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2011 Less Wrong Census / Survey

77 Post author: Yvain 01 November 2011 06:28PM

The final straw was noticing a comment referring to "the most recent survey I know of" and realizing it was from May 2009. I think it is well past time for another survey, so here is one now.

Click here to take the survey

I've tried to keep the structure of the last survey intact so it will be easy to compare results and see changes over time, but there were a few problems with the last survey that required changes, and a few questions from the last survey that just didn't apply as much anymore (how many people have strong feelings on Three Worlds Collide these days?)

Please try to give serious answers that are easy to process by computer (see the introduction). And please let me know as soon as possible if there are any security problems (people other than me who can access the data) or any absolutely awful questions.

I will probably run the survey for about a month unless new people stop responding well before that. Like the last survey, I'll try to calculate some results myself and release the raw data (minus the people who want to keep theirs private) for anyone else who wants to examine it.

Like the last survey, if you take it and post that you took it here, I will upvote you, and I hope other people will upvote you too.

Comments (694)

Comment author: Yvain 01 November 2011 08:04:35AM 28 points [-]

After reading the feedback I've made the following changes (after the first 104 entries so that anyone who has access to the data can check if there are significant differences before and after these changes):

  • Added an "other" option in gender
  • Moved "date of singularity" above question mentioning 2100 to avoid anchoring. Really I should also move the Newton question for the same reason, but I'm not going to.
  • changed wording of anti-agathics question to "at least one person"
  • added a "don't know / no preference" to relationship style
  • clarified to answer probability as percent and not decimal; I'll go back and fix anyone who got this wrong, though. If you seriously mean a very low percent, like ".05%", please end with a percent mark so I know not to change it. Otherwise, leave the percent mark out.
  • Added a "government work" option.
  • Deleted "divorced". Divorced people can just put "single"
  • Added "economic/political collapse" to xrisk
  • Added "other" to xrisk
  • Added a question "Have you ever been to a Less Wrong meetup?" Please do NOT retake the survey to answer this question. I'll just grab statistics from the people who answered this after it was put up, while recognizing it might be flawed.

I did NOT add an "Other" to politics despite requests to do so, because I tried this last time and ended up with people sending me manifestos. I want to encourage people to choose whichever of those categories they're closest to. If you really don't identify at all with any of those categories, just leave it blank.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 01 November 2011 01:27:08PM 9 points [-]

Should anyone retake the survey? I'd be willing to if you can cancel the my first version-- I'll give the same answers on the Newton question.

Not as good as if someone can find a satisfactory IQ test, but could you add an SAT option for intelligence measurement?

I used percents for all my probabilities, including the one which was .5.

Comment author: SilasBarta 02 November 2011 12:36:28AM *  4 points [-]

Also, do I understand you correctly that the beings (conceivably) running the universe as a simulation do not count as supernatural/gods for purposes of the supernatural/gods questions?

Comment author: [deleted] 01 November 2011 03:06:17PM 20 points [-]

I did take the survey, however I found something I was unsure of what to put down and had to type in an explanation/question about:

It was for the question: "By what year do you think the Singularity will occur? Answer such that you think there is an even chance of the Singularity falling before or after that year. If you don't think a Singularity will ever happen, leave blank."

If I think the singularity is slightly less than 50% likely overall, what should I have put? It seemed off to leave it blank and imply I believed "I don't think a Singularity will ever happen" because that statement seemed to convey a great deal more certainty than 50+epsilon%. However, if I actually believed there was a less than 50% chance of it happening, I'm not going to reach an even chance of happening or not happening on any particular year.

As a side note, after taking that test, I realized that I don't feel very confident on a substantial number of things.

Comment author: Solvent 02 November 2011 04:22:02AM 4 points [-]

I think that there need to be two separate questions here. Probability of Singularity, and year it happens if it does. For instance, I'd guess about 70% chance of a singularity at all, but if it happens, 2040 would be about my expected date. You can't describe these two statements in just one number.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 November 2011 10:35:18AM 4 points [-]

Same here. But I voted 2150 because I think it's 50% that it happens before 2150, 20% that it happens later, and 30% that it never happens.

Comment author: hamnox 06 November 2011 03:22:57AM *  19 points [-]

Took the survey.

I think I failed it.

Comment author: Insert_Idionym_Here 07 November 2011 09:50:12PM 7 points [-]

I missed newton by over 150 years. Pray for a curve.

Comment author: DanielVarga 03 November 2011 06:15:36PM 15 points [-]

Thanks, Yvain! For the next survey, please consider country of residence and first language as questions.

Comment author: kpreid 01 November 2011 03:18:22PM 14 points [-]

Would it not be useful for the “Degree” question to distinguish between the two no-degree cases of current undergraduate students and not-trying?

Comment author: Gedusa 01 November 2011 12:57:59AM 13 points [-]

This is great! I hope there's a big response.

It seems likely you're going to get skewed answers for the IQ question. Mostly it's the really intelligent and the below average who get (professional) IQ tests - average people seem less likely to get them.

I predict high average IQ, but low response rate on the IQ question, which will give bad results. Can you tell us how many people respond to that question this time? (no. of responses isn't registered on the previous survey)

Comment author: saturn 01 November 2011 03:37:22AM 15 points [-]

I think it would be more informative to ask people to take one specific online test, now, and report their score. With everyone taking the same test, even if it's miscalibrated, people could at least see how they compare to other LWers. Asking people to remember a score they were given years ago is just going to produce a ridiculous amount of bias.

Comment author: dspeyer 01 November 2011 05:13:51AM 10 points [-]

I think it would be more informative to ask people to take one specific online test, now, and report their score.

Are there any free, non-spam-causlng, online IQ tests that produce reasonable results (i.e. correlate strongly to standard IQ tests)?

Comment author: Yvain 01 November 2011 08:39:48AM 6 points [-]

It's a bit late now, but if you recommend a particular test that's valid, short, and online, I can try that on the next survey.

Comment author: saturn 02 November 2011 12:30:13AM *  10 points [-]

Here's one that closely imitates Raven's Progressive Matrices and claims to have been calibrated with a sample of 250,000 people: http://www.iqtest.dk/

Here's another one: http://sifter.org/iqtest/ . I can't find any mention of where the questions came from or how it's calibrated, but it's shorter and doesn't require Flash.

Neither one asks for an e-mail address or any identifying information. They might be too easy for some on LW, but harder ones tend to cost money. As Viliam_Bur pointed out, any free online test's validity is questionable, but the first one is basically a direct copy of a "real" test, and neither one has any apparent ulterior motive. Anecdotally, they were both within 10 points of each other and my "real" score.

Comment author: gwern 05 November 2011 06:18:42PM 4 points [-]

Incidentally, I keep a list for DNB purposes in http://www.gwern.net/DNB%20FAQ#available-tests focused on matrix-style tests. Doesn't include that sifter.org one, though.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 01 November 2011 01:14:58PM 4 points [-]

With everyone taking the same test, even if it's miscalibrated, people could at least see how they compare to other LWers.

There are two ways an IQ test can fail: a) it can be miscalibrated; b) it can measure something else than IQ.

If you only want to know your percentile in LW population, (a) is not a problem, but (b) remains. What if the test does not measure the "general intelligence factor", but something else? It can partly correlate to IQ, and partly to something else, e.g. mathematical or verbal skills.

Also you have a preselection bias -- some LWers will fill the survey, others won't.

Comment author: quentin 01 November 2011 09:12:49PM *  4 points [-]

I was wondering if the IQ-calibration question was referring to reported or actual IQ. It seems to be the latter, but the former would be much more fun to think about.

Also, are so many LWers comfortable estimating with high confidence that they are in the 99.9th percentile? Or even higher? Is this community really that smart? I mean, I know I'm smarter than the majority of people I meet, but 999 out of every 1000? Or am I just being overly enthusiastic in correcting for cognitive bias?

Comment author: torekp 01 November 2011 01:18:27AM *  7 points [-]

Are we encouraged to estimate IQ from SAT tests and the like? That's what I did. That could reduce the excluded-middle bias that Gedusa mentions.

Comment author: [deleted] 08 November 2011 03:21:11AM 12 points [-]

Took the survey and finally created an account on here.

Looking at the comments, it seems like I am not the only one who used the survey as an impetus to create an account or a first post. I would be interested to see if there was a significant increase in the number of new accounts while the survey is running (as opposed to the average number of new accounts when there is no current survey).

...Also I took the IQ test posted in the comments.. Yeah, it has me as a good 15 points lower than what I was tested as in school also.

Comment author: wedrifid 08 November 2011 08:13:26AM 5 points [-]

...Also I took the IQ test posted in the comments.. Yeah, it has me as a good 15 points lower than what I was tested as in school also.

Then I'm certainly not going to do it! Thanks for the warning. ;)

Comment author: Divide 04 November 2011 01:23:18PM 12 points [-]

Just took it.

About the probability questions: I thought you were supposed to answer them instantly for your intuitive stance at the moment, without additional research, though I see some of responders apparently did research. Perhaps it should be better specified what is meant.

Comment author: Nominull 02 November 2011 01:49:42AM 12 points [-]

Posted. It wasn't clear whether the IQ calibration question was whether your IQ would be higher than the reported IQ of respondents or the actual IQ of respondents, and also whether that included respondents that didn't answer the IQ question.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 November 2011 10:29:07AM 6 points [-]

I assume the former. How the hell would Yvain be supposed to find out who's right, if the latter was meant?

Comment author: Giles 01 November 2011 08:51:24PM 12 points [-]

Everyone should take the survey before reading any more comments, in case they contain anchors etc.

I took the survey. My estimates will be very poorly calibrated (I haven't done much in the way of calibration/estimation exercises) but I'm hoping they'll at least be good enough for wisdom-of-the-crowds purposes and more useful than just leaving blank.

Minor quibble: shouldn't "p(xrisk)" be "p(NOT xrisk)"? Just worried about people in a hurry not reading the question properly.

Comment author: SimonF 01 November 2011 03:26:38PM 12 points [-]

Filled out the survey. The cryonics-question could use an option "I would be signed up if it was possible where I live."

Comment author: RomeoStevens 02 November 2011 01:24:43AM 5 points [-]

or I will be signing up as soon as I have a steady paycheck.

Comment author: wedrifid 01 November 2011 09:06:29AM 12 points [-]

The cryonics question is broken! I couldn't answer it without suspecting it would be misleading. My p would be incredibly low but only because my p for the human species surviving is low. This is a technically correct way to answer the question but I am not at all confident that everyone else would answer literally, including the obvious consideration "if everyone else is dead, yeah, you die too". Or, even if everyone did, I am not confident that the appropriate math would be done on a per-participant level in the results for the p(cryo) to be meaningful.

Comment author: Prismattic 01 November 2011 01:18:33AM 12 points [-]

Does lurking time count for "how long in the community"?

Comment author: RobertLumley 01 November 2011 01:34:28AM 4 points [-]

I counted it.

Comment author: komponisto 01 November 2011 12:45:47AM 12 points [-]

(how many people have strong feelings on Three Worlds Collide these days?)

Many, according to some.

(Of course to actually get the answer, you would presumably have to...take a survey. :-) )

Comment author: Nominull 01 November 2011 09:03:16PM 4 points [-]

I still find myself thinking about Three Worlds Collide from time to time. The alienness of the aliens and the alienness of the humans (legalized rape?) made an impression.

Comment author: [deleted] 05 November 2011 12:34:28PM *  11 points [-]

Took the survey.

Thought you might have included an option for "reactionary" on the political orientation question. The distinction between reactionary, and libertarian or conservative is substantial even given the fact that the match isn't supposed to be perfect.

The global warming question might be more discriminating if the question were whether someone thinks that the mainstream view on AGW is scientifically valid within reason. The question as it stands is vague, hinging on the interpretation of "significant".

Otherwise a good survey!

Comment author: pete22 02 November 2011 08:46:54PM 11 points [-]

I just took it. My issue, which I haven't seen mentioned yet, is with the use of "agnostic" as a midpoint on the scale between theism and atheism. I realize that's a common colloquial use now but I don't get how it's a meaningful category -- unless it's meant to refer to negative atheism, and the "atheism" answers refer to positive atheism? And in the historical use of "agnostic" I think it's a separate category altogether that could overlap with both atheism and theism.

Overall I found the questions very interesting though, and I'm curious to see the results.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 02 November 2011 09:01:13PM 6 points [-]

It makes sense if one means by "agnostic" not "cannot be known" but "I don't know" or "I'm unsure." This makes sense in a general context and even more so in a a Bayesian context. In that context, one would have something like theists mean people that P(God exists) is high, atheists estimate that P(God exists) is low, and agnostics are in the midrange.

Comment author: ChrisPine 02 November 2011 10:54:46AM 11 points [-]

Just took the survey. It was odd how only the word "Other" was translated into the Norwegian "Andre"... and everything else was in English.

Comment author: free_rip 02 November 2011 02:24:08AM 11 points [-]

Taken. Moral views question gave me a bit of trouble, I didn't agree with any of them. Another option like 'There is morality, but I don't define it in any of the ways above' would be nice.

In general I thought the categories covered things pretty well.

Comment author: Antisuji 01 November 2011 06:56:40PM 11 points [-]

Filled out. For the probability questions that I thought were very close to 0 (or 100) I thought about how many times in a row I would have to see a fair coin land heads to have a similar level of credence, and then translated that into percentages. A fun exercise.

Also, my calibration was a little off on the last question.

Comment author: RobinZ 01 November 2011 03:03:23AM *  11 points [-]

I've encountered people online who would want an "Other" option for the Gender question.

Also, my only possible answer to "Relationship Style" is "I don't know."

Edit: Survey filled, though. Left Relationship Style blank.

Comment author: dbaupp 01 November 2011 12:52:45AM *  11 points [-]

I have a feeling that some people might answer some of the "what is P(...)?" with a probability rather than a percentage (i.e. 0.5 when they actually mean 50%). (I almost did it myself)

(EDIT: However, some people (such as myself) also used 0.5 to mean 0.5%, so an automatic conversion is probably impossible.)

Comment author: [deleted] 01 November 2011 12:35:14AM 11 points [-]

Thanks for putting this together, Yvain! Recommendation to the Powers That Be: promote this to the main page so that more people notice it.

Comment author: [deleted] 01 November 2011 12:54:53AM 31 points [-]

Shouldn't you ask when the respondent thinks the Singularity will occur before mentioning the year 2100, to avoid anchoring?

Comment author: Xachariah 04 November 2011 09:32:46AM *  18 points [-]

I hate cognitive biases. I read your comment right before I went to take the test. "Ha!" I thought to myself, "clearly members of Less Wrong wouldn't be as effected. Why even bother mentioning it?" And then I clicked on the link while I thought about the singularity. "Hmm, 2100 is a decent year maybe it'll be 20 years before that though..." And I filled in my race/education/sex. "Hmm maybe it would be after that though, due to...oh god, it's the anchoring effect! Quick think of other numbers! 2090! 2110! Damnit. 1776! Wait that won't work..."

And as I slowly worked my way down, by brain tried in vain to come up with alternate years. Until I finally reached the problem. "Is this really what I think, or am I just putting this answer because of that comment in the thread?" But it didn't matter. The numbers were in the box, and I couldn't convince myself to change them.

There it stood: 2100.

PS. Yvain, any chance you could look at the mean/median/mode/standard deviation of that problem before and after you changed the questions around? I'd be very interested in seeing how people were effected by anchoring.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 02 November 2011 02:26:46AM *  4 points [-]

Also possibly better to ask if before when for the same reason. And differentiate between blank = 'it will not occur' and 'no opinion.'

Comment author: Username 06 November 2011 07:16:20PM *  10 points [-]

Yvain, one very important question that I think you missed: Do you currently have an account on Lesswrong?

I personally don't, and glancing through the number of 'first post' comments here, I believe that the ratio of lurkers to active users may be significant. (This is a throwaway account, and I am making an exception this once because there would be no other way to get information from the lurkers.)

Comment author: Yvain 06 November 2011 07:19:14PM 6 points [-]

Good point. I hope that the "karma" question will take care of some of the problem, but I should have distinguished more finely.

Comment author: Cody 05 November 2011 06:01:59AM *  10 points [-]

Took it. First post as well.

Comment author: Skeeve 04 November 2011 10:55:59PM 10 points [-]

I'm not sure what it is about a survey that gets me to stop lurking at a community and actually create an account, but there you have it. Maybe it's just the chance to tell my 'story' anonymously.

Comment author: bryjnar 02 November 2011 12:17:20PM 10 points [-]

I took the survey.

Like several other people, I was a bit bothered by the P(God) type questions. For some of those, my belief depends on an argument for the impossibility of, say, God, rather than on any particular evidence. In that case, am I supposed to take into account my uncertainty as to the validity of my argument? Or just put 0?

Comment author: dlthomas 02 November 2011 03:54:26PM *  4 points [-]

an argument for the impossibility of, say, God

How do you distinguish between 1) a universe wherein a genuinely omnipotent agent is impossible, and 2) a universe with a genuinely omnipotent agent who makes it seem like a genuinely omnipotent agent is impossible?

Comment author: BruceyB 02 November 2011 01:52:22AM 10 points [-]

Took it!

For the probability questions, I think it might have been useful for people to be able to specify confidence in their estimate. An estimate of X% from someone who is familiar with almost all of the relevant arguments and evidence is different from an estimate of X% by someone with only a cursory understanding of the issue. Then we can target the subjects people are most uncertain about to produce the most informative discussions.

Comment author: Lapsed_Lurker 01 November 2011 09:31:52PM 10 points [-]

I filled out the survey, but I left a number of questions blank, on the basis that I don't feel qualified to answer them. I would have left the year of singularity question blank too, but it said that doing that meant I thought it definitely wouldn't happen.

Comment author: xv15 01 November 2011 10:56:49PM 7 points [-]

I took the survey too. I would strongly recommend changing the Singularity question to read:

"If you don't think a Singularity will ever happen, write N for Never"

Or something like that. The fraction of people who think Never with high probability is really interesting! You don't want to lump them in with the people who don't have an opinion.

Comment author: khafra 01 November 2011 01:55:32AM *  10 points [-]

Good idea, and a good set of questions. However, while I might say I'm fairly knowledgeable about a few topics anywhere else, the feeling of going far out of my depth is one I associate strongly with LW. As an example, I would expect the list of those who could hold a heavy AI discussion with LW's resident experts to be about 5 people.

Also, "exists" when referring to the entire observable universe, makes me a bit tense. In our past light cone? In our future light cone? In a spacelike interval? It makes a big difference.

Comment author: [deleted] 01 November 2011 02:58:01PM 7 points [-]

I think the phrasing there will probably cause weird effects. For example, it seems most LWers have only vague ideas of biology and medicine, and I can talk confidently with a biology researcher or physician of average ability, so I felt happy checking that box. If everyone reasons like me, we’ll see lots of checks in that box, not because people here are expert in biology and medicine, but because we aren’t.

Comment author: Anny1 14 November 2011 10:04:09PM 9 points [-]

Survey taken. :)

Comment author: Leonhart 05 November 2011 03:50:32PM *  9 points [-]

Took it.

(Regarding the phrase "ontologically basic mental entity"; in my head, I always hear it in the voice of Raz from Psychonauts.)

Comment author: TerminalAwareness 04 November 2011 04:17:44PM 9 points [-]

Alright, I finally made an account. Thanks for the push, though this had little to do with why I've joined. I liked the probability parts of the survey, though I know I need to improve my estimates. Political section might be better done with a full-fledged Question section just devoted to it. Perhaps a later survey? I can't wait to see the results.

Comment author: [deleted] 04 November 2011 01:52:02PM 9 points [-]

Took it. Though I had a hard time answering what religion my family would abide to, my dad is an agnostic I think, but I'm not even sure what my mother believes in . . . No one I know very well practice religion (not just believing) either so it has never been a big part of my life, might be because I'm from Sweden.

Comment author: Technoguyrob 04 November 2011 10:35:30AM 9 points [-]

I took the survey and could feel my affective heuristics generating random near-the-ballpark numbers.

Given I am a mathematician and have no idea how to actually compute any of those probabilities (or what that would even formally mean, say in a probability measure space), I let those numbers stand without further scrutiny.

Comment author: JoachimSchipper 03 November 2011 04:32:25PM 9 points [-]

I took it as well. One comment: my mother and father adhere(d) to different flavours of Christianity in different degrees. This made it somewhat hard to answer that question fully (I went with my father because he cares most, but my mother's views probably had more influence on me.)

Comment author: [deleted] 03 November 2011 08:49:27AM *  9 points [-]

I took the survey.

The political section is begging for a one line write in, seriously. Please consider adding on in addition to the pick one option poll. I'm not having warm fuzzies for any of the groups and had to bite my tongue and pick one I really really dislike, just because the alternatives are so much worse and one of the alternatives, while probably quite popular a choice, will be misinterpreted if I chose it.

Comment author: Yvain 03 November 2011 01:38:23PM *  14 points [-]

From your perspective, that makes sense. From my perspective - I don't intend to ever look at this data. I'm going to import it into SPSS, have it crunch numbers for me, and come out with some result like "Less Wrong users are 65% libertarian" or like "Men are more likely to be socialist than women."

If you put "other" - and this applies to any of the questions, not just this one - you're pretty much wasting your vote unless someone else is going to sift through the data and be interested that this particular anonymous line of the spreadsheet believes in strong environmental protection but an otherwise free market.

Looking at the answers, I really shouldn't have allowed write-ins for any questions - I was kind of surprised how many people can't settle on a specific gender, even though the aim of the question was more to figure out how many men versus women are on here than to judge how people feel about society (I considered saying "sex" instead, but that has its own pitfalls and wouldn't have let me get the transgender info as easily. I'll do it that way next time.)

I was particularly harsh on the politics question because I know how strong the temptation is. I think next survey I'll give every question an "other" check box, but it will literally just be a check box and there will be no room to write anything in.

Comment author: arundelo 03 November 2011 03:01:57PM *  9 points [-]

I was kind of surprised how many people can't settle on a specific gender

You could cut the gordian knot by borrowing Randall Munroe and Relsqui's solution for the xkcd color survey, which was to ask about chromosomal sex:

Do you have a Y chromosome?

[Don't Know] [Yes] [No]

If unsure, select "Yes" if you are physically male and "No" if you are physically female. If you have had SRS, please respond for your sex at birth. This question is relevant to the genetics of colorblindness.

Comment author: [deleted] 04 November 2011 07:26:27PM 7 points [-]

Technically, isn't it the number of X chromosomes that matters to colorblindness? It's just that people with Y chromosomes almost always have one X chromosome, and people without them almost always have two.

Comment author: Grognor 02 November 2011 11:52:24AM 9 points [-]

I just took the survey but am still concerned about the ambiguities.

Comment author: Nectanebo 01 November 2011 01:58:35PM 9 points [-]

I took the survey, but unfortunately, when I saw "If you don't know enough about the proposition to have an opinion, please leave the box blank", I left all of the probability boxes blank afterwards because I just didn't feel like I could give an answer I would be happy with, even for some of the questions that could be described as clear-cut. Maybe next survey I'll be able to provide more useful details.

Comment author: [deleted] 01 November 2011 05:59:01AM *  9 points [-]

I took the survey. I would trust my probabilities for aliens, espers, and time travelers as far as I can throw them. I don't really think any number I could give would be reasonable except in the weak sense of not committing the conjunction fallacy.

I second the anchoring effect in the Singularity question. Based on previous comments I had written before, I would have expected a far more distant year than the one I gave in the survey. Oops.

Also, I missed the Principia question by ten years, and gave myself 80% confidence. I don't know if that was good or bad. How would I go about estimating what my confidence should have been?

I was disappointed that mathematics fell under the "hard sciences", but I suppose we can't all have our own category.

Comment author: Wandering_Sophist 15 November 2011 06:29:54AM 8 points [-]

Took the survey; I mostly lurk but have posted occasionally.

Comment author: ancientcampus 09 November 2011 08:46:48PM 8 points [-]

Huh, I'm surprised that I'm not at all the first lurker to make an account just for this.

Comment author: J_Taylor 07 November 2011 05:39:55AM *  8 points [-]

I took the survey. If it is not too late to receive Karma for taking the survey, I would not mind.

Comment author: Alejandro1 05 November 2011 03:34:29PM 8 points [-]

Took it. Thanks for the effort you are putting into this.

Comment author: [deleted] 04 November 2011 06:47:57AM 8 points [-]

After lurking on LessWrong for several months, I just made an account today and took the survey. :) I'm curious to see the results.

Comment author: Metus 03 November 2011 10:33:50PM 8 points [-]

Took the survey, hoping for valuable data soon.

Comment author: Jack 02 November 2011 06:52:25PM *  8 points [-]

Moral views should probably be two questions-- one about the existence of moral facts and one about favorite normative theory (with "None" "Other" or "Particularist" as a fourth option).

Comment author: Suryc11 01 November 2011 09:17:09PM 8 points [-]

Filled out the survey; the calibration questions really forced me to explore my reasoning behind some of my immediate intuitions.

Oh and by the way, second post ever!

(back to lurking)

Comment author: Rain 01 November 2011 01:12:03AM 8 points [-]

There's no option for public sector (government) for Work Status. Non-profit may be misleading if it contains that as well.

Comment author: komponisto 01 November 2011 12:36:45AM 8 points [-]

The "Anti-Agathics" question is ambiguous:

What is the probability that any person living at this moment will reach an age of one thousand years?

Two possible meanings (which, at least for me, would result in very different numbers):

  1. Given a randomly selected person living at this moment, what is the probability that they will reach an age of one thousand years?

  2. What is the probability that at least one person living at this moment will reach an age of one thousand years?

Comment author: Vaniver 01 November 2011 12:40:47AM 5 points [-]

I believe the 2nd one is intended, though I agree with you that switching to something like "at least one" would make it unambiguous.

Comment author: Yvain 03 December 2011 02:08:56AM 7 points [-]

This survey is now closed. I'll have data eventually.

The answer to my question from November 12 was 970 people.

Comment author: lessdazed 14 November 2011 04:25:44PM 7 points [-]

Perhaps future surveys should have exhaust valves channeling people's need to express themselves:

1) In any number of words, what is your theory of gender? (essay section)

2) On unsophisticated government forms that only have the options "male" and "female", which do you select? (multiple choice, two options)

3) Sex with people who gave the same answer to 2), yay or boo? (multiple choice, two options)

4) Sex with people who gave a different answer to 2), yay or boo? (multiple choice, two options)

5) In any number of words, what are your political views? (essay section)

6) Which nine of the following ten political terms most poorly describe that position (multiple choice, ten options).


Comment author: JoachimSchipper 15 November 2011 03:02:48PM 4 points [-]

Another proof that survey design is hard: should I answer "yay male/male sex, I strongly support same-sex <everything>" or "boo male/male sex, I am not interested?" Or, taking a page from Alicorn's book, what about those who say "yay male/male sex, I'd like to be interested in men?" (I'd expect this to be a statistically detectable portion of test-takers.)

Also, making people write essays just to throw them away is not a terribly productive use of anyone's time.

Comment author: False_Solace 14 November 2011 02:29:23PM 7 points [-]

Another lurker who took the survey. I suppose I should go find the newbie thread and introduce myself.

I was extra wrong on Principia. Almost disturbing to think how recent it was...

Comment author: Keratin 11 November 2011 04:16:33AM 7 points [-]

I took the survey.

Comment author: Craig_Heldreth 07 November 2011 04:48:06AM 7 points [-]

I took your survey. There may be small errors in a couple of my answers. I can hardly wait to see your explanation of what you are doing with those "calibration questions" like "what is your estimate of the probability that your answer to Newton's Principia publication date is within 15 years of the correct answer"?

Also if there is some sort of sampling theory surveying practice FAQ that explains the use of such questions I would be interested in reading it.

Comment author: [deleted] 04 November 2011 08:38:08PM 7 points [-]

Took it. It might be worth differentiating between people who identify with a particular political group and people who just happen to skew a little more in one direction than another.

Some of my probabilities might be a bit off, too, as I'm not entirely sure about factoring x-risks into the lifespan questions. A better way of specifying various very small probabilities would also be appreciated.

Comment author: selylindi 03 November 2011 05:08:23AM 7 points [-]

Survey taken.

I had fun doing the background research to be able to give a number to the P(Aliens) questions. :) The topic has, of course, come up many times, but never before for me in association with a community where the social norms favored a careful, quantitative answer.

When answering the Newton question, I was surprised at the shape of my probability distribution for the answer. It definitely wasn't a gaussian, a uniform distribution, or other form that I've worked with. This was simply due to the knowledge I started with, which was vague propositions rather than measurements. (i.e. I knew the right century and had a good idea when Newton was born, but didn't know when he died.) I'm quite curious what the distribution of responses will be for the year, since a historical date is the sort of thing we'd expect humans to make errors on, but not gaussian errors.

Comment author: Alex_Altair 02 November 2011 09:39:17PM 7 points [-]

Just took it. Quite fun! I wish I had an hour for each of those probability questions.

Comment author: beoShaffer 02 November 2011 09:22:25PM 7 points [-]

Took it a while ago, but forgot to comment till now.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 01 November 2011 11:26:08PM 7 points [-]

"P(many worlds)" is the same as for any other interpretation that makes the same predictions. Depending on how you understand "more or less correct" I'd approach 100%.

Since it's unclear what's meant by the survey question, I didn't answer.

Comment author: Desrtopa 01 November 2011 03:19:21AM *  7 points [-]

For the Existential Risk question, I would have liked to see an option for societal collapse. It wouldn't have been my number one option, but I think the prospect of multiple stressors in conjunction, such as international economic and food crises, leading to a breakdown of modern civilization is more likely than a number of other options already on the list.

Comment author: pedanterrific 01 November 2011 06:36:20AM 6 points [-]

I think the prospect of multiple stressors in conjunction, such as international economic and food crises, leading to a breakdown of modern civilization

Okay, but... including the deaths of 90% of humanity? That's the sticking point, for me - I could see maybe 50% of humanity, but 90 seems like too much. (90 seems like too much for nuclear war, too, for that matter.)

Comment author: rntz 02 November 2011 01:59:19AM *  19 points [-]

On the "Political" question: I identify with none of those. I understand the question is about which I identify with most, but all of the options have views on both social permissivity and economic redistribution. I am socially permissive, but have no belief one way or the other on redistribution/taxes. I simply have insufficient knowledge of that area to make a judgment. Perhaps it would be better to have two different questions - one for each of social views and economic views?

For "Religious views": I am an atheist but would not self-identify as either "spiritual" or "not spiritual". If a person asked me which I was, I would ask them what they meant by spiritual. I answered "Atheist but not spiritual", on the very weak grounds that I suspect I do not satisfy most other people's conceptions of spirituality; but really, the word is very ill-defined.

Comment author: Cthulhoo 02 November 2011 10:00:06AM 6 points [-]

I second rntz remarks, I had very similar issues with both questions. As a side note I would have been also interested in knowing how many people here are from non-english speaking countries (or at least outside the US).

Anyways, this is a very interesting project, I'll be looking forward for the results!

Comment author: CharlesR 02 November 2011 03:37:10PM 4 points [-]

I chose not to answer the politics question for the simple reason that I didn't want to do something that could hijack my thinking.

Comment author: DeevGrape 02 November 2011 07:27:34PM 17 points [-]

I've been lurking on here for a long time, and just now registered to get a free karma point for taking the survey.

Comment author: AndyCossyleon 22 November 2011 12:31:55AM 6 points [-]

Yay free karma. Can I exchange the karma for a lunch?

Comment author: groovymutation 11 November 2011 04:48:49PM 6 points [-]

I took the survey! I also assumed the probabilities were meant to be first-glance intuitive. I wish I'd known people were actually doing research, for I would have done the calculations!

Comment author: michaelsullivan 09 November 2011 09:59:32PM 6 points [-]

I took the survey, but didn't read anything after "Click Here to take the survey" in this post until afterwards.

So my apologies for being extremely program-hostile in my answers (explicitly saying "epsilon" instead of 0, for instance, and giving a range for IQ since I had multiple tests). Perhaps I should retake it and ask you to throw out the original.

I did have one other large problem. I wasn't really clear on the religion question. When you say "more or less right" are you talking about cosmology, moral philosophy, historical accuracy? Do you consider the ancient texts, the historical traditions, or what the most rational (or most extreme) modern adherents tend to believe and practice? If ancient texts and historical traditions, judging relative to their context or relative to what is known now? My judgement of the probability would vary anywhere from epsilon to 100-epsilon depending on the standard chosen, so it was very hard to pick a number. I ended up going with what I considered less wrong convention and chose to judge religions under the harshest reasonable terms, which resulted in a low number but not epsilon (I considered judging ancient texts, or the most reactionary believers by modern standards, to be unreasonably strict).

Comment author: JJXW 09 November 2011 05:01:43AM 6 points [-]

Took they survey. Interested in the results. Interestingly enough, I have had an account for a month or two now, but have not posted anything until now. Thanks for putting this together Yvain.

Comment author: meterion 08 November 2011 06:12:35PM 6 points [-]

Like many others, I made an account for this survey.

Comment author: Troshen 08 November 2011 05:42:05PM 6 points [-]

Thanks for putting together the survey. It prompted me to do a couple things, including start posting here.

I was about 100 years off with Newton. Dang it!


Comment author: Karmakaiser 08 November 2011 02:53:55AM 6 points [-]

I took the survey.

Comment author: knb 08 November 2011 02:01:00AM 6 points [-]

I took the survey.

Comment author: simplicio 06 November 2011 04:26:50PM 6 points [-]

I've taken the survey, and have the uncomfortable feeling that the odds I gave for several interrelated propositions were mutually inconsistent.

Comment author: suzanne 06 November 2011 02:38:33PM 6 points [-]

I've taken the survey, and realised that I really need to practise making probability estimates.

Comment author: Morendil 06 November 2011 02:39:12PM 5 points [-]

We all need to. :)

Comment author: faul_sname 03 November 2011 07:29:52PM *  6 points [-]

I just finished the survey. I had given myself a 15% probability of being correct on the Newton question, and was off by significantly over 15 years. However, I should have calibrated that as 30%, as I knew the century but had no idea when in the century he published the book.

Comment author: JStewart 03 November 2011 03:29:28AM *  6 points [-]

I just took the survey. I was pretty sure I remembered the decade of Newton's book, but I was gambling on the century and I lost.

I think quibbles over definitions and wording of most of the probability questions would change my answers by up to a couple of orders of magnitude.

Lastly, I really wanted some way to specify that I thought several xrisks were much more likely than the rest (for example, [nuclear weapons, engineered pandemic] >> others).

Comment author: amacfie 03 November 2011 01:26:52AM 6 points [-]

I thought it was nanoweapons, not gray goo, that was the risk of nanotechnology.

Comment author: Nominull 03 November 2011 03:29:54AM 4 points [-]

Nanoweapons that aren't used to kill everyone aren't an existential threat, they're just a threat to the enemies of the people with the nanoweapons. I guess you could argue that nano-proliferation could set up a scenario like we have now with the nuclear standoff, but we already have a situation like that, with the nuclear standoff. Not easy to see why that should be more worrisome.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 03 November 2011 03:32:30AM 5 points [-]

Increasing the number of possible weapons that can contribute to total war increases the chances that such a war will occur especially if the number of actors who have them goes up. Worse, if nanoweapons turn out to be easier to make than nukes once one has the basic knowledge, then a Saddam Hussein or a Ghaddafi type could easily ruin everyone's day.

Comment author: Bill_McGrath 02 November 2011 09:42:51PM 6 points [-]

I'm fairly sure there is no cryonics available in my area - perhaps this could be added as an option in future surveys?

I felt I didn't have a strong basis to answer many of the P(x) questions, but I answered some as best I could, and left others blank. I also wasn't sure whether being a regular poster on an atheism forum would count as being an active member of a community - I selected "no".

Thanks for the survey, and I look forward to the results!

Comment author: Morendil 02 November 2011 07:44:24PM 6 points [-]

Filled out the survey yesterday.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 01 November 2011 11:13:59PM *  6 points [-]

Median date of singularity: if I think there's a >50% chance of (total) human extinction before this event, I can't provide an answer.

(If, for whatever reason, i have <50% chance of Singularity, I can't answer).

Comment author: lavalamp 01 November 2011 07:13:23PM 6 points [-]

Great, now I'm not sure if I'm horribly under-confident or freakishly lucky... (re: Newton)

The cryonics question could use a "cryocrastinating" option... I have filled out papers and not sent them anywhere...

Comment author: [deleted] 01 November 2011 11:24:41AM 6 points [-]

In the singularity year question, I interpreted that to mean “50% that a singularity occurs before YYYY, 50% that either it occurs later or it never occurs at all; leave blank if you think it's less than 50% that it ever occurs”, even though, taken literally, the first part of the question suggests “50% that the singularity occurs before YYYY, given that it ever occurs”. Given that my probability that no singularity will ever occur is non-negligible, these interpretations would result in very different answers.

Comment author: nshepperd 01 November 2011 09:16:19AM *  6 points [-]

Hmm. For the anti-agathics question I'm wondering if I should be taking into account the probability of x-risk between now and 3011. The question looks like it's about our technical ability to solve aging, which means I should answer with P(someone lives to 1000 | no XK-class end-of-the-world scenario between then and now)? (Though of course that conditional is not what was written.)

ETA: in other words, see wedrifid's comment just above.

Comment author: r_claypool 01 November 2011 03:11:41AM 6 points [-]

I just finished the survey. My estimate for the Calibration Year was 200 years wrong. How embarrassing, I need to learn the basics.

Comment author: pedanterrific 01 November 2011 01:41:34AM 6 points [-]

First thing I did upon completing the survey: looked up Principia Mathematica and gave a little whoop of self-congratulation.

Comment author: Prismattic 01 November 2011 02:00:28AM *  7 points [-]

First thing I did was look up Principia Mathematica and pat myself on the back for providing a sufficiently low confidence estimate.

At least I was in the right century.

Comment author: HonoreDB 01 November 2011 03:42:51AM *  16 points [-]

Done. Definitely went through the whole "check the publication date"--whoop of victory--worry I was underconfident routine. Except silently because there's a sleeping person less than a foot away.

I'm amazed at the range of possibilities I considered for some of those probabilities. I definitely do not have a solid grasp of reality.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 01 November 2011 12:41:25AM *  15 points [-]

For the gender question it may make sense to have a generic "other" option. The monogamous/polygamous question should also maybe have a no preference option also.

Edit: And finished.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 01 November 2011 12:59:10PM 16 points [-]

I think it is generally good to avoid "other" options as much as possible.

There are a few biases related to filling questionnaires. For example, many psychological tests ask you the same question twice, in opposite direction. (Question #13 "Do you think Singularity will happen?" Question #74: "Do you think Singularity will never happen?") This is because some people use heuristics "when unsure, say yes" and some other people use heuristics "when unsure, say no". So when you get two "yes" answers or two "no" answers to opposite forms of the question, you know that the person did not really answer the question.

Another bias is that when given three choices "yes", "no" and "maybe", some people will mostly choose "yes" or "no" answers, while others will prefer "maybe" answers. It does not necesarily mean that they have different opinions on the subject. It may possibly mean that they both think "yes, with 80% certainty", but for one of them this means "yes", and for the other one this means "maybe". So instead of measuring their opinions on the subject, you are measuring their opinions on how much certainty is necessary to answer "yes" or "no" in the questionnaire.

Perhaps in some situations the "other" option is necessary, because for some people none of the available options is good even as a very rough approximation. But I think it should be used very carefully, because it encourages the "I am a special snowflake" bias. For example, if someone has no sexual feelings at all, then of course the "monogamy or polygamy" question does not make sense for them. But if it is "I like the idea of being in love with one special person, but I also like the idea of having sexual access to many attractive people" then IMHO this attitude does not deserve a separate category and can be rounded towards one of the choices.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 01 November 2011 01:14:52PM 7 points [-]

There are a number of types of snowflakes.

If you decide in advance that you aren't going to listen to anyone who doesn't fit your categories, you might be missing something.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 01 November 2011 03:19:32PM 11 points [-]

You can have:

a) a survey, where everyone's individual differences are rounded into a few given categories;

b) a collection of blog articles, where everyone describes themselves exactly as they desire; or

c) a kind of survey, where some participants send a blog article instead of data.

Both (a) and (b) are valid options, each of them serves a different purpose. I would prefer to avoid (c), because it tries to do both things at the same time, and accomplishes neither. An answer "other" sometimes means "no answer is even approximately correct", but sometimes is just means "I prefer to send you a blog article instead of survey data". The first objection is valid, and is IMHO equivalent to simply not answering that question. The second objection seems more like refusing the idea of statistics. Statistics does not mean that people who gave the same answer are all perfectly alike, but ignoring the minor differences allows us to see the forest instead of the trees.

I guess the "special snowflake bias" is officially called "narcissism of small differences". The psychological foundation is that we have a need of identity, which is threatened by similar things, not different ones. So when something is similar to us, but not the same, we exaggerate the difference and downplay the similarity. From outside view we are probably less different than from inside view.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 01 November 2011 05:16:34PM 6 points [-]

That last varies-- sometimes people are exaggerating differences which are pretty meaningless. Sometimes the people setting up the classifications actually have an incomplete picture of the existing categories.

Comment author: thomblake 01 November 2011 11:02:45PM 5 points [-]

There's an established way of correcting for this in market research (and other fields): coding. Let's say you have the following list:

  1. utilitarian
  2. deontologist
  3. virtue ethics
  4. other (please specify)

Then you have someone go through all the typed-in responses, and when someone types in "special snowflake utilitarian" you code that as a 1 rather than a 4.

This is also done for completely open-end responses. Sometimes something like "additional comments" will on the back end look like:

  1. positive
  2. negative
  3. neutral
Comment author: Kevin 01 November 2011 12:06:43AM 15 points [-]

Thanks for doing this, I just took it. With the gender question, in addition to the transgender questions, it's maximally inclusive to include a non-binary "genderqueer" option.

Comment author: mkehrt 04 November 2011 07:30:40AM *  14 points [-]

Issues with the survey:

  1. As mentioned elsewhere, politics is Americentric.
  2. Race race seems to be missing some categorizations.
  3. If you are going to include transgender, you probably should call the others cis. Otherwise you run the risk of implying transgendered people are not "really" their target gender, which is a mess.
  4. The question of academic field was poorly phrased. I'm not an academic, so I assumed you meant what academic field was most relevant to my work. But you really should ask this question without referring to academia.
  5. The academic question and the question about field of work need more options.
  6. Expertise question needs CS as an answer :-)

EDIT: Overall, it's pretty good.

Comment author: Shabs42 19 November 2011 04:55:11AM 5 points [-]

One more long time lurker (over RSS) who just created an account to take the survey and comment. Probably my favorite survey I've ever taken, I'll direct a few friends to it as well and try to get them to start reading the site.

Comment author: Mercurial 17 November 2011 05:22:37PM *  5 points [-]

I just noticed this:

Like the last survey, if you take it and post that you took it here, I will upvote you, and I hope other people will upvote you too.

I suppose that means you'd like to know that I took it about two weeks ago. Sorry for not mentioning that earlier!

Comment author: Rabscuttle 16 November 2011 08:34:02PM 5 points [-]

Took the survey; lurk lots and should probably get more involved. First steps can be going to the London meetup. +-10 on publishing yeah, but overestimated my uncertainty to be safe.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 13 November 2011 07:23:15PM 5 points [-]

Thanks for conducting this new survey, Yvain. I eagerly await the results.

Slightly off-topic, it would be interesting to see how members of this community respond to the PhilPapers survey. (You must be registered to take the survey.) My own responses can be found here.

Comment author: wobster109 13 November 2011 02:53:24AM 5 points [-]

Grargh argh grr! The first thing I did afterwards was go to Wikipedia and see when [the thing identified] was actually [verbed], and I was off by a hundred or so years. Blech.

Anyways, survey taken.

Comment author: roryokane 11 November 2011 01:43:19AM 5 points [-]

I took the survey. I left most of the probability estimation questions blank because I feel very uncertain about any number I imagine entering.

Comment author: hairyfigment 09 November 2011 05:47:56PM 5 points [-]

Took the survey. My probabilities sometimes contradict each other because I tried to take the outside view into account, and found no consistent way to do so before giving up.

I did get Newton almost exactly right.

Comment author: dreeves 06 November 2011 07:07:46PM 5 points [-]

I took the survey and I agree with some other comments about the difficulty of assigning probabilities to distant events. I decided to just round to either 0 or 1% for a few things. I hope "0" won't be interpreted as literally zero.

Something bugs me about the IQ question. It's easy to call sour grapes on those complaining about that metric but it seems like such a poor proxy for what matters, namely, making awesome stuff happen. Not denying a correlation, just that I think we can do much better. Even income in dollars might be a better proxy despite the obvious problems with that.

Comment author: dlthomas 08 November 2011 01:02:16AM 4 points [-]

I hope "0" won't be interpreted as literally zero.

Rest easy - it was stated that it meant epsilon.

Comment author: MarkusRamikin 06 November 2011 04:29:56PM 5 points [-]

I took the survey. Got Newton wrong by over 50 years. At least my confidence was appropriately low.

I would suggest requesting probabilities in a simple, exception-less way. Why not just ask for a number from 0 to 1? "Use percentages, but don't put down the percentage sign, unless you're going below 1%, then put the percentage sign so I know it's not a mistake" looks to me like asking for trouble.

Comment author: gwern 05 November 2011 06:21:17PM 5 points [-]

I took it too. Disturbs me how much my alien probability changed when framed as 'in universe' vs 'in galaxy'.

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 06 November 2011 03:05:42PM 4 points [-]

I'm not sure why it should disturb you. If the probability of intelligent life evolving in galaxy x is the same for all x, and there are about 100 billion galaxies in our observable universe, then the chance of intelligent life in the observable universe is about 1-(1-x)^100 billion. This assumes that whether life evolves in any one galaxy is independent of whether it evolved in another.

I wish I had remembered to use this formula when I took the survey.

Comment author: Dwelle 05 November 2011 10:42:43AM 5 points [-]

Took the survey and was quite unsure how to answer the god questions... If we took it, for example, that there's 30% chance of universe being simulated then the same probability should be assigned to P(God) too and to P(one of the religions is correct) as well.

Comment author: MartinB 01 November 2011 08:52:59AM 5 points [-]

In the ethics field an option should allow for: i don't know enough of these to make a decision. I did not actually know half of the options given by their terms.

Comment author: peter_hurford 01 November 2011 03:05:05AM 5 points [-]

I think there is a difference between "I have looked over all the evidence intensely and find the evidence and counter-evidence to weigh precisely in balance such that my estimate of the probability of event X is 50%" and "I don't know anything about X, so I will default to 50% even if it isn't reasonable".

It's the difference between "I know fair coins produce heads 50% of the time" and "what's a fair coin?". I wanted the second option when talking about many worlds -- I just haven't read the sequence on quantum mechanics yet, and I haven't read anything outside the sequences on quantum mechanics either. I just have an educated layman's understanding.

Comment author: Klao 01 November 2011 01:40:12PM 13 points [-]

I completed the survey. Thanks, Yvain, for doing it!

The option "Atheist but spiritual" gave me a pause. What does it actually mean?

Comment author: thomblake 01 November 2011 02:39:16PM 9 points [-]

"Atheist" refers to the lack of a belief in gods. "Spiritual" includes all sorts of other supernatural notions, like ghosts, non-physical minds, souls, magic, animistic spirits, mystical energies, etc. Also, "spiritual" can refer to a way of looking at the world exemplified by religions that some atheists consider a vital part of the human experience.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 01 November 2011 02:58:10PM 7 points [-]

I've noticed some people using "spiritual" to describe notions they consider aesthetically sublime and morally uplifting but not well understood, when they are not particularly motivated to understand them, without any commitment to their being supernatural. This may be what you refer to in your second meaning, I'm not sure.

There is, of course, a lot of potential overlap here with supernatural notions.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 November 2011 12:51:40AM *  7 points [-]

I can't speak for anyone else, but in my case it'd refer to someone who is an atheist and materialist ontologically, but who finds aesthetic reward and mental stability in certain forms of ritual and narrative applied to relatively specific domains of life (like holidays, rites of passage and other culturally and cognitively-significant stuff, as long as it's been vetted to strip out the more obvious kinds of crazymaking and irrationality such things can induce).

Comment author: Solvent 02 November 2011 09:57:33AM 12 points [-]

I took it a few hours ago, and only just then realized that I apparently can get karma from saying so.

Comment author: mindspillage 01 November 2011 03:56:52AM 12 points [-]

I took it.

I think some of the "pick one" options were too broadly grouped, though any multiple-choice is going to be. I'd have preferred a "no preference" for "relationship style", for example, and more political options. Also I'm not sure what counts as "participates actively" in other groups--I've been a member of transhumanism-related groups for over a decade, for example, but am mostly a lurker; I did not check the box.

I would have been interested in seeing a question about involvement in offline activities like local meetups, or participation in IRC/other LW venues.

Thanks for running the survey!

Comment author: kilobug 01 November 2011 08:23:09AM 11 points [-]

I took the survey, I found the "Moral Views" question very hard to answer to, folding "moral views" in one of 4 broad categories is surhuman effort for me ;) but I did my best.

Also, not wanting to enter a political debate here and now, but your definition of "communism" seems a strawman to me.

Comment author: Nornagest 01 November 2011 02:30:58AM 11 points [-]

I took the survey. I'd really have liked an "other/no affiliation" option on the politics question, though, or a finer-grained scale. I suppose I could just have left it blank, but that seems not to transmit the right information.

Comment author: gwern 28 November 2011 05:02:28PM 4 points [-]

Surveys always need more respondents. When Wikipedia or Reddit want to publicize things, we/they use a bar at the top of the page. Can we do that? (It doesn't have to be as obnoxious as the donation fundraiser ones WP uses!)

Comment author: [deleted] 28 November 2011 06:40:48PM *  13 points [-]

I'm doing it wrong right?

Comment author: gwern 28 November 2011 07:13:31PM 14 points [-]

Those staring eyes - my god, I can see into his soul and he has no qualia!

Comment author: jwthomas 27 November 2011 05:10:13PM 4 points [-]

I took the survey late last night after first noticing the posting here. Unfortunately, I was so tired that I forgot the instruction to use double digit answers and remembered it a few minutes after hitting the "Submit" button. (Here come the down votes.) If Yvain can identify my submission, put a "0" before all single digit answers. If not, contact me privately and I'll provide some help identifying it. I lurk and never comment here because frankly you are all more intelligent than I am. But I do want to improve my rational thinking skills so here I am.

Comment author: Michelle_Z 25 November 2011 08:57:24PM 4 points [-]

I took the survey. Thanksgiving break at the family house gives me plenty of time to relax and catch up on all of the reading here that I have been avoiding since I started college.

Comment author: mumon 15 November 2011 10:19:23AM 4 points [-]

Survey taken. I look forward to the results.

Comment author: Asymmetric 10 November 2011 05:40:59PM 4 points [-]

For those of us still in high school, should we put "general" or the major we expect to take in college?

Comment author: Dustin 05 November 2011 05:58:17PM 4 points [-]

Took the survey.

After taking it and reading these comments I took this IQ test mentioned in this comment.

If it is accurate I've lost 20 IQ points since I was 17 (the date of my one and only IQ test). That's kind of depressing. Then again, I feel like I'm a much better thinker now...

Comment author: lessdazed 03 November 2011 07:50:28PM 4 points [-]

I took the survey a few days ago, and in retrospect my answers of 0 for probabilities were overconfident and the result of me being too lazy to think hard.

Comment author: BlazeOrangeDeer 03 November 2011 06:02:18PM 4 points [-]

Wow, I was off on Newton by just 3 years. My other probabilities were sadly lacking in quantifiable justification... at least you finally got me to register ;)

Comment author: ac3raven 03 November 2011 05:41:49PM 4 points [-]

Hopefully this new survey will reveal more diversity and will be taken by more than ~160 users.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 01 November 2011 01:47:00PM 4 points [-]

I just put together a discussion post about thinking about the probability of living in a simulation, but I'm not sure if I should ask people to fill out the survey (if they were planning to) before they read the post.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 01 November 2011 08:00:52AM 4 points [-]

Why "Academics (on the teaching side)"? As an academic on the research side, what do I put?

Comment author: dspeyer 01 November 2011 05:14:56AM 4 points [-]

The greatest risk question would benefit from a write-in option. I consider economic/political collapse a greater risk than those listed.

Comment author: CharlesR 01 November 2011 01:44:03AM 4 points [-]

Would be nice if we could assign probabilities to the "morality" question instead of having to put ourselves firmly in one camp.

Comment author: taw 02 November 2011 10:31:45AM 10 points [-]

Liberal, for example the US Democratic Party or the UK Labour Party: socially permissive, more taxes, more redistribution of wealth

Socialist, for example Scandinavian countries: socially permissive, high taxes, major redistribution of wealth

Only an American could have written something like that... Political "ideologies" apparently do not translate between countries in any way. It's like asking Muslims if they feel closer to Catholics or Lutherans.

The test has also a problem with extremely low "probability" events like "God existing". There's really no meaningful number between a vague "theoretically possibly just extremely unlikely" (and number of 0s you put there doesn't really mean anything) and "literally impossible 0%" here.

Comment author: [deleted] 03 November 2011 09:01:42AM *  4 points [-]

Scandinavia == Socialist was hard for my Eastern European brain to process.

Also Moldbuggians (there are bound to be a few considering so many LWers read Unqualified Reservations) will be saddened one can't put Jacobite / neocamerialist / restorationist / reactionary in there.

Comment author: taw 03 November 2011 09:24:05AM 4 points [-]

Scandinavian countries (+ UK and Netherlands, which seem to cluster closer with them than with the rest of EU) top most indexes of "economic freedom" / "ease of doing business" etc. And they still have monarchies over there, with state-church separation happening only recently, or not yet. And Sweden has large private school system etc.

Or they have huge taxes, very comprehensive welfare state system, allow gay marriage or some other type, have a lot of out of wedlock marriage, extremely high rate of women participation in workforce etc.

Depending on which features you focus on, you can make them appear "extremely liberal", or "extremely conservative" by US metric. It will be stupid categorization either way.

Comment author: jdgalt 07 November 2011 12:54:52AM 5 points [-]

"Out of wedlock marriage" would be a neat trick. :-)

Comment author: endoself 01 November 2011 11:24:08PM 10 points [-]

I took the survey. Sorry I asked you to keep my data private, but I precommitted to doing so in order to improve the quality of my responses.

Comment author: DoubleReed 01 November 2011 03:10:47PM 10 points [-]

Filled out the survey. Neat!

I didn't know those versions of morality. There wasn't an option for "don't know" but I guess leaving it blank is the same thing.

Comment author: RobinZ 01 November 2011 04:17:54PM 10 points [-]
  • Consequentialism: anything is good which has the preferred results.
  • Deontology: behavior is good when it comports with the given moral code.
  • Virtue ethics: people are good when they are possessed of the proper character traits.

To modify an example from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: a Good Samaritan is widely agreed to be a good person, but the reasons vary:

  • A consequentialist calls them good because they improved the life of the victim they stopped to help;
  • A deontologist calls them good because they acted in accordance with moral edicts such as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".
  • A virtue ethicist calls them good because they have a charitable and benevolent nature.
Comment author: rochester 03 November 2011 03:35:30PM 14 points [-]

I took the survey and this is my first comment on lesswrong :)

Comment author: kilobug 03 November 2011 04:07:51PM *  4 points [-]

Welcome on Less Wrong ! Don't hesitate to read Welcome to Less Wrong and introduce yourself there.

Comment author: baiter 02 November 2011 02:33:35AM *  9 points [-]

I took the survey and really enjoyed it. Thanks! It was mostly clear but I'm not gonna lie -- had to look up the morality definitions (except consequentialism). Perhaps a very brief definition would help.

Comment author: juliawise 01 November 2011 10:08:39PM 9 points [-]

One problem with the political question: Socialism is not what they have in Scandinavia. That would be social democracy (technically a form of government that's supposed to evolve towards full socialism, but they don't seem to have done that). It's unclear what option one is supposed to choose to mean "What they have in Scandinavia" rather than actual socialism.

Comment author: thomblake 01 November 2011 10:13:11PM 8 points [-]

political words like "socialism" mean very different things in different places, so a description like "what they have in Scandinavia" is supposed to pin down the extension enough for you to work out the intension.

Comment author: juliawise 01 November 2011 10:22:40PM 4 points [-]

I don't know anyone in Denmark or the US who calls Scandinavian governments "socialist". Is that a common way to describe Scandinavian governments in some other country?

Comment author: thomblake 01 November 2011 10:43:49PM 4 points [-]

Usually the primary word I hear used to describe governments in Scandinavia is "socialist". See (from the front page of Google hits for the words Scandinavia and socialism):


In the US, I mostly hear the word "socialism" used as an umbrella term for any governmental economic redistribution.

Comment author: shirisaya 01 November 2011 08:23:22PM 9 points [-]

I took the survey and was annoyed to realize that I didn't have a strong enough background to have informed answers to several questions.

Comment author: AlexMennen 02 November 2011 03:40:50AM *  12 points [-]

Took it.

My family is of mixed religious background, so I just arbitrarily used my mother's religious background for those questions. You might want to make the answer choices a little more flexible.

Comment author: MixedNuts 01 November 2011 05:47:22PM 12 points [-]

I know "male, female, FTM, MTF, other" is a standard gender/sex question, but I don't know why. A problem is that it implies that "FTM" is a distinct category from, rather than a subset of, "male" (ditto for female). This would be better if other questions had answers that were subsets of other answers, but you seem to try hard not to do that. This could be fixed by phrasing it as "cis male", but then you'd get people complaining about "cis" and "trans" not being a perfect dichotomy and complaining about the confusing word and so on. This could also be fixed by splitting the question into "gender (male/female/other)" and "Are you trans? (yes/no)", but then you'd get other complaints.

I wouldn't have been too far off on the Newton question if I had been able to remember the mapping between century numbering and year numbering. I ended up two centuries off. Fortunately I took that into account when calibrating.

Also, for the record: I'm not "considering cryonics". I'm cryocrastinating. Cryonics is obviously the best choice, and I should be signing up for it in the next five seconds. I will probably die while not signed up for cryonics, and that will be death by stupidity, and you will all get to point and laugh at my corpse.

Comment author: Emile 01 November 2011 08:41:28PM 5 points [-]

I know "male, female, FTM, MTF, other" is a standard gender/sex question, but I don't know why. A problem is that it implies that "FTM" is a distinct category from, rather than a subset of, "male" (ditto for female).

I don't think that implication creates confusion in the mind of anybody answering the survey, i.e. most people know what to answer. It's somewhat debatable whether it makes "more sense" to classify a FTM transsexual as male because of the gender role to which they identify, or as female because of the chromosomes they have, so sidestepping the whole question by using four categories seems like a reasonable solution for a survey (or at least, if I was doing a survey, that's why I'd use those four categories).

Using things like "cis male" might make the questions more technically accurate, but it won't make anybody less confused about how to answer, and will probably make some more confused.

Comment author: ata 01 November 2011 06:21:35PM *  5 points [-]

This could also be fixed by splitting the question into "gender (male/female/other)" and "Are you trans? (yes/no)", but then you'd get other complaints.

I was going to raise exactly that issue and suggest that solution. What complaints would you expect, though? I don't know if I'd really expect any non-trans LWers to be insulted at the mere suggestion that the question is worth asking.

Also, for the record: I'm not "considering cryonics". I'm cryocrastinating. Cryonics is obviously the best choice, and I should be signing up for it in the next five seconds.

I'd have liked having that option too.

Comment author: JGWeissman 01 November 2011 05:55:21PM 5 points [-]

I don't want to point and laugh at your corpse. Please implement what you consider to be the obvious best choice. If you don't know how to get started, contact Rudi Hoffman. He will walk you through the process. Get started today.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 02 November 2011 02:32:25AM 8 points [-]

Re the politics question, I'm not a communist but I don't think any sane modern communists would use the soviet union as an example of communist government. They officially claimed the government was a transitional stage towards self governing collective utopia.

Comment author: Oligopsony 02 November 2011 02:44:49AM 4 points [-]

In Soviet parlance, the Soviet Union was a socialist society but could be fairly described as having a communist government. Of course if you're an anti-revisionist or Trotskyist or Judean Popular Front or the like things get more complicated, but my guess is that anybody who self-describes as "communist" will have picked that option regardless of the description, which is, to be sure, weird on a couple of levels. Like most fringe-but-widely-known groups they're used to being described in ways that are slightly off.

Comment author: magfrump 02 November 2011 01:24:52AM 8 points [-]

I'm very happy that this survey is being retaken! Looking forward to seeing the results.

Taken. My two cents as everyone's:

Under academic field, there were specific fields for statistics and "other hard sciences" but not a specific field for abstract mathematics, which I was surprised by.

agree with others that the political categories were too linear and a libertarian socialist option would have been nice.

My estimate for Newton's Principia was off by 27 years... so my confidence was a bit high but not too much.

Comment author: atorm 01 November 2011 09:30:43PM 8 points [-]

I took this survey.

Comment author: gjm 01 November 2011 05:54:40PM 8 points [-]

I didn't like the ethics question, because it could be interpreted as asking about one's theoretical position on metaethics, or about one's actual values, and the two can diverge. Specifically: I bet there are quite a lot of people on LW for whom something like the following is true: "I don't believe that moral judgements have actual truth values separate from the values of the people or institutions that make them. But I do have values, and I do make moral judgements, and the way I do so is: [...]".

Comment author: jasticE 09 November 2011 01:47:06AM 7 points [-]

Took the survey, but this post will make the reported karma score inaccurate

Comment author: jdgalt 05 November 2011 09:39:12PM 7 points [-]

I took the survey.

I didn't like it because some of the questions offered too narrow a range of answers for my taste. Example: I consider the "many worlds" hypothesis to be objectively meaningless (because there's no possible experiment that can test it). The same goes for "this universe is a simulation."

As for the "singularity", I see it as nearly meaningless too. Every definition of it I've seen amounts to a horizon, beyond which the future (or some aspects of it) will be unimaginable -- but from how far past? Like a physical horizon, if such a "limit of vision" exists it must recede as you approach it. Even a cliff can be looked over.

Comment author: FAWS 05 November 2011 11:11:34AM *  7 points [-]

Took the survey. Why are posts stating that being voted up?

Comment author: Steven_Bukal 03 November 2011 06:28:21AM 7 points [-]

I took the survey. Thanks for putting this together.

Comment author: zefreak 02 November 2011 06:20:24PM 7 points [-]

Took the survey

Comment author: beriukay 02 November 2011 01:11:19PM 7 points [-]

Took survey. Boy was I wrong about Newton!

Comment author: Kutta 01 November 2011 07:44:03AM 7 points [-]

I praise Yvain for this.