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Welcome to Less Wrong!

47 Post author: MBlume 16 April 2009 09:06AM

If you've recently joined the Less Wrong community, please leave a comment here and introduce yourself. We'd love to know who you are, what you're doing, or how you found us. Tell us how you came to identify as a rationalist, or describe what it is you value and work to achieve.

If you'd like to meet other LWers in real life, there's a meetup thread and a Facebook group. If you've your own blog or other online presence, please feel free to link it. If you're confused about any of the terms used on this site, you might want to pay a visit to the LW Wiki, or simply ask a question in this thread.  Some of us have been having this conversation for a few years now, and we've developed a fairly specialized way of talking about some things. Don't worry -- you'll pick it up pretty quickly.

You may have noticed that all the posts and all the comments on this site have buttons to vote them up or down, and all the users have "karma" scores which come from the sum of all their comments and posts. Try not to take this too personally. Voting is used mainly to get the most useful comments up to the top of the page where people can see them. It may be difficult to contribute substantially to ongoing conversations when you've just gotten here, and you may even see some of your comments get voted down. Don't be discouraged by this; it happened to many of us. If you've any questions about karma or voting, please feel free to ask here.

If you've come to Less Wrong to teach us about a particular topic, this thread would be a great place to start the conversation, especially until you've worked up enough karma for a top level post. By posting here, and checking the responses, you'll probably get a good read on what, if anything, has already been said here on that topic, what's widely understood and what you might still need to take some time explaining.

A note for theists: you will find LW overtly atheist. We are happy to have you participating but please be aware that other commenters are likely to treat religion as an open-and-shut case. This isn't groupthink; we really, truly have given full consideration to theistic claims and found them to be false. If you'd like to know how we came to this conclusion you may find these related posts a good starting point.

A couple technical notes: when leaving comments, you may notice a 'help' link below and to the right of the text box.  This will explain how to italicize, linkify, or quote bits of text. You'll also want to check your inbox, where you can always see whether people have left responses to your comments.

Welcome to Less Wrong, and we look forward to hearing from you throughout the site.

(Note from MBlume: though my name is at the top of this page, the wording in various parts of the welcome message owes a debt to other LWers who've helped me considerably in working the kinks out)

Comments (1946)

Comment author: BecomingMyself 15 January 2011 11:35:59PM 27 points [-]

Hi, I am Alyssa, a 16-year-old aspiring programmer-and-polymath who found her way to the wiki page for Egan's Law from the Achron forums. From there I started randomly clicking on links that mostly ended up leading to Eliezer's posts. I was a bit taken aback by his attitude toward religion, but I had previously seen mention of his AI Box thing (where (a) he struck me as awesome, and (b) he said some things about "intelligence" and "wisdom" that caused me to label him as an ally against all those fools who hated science), and I just loved his writing, so I spent about a week reading his stuff alternately thinking, "Wow, this guy is awesome" and "Poor atheist. Doesn't he realize that religion and science are compatible?" Eventually, some time after reading Religion's Claim to be Non-disprovable, I came to my senses. (It is a bit more complicated and embarrassing than that, but you get the idea.)

That was several months ago. I have been lurking not-quite-continuously since then, and it slowly dawned on me just how stupid I had been -- and more importantly, how stupid I still am. Reading about stuff like confirmation bias and overconfidence, I gradually became so afraid to trust myself that I became an expert at recognizing flaws in my own reasoning, without being able to recognize truth or flaws in others' reasoning. In effect, I had artificially removed my ability to consciously classify (non-obvious) statements as true: the same gross abuse of humility I had read about. After a bit of unproductive agonizing over how to figure out a better strategy, I have decided I'm probably too lazy for anything but making samples of my reasoning available for critique by people who are likely to be smarter than me -- for example, by participating in discussion on Less Wrong, which in theory is my goal here. So, hi! (I have been tweaking this for almost an hour and will submit it NOW.)

Comment author: lukeprog 15 January 2011 11:41:32PM *  4 points [-]

Welcome, Alyssa!

Finding out how "stupid" I am is one of the most important things I have ever learned. I hope I never forget it!

Also, congrats on seriously questioning your religion at your age. I didn't do so until much later.

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 14 November 2010 04:01:16AM 17 points [-]

My name's Normal Anomaly, and I'm paranoid about giving away personal information on the Internet. Also, I don't like to have any assumptions made about me (though this is likely the last place to worry about that), so I'd rather go without a gender, race, etc. Apologies for the lack of much personal data. I can say that my major interest is biology, although I am not yet anything resembling an expert. I eventually hope to work in life extension research. I’m an Asperger’s Syndrome Sci Fi-loving nerd, which is apparently the norm here.

I used to have religious/spiritual beliefs, though I was also a fan of science and was not a member of an organized religion. I believed it was important to be rational and that I had evidence for my beliefs, but I was rationalizing and refusing to look at the hard questions. A couple years ago, I was exposed to atheism and rationalism and have since been trying to make myself more reasonable/less insane. I found LW through Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality a few months ago, and have been lurking and reading the sequences. I'm still scared of posting on here because it’s the first discussion forum where I have known myself to be intellectually outclassed.

I chose the name Normal Anomaly because in my everyday meatspace life I feel different from (read: superior to) everyone around me, but on LW I feel like an ordinary mortal trying to keep up with people talking over my head. Hopefully I've lurked long enough to at least speak the language, and I won't be an annoyance when I comment. I want to socialize with people superior to me; unfortunately for me, they tend to want the same.

In the time I've been lurking, I've started seriously considering cryonics and will probably sign up unless something else changes my mind. I think it's pretty likely that an AGI will be developed eventually, and if it ever is it definitely needs to be Friendly, but I have no idea when other than that I hope it’s in my lifetime, which I want to end only of my own choosing and possibly never.

Comment author: shokwave 14 November 2010 03:05:30PM 5 points [-]

I'm still scared of posting on here because it’s the first discussion forum where I have known myself to be intellectually outclassed.

I have found that some of the time you can make up for a (perceived) lack of intellect with a little work, and this is true (from my own experience) here on LessWrong: when about to comment on an issue, it pays big dividends to use the search feature to check for something related in previous posts with which you can refine, change, or bolster your position. Of the many times I have done it, twice I caught myself in grievous and totally embarrassing errors!

For what it's worth, commenting on LW is so far from normal conversation and normal internet use that most intellects haven't developed methods for it; they have to grind through mostly the same processes as everyone else - and nobody can actually tell if it took you five seconds or five minutes to type your reply. My own replies might be left in the comment box for hours, to be reread with a fresh mind later and changed entirely.

tl;dr Don't be afraid to comment!

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 14 November 2010 04:38:35PM 5 points [-]

For what it's worth, commenting on LW is so far from normal conversation and normal internet use that most intellects haven't developed methods for it

This is interesting-- LW seems to be pretty natural for me. I think the only way my posting here is different from anywhere else is that my sentences might be more complex.

On the other hand, once I had a choice, I've spent most of my social life in sf fandom, where the way I write isn't wildly abnormal, I think.

Anyone who's reading this, do you think what's wanted at LW is very different from what's wanted in other venues?

Comment author: Emile 15 November 2010 07:45:13PM 5 points [-]

I find writing on LW pretty 'normal', on par with some other forums or blog comments (though with possibly less background hostility and flamewars).

I suspect the ban on discussing politics does more to increase the quality of discourse here than the posts on cognitive bias.

Comment author: shokwave 15 November 2010 05:22:30AM 5 points [-]

Wow, that is interesting ... conditional on more people feeling this way (LW is natural), I might just have focused my intellect on rhetoric and nonreasonable convincing to the point that following LW's guidelines is difficult, and then committed the typical mind fallacy and assumed everyone had too.

Comment author: NihilCredo 15 November 2010 07:26:28AM 11 points [-]

Actually, I've come to notice that rhetoric and other so-called Dark Arts are still worth their weight in gold on LW, except when the harder subjects (math and logic) are at hand.

But LessWrong commenters definitely have plenty of psychological levers, and the demographic uniformity only makes them more effective. For a simple example, I guesstimate that, in just about any comment, a passing mention of how smart LessWrongers are is worth on average 3 or 4 extra karma points - and this is about as old as tricks can get.

Comment author: taryneast 12 December 2010 03:21:22PM 3 points [-]

Anyone who's reading this, do you think what's wanted at LW is very different from what's wanted in other venues?

Yes. I get the sense that here you are expected to at least try for rigor.

In other venues - it's totally ok to randomly riff on a topic without actually having thought deeply about either the consequences, or whether or not there's any probability of your idea actually having any basis in reality.

Comment author: katydee 15 November 2010 08:04:09PM *  3 points [-]

LW is substantially higher-level than most (all?) forums that I've been to, including private ones and real name only ones. The standard of discourse just seems better here in general.

Comment author: Alicorn 14 November 2010 02:46:38PM 5 points [-]

I'd rather go without a gender

Do you have a preferred set of gender-neutral pronouns?

Comment author: Jack 14 November 2010 09:43:14AM 3 points [-]

Also, I don't like to have any assumptions made about me (though this is likely the last place to worry about that), so I'd rather go without a gender, race, etc.

FYI, this had a "don't think of a pink elephant" effect on me. I immediately made guesses about your gender, race and age. I'm betting I'm not the only one. Sorry!

Anyway welcome! Sounds like you'll fit right in. Don't be too scared to comment, especially if it is just to ask a question (I don't recall ever seeing a non-sarcastic question downvoted).

Comment author: EStokes 19 December 2009 11:58:59PM *  16 points [-]

I'm Ellen, age 14, student, planning to major in molecular biology or something like that. I'm not set on it, though.

I think I was browsing wikipedia when I decided to google some related things. I think I found some libertarian or anarchist blog that then had a link to Overcoming Bias or Lesswrong. Or I might've seen the word transhumanism on the wiki page for libertarianism and googled it, with it eventually leading here somehow. My memory is fuzzy as it was pretty irrelevant to me.

I'm an atheist, and have been for a while, as is typical for this community. I wasn't brought up religiously, so it was pretty much untheism that turned into atheism.

My rationalist roots... I've always wanted to be right, of course. Partly because I could make mistakes from being wrong, partly because I really, really hated looking stupid. Then I figured that I couldn't know if I was right unless I listened to the other side, really listened, and was careful. (Not enough people do even this. People are crazy, the world is mad. Angst, angst.) I found lesswrong which has given me tools to much more effectively do this. w00t.

I'm really lazy. Curse you, akrasia!

It should be obvious how I came up with my username. Aren't I original?

Some other hobbies I have are gaming and anime/manga. Amusingly enough, I barely ever watch any anime. The internet is very distracting.

Edit: Some of this stuff is outdated. I don't plan to major in molecular biology, for one, and I don't like how I wrote the rationalist roots part. Meh. I doubt anyone is going to see this, but I'm 16 now and plan to major in Computer Science.

Comment author: Kevin 17 February 2010 07:16:49AM *  3 points [-]

I strongly recommend people go to school for something they find interesting, but since I don't think it's commonly known information, I would like to note that salaries for biologists are lower than for other scientists. Lots more people graduate with PhDs in biology than PhDs in physics which really drives down the salaries for biologists that don't have tenure. Though if you plan on going to professional school (medical school, business school, etc.), a molecular biology degree is a good thing to have if you enjoy molecular biology. Again, I really think people should go to school for something they like, but if you want to make a lot of money, don't become a researching biologist. Biology researchers with MD's do a lot better financially.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 20 December 2009 11:40:11PM 3 points [-]

Welcome on board! You're a key segment of my target audience, so please speak up if you have any thoughts on things I could have done better in my writing.

Comment author: free_rip 27 January 2011 04:43:46AM 15 points [-]

Hi, I'm Zoe. I found this site in a round-about way after reading Dawkin's The God Delusion and searching some things related to it. There was a comment in a forum mentioning Less Wrong and I was interested to see what it was.

I've been mainly lurking for the past few months, reading the sequences and some of the top posts. I've found that while I understand most of it, my high-school level math (I'm 16) is quite inadequate, so I'm working through the Khan Academy to try and improve it.

I'm drawn to rationalism because, quite simply, it seems like the world would be a better place if people were more rational and that has to start somewhere. Whatever the quotes say, truth is worthwhile. It also makes me believe in myself more to know that I'm willing and somewhat able to shift my views to better match the territory. Maybe someday I'll even advance from 'somewhat' into plain ol' 'able'.

My goals here, at this point, aren't particularly defined. I find the articles and the mission inspiring and interesting and think that it will help me. Maybe when I've learnt more I'll have a clearer goal for myself. I already analyze everything (to the point where many a teacher has been quite annoyed), so I suppose that's a start. I'm looking forward to learning more and seeing how I can use it all in my actual life.

Cheers, Zoe

Comment author: TheatreAddict 08 July 2011 05:51:49AM 11 points [-]

Hello everyone,

My name is Allison, and I'm 15 years old. I'll be a junior next year. I come from a Christian background, and consider myself to also be a theist, for reasons that I'm not prepared to discuss at the moment... I wish to learn how to view the world as it is, not through a tinted lens that is limited in my own experiences and background.

While I find most everything on this site to be interesting, I must confess a particular hunger towards philosophy. I am drawn to philosophy as a moth is to a flame. However, I am relatively ignorant about pretty much everything, something I'm attempting to fix. I have a slightly above average intelligence, but nothing special. In fact, compared to everyone on this site, I'm rather stupid. I don't even understand half of what people are talking about half the time.

I'm not a science or math person, although I find them interesting, my strengths lie in English and theatre arts. I absolutely adore theatre, not that this really has much to do with rationality. Anyway, I kind of want to get better at science and math. I googled the double slit experiment, and I find it.. captivating. Quantum physics holds a special kind of appeal to me, but unfortunately, is something that I'm not educated enough to pursue at the moment.

My goals are to become more rational, learn more about philosophy, gain a basic understanding of math and science, and to learn more about how to refine the human art of rationality. :)

Comment author: wallowinmaya 20 April 2011 10:04:01PM *  11 points [-]

hi everybody,

I'm 22, male, a student and from Germany. I've always tried to "perceive whatever holds the world together in its inmost folds", to know the truth, to grok what is going on. Truth is the goal, and rationality the art of achieving it. So for this reason alone lesswrong is quite appealing.

But in addition to that Yudkowsky and Bostrom convinced me that existential risks, transhumanism , the singularity, etc. are probably the most important issues of our time.

Furthermore this is the first community I've ever encountered in my life that makes me feel rather dumb. ( I can hardly follow the discussions about solomonoff induction, everett-branches and so on, lol, and I thought I was good at math because I was the best one in high school :-) But, nonetheless being stupid is sometimes such a liberating feeling! Everytime desperation takes hold, caused by the utter stupidity of my fellow human beings, I only have to imagine how unbearable it must be for someone like Yudkowsky to endure the idiocy of most folks ( myself included). But maybe the fact that dumb people drive me insane is only a sign of my own arrogance...

To spice this post with more gooey self-disclosure: I was sort of a "mild" socialist for quite some time ( yeah, I know. But, there are some intelligent folks who were socialists, or sort-of-socialists like Einstein and Russell). Now I'm more pro-capitalism, libertarian, but some serious doubts remain. Furthermore my atheistic worldview was shattered by some LSD-trips, and new-age, mysterious quantum-physics-interpretations. I drifted into a spooky pantheistic worldview. The posts on LessWrong were really useful to help me overcome this weltanschauung. This story may seem not too harmful, since the distinction between atheism and pantheism is not entirely clear afterall, but mystic experiences, caused by psychedelics ( or other neurological "happenings"), may well be one of the reasons why some highly intelligent people remain/ or become religious. Therefore I'm really interested in neuropsychological research of mystic experiences. ( I think I share this personal idiosyncrasy with Sam Harris...) And I think many rational atheists ( myself included before I encountered LSD), underestimate the preposterous and life-transfomring power of mystic experiences, that can convert the most educated rationalist into a gibbering crackpot. It makes you think you really "know" that there is some divine and mysterious force at the deepest level of the universe, and the quest for understanding involves reading many, many absurd and completely useless books, and this endeavor may well destroy your whole life. Such a mystic experience may well be the Absolute Bias, almost impossible to overcome, at least for me it was really hard. But do mystic experiences have some benefits???I think so. Ah, life is soo ambivalent...

Oops, probably already talked way too much. I hope I can contribute some useful stuff in the future and meet some like-minded people...

Comment author: Swimmer963 21 April 2011 01:00:17PM 4 points [-]

But mystic experiences, caused by psychedelics (or other neurological "happenings"), may well be one of the reasons why some highly intelligent people remain/ or become religious.

I can personally support this. I've never taken LSD or any other consciousness-altering drug, but I can trigger ecstatic, mystical "religious experiences" fairly easy in other ways; even just singing in a group setting will do it. I sing in an Anglican church choir and this weekend is Easter, so I expect to have quite a number of mystical experiences. At one point I attended a Pentecostal church regularly and was willing to put up with people who didn't believe in evolution because group prayer inevitably triggered my "mystical experience" threshold. (My other emotions are also triggered easily: I laugh out loud when reading alone, cry out loud in sad books and movies, and feel overpowering warm fuzzies when in the presence of small children.)

I have done my share of reading "absurb and useless" books. Usually I found them, well, absurd and useless and pretty boring. I would rather read about the neurological underpinnings of my experience, especially since grokking science's answers can sometimes trigger a near-mystical experience! (Happened several times while reading Richard Dawkins' 'The Selfish Gene'.)

In any case, I would like to hear more about your story, too.

Comment author: [deleted] 28 April 2010 01:16:25AM 11 points [-]

Hi, I'm Sarah. I'm 21 and going to grad school in math next fall. I'm interested in applied math and analysis, and I'm particularly interested in recent research about the sparse representation of large data sets. I think it will become important outside the professional math community. (I have a blog about that at http://numberblog.wordpress.com/.)

As far as hobbies go, I like music and weightlifting. I read and talk far too much about economics, politics, and philosophy. I have the hairstyle and cultural vocabulary of a 1930's fast-talking dame. (I like the free, fresh wind in my hair, life without care; I'm broke, that's Oke!)

Why am I here? I clicked the link from Overcoming Bias.

In more detail, I'm here because I need to get my life in order. I'm a confused Jew, not a thoroughgoing atheist. I've been a liberal and then a libertarian and now need something more flexible and responsive to reason than either.

Some conversations with a friend, who's a philosopher, have led me to understand that there are some experiences (in particular, experiences he's had related to poverty and death) that nothing in my intellectual toolkit can deal with, and so I've had to reconsider a lot of preconceptions.

I'm here, to be honest, for help. I've had difficulty since childhood believing that I am valuable, partly because in mathematics you always have the example before you of people far better. Let me put it this way: I need to find something to do or believe that doesn't crumble periodically into wishing I were dead, because otherwise I won't have a very productive future. That sounds dismal, but really it's a good problem to have -- I'm pretty fortunate otherwise. Still, I want to solve it. I like this community, I think there's a lot to learn here, and my inclination is always to solve problems by learning.

Comment author: mattnewport 28 April 2010 01:27:50AM *  5 points [-]

I'm here, to be honest, for help. I've had difficulty since childhood believing that I am valuable, partly because in mathematics you always have the example before you of people far better.

I don't know if it will help you, but the concept of comparative advantage might help you appreciate how being valuable does not require being better than anyone else at any one thing. I found the concept enlightening, but I'm probably atypical...

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 24 November 2012 08:45:14AM 10 points [-]

Hello! I'm a first-year graduate student in pure mathematics at UC Berkeley. I've been reading LW posts for awhile but have only recently started reading (and wanting to occasionally add to) the comments. I'm interested in learning how to better achieve my goals, learning how to choose better goals, and "raising the sanity waterline" generally. I have recently offered to volunteer for CFAR and may be an instructor at SPARC 2013.

Comment author: Sarokrae 25 September 2011 11:24:27AM 10 points [-]

Greetings, LessWrong!

I'm Saro, currently 19, female and a mathematics undergraduate at the University of Cambridge. I discovered LW by the usual HP:MoR route, though oddly I discovered MoR via reading EY's website, which I found in a Google search about Bayes' once. I'm feeling rather fanatical about MoR at the moment, and am not-so-patiently awaiting chapter 78.

Generally though, I've found myself stuck here a lot because I enjoy arguing, and I like convincing other people to be less wrong. Specifically, before coming across this site, I spent a lot of time reading about ways of making people aware of their own biases when interpreting data, and effective ways of communicating statistics to people in a non-misleading way (I'm a big fan of the work being done by David Spiegelhalter). I'm also quite fond of listening to economics and politics arguments and trying to tear them down, though through this, I've lost any faith in politics as something that has any sensible solutions.

I suspect that I'm pretty bad at overcoming my own biases a lot of the time. In particular, I have a very strong tendency to believe what I'm told (including what I'm being told by this site), I'm particularly easily inspired by pretty slogans and inspirational tones (like those this site), and I have, and have always had, one of those Escher-painting brains, to the extent that I was raised very atheist but am now not so sure. (At some level, I have the thought that our form of logic should only apply to our plane of existence, whatever that means.) But hey, figuring all that out is what this site's about, right?

Comment author: [deleted] 25 September 2011 04:31:08PM 5 points [-]

Welcome!

I'm particularly easily inspired by pretty slogans and inspirational tones (like those this site),

I wouldn't necessarily call that a failing in and of itself -- it's important to notice the influence that tone and eloquence and other ineffable aesthetic qualities have on your thinking (lest you find yourself agreeing with the smooth talker over the person with a correct argument), but it's also a big part of appreciating art, or finding beauty in the world around you.

and I have, and have always had, one of those Escher-painting brains, to the extent that I was raised very atheist but > am now not so sure.

If it helps, I was raised atheist, only ever adopted organized religion once in response to social pressure (it didn't last, once I was out of that context), find myself a skeptical, materialist atheist sort -- and with my brain wiring (schizotypal, among other things) I still have intense, vivid spiritual experiences on a regular basis. There's no inherent contradiction, if you see the experiences as products-of-brain and that eerie sense that maybe there's something more to it as also a product-of-brain, with antecedents in known brain-bits.

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 25 September 2011 06:01:37PM 3 points [-]

Welcome!

I'm Saro, currently 19, female and a mathematics undergraduate at the University of Cambridge.

Note to self: Organise Cambridge meet-up.

Comment author: Swimmer963 25 September 2011 12:39:23PM 3 points [-]

Welcome! Sweet, another girl my age!

though oddly I discovered MoR via reading EY's website, which I found in a Google search about Bayes' once.

Kind of similar to how I discovered it. I think I googled EY and found his website after seeing his name in the sl4 mailing list.

Comment author: JenniferDavies 20 August 2011 06:32:12PM *  10 points [-]

Hey everyone,

My name is Jennifer Davies. I'm 35 years old and am married with a 3 year old daughter. I live in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

Originally a computer programmer, I gave it up after spending a year coding for a bank (around 1997). Motivated by an interest in critical thinking, I earned a BA in Philosophy.

Currently, I'm completing a one year post-grad program to become a Career Development Practitioner. I plan to launch a private practice in 2012 to help people find and live their passions while providing them with the tools to do so.

A friend introduced me to Harry Potter: Methods of Rationality and Less Wrong. I have never enjoyed a piece of reading more than that fanfic -- I even saved a PDF version to introduce to my daughter once she's able to benefit from it.

My main motivations (that I'm aware of) for becoming a member of this community are to: improve my thinking skills (and better understand/evaluate values and motivations), help clients to think more rationally, better encourage independent, critical thought in my daughter.

Although it can be painful at times (for my ego) to be corrected, I appreciate such corrections and the time put into them.

Any tips for teaching young children rationality? I'm at a loss and wonder if I need to wait until she's older.

Comment author: beoShaffer 20 August 2011 07:04:04PM *  4 points [-]

Hi Jennifer. There's been quite a bit written about teaching children rationality. Unfortunately, the relative newness of LW and the low percentage of parents means its all somewhat speculative. The following links cover most(but probably not all of what LW has on the subject).

Comment author: Arandur 28 July 2011 06:35:22PM 10 points [-]

Hello, Less Wrong.

I suppose I should have come here first, before posting anything else, but I didn't come here through the front door. :3 Rather, I was brought here by way of HP:MOR, as I'm sure many newbies were.

My name is Anthony. I'm 21 years old, married, studying Linguistics, and I'm an unapologetic member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Should be fun.

Comment author: AlexGreen 11 December 2010 03:43:10AM *  10 points [-]

Good day I'm a fifteen year-old high school student, Junior, and ended up finding this through the Harry Potter & MOR story, which I thought would be a lot less common to people. Generally I think I'm not that rational of a person, I operate mostly on reaction and violence, and instinctively think of things like 'messages' and such when I have some bad luck; but, I've also found some altruistic passion in me, and I've done all of this self observation which seems contradictory, but I think that's all a rationalization to make me a better person. I also have some odd moods, which split between talking like this, when usually I can't like this at all.

I'd say something about my age group but I can't think of anything that doesn't sound like hypocrisy, so I think I'll cut this off here.

  • Aaaugh, just looking at this giant block of text makes me feel like an idiot.
Comment author: apophenia 16 April 2010 09:19:35PM *  10 points [-]

Hello, Less Wrong.

My name is Zachary Vance. I'm an undergraduate student at the University of Cincinnati, double majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science--I like math better. I am interested in games, especially board and card games. One of my favorite games is Go.

I've been reading Less Wrong for 2-3 months now, and I posted once or twice under another name which I dropped because I couldn't figure out how to change names without changing accounts. I got linked here via Scott Aaronson's blog Shtetl-Optimized after seeing a debate between him and Eliezer. I got annoyed at Eliezer for being rude, forgot about it for a month, and followed the actual link on Scott's site over here. (In case you read this Eliezer, you both listen to people more than I thought (update, in Bayesian) and write more interesting things than I heard in the debate.) I like paradoxes and puzzles, and am currently trying to understand the counterfactual mugging. I've enjoyed Less Wrong because everybody here seems to read everything and usually carefully think about it before they post, which means not only articles but also comments are simply amazing compared to other sites. It also means I try not to post too much so Less Wrong remains quality.

I am currently applying to work at the Singularity Institute.

Comment author: ciphergoth 17 April 2010 12:09:41AM 4 points [-]

Hi, welcome to Less Wrong and thanks for posting an introduction!

Comment author: Rain 21 March 2010 03:02:25PM *  10 points [-]
  • Persona: Rain
  • Age: 30s
  • Gender: Unrevealed
  • Location: Eastern USA
  • Profession: Application Administrator, US Department of Defense
  • Education: Business, Computers, Philosophy, Scifi, Internet
  • Interests: Gaming, Roleplaying, Computers, Technology, Movies, Books, Thinking
  • Personality: Depressed and Pessimistic
  • General: Here's a list of my news sources

Rationalist origin: I discovered the scientific method in highschool and liked the results of its application to previously awkward social situations, so I extended it to life in general. I came up with most of OB's earlier material by myself under different names, or not quite as well articulated, and this community has helped refine my thoughts and fill in gaps.

Found LW: The FireFox add-on StumbleUpon took me to EY's FAQ about the Meaning of Life on 23 October 2005, along with Max More, Nick Bostrom, Alcor, Sentient Developments, the Transhumanism Wikipedia page, and other resources. From there, to further essays, to the sl4 mailing list, to SIAI, to OB, to LW, where I started interacting with the community in earnest in late January 2010 and achieved 1000 karma in early June 2010. Previous to the StumbleUpon treasure trove, I had been turned off the transhumanist movement by a weird interview of Kurzweil in Wired, but still hopeful due to scifi potentials.

Value and desire to achieve: I'm still working on that. The metaethics sequence was unsatisfactory. In particular, I have problems with our ability to predict the future and what we should value. I'm hoping smarter than human intelligence will have better answers, so I strongly support the Singularity Institute.

Comment author: [deleted] 25 September 2011 04:22:38PM 9 points [-]

Hey everyone.

I'm Jandila (not my birth, legal or even everyday name), I'm a 28-year old transgendered woman living in Minnesota. I've been following EY's writings off and on since many years ago on the sl4 mailing list, mostly on the topic of AI; initially I got interested in cognitive architecture and FAI due to a sci-fi novel I've been working on forever. I discovered LW a few years ago but only recently started posting; somehow I missed this thread until just recently.

I've been interested in bias and how people think, and in modifying my own instrumental ability to understand and work around it, for many years. I'm on the autistic spectrum and have many clusters of neurological weirdness; I think this provided an early incentive to understand "how people think" so I could signal-match better.

So far I've stuck around because I like LW's core mission and what it stands for in abstract; I also feel that the community here is a bit too homogenous in terms of demographics for a community with such an ostensibly far-reaching, global goal, and thus want to see the perspective base broadened (and am encouraged by the recent influx of female members).

Comment author: KND 02 July 2011 12:41:42AM 9 points [-]

Hello fellow Less Wrongians,

My name is Josh and I'm a 16-year-old junior in high school. I live in a Jewish family at the Jersey Shore. I found the site by way of TV Tropes after a friend told me about the Methods of Rationality. Before i started reading Eliezer's posts, i made the mistake of believing I was smart. My goal here is mainly to just be the best that I can be and maybe learn to lead a better life. And by that I mean that I want to be better than everyone else I meet. That includes being a more rational person better able to understand complex issues. I think i have a fair grip on the basic points of rationality as well as philosophy, but i am sorely lacking in terms of math and science (which can't be MY fault obviously, so I'll just go ahead and blame the public school system). I never knew what exactly an logarithm WAS before a few days ago, sadly enough (I knew the term of course, but was never taught what it meant or bothered enough to look it up. I have absolutely no idea what i want to do with my life other than amassing knowledge of whatever i find to be interesting.

I was raised in a conservative household, believing in God but still trying to look at the world rationally. My father never tried to defend the beliefs he taught me with anything but logic. I suppose I'm technically atheist, but i prefer to consider myself agnostic. Believe it or not, I actually became a rationalist after my dad got me to read Atlas Shrugged. While i wasnt taken in very much by the appeal to my sense of superiority, however correct it may be, i did take special notice of a particular statement in which Rand maintains that man is a reasoning animal and that the only evil thought is to not think as to do so is to reject the only tool that mankind has used to survive and instead embrace death. This and her rejection of emotion as a substitute for rationality impressed me more than anything i had read up to that point. i soon became familiar with Aristotle and from then on studied both philosophy and rationality. Of course i hadnt really seen anything before I started reading Eliezer's writing!

Overall, Im just happy to be here and have enjoyed everything i have seen of the site so far. Im still young and relatively ignorant to many of the topics discussed here, but if you will just bare with me, as i know you will, i might, in time, actually learn to add something to the site. Thanks for reading my story, i look forward to devoting many more hours to the site!

Comment author: lincolnquirk 05 April 2011 08:29:45PM *  9 points [-]

Hi, I'm Lincoln. I am 25; I live and work in Cambridge, MA. I currently build video games but I'm going to start a Ph.D program in Computer Science at the local university in the fall.

I identified rationality as a thing to be achieved ever since I knew there was a term for it. One of the minor goals I had since I was about 15 was devising a system of morality which fit with my own intuitions but which was consistent under reflection (but not in so many words). The two thought experiments I focused on were abortion and voting. I didn't come up with an answer, but I knew that such a morality was a thing I wanted -- consistency was important to me.

I ran across Eliezer's work 907 days ago reading a Hacker News post about the AI-box experiment, and various other Overcoming Bias posts that were submitted over the years. I didn't immediately follow through on that stuff.

But I became aware of SIAI about 10 months ago, when rms on Hacker News linked an interesting post about the Visiting Fellows program at SIAI.

I think I had a "click" moment: I immediately saw that AI was both an existential risk and major opportunity, and I wanted to work on these things to save the world. I followed links and ended up at LW; I didn't immediately understand the connection between AI and rationality, but they both looked interesting and useful, so I bookmarked LW.

I immediately sent in an application to the Visiting Fellows program, thinking "hey, I should figure out how to do this" -- I think it was Jasen who responded and asked me by email to summarize the purpose of SIAI and how I thought I could contribute. I wrote the purpose summary, but got stuck on how to contribute. I had barely read any of the Sequences at that time and had no idea how I could be useful. For those reasons (as well as a healthy dose of akrasia), I gave up on my application at that time.

Somewhere in there I found HP:MoR (perhaps via TVTropes?), saw the author was "Less Wrong" and made the connection.

Since then, I have been inhaling the Sequences; in the last month I've been checking the front page almost daily. I applied to the Rationality Boot Camp.

I'm very far from being a rationalist -- I can see that my rationality skills are really quite poor, but I at least identify as a student of rationality.

Comment author: GDC3 29 December 2010 09:22:37AM 9 points [-]

HI, I'm GDC3. Those are my initials. I'm a little nervous about giving my full name on the internet, especially because my dad is googlible and I'm named after him. (Actually we're both named after my grandfather, hence the 3) But I go by G.D. in real life anyway so its not exactly not my name. I'm primarily working on learning math in advance of returning to college right now.

Sorry if this is TMI but you asked: I became an aspiring rationalist because I was molested as a kid and I knew that something was wrong, but not what it was or how to stop it, and I figure that if I didn't learn how the world really worked instead of what people told me, stuff like that might keep happening to me. So I guess my something to protect was me.

My something to protect is still mostly me, because most of my life is still dealing with the consequences of that. My limbic system learned all sorts of distorted and crazy things about how the world works that my neocortex has to spend all of its time trying to compensate for. Trying to be a functional human being is sort of hard enough goal for now. I also value and care about eventually using this information to help other people who've had similar stuff happen to them. I value this primarily because I've pre-committed to valuing that so that the narrative would motivate me emotionally when I hate myself too much to motivate myself selfishly.

So I guess I self-modified my utility function. I actually was pretty willing to hurt other people to protect myself as a kid. I've made myself more altruistic not to feel less guilty (which would mean that I wasn't really as selfish as I thought I was), but to feel less alone. Which is plausible I guess, because I wasn't exactly a standard moral specimen as a kid.

I hope that was more interesting than upsetting. I think I can learn a lot from you guys if I can speak freely. I hope that I can contribute or at least constitute good outreach.

Comment author: peaigr 11 August 2010 10:05:45PM 9 points [-]

Hi everyone! I'm an undergrad (rising junior) in the Bay Area, studying physics and computer science. I started reading OB in 2007, when I was in high school, and it's been a pretty big influence on me. I used to assume I'd end up doing theoretical physics research, but I'm reconsidering. I may decide to do more practical work, and it seems likely to me that the most important scientific challenges and advances during my lifetime will be in AI.

I grew up going to church and identified as Christian for a long time, even though I knew I did not believe most of what I was told at church. Reading Marcus Aurelius probably started me along the path to realizing I didn't have meaningful beliefs about God. By the time I read "Making Beliefs Pay Rent," I think my response was "...well, yeah." But it was nice seeing everything laid out so neatly; the real viewquake with OB for me was in how important it is to be able to communicate these kinds of ideas well. That's become one of my big personal projects; I've been taking on teaching and tutoring jobs, and it's finally occurred to me that I could really benefit by joining the discussions here. I'm looking forward to it--this is one of my favorite online communities and certainly the most stimulating that I've found.

Comment author: Oligopsony 03 August 2010 08:15:40PM 9 points [-]

I've existed for about 24 years, and currently live in Boston.

I regard many of the beliefs popular here - cyronics, libertarianism, human biodiversity, pickup artistry - with extreme skepticism. (As if in compensation, I have my own unpopular frameworks for understanding the world.) I find the zeitgeist here to be <em>interestingly</em> wrong, though, because almost everyone comes from a basically sane starting point - a material universe, conventionally "Western" standards of science, reason, and objectivity - and actively discusses how they can regulate their beliefs to adhere to these. I have an interest in achieving just this kind of regulation (am a "rationalist",) and am aware that it's epistemically healthy to expose myself to alternative points of view expressed in a non-crazy way. So hopefully the second aspect will reinforce the first.

As for why I'm a rationalist, I don't know, and the question doesn't seem particularly interesting to me. I regard it beyond questions of justification, like other desires.

Comment author: Blueberry 03 August 2010 08:31:38PM 5 points [-]

Welcome to Less Wrong!

I regard many of the beliefs popular here - cyronics, libertarianism, human biodiversity, pickup artistry - with extreme skepticism. (As if in compensation, I have my own unpopular frameworks for understanding the world.)

I'd love to hear more about this: I also like exposing myself to alternative points of view expressed in a non-crazy way, and I'm interested in your unpopular frameworks.

Specifically: cryonics is highly speculative, but do you think there's a small chance it might work? When you say you don't believe in human biodiversity, what does that mean? And when you say you don't believe in pickup artistry, you don't think that dating and relationships skills exist?

Comment author: erratio 29 June 2010 10:18:41AM 9 points [-]

Hi all, I'm Jen, an Australian Jewish atheist, and an student in a Computer Science/Linguistics/Cognitive Science combined degree, in which I am currently writing a linguistics thesis. I got here through recommendations from a couple of friends who visit here and stayed mostly for the akrasia and luminosity articles (hello thesis and anxiety/self-esteem problems!) Oh and the other articles too, but the ones I've mentioned are the ones that I've put the most effort into understanding and applying. The others are just interesting and marked for further processing at some later time.

I think I was born a rationalist rather than becoming one - I have a deep-seated desire for things to have reasons that make sense, by which I mean the "we ran some experiments and got this answer" kind of sense as opposed to the "this validates my beliefs" kind of sense. Although having said that I'm still prey to all kinds of irrationality, hence this site being helpful.

At some point in the future I would be interested in writing something about linguistic pragmatics - it's basically another scientific way of looking at communication. There's a lot of overlap between pragmatics and the ideas I've seen here on status and signalling, but it's all couched in different language and emphasises different parts, so it may be different enough to be helpful to others. But at the moment I have no intention of writing anything beyond this comment (hello thesis again!), the account is mostly just because I got sick of not being able to upvote anything.

Comment author: Morendil 29 June 2010 10:42:40AM 3 points [-]

Welcome to Less Wrong!

writing something about linguistic pragmatics

Please do! I have a keen interest in that topic.

Comment author: RobinZ 08 July 2009 09:33:25PM *  9 points [-]

Ignoring the more obvious jokes people make in introduction posts: Hi. My name is Robin. I grew up in the Eastern Time Zone of the United States, and have lived in the same place essentially all my life. I was homeschooled by secular parents - one didn't discuss religion and the other was agnostic - with my primary hobby being the reading of (mostly) speculative fiction of (mostly) quite high quality. (Again, my parent's fault - when I began searching out on my own, I was rather less selective.) The other major activity of my childhood was participation in the Boy Scouts of America.

I entered community college at the age of fifteen with an excellent grounding in mathematics, a decent grounding in physics, superb fluency with the English language (both written and spoken), and superficial knowledge of most everything else. After earning straight As for three years, I applied to four-year universities, and my home state university offered me a full ride. At present, I am a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the same institution.

In the meantime, I have developed an affection for weblogs, web comics, and online chess, much to the detriment of my sleep schedule and work ethic. I suspect I discovered Overcoming Bias through "My Favorite Liar" like everyone else, but Eliezer Yudkowsky's sequences (and, to a lesser extent, Robin Hanson's essays) were what drew me in. I lost interest around when EY jumped to lesswrong.com, but was drawn back in when I opened up the bookmark again in the past day or so, particularly thanks to a few of Yvain's contributions.

Being all of twenty-four and with less worldly experience than the average haddock, I imagine I shan't contribute much to the conversation, but I'll give it my best shot.

(P.S. I am not registered for cryonics and I'm skeptical about the ultimate potential of AI. I'm an modern-American-style liberal registered as a Republican for reasons which seemed good at the time. Also, I am - as is obvious in person but not online - both male and black.)

Comment author: Alicorn 08 July 2009 09:45:27PM 4 points [-]

Being all of twenty-four and with less worldly experience than the average haddock

What gave you the idea that anyone cares about age and experience around here? ;)

Comment author: Bill_McGrath 24 August 2011 11:51:28AM *  8 points [-]

Hello, Less Wrong!

I'm Bill McGrath. I'm 22 years old, Irish, and I found my way here, as with many others, from TVTropes and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

I'm a composer and musician, currently entering the final year of my undergrad degree. I have a strong interest in many other fields - friends of mine who study maths and physics often get grilled for information on their topics! I was a good maths student in school, I still enjoy using maths to solve problems in my other work or just for pleasure, and I still remember most of what I learned. Probablity is the main exception here - it wasn't my strongest area, and I've forgotten a lot of the vocabulary, but it's the next topic I intend to study when I get a chance. This is proving problematic in my understanding of the Bayesian approach, but I'm getting there.

I've been working my way through the core sequences, along with some scattered reading elsewhere on the site. So far, a lot of what I've encountered has been ideas that are familiar to me, and that I try to use when debating or discussing ideas anyway. I've held for a while now that you have to be ready to admit your mistakes, not be afraid of being wrong sometimes, and take a neutral approach to evidence - allowing any of these to cloud your judgement means you won't get reliable data. That said, I've still learned quite a bit from LW, most importantly how to express these ideas about rationality to other people.

I'm not sure I could pinpoint what moment brought me to this mindset, but it was possibly the moment I understood why the scientific method was about trying to disprove, rather than prove, your hypothesis; or perhaps when I realized that the empiricisist's obligation to admit when they are wrong was makes them strong. Other things that have helped me along the way - the author Neal Stephenson, the comedian Tim Minchin, and Richard Fenyman.

My other interests, most of which I have no formal training in but I have read about in my own time or have learned about through conversation with friends, include:

-politics - I consider myself to be socially liberal but economically ignorant

-languages (I speak a little German and less Irish, have taken brief courses in other languages), linguistic relativism

-writing, and the correct use of language

-quantum physics (in an interested layman way - I am aware of a lot of the concepts, but I'm by no means knowledgeable)

-psychology

as well as many other things which are less LW-relevant!

Thank you to the founders and contributors to the site who have made it such an interesting collection of thoughts and ideas, as well as a welcoming forum for people to come and learn. I think I'll learn a lot from it, and hopefully some day I'll be able to repay the favour!

-Bill

Comment author: taryneast 12 December 2010 03:19:01PM *  8 points [-]

Hi, I'm Taryn. I'm female, 35 and working as a web developer. I started studying Math, changed to Comp Sci and actually did my degree in Cognitive Science (Psychology of intelligence, Neurophysiology, AI, etc) My 3rd year Project was on Cyberware.

When I graduated I didn't see any jobs going in the field and drifted into Web Development instead... but I've stayed curious about AI, along with SF, Science, and everything else too. I kinda wish I'd known about Singularity research back then... but perhaps it's better this way. I'm not a "totally devoted to one subject" kinda person. I'm too curious about everything to settle for a single field of study.

That being said - I've worked in web development now for 11 years. Still, when I get home, I don't start programming, preferring pick up a book on evolutionary biology, medieval history, quantum physics, creative writing (etc) instead. There's just too damn many interesting things to learn about to just stick to one!

I found LW via Harry Potter & MOR, which my sister forwarded to me. Since then I've been voraciously reading my way through the sequences, learning just how much I have yet to learn... but totally fascinated. This site is awesome.

Comment author: Relsqui 17 September 2010 02:47:12AM *  8 points [-]

I suppose it's high time I actually introduced myself.

Hullo LW! I'm Elizabeth Ellis. That's a very common first name and a very common last name, so if you want to google me, I recommend "relsqui" instead. (I'm not a private person, the handle is just more useful for being a consistently recognizable person online.) I'm 24 and in Berkeley, California, USA. No association with the college; I just live here. I'm a cyclist, an omnivore, and a nontheist; none of these are because of moral beliefs.

I'm a high school dropout, which I like telling people after they've met me, because I like fighting the illusion that formal education is the only way to produce intelligent, literate, and articulate people--or rather, that the only reason to drop out is not being one. In mid-August of this year I woke up one morning, thought for a while about things I could do with my life that would be productive and fulfilling, and decided it would be helpful to have a bachelor's degree. I started classes two weeks later. GEs for now, then a transfer into a communication or language program. It's very strange taking classes with people who were in high school four months ago.

My major area of interest is human communication. Step back for a moment and think about it: You've got an electric meatball in your head which is capable of causing other bits of connected meat to spasm, producing vibrations in the air. Another piece of meat somewhere else is touched by those vibrations ... and then the electric meatball in somebody else's head is supposed to produce an approximation of the signals that happened to be running through yours? That's ridiculous. The wonder isn't how often we miscommunicate, it's that we ever communicate well.

So, my goal is to help people do it better. This includes spreading communication techniques which I've found effective for getting one electric meatball to sync up with another, as well as more straightforward things like an interest in languages. (I'm only fluent in English, but I'm conversational in Spanish, know some rudimentary Hebrew, and have a semester-equivalent or less of a handful of other things.)

One of my assets in this department is that, on the spectrum of strongly logic-driven people to strongly emotion-driven people, I am fairly close to the center. This has its good and bad points. I understand each side better than the other one does, and have had success translating between them for people who weren't getting across to each other. On the other hand, I'm repelled by both extremes, which can be inconvenient. I think that no map of a human can be accurate without acknowledging emotions in the territory, which we feel, and which drive us, but which we do not fully understand. This does not preclude attempting to understand them better; it just requires working with those emotions rather than wishing they didn't exist.

I came to LW because someone linked me to the parable of the dagger and it delighted me, so I looked around to see what else was here. I'm interested in ways to make better decisions and be less wrong because I find it useful to have these ideas floating around in my head when I have a decision to make--much like aforementioned communication techniques when I'm talking to someone. I'm not actively trying to transform myself, at least not in any way related to rationality.

That's everything of any relevance I can think of at the moment.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2010 03:04:50AM 4 points [-]

Upvoted for the amusing phrase "electric meatball".

Comment author: LauralH 22 July 2010 08:02:25PM 8 points [-]

My name is Laural, 33-yo female, degree in CS, fetish for EvPsych. Raised Mormon, got over it at 18 or so, became a staunch Darwinist at 25.

I've been reading OvercomingBias on and off for years, but I didn't see this specific site till all the links to the Harry Potter fanfic came about. I had in fact just completed that series in May, so was quite excited to see the two things combined. But I think I wouldn't have registered if I hadn't read the AI Box page, which convinced me that EY was a genius. Personally, I am more interested in life-expansion than FAI. I'm most interested in changing social policy to legalize drugs, I suppose; if people are allowed to put whatever existing substances in their bodies, the substances that don't yet exist have a better chance.

Comment author: TobyBartels 22 July 2010 03:14:19AM 8 points [-]

I also found this blog through HP:MoR.

My ultimate social value is freedom, by which I mean the power of each person to control their own life. I believe in something like a utilitarian calculus, where utility is freedom, except that I don't really believe that there is a common scale in which one person's loss of freedom can be balanced by another person's gain. However, I find that freedom is usually very strongly positive-sum on any plausible scale, so this flaw doesn't seem to matter very much.

Of course, freedom in this sense can only be a social value; this leaves it up to each person to decide their own personal values: what they want for their own lives. In my case, I value forming and sustaining friendships in meatspace, often with activities centred around food and shared work, and I also value intellectual endeavours, mostly of an abstract mathematical sort. But this may change with my whims.

I might proselytise freedom here from time to time. There would be no point in proselytising my personal values, however.

Comment author: Tuesday_Next 07 April 2010 05:20:08PM 8 points [-]

Hello everyone!

Name: Tuesday Next Age: 19 Gender: Female

I am an undergraduate student studying political science, with a focus on international relations. I have always been interested in rationalism and finding the reasons for things.

I am an atheist, but this is more a consequence of growing up in a relatively nonreligious household. I did experiment with paganism and witchcraft for several years, a rather frightening (in retrospect) display of cognitive dissonance as I at once believed in science and some pretty unscientific things.

Luckily I was able to to learn from experience, and it soon become obvious that what I believed in simply didn't work. I think I wanted to believe in witchcraft both as a method of teenage rebellion and to exert some control over my life. However I was unable to delude myself.

I tried to interest myself in philosophy many times, but often became frustrated by the long debates that seemed divorced from reality. One example is the idea of free will. Since I was a child (I have a memory of trying, when I was in elementary school, of trying to explain this to my parents without success) I have had a conception of reality and free will that seemed fairly reasonable to me and I never understood what all the fuss was about.

It went something like this: The way things did turn out is the only way things could have turned out, given the exact pre-existing circumstances. In particular, when one person makes a decision they presumably do so for a reason, whether that reason is rational or not; if that decision is not predetermined by the situation and the person, then it is random. If a decision is random, this is not free will because the choice is not a result of a person's decision; rather it is a result of some random phenomenon involving the word "quantum."

But since no two situations are alike, and it is impossible for anyone to know everything, let alone extrapolate from knowledge of the present to figure out what the future will be, there is no practical effect from this determinism. In short, we act as if we have free will and we cannot predict the future. It is the same thing with reality. Whether it is "real" or not is irrelevant.

The practical consequences of this, for me at least, are that arguing about whether we have free will or not misses the point. We may be able to predict the "future" of a simple computer program by knowing all the conditions of the present, but cannot do the same for the real world; it is too complex.

I finally found this articulated, to my great relief that I was not crazy for believing it, in Daniel Dennet's "Freedom Evolves." This is what got me interested in philosophy again.

I am also interested in how to change minds (including my own). I have always had fairly strong (and, in retrospect, irrational) political beliefs. When I took an Economics course, I found many of my political beliefs changing significantly.

I even found myself arguing with a friend (who like me is fairly liberal), and he later praised me for successfully defending a point of view he knew I disagreed with. (The argument in question was about a global minimum wage law; I was opposed.) I found this disconcerting as I was in fact arguing what I honestly believed, though I do have a tendency to play "Devil's Advocate" and argue against what I believe.

This forced me to confront the fact that some of my political views had actually changed. Later, when I challenged some of the basic assumptions that Economics class made, like the idea that markets can be "perfect," I found myself reassessing my political views again. I am trying to get in the habit of doing this to avoid becoming dogmatic.

Anyway, I think that's enough for now; if anyone has any questions I would be happy to address them.

--Tuesday

Comment author: Alicorn 16 April 2009 03:15:53PM *  8 points [-]
  • Handle: Alicorn
  • Location: Amherst, MA
  • Age: The number of full years between now and October 21, 1988
  • Gender: Female

Atheist by default, rationalist by more recent inclination and training. I found OB via Stumbleupon and followed the yellow brick road to Less Wrong. In the spare time left by schoolwork and OB/LW, I do art, write, cook, and argue with those of my friends who still put up with it.

Comment author: SwingDancerMike 20 June 2012 07:37:47PM 7 points [-]

Hi everyone, I've been reading LW for a year or so, and met some of you at the May minicamp. (I was the guy doing the swing dancing.) Great to meet you, in person and online.

I'm helping Anna Salamon put together some workshops for the meetup groups, and I'll be posting some articles on presentation skills to help with that. But in order to do that, I'll need 5 points (I think). Can you help me out with that?

Thanks

Mike

Comment author: Michelle_Z 14 July 2011 11:49:47PM *  7 points [-]

Hello LessWrong!

My name is Michelle. I am from the United States (East Coast, if it matters) and am entering college this August. I am a graphic design student who is also interested in public speaking. I was lead to this site one day while browsing fanfiction. I am an avid reader and spend a good percentage of my life reading novels and other literature. I found HP and MOR and found the story intriguing and the theories very interesting. When I finally reached the end, I read the author's page and realized that I could find more information on the ideas presented in the book. Naturally, I was delighted. The ideas were mainly why I kept reading. I had not encountered anything similar and found it refreshing to read something that had so many theories that rang true to my ear.

I was raised by two non-practicing Catholics. My family is not really religious, but I did attend Catholic schools my whole life. I was subsequently brainwashed when I was younger to be terrified of going to hell. As I got older, I realized I didn't agree with a lot of facets of the religion, and therefore couldn't stand behind the religion as a whole. I labeled myself as "a believer in god, but not a believer in organized religion." A year after that I realized that I wanted to believe in god, but really when I faced myself on it, did not. (Not to mention, I prefer being good for the sake of being good, not because I fear eternal damnation.)

Getting off the sticky topic of religion, I am not a specialist in any science field or math field. The math in this blog tends to be above my level (I attribute my lack of skills in math and science partially to the catholic school system. Our physics teacher was a business major who had no idea what he was babbling about and my math teacher was too busy talking about his failed relationship with his wife to remember to actually teach math.) ...so I generally have to read over the more technical science bits a few times before I start getting the whole picture. My skills lie in English and the arts. I consider rationality to be something that I wish everyone would get interested in. I really want this idea to stick in more people's heads, but know better than to preach it. I hope to help people become more involved in it, and learn more about rationality and the like.

I'm learning. I'm no expert and hardly consider myself a rationalist. If this were split into ranks like karate, I'd still be a white belt.

I'm looking forward to learning more about rationality, philosophy, and science with all of you here, and hopefully one day contributing, myself!

edit: forgot to add a mention of my blog. While I do not write anything related to rationality, I do occasionally post little cartoons. Chomper

Comment author: Konkvistador 20 December 2011 04:08:13PM *  3 points [-]

Greetings!

While I naturally feel superior to people who came here via fanfiction.... I want to use this opportunity to peddle some of the fiction that got me here way back in 2009.

Comment author: gscshoyru 04 February 2011 02:27:52PM 7 points [-]

Hi, my handle is gscshoyru (gsc for short), and I'm new here. I found this site through the AIBox experiment, oddly enough -- and I think I got there from TVTropes, though I don't remember. After reading the fiction, (and being vaguely confused that I had read the NPC story before, but nothing else of his, since I'm a fantasy/sci-fi junkie and I usually track down authors I like), I started reading up on all of Eliezer's writings on rationality. And found it made a lot of sense. So, I am now a budding rationalist, and have decided to join this site because it is awesome.

That's how I found you -- as for who I am and such, I am a male 22-year-old mathematics major/CS minor currently working as a programmer in New Jersey. So, that's me. Hi everyone!

Comment author: bigjeff5 27 January 2011 02:02:01AM 7 points [-]

Hello, I'm Jeff, I found this site via a link on an XKCD forum post, which also included a link to the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality fan-fic. I read the book first (well, what has been written so far, I just couldn't stop!) and decided that whoever wrote that must be made of pure awesome, and I was excited to see what you all talked about here.

After some perusal, I decided I had to respond to one of the posts, which of course meant I had to sign up. The post used keyboard layouts (QWERTY, etc.) as an example of how to rephrase a question properly in order to answer it in a meaningful way. Posting my opinion ended up challenging some assumptions I had about the QWERTY layout and the Dvorak layout, and I am now three and a half hours into learning the Dvorak layout in order to determine which is actually the better layout (based on things I read it seemed a worthwhile endeavor, instead of too difficult like I assumed).

I would have posted this in Dvorak layout, but I only have half the keys down and it would be really, really slow, so I switched back to QWERTY just for this. QWERTY comes out practically as I think it - Dvorak, not so much yet. The speed with which I'm picking up the new layout also shatters some other assumptions I had about how long it takes to retrain muscle memory. Turns out, not long at all (at least in this case), though becoming fluent in Dvorak will probably take a while.

I would say I am a budding rationalist, and I hope this site can really speed my education along. If that doesn't tell you enough about who I am, then I don't really know what else to say.

Comment author: [deleted] 24 December 2010 12:59:25AM 7 points [-]

Greetings, fellow thinkers! I'm a 19-year-old undergraduate student at Clemson University, majoring in mathematics (or, as Clemson (unjustifiably) calls it, Mathematical Sciences). I found this blog through Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality about three weeks ago, and I spent those three weeks doing little else in my spare time but reading the Sequences (which I've now finished).

My parents emigrated from the Soviet Union (my father is from Kiev, my mother from Moscow) just months before my birth. They spoke very little English upon their arrival, so they only spoke Russian to me at home, and I picked up English in kindergarten; I consider both to be my native languages, but I'm somewhat more comfortable expressing myself in English. I studied French in high school, and consider myself "conversant", but definitely not fluent, although I intend to study abroad in a Francophone country and become fluent. This last semester I started studying Japanese, and I intend to become fluent in that as well.

My family is Jewish, but none of my relatives practice Judaism. My mother identifies herself as an agnostic, but is strongly opposed to the Abrahamic religions and their conception of God. My father identifies as an atheist. I have never believed in Santa Claus or God, and was very confused as a child about how other people could be so obviously wrong and not notice it. I've never been inclined towards mysticism, and I remember espousing Physicalist Reductionism (although I did not know those words) at an early age, maybe when I was around 9 year old.

I've always been very concerned with being rational, and especially with understanding and improving myself. I think I missed out on a lot of what Americans consider to be classic sci-fi (I didn't see Star Wars until I got to college, for example), but I grew up with a lot of good Russian sci-fi and Orson Scott Card.

I used to be quite a cynical misanthrope, but over the past few years I've grown to be much more open and friendly and optimistic. However, I've been an egoist for as long as I can remember, and I see no reason why this might change in the foreseeable future (this seems to be my primary point of departure from agreement with Eliezer). I sometimes go out of my way to help people (strangers as much as friends) because I enjoy helping people, but I have no illusions about whose benefit my actions are for.

I'm very glad to have found a place where smart people who like to think about things can interact and share their knowledge!

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 24 December 2010 01:31:06AM 10 points [-]

I've been an egoist for as long as I can remember

No offense intended, but: If you could take a pill that would prevent all pain from your conscience, and it could be absolutely guaranteed that no one would ever find out, how many twelve-year-olds would you kill for a dollar?

(Perhaps you meant to say that you were mostly egoist, or that your deliberatively espoused moral principles were egoistic?)

PS: Welcome to Less Wrong!

Comment author: [deleted] 24 December 2010 06:38:57AM 3 points [-]

Eliezer, please don't think you can offend me by disagreeing with me or questioning my opinions - every disagreement (between rational people) is another precious opportunity for someone (hopefully me!) to get closer to Truth; if the person correcting me is someone I believe with high probability to be smarter than me, or to have thought through the issue at hand better than I have (and you fit those criteria!), this only raises the probability that it is I who stand to benefit from the disagreement.

I'm not certain this is a very good answer to your question, but 1) I would not take such a pill, because I enjoy empathy and don't think pain is always bad, 2) peoples' deaths negatively affect many people (both through the ontologically positive grief incurred by the loss and the through ontologically negative utility they would have produced), and that negative effect is very likely to make its way to me through the Web of human interaction, especially if the deceased are young and have not yet had much of a chance to spread utility through the Web, and 3) I would have to be quite efficient at killing 12-year-olds for it to be worth my time to do it for a dollar each (although of course this is tangential to your question, since the amount "a dollar" was arbitrary).

I should also point out that I have a strongly negative psychological reaction to violence. For example, I find the though of playing a first-person shooting game repugnant, because even pretending to shoot people makes me feel terrible. I just don't know what there is out there worse than human beings deliberately doing physical harm to one another. As a child, I felt little empathy for my fellow humans, but at some point, it was as if I was treated with Ludovico's Technique (à la A Clockwork Orange)... maybe some key mirror neurons in my prefrontal cortex just needed time to develop.

Thank you for taking time to make me think about this!

Comment author: jimrandomh 24 December 2010 04:38:32PM *  3 points [-]

If your moral code penalizes things that make you feel bad, and doing X would make you feel bad, then is it fair to say that not doing X is part of your moral code?

I think the point Eliezer was getting at is that human morality is very complex, and statements like "I'm an egoist" sweep a lot of that under the rug. And to continue his example: what if the pill not only prevented all pain from your conscience, but also gave you enjoyment (in the form of seratonin or whatever) at least as good as what you get from empathy?

Comment author: RedRobot 24 November 2010 06:32:56PM 7 points [-]

Hello!

I work in a semi-technical offshoot of (ducks!) online marketing. I've always had rationalist tendencies, and reading the material on this website has had a "coming home" feeling for me. I appreciate the high level of discourse and the low levels of status-seeking behaviors.

I am female, and I read with interest the discussion on gender, but unfortunately I do not think I can contribute much to that topic, because I have been told repeatedly that I am "not like other women." I certainly don't think it would be a good idea to generalize from my example what other women think or feel (although to be honest the same could be said about my ability to represent the general populace).

I found my way here through the Harry Potter story, which a friend sent to me knowing that I would appreciate the themes. I am enjoying it tremendously.

Comment author: JJ10DMAN 15 October 2010 01:25:48PM 7 points [-]

I originally wrote this for the origin story thread until I realized it's more appropriate here. So, sorry if it straddles both a bit.

I am, as nearly as I believe can be seen in the present world, an intrinsic rationalist. For example: as a young child I would mock irrationality in my parents, and on the rare occasions I was struck, I would laugh, genuinely, even through tears if they came, because the irrationality of the Appeal to Force made the joke immensely funnier. Most people start out as well-adapted non-rationalists; I evidently started as a maladaptive rationalist.

As an intrinsic (maladaptive) rationalist, I have had an extremely bumpy ride in understanding my fellow man. If I had been born 10 years later, I might have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. As it was, I was a little different, and never really got on with anyone, despite being well-mannered. A nerd, in other words. Regarding bias, empathic favoritism, willful ignorance, asking questions in which no response will effect subsequent actions or belief confidences, and other peculiarities for which I seem to be an outlier, any knowledge about how to identify and then deal with these peculiarities has been extremely hard-won from years upon years of messy interactions in uncontrolled environments with few hypotheses from others to go on (after all, they "just get it", so they never needed to sort it out explicitly).

I've recently started reading rationalist blogs like this one, and they have been hugely informative to me because they put things I have observed about people but failed to understand intuitively into a very abstract context (i.e. one that bypasses intuition). Less Wrong, among others, have led to a concrete improvement in my interactions with humanity in general, the same way a blog about dogs would improve one's interactions with dogs in general. This is after just a couple months! Thanks LW.

Comment author: WrongBot 21 June 2010 08:42:41PM 7 points [-]

Hi all.

I found this site through Methods of Rationality (as I suspect many have, of late). I've been reading through the sequences and archives for a while, and am finally starting to feel up to speed enough to comment here and there.

My name is Sam. I'm a programmer, mostly interested in writing and designing games. Oddly enough, my username derives from my much-neglected blog, which I believe predated this website.

I've always relished discovering that I'm wrong; if there's a better way to consistently improve the accuracy of one's beliefs, I'm not aware of it. So the LW approach makes an awful lot of sense to me, and I'm really enjoying how much concentrated critical thinking is available in the archives.

I'm also polyamorous, and so I'm considering a post or two on how polyamory (and maybe other kinds of alternative sexualities) relates to the practice of rationality. Would there be any interest in that sort of thing? I don't want to drag a pet topic into a place it's unwanted.

Furthermore, I am overfond of parentheses and semicolons. I apologize in advance.

Comment author: RobinZ 22 June 2010 01:01:30AM 4 points [-]

Hello! I like your blog.

I have a bit harsher filter than a number of prolific users of Less Wrong, I think - I would, pace Blueberry, like to see discussion of polyamory here only if you can explain how to imply the insights to other fields as well. I would be interested in the material, but I don't think this is the context for the merely interesting.

Comment author: WrongBot 22 June 2010 02:37:42AM 3 points [-]

The post I'm envisioning is less an analysis of polyamory as a lifestyle and more about what I'm tentatively calling the monogamy bias. While the science isn't quite there (I think; I need to do more research on the topic) to argue that a bias towards monogamy is built into human brain chemistry, it's certainly built into (Western) society. My personal experience has been that overcoming that bias makes life much more fun, so I'd probably end up talking about how to analyze whether monogamy is something a person might actually want.

The other LW topic that comes out of polyamory is the idea of managing romantic jealousy, which ends up being something of a necessity. Depending on how verbose I get, those may or may not get combined into a single post.

In any case, would either of those pass your (or more general) filters?

Comment author: Vladimir_M 22 June 2010 04:19:35AM *  3 points [-]

I certainly find quality discussions about such topics interesting and worthwhile, and consistent with the mission statement of advancing rationality and overcoming bias, but I'm not sure if the way you define your proposed topic is good.

Namely, you speak of the possibility that "bias towards monogamy is built into human brain chemistry," and claim that this bias is "certainly built into (Western) society." Now, in discussing topics like these, which present dangerous minefields of ideological biases and death-spirals, it is of utmost importance to keep one's language clear and precise, and avoid any vague sweeping statements.

Your statement, however, doesn't make it clear whether you are talking about a bias towards social norms encouraging (or mandating) monogamy, or about a bias towards monogamy as a personal choice held by individuals. If you're arguing the first claim, you must define precisely the metric you use to evaluate different social norms, which is a very difficult problem. If you're arguing the second one, you must establish which precise groups of people your claim applies to, and which not, and what metric of personal welfare you use to establish that biased decisions are being made. In either case, it seems to me that establishing a satisfactory case for a very general statement like the one you propose would be impossible without an accompanying list of very strong disclaimers.

Therefore, I'm not sure if it would be a good idea to set out to establish such a general and sweeping observation, which would, at least to less careful readers, likely be suggestive of stronger conclusions than what has actually been established. Perhaps it would be better to limit the discussion to particular, precisely defined biases on concrete questions that you believe are significant here.

Comment author: WrongBot 22 June 2010 06:02:24AM 3 points [-]

I think I grouped my ideas poorly; the two kinds of bias you point out would be better descriptions of the two topics I'm thinking of writing about. (And they definitely seem to be separate enough that I shouldn't be writing about them in the same post.) So, to clarify, then:

Topic 1: Individuals in industrialized cultures (but the U.S. more strongly than most, due to religious influence) very rarely question the default relationship style of monogamy in the absence of awareness of other options, and usually not even then. This is less of a bias and more of a blind spot: there are very few people who are aware that there are alternatives to visible monogamy. Non-consensual non-monogamy (cheating) is, of course, something of a special case. I'm not sure if there's an explicit "unquestioned assumptions that rule large aspects of your life" category on LW, but that kind of material seems to be well-received. I'd argue that there's at least as much reason to question the idea that "being monogamous is good" as the idea that "being religious is good." Of course my conclusions are a little different, in that one's choice of relationship style is ultimately a utilitarian consideration, whereas religion is nonsense.

Topic 2: Humans have a neurological bias in favor of (certain patterns of behavior associated with) monogamy. This would include romantic jealousy, as mentioned. While the research in humans is not yet definitive, there's substantial evidence that the hormone vasopressin, which is released into the brain during sexual activity, is associated with pair-bonding and male-male aggression. In prairie voles, vasopressin production seems to be the sole factor in whether or not they mate for life. Romantic/sexual jealousy is a cultural universal in humans, and has no known purpose other than to enforce monogamous behavior. So there are definitely biological factors that affect one's reasoning about relationship styles; it should be obvious that if some people prefer to ignore those biological factors, they see some benefit in doing so. I can say authoritatively that polyamory makes me happier than monogamy does, and I am not so self-absorbed as to think myself alone in this. Again, this is a case where at least some people can become happier by debiasing.

And that still leaves Topic 3: jealousy management, which I imagine would look something like the sequence on luminosity or posts on akrasia (my personal nemesis).

Thanks for your comment; it's really helped me clarify my organizational approach.

Comment author: ValH 07 May 2010 01:21:28PM *  7 points [-]

I'm Valerie, 23 and a brand new atheist. I was directed to LW on a (also newly atheist) friend's recommendation and fell in love with it.

Since identifying as an atheist, I've struggled a bit with 'now what?' I feel like a whole new world has opened up to me and there is so much out there that I didn't even know existed. It's a bit overwhelming, but I'm loving the influx of new knowledge. I'm still working to shed old patterns of thinking and work my way into new ones. I have the difficulty of reading something and feeling that I understand it, but not being able to articulate it again (something left over from defending my theistic beliefs, which had no solid basis). I think I just need some practice :)

EDIT: Your link to the series of posts on why LW is generally atheistic is broken. Which makes me sad.

Comment author: ata 07 May 2010 01:55:04PM *  3 points [-]

Welcome!

The page on LW's views on religion (or something like that page — not sure if the old wiki's content was migrated directly or just replaced) is now here. The Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions, Reductionism, and How To Actually Change Your Mind sequences are also relevant, in that they provide the background knowledge sufficient to make theism seem obviously wrong. Sounds like you're already convinced, but those sequences contain some pretty crucial core rationalist material, so I'd recommend reading them anyway (if you haven't already).

If there's anything in particular you're thinking "now what?" about, I and others here would be happy to direct you to relevant posts/sequences and help with any other questions about life, the universe, and everything. (Me, I recently decided to go back to the very beginning and read every post and the comments on most of them... but I realize not everyone's as dedicated/crazy (dedicrazy?) as me. :P)

Comment author: clarissethorn 15 March 2010 10:24:47AM *  7 points [-]

I go by Clarisse and I'm a feminist, sex-positive educator who has delivered workshops on both sexual communication and BDSM to a variety of audiences, including New York’s Museum of Sex, San Francisco’s Center for Sex and Culture, and several Chicago universities. I created and curated the original Sex+++ sex-positive documentary film series at Chicago’s Jane Addams Hull-House Museum; I have also volunteered as an archivist, curator and fundraiser for that venerable BDSM institution, the Leather Archives & Museum. Currently, I'm working on HIV mitigation in southern Africa. I blog at clarissethorn.wordpress.com and Twitter at @clarissethorn.

Besides sex, other interests include gaming, science fiction and fantasy, and housing cooperatives.

I've read some posts here that I thought had really awful attitudes about sexuality and BDSM in particular, so I'm sure I'll be posting about those. I would like it if people were more rational about sex, inasmuch as we can be.

Comment author: Hook 05 March 2010 03:40:01PM 7 points [-]

Hello.
My name is Dan, and I'm a 30 year old software engineer living in Maryland. I was a mostly lurking member of the Extropian mailing list back in the day and I've been following the progress of the SIAI sporadically since it's founding. I've made a few donations, but nothing terribly significant.

I've been an atheist for half my life now, and as I've grown older I've tended more and more to rational thinking. My wife recently made a comment that she specifically uses rational argument with me much more so than anyone else she has to deal with, even at work, because she knows that is what will work. (Obviously, she wins frequently enough to make it worth her while.)

I hope to have something minor to contribute to the akrasia discussion, although I haven't fully formulated it yet. I used to be an avid video game player and I don't play anymore. The last few times I played any games I didn't even enjoy it. I plan to describe the experiences that led to this state. Unfortunately for general applicability, one of those experiences is "grow older and have a child."

It's not the most altruistic of motives, but what most draws me to this community is that I enjoy being right, and there seem to be lots of things I can learn here to help me to be right more often. What I would dream about getting out of this community is a way to find or prepare for meaningful work that helped reduce existential risk. I have a one year old daughter and I was recently asking myself "What is most likely to kill my children and grandchildren?" The answer I came up with was "The same thing that kills everyone else."

Comment author: orthonormal 22 March 2010 03:05:20AM *  3 points [-]

I have a one year old daughter and I was recently asking myself "What is most likely to kill my children and grandchildren?" The answer I came up with was "The same thing that kills everyone else."

That's a pretty compelling way to start a conversation on existential risk. I like it.

Comment author: hrishimittal 17 May 2009 01:35:51PM 7 points [-]

Hi, I'm Hrishi, 26, male. I work in air pollution modelling in London. I'm also doing a part-time PhD.

I am an atheist but come from a very religious family background.

When I was 15, I once cried uncontrollably and asked to see God. If there is indeed such a beautiful supreme being then why didn't my family want to meet Him? I was told that their faith was weak and only the greatest sages can see God after a lot of self-afflicted misery. So, I thought nevermind.

I've signed up for cryonics. You should too, or it'll just be 3 of us from LW when we wake up on the other side. I don't mind hogging all the press, but inside me lives a shiny ball of compassion which wants me to share the glory with you.

I wish to live a happy and healthy life.

Comment author: zslastman 24 June 2012 04:30:18PM 6 points [-]

I'm a 24 year old PhD student of molecular biology. I arrived here trying to get at the many worlds vs copenhagen debate as a nonspecialist, and as part of a sustained campaign of reading that will allow me to tell a friend who likes Hegel where to shove it. I'm also here because I wanted to reach a decision about whether I really want to do biology, if not, whether I should quit, and if I leave, what i actually want to do.

Comment author: phonypapercut 20 June 2012 11:35:39PM 6 points [-]

Hello. I've been browsing articles that show up on the front page for about a year now. Just recently started going through the sequences and decided it would be a good time to create an account.

Comment author: Catnip 12 December 2011 04:16:24PM 6 points [-]

Hello, Less Wrong.

I am Russian, atheistic, 27, trying to be rational.

Initially I came here to read a through explanation of Bayes theorem, but noticed that LessWrong contains a lot more than that and decided to stay for a while.

I am really pleased by quality of material and pleasantly surprised by quality of comments. It is rare to see useful comments on the Internet.

I am going to read at least some sequences first and comment if I have something to say. Though, I know I WILL be sidetracked by HP:MoR and "Three worlds collide". Well, my love for SF always got me.

Comment author: zntneo 04 April 2011 06:35:32PM *  6 points [-]

Hello my name is Zachary Aletheia (when my wife and i got married we decided to choose a last name based on something that had meaning to use aletheia means truth in greek and we both have a passion for finding out the truth). Looking back on my journey to being a rationalist i think it was a 2 step process (though given how i've repeatedly thought about it i probably have changed the details in my memory quite a bit). I think the first step was during a anthropology class i watched this film about "magic" (i was a neo-pagan at the time who believed i could manipulate energy with my mind) and how absurd the video seemed really made me want to find a way to be able to have beliefs that aren't easy to see as absurd or laughable by others. From there i read quite a lot about logic (i still have a love affair with pure logic, i think i own 3 books on the subject and recently bought one from lukeprog). This all occured while i was a computer engineer undergraduate.

When i couldn't pass physics (which at the time i thought , due to self-serving bias, was because i was more interested in what i got my degree in) i decided to switch majors to psychology. During this time i still took lots of vitamins and supplements and was even a 9/11 truther for a while. Then i took a class called "Cognition" where we learned about quite a few of the biases and heuristics that are talked about on LW. Since then I started listening to a ton of skeptic podcasts and in general have tried to be a better rationalist.

One area that i do seem to have a hard time being a rationalist about is myself. I hold my self in very low self esteem (for instance i truly debated if i should post on here because everyone seems so brilliant how could i possibly add anything). I am hoping on trying to apply reason to that area of my life.

When it comes to life goals i am still trying to figure that out. I am leaning towards becoming a psychology prof but really not sure.

Oh i found lesswrong due to lukeprog and CSA. I have since become basically addicted to reading posts on it.

Oh i live in seaside,ca if anyone lives near there i would love to go to a LW meet-up.

Comment author: DavidAgain 12 March 2011 05:19:38PM 6 points [-]

Hi

Didn't realise that this thread existed, so this 'hello' is after 20 or so posts. Oh well! I found Less Wrong because my brother recommended TVtropes, that linked to Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and THAT led me back here. I've now recommended this site to my brother, completing the circle.

I've always been interested in rationality, I guess: I wouldn't identify any particular point of 'becoming a rationalist', though I've had times where I've come across ideas that help me be more accurate. Including some on here, actually. There's a second strand to my interest: I work in government and am interested in practical applications of rational thinking in large and complex organisations.

The Singularity Institute and Future of Humanity stuff is not something I've looked at before: I find it fairly interesting on an amateur level, and have some philosophy background that means the discussions make sense to me. I have zero computer science though, and generally my education is in the humanities rather than anything scientific.

Comment author: Swimmer963 18 February 2011 12:02:14PM 6 points [-]

Hi everyone!

I found this blog by clicking a link on Eliezer's site...which I found after seeing his name in a transhumanist mailing list...which I subscribed to after reading Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near when I was fifteen. I found Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality at the same time, and I've now successfully addicted my 16-year-old brother as well.

I'm 19 and I'm studying nursing in Ottawa. I work as a lifeguard and swim instructor at a Jewish Community Centre. (I'm not Jewish.) I sing in a girls' choir at an Anglican church. (I'm not Christian.) This usually throws people off a little. My favourite hobbies are writing and composing music. I can program in Java at a fairly beginner level after taking one class as my elective.

I've been reading this site for about a year and I decided it was time to start being useful. Cheers!

Comment author: jwhendy 06 January 2011 02:53:13AM *  6 points [-]

Hi, I've been hanging around for several months now and decided to join. My name is John and I found the site (I believe) via a link on CommonSenseAtheism to How to actually change your mind. I read through many of those posts and took notes and resonated with a lot. I loved EY's Twelve Virtues and the Litany of Gendlin.

I'm a graduate in mechanical engineering and work as one today. I don't know that I would call myself a rationalist, but only because I haven't perhaps become one. In other words, I want to be but do not consider myself to be well-versed in rationalist methods and thought compared to posts/comments I read here.

To close, I was brought to this site in a round-about way because I have recently de-converted from Catholicism (which is what took me to CSA). I'm still amidst my "quest" and blog about it HERE. I would say I'm not sure god doesn't exist or that Christianity is false, but the belief is no longer there. I seek to be as certain and justified I can in whatever beliefs I hold. LessWrong has seemed to be a good tool toward that end. I look forward to continuing to learn and want to take this opportunity to begin participating more.

Note: I also post as "Hendy" on several other blogs. We are the same.

Comment author: MoreOn 09 December 2010 11:33:43PM *  6 points [-]

Okay. Demographics. Boring stuff. Just skip to the next paragraph. I’m a masters student in mathematics (hopefully soon-to-be PhD student in economics). During undergrad, I majored in Biology, Economics and Math, and minored in Creative Writing (and nearly minored in Chemistry, Marine Science, Statistics and PE) … I’ll spare you the details, but most of those you won’t see on my resume for various reasons. Think: Master of None, not Omnidisciplinary Scientist.

My life goal is to write a financially self-sustainable computer game… for reasons I’ll keep secret for now. Seems like I’m not the first one in this thread to have this life goal.

I found LW through Harry Potter & MOR. I’d found HP&MOR through Tvtropes. I’d found Tvtropes through webcomic The Meek. I’d found The Meek through The Phoenix Requiem. Which I’d found through Top Web Comics site. That’s as far as I remember, 2 years ago.

I haven’t read most of the site, so far only about Bayes and the links off of that. And I’d started reading Harry Potter 3 weeks ago. So as far as you can see, I’m an ignorant newbie who speaks first and listens second.

I don’t identify myself as a rationalist. Repeat: I DO NOT identify myself as a rationalist. I didn’t notice that I’m different from everyone else when I was eleven. Or twelve. Or thereafter. I’m not smart enough to be a rationalist. I don't mean that in Socratic sense, "I know nothing, but at least I know more than you, idiot." I mean I'm just not smart.. I have the memory of a house cat. I can't name-drop on cue. I'm irrational. And I have BELIEFS (among them emergence, and when I model them, it'll be a Take That but for now it's just a belief).

Oh, and my name is a reference to BOTH Baldur's Gate 2, and to my intention of trying to challenge everything on this blog (what's my alternative? mindlessly agree?), and to how morons can't add 1+1.

Comment author: Axel 12 November 2010 10:33:06PM *  6 points [-]

My name's Axel Glibert. I'm 21, I just finished studying Biology and now I'm going for a teaching job. I found this wonderful site through hp and the methods of rationality and it has been an eyeopener for me.

I've been raised in a highly religious environment but it didn't take very long before I threw that out of the window. Since then I had to make my own moral rules and attempts at understanding how the universe works. My firsts "scientific experiments" were rather ineffective but it caused me to browse through the science section of the local library... and now, more then a decade later, here I am!

I have long thought I was the only one to so openly choose Science over Religion (thinking even scientists were secretly religious because it was the "right thing to do") but then I found Less Wrong filled with like-minded people! For the past 3 months I've been reading through the core sequences on this site and now I've finally made an account. I'm still too intimidated by the sheer brilliance of some of the threads here to actually post but that's just more motivation for me to study on my own.

Comment author: David_Gerard 10 December 2010 09:49:30PM 3 points [-]

Just to go cross-site (RW is slightly anti-endorsed by LW), would the Atheism FAQ for the Newly Deconverted have been of conceivable use to your recovering religious younger self?

Comment author: Alex_Altair 21 July 2010 09:01:24PM 6 points [-]

I recently found Less Wrong through Eliezer's Harry Potter fanfic, which has become my second favorite book. Thank you so much Eliezer for reminding my how rich my Art can be.

I was also delighted to find out (not so surprisingly) that Eliezer was an AI researcher. I have, over the past several months, decided to change my career path to AGI. So many of these articles have been helpful.

I have been a rationalist since I can remember. But I was raised as a Christian, and for some reason it took me a while to think to question the premise of God. Fortunately as soon as I did, I rejected it. Then it was up to me to 1) figure out how to be immortal and 2) figure out morality. I'll be signing up for cryonics as soon as I can afford it. Life is my highest value because it is the terminal value; it is required for any other value to be possible.

I've been reading this blog every day since I've found it, and hope to get constant benefit from it. I'm usually quiet, but I suspect the more I read, the more I'll want to comment and post.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 21 July 2010 09:17:32PM *  4 points [-]
Comment deleted 08 July 2010 01:12:41AM [-]
Comment author: Gigi 02 June 2010 03:23:44PM 6 points [-]

Hi, everyone, you can call me Gigi. I'm a Mechanical Engineering student with a variety of interests ranking among everything from physics to art (unfortunately, I know more about the latter than the former). I've been reading LW frequently and for long sessions for a couple of weeks now.

I was attracted to LW primarily because of the apparent intelligence and friendliness of the community, and the fact that many of the articles illuminated and structured my previous thoughts about the world (I will not bother to name any here, many are in the Sequences).

While the rationalist viewpoint is fairly new to me (aside from various encounters where I could not identify ideas as "rationalist"), I am looking forward to expanding my intellectual horizons by reading, and hopefully eventually contributing something meaningful back to the community.

If anyone has recommendations for reading outside LW that may be interesting or relevant to me, I welcome them. I've got an entire summer ahead of me to rearrange my thinking and improve my understanding.

Comment author: taiyo 19 April 2010 07:47:39PM 6 points [-]

My name is Taiyo Inoue. I am a 32, male, father of a 1 year old son, married, and a math professor. I enjoy playing the acoustic guitar (American primitive fingerpicking), playing games, and soaking up the non-poisonous bits of the internet.

I went through 12 years of math study without ever really learning that probability theory is the ultimate applied math. I played poker for a bit during the easy money boom for fun and hit on basic probability theory which the 12 year old me could have understood, but I was ignorant of the Bayesian framework for epistemology until I was 30 years old. This really annoys me.

I blame my education for leaving me ignorant about something so fundamental, but mostly I blame myself for not trying harder to learn about fundamentals on my own.

This site is really good for remedying that second bit. I have a goal to help fix the first bit -- I think we call it "raising the sanity waterline".

As a father, I also want to teach my son so he doesn't have the same regret and annoyance at my age.

Comment author: [deleted] 28 April 2010 01:19:52AM 3 points [-]

I'm just realizing this myself; probability theory is epistemology.

Comment author: Mass_Driver 30 March 2010 09:24:13PM 6 points [-]

Hi everyone!

I'm graduating law school in May 2010, and then going to work in consumer law at a small firm in San Francisco. I'm fascinated by statistical political science, space travel, aikido, polyamory, board games, and meta-ethics.

I first realized that I needed to make myself more rational when I bombed an online confidence calibration test about 6 years ago; it asked me to provide 95% confidence intervals for 100 different pieces of numerical trivia (e.g. how many nukes does China have, how many counties are in the U.S., how many species of spiders are there), and I only got about 72 correct. I can't find the website anymore, which is frustrating; I like to think I would do better now.

I am a pluralist about what should be achieved -- I believe there are several worthy goals in life, the utility of which cannot be meaningfully compared. However, I am passionately convinced that people should be consciously aware of their goals and should attempt to match their actions to their stated goals. Whatever kind of future we want, we are flabbergastingly unlikely to get it unless we identify and carry out the tasks that can lead us there.

Despite reading and pondering roughly 80 LW articles, together with some of their comments, I continue to believe a few things that will rub many LW readers the wrong way. My confidence in these beliefs has gone down, but is still over 50%. For example, I still believe in a naturalistic deity, and I still believe in ontologically basic consciousness. I am happy to debate these issues with individuals who are interested, but I do not plan on starting any top-level posts about them; I do not have the stamina or inclination to hold the field against an entire community of intelligent debaters all by myself.

I am not sure that I have anything to teach LW in the sense of delivering a prepared lecture, but I hope to contribute to discussions about how to best challenge Goodhart's Law in various applied settings.

Finally, thanks to RobinZ for the warm welcome!

Comment author: Karl_Smith 19 February 2010 12:23:20AM *  6 points [-]

Name: Karl Smith

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

Born: 1978

Education: Phd Economics

Occupation: Professor - UNC Chapel Hill

I've always been interested in rationality and logic but was sidetracked for many (12+) years after becoming convinced that economics was the best way to improve the lives of ordinary humans.

I made it to Less Wrong completely by accident. I was into libertarianism which lead me to Bryan Caplan which lead me Robin Hanson (just recently). Some of Robin's stuff convinced me that Cryonics was a good idea. I searched for Cryonics and found Less Wrong. I have been hooked ever since. About 2 weeks now, I think.

Also, skimming this I see there is a 14 year-old on this board. I cannot tell you how that makes burn with jealousy. To have found something like this at 14! Soak it in Ellen. Soak it in.

Comment author: Psilence 04 February 2010 08:28:40PM 6 points [-]

Hi all, my name's Drew. I stumbled upon the site from who-knows-where last week and must've put in 30-40 hours of reading already, so suffice to say I've found the writing/discussions quite enjoyable so far. I'm heavily interested in theories of human behavior on both a psychological and moral level, so most of the subject matter has been enjoyable. I was a big Hofstader fan a few years back as well, so the AI and consciousness discussions are interesting as well.

Anyway, thought I'd pop in and say hi, maybe I'll take part in some conversations soon. Looks like a great thing you've got going here.

Comment author: ektimo 16 April 2009 04:54:06PM *  6 points [-]
  • Name: Edwin Evans
  • Location: Silicon Valley, CA
  • Age: 35

I read the "Meaning of Life FAQ" by a previous version of Eliezer in 1999 when I was trying to write something similar, from a Pascal’s Wager angle (even a tiny possibility of objective value is what should determine your actions). I've been a financial supporter of the Organization That Can't Be Named and a huge fan of Eliezer's writings since that same time. After reading "Crisis of Faith" along with "Could Anything Be Right?" I finally gave up on objective value; the "light in the sky" died. Feeling my mind change was an emotional experience that lasted about two days.

This is seriously in need of updating, but here is my home page.

By the way, would using Google AdWords be a good way to draw people to 12 Virtues? Here is an example from the Google keyword tool:

  • Search phrase: how to be better
  • Cost per click: $0.05
  • Approximate volume per month: 33,100

[Edit: added basic info/clarification/formatting]

Comment author: ciphergoth 16 April 2009 12:58:30PM *  6 points [-]

OK, let's get this started. There seems to be no way of doing this that doesn't sound like a personal ad.

As well as programming for a living, I'm a semi-professional cryptographer and cryptanalyst; read more on my work there. Another interest important to me is sexual politics; I am bi, poly and kinky, and have been known to organise events related to these themes (BiCon, Polyday, and a fetish nightclub). I get the impression that I'm politically to the left of much of this site; one thing I'd like to be able to talk about here one day is how to apply what we discuss to everyday politics.

Comment author: Alicorn 16 April 2009 04:35:17PM 4 points [-]

What would it look like to apply rationalist techniques to sexual politics? The best guess I have is "interesting", but I don't know in what way.

Comment author: feifumgotnn 24 December 2011 08:44:37AM 5 points [-]

Uh...uhm...hello?

Comment author: [deleted] 18 October 2011 06:25:15PM 5 points [-]

Hello Lesswrong

I am a nameless, ageless, genderless internet-being who may sometimes act like a 22 year old male from canada. I have always been quite rational and consciously aiming to become more rational, though I had never read any actual discussion of rationality, unless you count cat-v. I did have some possibly wrong ideas that I protected with anti-epistemology, but that managed to collapse on its own recently.

I got linked to lesswrong from reddit. I didn't record the details so don't ask. I do remember reading a few lesswrong articles and thinking this is awesome. Then I read the sequences. The formal treatment of rationality has really de-crufted my thinking. I'm still working on getting to a superhuman level of rationality tho.

I do a lot of thinking and I have some neat ideas to post. Can't wait.

Also, my human alter-ego is formally trained as a mechanical engineer.

I hope to contribute and make the world more awesome!

Comment author: Phasmatis 10 September 2011 09:19:29PM 5 points [-]

Salutations, Less Wrong.

I'm an undergraduate starting my third year at the University of Toronto (in Toronto, Ontario, Canada), taking the Software Engineer specialist program in Computer Science.

I found Less Wrong through a friend, who found it through Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, who found that through me, and I found HP: MoR through a third friend. I'm working my way through the archive of Less Wrong posts (currently in March of 2009).

On my rationalist origins: One of my parents has a not-insignificant mental problem that result in subtle psychoses. I learned to favor empirical evidence and rationality in order to cope with the incongruency of reality and some of said parent's beliefs. It has been an ongoing experience since then, including upbringing in both Protestant Anglicanism and Secular Humanistic Judaism; the dual religious background was a significant contributor towards both my rationalism and my atheism.

I eagerly anticipate interesting discussions here.

Comment author: HopeFox 12 June 2011 12:11:24PM 5 points [-]

Hi, I've been lurking on Less Wrong for a few months now, making a few comments here and there, but never got around to introducing myself. Since I'm planning out an actual post at the moment, I figured I should tell people where I'm coming from.

I'm a male 30-year-old optical engineer in Sydney, Australia. I grew up in a very scientific family and have pretty much always assumed I had a scientific career ahead of me, and after a couple of false starts, it's happened and I couldn't ask for a better job.

Like many people, I came to Less Wrong from TVTropes via Methods of Rationality. Since I started reading, I've found that it's been quite helpful in organising my own thoughts and casting aside unuseful arguments, and examining aspects of my life and beliefs that don't stand up under scrutiny.

In particular, I've found that reading Less Wrong has allowed, nay forced, me to examine the logical consistency of everything I say, write, hear and read, which allows me to be a lot more efficient in dicussions, both by policing my own speech and being more usefully critical of others' points (rather than making arguments that don't go anywhere).

While I was raised in a substantively atheist household, my current beliefs are theist. The precise nature of these beliefs has shifted somewhat since I started reading Less Wrong, as I've discarded the parts that are inconsistent or even less likely than the others. There are still difficulties with my current model, but they're smaller than the issues I have with my best atheist theory.

I've also had a surprising amount of success in introducing the logical and rationalist concepts from Less Wrong to one of my girlfriends, which is all the more impressive considering her dyscalculia. I'm really pleased that that this site has given me the tools to do that. It's really easy now to short-circuit what might otherwise become an argument by showing that it's merely a dispute about definitions. It's this sort of success that has kept me reading the site these past months, and I hope I can contribute to that success for other people.

Comment author: [deleted] 12 June 2011 06:45:06AM *  5 points [-]

I'm 17 and I'm from Australia.

I've always been interested in science, learning, and philosophy. I've had correct thinking as a goal in my life since reading a book by John Stossel when I was 13.

I first studied philosophy at school in grade 10, when I was 14 and 15. I loved the mind/body problem, and utilitarianism was the coolest thing ever. I had great fun thinking about all these things, and was fairly good at it. I gave a speech about the ethics of abortion last year which I feel really did strike to the heart of the matter, and work as a good use of rationality, albeit untrained.

I came across Less Wrong via Three Worlds Collide, via Tv Tropes, last September. I then read HPMOR. By this point, I was convinced Eliezer Yudkowsky was the awesomest guy ever. He had all the thoughts I wanted to have, but wasn't smart enough to. I read everything on his website, then started trying to read the sequences. They were hard to understand for me, but I got some good points from them. I attended the National Youth Science Forum in January this year, and spent the whole time trying to explain the Singularity to people. Since then I've made my way through most of Eliezer's writings. I agree with most of what he says, except for bits which I might just not understand, like the Zombies sequence, and some of his more out there claims.

But yeah. Since reading his stuff, I've become stronger. Self improvement is now more explicitly one of my goals. I have tried harder to consider my beliefs. I have learnt not to get into pointless arguments. One of the most crucial lessons was the "learning to lose" from HPMOR. This has prevented me from more than a few nasty situations.

What can I contribute here? Nothing much as of yet. If I know anything, it's the small segment of rationality I've learned here. I'm good at intuitively understanding philosophy and math, but not special by Less Wrong standards.

One thing I do believe in strongly is the importance of mentoring people younger than you. I know two kids a bit younger than me. One is a really smart sciency kid, one a really talented musicish kid. I think that by linking them good science and good music, I can increase their rate of improvement. I wish that someone had told me about, for instance, Bayes's Theorem, or FAI, or Taylor series, when I was younger. You need a teacher. Sadly, there's no textbooks on this topic. But random walks through Wikipedia are a slow, frustrating way to learn when you're a curious 14 year old.

And so yeah. Pleased to meet you kids.

Comment author: XiXiDu 12 June 2011 11:42:35AM *  4 points [-]

He had all the thoughts I wanted to have, but wasn't smart enough to.

You are 17. See Yudkowsky_1998, there is room for improvement at any age.

Comment author: dvasya 14 May 2011 07:08:06PM *  5 points [-]
  • Handle: dvasya (from Darth Vasya)
  • Name: Vasilii Artyukhov
  • Location: Houston, TX (USA)
  • Age: 26
  • Occupation: physicist doing computational nanotechnology/materials science/chemistry, currently on a postdoctoral position at Rice University. Also remotely connected to the anti-aging field, as well as cryopreservation. Not personally interested in AI because I don't understand it very well (though I do appreciate its importance adequately), but who knows -- maybe that could change with prolonged exposure to LW :)
Comment author: MrMind 20 April 2011 12:12:55PM 5 points [-]

Hello everybody, I'm Stefano from Italy. I'm 30, and my story about becoming a rationalist is quite tortuous... as a kid I was raised as a christian, but not strictly so: my only obligation was to attend mass every sunday morning. At the same time since young age I was fond of esoteric and scientific literature... With hindsight, I was a strange kid: by the age of 13 I already knew quite a lot about such things as the Order of the Golden Dawn or General Relativity... My fascination with computer and artificial intelligence begun approximately at the same age, when I met a teacher that first taught me how to program: I then realized that this would be one of my greatest passion. To cut short a long story, during the years I discarded all the esoteric nonsense (by means of... well, experiments) and proceeded to explore deeper and deeper within physics, math and AI.

I found this site some month ago, and after a reasonable recognition and after having read a fair amount of the sequences, I feel ready to contribute... so here I am.

Comment author: MinibearRex 02 April 2011 05:59:44PM 5 points [-]

I started posting a while ago (and was lurking for a while beforehand), and only today found this post.

My parents were both science teachers, and I got an education in traditional rationality basically since birth (I didn't even know it had such a name as "traditional rationality", I assumed it was just how you were supposed to think). I've always used that experimental mindset in order to understand people and the rest of the universe. I'm an undergrad in the Plan II honors program at the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in Chemistry Pre-Med. A friend of mine found HP:MoR on StumbleUpon and shared it with me. I caught up with the story very quickly, and one day as I was bored waiting for Elizeer to post the next chapter, I came to Less Wrong. Lurked for a long time, read the sequences, and adopted technical rationality. One day I had something to say, so I created an account.

Goal in life: Astronaut.

Comment author: jslocum 03 March 2011 05:10:00PM *  5 points [-]

Hello, people.

I first found Less Wrong when I was reading sci-fi stories on the internet and stumbled across Three Worlds Collide. As someone who places a high value on the ability to make rational decisions, I decided that this site is definitely relevant to my interests. I started reading through the sequences a few months ago, and I recently decided to make an account so that I could occasionally post my thoughts in the comments. I generally only post things when I think I have something particularly insightful to say, so my posts tend to be infrequent. Since I am still reading through the sequences, you probably won't be seeing me commenting on any of the more recent posts for a while.

I'm 21 years old, and I live in Cambridge, Mass. I'm currently working on getting a master's degree in computer science. My classes for the spring term are in machine vision, and computational cognitive science; I have a decent background in AI-related topics. Hopefully I'll be graduating in August, and I'm not quite sure what I'll be doing after that yet.

Comment author: flori86 08 November 2010 04:23:10PM 5 points [-]

I'm Floris Nool a 24 year old recently graduated Dutch ex-student. I came across this site while reading Harry's new rational adventures, which I greatly enjoy by the way. I must say I'm intrigued by several of the subjects being talked about here. Although not everything makes sense at first and I'm still working my through the immense amounts of interesting posts on this site, I find myself endlessly scrolling through posts and comments.

The last few years I increasingly find myself trying to understand things, why they are like they are. Why I act like I do etc. Reading about the greater scientific theories and trying to relate to them in everyday life. While I do not understand as much as I want to, and probably never will seeing the amounts of information and theories out there, I hope to come to greater understanding of basically everything.

It's great to see so many people talking about these subjects, as in daily life hardly anyone seems to think about it like I do. Which can be rather frustrating when trying to talk about what I find interesting subjects.

I hope to be able to some day contribute to the community as I see other posters do, but until I feel comfortable enough about my understanding of everything going on here I will stay lurking for a while. Only having discovered the site two days ago doesn't exactly help.

Comment author: hangedman 13 October 2010 09:41:31PM 5 points [-]

Hi LW,

My name's Dan LaVine. I forget exactly how I got linked here, but I haven't been able to stop following internal links since.

I'm not an expert in anything, but I have a relatively broad/shallow education across mathematics and the sciences and a keen interest in philosophical problems (not quite as much interest in traditional approaches to the problems). My tentative explorations of these problems are broadly commensurate with a lot of the material I've read on this site so far. Maybe that means I'm exposing myself to confirmation bias, but so far I haven't found anywhere else where these ideas or the objections to them are developed to the degree they are here.

My aim in considering philosophical problems is to try to understand the relationship between my phenomenal experience and whatever causes it may have. Of course, it's possible that my phenomenal experience is uncaused, but I'm going to try to exhaust alternative hypotheses before resigning myself to an entirely senseless universe. Which is how I wind up as a rationalist -- I can certainly consider such possibilities as the impossibility of knowledge, that I might be a Boltzmann brain, that I live in the Matrix, etc., but I can't see any way to prove or provide evidence of these things, and if I take the truth of any of them as foundational to my thinking, it's hard to see what I could build on top of them.

Looking forward to reading a whole lot more here. Hopefully, I'll be able to contribute at least a little bit to the discussion as well.

Comment deleted 30 August 2010 10:52:01AM [-]
Comment author: aurasprw 24 August 2010 12:33:18AM 5 points [-]

Hey Lesswrong! I'm just going to ramble for a second..

I like art, social sciences, philosophy, gaming, rationality and everything that falls in between. Examples include Go, Evolutionary Psychology, Mafia (aka Werewolves), Improvisation, Drugs and Debate.

See you if I see you!

Comment author: EchoingHorror 26 July 2010 08:41:09PM 5 points [-]

Hello, community. I'm another recruit from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. After reading the first few chapters and seeing that it lacked the vagueness, unbending archetypes, and overt because the author says so theme that usually drives me away from fiction, then reading Less Wrong's (Eliezer's?) philosophy of fanfiction, I proceeded to read through the Sequences.

After struggling with the question of when I became a rationalist, I think the least wrong answer is that I just don't remember. I both remember less of my childhood than others seem to and developed more quickly. I could rationalize a few things, but I don't think that's going to be helpful.

Anyway, I'm 21 with an A.A. in Nothing in Particular and going for a B.S. in Mathematics and maybe other useful majors in November.

P.S. Quirrell FTW

Comment author: AndyCossyleon 08 July 2010 09:04:21PM *  5 points [-]

deleted

Comment author: SilasBarta 08 July 2010 09:27:17PM *  4 points [-]

Welcome to Less Wrong! You seem to know your way around pretty well already! Thanks for introducing yourself.

Also, I really appreciate this:

I alternatively describe myself as a naturalistic pantheist, since the Wikipedia article on it nails my self-perception on the head, not to mention it's less confrontational ...

The article says that of naturalistic pantheism:

Naturalistic pantheism (also known as Scientific Pantheism) is a naturalistic form of pantheism that encompasses feelings of reverence and belonging towards Nature and the wider Universe, concern for the rights of humans and all living beings, care for Nature, and celebration of life. It is realist and respects reason and the scientific method. It is based on philosophical naturalism and as such it is without belief in supernatural realms, afterlives, beings or forces

Wow, I had no idea you could believe all that and still count as a kind of theism! Best. Marketing. Ever.

Comment author: srjskam 15 June 2010 11:17:22PM *  5 points [-]

Heikki, 30, Finnish student of computer engineering. Found Less Wrong by via the IRC-channel of the Finnish Transhumanist Association, which was found by random surfing ("Oh, there's a name for what I am?")

As for becoming a rationalist, I'd say the recipe was no friends and a good encyclopedia... Interest in ideas, unhindered by the baggage of standard social activities. One of the most influential single things was probably finding evolution quite early on. I remember (might be a false memory) having thought it would sure make sense if a horse's hoof was just one big toe, and then finding the same classic observation explained in the mentioned encyclopedia... That or dinosaurs. Anyway, fast forward via teenage bible-bashing and a fair amount of (hard) scifi etc. to now being here.

As the first sentence might suggest, I'm not doing nor have done anything of much interest to anyone. Well. Back to lurking, thanks to SilasBarta for the friendly welcome :) .

Comment author: mitchellb 30 April 2010 03:38:57PM 5 points [-]

Hi, I`m Michèle. I'm 22 years old and studying biology in Germany. My parents are atheists and so am I.
I stumbled upon this blog, started reading and couldn't stop reading. Nearly every topic is very interesting for me and I'm really glad I found people to talk about these things! Sometimes I find myself over emotional and unable to get the whole picture of situations. I'm trying to work on that and I hope I could get some insight reading this blog.

Comment author: chillaxn 29 April 2010 01:54:22AM 5 points [-]

Hi. I'm Cole from Maryland. I found this blog through a list of "greatest blogs of the year." I've forgot who published that list.

I'm in my 23rd year. I value happiness and work to spread it to others. I've been reading this blog for about a month. I enjoy reading blogs like this, because I'm searching for a sustainable lifestyle to start after college.

Cheers

Comment author: Lorenzo 19 April 2010 08:57:03PM 5 points [-]

Huh, I guess I should have come here earlier...

I'm Lorenzo, 31, from Madrid, Spain (but I'm Italian). I'm an evolutionary psychologist, or try to be, working on my PhD. I'm also doing a Master's Degree in Statistics, in which I discovered (almost by accident) the Bayesian approach. As someone with a longstanding interest in making psychology become a better science, I've found this blog a very good place for clarifying ideas.

I've been a follower of Less Wrong after reading Eliezer's essays on Bayesian reasoning some 3-4 months ago. I've known the Bayes theorem for quite a long time, but little or nothing about the bayesian approach to propability theory. The frecuentist paradigm dominates much of psychology, which is a shame, because I think bayesian reasoning is much better suited to the study of mind. There is still a lot of misunderstanding about what a bayesian approach entails, at least in this part of the world. Oh, well. We'll deal with it.

Thanks and keep up the good work!

Comment deleted 21 February 2010 09:39:55PM [-]
Comment author: Leafy 18 February 2010 11:45:46PM 5 points [-]

Hi everyone.

My name is Alan Godfrey.

I am fascinated by rational debate and logical arguments, and I appear to have struck gold in finding this site! I am the first to admit my own failings in these areas but am always willing to learn and grow.

I'm a graduate of mathematics from Trinity Hall, Cambridge University and probability and statistics have always been my areas of expertise - although I find numbers so much more pleasant to play with than theorems and proofs so bear with me!

I'm also a passive member of Mensa. While most of it does not interest me the numerical, pattern spotting and spatial awareness puzzles that it is associated with have always been a big passion of mine.

I have a personal fascination in human psychology, especially my own in a narcissistic way! Although I have no skill in this area.

I currently work for a specialist insurance company and head the catastrophe modelling function, which uses a baffling mixture of all of the above! It was through this that I attended a brief seminar at the 21st Century School in Oxford which mentioned this site as an affiliation although I had already found it a few months previously.

I come to this site with open eyes and an open mind. I hope to contribute insightful observation, engage in healthy discussion and ultimately come away better than I came in.

Comment author: ThomasRyan 02 February 2010 05:48:29PM *  5 points [-]

Hello.

Call me Thomas. I am 22. The strongest force directing my life can be called an extreme phobia of disorder. I came across overcoming bias and Eliezer Yudkowsky's writings, around the same time, in high school, shortly after reading GEB and The Singularity Is Near.

The experience was not a revelation but a relief. I am completely sane! Being here is solace. The information here is mostly systematized, which has greatly helped to organize my thoughts on rationality and has saved me a great amount of time.

I am good at tricking people into thinking I am smart, which you guys can easily catch. And I care about how you guys will perceive me, which means that I have to work hard if I want to be a valuable contributor. Something I am not used to (working hard), since I do good enough work with minimal effort.

My greatest vices are romantic literature, smooth language, and flowery writing. From Roman de la Rose, to The Knight's Tale, to Paradise Lost, to One Hundred Years of Solitude. That crap is like candy to me.

Bad music repulses me. I get anxious and irritable and will probably throw a fit if I don't get away from the music. Anything meticulous, or tedious, will make me antsy and shaky. Bad writing also has the same effect on me. Though, I am punctilious. There's a difference.

My favorite band it Circulatory System, which speaks directly to my joys and fears and hopes. If you haven't listened to them, I highly recommend you do so. The band name means "Human." It is about what is means to be us, about the circular nature of our sentience, and about the circles drawn in history with every new generation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_jidcdzXuU

I have opted out of college. I do not learn well in lectures. They are too slow, tedious, and meticulous. Books hold my attention better.

My biggest mistake? In school, never practicing retaining information. I do not have my months memorized and my vocabulary is terrible. It was much funner to use my intelligence to "get the grade" than it was to memorize information. Now, this is biting me on the butt. I need to start practicing memorizing stuff.

I am currently in a good situation. My mom got a job far from her house, and she has farm animals. I made a deal with her, where I watch her house and the animals for free if she lets me stay there. I will be in this position for at least another year.

I have enough web design skills to be useful to web design firms, which brings me my income. I am also a hobbyist programmer, though not good enough yet to turn that skill into money.

I want to teach people to be more rational; that's what I want to do with my life. I am far from being the writer I want to be, and I have not yet made my ideas congruent and clear.

Anybody with good recommendations on how to best spend this year?

Thomas.

Comment author: XFrequentist 18 April 2009 08:31:20PM *  5 points [-]
  • Name: Alex Demarsh
  • Age: 26
  • Education: MSc Epidemiology/Biostatistics
  • Occupation: Epidemiologist
  • Location: Ottawa, Canada
  • Hobbies: Reading, travel, learning, sport.

I found OB/LW through Eliezer's Bayes tutorial, and was immediately taken in. It's the perfect mix of several themes that are always running through my head (rationality, atheism, Bayes, etc.) and a great primer on lots of other interesting stuff (QM, AI, ev. psych., etc). The emphasis on improving decision making and clear thinking plus the steady influx of interesting new areas to investigate makes for an intoxicating ambrosia. Very nice change from many other rationality blogs, which seem to mostly devote themselves to the fun-but-eventually-tiresome game of bashing X for being stupid/illogical/evil (clearly, X is all of these things and more, but that's not the point). Generally very nice writing, too.

As for real-life impact, LW has:

  • grown my reading list exponentially,
  • made me want to become a better writer,
  • forced me to admit that my math is nowhere near where it needs to be,
  • made my unstated ultimate goal of understanding the world as a coherent whole seem less silly, and
  • altered my list of possible/probable PhD topics.

I'll put some thought into my rationalist origins story, but it may have been that while passing several (mostly enjoyable) summers as a door-to-door salesman, I encountered the absolutely horrible decision making mechanisms of lots and lots of people. It kind of made me despair for the world, and probably made me aspire to do better. But that could be a false narrative.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 16 April 2009 09:24:33PM *  5 points [-]
  • Vladimir Nesov
  • Age: 24
  • Location: Moscow
  • MS in Computer Science, minor in applied math and physics, currently a grad student in CS (compiler technologies, static analysis of programs).

Having never been interested in AI before, I became obsessed with it about 2 years ago, after getting impressed with its potential. Got a mild case of AI-induced raving insanity, have been recuperating for a last year or so, treating it with regular dosage of rationality and solid math. The obsession doesn't seem to pass though, which I deem a good thing.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 April 2009 04:48:12PM *  5 points [-]

deleted

Comment author: rhollerith 16 April 2009 06:40:01PM *  4 points [-]

Most mystics reject science and rationality (and I think I have a pretty good causal model of why that is) but there have been scientific rational mystics, e.g., physicist David Bohm. I know of no reason why a person who starts out committed to science and rationality should lose that commitment through mystical training and mystical experience if he has competent advice.

My main interest in mystical experience is that it is a hole in the human motivational system -- one of the few ways for a person to become independent from what Eliezer calls the thousand shards of desire. Most of the people in this community (notably Eliezer) assign intrinsic value to the thousand shards of desire, but I am indifferent to them except for their instrumental value. (In my experience the main instrumental value of keeping a connection to them is that it makes one more effective at interpersonal communication.)

Transcending the thousand shards of desire while we are still flesh-and-blood humans strikes me as potentially saner and better than "implementing them in silicon" and relying on cycles within cycles to make everything come out all right. And the public discourse on subjects like cryonics would IMHO be much crisper if more of the participants would overcome certain natural human biases about personal identity and the continuation of "the self".

I am not a mystic or aspiring mystic (I became indifferent to the thousand shards of my own desire a different way) but have a personal relationship of long standing with a man who underwent the full mystical experience: ecstacy 1,000,000 times greater than any other thing he ever experienced, uncommonly good control over his emotional responses, interpersonal ability to attract trusting followers without even trying. And yes, I am sure that he is not lying to me: I had a business relationship with him for about 7 years before he even mentioned (causally, tangentially) his mystical experience, and he is among the most honest people I have ever met.

Marin County, California, where I live, has an unusually high concentration of mystics, and I have in-depth personal knowledge of more than one of them.

Mystical experience is risky. (I hope I am not the first person to tell you that, Stefan!) It can create or intensify certain undesirable personality traits, like dogmatism, passivity or a messiah complex, and even with the best advice available, there is no guarantee that one will not lose one's commitment to rationality. But it has the potential to be extremely valuable, according to my way of valuing thing.

If you really do want to transcend the natural human goal system, Stefan, I encourage you to contact me.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 16 April 2009 09:07:07PM *  3 points [-]

Most of the people in this community (notably Eliezer) assign intrinsic value to the thousand shards of desire, but I am indifferent to them except for their instrumental value.

Not so. You don't assign value to your drives because they were inbuilt in you by evolution, you don't value your qualities just because they come as a package deal, just because you are human [*]. Instead, you look at what you value, as a person. And of the things you value, you find that most of them are evolution's doing, but you don't accept all of them, and you look at some of them in a different way from what evolution intended.

[*] Related, but overloaded with other info: No License To Be Human.

Comment author: kajro 23 June 2012 12:06:26AM 4 points [-]

I'm a 20 year old mathematics/music double major at NYU. Mainly here because I want to learn how to wear Vibrams without getting self conscious about it.

Comment author: Kevin 23 June 2012 01:11:12AM 3 points [-]

I get nothing but positive social affect from Ninja Zemgears. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=zemgear

Cheaper than Vibrams, more comfortable, less durable, less agile, much friendlier looking.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 23 June 2012 01:05:22AM 3 points [-]
Comment author: kajro 23 June 2012 03:05:46AM 3 points [-]

Is this some kind of LW hazing, linking to academic papers in an introduction thread? (I joke, this looks super interesting).

Comment author: kmacneill 15 February 2012 06:52:04PM 4 points [-]

Hey, I've been an LW lurker for about a year now, and I think it's time to post here. I'm a cryonicist, rationalist and singularity enthusiast. I'm currently working as a computer engineer and I'm thinking maybe there is more I can do to promote rationality and FAI. LW is an incredible resource. I have a mild fear that I don't have enough rigorous knowledge about rationality concepts to contribute anything useful to most discussion.

LW has changed my life in a few ways but the largest are becoming a cryonicist and becoming polyamorous (naturally leaned toward this, though). I feel like I am in a one-way friendship with EY, does anyone else feel like that?

Comment author: Dmytry 29 December 2011 06:56:04PM 4 points [-]

I am a video game developer. I find most of this site fairly interesting albeit once in a while I disagree with description of some behaviour as irrational, or the explanation projected upon that behaviour (when I happen to see a pretty good reason for this behaviour, perhaps strategic or as matter of general policy/cached decision).

Comment author: DanPeverley 18 July 2011 02:36:10AM 4 points [-]

Salutations, LessWrong!

I am Daniel Peverley, I lurked for a few months and joined not too long ago. I was first introduced to this site via HPatMOR, my first and so far only foray into the world of fan-fiction. I've been raised as a mormon, and I've been a vague unbeliever for a few years, but the information on this site really solidified the doubts and problems I had with my religion. Just knowing how to properly label common logical fallacies has been vastly helpful in my life, and a few of the posts on social dynamics have likewise been of great utility. I'm seventeen, headed into my senior year of highschool, and on-track to attend a high end university. My hobbies include Warhammer 40k, watching anime, running, exercising, studying chinese, video games, webcomics, and reading and writing speculative fiction and poetry. I live in the skeptic-impoverished Salt Lake City area. I look forward to posting, but I'll probably LURK MOAR for a while just to make sure what I have to say is worth reading.

Comment author: artsyhonker 28 December 2010 01:36:56PM 4 points [-]

I came across a post on efficiency of charity, and joined in order to be able to add my comments. I'm not sure I would identify myself as a rationalist at all, though I share some of what I understand to be rationalist values.

I am a musician and a teacher. I'm also a theist, though I hope to be relatively untroublesome about this and I have no wish to proselytize. Rather, I'm interested in exploring rational ways of discussing or thinking about moral and ethical issues that have more traditionally been addressed within a religious framework.

Comment author: Deltamatic 22 December 2010 11:06:30AM *  4 points [-]

Hello all. I want to sign up for cryonics, but am not sure how. Is there a guide? What are the differences in the process for minors? [I pressed enter in the comment box but there aren't any breaks in the comment itself; how do you make breaks between lines in comments?] I'm a sixteen-year-old male from Louisiana in the US. I was raised Christian and converted to atheism a few months ago. I found Less Wrong from Eliezer's site--I don't remember how I found that--and have been lurking and reading sequences since.

Comment author: jkaufman 04 November 2010 09:57:19PM 4 points [-]

Jeff Kaufman. Working as a programmer doing computational linguistics in the boston area. Found "less wrong" twice: first through the intuitive explanation of bayes' theorem and then again recently through "hp and the methods of rationality". I value people's happiness, valuing that of those close to me more than that of strangers, but I value strangers' welfare enough that I think I have an obligation to earn as much as I can and live on as little as I can so I can give more to charity.

Comment author: Vaniver 27 October 2010 02:09:43AM *  4 points [-]

Hello!

I take Paul Graham's advice to keep my identity small, and so describing myself is... odd. I'm not sure I consider rationalism important enough to make it into my identity.

The most important things, I think, are that I'm an individualist and an empiricist. I considered "pragmatist" for the second example, and perhaps that would be more appropriate.

Perhaps vying for third place is that I'm an optimizer. I like thinking about things, I like understanding systems, I like replacing parts with better parts. I think that's what I enjoy about LW; there's quite a bit of interest in optimization around here. Now, how to make that function better... :P

Comment author: shokwave 14 October 2010 11:45:35AM 4 points [-]

Hi! 21 year old university dropout located in Melbourne, Australia. Coming from a background of mostly philosophy, linguistics, and science fiction but now recognising that my dislike for maths and hard science comes from a social dynamic at my high school: humanities students were a separate clique from the maths/sci students and both looked down on each other, and I bought into it to gain status with my group. So that's one major thing that LW has done for me in the few months I've been reading it: helped me recognise and eventually remove a rationalisation that was hurting my capabilities.

That explains why I stayed here; I think I first got here through something about the Agreement Theorem, as well as reading this pretty interesting Harry Potter fanfic. I'd gotten through to about ten chapter when I checked the author and thought it was quite odd that it was also LessWrong... but if you see an odd thing once, you start seeing it everywhere, right? So I very nearly chalked it up to some sort of perceptual sensitivity. The point about knowing biases making you weaker is very clear to me from that.

Anyway, I'm somewhat settled on being an author as a profession, I'd like to add to LessWrong in the capacity of exploring current philosophical questions that impinge on rationality, truthseeking, and understanding of the mind, and I would like to take from LessWrong the habit of being rational at all times.

Comment author: daedalus2u 20 July 2010 11:08:57PM 4 points [-]

Hi, my name is Dave Whitlock, I have been a rationalist my whole life. I have Asperger's, so rationalism comes very easily to me, too easily ;) I have a blog

http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/

Which is mostly about nitric oxide physiology, but that includes a lot of stuff. Lately I have been working a lot on neurodevelopment and especially on autism spectrum disorders.

I comment a fair amount in the blogosphere, Science Based Medicine, neurologica, skepchick, Left brain-right brain and sometimes Science blogs; pretty much only under the daedalus2u pseudonym. Sb seems to be in a bit of turmoil right now, so it is unclear how that will fall out.

I am extremely liberal and I think I come by that completely rationally coming from the premise that all people have the same human rights and the same human obligations to other humans (including yourself). This is pretty well codified in the universal declaration of human rights (which I think is insufficiently well followed in many places).

Comment author: utilitymonster 19 April 2010 12:31:25PM 4 points [-]

I'm a philosophy PhD student. I studied math and philosophy as an undergrad. I work on ethics and a smattering of Bayesian topics. I care about maximizing the sum of desirable experiences that happen in the future. In less noble moments, I care more immediately about advancing my career as a philosopher and my personal life.

I ran into OB a couple years ago when Robin Hanson came and gave a talk on disagreement at a seminar I was attending. I started reading OB, and then I drifted to LW territory a few months ago.

At first, much of the discussion here sounded crazy to me. It often still does. But I thought I'd give it a detailed look, since everyone here seems to have the same philosophical prejudices as me (Bayesian utilitarian atheist physicalists).

I like discussion of Bayesian topics and applied ethics best.

Comment author: misterpower 19 April 2010 06:17:07AM 4 points [-]

Bueno! I'm Jason from San Antonio, Texas. Nice to say 'hi' to all you nice people! (Nice, also, to inflate the number of comments for this particular post - give the good readers of Less Wrong an incrementally warmer feeling of camaraderie.)

I've been reading Overcoming Bias and Less Wrong for over a year since I found a whole bunch of discussions on quantum mechanics. I've stayed for the low, low cost intellectual gratification.

I (actually, formally) study physics and math, and read these blogs to the extent that I feel smarter...also, because the admittedly limited faculties of reason play out a fascinating and entertaining show of bravery against their own project of rationality. What I learn about these shortcomings helps to buttress my own monoliths, as much as what I learn might should could erode these pillars' unsubstantial foundations. It's a thrilling undertaking.

Thanks, all!

Comment author: oliverbeatson 11 September 2009 12:10:20AM *  4 points [-]

Hello! I'm Oliver, as my username should make evident. I'm 17 years old, and this site was recommended to me by a friend, whose LW username I observe is 'Larks'. I drift over to Overcoming Bias occasionally, and have RSS feeds to Richard Dawkins' site and (the regrettably sensationalist) NewScientist magazine. As far as I can see past my biases, I aspire to advance my understanding of the kinds of things I've seen discussed here, science, mathematics, rationality and a large chunk of stuff that at the moment rather confuses me.

I started education with a prominent interest in mathematics, which later expanded to include the sciences and writing, and consider myself at least somewhat lucky to have escaped ten years of light indoctrination from church-school education, later finding warm comfort in the intellectual bosom of Richard Dawkins. I've also become familiar with the likes of Alan Turing, Steven Pinker and yet others, from fields of philosophy, mathematics, computing and science.

I'm currently at college in the UK studying my second year of Mathematics, Philosophy, English Language and entering a first year of Physics (I have concluded a year of Computing). As much as I enjoy and value philosophy as a mechanism for genuine rational learning and discovery, I often despise the canon for its almost religious lack of progression and for affixing value to ultimately meaningless questions. It is for this reason that I value having access to Less Wrong et alia. Mathematics is a subject which I learned (the hard way) that I cannot live without.

I think I've said as much here as I can and as much as I need to, so I'll conclude with a toast: to a future of enlightenment, learning, overcoming biases and most importantly fun.

Comment author: dmfdmf 11 August 2009 07:30:50AM 4 points [-]
  • Name: David
  • Space: SF Bay Area
  • Time: 46
  • Education: MS Econ, MS Mechanical Engr.
  • Occupation: IT Consultant

I am interested in reason, how it works and how I can improve my own abilities. I have been an AI/Singularity skeptic but am reconsidering these ideas on reading Jaynes over the past year. Working on integrating the work of Rand, Aristotle, Jaynes, Turing, Godel and Shannon because I think all the essentials are covered in these author's work. Love the blog, especially the commitment to clear understanding but also clearly identifying that which we don't understand. Unfortunately many of the topics are too technical for me but I enjoy the discussion anyway.

Comment author: alexflint 23 July 2009 09:48:04AM *  4 points [-]

Hi,

I'm Alex and I'm studying computer vision at Oxford. Essentially we're trying to build AI that understands the visual world. We use lots of machine learning, probabilistic inference, and even a bit of signal processing. I arrived here through the Future of Humanity Institute website, which I found after listening to Nick Bostrom's TED talk. I've been lurking for a few weeks now but I thought I should finally introduce myself.

I find the rationalist discussion on LW interesting both on a personal interest level, and in relation to my work. I would like to get some discussion going on the relationship between some of the concrete tools and techniques we use in AI and the more abstract models of rationality being discussed here. Out of interest, how many people here have some kind of computer science background?

Comment author: AnnaSalamon 04 May 2009 07:52:43AM *  4 points [-]

(This is in response to a comment of brynema’s elsewhere; if we want LW discussions to thrive even in cases where the discussions require non-trivial prerequisites, my guess is that we should get in the habit of taking “already discussed exhaustively” questions to the welcome thread. Or if not here, to some beginner-friendly area for discussing or debating background material.)

brynema wrote:

So the idea is that a unique, complex thing may not necessarily have an appreciation for another unique complexity? Unless appreciating unique complexity has a mathematical basis.

Kind of. The idea is that:

  • Both human minds, and whatever AIs can be built, are mechanistic systems. We’re complex, but we still do what we do for mechanistic reasons, and not because the platonic spirit of “right thing to do”ness seeps into our intelligence.
  • Goals, and “optimization power / intelligence” with which to figure out how to reach those goals, are separable to a considerable extent. You can build many different systems, each of which is powerfully smart at figuring out how to hit its goals, but each of which has a very different goal from the others.
  • Humans, for example, have some very specific goals. We value, say, blueberry tea (such a beautiful molecule...), or particular shapes and kinds of meaty creatures to mate with, or particular kinds of neurologically/psychologically complex experiences that we call “enjoyment”, “love”, or “humor”. Each of these valued items has tons of arbitrary-looking details; just as you wouldn’t expect to find space aliens who speak English as their native language, you also shouldn’t expect an arbitrary intelligence to have human (as opposed to parrot, octopus, or such-and-such variety of space aliens) aesthetics or values.
  • If you’re dealing with a sufficiently powerful optimizing system, the question isn’t whether it would assign some value to you. The question is whether you are the thing that it would value most of all, compared to all the other possible things it could do with your atoms/energy/etc. Humans re-arranged the world far more than most species, because we were smart enough to see possibilities that weren’t in front of us, and to figure out ways of re-arranging the materials around us to better suit our goals. A more powerful optimizing system can be expected to change things around considerably more than we did.

That was terribly condensed, and may well not make total sense at this point. Eliezer’s OB posts fill in some of this in considerably better detail; also feel free, here in the welcome thread, to ask questions or to share counter-evidence.

Comment author: JGWeissman 17 April 2009 03:10:09AM 4 points [-]
  • Handle: JGWeissman
  • Name: Jonathan Weissman
  • Location: Orange County, California
  • Age: 27
  • Education: Majored in Math and Physics, minored in Computer Science
  • Occupation: Programmer
  • Hobby: Sailboat racing

I found OB through StumbleUpon.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 17 April 2009 12:01:54AM *  4 points [-]
  • Location: Washington DC, USA
  • Education: BS math (writing minor), PhD comp sci/artificial intelligence (cog sci/linguistics minors), MS bioinformatics
  • Jobs held (chronological): robot programmer in a failed startup, cryptologist, AI TA, lecturer, virtual robot programmer in a failed startup, distributed simulation project manager, AI research project manager, computer network security research, patent examiner, founder of failed AIish startup, computational linguist, bioinformatics engineer
  • Blog

I was a serious fundamentalist evangelical until about age 20. Factors that led me to deconvert included Bible study, successful simulations of evolution, and observation of radical cognitive biases in other Christians.

I was active on the Extropian mailing list, and published a couple of things in Extropy, about 1991-1995.

Like EY, I think AI is inevitable, and is the most important problem facing us. I have a lot of reservations about his plans, to the point of seeing his FAI as UFAI (don't ask in this thread). I think the most difficult problem isn't developing AI, or even making it friendly, but figuring out what kind of possible universes we should aim for; and we have a limited time in which we have large leverage over the future.

I prioritize slowing aging over work on AI. I expect that partial cures for aging will be developed 10-20 years before they are approved in the US, and so I want to be in a position to take published research and apply it to myself when the time comes.

I believe that rationality is instrumental, and repeatedly dissent when people on LW make what I see as ideological claims about rationality, such as that it is defined as that which wins; and at presenting rationality as a value-system or a lifestyle. There's room for that too; I mainly want people to recognize that being rational doesn't require all that.

Comment author: mattnewport 16 April 2009 06:47:36PM *  4 points [-]
  • Handle: mattnewport
  • Name: Matt Newport
  • Location: Vancouver, Canada
  • Age: 30
  • Occupation: Programmer (3D graphics for games)
  • Education: BA, Natural Sciences (experimental psychology by way of maths, physics, history and philosophy of science and computer science)

I'm here by way of Overcoming Bias which attracted me with its mix of topics I'm interested in (psychology, economics, AI, atheism, rationality). With a lapsed catholic mother and agnostic father I had a half-heartedly religious upbringing but have been an atheist for as long as I can remember thinking about it. Politically my parents were left-liberal/socialist and I would have described myself that way until my early 20s. I've been trending increasingly libertarian ever since.

I'm particularly interested in applying rationality to actually 'winning' in everyday life. I'm interested in the broad 'life-hacking' movement but think it could benefit from a more rigorously rational/scientific approach. I hope to see more discussion of this kind of thing on less wrong.

Comment author: lavalamp 16 April 2009 06:05:12PM 4 points [-]

Hi, I've been lurking for a few weeks and am likely to stay in lurker mode indefinitely. But I thought I should comment on the welcome thread.

I would prefer to stay anonymous at the moment, but I'm male, 20's, BS in computer programming & work as a software engineer.

As an outsider, some feedback for you all:

Interesting topics -- keep me reading Jargon -- a little is fine, but the more there is, the harder it is to follow. The fact that people make go (my favorite game) references is a nice plus.

I would classify myself as a theist at the moment. As such (and having been raised in a very christian environment), I have some opinions on how you guys could more effectively proselytize--but I'm not sure it's worth my time to speak up.

Comment author: ciphergoth 16 April 2009 08:13:03PM *  4 points [-]

Thanks for commenting, if this thread gives cause to you and more like you to stick their heads above the parapet and say hello it will have been a good thing.

People here have mixed feelings about the desirability of proselytization, since the ideas that are most vigorously proselytized are so often the worst. I think that we will want to do so, but we will want to work out a way of doing it that at least gives some sort of advantage to better ideas over worse but more appealing ones. I think we'll definitely want to hear from people like you who probably have more real experience in this field than many of us put together.

And since you're a theist, I'm afraid you'll be one of the people we're proelytizing to, so if you can teach us how to do it without pissing people off that would help too :-)

Comment author: ChrisHibbert 16 April 2009 06:23:25PM 3 points [-]

I have some opinions on how you guys could more effectively proselytize--but I'm not sure it's worth my time to speak up.

If you post about things that are interesting to you, we'll talk about them more.

If you act like you have something valuable to say, we'll read it and respond. We would all be likely to learn something in the process.

Comment author: jamesnvc 16 April 2009 05:04:52PM 4 points [-]
  • Handle: jamesnvc
  • Location: Toronto, ON
  • Age: 19
  • Education: Currently 2nd year engineering science
  • Occupation: Student/Programmer
  • Blog: http://jamesnvc.blogspot.com

As long as I can remember, I've been an atheist with a strong rationalist bent, inspired by my grandfather, a molecular biologist who wanted at least one grandchild to be a scientist. I discoverd Overcoming Bias a year or so ago and became completely enthralled by it: I felt like I had discovered someone who really knew what was going on and what they were talking about.

Comment author: Jack 16 April 2009 04:50:31PM 4 points [-]
  • Handle: Jack
  • Location: Washington D.C.
  • Age: 21
  • Education: Feeling pretty self-conscious about being the only person to post so far without a B.A. I'll finish it next year, major is philosophy with a minor in cognitive science and potentially another minor/major in government. After that its more school of some kind.

I wonder if those of us on the younger end of things will be dismissed more after posting our age and education. I admit to be a little worried, but I'm pretty sure everyone here is better than that. Anyway, I was a late joiner to OB (I think I got there after seeing a Robin Hanson bloggingheads) and then came here. I'm an atheist/materialist by way of Catholicism- but pretty bored by New Atheism. I was raised in a pretty standard liberal/left wing home but have moved libertarian. I'm very sympathetic to the "liberaltarian" idea. Free markets with direct and efficient redistribution are where its at.

Comment author: zaph 16 April 2009 04:49:24PM 4 points [-]

Handle: zaph Location: Baltimore, MD Age: 35 Education: BA in Psychology, MS in Telecommunications Occupation: System Performance Engineer

I'm mostly here to learn more about applied rationality, which I hope to use on the job. I'm not looking to teach anybody anything, but I'd love to learn more about tools people use (I'm mostly interested in software) to make better decisions.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 16 April 2009 04:37:30PM *  4 points [-]
  • Handle: You can see it just above. (Edit: I didn't realise that one can read LW with handles hidden, so: RichardKennaway.)
  • Name: Like the handle.
  • Gender: What the name suggests.
  • Location: Norwich, U.K (a town about two hours from London and 1.5 from Cambridge).
  • Age: Over 30 :-)
  • Education: B.Sc., D.Phil. in mathematics.
  • Occupation: Academic research. Formerly in theoretical computer science; since 10 to 12 years ago, applied mathematics and programming. (I got disillusioned with sterile crossword puzzle solving.)

Like, I suspect, most of the current readership, I'm here via OB. I think I discovered OB by chance, while googling to see if AI was still twenty years away (it was -- still is).

Atheist, materialist, and libertarian views typical for this group; no drastic conversion involved from any previous views, so not much of a rationalist origin story. My Facebook profile actually puts down my religion as "it's complicated", but I won't explain that, it's complicated.

Comment author: MrHen 16 April 2009 02:44:13PM 4 points [-]
  • Handle: MrHen
  • Name: Adam Babcock
  • Location: Tyler, TX
  • Age: 24
  • Education: BS in Computer Science, minors in Math and Philosophy
  • Occupation: Software engineer/programmer/whatever the current term is now

I found LW via OB via a Google search on AI topics. The first few OB posts I read were about Newcomb's paradox and those encouraged me to stick it on my blogroll.

Personal interests in rationality stem from a desire to eliminate "mental waste". I hold pragmatic principles to be of higher value than Truth for Truth's sake. As it turns out, this means something similar to systemized winning.

Comment author: ThoughtDancer 16 April 2009 05:59:46PM *  10 points [-]
  • Handle: thoughtdancer
  • Name: Deb
  • Location: Middle of nowhere, Michigan
  • Age: 44
  • Gender: Female
  • Education: PhD Rhetoric
  • Occupation: Writer-wannabe, adjunct Prof (formerly tenure-track, didn't like it)
  • Blog: thoughtdances Just starting, be gentle please

I'm here because of SoullessAutomaton, who is my apartment-mate and long term friend. I am interested in discussing rhetoric and rationality. I have a few questions that I would pose to the group to open up the topic.

1) Are people interested in rhetoric, persuasion, and the systematic study thereof? Does anyone want a primer? (My PhD is in the History and Theory of Rhetoric, so I could develop such a primer.)

2) What would a rationalist rhetoric look like?

3) What would be the goals / theory / overarching observations that would be the drivers behind a rationalist rhetoric?

4) Would a rationalist rhetoric be more ethical than current rhetorics, and if so, why?

5) Can rhetoric ever be fully rational and rationalized, or is the study of how people are persuaded inevitably or inherently a-rational or anti-rational (I would say that rhetoric can be rationalized, but I know too many scholars who would disagree with me here, either explicitly or implicitly)?

6) Question to the group: to what degree might unfamiliar terminology derived from prior discussions here and in the sister-blog be functioning as an unintentional gatekeeper? Corollary question: to what degree is the common knowledge of math and sciences--and the relevant jargon terms thereof--functioning as a gatekeeper? (As an older woman, I was forbidden from pursuing my best skill--math--because women "didn't study math". I am finding that I have to dig pretty deeply into Wikipedia and elsewhere to make sure I'm following the conversation--that or I have to pester SoullessAutomaton with questions that I should not have to ask. sigh)

Comment author: MBlume 16 April 2009 09:24:01PM *  5 points [-]

I rather like Eliezer's description of ethical writing given in rule six here. I'm honestly not sure why he doesn't seem to link it anymore.

Ethical writing is not "persuading the audience". Ethical writing is not "persuading the audience of things I myself believe to be true". Ethical writing is not even "persuading the audience of things I believe to be true through arguments I believe to be true". Ethical writing is persuading the audience of things you believe to be true, through arguments that you yourself take into account as evidence. It's not good enough for the audience unless it's good enough for you.

Comment author: mni 24 July 2009 09:41:16PM *  16 points [-]

Hello.

I've been reading Less Wrong from its beginning. I stumbled upon Overcoming Bias just as LW was being launched. I'm a young mathematician (an analyst, to be more specific) currently working towards a PhD and I'm very interested in epistemic rationality and the theory of altruist instrumental rationality. I've been very impressed with the general quality of discussion about the theory and general practice of truth-seeking here, even though I can think of places where I disagree with the ideas that I gather are widely accepted here. The most interesting discussions seem to be quite old, though, so reviving those discussions out of the blue hasn't felt like - for lack of a better word - a proper thing to do.

There are many discussions here of which I don't care about. A large proportion of people here are programmers or otherwise from a CS background, and that colors the discussions a lot. Or maybe it's just that the prospect of an AGI in recent future doesn't seem at all likely to me. Anyway, the AI/singularity stuff, the tangentially related topics that I bunch together with them, and approaching rationality topics from a programmer's point of view I just don't care about. Not very much, at least.

The self-help stuff, "winning is everything" and related stuff I'd rather not read. Well, I do my best not to. The apparent lack of concern for altruism in those discussions makes me even wish they wouldn't take place here in the first place.

And then there are the true failings of this community. I had been thinking of registering and posting in some threads about the more abstract sides of rationality, but I must admit I eventually got around to registering and posting because of the gender threads. But there's just so much bullshit going on! Evolutionary psychology is grossly misapplied (1). The obvious existence of oppressive cultural constructs (2) is flatly denied. The validity of anecdotes and speculation as evidence is hardly even questioned. The topics that started the flaming have no reason of even being here in the first place. This post pretty well sums up the failures of rationality here at Less Wrong; and that post has been upvoted to 25! Now, the failings and attitudes that surfaced in the gender debate have, of course, been visible for quite some time. But that the failures of thought seem so common has made me wonder if this community as a whole is actually worth wasting my time for.

So, in case you're still wondering, what has generously been termed "exclusionary speech" really drives people away (3). I'm still hoping that the professed rationality is enough to overcome the failure modes that are currently so common here (4). But unfortunately I think my possible contributions won't be missed if I rid myself of wishful thinking and see it's not going to happen.

It's quite a shame that a community with such good original intentions is failing after a good start. Maybe humans simply won't overcome their biases (5) yet in this day and age.

So. I'd really like to participate in thoughtful discussions with rationalists I can respect. For quite a long time, Less Wrong seemed like the place, but I just couldn't find a proper place to start (I dislike introductions). But now as I'm losing my respect for this community and thus the will to participate here, I started posting. I hope I can regain the confidence in a high level of sanity waterline here.

(Now a proper rationalist would, in my position, naturally reconsider his own attitudes and beliefs. It might not be surprising that I didn't find all too much to correct. So I might just as well assume that I haven't been mind-killed quite yet, and just make the post I wanted to.)

EDIT: In case you felt I was generalizing with too much confidence - and as I wrote here, I agree I was - see my reply to Vladimir Nesov's reply.

(1) I think failing to control for cultural influences in evolutionary psychology should be considered at least as much of a fail as postulating group selection. Probably more so.

(2) Somehow I think phrases like "cultural construct", especially when combined with qualifiers like "oppressive", trigger immediate bullshit alarms for some. To a certain extent, it's forgivable, as they certainly have been used in conjunction with some of the most well-known anti-epistemologies of our age. But remember: reversing stupidity doesn't make you any better off.

(3) This might be a good place to remind the reader that (our kind can't cooperate)[http://lesswrong.com/lw/3h/why_our_kind_cant_cooperate/]. (This is actually referring to many aspects of the recent debate, not just one.)

(4) Yes, I know, I can't cooperate either.

(5) Overcoming Bias is quite an ironic name for that blog. EDIT: This refers exclusively to many of Robin Hanson's posts about gender differences I have read. I think I saw a post linking to some of these recently, but I couldn't find a link to that just now. Anyway, this footnote probably went a bit too far.

Comment author: goldfishlaser 24 July 2009 10:22:20PM 4 points [-]

Interesting. You provide one counterexample to my opinion that the biased language wasn't driving away readers. I now have reason to believe I might have been projecting too much.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 25 July 2009 12:16:03PM *  3 points [-]

The evils of in-group bias are getting at me. I felt a bit of anger when reading this comment. Go figure, I rarely feel noticeable emotions, even in response to dramatic events. The only feature that could trigger that reaction seems to be the dissenting theme of this comment, the way it breached the normal narrative of the game of sane/insane statements. I wrote a response after a small time-out, I hope it isn't tainted by that unfortunate reaction.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 25 July 2009 01:07:16PM *  6 points [-]

I don't think it's in-group bias. If anything, people are giving mni extra latitude because he or she is seen as new here.

If an established member of the community were to make the same points, that much of the discussion is uninteresting or bullshit, that the community is failing and maybe not worth "wasting" time for, and to claim to have interesting things to say but make excuses for not actually saying them, I bet there would be a lot more criticism in response.

Comment author: MrHen 24 July 2009 09:50:42PM 3 points [-]

Welcome. :)

One thing I hope you have noticed is that there are different subgroups of people within the community that like or dislike certain topics. Adding content that you prefer is a good way to see more growth in those topics.

Comment author: Zvi 16 April 2009 08:37:53PM *  8 points [-]
  • Handle: Zvi
  • Name: Zvi Mowshowitz
  • Location: New York City
  • Age: 30
  • Education: BA, Mathematics

I found OB through Marginal Revolution, which then led to LW. A few here know me from my previous job as a professional Magic: The Gathering player and writer and full member of the Competitive Conspiracy. That job highly rewarded the rationality I already had and encouraged its development, as does my current one which unfortunately I can't say much about here but which gives me more than enough practical reward to keep me coming back even if I wasn't fascinated anyway. I'm still trying to figure out what my top level posts are going to be about when I get that far.

While I have told my Magic origin story I don't have one for rationality or atheism; I can't remember ever being any other way and I don't think anyone needs my libertarian one. If anything it took me time to realize that most people didn't work that way, and how to handle that, which is something I'm still working on and the part of OB/LW I think I've gained the most from.

Comment author: Skepxian 26 July 2010 03:44:45PM *  7 points [-]

Greetings, all. Found this site not too long ago, been reading through it in delight. It has truly energized my brain. I've been trying to codify and denote a number of values that I held true to my life and to discussion and to reason and logic, but was having the most difficult time. I was convinced I'd found a wonderful place that could help me when it provided me a link to the Twelve Virtues of Rationality, which neatly and tidily listed out a number of things I'd been striving to enumerate.

My origins in rationality basically originated at a very, very young age, when the things adults said and did didn't make sense. Some of it did, as a matter of fact, make more sense once I'd gotten older - but they could have at least tried to explain it to me - and I found that their successes too often seemed more like luck than having anything to do with their reasons for doing things. I suppose I became a rationalist out of frustration, one could say, at the sheer irrationality of the world around me.

I'm a Christian, and have applied my understanding of Rationality to Christianity. I find it holds up strongly, but am not insulted that not everyone feels that way. This site may be slanted atheist, but I find that rationalists have more in common with each other no matter their religious beliefs than a rationalist atheist has with a dogmatic atheist, or a rationalist Christian has with a dogmatic Christian, generally speaking.

I welcome discussion, dialog, and spirited debate, as long as you listen to me and I listen to you. I have a literal way of speaking, and don't tend to indulge in those lingual niceties that are technically untrue, which so many people hold strongly to. My belief is that if you don't want to discuss something, don't bring it up. So if I bring something up, I'd better darn well be able to discuss it. My belief is also that I should not strongly hold an opinion if I cannot strongly argue against my opinion, so I value any and all strong arguments against any opinion I hold.

I look forward to meeting many of you!

Comment author: arthurlewis 16 April 2009 04:13:56PM 7 points [-]
  • Handle: arthurlewis
  • Location: New York, NY
  • Age: 28
  • Education: BA in Music.
  • Occupation: Musician / Teacher / Mac Support Guy
  • Blog/Music: http://arthurthefourth.com

My career as a rationalist began when I started doing tech support, and realized the divide between successful troubleshooting and what most customers tried to do. I think the key to "winning" is to challenge your assumptions about how to win, and what winning is. I think that makes me an instrumental rationalist, but I'm not quite sure I understand the term. I'm here because OB and LW are among the closest things I've ever seen to an honest attempt to discover truth, whatever that may turn out to mean. And because I really like the phrase "Shut up and calculate!"

Note to new commenters: The "Help" link below the comment box will give you formatting tips.

Comment author: GloriaSidorum 06 March 2013 11:24:39PM 3 points [-]

Hello. My name is not, in fact, Gloria. My username is merely (what I thought was) a pretty-sounding Latin translation of the phrase "the Glory of the Stars", though it would actually be "Gloria Siderum" and I was mixing up declensions.

I read Three Worlds Collide more than a year ago, and recently re-stumbled upon this site via a link from another forum. Reading some of Elizier's series', I realized that most of my conceptions about the world were were extremely fuzzy, and they could be better said to bleed into each other than to tie together. I realized that a large amount of what I thought of as my "knowledge" is just a set of passwords, and that I needed to work on fixing that. And I figured that a good way to practice forming coherent, predictive models and being aware of what mental processes may affect those models would be to join an online community in which a majority of posters would have read a good number of articles on bias, heuristic, and becoming more rational, and will thus be equipped to some degree to call flaws in my thinking.

Comment author: mapnoterritory 02 June 2012 07:02:11AM *  3 points [-]

Hi everybody,

I've been lurking here for maybe a year and joined recently. I work as an astrophysicist and I am interested in statistics, decision theory, machine learning, cognitive and neuro-psychology, AI research and many others (I just wish I had more time for all these interests). I find LW to be a great resource and it introduced me to many interesting concepts. I am also interested in articles on improving productivity and well-being.

I haven't yet attended any meet-up, but if there was one in Munich I'd try to come.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 February 2012 05:18:53PM 3 points [-]

Hello,

I am a world citizen with very little sense of identification or labelling. Perhaps "Secular Humanist" could be my main affiliation. As for belonging to nations and companies and teams... I don't believe in this thrust-upon, unchosen unity. I'm a natural expatriate. And I believe this site is awesomeness incarnate.

Though some lesswrongers really seem to go out of their way to make their readers feel stupid... though I'd guess that's the whole point, right?

Comment author: kateblu 04 December 2011 03:44:36AM 3 points [-]

Hello. I found this place as a result of reading Yudkowski's intuitive explanation of Bayes Theorem. I think we are like a very large group of blind people each trying to describe the elephant on the basis of the small part we touch. However, if I can aggregate the tactile observations of a large number of us blind people, I might end up with a pretty good idea of what that elephant looks like. That's my goal - to build a coherent and consistent mental picture of that elephant.

Comment author: saph 09 July 2011 02:45:38PM *  3 points [-]

Hi,

  • Handle: saph
  • Location: Germany (hope my English is not too bad for LW...)
  • Birth: 1983
  • Occupation: mathematician

I was thinking quite a lot for myself about topics like

  • understanding and mind models
  • quantitative arguments
  • scientific method and experiments
  • etc...

and after discovering LW some days ago I have tried to compare my "results" to the posts here. It was interesting to see that many ideas I had so far were also "discovered" by other people but I was also a little bit proud that I have got so far on my own. Probably this is the right place for me to start reading :-).

I am an Atheist, of course, but cannot claim many other standard labels as mine. Probably "a human being with a desire to understand as much of the universe as possible" is a good approximation. I like learning and teaching, which is why I am interested in artificial intelligence. I am surrounded by people with strange beliefs, which is why I am interested in learning methods on how to teach someone to question his/her beliefs. And while doing so, I might discover the one or other wrong assumption in my own thinking.

I hope to spend some nice time here and probably I can contribute something in the future...

Comment author: free_rip 28 January 2011 01:58:38AM 3 points [-]

Does anyone know a good resource to go with Eliezer's comic guide on Lob's Theorem? It's confusing me a... well, a lot.

Or, if it's the simplest resource on it out there, are there any prerequisites for learning it/ skills/ knowledge that would help?

I'm trying to build up a basis of skills so I can participate better here, but I've got a long way to go. Most of my skills in science, maths and logic are pretty basic.

Thanks in advance.

Comment author: Dreaded_Anomaly 05 January 2011 01:40:46AM 3 points [-]

I'm a 22-year-old undergraduate senior, majoring in physics, planning to graduate in May and go to graduate school for experimental high energy physics. I also have studied applied math, computer science, psychology, and politics. I like science fiction and fantasy novels, good i.e. well-written TV, comic books, and the occasional video game. I've been an atheist and science enthusiast since the age of 10, and I've pursued rational philosophy since high school.

I got here via HPMoR, lurked since around the time Chapter 10 was posted, and found that a lot of the ideas resonated with my own conclusions about rationality. I still don't have a firm grasp on all of the vocabulary that gets used here, so if it seems like I'm expressing usual ideas in an unusual way, that's the reason.

Comment author: hmickali 06 December 2010 04:42:54AM 3 points [-]

I am college student who found this website through a friend and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

Comment author: peuddO 05 November 2010 11:10:20PM *  3 points [-]

I like to call myself Sindre online. I'm just barely 18, and I go to school in Norway - which doesn't have a school system entirely similar to any other that I'm familiar with, so I'll refrain from trying to describe what sort of education I'm getting - other than to say that I'm not very impressed with how the public school system is laid out here in Norway.

I found Less Wrong through a comment on this blog, where it was mentioned as a place populated by reasonably intelligent people. Since I thought that was an intriguing endorsement, I decided to give it a look. I've been lurking here ever since - up until now, anyway.

How I came to identify as a rationalist

There's really not much to that story. I can't even begin to remember at what age I endorsed reason as a guiding principle. I was mocked as a 'philosopher' as far back as when I was nine years old, and probably earlier still.

I value and work to achieve an understanding of human psychology, as well as a diversity of meditative achievements derived from yoga. There's certainly more, but that's all I can think of right now.

P.S.: Some of the aesthetic choices I've made in this post, like italicizing my name, are mostly just to see if I understood the instructions correctly and are otherwise arbitrary.

Comment author: [deleted] 28 October 2010 02:11:46AM *  3 points [-]

I'm currently an electrical engineering student. I suppose the main thing that drew me here is that I hold uncommon political views (market libertarian/minarchist, generally sympathetic to non-coercive but non-market collective action); I think that view is "correct" for now, but I'm sure that a lot of my reasons for holding those beliefs are faulty, or there'd probably be at least a few more people who agree with me. I want to determine exactly what's happening (and why) when politics and political philosophy come up in a conversation/internal monologue and I end up thinking to myself "Ah, good, my prior beliefs were exactly correct!", with the eventual goal of refining/discarding/bolstering those beliefs, because the chances that they actually were correct 100% of the time is vanishingly small.

That's what got me hooked on LW, at least, but pretty much everything here is interesting.

Comment author: hairyfigment 14 October 2010 11:01:59PM 3 points [-]

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. I'm a currently unemployed library school graduate with a fondness for rationality. I believe as a child I read most of Korzybski's Bible of general-semantics, which I now think breaks its own rules about probability but still tends to have value for the people most likely to believe in it.

I didn't plan to mention it before seeing this, but I practice an atheistic form of Crowley's mystical path. I hope to learn how to produce certain experiences in myself (for whoever I saw arguing about a priori certainty, call them non-Kantian experiences) while connected to whatever brain-scanners exist fourteen-odd years from now.

In that Crowley thread I saw a few bits that seem misleading, and I think I can explain some of them if people here still have an interest. Oh, and did Yvain really link to a copy of this without telling people to beware the quotation marks? That's just mean. ^_^

I also think Friendly AI seems like a fine idea, and I hope if the SIAI doesn't produce an FAI in EY's lifetime, they at least publicize a more detailed theory of Friendliness.

Comment author: edgar 12 August 2010 01:16:06PM 3 points [-]

Hello I am a professional composer/composition teacher and adjunct instructor teaching music aesthetics to motion graphic artists at the Fashion Institute of Technology and in the graduate computer arts department at the School of Visual Arts. I have a masters from the Juilliard School in composition and have been recorded on Newport Classics with Kurt Vonnegut and Michael Brecker.

I live and work in New York City. I spend my life composing and explaining music to students who are not musicians, connecting the language of music to the principles of the visual medium. Saying the accurate thing getting others to question me letting them find their way and admitting often that I am wrong is a life long journey.

Comment author: Alexei 02 August 2010 03:40:00PM 3 points [-]

Hello everyone!

I've been quietly lurking on this website for a while now, reading articles as fast as I can with much enthusiasm. I've read most of Eliezer's genius posts and started to read through others' posts now. I've came to this website when I learned about AI-in-a-box scenario. I am a 23 year old male. I have a B.S. in computer science. I like to design and program video games. My goal in life is to become financially independent and make games that help people improve themselves. I find the subject of rationality to be very interesting and helpful in general, though I have trouble seeing the application for the more scientific parts (bayes) of rationality in real life, since there is no <probability=x> tag attached to most events in life. I would like to pose a question to this community: do you think video games can help spread the message and the spirit of this website? What kind of video games will accomplish that? Would you be interested in working on a game or contributing to one in other ways (e.g. donations or play testing)? Or maybe instead of writing games I should just commit to S.I. and work on F.A.I.?

Comment author: dyokomizo 29 May 2010 11:29:40AM 3 points [-]

Hi, I'm Daniel. I've read OB for a long time and followed on LW right in the beginning, but work /time issues in the last year made my RSS reading queue really long (I had all LW posts in the queue). I'm a Brazilian programmer, long time rationalist and atheist.

Comment author: sclamons 19 April 2010 09:10:05PM 3 points [-]

Hello from the lurking shadows!

Some stats: * Name: Samuel Clamons * Birth Year: 1990 * Location: College of William and Mary or northern VA, depending on the time of year * Academic interests: Biology, mathematics, computer science *Personal interests: Science fiction, philosophy, understanding quantum mechanics, writing.

I've pretty much always been at least an aspiring rationalist, and I convinced myself of atheism at a pretty early age. My journey to LW started with my discovery of Aubrey de Gray in middle school and my discovery of the transhumanism movement in high school. Some internet prodding brought me to SL4, but I was intimidated with the overwhelming number of prior posts and didn't really read much of it. The little I did read, however, led me to Eliezer's Creating Friendly AI, which struck me on perusal as the most intelligently-written thing I'd read since The Selfish Gene. Earlier this year, the combination of reading through a few of Gardner Dozois' short "best of" short story collections and the discovery of Google Reader brought me to some of Eliezer's posts on AI and metaethics, and I've been reading through LW ever since. I'm currently plowing slowly through Eliezer's quantum physics sequence while trying not to fall behind too much on new threads.

My primary short-term goal is to learn as much as I can while I'm still young and plastic. My primary mid-range goals are to try to use technology to enhance my biology and to help medical immortality become practical and available while I'm still alive. My long-term goals include understanding physics, preserving what's left of the environment, and maximizing my happiness (while remaining within reasonable bounds of ethics).

I also have a passing but occasionally productive interest in writing science fiction, as well as a strong interest in reading it.

Comment author: arundelo 17 April 2010 12:43:06AM 3 points [-]

Hi! I've been on Less Wrong since the beginning. I'm finally getting around to posting in this thread. I found Less Wrong via Overcoming Bias, which I (presumably) found by wandering around the libertarian blogosphere.

Comment author: clarissethorn 15 March 2010 10:55:15AM 3 points [-]

I looked around for an FAQ link and didn't see one, and I've gone through all my preferences and haven't found anything relevant. Is there any way to arrange for followup comments (I suppose, the contents of my account inbox) to be emailed to me?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 15 March 2010 11:19:31AM 4 points [-]

Is there any way to arrange for followup comments (I suppose, the contents of my account inbox) to be emailed to me?

Not that I know of, I'm afraid. There are lots of requested features that we would implement if we had the programmatic resources, but alas, we don't. One just has to check if the envelope is red once in a while.

Comment author: markrkrebs 26 February 2010 02:07:57PM 3 points [-]

Hi! Vectored here by Robin who's thankfully trolling for new chumps and recommending initial items to read. I note the Wiki would be an awesome place for some help, and may attempt to put up a page there: NoobDiscoveringLessWrongLeavesBreadcrumbs, or something like that.

My immediate interest is argument: how can we disagree? 1+1=2. Can't that be extrapolated to many things. I have been so happy to see a non-cocky (if prideful) attitude in the first several posts that I have great hopes for what I may learn here. We have to remember ignorance is an implacable enemy, and being insulting won't defeat it, and we may be subject to it ourselves. I've notice I am.

First post from me is coming shortly. - mark krebs

Comment author: realitygrill 20 February 2010 04:40:51AM 3 points [-]

Hi. My name's Derrick.

I've been reading LW and HN for a while now but have only just started to learn to participate. I'm 23, ostensibly hold a bachelor's in economics, and interested in way too much - a dilettante of sorts. Unfortunately I have the talent of being able to sound like I know stuff just by quickly reading around a subject.

Pretty much have always been a Traditional Rationalist; kind of treated the site discussions as random (if extremely high impact) insights. Getting interested in Bayesian modeling sort of sent me on a path here. Lots of Eliezer's Coming of Age sequence reminds me of myself. Is 23 the magical age for Bayesian Enlightenment?

My current interest is in the Art of Strategy, in the way Musashi set down.

Just discovered the sequences and some recommended books! Think I'm going to be sidetracked for a while now...

Comment author: Kevin 27 January 2010 09:54:50AM *  3 points [-]

Hi. My name's Kevin. I'm 23. I graduated with a degree in industrial engineering from the University of Pittsburgh last month. I have a small ecommerce site selling a few different kinds of herbal medicine, mainly kratom, and I buy and sell sport and concert tickets. Previously I started a genetic testing startup and I am gearing up for my next startup.

I post on Hacker News a lot as rms. kfischer &$ gmail *^ com for email and IM, kevin143 on Twitter, kfischer on Facebook.

I signed up for Less Wrong when it was first started but have just recently reached the linguistic level where I feel I can almost keep up with the conversation. 9 months ago I found myself bored by the nearly exclusive focus on meta-conversation and rationality. I would just read Eliezer's less meta stuff. But since graduating from school and having a job that requires me to work no more than 2 hours a day, I've been able to dedicate myself to social hedonism/relationship building and philosophy. I've learned more in one month of posting here than I did in my last two years of college classes.

I posted my rationalist origin story a while ago. http://lesswrong.com/lw/2/tell_your_rationalist_origin_story/74

Comment author: ciphergoth 27 January 2010 10:41:10AM *  3 points [-]

I'm sure you're not surprised by this question :-) but if you're a rationalist, how come you sell herbal medicines?

Comment author: Kevin 27 January 2010 10:59:19AM *  3 points [-]

Herbal medicine is a polite euphemism for legal drugs. The bulk of our business comes from one particular leaf that does have legitimate medical use and is way, way more effective than a reasonable prior says it should be.

We were actually planning on commercializing the active ingredient (called 7H), based on this gap we found in the big pharma drug discovery process, and it would have been a billion dollar business. However, it would have required us to raise money for research, so we could iterate through all of the possible derivatives of the molecule and it's nearly impossible to raise money for research without having a PhD in the relevant area. We tried but kept hitting catch 22's.

At the most recent Startup School, I met someone who introduced me to a young CEO funded by top VCs who assured me that this idea fit the VC model perfectly, that he was pretty confident we could raise a million dollars for research and a patent, and that for something with potential like this, it did not matter at all that our team was incomplete, the VCs would find us people. I told him to give me a day to revise our one pager. I did a quick patent search and found that the Japanese discoverers of 7H had just filed a patent on all possible derivatives of 7H -- and they found some really awesome derivatives. They discovered 7H in 2001 and filed for the patent of the derivative molecules in 2009. For various reasons, we believed that their funding was not for all derivatives of 7H and that they were chasing an impossible pharmaceutical dream, but in retrospect we believe they were selectively publishing papers of their discoveries to throw others off of their tracks, why else would they have published the discovery of a medically useless derivative?

We came so close, but it always seemed a little too good to be true. There's always the next thing. For now, selling the leaf itself pays the rent.

PM or email for more details about the herb/molecule in question; I think it's probably inappropriate to post the links to my business or even the relevant Wikipedia page here.

Comment author: ideclarecrockerrules 06 January 2010 08:29:22AM 3 points [-]

Male, 26; Belgrade, Serbia. Graduate student of software engineering. Been lurking here for a few months, reading sequences and new stuff through RSS. Found the site through reddit, likely.

Self-diagnosed (just now) with impostor syndrome. Learned a lot from reading this site. Now registered an account to facilitate learning (by interaction), and out of desire to contribute back to the community (not likely to happen by insightful posts, so I'll check out the source code).

Comment author: Sly 03 January 2010 11:30:35AM 3 points [-]
  • Anthony
  • Age 21
  • Computer Science Student
  • Seattle/Redmond area

I have been lurking LW and OB since summer and finally became motivated/bored enough to post. I do not remember exactly how I came to find this site, but it was probably from following a link on some atheist blog or forum.

I became interested in rationality after taking some philosophy classes my freshman year and discovering that I had been wrong about religion. Everything followed from that.

Interests that you probably do not care about: Gaming and game design in particular. I have thus far made a flash game and an iPhone game, both of which are far too difficult for most people.

Comment author: Matt_Duing 17 October 2009 04:00:19AM 3 points [-]

Name: Matt Duing Age: 24 Location: Pittsburgh, PA Education: undergraduate

I've been an overcoming bias reader since the beginning, which I learned of from Michael Anissimov's blog. My long term goal is to do what I can to help mitigate existential risks and my short term goals include using rationality to become a more accurate map drawer and a more effective altruist.

Comment author: pdf23ds 21 September 2009 06:32:52AM 3 points [-]

Eh. Might as well.

Chris Capel (soon to be) Mount Pleasant, TX (hi MrHen!) Programmer

I've been following Eliezer since the days of CFAI, and was an early donor to SIAI. I struggle with depression, and thus am much less consistently insightful than I wish I'd be. I'm only 24 and I already feel like I've wasted my life, fallen permanently behind a bunch of the rest of you guys, which kind of screws up my high ambitions. Oh well.

I'd like to see a link explaining the mechanics of the karma system (like how karma relates to posting, for instance) in this post.

Comment author: Larks 11 August 2009 11:21:03PM 3 points [-]
Handle: Larks (also commonly Larklight, OxfordLark, Artrix)
Name: Ben
Sex: Male
Location: Eastbourne, UK Age: at 17 I suspect I may be the baby of the group?
Education: results permitting (to which I assign a probability in excess of 0.99) I'll be reading Mathematics and Philosophy at Oxford
Occupation: As yet, none. Currently applying for night-shift work at a local supermarket

I came to LW through OB, which I found as a result of Bryan Caplan's writing on Econlog (or should it be at Econlog?). I fit much of the standard pattern: atheist, materialist, economist, reductionist, etc. Probably my only departure is being a Conservative Liberal rather than a libertarian; an issue of some concern to me is the disconnect between the US/Econlog/OB/LW/Rationalist group and the UK/Classical Liberal/Conservative Party group, both of which I am interested in. Though Hayek, of course, pervades all.

In an impressive display, I suppose, of cognitive dissidence, I realised that the Bible and Evolution were contradictory in year 4 (age:8), and so came to the conclusion that the continents had originally been separated into islands on opposite sides of the planet. Eden was on one side, evolution on the other, and then continental drift occurred. I have since rejected this hypothesis. I came to Rationalism partly as a result of debating on the NAGTY website.

There are probably two notable influences OB/LW have had on my life. Firstly, I've begun to reflexively refer to what would or would not be empirically the case under different policies, states of affairs, etc., thus making discourse notably more efficient (or at least, it makes it harder for other people to argue back. Hard to tell the difference.)

Secondly, I've given up trying out out-argue my irrational Marxist friend, and instead make money off him by making bets about political and economic matters. This does not seem to have affected his beliefs, but it is profitable.

Comment author: Alicorn 11 August 2009 11:28:46PM *  3 points [-]

cognitive dissidence

I suspect you mean "cognitive dissonance". Perhaps you meant "cognitive dissidents", though, which is closer in spelling and would be a charming notion.

Edit: I looked it up and apparently, unbeknownst to me, "dissidence" is a word. But I still suspect that "dissonance" was meant and that "dissidents" would have been charming.

Comment author: conchis 11 August 2009 11:32:28PM *  4 points [-]

Dissidence (i.e. dissent/the state of being a dissident) actually seems to fit the context better than dissonance. I thought it was a nice turn of phrase.

Comment author: ajayjetti 23 July 2009 01:24:38AM *  3 points [-]

Hi

I am Ajay from India. I am 23. I was a highly rebellious person(still am i think), flunked out college, but completed it to become a programmer. But as soon as i finished college, i had severe depression because of a woman. I than thought of doing Masters degree in US, and applied, but then dropped the idea.Then i recaptured a long gone passion to make music, so i started drumming. I got accepted to berklee college of music, but then i lost interest to make a career out of it, i have some reasons for it. Then i started reading a lot(parallel to some programming). I face all the problems that an average guy faces(from social to economic problems). I graduated from one of the top colleges in india and now don't do my degree any justice. sometimes i think about the fact that all my colleagues are happy working with companies like google, oracle, etc. In a spur to make a balance, i gave gmat and applied and got admit to some supposedly TOP MBA schools. But i again lost interest for pursuing that thing. Now i write a bit, and read and i teach primary school mathematics in a local school. I love music ranging from art tatum to balamurlikrishna to illayraja to blues. I have been to US once when i was working with Perot systems bangalore(i was campus placed there). I would like to travel more, but i dont see that happening in near future because of financial contraints and constraints by governments of this world.

So, i always keep searching for some interesting "cures" on internet. One fine day i found paul grahams website through some Ajax site. Then i was reading something on hacker news, something related to cult following and stuff. There was a name mentioned there--Eliezer yudkowsky(hope i spelled it right). So i wikied that name. i found his site and then from there to less wrong and overcoming bias. Since 2 months, i am really obsessed by this blog. I dont know how will this help me "practically", but i am quite happy reading and demystifying my brain on certain things.

One thing: I have noticed that this forum has people who are relatively intellectual. Lot of them seem to be from developed countries, who have got very less idea about how things work in a country like India. Sitting here, all these things that are happening in "developed" world seem incredulous to me. I get biased like lot of indians who think US or Europe is a better place. I dont need to say that there are millions of indians in these regions. Then i think some more. So far, i dont think anybody is doing things any differently when it comes to living a life. Even in this community i dont see we are living differently, i dont know whether we even need to!!

We are born, we live and we die, that is the only truth that appeals me so far. One might think that a different state of my mind would give different opinion about what my brain thinks is "truth", but i doubt that. But i love this site, if anybody doubts that whether this site has practical benefits or not---I say that it is very useful. Onething stands out, people here are open to criticism. Even if we don't get truth from this site, we have so many better routes to choose from!! This site seems to be a map. For a timeless travel. Dont give a shit about what others have to say. People can come with theories about everything it seems. And i dont like when people have -ve stuff to say about this forum. I am and would like to loyal to the forum which serves me good.

I hope something happens that we are able to live for atleast 500 years. I think that would be a good time to know few things( my fantasy)

i have recently started writing at http://ajayjetti.com/

thanks for reading if u have reached here!!

Comment author: Cyan 21 April 2009 12:59:48AM 3 points [-]
  • Handle: Cyan
  • Age: 31
  • Species: Pan sapiens (male)
  • Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • Education: B.Sc. biochemistry, B.A.Sc. chemical engineering, within pages of finishing my Ph.D. thesis in biomedical engineering
  • Occupation: statistical programmer (would be a postdoc if I were actually post the doc) at the Ottawa Institute of Systems Biology

    I'm principally interested in Bayesian probability theory (as applied in academic contexts as opposed to rationalist ones). I don't currently attempt to apply rationalist principles in my own life, but I find the discussion interesting.

Comment author: orthonormal 17 April 2009 11:28:29PM 3 points [-]
  • Handle: orthonormal
  • Name: Patrick
  • Location: Berkeley, CA
  • Age: 25
  • Occupation: Math PhD Student
  • Interest in rationality: Purely epistemic, negligibly instrumental.
  • Atheist (see origin story), tentative one-boxer, MWI evangelist, cryocrastinator.

I'm driven towards rationality by three psychological factors— first, that I love to argue on philosophical and related matters, secondly that I'm curious about most fields of intellectual endeavor, and thirdly that it pains me to realize I'm being less than fully honest with myself.

Ye gods, that sounds like a personals ad. Should compensate by adding that I'm rather selfish compared to the standards of altruism espoused here; my typical desire is to observe and comprehend, not necessarily to help.

Comment author: swestrup 16 April 2009 08:33:12PM 3 points [-]

I never knew I had an inbox. Thanks for telling us about that, but I wonder if we might not want to redesign the home page to make some things like that a bit more obvious.

Comment author: jimrandomh 16 April 2009 06:04:12PM 3 points [-]
  • Handle: jimrandomh
  • Location: Bedford, MA
  • Age: 22
  • Education: Master's in CS
  • Occupation: Programmer

I read Less Wrong for the insight of the authors, which on other blogs would be buried in drivel. Unlike most blogs, Less Wrong has both norms against sloppy thinking and a population of users who know enough to enforce it. Many other blogs have posts that are three-fourths repetition of news stories that I've already seen, and comments that are three-fourths canned responses and confabulation.