
**F****E** - Evidence (What is Evidence?)
**F** - Formal Epistemology
**F** - In Defense of Objective Bayesianism
- Bayesian Epistemology
- The “no self-defeating object” argument, and the vagueness paradox
**F** - Knowledge and Its Limits, Timothy Williamson
**M** - Being an Absolute Skeptic
**F****E** - Ned Hall and L.A. Paul (On what contemporary philosophy thinks about causality.)
**F**

**Linguistics**

- Language: the Basics, R. L. Trask
**E** - The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker
**E** - A Brief History of Grammar
**F** - babelsdawn.com
**F** - Language Log
**F**

**Neuroscience**

- Neuroscience for Kids (For students and teachers who would like to learn about the nervous system.)
**F****E** - Principles of Neural Science (All the details of how the neuron and brain work.)
- Essentials of Neural Science and Behavior (The fundamentals of biology in mental processes.)
- Reverse Engineering the Brain
*hardware*” and information processing capabilities to build a human equivalent computational substrate.)**F** - Bayesian brain
**F** - The Bayesian brain: the role of uncertainty in neural coding and computation
**F**

**General Education**

- The Best Textbooks on Every Subject
**F** - 250 Free Online Courses from Top Universities
**F** - VideoLectures - exchange ideas & share knowledge
**F** - Online degrees and video courses from leading universities.
**F** - Khan Academy
**F****E** - YouTube – EDU
**F** - iTunes U
**F** - The Harvard Extension School’s Open Learning Initiative
**F** - Free Electric Circuits Textbooks
**F** - Podcasts from the University of Oxford
**F** - Ask a Mathematician / Ask a Physicist
**F**

**Miscellaneous**

Not essential but a good preliminary to reading LessWrong and in some cases helpful to be able to make valuable contributions in the comments. Many of the concepts in the following works are often mentioned on LessWrong or the subject of frequent discussions.

- Good and Real (Rationality & Decision Theory)
- Reasons and Persons (Ethics, rationality and personal identity.)
- Predictably Irrational
**E** - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
- The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
**E** - A New Kind of Science
**F****M** - Conway's Game of Life
**F** - Anthropic principles agree on bigger future filters
**F****M** - Cognitive Science in One Lesson
**F****E**

Elaboration of miscellaneous terms, concepts and fields of knowledge you might come across in some of the subsequent and more technical advanced posts and comments on LessWrong. The following concepts are frequently discussed but not necessarily supported by the LessWrong community. Those concepts that are controversial are labeled** ****M**.

- Rationality
**F****E** - The map is not the territory
**F****E** - Utility theory
**F** - Utilitarianism
**F****M** - Antiprediction
**F** - Cellular automaton
**F** - Paradise-engineering
**F****E****M** - Simulation Argument
**F****M** - Anthropic Principle
**F****M** - Boltzmann brain
**F****E****M** - Self-Indication Assumption
**F****M** - Many-worlds interpretation (MWI)
**F** - Quantum suicide and immortality
**F****E****M** - Cryonics
**F****E** - Prediction market
**F****E** - Bootstrapping (compilers)
**F** - Pascal's mugging
**F**

**Websites **

Relevant websites. News and otherwise. **F**

- yudkowsky.net (Eliezer S. Yudkowsky)
- theuncertainfuture.com (Visualizing "The Future According to You")
- overcomingbias.com
- singinst.org (The SIAI, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence)
- acceleratingfuture.com
- nickbostrom.com
- Meteuphoric
- wrongbot.com
- Transhumanist Resources
- BLTC Research (Global technology project to abolish the biological substrates of suffering.)
**M**

**Fun & Fiction**

The following** **are relevant works of fiction or playful treatments of fringe concepts. That means, do not take these works at face value.

**Accompanying text:** The Logical Fallacy of Generalization from Fictional Evidence

- Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (A LessWrong Community Project)
**F****E** - Luminosity (A Twilight Fanfiction Story by Alicorn)
**F****E** - Three Worlds Collide (A story to illustrate some points on naturalistic metaethics and diverse other issues of rational conduct)
**F****E** - The Finale of the Ultimate Meta Mega Crossover (Vernor Vinge x Greg Egan crackfic)
**F****M** - Permutation City (Accompanying text) (The famous science fiction novel by Greg Egan.)
**M** - Diaspora (Accompanying text) (Another influential hard science fiction novel by Greg Egan.)
**M** - A Fire Upon the Deep (This novel by Vernor Vinge has set the stage for a new generation of SF.)
**M** - Neverness, David Zindell
**M** - Free Hard SF Novels & Short Stories
**F****E****M** - orionsarm.com (Hard science fiction collective worldbuilding project.)
**F****E****M**

- The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You
**F****E****M** - The AI in a box boxes you
**F****E****M** - How Many LHC Failures Is Too Many?
**F****E****M** - Hamster in Tutu Shuts Down Large Hadron Collider
**F****E****M** - Eliezer Yudkowsky Facts
**F****E****M** - A Much Better Life?
**F****E****M**

**Go**

A popular board game played and analysed by many people in the LessWrong and general AI crowd.

- What Is the Game of Go?
**F****E** - The Interactive Way To Go
**F****E** - Rationality Lessons in the Game of Go
**F** - An overview of online go servers
**F** - AITopics Go (If you want to understand intelligence, the game of Go is much more demanding.)
**F** - Computer Go
**F** - Go software (Extensive list of Go software)
**F** - Go Software (A commercial Go-playing program for PC, iPhone, iPad.)

**Note:**

This list is a work in progress. I will try to constantly update and refine it.

If you've anything to add or correct (e.g. a broken link), please comment below and I'll update the list accordingly.

## Comments (81)

TopWould you mind if I edited this post in order to express more strongly that the vast majority of this reading is not required to keep up with the vast majority of LW posts?

I don't mind. You can edit it in any way you want.

*7 points [-]The dependency graphs of Eliezer's posts are an often-overlooked resource. I don't see them linked anywhere on the wiki either.

Very nice. My only suggestions are to (1) add a biology section, for people who haven't quite grok'd how the brain is an organ, and (2) tweak the physics section so that it doesn't lead off with quantum physics, if necessary by making two physics sections. The notion that the world's fiddly bits behave according to mathematical laws is neither obvious nor self-explanatory, and starting to explain this notion by reference to casually observable phenomena (rocks, light, magnets, water) rather than deeply confusing and occasionally controversial phenomena (quarks, neutrinos) is a really good idea.

*2 points [-]I added a neuroscience section now. Pretty empty so far. The first link is Neuroscience for Kids which I was given by a professional neuroscientist as a valuable and easy to understand resource. The second link is a list made by me on controversial ideas regarding the reverse engineering of the brain. It also includes a video by EY and Anders Sandberg.

I'll advance it with time and also add a category for biology in general.

Thanks, the physics section is now subdivided into 3 categories. I'll refine it according to your suggestion with time. I'll try to come up with a biology section too and ask a neuroscientist for some easy to understand resources on neuroscience.

*6 points [-]Nice idea, thanks for taking the time to compile these resources!

A few thoughts:

This would be easier to follow if the links in each section were ordered roughly from easiest to most challenging.

The length of this list is going to intimidate some new readers. One could productively add to the LW conversation after understanding a small fraction of these references. You should make it clear that these aren't prerequisite.

Some of the entries seem only tangentially related to LW (e.g. Haskell, Go).

The "Key Concepts" section might be better near the beginning.

The "Key Resources" do not seem to me to be key resources.

I'm in the process of trying to get another LW project started, but I've long thought that a "LessWrong Syllabus" (laid out in the style of a university degree planner), would be a good idea. This post seems to be a step in that direction.

It could list assumed prerequisites, recommended or core topics, advanced topics, plus suggested learning materials (books, online courses, etc.), and means of testing progress at each stage. [ETA: Links above are just examples]

Methods of testing might be controversial, but it would be straightforward to capture most of the topics, particularly at the beginner stages.

I should note that this is meant to help guide self-study of the theoretical mathy-sciencey aspects of LessWrongian rationality; I think that this format might be less well suited to the study of applied rationality.

*1 point [-]I know that some entries are only tangentially related to LW, but I wanted to compile a list that gives you as much as possible background knowledge to understand and participate on LW and integrate into the community. I believe that programming is a essential field of knowledge and that Go is not just very popular with people interested in LW related content but also one of the first hard AI problems people can learn about by simply playing a game.

About ordering it from easiest to most challenging. Well, I can't do that. First of all it would likely mess up the categories and it is not clear to me what

iseasy and what not. This list is the culmination of feedback I received from asking, "What should I learn?" That is, although I'm reasonable sure that all of the items are of high quality as they were recommended by highly educated people who have read them, I haven't actually read most of it myself yet.Thanks. This is much improved, by the way!

*6 points [-]No it isn't.

*4 points [-]I changed it.

*3 points [-]Excellent free lecture series on quantum mechanics from Oxford's undergraduate course. Consists of 24 one-hour lectures. Course material, solutions, and even the PDF of textbook is free.

http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/#mpls-quantum_mechanics-audio-feed

In information theory, the link to 'Information Vs. Meaning' is broken.

Please fix it, it sounds useful :)

https://web.archive.org/web/20090925012642/http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2009/09/information_vs_meaning.php

*2 points [-]In the linguistics section, Trask's book should be marked as "easy." It's short and very readable, and assumes almost no background knowledge. (But despite that, provides an informative and well-balanced introduction to the field.)

Edit: Also, a draft of Jaynes's book is available for free online, but the list contains only an Amazon link.

Comment deleted13 October 2010 12:35:59PM [-]Thanks. That post is a spectacular piece of work.

*2 points [-]Marks with similar-looking letters (F and E) in light colors look bad on white background (hard to notice). Use contrasting darker colors (if at all) and more distinct text labels, maybe also bolded.

I changed the colors. I will think about some other form of labeling.

*0 points [-]I suggest small graphical icons (~16x16) with distinctive colors and sillhouetes. Maybe:

It would also be good to arrange the icons and entries in a table, so that a given icon always appears in the same column.

*1 point [-]Absolutely the best resource for learning computer programming that I've come across. Highly recommended for beginners.

http://www.codecademy.com

I only wish that this post had been in a more visible place, so I could have found it before now. This seems like it will be very useful. Thank you for compiling.

Comment deleted10 November 2010 05:13:08PM [-]If you are going to be regularly updating this post, it would make sense to convert in into a wiki article.

I thought about doing that but feared that it would be edited mercilessly. Not that it would be a bad thing but I compiled this list for someone like me who needs a lot of background knowledge, elementary introductions and the assurance that there are resources that will help you out if you get stuck. Many people on Less Wrong are highly skilled and educated. When time I will create a Wiki entry to see what's going to come out of it.

This list would have helped me a great deal when I started my self-education. It took a lot of time just to figure out what there is to learn, where to start and the necessary resources to learn from. With this list you can just go ahead and start learning.

I also love links and the pleasant anticipation of lots of material to digest.

There is as of yet no Mac version, just a placeholder page.

Thanks, fixed. I also added the Wiki on Go software with lots of links to lists on free Go software of all kinds.

The first 3 chapters of Jaynes' "Probability Theory: The Logic of Science" is available at: http://bayes.wustl.edu/etj/prob/book.pdf

Also, here's a copy of his unpublished book (pdf link at bottom): http://bayes.wustl.edu/etj/science.pdf.html

*1 point [-]Are you sure Diaspora should be marked Easy?

I tried to get a fairly intelligent, friend who's interested in science (generally, not necessarily any specific domains covered in the book) to read it and she gave up within about half an hour.

I (a layman, but well-acquainted with the set of singularitarian memes that the book draws from) found that trying to visualize the physics made my head hurt, even with the accompanying illustrative java applets at the author's website.

It also might be valuable to link to those (there are probably some for Permutation City as well, but I haven't checked since I haven't been able to track a copy of it down): http://www.gregegan.net/DIASPORA/DIASPORA.html

*1 point [-]In particular, the book starts with a description of how new minds are formed in the polis which is

veryabstract and technical. I wouldn't be surprised if people who could enjoy the rest of the book bounce off the beginning.*1 point [-]You are right, the more technical aspects of the book are really hard. I took it as a whole, how it is portraying a society of uploads. I'm going to change it anyway, thanks.

ETAI also added the links to Egan's site as accompanying text.Not sure how much it fits here, but http://docartemis.com/brainsciencepodcast/2010/09/bsp70-lillienfeld/ is a reasonable intro + reference collection on some mental blindspots

Why "infamous"?

Whoops! Yes, that's clearly the wrong word. Thank you. To my excuse, I never learnt English formally but basically

taughtit myself with time :-)I dunno,

Permutation Cityis pretty infamous in my books because it presents disquieting ideas I don't know how to disprove. (Kind of like Boltzmann Brains or the Eternal Return.)Thank you, I was about to comment on this; you've given me a needed data point.

Permutation City is the only work of fiction I've enjoyed that I do not go around recommending, because I'm wary that to a reader without the requisite specialized background to separate the parts based on real science from the parts that are pure fiction, it might actually be something of a memetic hazard.

If you are going to recommend it, I would suggest accompanying the recommendation with a link to the antidote

*2 points [-]So your strategy is basically 'subjective anticipation is a useful but ultimately incoherent idea;

Permutation Citytakes it to anabsurdum'?That's a good idea, but I don't think your antidote post is strong enough. Subjective anticipation is a deeply-held belief, after all.

I agree, I think the antidote post is better than nothing, but I recommend it in addition to, not instead of, the memetic hazard label.

*0 points [-]I haven't added the antidote post as accompanying reading, as I have to read it yet, but 'The Logical Fallacy of Generalization from Fictional Evidence' post by EY. Reload and see the fiction section. Not sure, maybe a bit drastic. But at least it is obvious now.

*1 point [-]I don't think that

Permutation Citybeing fiction matters (if I understand your comment).The nonfiction ideas stand on their own, though they were presented in (somewhat didactic) fiction: that computation can be sliced up arbitrarily in space and time, that it be 'instantiated' on almost arbitrary arrangements of matter, and that this implies the computation of our consciousness can 'jump' from correct random arrangement of matter (like space dust) to correct random arrangement, lasting forever, and hooking in something like quantum suicide so that it's even likely...

If it were simply pointing out that the fiction presupposes all sorts of arbitrary and unlikely hidden mechanisms like Skynet wanting to exterminate humanity,

Permutation Citywould not be a problem. But it shows its work, and we LWers frequently accept the premises.However, the book could also mislead people to believe those arbitrary and unlikely elements if they are linked to them on a list of resources for LessWrong. That's why I think a drastic warning is appropriate. Science fiction can give you a lot of ideas but can also seduce you to believe things that might be dangerous, like that there is no risk from AI.

I introduced a new label M for Memetic Hazard and added a warning sign including a accompanying text to the fiction section.

And I see a number of other things that merited the memetic hazard label also now have it, good idea. I'd suggest that it also be added to the current links in the artificial intelligence section, and to the link on quantum suicide.

Maybe also add a link to Eliezer's Permutation City crossover story, now that we have the requisite memetic hazard label for such a link?

*0 points [-]I thought quantum suicide is not controversial since MWI is

obviously correct? And the AI section? Well, the list is supposed to reflect the opinions hold in the LW community, especially by EY and the SIAI. I'm trying my best to do so and by that standard, how controversial is AI going FOOM etc.?Eliezer's Permutation City crossover story? It is on the list for some time, if you are talking about the 'The Finale of the Ultimate Meta Mega Crossover' story.

I agree MWI is solid, I'm not suggesting that be flagged. But it does not in any way imply quantum suicide; the latter is somewhere between fringe and crackpot, and a proven memetic hazard with at least one recorded death to its credit.

Well, AI go FOOM etc is again somewhere in the area between fringe and crackpot, as judged by people who actually know about the subject. If the list were specifically supposed to represent the opinions of the SIAI, then it would belong on the SIAI website, not on LW.

So it is, cool.

I hadn't heard of this -- can you give more details?

Everett's daughter, Elizabeth, suffered from manic depression and committed suicide in 1996 (saying in her suicide note that she was going to a parallel universe to be with her father)

*0 points [-]I expected the link to be the Ultimate Meta Mega Crossover.

(disclaimer: haven't read)

Perhaps a link to lukerog's the best textbooks on every subject.

Also, why no mention of the self-help aspects of LW?

So glad to see you are continuing to keep this updated!

*0 points [-]Thanks, I'll try to invest more time to improve it. If you care, I can give you my PW (if you are not already a mod.) so that you can make additions or improvements?

No, I think you're doing a fine job. :)

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Main_Page

A source for quotes (presumably checked for accuracy) which includes their contexts.

All the M labels could use explanations, but in particular, why is A Fire Upon the Deep controversial?

*1 point [-]It is a work of fiction that does contain bogus ideas that have been added to sidestep the problem of writing about a post-Singularity future (e.g. the Zones of Thought). Whereas a story like Three Worlds Collide does not deserve this labeling since it especially mentions its deliberate shortcomings and explains that they have been introduced to enable the writer to highlight and dissolve certain issues. If you think that this labeling policy should be altered, please elaborate on your reasons.

That would be nice but might go beyond the scope of this list. Take for example CEV (Coherent Extrapolated Volition). It got labeled '

controversial' because there seem to be many people, even on Less Wrong, that take a critical look at it. The various objections may not necessarily be sound but the idea itself is popular enough to list it here. The label is there to indicate that the interested reader should search for a review of the idea if they are more than superficially interested.Zed Shaw has come out with Learn Python the Hard Way, intended to teach Python to absolute beginners, which looks promising based on a quick browse.

He also wrote a blog post How To Write a Learn X the Hard Way, about the writing principles behind the book.

Comment deleted22 October 2010 02:41:56PM [-]"The Art of Math" clearly doesn't belong (as many other things; your list is too arbitrary).

*0 points [-]I removed the link. I do not think that the list is

too arbitrarybut will refine it anyway. Many links originate from Less Wrong and other discussions about the subject matter, the comments having been upvoted or praised. Nevertheless I plan to ask people with good expertise in each category to review the links. So please bear with me. If you see something that is useless, let me know too.I appreciate the labels, which are new since the last time I saw a draft. I recommend adding a summary break.