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Raemon comments on The Value (and Danger) of Ritual - Less Wrong

29 Post author: Raemon 30 December 2011 06:52AM

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Comment author: Raemon 31 December 2011 05:56:49PM *  9 points [-]

Maybe this is a British thing, but it smacks a bit of Taking Oneself Too Seriously

There is a small part of me that cringes at the Self-Importance of it all, so you're not alone there. But I think that part of me is silly and I rebel against it the way I rebel against all my other biases. If something is enjoyable and possibly even useful, I shouldn't have to feel bad about doing it, as long as it's not also dangerous.

Forming Communities

My issue is this: 90% of the benefit I got from Less Wrong had nothing to with rationality, or discussions on this website. It had to do with me finding a real life community of people, period. I think community is absolutely essential to healthy development as a human. This may be slightly less true for certain types of introverts, but I believe even most introverts enjoy (and benefit from) extroverted activities if they have a group of people they can feel comfortable with.

That benefit didn't even necessarily require an explicitly "aspiring-rationalist" community [Aside: I think a lot of the self importance comes from the word "rationalist." "Aspiring rationalist" isn't much better and is a mouthful, but at least acknowledges that we aren't there yet].

I could have integrated myself into a group of gamers or other random friends, and gotten maybe 60% of the same benefit. In the NYC Less Wrong group, that 60% (i.e. general friendship and shared memes) is filled instead by having friends with a shared desire to think about ideas critically and avoid a lot of common brain failures.

But the other 30% of that benefit comes specifically from a community that values achievement in conjunction with rationality. If I were hanging around in a gaming community, I'd be having a lot of fun playing games and seeing people being particularly successful at playing games to encourage me to do it more. In NYC Less Wrong, I'm having a lot of fun developing an array of skills that are useful in different ways outside of a very narrow fun-niche, and I'm constantly exposed to people who are trying to launch startups or film movies or otherwise embark on big projects.

Not all of us are actually that motivated, but exposure to that motivation and the rationalist-discipline that accompanies it is, I think, incredibly valuable.

Does that community have to have any branding attachment to Less Wrong? No. In fact I don't like calling ourselves LessWrongers or even "Rationalists" (and "Aspiring Rationalist" is just so clunky that it doesn't really work either). So far we haven't come up with anything better that sticks. I think there IS value in using some kind of word to describe ourselves tribally, but it probably would be better to keep that separate from the Less Wrong label.