Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012)

20 Post author: ciphergoth 18 July 2012 05:24PM

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, what you value, how you came to identify as a rationalist or how you found us. You can skip right to that if you like; the rest of this post consists of a few things you might find helpful. More can be found at the FAQ.

(This is the fourth incarnation of the welcome thread, the first three of which which now have too many comments. The text is by orthonormal from an original by MBlume.)

A few notes about the site mechanics

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It's definitely worth your time commenting on old posts; veteran users look through the recent comments thread quite often (there's a separate recent comments thread for the Discussion section, for whatever reason), and a conversation begun anywhere will pick up contributors that way.  There's also a succession of open comment threads for discussion of anything remotely related to rationality.
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There's actually more than meets the eye here: look near the top of the page for the "WIKI", "DISCUSSION" and "SEQUENCES" links.
LW WIKI: This is our attempt to make searching by topic feasible, as well as to store information like common abbreviations and idioms. It's a good place to look if someone's speaking Greek to you.
LW DISCUSSION: This is a forum just like the top-level one, with two key differences: in the top-level forum, posts require the author to have 20 karma in order to publish, and any upvotes or downvotes on the post are multiplied by 10. Thus there's a lot more informal dialogue in the Discussion section, including some of the more fun conversations here.
SEQUENCES: A huge corpus of material mostly written by Eliezer Yudkowsky in his days of blogging at Overcoming Bias, before Less Wrong was started. Much of the discussion here will casually depend on or refer to ideas brought up in those posts, so reading them can really help with present discussions. Besides which, they're pretty engrossing in my opinion.

A few notes about the community

If you've come to Less Wrong to discuss a particular topic, this thread would be a great place to start the conversation. By commenting 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.
If your welcome comment starts a huge discussion, then please move to the next step and create a LW Discussion post to continue the conversation; we can fit many more welcomes onto each thread if fewer of them sprout 400+ comments. (To do this: click "Create new article" in the upper right corner next to your username, then write the article, then at the bottom take the menu "Post to" and change it from "Drafts" to "Less Wrong Discussion". Then click "Submit". When you edit a published post, clicking "Save and continue" does correctly update the post.)
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If English is not your first language, don't let that make you afraid to post or comment. You can get English help on Discussion- or Main-level posts by sending a PM to one of the following users (use the "send message" link on the upper right of their user page). Either put the text of the post in the PM, or just say that you'd like English help and you'll get a response with an email address. 
Barry Cotter

A note for theists: you will find the Less Wrong community to be predominantly atheist, though not completely so, and most of us are genuinely respectful of religious people who keep the usual community norms. It's worth saying that we might think religion is off-topic in some places where you think it's on-topic, so be thoughtful about where and how you start explicitly talking about it; some of us are happy to talk about religion, some of us aren't interested. Bear in mind that many of us really, truly have given full consideration to theistic claims and found them to be false, so starting with the most common arguments is pretty likely just to annoy people. Anyhow, it's absolutely OK to mention that you're religious in your welcome post and to invite a discussion there.

A list of some posts that are pretty awesome

I recommend the major sequences to everybody, but I realize how daunting they look at first. So for purposes of immediate gratification, the following posts are particularly interesting/illuminating/provocative and don't require any previous reading:

More suggestions are welcome! Or just check out the top-rated posts from the history of Less Wrong. Most posts at +50 or more are well worth your time.

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

Comments (843)

Comment author: aaronsw 04 August 2012 09:56:50AM *  31 points [-]

I'm Aaron Swartz. I used to work in software (including as a cofounder of Reddit, whose software that powers this site) and now I work in politics. I'm interested in maximizing positive impact, so I follow GiveWell carefully. I've always enjoyed the rationality improvement stuff here, but I tend to find the lukeprog-style self-improvement stuff much more valuable. I've been following Eliezer's writing since before even the OvercomingBias days, I believe, but have recently started following LW much more carefully after a couple friends mentioned it to me in close succession.

I found myself wanting to post but don't have any karma, so I thought I'd start by introducing myself.

I've been thinking on-and-off about starting a LessWrong spinoff around the self-improvement stuff (current name proposal: LessWeak). Is anyone else interested in that sort of thing? It'd be a bit like the Akrasia Tactics Review, but applied to more topics.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 05 August 2012 08:50:08AM 5 points [-]

I've been thinking on-and-off about starting a LessWrong spinoff around the self-improvement stuff (current name proposal: LessWeak). Is anyone else interested in that sort of thing? It'd be a bit like the Akrasia Tactics Review, but applied to more topics.

Instead of a spinoff, maybe Discussion should be split into more sections (one being primarily about instrumental rationality/self-help).

Comment author: kilobug 24 August 2012 08:01:04AM 2 points [-]

Topic-related discussion seems a good idea to me. Some here may be interested in rationality/cognitive bias but not in IA or not in space exploration or not in cryonics, ...

This would also allow to lift the "bans" like "no politics", if it says in a dedicated section not "polluting" those not interested in it.

Comment author: ata 04 August 2012 11:21:09PM 3 points [-]

Yay, it is you!

(I've followed your blog and your various other deeds on-and-off since 2002-2003ish and have always been a fan; good to have you here.)

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 05 August 2012 06:54:28AM 2 points [-]

LessWeak - good idea. On the name: cute but I imagine it getting old. But it's not as embarrassing as something unironically Courage Wolf, like 'LiveStrong'.

Comment author: Emile 04 August 2012 01:23:27PM 2 points [-]

Welcome to LessWrong!

Apparently I used to comment on your blog back in 2004 - my, how time flies!

Comment author: Dahlen 18 July 2012 09:10:02PM *  21 points [-]

'Twas about time that I decided to officially join. I discovered LessWrong in the autumn of 2010, and so far I felt reluctant to actually contribute -- most people here have far more illustrious backgrounds. But I figured that there are sufficiently few ways in which I could show myself as a total ignoramus in an intro post, right?

I don't consider my gender, age and nationality to be a relevant part of my identity, so instead I'd start by saying I'm INTP. Extreme I (to the point of schizoid personality disorder), extreme T. Usually I have this big internal conflict going on between the part of me that wishes to appear as a wholly rational genius and the other part, who has read enough psychology and LW (you guys definitely deserve credit for this) to know I'm bullshitting myself big time.

My educational background so far is modest, a fact for which procrastination is the main culprit. I'm currently working on catching up with high school level math... so far I've only reviewed trigonometry, so I'm afraid I won't be able to participate in more technical discussions around here. Aside from a few Khan Academy videos, I'm still ignorant about probability; I did try to solve that cancer probability problem though, and when put like that into a word problem, I used Bayes' theorem intuitively. (Funny thing is, I still don't understand the magic behind it, even if I can apply it.) I know no programming beyond really elementary C++ algorithms; I have a pretty good grasp of high school physics, minus relativity and QM. I am seeking to do everything in my power to correct these shortcomings, and when/if I achieve results, I'll be happy to post my findings about motivation & procrastination on LW, if anyone is interested.

That which I have in common with the rest of this community is a love for rational, intelligent and productive discussions. I'm hugely disappointed with the overwhelming majority of internet and RL debates. Many times I've found myself trying to be the voice of reason and pointing out flaws in people's reasoning, even when I agreed with the core idea, only to have them tell me that I'm being too analytical and that I should... what... close off my mind and stop noticing mistakes, right? So I come here seeking discussions with people who would listen to reason and facilitate intellectually fruitful debates.

I'm very eager to help spread the knowledge about cognitive biases and educate people in the art of good reasoning.

I'm also interested (although not necessarily well-versed, as mentioned above) in most topics people here are interested in -- everything concerning mathematics and science, as well as philosophy and the mind (which are, by comparison, my two strongest points).

There are quite a few ways in which I don't fit the typical LW mold, though, and I'm mentioning this so that I find out whether any of these are going to be problematic in our interaction.

  • For one, I'm not particularly interested in AI and transhumanism. Not opposed to, just indifferent. The only related topic which interests me is life extension research. In the eventuality that some people might try to change my mind about this from the get-go, as I've seen some do with other newbies, I know you probably have some very good arguments for your position, but hopefully nobody's going to mind one less potential AI enthusiast. My interests are spread thin enough as they are.
  • I seem to be significantly more left-leaning than the majority of folks here. I'm decidedly not dogmatic about it, though, and on occasion I speak out against heavily ideological discourse even when it has a central message that I agree with.
  • Kind of clueless and mathematically illiterate at this moment.

This has to be getting rather long, so I'll stop here, hoping that I've said everything that I believed to be relevant to an intro post.

Comment author: Swimmer963 20 July 2012 02:03:12AM 2 points [-]


Many times I've found myself trying to be the voice of reason and pointing out flaws in people's reasoning, even when I agreed with the core idea, only to have them tell me that I'm being too analytical and that I should... what... close off my mind and stop noticing mistakes, right?

That's interesting... I don't think I've ever had someone respond to my pointing out flaws in this way. I've had people argue back plenty of times, but never tell me that we shouldn't be arguing about it. Can you give some examples of topics where this has happened? I would be curious what kind of topics engender this reaction in people.

Comment author: juliawise 20 July 2012 04:00:12PM *  10 points [-]

I've seen this happen where one person enjoys debate/arguing and another does not. To one person it's an interesting discussion, and to the other it feels like a personal attack. Or, more commonly, I've seen onlookers get upset watching such a discussion, even if they don't personally feel targeted. Specifically, I'm remembering three men loudly debating about physics while several of their wives left the room in protest because it felt too argumentative to them.

Body language and voice dynamics can affect this a lot, I think - some people get loud and frowny when they're excited/thinking hard, and others may misread that as angry.

Comment author: Nornagest 20 July 2012 06:27:15PM *  5 points [-]

I ended up having to include a disclaimer in the FAQ for an older project of mine, saying that the senior staff tends to get very intense when discussing the project and that this doesn't indicate drama on our part but is actually friendly behavior. That was a text channel, though, so body dynamics and voice wouldn't have had anything to do with it. I think a lot of people just read any intense discussion as hostile, and quality of argument doesn't really enter into it -- probably because they're used to an arguments-as-soldiers perspective.

Comment author: Dahlen 21 July 2012 02:37:59PM 5 points [-]

Oh, it's not a topic-specific behavior. Every time I go too far down a chain of reasoning ("too far" meaning as few as three causal relationships), sometimes people start complaining that I'm giving too much thought to it, and imply they are unable to follow the arguments. I'm just not surrounded by a lot of people that like long and intricate discussions.

(Funnily, both my parents are the type that get tired listening to complex reasoning, and I turned out the complete opposite.)

Comment author: Swimmer963 22 July 2012 03:02:34AM 6 points [-]

I'm just not surrounded by a lot of people that like long and intricate discussions.

That is...intensely frustrating. I've had people tell me that "well, I find all the points you're trying to make really complicated, and it's easier for me to just have faith in God" or that kind of thing, but I've never actually been rebuked for applying an analytical mindset to discussions. Props on having acquired those habits anyway, in spite of what sounds like an unfruitful starting environment!

Comment author: iceman 19 July 2012 11:05:25PM 20 points [-]

I've commented infrequently, but never did one of these "Welcome!" posts.

Way back in the Overcoming Bias days, my roomate raved constantly about the blog and Eliezer Yudkowsky in particular. I pattern matched his behaviour to being in a cult, and moved on with my life. About two years later (?), a common friend of ours recommended Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which I then read, which brought me to Lesswrong, reading the Sequences, etc. About a year later, I signed up for cryonics with Alcor, and I now give more than my former roomate to the Singularity Institute. (He is very amused by this.)

I spend quite a bit of time working on my semi-rationalist fanfic, My Little Pony: Friendship is Optimal, which I'll hopefully release on a timeframe of a few months. (I previously targeted releasing this damn thing for April, but...planning fallacy. I've whittled my issue list down to three action items, though, and it's been through it's first bout of prereading.)

Comment author: Alicorn 19 July 2012 11:19:00PM 15 points [-]

My Little Pony: Friendship is Optimal


Comment author: maia 26 July 2012 12:39:06AM 2 points [-]

Could I convince you to perhaps post on the weekly rationality diaries about progress, or otherwise commit yourself, or otherwise increase the probability that you'll put this fic up soon? :D

Comment author: [deleted] 19 July 2012 10:45:01PM 20 points [-]

Hello everyone! I've been a lurker on here for awhile, but this is my first post. I've held out on posting anything because I've never felt like I knew enough to actually contribute to the conversation. Some things about me:

I'm currently 22, female, and a recent graduate of college with a degree in computer science. I'm currently employed as a software engineer at a health insurance company, though I am looking into getting into research some day. I mainly enjoy science, playing video games, and drawing.

I found this site through a link on the Skeptics Stack Exchange page. The post was about cryonics, which is how I got over here. I've been reading the site for about six months now and I have found it extremely helpful. It has also been depressing, though, because I've since realized many of the "problems" in the world were caused by the ineptitude of the species and aren't easily fixed. I've had some problems with existential nihilism since then and if anyone has any advice on the matter, I'd love to hear it.

My journey to rationality probably started with atheism and a real understanding of the scientific method and human psychology. I grew up Mormon, which has since given me some interesting perspectives into groupthink and the general problem of humanity. Leaving Mormonism is what prompted me into understanding why and how so many people could be so systematically insane.

In some ways, I've also found this very isolating because I now have a hard time relating to a lot of people. Just sitting back and watching the ways people destroy themselves and others is very frustrating. It's made worse by my knowledge that I must also be doing this to myself, albeit on a smaller level.

Anyway, I enjoy meeting you all and I will try to comment more on the site! I really enjoy this site and everyone on it seems to have very good comments.

Comment author: wdmacaskill 09 November 2012 05:57:42PM 19 points [-]

Hi All,

I'm Will Crouch. Other than one other, this is my first comment on LW. However, I know and respect many people within the LW community.

I'm a DPhil student in moral philosophy at Oxford, though I'm currently visiting Princeton. I work on moral uncertainty: on whether one can apply expected utility theory in cases where one is uncertain about what is of value, or what one one ought to do. It's difficult to do so, but I argue that you can.

I got to know people in the LW community because I co-founded two organisations, Giving What We Can and 80,000 Hours, dedicated to the idea of effective altruism: that is, using one's marginal resources in whatever way the evidence supports as doing the most good. A lot of LW members support the aims of these organisations.

I woudn't call myself a 'rationalist' without knowing a lot more about what that means. I do think that Bayesian epistemology is the best we've got, and that rational preferences should conform to the von Neumann-Morgenstern axioms (though I'm uncertain - there are quite a lot of difficulties for that view). I think that total hedonistic utilitarianism is the most plausible moral theory, but I'm extremely uncertain in that conclusion, partly on the basis that most moral philosophers and other people in the world disagree with me. I think that the more important question is what credence distribution one ought to have across moral theories, and how one ought to act given that credence distribution, rather than what moral theory one 'adheres' to (whatever that means).

Comment author: MixedNuts 09 November 2012 06:30:02PM 6 points [-]

Pretense that this comment has a purpose other than squeeing at you like a 12-year-old fangirl: what arguments make you prefer total utilitarianism to average?

Comment author: wdmacaskill 09 November 2012 07:42:13PM *  6 points [-]

Haha! I don't think I'm worthy of squeeing, but thank you all the same.

In terms of the philosophy, I think that average utilitarianism is hopeless as a theory of population ethics. Consider the following case:

Population A: 1 person exists, with a life full of horrific suffering. Her utility is -100.

Population B: 100 billion people exist, each with lives full of horrific suffering. Each of their utility levels is -99.9

Average utilitarianism says that Population B is better than Population A. That definitely seems wrong to me: bringing into existence people whose lives aren't worth living just can't be a good thing.

Comment author: Nisan 09 November 2012 06:34:35PM 4 points [-]

I'm glad you're here! Do you have any comments on Nick Bostrom and Toby Ord's idea for a "parliamentary model" of moral uncertainty?

Comment author: wdmacaskill 09 November 2012 07:38:52PM 4 points [-]

Thanks! Yes, I'm good friends with Nick and Toby. My view on their model is as follows. Sometimes intertheoretic value comparisons are possible: that is, we can make sense of the idea that the difference in value (or wrongness) between two options A and B one one moral theory is greater, lesser, or equal to the difference in value (or wrongness) between two options C and D on another moral theory. So, for example, you might think that killing one person in order to save a slightly less happy person is much more wrong according to a rights-based moral view than it is according to utilitarianism (even though it's wrong according to both theories). If we can make such comparisons, then we don't need the parliamentary model: we can just use expected utility theory.

Sometimes, though, it seems that such comparisons aren't possible. E.g. I add one person whose life isn't worth living to the population. Is that more wrong according to total utilitarianism or average utilitarianism? I have no idea. When such comparisons aren't possible, then I think that something like the parliamentary model is the right way to go. But, as it stands, the parliamentary model is more of a suggestion than a concrete proposal. In terms of the best specific formulation, I think that you should normalise incomparable theories at the variance of their respective utility functions, and then just maximise expected value. Owen Cotton-Barratt convinced me of that!

Sorry if that was a bit of a complex response to a simple question!

Comment author: beoShaffer 09 November 2012 06:57:27PM *  2 points [-]

Hi Will,

I woudn't call myself a 'rationalist' without knowing a lot more about what that means.

I think most LWer's would agree that; "Anyone who tries to practice rationality as defined on Less Wrong." is a passible description of what we mean by 'rationalist'.

Comment author: wdmacaskill 09 November 2012 07:48:26PM 2 points [-]

Thanks for that. I guess that means I'm not a rationalist! I try my best to practice (1). But I only contingently practice (2). Even if I didn't care one jot about increasing happiness and decreasing suffering in the world, then I think I still ought to increase happiness and decrease suffering. I.e. I do what I do not because it's what I happen to value, but because I think it's objectively valuable (and if you value something else, like promoting suffering, then I think you're mistaken!) That is, I'm a moral realist. Whereas the definition given in Eliezer's post suggests that being a rationalist presupposes moral anti-realism. When I talk with other LW-ers, this often seems to be a point of disagreement, so I hope I'm not just being pedantic!

Comment author: thomblake 09 November 2012 08:01:30PM 5 points [-]

Whereas the definition given in Eliezer's post suggests that being a rationalist presupposes moral anti-realism

Not at all. (Eliezer is a sort of moral realist). It would be weird if you said "I'm a moral realist, but I don't value things that I know are objectively valuable".

It doesn't really matter whether you're a moral realist or not - instrumental rationality is about achieving your goals, whether they're good goals or not. Just like math lets you crunch numbers, whether they're real statistics or made up. But believing you shouldn't make up statistics doesn't therefore mean you don't do math.

Comment author: AliceKingsley 19 July 2012 05:57:17PM 19 points [-]

Hi! I got here from reading Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which I think I found on TV Tropes. Once I ran out of story to catch up on, I figured I'd start investigating the source material.

I've read a couple of sequences, but I'll hold off on commenting much until I've gotten through more material. (Especially since the quality of discussions in the comment sections is so high.) Thanks for an awesome site!

Comment author: Despard 20 July 2012 01:13:23AM *  18 points [-]

Hello everyone,

Thought it was about time to do one of these since I've made a couple of comments!

My name's Carl. I've been interested in science and why people believe the strange things they believe for many years. I was raised Catholic but came to the conclusion around the age of ten that it was all a bit silly really, and as yet I have found no evidence that would cause me to update away from that.

I studied physics as an undergrad and switched to experimental psychology for my PhD, being more interested at that point in how people work than how the universe does. I started to study motor control and after my PhD and a couple of postdocs I know way more about how humans move their arms than any sane person probably should. I've worked in behavioural, clinical and computational realms, giving me a wide array of tools to use when analysing problems.

My current postdoc is coming to an end and a couple of months ago I was undergoing somewhat of a crisis. What was I doing, almost 31 and with no plan for my life? I realised that motor control had started to bore me but I had no real idea what to do about it. Stay in science, or abandon it and get a real job? That hurts after almost a decade of high-level research. And then I discovered, on Facebook, a link to HPMOR. And then I read it all, in about a week. And then I found LW, and a job application for curriculum design for a new rationality institute, and I wrote an email, and then flew to San Francisco to participate in the June minicamp...

And now I'm in the midst of writing some fellowship applications to come to Berkeley and study rationality - specifically how the brain is Bayesian in some ways but not in others, and how that can inform the teaching of rationality. (Or something. It's still in the planning stages!) I'm also volunteering for CFAR at the moment by helping to find useful papers on rationality and cognitive science, though that's on somewhat of a back burner since these fellowships are due very soon. Next month, in fact.

I've started a new blog: it's called 'Joy in the Merely Real', and at the moment I'm exploring a few ideas about the Twelve Virtues of Rationality and what I think about them. You can find it at:


Looking forward to doing more with this community in the coming months and years. :)

Comment author: OnTheOtherHandle 19 July 2012 07:01:10AM *  50 points [-]


  • Age: Years since 1995
  • Gender: Female
  • Occupation: Student

I actually started an account two years ago, but after a few comments I decided I wasn't emotionally or intellectually ready for active membership. I was confused and hurt for various reasons that weren't Less Wrong's fault, and I backed away to avoid saying something I might regret. I didn't want to put undue pressure on myself to respond to topics I didn't fully understand. Now, after many thousands of hours reading and thinking about neurology, evolutionary psychology, and math, I'm more confident that I won't just be swept up in the half-understood arguments of people much smarter than I am. :)

Like almost everyone here, I started with atheism. I was raised Hindu, and my home has the sort of vague religiosity that is arguably the most common form in the modern world. For the most part, I figured out atheism on my own, when I was around 11 or 12. It was emotionally painful and socially costly, but I'm stronger for the experience. I started reading various mediocre atheist blogs, but I got bored after a couple of years and wanted to do something more than shoot blind fish in tiny barrels. I wanted to build something up, not just tear something down (no matter how much it really should be torn down.)

The actual direct link to Less Wrong came from TV Tropes. I suspect it's one of the best gateway drugs because TV Tropes, while not explicitly atheist or rationalist, does more to communicate the positive ideals and emotional memes of LW-style rationality than most of the atheosphere does. For the first time, I got the sense that "our" way of thinking could be so much more powerful than simply bashing religion and astrology.

One important truth beyond atheism that I have slowly come to accept is inborn IQ differentials, between individuals and groups of individuals. I had to face the fact that P(male| IQ 2 standard deviations above mean) was significantly higher than 50%. I had to deal with the fact that historical oppression probably wasn't the end-all be-all explanation for why women on average hadn't done as much inventing and discovering and brilliant thinking as men. I had to face the fact that mere biology may have systematically biased my half of the population against greatness. And it hurt. I had to fight the urge to redefine intelligence and/or greatness to assuage the pain.

I further learned that my brain was modular, and the bits of me that I choose to call "I" don't constitute everything. My own brain could sabotage the values and ideals and that "I" hold so dearly. For a long time I struggled with the idea that everything I believed in and loved was fake, because I couldn't force my body to actually act accordingly. Did I value human life? Why wasn't I doing everything I possibly could to save lives, all the time? Did I value freedom and autonomy and gender equality? Why could I not help sometimes being attracted to domineering jerks?

It took me a while to accept that the newly-evolved, conscious, abstractly-reasoning, self-reflecting "I" simply did not have the firepower to bully ancient and powerful urges into submission. It took me a while to accept that my values were not lies simply because my monkey brain sometimes contradicted them. The "I" in my brain does not have as much power as she would like; that does not mean she doesn't exist.

Other, non-rationality related information: I love writing, and for a long time I convinced myself that therefore I would love being a novelist. Now, I recognize that I would much rather compose a non-fiction or reflective essay, although ideas for fiction stories still flood in and I rarely do much about it due to laziness and/or fear. I fell in love with Avatar: The Last Airbender for its great storytelling and its combination of intelligence and idealism. I adore Pixar and many Disney movies for the sweetness and heart. I like somewhat traditional-sounding music with easily discernible lyrics that tells a story; I can't get into anything that involves screaming or deliberate disharmony. Show-tunes are great. :)

I don't want to lose the hope/idealism/inner happiness that makes me able to in-ironically enjoy Disney and Pixar and Avatar; I consciously cultivate it and am lucky to have it. If this disposition will be "destroyed by the truth"...well, I have a choice to make then.

Comment author: Swimmer963 19 July 2012 09:03:36AM 16 points [-]

Welcome to Less Wrong, and I for one am glad to have you here (again)! You sound like someone who thinks very interesting thoughts.

I had to face the fact that mere biology may have systematically biased my half of the population against greatness. And it hurt. I had to fight the urge to redefine intelligence and/or greatness to assuage the pain.

I can't say that this is something that has ever really bothered me. Your IQ is what it is. Whether or not there's an overall gender-based trend in one direction or another isn't going to change anything for you, although it might change how people see you. (If anything, I found that I got more attention as a "girl who was good at/interested in science"...which, if anything, was irritating and made me want to rebel and go into a "traditionally female" field just because I could.

Basically, if you want to accomplish greatness, it's about you as an individual. Unless you care about the greatness of others, and feel more pride or solidarity with females than with males who accomplish greatness (which I don't), the statistical tendency doesn't matter.

I don't want to lose the hope/idealism/inner happiness that makes me able to in-ironically enjoy Disney and Pixar and Avatar; I consciously cultivate it and am lucky to have it. If this disposition will be "destroyed by the truth"...well, I have a choice to make then.

I think that more than idealism, what I wouldn't want to lose is a sense of humour. Idealism, in the sense of "believing that the world is good deep down/people will do the best they can/etc", can be broken by enough bad stuff happening. A sense of humour is a lot harder to break.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 19 July 2012 09:39:43AM *  5 points [-]

Idealism, in the sense of "believing that the world is good deep down/people will do the best they can/etc", can be broken by enough bad stuff happening. A sense of humour is a lot harder to break.

Arguably, if it was "broken" this way it would be a mistake (specifically, of generalizing from too small a sample size). I have a job where I am constantly confronted with suffering and death, but at the end of the day, I can still laugh just like everyone else, because I know my experience is a biased sample and that there is still lots of good going on in the world.

Comment author: OnTheOtherHandle 19 July 2012 04:58:33PM *  8 points [-]

I know that it's not particularly rational to feel more affiliation with women than men, but I do. It's one of the things my monkey brain does that I decided to just acknowledge rather than constantly fight. It's helped me have a certain kind of peace about average IQ differentials. The pain I described in the parent has mellowed. Still, I have to face the fact that if I want to major in, say, applied math, chances are I might be lonely or below-average or both. I wish I had the inner confidence to care about self-improvement more than competition, but as yet I don't.

ETA: I characterize "idealism" as a hope for the future more than a belief about the present.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 19 July 2012 09:11:20PM *  32 points [-]

Still, I have to face the fact that if I want to major in, say, applied math, chances are I might be lonely or below-average or both.

As long as you know your own skills, there is no need to use your gender as a predictor. We use the worse information only in the absence of better information; because the worse information can be still better than nothing. We don't need to predict the information we already have.

When we already know that e.g. "this woman has IQ 150", or "this woman has won a mathematical olympiad" there is no need to mix general male and female IQ or math curves into the equation. (That's only what you do when you see a random woman and you have no other information.)

If there are hundred green balls in the basket and one red ball, it makes sense to predict that a randomly picked ball will be almost surely green. But once you have randomly picked a ball and it happened to be red... then it no longer makes sense to worry that this specific ball might still be green somehow. It's not; end of story.

If you had no experience with math yet, then I'd say that based on your gender, your chances to be a math genius are small. But that's not the situation; you already had some math experience. So make your guesses based on that experience. Your gender is already included in the probability of you having that specific experience. Don't count it twice!

Comment author: Bugmaster 26 July 2012 10:49:54PM 5 points [-]

If you had no experience with math yet, then I'd say that based on your gender, your chances to be a math genius are small.

To be perfectly accurate, any person's chances of being a math genius are going to be small anyway, regardless of that person's gender. There are very few geniuses in the world.

Comment author: ViEtArmis 19 July 2012 05:37:55PM 6 points [-]

It is particularly not rational to ignore the effect of your unconscious in your relationships. That fight is a losing battle (right now), so if having happy relationships is a goal, the pursuit of that requires you pay attention.

There is almost no average IQ differential, since men pad out the bottom as well. Greater chromosomal genetic variations in men lead to stupidity as often as intelligence.

Really, this gender disparity only matters at far extremes. Men may pad out the top and bottom 1% (or something like that) in IQ, but applied mathematicians aren't all top 1% (or even 10%, in my experience). It is easy to mistake finally being around people who think like you do (as in high IQ) with being less intelligent than them, but this is a trick!

Comment author: OnTheOtherHandle 19 July 2012 07:17:45PM *  5 points [-]

There is almost no average IQ differential, since men pad out the bottom as well.

Sorry, you're right, I did know that. (And it's exasperating to see highly intelligent men make the rookie mistake of saying "women are stupid" or "most women are stupid" because they happen to be high-IQ. There's an obvious selection bias - intelligent men probably have intelligent male friends but only average female acquaintances - because they seek out the women for sex, not conversation.)

I was thinking about "IQ differentials" in the very broad sense, as in "it sucks that anyone is screwed over before they even start." I also suffer from selection bias, because I seek out people in general for intelligence, so I see the men to the right of the bell curve, while I just sort of abstractly "know" there are more men than women to the left, too.

Comment author: philh 19 July 2012 10:22:00PM 9 points [-]

And it's exasperating to see highly intelligent men make the rookie mistake of saying "women are stupid" or "most women are stupid" because they happen to be high-IQ. There's an obvious selection bias - intelligent men probably have intelligent male friends but only average female acquaintances - because they seek out the women for sex, not conversation.

Another possible explanation comes to mind: people with high IQs consider the "stupid" borderline to be significantly above 100 IQ. Then if they associate equally with men and women, the women will more often be stupid; and if they associate preferentially with clever people, there will be fewer women.

(This doesn't contradict selection bias. Both effects could be at play.)

Comment author: ViEtArmis 20 July 2012 02:37:58PM 6 points [-]

You'd have to raise the bar really far before any actual gender-based differences showed up. It seems far more likely that the cause is a cultural bias against intellectualism in women (women will under-report IQ by 5ish points and men over-report by a similar margin, women are poorly represented in "smart" jobs, etc.). That makes women present themselves as less intelligent and makes everyone perceive them as less intelligent.

Comment author: juliawise 20 July 2012 03:46:57PM *  4 points [-]

Does anyone know of a good graph that shows this? I've seen several (none citing sources) that draw the crossover in quite different places. So I'm not sure what the gender ratio is at, say, IQ 130.

Comment author: Vaniver 20 July 2012 04:26:33PM 2 points [-]

La Griffe Du Lion has good work on this, but it's limited to math ability, where the male mean is higher than the female mean as well as the male variance being higher than the female variance.

The formulas from the first link work for whatever mean and variance you want to use, and so can be updated with more applicable IQ figures, and you can see how an additional 10 point 'reporting gap' affects things.

Comment author: OnTheOtherHandle 21 July 2012 01:38:51AM 2 points [-]

Unfortunately, intelligence in areas other than math seem to be an "I know it when I see it" kind of thing. It's much harder to design a good test for some of the "softer" disciplines, like "interpersonal intelligence" or even language skills, and it's much easier to pick a fight with results you don't like.

It could be that because intelligence tests are biased toward easy measurement, they focus too much on math, so they under-predict women's actual performance at most jobs not directly related to abstract math skills.

Comment author: OnTheOtherHandle 21 July 2012 01:53:41AM 2 points [-]

You're right; my explanation was drawn from many PUA-types who had said similar things, but this effect is perfectly possible in non-sexual contexts, too.

There's actually little use in using words like "stupid", anyway. What's the context? How intelligent does this individual need to be do what they want to do? Calling people "stupid" says "reaching for an easy insult," not "making an objective/instrumentally useful observation."

Sure, there will be some who say they'll use the words they want to use and rail against "censorship", but connotation and denotation are not so separate. That's why I didn't find the various "let's say controversial, unspeakable things because we're brave nonconformists!" threads on this site to be all that helpful. Some comments certainly were both brave and insightful, but I felt on the whole a little bit of insight was brought at the price of a whole lot of useless nastiness.

Comment author: shminux 19 July 2012 05:12:46PM 7 points [-]

I had to face the fact that mere biology may have systematically biased my half of the population against greatness. And it hurt. I had to fight the urge to redefine intelligence and/or greatness to assuage the pain.

Consciously keeping your identity small and thus not identifying with everyone who happens to have the same internal plumbing might be helpful there.

Comment author: OnTheOtherHandle 19 July 2012 07:14:04PM 6 points [-]

PG is awesome, but his ideas do basically fall into the category of "easier said than done." This doesn't mean "not worth doing," of course, but practical techniques would be way more helpful. It's easier to replace one group with another (arguably better?) group than to hold yourself above groupthink in general.

Comment author: shminux 19 July 2012 07:43:33PM *  5 points [-]

easier said than done

My approach is to notice when I want to say/write "we", as opposed to "I", and examine why. That's why I don't personally identify as a "LWer" (only as a neutral and factual "forum regular"), despite the potential for warm fuzzies resulting from such an identification.

There is an occasional worthy reason to identify with a specific group, but gender/country/language/race/occupation/sports team are probably not good criteria for such a group.

Comment author: GLaDOS 19 July 2012 01:05:34PM *  5 points [-]

Great to see you here and great to hear you took the time to read up on the relevant material before jumping in. I'm confident that you will find many people who comment quite a bit don't have such prudence, so don't be surprised if you outmatch a long time commenter. (^_^)

For the first time, I got the sense that "our" way of thinking could be so much more powerful than simply bashing religion and astrology.

Yesss! This is exactly how I felt when I found this community.

Comment author: Xachariah 20 July 2012 12:53:10AM *  4 points [-]

I fell in love with Avatar: The Last Airbender for its great storytelling and its combination of intelligence and idealism.

I don't want to lose the hope/idealism/inner happiness that makes me able to in-ironically enjoy Disney and Pixar and Avatar

I'm not sure about Disney, but the you should still be able to enjoy Avatar. Avatar (TLA and Korra) is in many ways a deconstruction of magical worlds. They take the basic premise of kung-fu magic and then let that propagate to it's logical conclusions. The TLA war was enabled by rapid industrialization when one nation realized they could harness their breaking the laws of thermodynamics for energy. The premise of S1 Korra is exploring social inequality in the presence of randomly distributed magical powers.

In these ways, Avatar is less Harry Potter and more HPMoR.

Comment author: wsean 18 July 2012 07:22:02PM 17 points [-]

Hi! Long-time lurker, first-time... joiner?

I was inspired to finally register by this post being at the top of Main. Not sure yet how much I'll actually post, but the removal of the passive barrier of, you know, not actually being registered is gone, so we'll see.

Anyway. I'm a dude, live in the Bay Area, work in finance though I secretly think I'm actually a writer. I studied cog sci in college, and that angle is what I tend to find most interesting on Less Wrong.

I originally came across LW via HPMoR back in 2010. Since then, I've read the Sequences, been to a few meetups, and attended the June minicamp (which, P.S., was awesome).

I'm still struggling a bit with actually applying rationality tools in my life, but it's great to have that toolbox ready and waiting. Sometimes... I hear it calling out to me. "Sean! This is an obvious place to apply Bayes! Seaaaaaaan!"

Comment author: Nisan 18 July 2012 08:01:00PM 5 points [-]


Comment author: Davidmanheim 20 July 2012 12:11:04AM *  14 points [-]

Hi all,

Not quire recently joined, but when I first joined, I read some, then got busy and didn't participate after that.

Age: Not yet 30. Former Occupation: Catastrophe Risk Modeling New Occupation: Graduate Student, Public Policy, RAND Corporation.

Theist Status: Orthodox Jew, happy with the fact that there are those who correctly claim that I cannot prove that god exists, and very aware of the confirmation bias and lack of skepticism in most religious circles. It's one reason I'm here, actually. And I'll be glad to discuss it in the future, elsewhere.

I was initially guided here, about a year ago, by a link to The Best Textbooks on Every Subject . I was a bit busy working at the time, building biased mathematical models of reality. (Don't worry, they weren't MY biases, they were those of the senior people and those of the insurance industry. And they were normalized to historical experience, so as long as history is a good predictor of the future...) So I decided that I wanted to do something different, possibly something with more positive externalities, less short term thinking about how the world could be more profitable for my employer, and more long-term thinking about how it could be better for everyone.

Skip forward; I'm going to be going to graduate school for Policy Analysis at RAND, and they asked us to read Thinking Fast and Slow, by Kahneman - and I'm a big fan of his. While reading and thinking about it, I wanted to reference something I read on here, but couldn't remember the name of the site. I ended up Googling my way to a link to HP:MOR, which I read in about a day, (yesterday, actually) and a link back here. So now LR is in my RSS reader, and I'm here to improve myself and my mind, and become a bit less wrong.

Comment author: maia 19 July 2012 05:35:41PM *  13 points [-]

I've been commenting for a few months now, but never introduced myself in the prior Welcome threads. Here goes: Student, electrical engineering / physics (might switch to math this fall), female, DC area.

I encountered LW when I was first linked to Methods a couple years ago, but found the Sequences annoying and unilluminating (after having taken basic psych and stats courses). After meeting a couple of LWers in real life, including my now-boyfriend Roger (LessWrong is almost certainly a significant part of the reason we are dating, incidentally), I was motivated to go back and take a look, and found some things I'd missed: mostly, reductionism and the implications of having an Occam prior. This was surprising to me; after being brought up as an anti-religious nut, then becoming a meta-contrarian in order to rebel against my parents, I thought I had it all figured out, and was surprised to discover that I still had attachments to mysticism and agnosticism that didn't really make any sense.

My biggest instrumental rationality challenge these days seems to be figuring out what I really want out of life. Also, dealing with an out-of-control status obsession.

To cover some typical LW clusters: I am not signed up for cryonics, and am not entirely convinced it is worth it. And I am interested in studying AI, but mostly because I think it is interesting and not out of Singularity-related concern. (I get the feeling that people who don't share the prominent belief patterns about AI/cryonics hereabouts think they are much more of a minority than they actually are.)

Comment author: candyfromastranger 26 July 2012 04:13:11AM 12 points [-]

I highly doubt that I'll be posting articles or even joining discussions anytime soon, since right now, I'm just getting started on reading the sequences and exploring other parts of the site, and don't feel prepared yet to get involved in discussions. However, I'll probably comment on things now and then, so because of that (and, honestly, just because I'm a very social person), I figured I might as well post an introduction here.

I appreciate the way that discussions are described as ending on here, because I've noticed in other debates that "tapping out" is seen as running away, and the main trait that gives me problems in my quest for rationality is that I'm inherently a competitive person, and get more caught up in the idea of "winning" than of improving my thinking. I'm working on this, but if I do get involved in discussions, the fact that they aren't seen as much as competitions here compared to other places should be helpful to me.

Anyway, I guess I'll introduce myself. I'm Alexandra, and I'm a seventeen year old high-school student in the United States (I applied to the camp in August, but I never received any news about it, so I assume that I wasn't accepted). Like many people here, I found out about this website through Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, but I've been interested in improving my rational thinking since I was young. I grew up in a secular and intellectual home, so seeing the world and myself realistically have always been major goals for myself, and I've always naturally tried to apply logical thinking and the scientific method to my problems, but I've never really formally studied rationality (though I did take statistics last year).

I'm pretty smart, but as a high school student (especially one who, due to various bad experiences with the school system, only really found motivation and purpose in school-work less than a year ago), I don't have too much technical knowledge, which I hope to change. I'm more experienced in aggressive self-awareness than I am in more technical ideas (such as the contrast between Bella from Luminosity and Harry in HPMOR). I'm not really interested in a future in rationality work (and, while I'm interested in transhumanism, I don't really see myself being pulled in that direction for a career), I just want to improve my own thinking in order to better use my mind as a tool to achieve my goals.

While I might come across it on here, I actually don't act very intellectual in my usual social interactions (especially compared to my younger brother, who's very openly and almost aggressively rational). I usually keep my rationality to myself except for certain situations, and use it internally to figure out the best way to approach situations, but I usually come across as much more flippant and frivolous than I actually am (especially since I'm very much an extrovert). I'm too misanthropic to expect rationality from others, so I prefer to use my inner logical side to figure out how to interact with people on their respective levels in a way that works best for me. I can understand the desire to appear as rational and intelligent as you truly are, I just am a very utilitarian person and have found that placing less emphasis on that side of myself works best for me.

I'm used to most people that I debate with being irrational and easily upset. It never used to bother me, because I consider my intelligence to be a mental tool of mine rather than a personality trait, and because my naturally competitive personality meant that I still enjoyed debates that fell into petty conflict, but recently (maybe because I'm maturing, maybe because I'm busier these days), I've found myself getting bored with that sort of thing. So I'm definitely interested in intellectual discussions on here, though I might not involve myself in them until I'm better prepared.

One thing that I've noticed about myself is that, in discussions, I tend to insist on responding to every single point made by others rather than just selecting some to focus on (before I realized that's what people were doing, it used to bother me that others wouldn't respond to every individual point I made). I'm not sure whether that's something shared by other members of this website or just a personal quirk.

This is getting rambly because I'm a long-winded person, but I'll add a bit more (mostly non-rationality-related) information. I'm not a theist or a spiritual person, but atheism seems obvious enough to me that I don't see much point in discussing it anymore (unless the more "New Age"-y members of my family get a little too pushy with me). I'm interested in physics, math, foreign languages, literature, singing, exploring urban areas, climbing things, transhumanism (especially life-extension, because I want to live forever) and throwing parties. I have a strong appreciation for the arts, but I don't personally do anything artistic (other than singing, which is just a hobby), and I'm easily entertained by the small pleasures in life (good food, pretty views, attractive people of either gender, and fluffy blankets). I really like cats and books and the nighttime, and I'm more interested in clothes and makeup than might be expected from an eccentric, science-loving rationalist with quite a few geeky interests, but people are complex. I tend to be a bit surreal when I'm not purposefully trying to be serious.

Comment author: Bugmaster 26 July 2012 06:06:29AM 2 points [-]

I applied to the camp in August, but I never received any news about it, so I assume that I wasn't accepted

I'm not affiliated with SIAI or the summer camps in any way, but IMO this sounds like a breakdown somewhere in the organization's communication protocols. If I were you, I wouldn't just assume that I wasn't accepted, I would ask for an explanation.

Comment author: CoffeeStain 08 February 2013 11:15:39AM *  11 points [-]

Hey everyone,

As I continue to work through the sequences, I've decided to go ahead and join the forums here. A lot of the rationality material isn't conceptually new to me, although much of the language is very much so, and thus far I've found it to be exceptionally helpful to my thinking.

I'm a 24 year old video game developer, having worked on graphics on a particular big-name franchise for a couple years now. It's quite the interesting job, and is definitely one of the realms I find the heady, abstract rationality tools to be extremely helpful. Rationality is what it is, and that seems to be acknowledged here, a fact I'm quite grateful for.

When I'm not discussing the down-to-earth topics here, people may find I have a sometimes anxiety-ridden attachment to certain religious ideas. Religious discussion has been extremely normal for me throughout my life, so while the discussion doesn't make me uncomfortable, my inability to come to answers that I'm happy with does, and has caused me a bit of turmoil outside of discussion. Obviously there is much to say about this, and much people may like to say to me, but I'd like to first get through all the sequences, get all of my questions about it all answered, pay attention a bit to the discussions here, and I'll go from there. I have no grand hopes to finally put these beliefs to rest, but I will go to lengths to see whether it is something I should do. To pick either seems to me to suppose I have a Way to rationality, if I understand the point correctly. I would invite any and all discussion on the topic, and I appreciate the little "welcome to Theists" in the main post here. :)

See you all around.

Comment author: kirpi 21 July 2012 08:18:09AM *  11 points [-]

Hello. I am from Istanbul, Turkey (A Turkish Citizen born and raised). I came across LessWrong on a popular Turkish website called EkşiSözlük. Since then, this is the place I checked to see what's new when there's nothing worth reading on Google Reader and I have time. (So long posts you have!)

I am 31 years old and I have a BSc in Computer Science and MSc in Computational Sciences (Research on Bioinformatics). But then, like most of the people in my country does, I've landed upon a job where I can't utilize any of these information. Information Security :)

Why did I complain about my job? Here is why:

I've been long since looking for "the best way to have lived a life". What I mean by this is, I have to say, at the moment of death "I lived my life the best way I could, and I can die blissfully". This may come off a bit cliché but bear in mind that I'm relatively new to this rationality thing.

While I was learning Computer Science for the first time, I saw there was great opportunity in relating computational sciences to social sciences so as to understand inner workings of human beings. This I realised when the Law&Ethics instructor asked us to write an essay on what would be "the best way to live your life" and I was then learning "Greedy Algorithms" Granted there would be many gaps in my arguments but my case was like this: "You can't predict how long you will live. So the best way to search for the (sub)optimal life was to utilize a greedy algorithm. That is, at every decision point, you have to select the best alternative that maximizes your utility at that time." You soon come to learn that this is easier said than done. (No long term goals, no relationships.. etc) And greedy algorithms may generate a sub-optimal solution, rather than the optimal solution (because you have at one point chosen the wrong path since you didn't consider leaving this far)

I currently suspect that Bayesian (Or Laplacian maybe? ) methods may have the best luck to increase the possibility that I live a good life. I wrote all over the place, but one last thing I want to add.

I do not believe an afterlife or a soul for that matter. This has happened very recently relative to most of you. So, I was constantly looking for a "rational" justification for continuing living a good life . I am on the verge of giving up looking, since there seems to be nothing to find, and just living. Which is a little sad actually, since I still have the feeling that I could probably do something great with my life. But then constant questioning seems to also lead to a sub-optimal life. (May be with an even lower utility than greedy algorithm) I guess, what I am trying to say is I am on the verge of becoming a hedonist..

I'd love to learn your ideas or reading recommendations on how best to live a life. I'd also love to organize meetups of rationalists in Turkey.

P.S. If you haven't seen yet, there's a book called "The theory that would not die", which is an excellent source on many (and I mean it when I say many) things Bayesian.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 05 December 2012 07:58:47PM 3 points [-]

"You can't predict how long you will live. So the best way to search for the (sub)optimal life was to utilize a greedy algorithm. That is, at every decision point, you have to select the best alternative that maximizes your utility at that time."

However, you can estimate how long you will live with fairly good accuracy. If you know you're very likely to live for some decades more, then I think it makes sense to optimize around the estimate rather than for the very small possibility that you'll be dead in the next hour.

Comment author: NotInventedHere 05 December 2012 06:32:15PM 2 points [-]

This is an extremely belated reply, but with regards to

So, I was constantly looking for a "rational" justification for continuing living a good life . I am on the verge of giving up looking, since there seems to be nothing to find, and just living.

The Fun Theory and Metaethics sequences helped me through my personal period of existential angst.

The two most immediately helpful posts I would recommend for someone like you are Joy in The Merely Real and Joy in the Merely Good.

Comment author: fowlertm 19 July 2012 12:15:46AM *  11 points [-]


My name is Trent Fowler. I started leaning toward scientific and rational thinking while still a child, thanks in part to a variety of aphorisms my father was fond of saying. Things like "think for yourself" and "question your own beliefs" are too general to be very useful in particular circumstances, but were instrumental in fostering in me a skepticism and respect for good argument that has persisted all my life (I'm 23 as of this writing). These tools are what allowed me to abandon the religion I was brought up in as a child, and to eventually begin salvaging the bits of it that are worth salvaging. Like many atheists, when I first dropped religion I dropped every last thing associated with it. I've since grown to appreciate practices like meditation, ritual, and even outright mysticism as techniques which are valuable and pursuable in a secular context.

What I've just described is basically the rationality equivalent of lifting weights twice a week and going for a brisk walk in the mornings. It's great for a beginner, but anyone who sticks with it long enough will start to get a glimpse of what's achievable by systematizing training and ramping up the intensity. World-class martial artists, olympic powerlifters, and ultramarathoners may seem like demi-gods to the weekend warriors, but a huge amount of what they've accomplished is attributable to hard work and dedication (with a dash of luck and genetics, of course).

The Bruce Lees of the mind, however, are more than just role models. They're the people who will look extinction risk square in the face and start figuring out how to actually <i<solve</i> the problems. They're the people who will build transhuman AIs, extinguish death, probe the bedrock of reality, and fling human civilization into deep-space. As the dojo is to the apprentice, so is Less Wrong to the aspiring rationalist.

Sadly, when I was gripped rather suddenly by a fascination with math and physics as a child, there was not enough in the way of books, support, and instruction to get the prodigy-fires burning. To this day deep math and physics remain and interesting but largely inscrutable realm of human knowledge. But I'm still young enough that with hard work and dedication I could be a Bostrom or a Yudkowsky, especially if I manage to scramble onto their shoulders.

So here I am, ready to sharpen the blade of my thinking, that it may more effectively be turned to both pondering metaphysical quandaries and solving problems that threaten our collective future. I am excited by the prospects, and hope I am up to the challenge.

Comment author: krzhang 19 February 2013 05:33:23AM *  10 points [-]

I am Yan Zhang, a mathematics grad student specializing in combinatorics at MIT (and soon to work at UC Berkeley after graduation) and co-founder of Vivana.com. I was involved with building the first year of SPARC. There, I met many cool people at CFAR, for which I'm now a curicculum consultant.

I don't know much about LW but have liked some of the things I have read here; AnnaSalamon described me as a "street rationalist" because my own rationality principles are home-grown from a mix of other communities and hobbies. In that sense, I'm happy to step foot into this "mainstream dojo" and learn your language.

Recently Anna suggested I may want to cross-post something I wrote to LW and I've always wanted to get to know the community better, so this is the first step, I suppose. I look forward to learning from all of you.

Comment author: hannahelisabeth 10 November 2012 10:08:51PM 10 points [-]


My name is Hannah. I'm an American living in Oslo, Norway (my husband is Norwegian). I am 24 (soon to be 25) years old. I am currently unemployed, but I have a bachelor's degree in Psychology from Truman State University. My intention is to find a job working at a day care, at least until I have children of my own. When that happens, I intend to be a stay-at-home mother and homeschool my children. Anything beyond that is too far into the future to be worth trying to figure out at this point in my life.

I was referred to LessWrong by some German guy on OkCupid. I don't know his name or who he is or anything about him, really, and I don't know why he messaged me randomly. I suppose something in my profile seemed to indicate that I might like it here or might already be familiar with it, and that sparked his interest. I really can't say. I just got a message asking if I was familiar with LessWrong or Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (which I was not), and if so, what I thought of them. So I decided to check them out. I thought the HP fanfiction was excellent, and I've been reading through some of the major series here for the past week or so. At one point I had a comment I wanted to make, so I decided to join in order to be able to post the comment. I figure I may as well be part of the group, since I am interested in continuing reading and discussing here. :-)

As for more about my background in rationality and such, I like to think I've always been oriented towards rationality. Well, when I was younger I was probably less adept at reasoning and certainly less aware of cognitive biases and such, but I've always believed in following the evidence to find the truth. That's something I think my mother helped to instill in me. My acute interest in rationality, however, probably occurred when I was around 18-19 years old. It was at this point that I became an atheist and also when I began Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.

I had been raised as a Christian, more or less. My mother is very religious, but also very intelligent, and she believes fervently in following the evidence wherever it leads (despite the fact that, in practice, she does not actually do this). The shift in my religious perspective initially occurred around when I first began dating my husband. He was not religious, and I had the idea in my head that it was important that he be religious, in order for us to be properly compatible. But I observed that he was very open-minded and sensible, so I believed that the only requirement for him to become a Christian was for me to formulate a sufficiently compelling argument for why it was the true religion. And if this had been possible, it's likely he would have converted, but alas, this was a task I could not succeed at. It was by examining my own religion and trying to answer his honest questions that I came to realize that I didn't actually know what any good reasons for being a Christian were, and that I had merely assumed there must be good reasons, since my mother and many other intelligent relgious people that I knew were convinced of the religion. So I tried to find out what these reasons were, and they came up lacking.

When I found that I couldn't find any obvious reasons that Christianity had to be the right religion, I realized that I didn't have enough information to come to that conclusion. When I reflected on all my religious beliefs, it occured to me that I didn't even know where most of them came from. So I decided to throw everything out the window and start from scratch. This was somewhat difficult for me emotionally, since I was honestly afraid that I was giving up something important that I might not get back. I mean, what if Christianity were the true religion and I gave it up and never came back? So I prayed to God (whichever god(s) he was, if any) to lead me on a path towards the truth. I figured if I followed evidence and reason, then I would end up at the truth, whatever it was. If that meant losing my religion, then my religion wasn't worth having. I trusted that anything worth believing would come back to me. And that even if I was led astray and ended up believing the wrong thing, God would judge me based on my intent and on my deeds. A god who is good will not punish me for seeking the truth, even if I am unsuccessful in my quest. And a god who is not good is not worth worshipping. I know this idea has been voiced by many others before me, but for me this was an original conclusion at the time, not something I'd heard as a quote from someone else.

Another pertinent influence of rationality on my life occured during my second year of college. I had decided to see a counselor for problems with anxiety and depression. The therapy that counselor used was Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, and we often engaged in a lot of meaningful discussions. I found the therapy and that particular approach extremely helpful in managing my emotions and excellent practice in thinking rationally. I think it really helped me become a better thinker in addition to being more emotionally stable.

So it's been sort of a cumulative effect, losing my religion, going to college, going through counseling, etc. As I get older, I expose myself to more and more ideas (mostly through reading, but also through some discussion) and I feel that I get better and better at reasoning, understanding biases, and being more rational. A lot of the things I've read here are things that I had either encountered before or seemed obvious to me already. Although, there is plenty of new stuff too. So I feel that this community will be a good fit for me, and I hope that I will be a positive addition to it.

I have a lot of unorthodox ideas and such that I'd be happy to discuss. My interests are parenting (roughly in line with Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn), schooling/education (I support a Sudbury type model), diet (I'm paleo), relationships (I don't follow anyone here; I've got my own ideas in this area), emotions and emotional regulation (REBT, humanistic approach, and my own experience/ideas) and pretty much anything about or related to psychology (I'm reasonably educated in this area, but I can always learn more!). I'm open to having my ideas challenged and I don't shy away from changing my mind when the evidence points in the opposite direction. I used to have more of a problem with this, in so far as I was concerned about saving face (I didn't want to look bad by publicly admitting I was wrong, even if I privately realized it), but I've since reasoned that changing my mind is actually a better way of saving face. You look a lot stupider clinging to a demonstrably wrong position than simply admitting that you were mistaken and changing your ideas accordingly.

Anyway, I hope that wasn't too long an introduction. I have a tendency to write a lot and invest a lot of time and effort in to my writings. I care a lot about effective communication, and I like to think I'm good at expressing myself and explaining things. That seems to be something valued here too, so that's good.

Comment author: kaneleh 24 October 2012 07:37:35PM *  10 points [-]

Hello. I was brought here by HPMOR, which I finished reading today. Back in 1999 or something I found the site called sysopmind.com which had interesting reads on AI, Bayes theorem (that I didn't understand) and 12 virtues of rationality. I loved it for the beauty that reminded me of Asimov. I kept it in my bookmarks forever. (I knew him before he was famous? ;-))

I like SF (I have read many SF books but most were from before 1990 for some reason) and I'm a computer nerd, among other things. I want to learn everything, but I have a hard time putting in the work. I study to become a psychologist, scheduled to finish in 2013. My favorite area of psychology is social psychology, especially how humans make decisions, how humans are influenced by biases or norms or high status people. I'm married and have a daughter born in 2011.

I like to watch tv-shows, but I have high standards. It is SF if it is based in science and rationality, otherwise it's just space drama/space action and I have no patience for it. I also like psychological drama, but it has to be realistic and believable. Please give recommendations if you like. (edited:) Also, someone could explain in what way Star Trek, Babylon 5 or Battlestar Galactica is really SF or Buffy is feminist, so I know if they are worth my while.

Comment author: Error 14 September 2012 04:14:36PM 10 points [-]

Greetings. I am Error.

I think I originally found the place through a comment link on ESR's blog. I'm a geek, a gamer, a sysadmin, and a hobbyist programmer. I hesitate to identify with the label "rationalist"; much like the traditional meaning of "hacker", it feels like something someone else should say of me, rather than something I should prematurely claim for myself.

I've been working through the Sequences for about a year, off and on. I'm now most of the way through Metaethics. It's been a slow but rewarding journey, and I think the best thing I've taken out of it is the ability to identify bogus thoughts as they happen. (Identifying is not always the same as correcting them, unfortunately) Another benefit, not specifically from the sequences but from link-chasing, is the realization that successful mental self-engineering is possible; I think the tipping point for me there was Alicorn's post about polyhacking. The realization inspired me to try and beat the tar out of my akrasia, and I've done fairly well so far.

My current interests center around "updating efficiently." I just turned 30; I burnt my 20s establishing a living instead of learning all the stuff I wanted to learn. I figure I only have so many years left before neural rigor mortis begins to set in, and there's more stuff I want to learn and more skills I want to aquire than time to do it in. So, how does one learn as much truth as possible while wasting as little time as possible on things that are wrong? The difficulty I see is that a layperson to a subject (the C programming language for purposes of this example) can't tell the difference between K&R and Herbert Schildt, and may waste a lot of time on the latter when they should be inhaling the former or something similar. The "Best Textbooks" thread looks like it will be invaluable here.

A related concern is that some subjects in science don't lend themselves to easy verification. How does one construct an accurate model of a thing when, for reasons of cost or time, you can't directly compare your map (or your textbook's map) to the territory? I can read a great deal about, say, quantum mechanics, but without an atom smasher in my backyard it's difficult to check if what I'm reading is correct. That's fine when dealing with something you know is settled science. It's harder when trying to draw accurate conclusions about things that are politically charged (e.g. global warming), or for which evidence in any direction is slim. (e.g. cryonics)

Something else I'm interested in is the Less Wrong local meetups. There's one listed for my area (Atlanta) but it doesn't appear to be active. Finding interesting people is hard when you're excessively introverted. I've tried Mensa meetings, but most of the people there were nearly twice my age and I found it difficult to relate. Dragoncon worked out better (well, almost), but only happens once a year.

A fair number of intro posts seem to include religious leanings or (more frequently) lack thereof, so I'll add mine: I was raised mildly Christian but it began to fade out of my worldview around the time I read the bit about how disobedient children should be stoned to death. In retrospect my parents probably shouldn't have made me read the Bible on days that we skipped church. Churches leave that stuff out. Now I swing back and forth between atheism, misotheism, and discordianism, depending on how I'm feeling on any given day, and I don't take any of those seriously.

Is it still acceptable/advisable to comment in the Sequences, even as old as they are? It looks from the comment histories in them that some people still watch and answer in them. I doubt I'll muck around too much elsewhere until I've finished them.

Comment author: cjb230 21 July 2012 04:41:13PM 10 points [-]

Hi! Given how much time I've spent reading this site and its relatives, this post is overdue.

I'm 35, male, British and London-based, with a professional background in IT. I was raised Catholic, but when I was about 12, I had a de-conversion experience while in church. I remember leaving the pew during mass to go to the toilet, then walking back down the aisle during the eucharist, watching the priest moving stuff around the altar. It suddenly struck me as weird that so many people had gathered to watch a man in a funny dress pour stuff from one cup to another. So I identified as atheist or humanist for a long time. I can't remember any incident that made me start to identify as a rationalist, but I've been increasingly interested in evidence, biases and knowledge for over ten years now.

I've been lucky, I think, to have some breadth in my education: I studied Physics & Philosophy as an undergrad, Computer Science as a postgrad, and more recently rounded that off with an MBA. This gives me a handy toolset for approaching new problems, I think. I definitely want to learn more statistics though - it feels like there's a big gap in the arsenal.

There are a few stand-out things I have picked out from LW and OB so far. "Noticing that I am confused", and running toward that feeling rather than away from it, has helped at work. "Dissolving the question" has helped me to clarify some problems, and I'd like to be better at it. The material on how words can mislead has helped me to pay more attention to what people mean in discussion.

Non-rationality stuff: my lust to learn new things runs ahead of my ability to follow through, so I have far too many books! Like many people here, I have akrasia issues. I am interested in what can be done to improve quantity and quality of life, as well as productivity, including fitness and mindfulness meditation. Lastly, I'm taking a long trip to LA, flying on August 1, and I'd like to meet up with the LW community there.

Comment author: Gaviteros 19 July 2012 07:03:39AM 10 points [-]

Hellow Lesswrong! (I posted this in the other July2012 welcome thread aswell. :P Though apparently it has too many comments at this point or something to that effect.)

My name is Ryan and I am a 22 year old technical artist in the Video Game industry. I recently graduated with honors from the Visual Effects program at Savannah College of Art and Design. For those who don't know much about the industry I am in, my skill set is somewhere between a software programmer, a 3D artist, and a video editor. I write code to create tools to speed up workflows for the 3D things I or others need to do to make a game, or cinematic.

Now I found lesswrong.com through the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality podcast. Up unto that point I had never heard of Rationalism as a current state of being... so far I greatly resonate with the goals and lessons that have come up in the podcast, and what I have seen about rationalism. I am excited to learn more.

I wouldn't go so far to claim the label for myself as of yet, as I don't know enough and I don't particularly like labels for the most part. I also know that I have several biases, I feel like I know the reasons and causes for most, but I have not removed them from my determinative process.

Furthermore I am not an atheist, nor am I a theist. I have chosen to let others figure out and solve the questions of sentient creators through science, and I am no more qualified to disprove a religious belief than I would be to perform surgery... on anything. I just try to leave religion out of most of my determinations.

Anyway! I'm looking forward to reading and discussing more with all of you!

Current soapbox: Educational System of de-emphasizing critical thinking skills.

If you are interested you can check out my artwork and tools at www.ryandowlingsoka.com

Comment author: Grognor 25 July 2012 04:58:26AM *  2 points [-]

I am no more qualified to disprove a religious belief than I would be to perform surgery... on anything.

I disagree with this claim. If you are capable of understanding concepts like the Generalized Anti-Zombie Principle, you are more than capable of recognizing that there is no god and that that hypothesis wouldn't even be noticeable for a bounded intelligence unless a bunch of other people had already privileged it thanks to anthropomorphism.

Also, please don't call what we do here, "rationalism". Call it "rationality".

Comment author: cogwerk 25 March 2013 10:00:23PM 9 points [-]

Hi, I'm Edward and have been reading the occasional article on here for a while. I've finally decided to officially join as this year I'm starting to do more work on my knowledge and education (especially maths & science) and I like the thoughtful community I see here. I'm a programmer, but also have a passion for history. Just as I was finishing university, my thinking led me to abandon the family religion (many of my friends are still theists). I was going to keep thinking and exploring ideas but I ended up just living - now I want to begin thinking again.

Regards, Edward

Comment author: findis 26 December 2012 06:20:13AM *  9 points [-]

Hi, I'm Liz.

I'm a senior at a college in the US, soon to graduate with a double major in physics and economics, and then (hopefully) pursue a PhD in economics. I like computer science and math too. I'm hoping to do research in economic development, but more relevantly to LW, I'm pretty interested in behavioral economics and in econometrics (statistics). Out of the uncommon beliefs I hold, the one that most affects my life is that since I can greatly help others at a small cost to myself, I should; I donate whatever extra money I have to charity, although it's not much. (see givingwhatwecan.org)

I think I started behaving as a rationalist (without that word) when I became an atheist near the end of high school. But to rewind...

I was raised Christian, but Christianity was always more of a miserable duty than a comfort to me. I disliked the music and the long services and the awkward social interactions. I became an atheist for no good reason in the beginning of high school, but being an atheist was terrible. There was no one to forgive me when I screwed up, or pray to when the world was unbearably awful. My lack of faith made my father sad. Then, lying in bed and angsting about free will one night, I had some philosophical revelation, and it seemed that God must exist. I couldn't re-explain the revelation to myself, but I clung to the result and became seriously religious for the next year or so. But objections to the major strands of theism began to creep up on me. I wanted to believe in God, and I wanted to know the truth, and I found out that (surprise) having an ideal set of beliefs isn't compatible with seeking truth. I did lots of reading (mostly old-school philosophy), slowly changed my mind, then came out as an atheist (to close friends only) once the Bible Quiz season was over. (awk.)

At that point I decided to never lie to myself again. Not just to avoid comforting half-truths, but to actively question all beliefs I held, and to act on whatever conclusions I come to. After hard practice, unrelenting honesty towards myself is a habit I can't break, but I'm not sure it's actually a good policy. For example, a few white lies would've helped me move past a situation of extreme guilt last year.

Anyway, more recently, I read HPMOR and I'm now reading Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow. I'm slowly working through the Sequences too. I always appreciate new reading recommendations.

I have some thoughts on Newcomb's Paradox. (Of course I am new to this, probably way off base, etc.) I think two boxes is the right way to go, and it seems that intuition towards one-boxing often comes from the idea that your decision somehow changes the contents of the boxes. (No reverse causality is supposed to be assumed, right?) Say that instead of an infallible superintelligence, the story changes to

"You go to visit your friend Ann, and her mom pulls you into the kitchen, where two boxes are sitting on a table. She tells you that box A has either $1 billion or $0, and box B has $1,000. She says you can take both boxes or just A, and that if she predicted you take box B she didn't put anything in A. She has done this to 100 of Anne's friends and has only been wrong for one of them. She is a great predictor because she has been spying on your philosophy class and reading your essays."

Terribly small sample size, but a friend told me this changes his answer from one box to two. As far as I can tell these changes are aesthetic and make the story clearer without changing the philosophy.

And, a question. Why is Bayes so central to this site? I use Bayesian reasoning regularly, but I learned Bayes' Theorem around the time I started thinking seriously about anything, so I'm not clear on what the alternative is. Why do y'all celebrate Bayes, rather than algebra or well-designed experiments?

Edit: Read farther in Thinking, Fast and Slow; question answered.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 12 January 2013 08:48:19AM *  2 points [-]

Welcome to LW.

Also not an expert on Newcomb's Problem, but I'm a one-boxer because I choose to have part of my brain say that I'm a one-boxer, and have that part of my brain influence my behavior if I get in to a Newcomb-like situation. Does that make any sense? Basically, I'm choosing to modify my decision algorithm so I no longer maximize expected value because I think having this other algorithm will get me better results.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 August 2012 07:25:59PM *  9 points [-]

Hello LW,

Last Thursday, I was asked by User:rocurley if, in his absence, I wanted to organize a hiking event (originally my idea) for this week's DC metro area meetup, during which I discovered I could not make posts, etc. here because I had zero karma. I chose to cancel the meetup on account of weather. I had registered my account previously, but realizing that I might have need to post here in the future, and that I had next to nothing to lose, I have decided to introduce myself finally.

I discovered LW through HPMOR, through Tvtropes, I believe. I've read some LW articles, but not others. Areas of interest include sciences (I have a BS in physics), psychology, personality disorders, some areas of philosophy, reading, and generally learning new things. One of my favorite books (if not /the/ favorite) is Godel, Escher, Bach, which I read for the first (and certainly not last) time while I was in college, 5+ years ago.

I'm extremely introverted, and I am aware that I have certain anxiety issues; while rationality has not helped with the actual feeling of anxiety, it has allowed me to push through it, in some cases.

Comment author: Rukifellth 25 July 2012 11:54:59PM *  9 points [-]

I got into a community of intelligent, creative free-thinkers by reading fan fiction of all things.

You know the one.

Anyway, my knowledge of what is collectively referred to as Rationality is slim. I read the first 6 pages of The Sequences, felt like I was cheating on a test, and stopped. I'll try to make up for it with some of the most unnecessarily theatrical and hammy writing I can get away with.

I love word play, and over the course of a year I offered (as a way of apology) to owe my friend a quarter for every time I improvised a pun or awful joke mid-conversation, by the end of which I could have bought a dinner for him at Pizza Delight- I didn't. It's on my to-do list to compile all the wises that Carlos Ramon ever cracked on The Magic School Bus and put it on you tube, because no one else has and it needs to be done, damn it. As you can tell, I sometimes write for it's own sake, sort of a literary hedonist if you will. But all good things must come to an end...

My greatest principle is that a person's course in life is governed by their reaction to their circumstance, and that nothing at all is of certainty. The nature of the human mind is a process which our current metaphors and models can only approximate, a physical system adjusting itself, which words like "I", "our" and "qualia" can only activate whatever concept we have to answer the question of "What". Because of this, I have a great sympathy towards Eastern spirituality and some Christian mysticism, because they have the spirit of what we're all trying to accomplish here; to answer a question.

Sometimes I end up in the psychological equivalence of a fractal zoom where philosophy has this impossible to divide property, of all things linking to others without there being any elementary axioms or parts, probably because of that whole "brain made of neurons" racket. I concluded that emotions are just another form of sense; love, curiosity and understanding being reactions and sensory input much like taste and touch. Happily any cognitive dissonance or emptiness can be discarded the same way, and the logical contradiction a property of the purely physical (rather than comforting "conceptual") nature of our very thought, meaning that I'll simultaneously accept the objective truth of this, but reject any emotional significance, as emotional significance is itself deconstructed as a concept.

Of course the empathy gap and the nature of attention span (or at least my attention span) means that I'm normally not like this unless triggered. To me, regular life is the reaction of our psyche, broken up occasionally by the temporary delusion that a fractal zoom of philosophy can answer my questions. I call this a "delusion" because the concept of a question to be answered is an extraneous layer added to by an entity which just wants to avoid suffering.

The human mind; a non-linear physical system which tries to evaluate itself with a linear processing system that's not suited to that sort of thing at all. Sometimes I wonder if who we are is just the sum of five or six different personalities, each with about a fifth of sixth of our functioning, plus a heavy specialization in one type of behaviour, the sum of which is an idea of what is right and wrong with a sense of identity. Given the existence of neural pathways in our spinal column, I wouldn't be surprised. Sometimes I feel like I can feel the shape of our brains based on this, but that's probably just me connecting concepts to high school biology.

I went off the rails a bit there, but looking back, I figure this should be a more honest introduction from me than any structured post. Even so, I doubt I can really convey that kind of leg twisting logical insanity without the meaning being hallowed by interpretation and pattern recognition.

Ugh, I feel like there wasn't a speck of relate-ability there at all. Well, I'm eighteen years old and male. I followed the My Little Pony following out of a combination of boredom, fascination and a love of the bizarre. The show never struck a chord with me at all, really, but the fandom was something else. There was a period of about a month where I read crossover fan fictions, but I couldn't be bothered after that point, because the fandom's growth wound down and the novelty was gone. Even so, Nine Knackered Souls is the funniest fan fiction I've ever read, a Red vs Blue crossover. Fallout Equestria is the longest and most "so-okay-it's average" fan fiction, despite the fact that I was drawn in enough to overlook the Mary sue aspects and read the whole thing in like four days in one sitting...

I'm going into Computer Science at Dalhousie University, and CSci being what it is, I'm going to make up my path as I go along. I really don't know enough about robotics, AI or informatics to make the choice between them right now anyway.

Comment author: [deleted] 19 March 2013 04:25:46AM 8 points [-]


21-year old transgender-neither. I spent 13 years enveloped by Mormon culture and ideology, growing up in a sheltered environment. Then, everything changed when the Fire nation attacked.

Woops. Off-track.

I want my actions to matter, not from others remembering them but from me being alive to remember them . In simpler terms, I want to live for a long time - maybe forever. Death should be a choice, not an unchanging eventuality.

But I don't know where to start; I feel overwhelmed by all the things I need to learn.

So I've come here. I'm reading the sequences and trying to get a better grasp on thinking rationally, etc., but was hoping to get pointers from the more experienced.

What is needed right now? I want to do what I can to help not only myself, but those whose paths I cross.


Comment author: Alicorn 19 March 2013 05:51:05AM 4 points [-]


Is this the same thing as "agender"?

Then, everything changed when the Fire nation attacked.


Comment author: Nisan 19 March 2013 06:17:56AM 2 points [-]

Welcome! Have you considered signing up for cryonics?

Comment author: itaibn0 23 February 2013 05:37:32PM *  8 points [-]

My name is Itai Bar-Natan. I have been lurking here for a long time, more recently I start posting some things, but only now do I formally introduce myself.

I am in grade 11, and I began reading less wrong at grade 8 (introduced by Scott Aaronson's blog). I am a former math prodigy, and am currently taking one graduate-level course in it. This is the first time I am learning math under the school system (although I not the first time I attended math classes under the school system). Before that, I would learn from my parents, who are both mathematicians, or (later on) from books and internet articles.

Heedless of Feynman, I believe I understand quantum mechanics.

One weakness I am working to improve on is the inability to write in large quantities.

I have a blog here: http://itaibn.wordpress.com/

I consider less wrong as a fun time-waster and a community which is relatively sane.

Comment author: BerryPick6 23 February 2013 05:58:20PM 3 points [-]

Are you, by any chance, related to Dror?

Comment author: itaibn0 23 February 2013 06:12:01PM 4 points [-]

Yes, I am his son.

Comment author: wedrifid 23 February 2013 06:50:14PM *  2 points [-]

Headless of Feynman, I believe I understand quantum mechanics.

Give her to Headless Feyn-man!

Comment author: [deleted] 19 January 2013 02:38:40AM 8 points [-]

Hello. I've read sequence articles and discussion off this website for a while now. Been hesitant to join before because I like to keep my identity small but recently realized that being able to talk to others about topics on this site will make me more effective at reaching my goals.

Armchairs are very comfortable and I'm having some mental difficulty putting the effort into the practice of achieving set goals. It's very hard to actually do stuff and easy to just read about interesting topics without engaging.

I'm interested more in meta-ethics than in physics, more in decision theory than practical AI. My first comments will likely be in the sequences or in discussion comments of a few specific natures.

This should be fun, I look forward to talking with you. Ask me any questions that arouse your curiosity.

The browsing experience with Kibitzing off is strange but not unpleasant. How long did it take for you to get accustomed to it?

Comment author: Briony 04 January 2013 12:51:25AM 8 points [-]

Hi, my name is Briony Keir, I'm from the UK. I stumbled on this site after getting into an argument with someone on the internet and wondering why they ended up failing to refute my arguments and instead resorted to insults. I've had a read-around before posting and it's great to see an environment where rational thought is promoted and valued; I have a form of autism called Asperger Syndrome which, among many things, allows me to rely on rationality and logic more than other people seem to be able to - I too often get told I'm 'too analytical' and I 'shouldn't poke holes in other peoples' beliefs' when, the way I see it, any belief is there to be challenged and, indeed, having one's beliefs challenged can only make them stronger (or serve as an indicator that one should find a more sensible viewpoint). I'm really looking forward to reading what people have to say; my environment (both educational and domestic) has so far served more to enforce a 'we know better than you do so stop talking back' rule rather than one which allows for disagreement and resolution on a logical basis, and so this has led to me feeling both frustrated and unchallenged intellectually for quite some time. I hope I prove worthy of debate over the coming weeks and months :)

Comment author: NoisyEmpire 03 January 2013 04:42:47PM 8 points [-]

I’m Taylor Smith. I’ve been lurking since early 2011. I recently finished a bachelor’s in philosophy but got sort of fed up with it near the end. Discovering the article on belief in belief is what first hooked me on LessWrong, as I’d already had to independently invent this idea to explain a lot of the silly things people around me seemed to be espousing without it actually affecting their behavior. I then devoured the Sequences. Finding LessWrong was like finding all the students and teachers I had hoped to have in the course of a philosophy degree, all in one place. It was like a light switching on. And it made me realize how little I’d actually learned thus far. I’m so grateful for this place.

Now I’m an artist – a writer and a musician.

A frequently-confirmed observation of mine is that art – be it a great sci-fi novel, a protest song, an anti-war film – works as a hack to help to change people’s minds who are resistant or unaccustomed to pure rational argument. This is true especially of ethical issues; works which go for the emotional gut-punch somehow make people change their minds. (I think there are a lot of overlapping reasons for this phenomenon, but one certainly is that a well-told story or convincing song provides an opportunity for empathy. It can also help people envision the real consequences of a mind-change in an environment of relative emotional safety.) This, even though of course the mere fact that someone who holds position X made a good piece of art about X doesn’t actually offer much real evidence for the truth of X. Thus, a perilous power. The negative word for the extreme end of this phenomenon is “propaganda.” Conversely, when folks end up agreeing with whatever a work of art brought them to believe, they praise it as “insightful” or some such. You can sort of understand why Plato was worried about having poets – those irrational, un-philosophic things – in his ideal city, swaying his people’s emotions and beliefs.

If I’m going to help save the world, though, I think I do it best through a) giving money to the efficient altruists and the smart people and b) trying to spread true ideas by being a really successful and popular creator.

But that means I have to be pretty damn certain what the true ideas are first, or I’m just spouting pretty, and pretty useless, nonsense.

So thank you, LessWrongers, for all caring about truth together.

Comment author: junk_science 20 December 2012 08:27:24PM *  8 points [-]

Hello everyone,

I found Less Wrong through "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" like many others. I started reading more of Eliezer Yudkowsky's work a few months ago and was completely floored. I now recommend his writing to other people at the slightest provocation, which is new for me. Like others, I'm a bit scared by how thoroughly I agree with almost everything he says, and I make a conscious effort not to agree with things just because he's said them. I decided to go ahead and join in hopes that it would motivate me to start doing more active thinking of my own.

Comment author: Benjamin_Martens 30 November 2012 09:57:56AM 8 points [-]

Hello all, My name is Benjamin Martens, a 19-year-old student from Newcastle, Australia. Michael Anissimov, director of Humanity+, added me to the Less Wrong Facebook group. I don’t know his reasons for adding me, but regardless I am glad that he did.

My interest in rational thinking, and in conscious thinking in general, stems, first, from the consequences of my apostasy from Christianity, which is my family’s faith; second, from my combative approach to my major depression, which I have (mostly) successfully beaten into submission through an analysis of some of the possible states of the mind and of the world— Less Wrong and the study of cognitive biases will, I hope, further aid me in revealing my depressive worldview as groundless; or, if not as groundless, then at least as something which is not by nature aberrant and which is, to some degree, justified; third, and in connection to my vegan lifestyle, I aim to understand the psychology which might lead a person to cause another being to suffer; and last, and in connection to all aforementioned, it is my hope that an understanding of cognitive biases will allow not merely myself to edge nearer to the true state of things, but also, through me, for others to do so; I want Less Wrong to school me in some underhand, PR techniques of psychological manipulation or modification which will help me teach others about scepticism, about the errors of learned helplessness and about ways out of the self-reinforcing and self-justifying loops of the pessimistic worldview, and allow me to ably coax others towards cruelty-free ways of living. So, that's me. Hello, Less Wrong.

Comment author: OneLonePrediction 16 November 2012 08:01:23AM 8 points [-]

I'm here to make one public prediction that I want to be as widely-read as possible. I'm here to predict publicly that the apparent increase in autism prevalence is over. It's important to predict it because it distinguishes between the position that autism is increasing unstoppably for no known reason (or because of vaccines) and the position that autism has not increased in prevalence, but diagnosis has increased in accuracy and a greater percentage of people with autism spectrum disorders are being diagnosed. It's important that this be as widely-read as possible as soon as possible because the next time prevalence estimates come out, I will be shown right or wrong. I want my theory and prediction out there now so that I can show that I predicted a surprising result before it happened. While many people are too irrational to be surprised when they see this result even though they have predicted the opposite, I hope that rationalists will come to believe my position when it is proven right. I hope that everyone disinterested will come to believe this. The reason why I hope this is because I want them to be more likely to listen to me when I make statements about human rights as they apply to people with autism spectrum disorders. It is important that society change its attitudes toward such individuals.

Please help me by upvoting me to two karma so I can post in the discussion section.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 16 November 2012 08:25:40AM 4 points [-]

I'm not sure you're right that we won't see any increase in autism prevalance - there are still some groups (girls, racial minorities, poor people) that are "underserved" when it comes to diagnosis, so we could see an increase if that changes, even if your underlying theory is correct. Still upvoted, tho.

Comment author: nancyhua 21 October 2012 02:48:09AM 8 points [-]

I'm Nancy Hua. I was MIT 2007 and worked in NYC and Chicago in automated trading for 5 years after graduating with BS's in Math with CS (18C) and in Writing (21W).

Currently I am working on a startup in the technology space. We have funding and I am considering hiring someone.

I started reading Eliezer's posts on Overcoming Bias. In 2011, I met Eliezer, Robin Hanson, and a bunch of the NYC Lesswrongers. After years of passive consumption, very recently I started posting on lesswrong after meeting some lesswrongers at the 2012 Singularity Summit and events leading up to it, and after reading HPMOR and wanting to talk about it. I tried getting my normal friends to read it but found that making new friends who have already read it is more efficient.

Many of the writings regarding overcoming our biases and asking more questions appeal to me because I see many places where we could make better decisions. It's amazing how far we've come without being all that intelligent or deliberate, but I wonder how much more slack we have before our bad decisions prevent us from reaching the stars. I want to make more optimal decisions in my own life because I need every edge I can get to achieve some of my goals! Plus I believe understanding and accepting reality is important to our success, as individuals and as a species.

Comment author: johnsonmx 08 September 2012 08:23:02PM *  8 points [-]

I'm Mike Johnson. I'd estimate I come across a reference to LW from trustworthy sources every couple of weeks, and after working my way through the sequences it feels like the good outweighs the bad and it's worth investing time into.

My background is in philosophy, evolution, and neural nets for market prediction; I presently write, consult, and am in an early-stage tech startup. Perhaps my highwater mark in community exposure has been a critique of the word Transhumanist at Accelerating Future. In the following years, my experience has been more mixed, but I appreciate the topics and tools being developed even if the community seems a tad insular. If I had to wear some established thinkers on my sleeve I'd choose Paul Graham, Lawrence Lessig, Steve Sailer, Gregory Cochran, Roy Baumeister, and Peter Thiel. (I originally had a comment here about having an irrational attraction toward humility, but on second thought, that might rule out Gregory "If I have seen farther than others, it's because I'm knee-deep in dwarves" Cochran… Hmm.)

Cards-on-the-table, it's my impression that

(1) Lesswrong and SIAI are doing cool things that aren't being done anywhere else (this is not faint praise);

(2) The basic problem of FAI as stated by SIAI is genuine;

(3) SIAI is a lightning rod for trolls and cranks, which is really detrimental to the organization (the metaphor of autoimmune disease comes to mind) and seems partly its own fault;

(4) Much of the work being done by SIAI and LW will turn out to be a dead-end. Granted, this is true everywhere, but in particular I'm worried that axiomatic approaches to verifiable friendliness will prove brittle and inapplicable (I do not currently have an alternative);

(5) SIAI has an insufficient appreciation for realpolitik;

(6) SIAI and LW seem to have a certain distaste for research on biologically-inspired AGI, due in parts to safety concerns, an organizational lack of expertise in the area, and (in my view) ontological/metaphysical preference. I believe this distaste is overly limiting and also leads to incorrect conclusions.

Many of these impressions may be wrong. I aim to explore the site, learn, change my mind if I'm wrong, and hopefully contribute. I appreciate the opportunity, and I hope my unvarnished thoughts here haven't soured my welcome. Hello!

Comment author: TheOtherDave 08 September 2012 09:22:24PM 4 points [-]

FWIW, I find your unvarnished thoughts, and the cogency with which you articulate them, refreshing. (The thoughts aren't especially novel, but the cogency is.)

In particular, I'm interested in your thoughts on what benefits a greater focus on biologically inspired AGI might provide that a distaste for it would limit LW from concluding/achieving.

Comment author: AllanGering 19 July 2012 04:03:44AM *  8 points [-]

Poll: how old are you?

Newcomers only, please.

How polls work: the comments to this post are the possible answers. Upvote the one that describes your age. Then downvote the "Karma sink" comment (if you don't see it, it is the collapsed one), so that I don't get undeserved karma. Do not make comments to this post, as it would make the poll options hard to find; use the "Discussion" comment instead.

Comment author: AllanGering 19 July 2012 04:04:48AM *  14 points [-]


Comment author: AllanGering 19 July 2012 04:04:57AM *  18 points [-]


Comment author: AllanGering 19 July 2012 04:04:34AM 3 points [-]


Comment author: dac69 18 July 2012 11:00:22PM 20 points [-]

Hello, everyone!

I'd been religious (Christian) my whole life, but was always plagued with the question, "How would I know this is the correct religion, if I'd grown up with a different cultural norm?" I concluded, after many years of passive reflection, that, no, I probably wouldn't have become Christian at all, given that there are so many good people who do not. From there, I discovered that I was severely biased toward Christianity, and in an attempt to overcome that bias, I became atheist before I realized it.

I know that last part is a common idiom that's usually hyperpole, but I really did become atheist well before I consciously knew I was. I remember reading HPMOR, looking up lesswrong.com, reading the post on "Belief in Belief", and realizing that I was doing exactly that: explaining an unsupported theory by patching the holes, instead of reevaluating and updating, given the evidence.

It's been more than religion, too, but that's the area where I really felt it first. Next projects are to apply the principles to my social and professional life.

Comment author: notsonewuser 15 March 2013 03:49:36PM 7 points [-]

Hi. I discovered LessWrong recently, but not that recently. I enjoy Yudkowsky's writings and the discussions here. I hope to contribute something useful to LessWrong, someday, but as of right now my insights are a few levels below those of others in this community. I plan on regularly visiting the LessWrong Study Hall.

Also, is it "LessWrong" or "Less Wrong"?

Comment author: Kawoomba 15 March 2013 10:01:21PM 4 points [-]

Also, is it "LessWrong" or "Less Wrong"?

You'll fit in great.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 15 March 2013 06:19:03PM 2 points [-]

I endorse "Less Wrong" as a standalone phrase but "LessWrong" as an affixed phrase (e.g., "LessWrongian").

Comment author: pinyaka 19 February 2013 12:22:31AM 7 points [-]

I am Pinyaka. I've been lurking a bit around this site for several months. I don't remember how I found it (probably a linked comment from Reddit), but stuck around for the main sequences. I've worked my way through two of them thanks to the epub compilations and am currently struggling to figure out how to prioritize and better put into practice the things that I learn from the site and related readings.

I hope to have some positive social interactions with the people here. I find that I become fairly unhappy without some kind of regular socialization in a largish group, but it's difficult to find groups whose core values are similar to mine. In fact, after leaving a quasi-religious group last year it occurred to me that I've always just fallen in with whatever group was most convenient and not too immediately repellant. This marks the first time I've tried to think about what I value and then seek out a group of like minded individuals.

I also hope to find a consistent stream of ideas for improving myself that are backed by reason and science. I recognize that removing (or at least learning to account for) my own biases will help me build a more accurate picture of the universe that I live in and how I function within that framework. Along with that, I hope to develop the ability to formulate and pursue goals to maximize my enjoyment of life (I've been reading a bunch of lukeprogs anti-akrasia posts recently, so following through on goals is on my mind currently).

I am excited to be here.

Comment author: beoShaffer 19 February 2013 02:32:40AM 2 points [-]

Hi Pinyaka!

I find that I become fairly unhappy without some kind of regular socialization in a largish group, but it's difficult to find groups whose core values are similar to mine. In fact, after leaving a quasi-religious group last year it occurred to me that I've always just fallen in with whatever group was most convenient and not too immediately repellant.

Semi-seriously, have you considered moving?

Comment author: Nisan 19 February 2013 12:53:21AM 2 points [-]

Welcome! You might enjoy it if you show up to a meetup as well.

Comment author: shaih 17 February 2013 09:03:29PM 7 points [-]

I'm Shai Horowitz. I'm currently a duel physics and mathematics major at Rutgers university. I first learned of the concept of "Bayesian" or "rationality" through HPMOR and from there i took it upon myself to read the Overcoming Bias post which has been an extremely long endeavor of which I have almost but not yet accomplished. Through conversation with others in my dorm at Rutgers I have realized simply how much this learning has done to my thought process and it allowed me to hone in on my own thoughts that i could see were still biased and go about fixing them. Through this same reasoning it became apparent to me that it would be largely beneficial to become an active part in the lesswrong community to sharpen my own skills as a rationalist while helping others along the way. I embrace rationality for the very specific reason that I wish to be a Physicists and realize that in trying to do so i could (as Eliezer puts hit) "shoot off my own foot" while doing things that conventional science allows. In the process of learning this I did stall out for months at a time and even became depressed for a while as I was stabbing my weakest points with the metaphorical knife. I do look back at laugh at the fact now that a college student was making incredibly bad decisions to get over the pain of fully embracing the second law of thermodynamics and its implications, which to me seems to be a sign of my progress moving forward. I don't think that i will soon have to face a fact as daunting as that one and with the knowledge that I know how to accept even that law I will now be able to accept any truths much more easily. That being said even though hard science is my primary purpose for learning rationality I am a bit of a self proclaimed polymath and have spent recent times learning more of psychology and cognition then simply the cognitive bias's i need to be self weary of. I just finished the book "Influence: Science and Practice" which I've heard Eliezer mention multiple times and very recently as in this week my interest have turned into pushing standard ethical theories to there limits as to truly understand how to make the world a better place and to unravel the black box that is itself the word "better". I conclude with I would love to talk with anyone experienced or new to rationality about pretty much any topic and would very much like if someone would message me. furthermore if anyone reading this goes to Rutgers university or is around the area, a meet up over coffee or something similar would make my day.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 17 February 2013 10:19:36PM 3 points [-]

Welcome! I am really curious what you mean by

making incredibly bad decisions to get over the pain of fully embracing the second law of thermodynamics and its implications

Comment author: BenGilbert 04 February 2013 12:57:20PM 7 points [-]


I'm Ben. I'm here mainly because I'm interested in effective altruism. I think that tracing through the consequences of one's actions is a complex task and I'm interested in setting out some ideas here in the hope that people can improve my reasoning. For example, I've a post on whether ethical investment is effective, which I'd like to put up once I've got a couple of points of karma.

I studied philosophy and theology, and worked for a while in finance. Now, I'm trying to work out how to increase the positive impact I have, which obviously demands answers about both what 'positive impact' means, and what the consequences are of the choices I make. I think these are far from simple to work out; I hope just to establish a few points with which I'm satisfied enough. I think that exposing ideas and arguments to thoughtful people who might want to criticise or expand them could help me a lot. And this seems a good place for doing that!

Comment author: capctr 08 November 2012 06:39:39AM 7 points [-]

I am a 43 year old man who loves to read, and stumbling across HPMOR was an eye opener for me, and it resonated profoundly within. My wife is not only the Queen of Critical Thinking and logic, she is also the breadwinner. Me? I raise the children( three girls), take care of the house, and function as a housewife/gourmet chef/personal trainer/massage therapist for my wife on top of being my daughters personal servant. This is largely due to my wife's towering intellect, overwhelming competence, my struggles with ADHD, and the fact that she makes huge amounts of money. Me, I just age almost supernaturally slowly(at 43, I still pass for thirty, possibly due to an obsession with fitness ), am above average handsome, passingly charming, good singing voice, and incapable of winning a logical argument, as the more stress I grow, the faster my IQ shrinks. I am taken as seriously by my wife, as Harry probably was by his father as a four year old. I am looking to change that. I am hoping that if I learn enough about less wrong, I just might learn how to put all the books I compulsively read to good use, and maybe learn how to...change.

Comment author: Baruta07 06 November 2012 06:01:18PM *  7 points [-]

I am Alexander Baruta, High-school student currently in the 11th grade (grade 12 math and biology). I originally found the site through Eliezer's blog, I am (technically) part of the school's robotics team (someone has to stop them from creating unworkable plans), undergoing Microsoft It certification, and going through all of the psychology courses in as little time as possible (Currently enrolled in a self-directed learning school) so I can get to the stuff I don't already know. My mind is fact oriented, (I can remember the weirdest things with perfect clarity after only hearing them once) but I have trouble combining that recall with my English classes, and I have trouble remembering names. I am informally studying formal logic, programming, game theory, and probability theory (don't you hate it when the curriculum changes. (I also have a unusual fondness for brackets, if you couldn't tell by now)

I also feel that any discussion about me that fails to mention my love of Sf/Fantasy should be shot dead, I caught onto reading at a very, very early age and by the time I was in 5th grade I was reading at a 12th grade comprehension level, and I was tackling Asimov, Niven, Pohl, Piers Anthony, Stephen R. Donaldson, Roger Zelazny and most good authors.

Comment author: Kawoomba 06 November 2012 06:11:08PM *  5 points [-]

(I also have a unusual fondness for brackets, if you couldn't tell by now)

Lisp ith a theriouth condition, once you go full Lisp, you'll never (((((((((((((... come back)?n).

Comment author: LadyStardust 06 November 2012 01:02:42AM 7 points [-]

Hey there! I'm a 19-year old Canadian girl with a love for science, science fiction, cartoons, RPGs, Wayne Rowley, learning, reading, music, humour, and a few thousand other things.

Like many I found this site via HPMOR. As a long-time fan of both science and Harry Potter, I was ultimately addicted from chapter one. It's hard to apply scientific analysis to a fictional universe while still keeping a sense of humour, and HPMOR executes this brilliantly. My only complaint ( all apologies to Mr. Yudkowsky, though I doubt he'll ever read this) are that Harry comes off as rather Sue-ish. I wanted more, so I came here and found yet more excellent excellent writings. The story about the Pebblesorters is my personal favourite.

I'm mad about music. Queen, Rush, Black Sabbath, and Bowie are some of my favourite bands. I have a Telecaster, which I use mostly to play blues. God I love the blues. But I digress..

Though I'm merely a high school graduate looking for a part-time job, I'm really passionate about biology. I'm the kind of person who reads about sodium-potassium pumps not because it's on the the upcoming quiz, but because it indulges my curiousity about how humans and other lifeforms work. (Don't get me started about speculative xenobiology!)

I've lurked this site for about 7 months now and I really hope that I'll be accepted here in spite of my laconic, idiosyncratic, comma-ridden ramblings. Thank You.

Comment author: tilde 07 October 2012 08:27:41PM 7 points [-]

I'm a 20-year-old physics student from Finland whose hobbies include tabletop roleplaying games and Natalie Reed-Zinnia Jones-style intersection of rationality and social justice.

I've been sporadically lurking on LessWrong for the last 2-3 years and have read most of the sequences. My primary goal is to contribute useful research to either SI or FHI or failing that, a significant part of my income. I've contacted the X-risks Reduction Career Network as well.

I consider this an achievable goal as my general intelligence is extremely high and I have won a national level mathematics competition 7 years ago despite receiving effectively no training in a small backwards town. With dedication and training I believe I could reach the level of the greats.

However, my biggest challenge currently is Getting Things Done; apart from fun distractions, committing any significant effort to something is nigh impossible. This could probably be caused by clinical depression (without the mood effects) and I'm currently on venlafaxine as an attempt to improve my capability to actually do something useful but so far (about 3 months) it hasn't had the desired effect. Assistance/advice would be appreciated.

Comment author: blueowl 05 October 2012 09:39:25PM 7 points [-]

Hi everyone! Another longtime lurker here. I found LW through Yvain's blog (Emily and Control FTW!). I'm not really into cryonics or FAI, but the sequences are awesome, and I enjoy the occasional instrumental rationality post. I decided to become slightly more active here, and this thread seemed like a good place to start, even if a bit old.

Comment author: Jess_Whittlestone 05 October 2012 10:38:12AM *  7 points [-]

Hi, I'm Jess. I've just graduated from Oxford with a masters degree in Mathematics and Philosophy. I'm trying to decide what to do next with my life, and graduate study in cognitive science is currently top of my list. What I'm really interested in is the application of research in human rationality, decision making and its limitations to wider issues in society, public policy etc.

I'm taking some time to challenge my intuition that I want to go into research, though, as I'm slightly concerned that I'm taking the most obvious option not knowing what else to do. My methods for doing this at the moment are a) trying to think about reasons it might not be the best option (a "consider the opposite" type approach) and b) initiating conversations with as many people as possible doing things that interest me, and getting some work experience in different areas this year, to broaden my limited perspective. Any better/additional suggestions are more than welcome!

I'm about to start an internship with 80000 hours, doing a project on the role of cognitive bias in career choice. The aim is to collect together the existing research on biases and mitigation techniques and apply it in a practical and accessible way, identifying the biases that most commonly affect career choice and providing useful strategies for avoiding them. I was wondering if anyone here has a summary of the existing literature on cognitive bias mitigation, or any recommendations of particularly useful/important research? Equally if anyone has spent much time thinking about this, I'd love to hear about it.

Comment author: therufs 29 September 2012 02:50:26AM *  7 points [-]

I saw this site on evand's computer one day, so of course then had to look it up for myself.  In my free time, I pester him with LW-y questions. 

By way of background, I graduated from a trying-to-be-progressive-but-sort-of-hung-up-on-orthodoxy quasi-Protestant seminary in spring 2010.  Primary discernible effects of this schooling (i.e., I would assign these a high probability of relevance on LW) include:

  • deeply suspicious of pretty much everything

  • a predisposition to enter a Hulk-smash rage at the faintest whiff of systematic injustice or oppression

  • high value on beauty, imagination*, and inclusivity

* Part of my motivation to involve myself in rationalism is a hope that I can learn ways to imagine better (more usefully, maybe.)

I like learning more about how brains work (/don't work).  Also about communities.  Also about things like why people say and do what they say and do, both in terms of conditioning/unconscious motivation and conscious decision. And and and. I will start keeping track on a wiki page perhaps.

I cherish ambitions of being able to contribute to a discussion one day! (If anyone has any ideas/relevant information about getting over not wanting to look stupid, please do share ...)


Comment author: robertoalamino 23 August 2012 06:51:02PM 7 points [-]


My name is Roberto and I'm a Brazilian physicist working in the UK. Even working in an academic environment, that obviously do not guarantee an environment where rational/unbiased/critical discussions can happen. Science production in universities not always are carried out by thinking critically about a subject as many papers can be purely technical in their nature. Also, free thinking is as regulated in academia as it is everywhere else in many aspects.

That said, I have been reading and browsing Less Wrong for some time and think that this can indeed be done here. In addition, given later developments all around the world in many aspects and how people react to them, I felt the urge to discuss them in a way which is not censored, specially by the other persons in the discussion. It promises to be relaxing anyway.

I'm sure I'm gonna have a nice time.

Comment author: [deleted] 03 August 2012 01:30:14PM 7 points [-]

Hi everyone,

I'm Leisha. I originally came across this site quite a while ago when I read the Explain/Worship/Ignore analogy here. I was looking for insight into my own cognitive processes; to skip the unimportant details, I ended up reading a whole lot about the concept of infinity once I realized that contemplating the idea gave me the same feeling of Worship that religion used to. It still does, to some extent, but at least I'm better-informed and can Explain the sheer scale of what I'm thinking of a little better.

I didn't return here until yesterday, when I was researching the concept of rational thought (by way of cognitive processing, Ayn Rand, and Vulcans!) For background, I'm a Myers-Briggs F-type (INFJ) who has come to realize that while emotion has its value, it's certainly not to be relied upon for making sound judgements. What I'm looking to do, essentially, is to repair the faulty processes within my own mind. I've spent a lot of time reaching invalid conclusions because the premises I have been working from were wrong; the original input I was given (before I was of an age to think critically) was incorrect. I'm tracing back the origin of a lot of the aliefs I have, only to find that they're based on values I no longer hold to be important. My value-sets need tweaking.

Unlike with a computer, though, with a mind you can't just delete what you need to and start over. Those detrimental thought-processes need to be overwritten with something that works better. That's why I'm here, essentially, as a complement to my inner work. I'm here to read about a more rational way of thinking, to try out ideas, to compare and to analyze. I intend to work through the Sequences, a little at a time.

I expect to read much more than I comment. If I assess myself honestly and fairly, then I'm not an unintelligent person, but I am (particularly by comparison with the subset represented at this website!) uneducated, and so a great deal of the math and science will likely be beyond my comprehension at this point. However, I thought I'd post here to introduce myself anyway, and to say what a valuable resource this site looks to be. I look forward to reading more.

Other trivia: I'm female, which I know puts me in the minority here. I enjoy science fiction and am working on some original pieces of my own. I'm interested in psychology, anthropology and the "weirder" parts of physics. I like to think about the very large and very small ends of the scale, and contemplate the big questions about who we are, how we got here and where we're going. I'm a libertarian and a feminist, and I drink tea.

Comment author: EmuSam 19 July 2012 04:49:37AM 7 points [-]


I was raised by a rationalist economist. At some point I got the idea that I wanted to be a statistical outlier, and also that irrationality was the outlier. After starting to pay attention to current events and polls, I'm now pretty sure that the second premise is incorrect.

I still have many thought patterns from that period that I find difficult to overcome. I try to counter them in the more important decisions by assigning WAG numerical values and working through equations to find a weighted output. I read more non-fiction than fiction now, and I am working with a mental health professional to overcome some of those patterns. I suppose I consider myself to have a good rationalist grounding while being used to completely ignoring it in my everyday life.

I found Less Wrong through FreethoughtBlogs and "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationalism." I added it to my feed reader and have been forcing my economist to help me work though some of the more science-of-choice oriented posts.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 18 July 2012 06:32:01PM 7 points [-]

Please add a few words about "Open Thread". Something like -- If you want to write just a simple question or one paragraph or text, don't create a new article, just add it as a comment to the latest discussion article called "Open Thread".

Comment author: MikeDobbs 25 March 2013 01:17:04PM 6 points [-]

Hello LW community. I'm a HS math teacher most interested in Geometry and Number Theory. I have long been attracted to mathematics and philosophy because they both embody the search for truth that has driven me all my life. I believe reason and logic are profoundly important both as useful tools in this search, and for their apparently unique development within our species.

Humans aren't particularly fast, or strong, or resistant to damage as compared with many other creatures on the planet, but we seem to be the only ones with a reasonably well developed faculty for reasoning and questioning. This leads me to believe that developing these skills is a clear imperative for all human beings, and I have worked hard all my life to use rational thinking, discourse and debate to better understand the world around me and the decisions that I make every day.

This is what drove me towards teaching as a career, as I see my profession as providing me with the opportunity to help young people better understand the importance of reason and logic, as well as help them to develop their ability to utilise them.

I'm excited to finally become a member of this community which seems to share in many of the values I hold dear, and look forward to many intriguing and thought provoking discussions here on LW!

Comment author: Squark 01 March 2013 10:02:42PM *  6 points [-]

Hello everyone. My name is Vadim Kosoy, and you can find some LW-relevant stuff about me in my Google+ stream: http://plus.google.com/107405523347298524518/about

I am an all time geek, with knowledge / interest in math, physics, chemistry, molecular biology, computer science, software engineering, algorithm engineering and history. Some areas in which I'm comparatively more knowledgeable: quantum field theory, differential geometry, algebraic geometry, algorithm engineering (especially computer vision)

In my day job I'm a technical + product manager of a small software group in Mantis Vision (http://www.mantis-vision.com/) a company developing 3D video cameras. My previous job was in VisionMap (http://www.visionmap.com/) which develops airborne photography / mapping systems, where I led a team of software and algorithm engineers.

I knew about Eliezer Yudkowsky and his friendly AI thesis (which I don't fully accept) for some time, but discovered this community only relatively recently. For me this community is interesting because of several reasons. One reason is that many discussions are related to the topics of transhumanism / technological singularity / artificial intelligence which I find very interesting and important. Another is that consequentialism is a popular moral philosophy here, and I (relatively recently) started to identify myself as strongly consequentialist. Yet another is that it seems to be a community where rational people discuss things rationally (or at least try), something that society all over the world misses as much direly as the idea seems trivial. This is in stark contrast the usual mode of discourse about social / political issues which is extremely shallow and plagued by excessive emotionality and dogmatism. I truly believe such a community can become a driver of social change in good directions, something with incredible impact

Recently I became very much interested with the subject of understanding general intelligence mathematically, in particular by the methods of computer science. I've written some comments here about my own variant of the Orseau-Ring framework, something I wished to expand into a full article but didn't have the karma for it. Maybe I'll post in on LW discussion.

My personal philosophy: As I said, I'm a consequentialist. I define my utility function not on the basis of hedonism or anything close to hedonism but on the basis of long-term scientific / technological / autoevolutional (transhumanist) progress. I don't believe in the innate value of h. sapiens but rather in the innate value of intelligent beings (in particular the more intelligence the more value). I can imagine scenarios in which a strong AI destroys humanity which are from my P.O.V. strongly positive: this is my disagreement with the friendly AI thesis. However I'm not sure whether any strong AI scenario will be positive, so I agree it is a concern. I also consider myself a deist rather than an atheist. Thus I believe in God, but the meaning I ascribe to the word "God" is very different from the meaning most religious people ascribe to it (I choose to still use the word "God" since there are a few things in common). For me God is the (unknowable) reason for the miraculous beauty of universe, perceived by us as the beauty of mathematics and science and the amazing plethora of interesting natural phenomena. God doesn't punish/reward for good/bad behavior, doesn't perform divine intervention (in the sense of occasional violations of natural law) and doesn't write/dictate scriptures and prophesies (except by inspiring scientists to make mathematical and scientific discoveries). I consider the human brain to be a machine, with no magic "soul" behind the scenes. However I believe in immortality in a stranger metaphysical sense which is something probably too long to detail here

I'm 29.9 years old, married with child (boy, 2.8 years old). I live in Israel since the age of 7 but I was born in the USSR. Ethnically I'm an Ashkenazi Jew. I enjoy science fiction, good cinema ( but no time to see any since my son was born :) ) and many sorts of music (but rock is probably my favorite). Glad to be here!

Comment author: shev 02 February 2013 05:52:18AM *  6 points [-]

Hi, I'm Alex.

Every once in a while I come to LessWrong because I want to read more interesting things and have more interesting discussions on the Internet. I've found it a lot easier to spend time on Reddit (having removed all the drivel) and dredging through Quora to find actually insightful content (seriously, do they have any sort of actual organization system for me to find reading material?) in the past. LessWrong's discussions have seemed slightly inaccessible, so maybe posting an introduction like I'm supposed to will set in motion my figuring out how this community works.

I'm interested in a lot of things here, but especially physics and mathematics. I would use the word "metaphysics" but it's been appropriated for a lot of things that aren't actually meta-physics like I mean. Maybe I want "meta-mathematics"? Anyway, I'm really keen on the theory behind physical laws and on attempts at reformulating math and physics into more lucid and intuitive systems. Some of my reading material (I won't say research, but ... maybe I should say research) recently has been on geometric algebra, re-axiomizing set theory, foundations and interpretations of quantum mechanics, reformulations of relativity, quantum field theory's interpretation, things like that. I have a permanent distaste for spinors and all the math we don't try to justify with intuition when teaching physics, so I've spent a lot of my last few years studying those.

I was really intrigued by the articles/blog posts? on what proofs actually mean and causality a few months ago; that's when I started reading the site. I've spent the better part of the last year sifting through all kinds of math ideas related to reinterpretations or 'fundamental' insights, so I hope hanging around here can expose me to some more.

Oh, and I've spent a good amount of time on the Internet refuting crackpots who think they solved physics, so I, um, promise I'm not one.

I'm a programmer by trade and have a good interest in revolutionary (or just convenient) software projects and disruptive ideas and really naive, idealist world-changing ideas, which is fun.

I have read some of the sequences and such but - I guess I'm a rationalist at heart already, maybe because I've studied lots of logic and such, but a lot of it of the basic stuff seemed pretty apparent to me. I was already up to speed on Bayes and quantum mechanics, for example, and never considered anything other than atheism. And I already optimize and try to look at life in terms of expected payoffs and other very rational things like that. But, it's possible I've missed a lot of the material here - I find navigating the site to be pretty unintuitive.

I'm based in Seattle and I hope to go to the meetups if they... ever happen again. I mostly just like talking to smart people; I find it makes my brain work better - as if there's some sort of 'conversation mode' which hypercharges my creativity.

Oh, and I have a blog: http://ajkjk.com/blog/. I'm slightly terrified of linking it; it's the first time I've shown it to anyone but friends. It only has 6 posts so far. I've written a lot more but deleted/hid them until they're cleaned up.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 February 2013 06:57:45AM 3 points [-]

I have read some of the sequences and such but - I guess I'm a rationalist at heart already, maybe because I've studied lots of logic and such, but a lot of it of the basic stuff seemed pretty apparent to me. I was already up to speed on Bayes and quantum mechanics, for example, and never considered anything other an atheism. And I already optimize and try to look at life in terms of expected payoffs and other very rational things like that. But, it's possible I've missed a lot of the material here - I find navigating the site to be pretty unintuitive.

Be very careful thinking you are done. I was in pretty much exactly the same position as you about a year ago. ("yep, I'm pretty rational. Lol @ god; I wonder what it's like to have delusional beliefs"). After a year and a half here, having read pretty much everything in the sequences and most of the other archives, running a meetup, etc, I now know that I suck at rationality. You will find that you are nowhere near the limits, or even the middle, of possible human rationality.

Further, I now know what it's like to have delusional beliefs that are so ingrained you don't even recognize them as beliefs, because I had some big ones. I probably have more. There not easy to spot from the inside.

On the subject of atheism... I used to be an atheist, too. The rabbit hole you've fallen into here is deep.

The Seattle guys are pretty cool, from those I've met. Go hang out with them.

Comment author: Kawoomba 02 February 2013 07:32:11AM 5 points [-]

On the subject of atheism... I used to be an atheist, too. The rabbit hole you've fallen into here is deep.

Don't be mysterious, Morpheus, please elaborate.

Comment author: shminux 02 February 2013 06:11:05AM 3 points [-]

From your blog:

Recently it occurred to me that a large part of being addicted to Reddit isn't actually the content but the fact that the links turn purple when you click on them. And my brain is slightly obsessed with turning all the blue purple, all the time.

This is amazing, yet seems so obvious in retrospect. So many of us have turned into blue-minimizing robots without realizing it. Hopefully breaking the reward feedback loop with your extension would force people to try to examine their true reasons for clicking.

Comment author: MusicMapsReality 24 December 2012 10:36:43PM 6 points [-]

Hello, I'm Ben Kidwell. I'm a middle-aged classical pianist and lifelong student of science, philosophy, and rational thought. I've been reading posts here for years and I'm excited to join the discussion. I'm somewhat skeptical of some things that are part of the conventional wisdom around here, but even when I think the proposed answers are wrong - the questions are right. The topics that are discussed here are the topics that I find interesting and significant.

I am only formally and professionally trained in music, but I have tried to self-study physics, math, computer science, and philosophy in a focused way. I confess that I do have one serious weakness as a rationalist, which is that I can read and understand a lot of math symbology, but I can't actually DO math past the level of simple calculus with a few exceptions. (Some computer programming work with algorithms has helped with a few things.) It's frustrating because higher math is The Key that unlocks a lot of deep understanding of the universe.

I have a particular interest in entropy, information theory, cosmology, and their relation to the human experience of temporality. I think the discovery that information-theoretic entropy and thermodynamic entropy are equivalent and the quantum formalism encodes this duality is a crucial insight which should be a foundational cornerstone of philosophy and our understanding of the world. The sequence about quantum theory and decoherence is one of my favorites and I think there is a lot more to be done to adjust our philosophy and use of language when it comes to what kind of quantum reality we are living in.

Comment author: [deleted] 20 December 2012 08:33:10PM 6 points [-]

Hey everyone, I'm sean nolan. I found less wrong from tvtropes.org, but I made sure to lurk sufficiently long before joining. I've been finding a lot of interesting stuff on lesswrong (most of which was posted by eliezer), some of which I've applied to real life (such as how procrastination vs doing something is the equivalent of defect vs cooperate in a prisoners' dilemma against your future self). I'm 99.5% certain I'm a rationalist, the other 0.5% being doubt cast upon me by noticing I've somehow attained negative karma.

Comment author: mjankovic 21 November 2012 10:32:22PM 6 points [-]

Hello, I'm a physics student from Croatia, though I've attended a combined physics and computer science program (study programs here are very specific) for couple of years at a previous university that I left, though my high school specialization is in economy. I am currently working towards my bachelor's degree in physics.

I have no idea how I learned of this site, though it was probably trough some transhumanist channels (there's a lot of half-forgotten bits and pieces of information floating in my mind, so I can't be sure). Lately I've started reading the core sequences, mostly on my cell phone, while traveling (it avoids tab explosions). So far I've encountered a lot of what I've already considered or concluded for myself in a more expanded form.

Comment author: JaySwartz 19 November 2012 11:12:52PM 6 points [-]


I am Jay Swartz, no relation to Aaron. I have arrived here via the Singularity Institute and interactions with Louie Helm and Malo Bourgon. Look me up on Quora to read some of my posts and get some insight to my approach to the world. I live near Boulder, Colorado and have recently started a MeetUp; The Singularity Salon, so look me up if you're ever in the area.

I have an extensive background in high tech, roughly split between Software Development/IT and Marketing. In both disciplines I have spent innumerable hours researching human behavior and thought processes in order to gain insights into how to create user interfaces and how to describe technology in concise ways to help people to evaluate the merits of the technology. I've spent time at Apple, Sun, Seagate, Mensa, Osborne and a few start-ups applying my ever-deepening understanding of the human condition.

Over the years, I have watched synthetic intelligence (I much prefer the more precise SI over AI) grow in fits and starts. I am increasing my focus in this area because I believe we are on the cusp of general SI (GSI). There is a good possibility that within my life time I will witness the convergence of technology that leads to the appearance of GSI. This will in part be facilitated by advances in medicine that will extend my lifespan well past 100 years.

I am currently building my first SI web crawler that will begin building a corpus to be mined by some SciPy applications I have on my list of things to do. These efforts will provide me with technical insights on the SI challenge. There is even the possibility, however slight, that they can be matured to make a contribution to the creation of SI.

Finally, I am working on a potential paper for the Singularity Institute. I just posted a first outline/draft, Predicting Machine Super Intelligence, but do not yet know the details on how anyone finds it or how I see any responses. Having been on more than a few sites similar to this, I know I will be able to quickly sort thing out.

I am looking forward to reading and exchanging ideas here. I will strive to contribute as much as I receive.


Comment author: StonesOnCanvas 15 November 2012 08:50:48PM *  6 points [-]

Hi I’m Bojidar (also known as Bobby). I was introduced to LW by Luke Muehlhauser’s blog “Common Sense Atheism” and I've been reading LW ever since he first started writing about it. I am a 25 year old laboratory technician (and soon to be PhD student) at a major cancer research hospital in Buffalo, NY. I've been reading LW for a while and recently I've been really wishing that Buffalo had a LW group (I've been considering starting one, but I’m a bit concerned that I don’t have much experience in running groups nor have I been very active in the online community). A bit about myself: I enjoy reading about rationality, psychology, biology, philosophy and methods of self-help (or self-optimization). In my spare time I like doing artistic things (oil painting, figure drawing, and making really cool Halloween costumes), gardening, travel, playing video games (casual MMO gamer & RPG fan), and I like watching sci-fi, fantasy genre movies/TV programs. Also, I work out 5 times per week (which thanks to some awesome self-help advice has been a whole lot easier to stick with – thanks Luke!). I hope to learn how to play the piano well (I currently just freestyle on occasion or attempt to learn songs I like by watching youtube synthesia videos, but I would really like to learn how to read sheet music).

As far as by background in rationality, I would have to say that I didn't really grow up in a particularly rational environment. I grew up Christian, but religion wasn't a huge influence on my upbringing. On the other hand, my family (particularly my mom), is really into alternative medicine. I wish I could say it is just a general belief in “healthy eating” coupled with the naturalistic fallacy, but sadly it is not. She is a homeopathic “doctor” (thankfully non-practicing!) and can easily be convinced of even the most biologically implausible remedies (on rare occasions even scaring me by taking or suggesting potentially dangerous treatments). I really fear the possible outcome of these beliefs; given the option between effective chemotherapy and magical sugar pills, she probably won’t choose the option that saves her life. (After several failed attempts to improve her rationality and change her mind, I have long abandoned any attempts in hopes to preserve my relationship with my family.)

That being said, for a large portion of my life, I believed many of the same things my parents taught me to believe. Then I went to college as a premed student and was exposed to a lot of new information, which over time, made me start to reject those beliefs. Growing up, I was considered to be pretty rational by other people around me (not always in a good way; often it was negatively attached to the claim of being "left – brained” or “not being in touch with my intuitive self”). In retrospect, I was only marginally saner than other people around me, perhaps just sane enough to change my mind given the chance.

P.S. I have not taken any formal logic classes and on occasion might need some terms or symbols clarified (although my boyfriend has and frequent discussions with him have helped me pick up some of this nomenclature).

Comment author: avantguard 06 November 2012 07:42:10PM *  6 points [-]

I'm Rachel Haywire and I love to hate culture. I've been in "the community" for almost 2 years but just registered an account today. I need to read more of the required texts here before saying much but wanted to pop my head out from lurking. I've been having some great conversations on Twitter with a lot of the regulars here.

I organize the annual transhumanist/alt-culture event Extreme Futurist Festival (http://extremefuturistfest.info) and should have my new website up soon. I like to write, argue, and write about arguing. I've also done silly things such as producing industrial music and modeling.

You probably know me as that really loud girl at parties with the tattoos and crazy hair. I'm actually not trying to get attention. I'm just an autist. I am here so I can become a more rational person. I love philosophy and debate but my thinking is not always... correct?

Comment author: RobertPearson 06 November 2012 01:26:59AM *  6 points [-]

Hi! I am Robert Pearson: Political professional of the éminence grise variety. Catholic rationalist of the Aquinas variety. Avid chess player, pistol shooter. Admirer of the writings of Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein. Liberal Arts BA from a small state university campus. I read Overcoming Bias occasionally some years ago, but heard of LessWrong from Leah Libresco.

My real avocation is learning how to be a smarter, better, more efficient, happier human being. Browsing the site for awhile convinced me it was a good means to those ends.

I write a column on Thursdays for Grandmaster Nigel Davies' The Chess Improver

Comment author: mattwise 02 August 2012 12:48:57AM 6 points [-]


I was introduced to LW by a friend of mine but I will admit I dismissed it fairly quickly as internet philosophy. I came out to a meetup on a recent trip to visit him and I really enjoyed the caliber of people I met there. It has given me reason to come back and be impressed by this community.

I studied Math and a little bit of Philosophy in undergrad. I'm here mostly to learn, and hopefully to meet some interesting people. I enjoy a good discussion and I especially enjoy having someone change my mind but I lose interest quickly when I realize that the other party has too much ego involved to even consider changing his or her mind.

I look forward to learning from you all!


Comment author: Haladdin 25 July 2012 06:49:20AM *  6 points [-]

Hi, LessWrong,

I used to entertain myself by reading psychology, and philosophy articles on Wikipedia and following the subsequent links. When I was really interested in a topic though, I used google to further find websites would provide me more information on said topics. Around late 2010, I found that some of my search results led to this very website. Less Wrong proved to be a little too dense for me to enjoy; I needed to fully utilize my cognitive capabilities to even begin to comprehend some of the articles posted here.

Since I was looking for entertainment, I decided to ignore all links to LW for quite a while, but the frequency of LW result coming up in my queries became more and more frequent with time. I finally decided to read some of the posts, and some of the articles (determinism, cryonics, and death related ones) described conclusions I've derived independently. It was quite shocking as I thought of myself as a rather unique thinker. Thinking more about this, I came to a conclusion. Instead of having a "eureka" moment every couple of months to come at the same conclusion people arrived at centuries ago, I decided to optimize my time - compressing the learning/awakening period by reading the sequences instead of attempting to figure out everything myself.

Funnily enough, I detest reading the same articles that I enjoyed reading before now that I've given myself the goal of reading them. I'm sure that the explanation and the solution to this conundrum can be found on this website as well.

Lastly, a note to ciphergoth - I do not identify myself as a rationalist, as the second sentence of this post implies. I found out that labeling myself limits my words, my actions, and more importantly, my thoughts, so I refuse to label myself by my political ideologies, gender, nationality, etc. I even go by a few different names so I can become more detached to my name itself as I found people to be irrationally attached to names as it is nothing but an identifying label. I will use rationalist techniques and tools, and I may even grow to adopt your ideologies, but I will not identify myself as a rationalist. At least until the benefits of applying labels to myself becomes more concrete.

Nice to meet all of you.

Comment author: tmosley 21 July 2012 02:01:12AM 6 points [-]

So I recently found LessWrong after seeing a link to the Harry Patter fanfiction, and I have been enthralled with the concept of rationalism since. The concepts are not foreign to me as I am a chemist by training, but the systematization and focus on psychology keep me interested. I am working my way through the sequences now.

As for my biography, I am a 29 year old laboratory manager trained as a chemist. My lab develops and tests antimicrobial materials and drugs based on selenium's oxygen radical producing catalysis. It is rewarding work if you can get it, which you can't, because our group is the only one doing it ;)

Besides my primary field of work, I am generally interested in science, technology, economics, and history.

I am looking at retirement from the 9-5 life in the next year or so, and am interested in learning the methods of rationality, which I feel would allow me to excel in other endeavors in the future. I already find myself linking to articles from here to explain and predict human behavior.

This place is overwhelming with its content. I don't think I have ever seen a website with a comment section so worth reading. I fear that I could spend the remainder of my life reading and never have the time to DO anything.

In the realm of politics, I would be considered an anarcho-capitalist, though I value any and all types of values between there and where the USA's politics currently lay. I am an atheist to the extent that I don't believe in an anthropomorphic god, though reading the "an alien god" (not quite sure how to post links here yet) sequence certainly made me realize that certain pervasive and extremely powerful processes do exist, so I am reexamining some of my long-held assumptions in that arena.

I spend quite a lot of my time in the online "Fight Club" that is Zerohedge's comment section, so apologies in advance if I come off as sharp in some of my remarks. I prefer appeals to logic and reason as a rule, but sometimes I resort to pathos and personal attack, especially when I feel that I am being personally attacked. This impulse has been greatly curbed by what I have read here, however, and I find that I am able to pierce through inflammatory arguments much more cool-ly, which I count as a positive result for all involved.

In any event, I generally try not to comment when I feel ill-informed on a subject, but when I think I have something to contribute, I will. I am really enjoying the site so far.

Now, back to reading. So much to read, so little time.

Comment author: [deleted] 01 February 2013 06:16:34PM 16 points [-]

Greetings LWers,

I'm an aspiring Friendliness theorist, currently based at the Australian National University -- home to Marcus Hutter, Rachael Briggs and David Chalmers, amongst others -- where I study formal epistemology through the Ph.B. (Hons) program.

I wasn't always in such a stimulating environment -- indeed I grew up in what can only be deemed intellectual deprivation, from which I narrowly escaped -- and, as a result of my disregard for authority and despise for traditional classroom learning, I am largely self-taught. Unlike most autodidacts, though, I never was a voracious reader, on the contrary I barely opened books at all, instead preferring to think things over in my head; this has left me an ignorant person -- something I'm constantly striving to improve on -- but has also protected me from many diseased ideas and even allowed me to better appreciate certain notions by having to rediscover them myself. (case in fact, throughout my adolescence I took great satisfaction in analysing my mental mechanisms and correcting for what I now know to be biases, yet I never came across the relevant literature, essentially missing out on a wealth of knowledge)

For a long time I've aspired to join a cultural movement modelled on the principles of the Enlightenment and, to my eyes, LW, MIRI, CFAR, FHI and CSER are exactly the kind of community that can impact society through the use of reason. Alas, I was long unaware of their existence and when I first heard about the 'Singularity' I immediately dismissed it as the science fiction it sounds like, but thankfully this is no longer the case and I can now start making my modest contributions to reducing existential risk.

Lastly, I've never had my IQ measured properly -- passing the Mensa admission test places me at least two SDs above the norm, but that's hardly impressive by LW standards -- and, as much as I value such an indicator, I'm too emotionally invested in my intelligence to dare undergo psychometric testing. (for what it's worth, as a child my development was precocious -- e.g. the development of my motor skills was superior to that of the subjects taking part in this well-known longitudinal study)

I've opened up a lot to you, LWers; I hope my only regret will be not having discovered you earlier...

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 01 February 2013 11:56:02PM 6 points [-]

Nice! What part of FAI interests you?

Comment author: [deleted] 02 February 2013 09:50:21AM 2 points [-]

Too soon to say, as I discovered FAI a mere two months ago -- this, incidentally, could mean that it's a fleeting passion -- but CEV has definitely caught my attention, while the concept of a reflective decision theory I find really fascinating. The latter is something I've been curious about for quite some time, as plenty of moral precepts seem to break down once an agent -- even a mere homo sapiens -- reaches certain levels of self-awareness and, thus, is able to alter their decision mechanisms.

Comment author: bdbaruah 23 January 2013 03:05:51PM 5 points [-]

Aaron's blog brought me here. Sad that he's no longer with us.

I have been thinking for a long time about overcoming biases, and to put them into action in life. I work as an orthopaedic surgeon in the daytime and all I see around me is an infinite amount of bias. I can't take it on unless I can understand them and apply them to my life processes!

Comment author: [deleted] 17 November 2012 05:00:21AM 5 points [-]

I'm Rev. PhD in mathematics, disabled shut-in crank. I spend a lot of time arguing with LW people on Twitter.

Comment author: CharlieDavies 08 November 2012 11:56:49PM 5 points [-]

Hi, Charlie here.

I'm a middle-aged high-school dropout, married with several kids. Also a self-taught computer programmer working in industry for many years.

I have been reading Eliezer's posts since before the split from Overcoming Bias, but until recently only lurked the internet -- I'm shy.

I broke cover recently by joining a barbell forum to solve some technical problems with my low-bar back squat, then stayed to argue about random stuff. Few on the barbell forum argue well -- it's unsatisfying. Setting my sights higher, I now join this forum.

I'll probably start by trying some of the self-improvement schemes and reporting results. Any recommendations re: where to start?

Comment author: CAE_Jones 06 November 2012 02:37:10PM 5 points [-]

Apologies in advance for the novella. And any spelling errors that I don't catch (I'm typing in notepad, among other excuses).
It's always very nice when I come across something that reminds me that there are not only people in the world who can actually think rationally, but that many of them are way better at it than me.
I don't like mentioning this so early in any introduction, but my vision is terrible to the point of uselessness; I mostly just avoid calling myself "blind" because it internally feels like that would be giving up on the tiny power left in my right eye. I mention it now just because it will probably be relevant by the end of my rambling. (Feel free to skip to the last paragraph if you'd rather avoid all the backstory.)
I'm from northeast Arkansas. My parents were never really religious (I kinda internalized the ambient mythos of "God=good and fluffy cloud heaven, Satan=bad and fire and brimstone hell" just because it seemed to be the accepted way of things among all of my other relatives. TUrns out my dad identified himself as a Buddhist after one of our many trips to Disneyworld. ... they.... really like Disney. They have a dog named Disney.). They did emphasize the importance of education and individualism and all of those ideals from the late eighties and nineties that turned out to be counterproductive (though I'm having trouble finding the cracked.com articles that point this out in the most academically sound manner imaginable. (note: the previous statement was sarcastic)). So I tried to learn as much as I could in the general direction of science. Being that this was all done at public schools, and that a whole 0 of the more advanced science books I wanted were available in braille, this didn't get me very far.
I did my last two years of highschool at the Arkansas School of Mathematics and Science (which added "and the arts" when I got there, though before they'd actually added an art program), and somehow graduated without actually doing much science (I did a study of the effects of atmosphere on dreams for the year-and-a-half science project that everyone had to do, but forewent trying to organize an experiment and just wrote a terrible research paper). Then I got to college, and everything went to hell. I'd somehow managed to sneak around learning things like vectors, dot/cross products, and actual lab reports in highschool, and the experiments we did in gen physics never felt like experiments so much as demonstrations ("Behold: gravity still works!"). This is about where it became extremely clear to me that I simply could no longer make myself do things by force of will alone (and it became doubly clear that no one else seemed capable of understanding that I wasn't just "blowing off" everything). It took several semesters after that for me to realize that I had seriously missed out on some basic life things and that I actually needed friends (and that I needed to seriously reevaluate what qualified as friendship). They finally made me pick a new major, seeing as I'd kinda kept away from physics after the first semester ended in disaster. So I took the quickest way out, that being French, and now I'm still living with my parents, have about a dozen essays on Franco-african literature to write, and am about $30,000 in debt (that's only counting the loans in my name; my parents took the rest of the financial burden in their names).
So I mostly try to focus on creative endeavors, such as fiction and video games. Except the lack-of-vision thing makes that harder (I've been focusing on developing audio games for the past couple years, but it's virtually impossible to actually live off the tiny audio games market. Oh, but I could write pages on my observations there, and I rather want to, as I'm sure many of you could make some meaningful observations/analyses on some of those trends.).
... Well crap, I just wrote a few pages without actually getting to anything useful. I have serious need of better rationality skills than I'm currently applying: independence, dealing with emotional/cognative weirdness, finding ways to actually travel outside of my house (public transportation might as well not exist anywhere but the capital in Arkansas, and good sidewalks are hard to find), social issues, productivity issues, finding ways to get in physical activity, being unemployed with an apparent hiring bias against disabilities, financial ability, etc. The total money that I have to work with is less than $400, so I can't exactly sign up for cryonics or hire a driver to take me places. And this wall-o-text demonstrates my horrible disorganization rather well, I fear. (Hm, is there not a way to preview a comment before one posts it?)

Comment author: Neurosteel 06 November 2012 11:27:22AM 5 points [-]

After having read all of the Sequences, I suppose its time I actually registered. I did the most recent (Nov 2012) survey. I'm doing my PhD in the genetics of epilepsy (so a neurogenetics background is implied). I'm really interested in branching out into the field of biases and heuristics, especially from a functional imaging and genetics perspective (my training includes EEG, MRI/fMRI, surgical tissue analysis, and all the usual molecular stuff/microarrays).

Experiences with grant writing makes me lean more toward starting my own biotech or research firm and going from there, but academics is an acceptable backup plan.

Comment author: wesley 06 November 2012 02:49:58AM 5 points [-]

Hi, my name is Wes(ley), and I'm a lurkaholic.

First, I'd like to thank this community. I think it is responsible in a large way for my transformation (perceived transformation of course) from a cynical high schooler who truly was only motivated enough to use his natural (not worked hard for) above average reasoning skills to troll his peers, to a college kid currently making large positive lifestyle changes, and dreaming of making significant positive changes in the world.

I think I have observed significant changes in my thinking patterns since reading the sequences, learning about Bayes, and watching discussions unfold on LessWrong over the last two years or so.

Three examples (and there are many more) of this are:

  1. Noticing quicker, and more often when a dispute is about terms and not substance.

  2. Identifying situations in which myself or others are trying to "guess the teacher's password" (this has really helped me identify gaps in understanding)

  3. Increased internal dialogue concerning bias (in myself, and in others, I at first started to notice myself being strongly subject to confirmation bias; I suspect realizing this has at least a little bias-reducing effect)

Unfortunately, I don't think I have come even close to being able to apply these skills in a place where they would be highly beneficial to others, like a decision making position. That is okay, my belief is that this is something that will come with age, and career advancement.

One of my goals for the next year is to start a LessWrongish student organization at my college campus (Auburn University), which is a traditionally very conservative place. This is partially out of a wholly selfish desire to engage in more stimulating discussions (instead of just spectating, this is also why I am delurking), and partially out of a part selfish desire to create a community at school that fosters instrumental rationality. I think that by posting this goal here, it is at least slightly more likely I will go through with it.

Some of the things I like to do include: race small sailboats, read, play video games, try new foods, explore, learn, smile at people I don't know, play rough with my family's dogs, drive with high acceleration (not necesscarily high speeds), travel, talk with people I don't know and will likely never meet again, find a state of flow in work, read comments on CNN political articles (it's a comedy thing), learn about native animal and plant species, catch critters, listen to big band music, find humor in unusual places, laugh at myself, fantasize about getting superpowers, and lab benchwork.

Some of the things I don't like to do include: get to know new people (I like knowing people though), spend time on social networking sites (I don't have a Facebook or Twitter), have text conversations, dress formally (ties? why do we need to cling to those?), "jumping through hoops" (e.g. make sure to attend 5 events for this class, suck up to professor x for a good recc, make sure to put x on your resume), engaging in politics, talk to people who say things like "it's all relative man," or "I choose to not let my world be bound by logic", clean, binge drink (okay, actually, I don't like being hung over, or the thought of poisoning myself), die to lag, percieve assignment of undue credit.

Currently I am taking a semester off from studying cell and molecular biology, and volunteering as a research student in a solid tumor immunology lab. I think long-term I would like to get involved with research on the molecular basis of aging, or applied research related to life extension.

Comment author: blacktrance 05 November 2012 09:39:16PM 5 points [-]

Long-time lurker, first-time poster. I'm 21, male, and a college student majoring in economics and minoring in CS. I first heard of Eliezer Yudkowsky when a couple of my friends discovered Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality two years ago. I started reading it and enjoyed it immensely at first, but as the plot eclipsed what I'd call the "cool tricks", I became less interested and dropped it. More recently, a different friend linked me to Intellectual Hipsters. After reading it, I read several sequences and was hooked.

My journey to rationality was started by my parents (both of whom are atheists with degrees in STEM fields). I was provided with numerous science books as a child, and I was taught the basics of the scientific method, as well as encouraged to think analytically in general. They also introduced me to science fiction. I grew up in a heavily religious part of the US, so I frequently had to defend my beliefs. Then I discovered what people call "arguing on the Internet", which I found I enjoy. That caused me to refine and develop my beliefs.

My current beliefs. I'm a quasi-Objectivist (in the Ayn Rand sense), though politically I'm a classical liberal (pragmatic libertarian). I'm not particularly interested in AI or cryonics (though I support transhumanism). I'm a compatiblist (free will and determinism are not mutually exclusive). I think technological and scientific progress will continue to reduce limitations on humans, and that's a good thing.

Comment author: Cinnia 05 November 2012 09:24:03PM *  5 points [-]

Hi, I’m Cinnia, the name I go by on the net these days. I found my way here by way of both HPMOR and Luminosity about 8 months ago, but never registered an account until the survey.

Like Alan, I’m also in my final year of secondary school, though I’m on the other side of the pond. I love science and math and plan to have a career in neuroscience and/or psychiatry after I graduate. This year I finally decided to branch out my interests a bit and joined the local robotics club (a part of FIRST, if anyone’s curious), and it’s possibly the best extracurricular I’ve ever tried.

I’ve noticed that there aren’t many virtual communities that manage to hold my interest for long, due to a number of different reasons, but I’ve been lurking around LessWrong for about 8 months now and find it incredibly enlightening. I am (very) slowly working my way through the Sequences and some of the top articles here, but have finished Eliezer’s “Three Worlds Collide” and Alicorn’s original posts on Luminosity.

I’m still very much in the process of learning and trying to understand many of the concepts LessWrong explores, so I’m not sure how often I’ll be contributing. However, I do have some understanding of Riso and Hudson’s Enneagram and Spiral Dynamics, so I suppose there’s some groundwork that I can build from in the future.

Anyway, I like LessWrong’s mission and am happy to have finally joined the community.

Edited to clarify: Spiral Dynamics is an entirely separate psychological theory from the Enneagram, in case it wasn't clear.

Comment author: alanog 04 November 2012 03:20:13PM 5 points [-]

Hi, I'm Alan, a student in my final year of secondary school in London, England. For some reason I'm finding it hard to remember how and when I stumbled upon Less Wrong. It was probably in March or April this year, and I think it was because Julia Galef mentioned it at some point, thought I may be misremembering.

Anyway, I've now read large chunks of the Sequences (though I can never remember which bits exactly) and HPMOR, and enjoy reading all the discussion that goes on here. I've never registered as a user before as I've never felt the burning need to comment on anything, but thought I should take the survey as I seemed part of its intended audience, so maybe I'll find things to say now.

I only study maths and science subjects in school, and am planning to study for a science degree when I head off to University next year. However, I tend to hang out more with the philosophically inclined people in school, and have had much fun introducing and debating Newcomb, prisoners' dillemas, torture vs dust specks, transhumanism and the like with them.

LessWrong is definitely one of those things I regret not finding out about earlier. It's my favourite website now, although I should probably stop using it as a place to procrastinate so much.

Comment author: lucb1e 17 October 2012 03:31:31PM 5 points [-]

Hello everyone, I'm Luc, better known on the web as lucb1e. (I prefer not to advertise my last name for privacy reasons.) I'm currently a 19 year old student, doing application development in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

Like Aaron Swartz, I meant to post in discussion but don't have enough karma. I've been reading articles from time to time for years now, so I think I have an okay idea what fits on this site.

I think I ended up on LessWrong originally via Eliezer's NPC story. After reading that I looked around on the site, read about the AIBox experiment (which I later conducted myself), and eventually found LessWrong. This was probably about three or four years ago. During this time I've read some articles, sometimes being linked here and sometimes coming here by myself. I'm a bit hesitant to participate in the community because it seems quite out of my league; everybody knows a ton about rationality whereas I've only read some bits and pieces. I think I have an okay idea of what is appropriate to post, though, and also especially where I should not try to post :)

Comment author: [deleted] 07 October 2012 12:16:42AM 5 points [-]

Well, I haven't really figured out what you all need to know about me, but I suppose there must be something relevant. Let's start with why I'm here.

I can remember being introduced to Less Wrong in two ways, though I don't know in what order. One was through HPMoR, and the other through a post about Newcomb's problem. Neither of those really brought me here in a direct way, though. I guess I am here based on the cumulative sum of recommendations and mentions of LW made by people in my social circle, combined with a desire for new reading material that is between SF/fantasy novels and statistics textbooks in need for concentration. So, since I want stuff to read, preferably lots of it, I am starting with the Sequences.

I think the next-most-relevant information here is what fields I am knowledgeable (or not) about. My single area of greatest expertise is pure mathematics; I dropped out of grad school most of the way (I was told by people who should know) to a PhD with a thesis in algebraic topology, and am now a math tutor at the high school and college levels. I have a big gap in my useful math knowledge around statistics, though, which I am now working to fill. Hence the textbooks. I also know more than the average person about archaic household chores like canning and sewing.

Comment author: aotell 20 September 2012 01:37:38PM 5 points [-]

Hi everyone!

I'm a theoretical physicist from Germany. My work is mostly about the foundations of quantum theory, but also information theory and non-commutative geometry. Currently I'm working as head of research in a private company.

As a physicist I have been confronted with all sorts of (semi-) esoteric views about quantum theory and its interpretation, and my own lack of a better understanding got me started to explore the fundamental questions related to understanding quantum theory on a rational basis. I believe that all mainstream interpretations have issues and that the real answer is a rigorous theory of quantum measurement. On my blog at http://aquantumoftheory.wordpress.com I argue that quantum theory does not have to be interpreted and I propose a rational alternative to interpretation. This is also the main reason I came here, to discuss my results with other rationalists to see if they are indeed satisfying. So your feedback is very welcome!

Other interests of mine include cognitive psychology, music (both active and passive), cooking and photography. Science in general and the philosophy of science, at least the more rational parts, are also interests of mine.

Comment author: Weisguy 22 August 2012 08:52:58PM *  5 points [-]

Hi everyone,

I'm currently caught up on HPMOR, and I've read many of the sequences, so I figured it was time to introduce myself here.

I'm a 24 year old Cognitive Psychology graduate student. I was raised as a fairly conservative Christian who attempted to avoid any arguments that would seriously challenge my belief structure. When I was in undergrad, I took an intro to philosophy course which helped me realize that I needed to fully examine all of my beliefs. This helped me to move toward becoming a theistic evolutionist and finally an atheist. Now I strive to use the methods of rationality to continue to question all of my beliefs and improve my life.

As a psychology graduate student I have the opportunity to teach an introductory psychology course. I'm hoping to take what I have learned here and start helping my students improve their rationality. Specifically, I'm planning to have the students read excerpts from Ch 22 & 23 of HPMOR as a fun and interesting way to start learning to think like a scientist. I'm hoping the community can assist me with possibly narrowing down the sections I'm going to have them read and consider possible methods of assessment. As of now, I know that I want to have the students analyze the methodology used by Harry in his two experiments from those chapters, and I probably want to have students come up with their own hypotheses and methods to test them. Any help the community wants to provide is most appreciated.

Comment author: sakranut 03 August 2012 12:49:54AM 5 points [-]

Hi everyone!

I'm 19 years old and a rising sophomore at an American university. I first came across Less Wrong five months ago, when one of my friends posted the "Twelve Virtues of Rationality" on facebook. I thought little of it, but soon afterward, when reading Leah Libresco's blog on atheism (she's since converted to catholicism), I saw a reference to Less Wrong, and figured I would check it out. I've been reading the Sequences sporadically for a few months, and just got up to date on HPMOR, so I thought I would join the community and perhaps begin posting.

Although I have little background in mathematics, cognitive science, or computer programming, I have had a long-standing, deep interest in ethics and happiness, both of which inevitably lead to an interest in epistemology. Since I began hanging around Less Wrong, my interest in logic and cognitive biases has definitely been piqued as well. Some of my other, less relevant, interests include intellectual history, music, Western classic literature, literary theory, aesthetics, economics, and political philosophy. I also enjoy the New York Giants and playing the piano.

I love debating others, but mostly debating myself - I do so constantly, but too often inconclusively. The main advantage I've found of debating others is that they help disabuse me of my own self-deceptions. Reading good literature usually serves this purpose as well.

A strong part of my identity is that I am a religious Jew. I am not a theist, but I keep a large portion of Jewish law, mostly because I am satisfied that doing so is a good use of my time. I can't remember a case when Jewish law has collided with my ethics, perhaps because so many of my ethical intuitions come from the Jewish tradition.

It amuses me that the Less Wrong community refers to itself as "rationalist," given that at one point in intellectual history, "rationalists" were those who did not believe in empiricism. Aside from that, I'm extremely excited to learn from all of you.

Comment author: ViEtArmis 19 July 2012 04:41:25PM *  12 points [-]

Hello! I'm David.

I'm 26 (at the time of writing), male, and an IT professional. I have three (soon to be four) children, three (but not four) of which have a different dad.

My immediate links here were through the Singularity Institute and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which drove me here when I realized the connection (I came to those things entirely separately!). When I came across this site, I had read through the Wikipedia list of biases several times over the course of years, come to many conscious conclusions about the fragility of my own cognition, and had innumerable arguments with friends and family that changed minds, but I never really considered that there would be a large community of people that got together on those grounds.

I'm going to do the short version of my origin story here, since writing it all out seems both daunting and pretentious. I was raised rich and lucky by an entrepreneur/university professor/doctor father and a mother who always had to be learning something or go crazy (she did some of both). I dropped out of a physics major in college and got my degree in gunsmithing instead, but only after I worked a few years. Along the way, I've politically and morally moved around, but I'm worried that the settling of my moral and political beliefs is a symptom of my brain settling rather than because of all of my rationalizations.

There are a few reasons that I haven't commented on here yet (mostly because I despise any sort of hard work), and this is an attempt to break some of those inhibitions and maybe even get to know some people well enough (i.e. at all) to actively desire discourse.

Ok, David Fun Facts time:

  • I know enough Norwegian, Chinese, Latin, Lojban, and Spanish to do...something useful maybe?

  • I almost never think of what I'm saying before I say it (as in black-box), and I let it continue because it works.

  • Corollary: I curse a lot when I'm comfortable with people.

  • Corollary: My voice is low and loud, so it carries quite far.

  • I play a lot of video games, board games, and thought experiment games.

Comment author: RobertChange 17 January 2013 09:35:24PM *  11 points [-]

Hi LWers,

I am Robert and I am going to change the world. Maybe just a little bit, but that’s ok, since it’s fun to do and there’s nothing else I need to do right now. (Yay for mini-retirements!)

I find some of the articles here on LW very useful, especially those on heuristics and biases, as well as material on self-improvement although I find it quite scattered among loads of way to theoretic stuff. Does it seem odd that I have learned much more useful tricks and gained more insight from reading HPMOR than from reading 30 to 50 high-rated and “foundational” articles on this site? I am sincerely sad that even the leading rationalists on LW seem to struggle getting actual benefits out of their special skills and special knowledge (Yvain: Rationality is not that great; Eliezer: Why aren't "rationalists" surrounded by a visible aura of formidability?) and I would like to help them change that.

My interest is mainly in contributing more structured, useful content and also to band together with fellow LWers to practice and apply our rationalist skills. As a stretch goal I think that we could pick someone really evil as our enemy and take them down, just to show our superiority. Let me stress that I am not kidding here. If rationality really counts for something (other than being good entertainment for sciency types and sci-fi lovers), then we should be able to find the right leverages and play out a great plot which just leaves everyone gasping “shit!” And then we’ll have changed the world, because people will start taking rationality serious.

Let me send out a warm “thank you” to you all for welcoming me in your rationalist circles!

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 18 January 2013 06:23:58AM *  3 points [-]


Why aren't "rationalists" surrounded by a visible aura of formidability?

Because they don't project high status with their body language?

Re: Taking out someone evil. Let's be rational about this. Do we want to get press? Will taking them out even be worthwhile? What sort of benefits from testing ideas against reality can we expect?

I think humans who study rationality might be better than other humans at avoiding certain basic mistakes. But that doesn't mean that the study of rationality (as it currently exists) amounts to a "success spray" that you can spray on any goal to make it more achievable.

Also, if the recent survey is to be believed, the average IQ at Less Wrong is very high. So if LW does accomplish something, it could very well be due to being smart rather than having read a bunch about rationality. (Sometimes I wonder if I like LW mainly because it seems to have so many smart people.)

Comment author: OrphanWilde 17 January 2013 10:43:49PM 2 points [-]

I'm evil by some people's standards. You'll have to get a little bit more specific about what you think constitutes evil.

From what I've seen, real evil tends to be petty. Most grand atrocities are committed by people who are simply incorrect about what the right thing to do is.

Comment author: PhDre 28 March 2013 06:56:04PM *  4 points [-]

Hello, I'm a 21 year old undergraduate student studying Economics and a bit of math on the side. I found LessWrong through HPMOR, and recently started working on the sequences. I've always been torn between an interest in pure rational thinking, and an almost purely emotional / empathetic desire for altruism, and this conflict is becoming more and more significant as I weigh options moving forward out of Undergrad (Peace Corp? Developmental Economics?)... I'm fond of ellipses, Science Fiction novels and board games - I'll keep my interests to a minimum here, but I've noticed there are meetups regularly; I'm currently studying abroad in Europe, but I live close to Washington DC and would enjoy meeting members of the community face to face at some point in the future!

Edit: If anyone reads this, could you either direct me to a conversation that addresses the question "How has LW / rational thinking influenced your day to day life, if at all," or respond to me directly here (or via PM) if you're comfortable with that! Thanks!

Comment author: Kawoomba 28 March 2013 07:10:44PM 4 points [-]

I've always been torn between an interest in pure rational thinking, and an almost purely emotional / empathetic desire for altruism, and this conflict is becoming more and more significant

Those are not at all at odds. Read e.g. Why Spock is Not Rational, or Feeling Rational.

Relevant excerpts from both:

A popular belief about "rationality" is that rationality opposes all emotion—that all our sadness and all our joy are automatically anti-logical by virtue of being feelings. Yet strangely enough, I can't find any theorem of probability theory which proves that I should appear ice-cold and expressionless.

So is rationality orthogonal to feeling? No; our emotions arise from our models of reality. If I believe that my dead brother has been discovered alive, I will be happy; if I wake up and realize it was a dream, I will be sad. P. C. Hodgell said: "That which can be destroyed by the truth should be." My dreaming self's happiness was opposed by truth. My sadness on waking is rational; there is no truth which destroys it.


To be sure, emotions often ruin our attempts at rational thought and decision-making. When we’re anxious, we overestimate risks. When we feel vulnerable, we’re more likely to believe superstitions and conspiracy theories. But that doesn’t mean a rational person should try to destroy all their emotions. Emotions are what create many of our goals, and they can sometimes help us to achieve our goals, too. If you want to go for a run and burn some fat, and you know that listening to high-energy music puts you in an excited emotional state that makes you more likely to go for a run, then the rational thing to do is put on some high-energy music.

Your purely emotion / empathetic desire for altruism governs setting your goals, your pure rational thinking governs how you go about reaching your goals. You're allowed to be emotionally suckered, eh, influenced into doing your best (instrumental rationality) to do good in the world (for your values of 'good')!

Comment author: PhDre 28 March 2013 07:33:10PM 2 points [-]

Thank you for the reading suggestions! Perhaps my mind has already packaged Spock / lack of emotion into my understanding of the concept of 'Rationality.'

To respond directly -

Your purely emotion / empathetic desire for altruism governs setting your goals, your pure rational thinking governs how you go about reaching your goals.

Though if pure emotion / altruism sets my goals, the possibility of irrational / insignificant goals remains, no? If for example, I only follow pure emotion's path to... say... becoming an advocate for a community through politics, there is no 'check' on the rationality of pursuing a political career to achieve the most good (which again, is a goal that requires rational analysis)?

In HPMoR, characters are accused of being 'ambitious with no ambition' - setting my goals with empathetic desire for altruism would seem to put me in this camp.

Perhaps my goal, as I work my way through the sequences and the site, is to approach rationality as a tool / learning process of its own, and see how I can apply it to my life as I go. Halfway through typing this response, I found this quote from the Twelve Virtues of Rationality:

How can you improve your conception of rationality? Not by saying to yourself, “It is my duty to be rational.” By this you only enshrine your mistaken conception...Do not ask whether it is “the Way” to do this or that. Ask whether the sky is blue or green. If you speak overmuch of the Way you will not attain it.

Comment author: EGI 09 February 2013 11:40:41PM *  4 points [-]


I found this site via HPMOR, which was the most awesome book I have read for several years. Besides being awesome as a book there were a lot of moments during reading I thought wow, there is someone who really thinks quite like myself. (Which is unfortunately something I do not experience too often.) Thus I was interested in who the author of HPMOR is, so I googled “less wrong”.

This site really held what HPMOR promised, so I spend quite some time reading through many articles absorbing a lot of new and interesting concepts.

Regarding my own person, I am a 30 years old biochemist currently working on my master thesis in structural biology. I grew up and live in Cologne, Germany.

I am, since early childhood very interested in everything science, engineering and philosophy related, thus inferential distances to most topics discussed here were not too large. On the downside most people perceive me as quite nerdy. This is reinforced by my rather poor social skill(I am possibly on the spectrum) so I was bullied a lot during childhood. Thus my social life was quite dim, though it improved quite a lot during my twenties, mostly due to having a relationship.

I was raised with an agnostic respectively weakly catholic (maybe there is a god, perhaps or something) worldview, and became increasingly atheistic during my teen-years, though this is not really remarkable and pretty much the default for scientifically educated people in Germany. Further on a lot of transhumanistic idea(l)s have a lot of appeal to me.

Besides the clarity and high intellectual level of discourse on this site I really like the technophilic / progress optimistic worldview of most people here. The general technology is evil meme held by a lot of “intellectuals” really puts me of, especially if they do not realize, that their entire live depends utterly on the very technology they shun.

My main criticism is an (IMHO) over-representation of the ai-foom scenario as a projected future, though this is a post on its own (which I hope to write up soon).

I have been lurking the site for quite some time now (> 1 year) mostly due to akrasia related reasons. First I really like reading interesting ideas and dislike writing so if I can spend time on less wrong this time has a much higher hedonic quality for me if I read articles than if I write my own article or comments. Second, whenever I read a post here and find something missing or imprecise or even wrong, in most cases someone already pointed it out often more precisely and eloquently than I could have done, so I mostly did not feel to much need to comment anyway.

I decided to delurk now anyway, because I have several ideas for posts in mind, which I hope to write up over the next few weeks or month, hopefully contributing to the awesomeness of this site. Further on I contemplate starting an LW meet-up group in my hometown (I could use som help / advise there).

Cudos and an unconditional upvote to the person who first guesses the meaning of my username.

Comment author: AlexanderD 14 November 2012 03:28:01AM 4 points [-]

Howdy. My name is Alexander. I've read a lot of LW, but only recently finally registered. I learned about LW from RationalWiki, where I am a mod. I have read most of the sequences, and many of them are insightful, although I am skeptical about the utility of such posts as the Twelve Virtues, which seeks to clothe a bit of good advice in the voluminous trappings of myth. HPMOR is also good. I don't anticipate engaging in much serious criticism of these things, however, because I have little experience in the sciences or mathematics, and often struggle to grasp things that appear easy for those accustomed to equations. The utility of Bayes' Theorem is one good example. I expect to ask questions, often.

My primary interest in LW are practical ones - discussions about AI and the singularity are interesting, but I am focused on improving my analytic ability and making good decisions.

Comment author: JDM 04 November 2012 11:54:37PM 4 points [-]

I wandered onto this site, read an article, read some interesting discussion on it, and decided to take the survey. The survey had some interesting discussion and I enjoyed the extra credit, which I did the majority of, with an exception of the IQ test I couldn't get to work right and will do later. I enjoyed the discussion I read, though, and decided this would be an interesting site to read more on. I don't know yet how much discussion I'll contribute, but when I see an interesting discussion I'm sure I'll join in.

I don't have too much to say about myself. I'm a college student majoring in computer science, and I'd like to do work in artificial intelligence eventually, although I'm nowhere near experienced enough yet to be able to have real discussion about it.

Comment author: Spinning_Sandwich 10 September 2012 11:08:03PM 4 points [-]

Howdy, I'm a math grad student.

I discovered Less Wrong late last night when a friend linked to a post about enjoying "mere" reality, which is a position I've held for quite some time. That post led me to a couple posts about polyamory and Bayesianism, which were both quite interesting, and I say this as someone familiar with each topic.

Although I've read bits & pieces of Harry Potter & the Methods of Rationality, it wasn't until I browsed through this thread that I realized it was assembled here.

I will freely admit that I tend to be a bit skeptical of enthusiastic science fans (not a stick in the mud, but annoyed with giddy atheism run amok, say, or with the glorification of pop science; maybe it's best summarized by this comic: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1777#comic ), but I expect that any such cynical voices are either welcome here or are dismissed with such irony as to be amusing.

The fact that I went to the trouble to join & post should be evidence enough to say I like much of what I've seen. :)

Comment author: Chris_Roberts 05 September 2012 05:29:04PM 4 points [-]

My name is Chris Roberts. Professionally, my background is finance, but I have always been fascinated by science and have tried to apply a scientific approach to my thought and discussions. I find far too much thinking dominated by ideology and belief systems without any supporting evidence (let alone testable hypotheses). Most people seem to decide their positions first, then marshal arguments to justify their prejudigments. I have never considered myself a "rationalist", but rather an empiricist. I believe in democracy, the free market and science because they have been demonstrated to be more effective in the real world than the alternatives. But I am not ideologically committed and believe they all can be improved. One common thread in these methods is that they are all self-correcting, able to recover from mistakes, and inclusive, allowing input from all participants (at least in theory). I mention this because it is reflective of my personal philosophy.

I was reading "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" (which itself I found from TV Tropes). I found it amusing, and the discussion articulate (though Harry himself, as presented there, rather unlikeable), so I decided to find out more about the author and his ideas, which led me here. I have been browsing the site for a few weeks, have found it quite fascinating, and feel I am ready to make some modest contributions. I posted this to the discussions thread as a first attempt. Please feel free to dissect and provide constructive criticism :).

Comment author: Delta 01 August 2012 11:44:16AM 4 points [-]

Hi Guys,

I found out about this place from Methods of Rationality and have been reading the sequences for a few months now. I don't have a background in science or mathematics (just finished reading law at university) so I've yet to get to the details of Bayes but I've been very intrigued by all the sequences on cognitive bias, and this site was the trigger for me becoming interested in the mind-blowing realities of evolution and prompted me finally pulling my finger out and shifting from non-thinking agnosticm to atheism.

I'm still adjusting but I feel this site has already helped start to clean up my thinking, so thanks to everyone for making coming here such a life-changing experience.


Comment author: Abd 31 October 2012 12:25:03AM 10 points [-]

I'm Abd ul-Rahman Lomax, introducing myself. I have six grandchildren, from five biological children, and I have two adopted girls, age 11 from China, and age 9 from Ethiopia.

Born in 1944, Abd ul-Rahman is not my birth name, I accepted Islam in 1970. Not being willing to accept pale substitutes, I learned to read the Qur'an in Arabic by reading the Qur'an in Arabic.

Back to my teenage years, I was at Cal Tech for a couple of years, being in Richard P. Feynman's two years of undergraduate physics classes, the ones made into the textbook. I had Linus Pauling for freshman chemistry, as well. Both of them helped create how I think.

I left Cal Tech to pursue a realm other than "science," but was always interested in direct experience rather than becoming stuffed with tradition, though I later came to respect tradition (and memorization) far more than at the outset. I became a leader of a "spiritual community," and a successor to a well-known teacher, Samuel L. Lewis, but was led to pursue many other interests.

I delivered babies (starting with my own) and founded a school of midwifery that trained midwives for licensing in Arizona.

Self-taught, I started an electronics design consulting business, still going with a designer in Brazil.

I became known as one of the many independent inventors of delegable proxy as a method of creating hierarchical communication structure from the bottom up. Social structure, and particularly how to facilitate collective intelligence, has been a long-term interest.

I was a Muslim chaplain at San Quentin State Prison, serving an almost entirely Black community. In case you haven't guessed, I'm not black. I loved it. People are people.

So much I'm not saying yet.... I became interested in wikis early on, but didn't get to Wikipedia until 2005, becoming seriously active in 2007. Eventually, I came across an abusive blacklisting of a web site, a well-known archive of scientific papers on cold fusion. I'd been very aware of the 1989 announcement and some of the ensuing flap, but had assumed, like most people with enough knowledge to know what it was about, that the work had not been replicated.

When I looked, I became interested enough to buy a number of major works in the area (including almost all of the skeptical literature).

Among those who have become familiar, cold fusion (a bit of a misnomer; at the least it was prematurely named), is an ultimately clear example of how pseudoskepticism came to dominate a whole field, for over fifteen years. The situation flipped in the peer-reviewed journals beginning about eight years ago, but that's not widely recognized, it is merely obvious if one looks at what has been published in that period of time..

Showing this is way beyond the scope of this introduction, but I assume it will come up. I'm just asserting what I reasonably conclude, having become familiar with the evidence, (and I'm working with the scientists in the field now, in many ways).

As to rational skepticism, I was known to Martin Gardner, who quoted a study of mine on the so-called Miracle of the Nineteen in the Qur'an, the work of Rashad Khalifa, whom I knew personally.

I naively thought, for a couple of days, that a rational-skeptic approach to cold fusion might be welcome on RationalWiki. Definitely not. Again, that's another story. However, I'm not banned there and have sysop privileges (like most users).

On RationalWiki, however, I came across the work of Yudkowsky, and this blog. Wow! In some of the circles in which I've moved, I've been a voice crying in the wilderness, with only a few echoes here and there. Here, I'm reluctant to say anything, so commonly cogent is comment in this community. I know I'm likely to stick my foot in my mouth.

However, that's never stopped me, and learning to recognize the taste of my foot, with the help of my friends, is one way in which I've kept my growth alive. The fastest way to learn is generally to make mistakes.

I'm also likely to comment, eventually, on the practical ontology and present reality of Landmark Education, with which I've become quite familiar, as well as on the myths and facts which widely circulate about Landmark. To start, they do let you go to the bathroom.

Meanwhile, I've caught up with HPMOR, and am starting to read the sequences. Great stuff, folks.

Comment author: Nisan 31 October 2012 01:09:16AM 5 points [-]

Welcome! That's a fascinating biography.

I have been to one introductory Landmark seminar and wrote about the experience here.

Comment author: skeptical_lurker 28 July 2012 06:51:25PM *  9 points [-]

Hello everyone, Like many people, I come to this site via an interest in transhumanism, although it seems unlikely to me that FAI implementing CEV can actually be designed before the singularity (I can explain why, and possibly even what could be done instead, but it suddenly occurred to me that it seems presumptuous of me to criticize a theory put forward by very smart people when I only have 1 karma...).

Oddly enough, I am not interested in improving epistemic rationality right now, partially because I am already quite good at it. But more than that, I am trying to switch it off when talking to other people, for the simple reason (and I'm sure this has already been pointed out before) that if you compare three people, one who estimates the probability of an event at 110%, one who estimates it at 90%, and one who compensates for overconfidence bias and estimates it at 65%, the first two will win friends and influence people, while the third will seem indecisive (unless they are talking to other rationalists). I think I am borderline asperger's (again, like many people here) and optimizing social skills probably takes precedence over most other things.

I am currently doing a PhD in "absurdly simplistic computational modeling of the blatantly obvious" which better damn well have some signaling value. In my spare time, to stop my brain turning to mush, among other things I am writing a story which is sort of rationalist, in that some of the characters keep using science effectively even when the world is going crazy and the laws of physics seem to change dependent upon whether you believe in them. On the other hand, some of the characters are (a) heroes/heroines (b) awesomely successful (c) hippies on acid who do not believe in objective reality (not that I am implying that all hippies/people who use lsd are irrational). Maybe the point of the story is that you need more than just rationality? Or that some people are powerful because of rationality, while others have imagination, and that friendship combines their powers in a my little pony like fashion? Or maybe its all just an excuse for pretentious philosophy and psychic battles?

Comment author: robertskmiles 28 July 2012 08:23:15PM 6 points [-]

I am not interested in improving epistemic rationality right now, partially because I am already quite good at it.

But remember that it's not just your own rationality that benefits you.

it seems presumptuous of me to criticize a theory put forward by very smart people when I only have 1 karma

Presume away. Karma doesn't win arguments, arguments win karma.

Comment author: wedrifid 29 July 2012 02:03:03AM 2 points [-]

Hello everyone, Like many people, I come to this site via an interest in transhumanism, although it seems unlikely to me that FAI implementing CEV can actually be designed before the singularity

Many here would agree with you. (And, for instance, consider a ~10% chance of success better than near certain extinction.)

Comment author: ThoughtSpeed 27 February 2013 06:07:20AM 8 points [-]

Hi. 18 years old. Typical demographics. 26.5-month lurker and well-read of the Sequences. Highly motivated/ambitious procrastinator/perfectionist with task-completion problems and analysis paralysis that has caused me to put off this comment for a long time. Quite non-optimal to do so, but... must fight that nasty sunk cost of time and stop being intimidated and fearing criticism. Brevity to assure it is completed - small steps on a longer journey. Hopefully writing this is enough of an anchor. Will write more in future time of course.

Finally. It is written. So many choices... so many thoughts, ideas, plans to express... No! It is done! Another time you silly brain! We must choose futures! We will improve, brain, I promise.

I look forward to at last becoming an active member of this community, and LEVELING UP! Tsuyoku naritai!

Comment author: olibain 20 February 2013 08:34:42PM 8 points [-]

I'm Robby Oliphant. I started a few months ago reading HP:MoR, which led me to the Sequences, which led me here about two weeks ago. So far I have read comments and discussions solely as a spectator. But finally, after developing my understanding and beginning on the path set forth by the sequences, I remain silent no more.

I am fresh out of high school, excited about life and plan to become a teacher, eventually. My short-term plans involve going out and doing missionary work for my church for the next two years. When I came head on against the problem of being a rationalist and a missionary for a theology, I took a step back and had a crisis of belief, not the first time, but this time I followed the prescribed method and came to a modified conclusion, though I still find it rational and advantageous to serve my 2 year mission.

I find some of this difficult, some of this intuitive and some of this neither difficult or intuitive, which is extremely frustrating, how something can appears simple but defy my efforts to intuitively work it. I will continue to work at it because rationality seems to be praiseworthy and useful. I hope to find the best evidence about theology here. I don't mean evidence for or against, just the evidence about the subject.

Comment author: Desrtopa 20 February 2013 10:48:23PM *  2 points [-]

I don't think you'll find much discussion of theology here, since in these parts religion is generally treated as an open and shut case. The archives of Luke Muelhauser's blog, Common Sense Atheism, are probably a much more abundant resource for rational analysis of theology; it documents his (fairly extensive) research into theological matters stemming from his own crisis of faith, starting before he became an atheist.

Obviously, the name of the site is rather a giveaway as to the ultimate conclusion that he drew (I would have named it differently in his place,) and the foregone conclusion might be a bit mindkilling, but I think the contents will probably be a fair approximation of the position of most of the community here on religious theological matters, made more explicit than they generally are on Less Wrong.

Comment author: jamesf 24 March 2013 08:13:56PM *  3 points [-]

I used to have a different account here, but I wanted a new one with my real name so I made this one.

I study computer and electrical engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, though I'm not finding it very gratifying (rationalists are rare creatures around here for some reason), and I'm trying as hard as I can to find some other way to get paid to code/think so I can drop out. Here's my occasionally-updated reading list, and my favorite programming language is Clojure.

Comment author: Aetherial 23 February 2013 11:14:00PM 3 points [-]

Peter here,

I stumbled onto LW from a link on TvTropes about the AI Box experiment. Followed it to an explanation of Bayes' Theorem on Yudowsky.net 'cause I love statistics (the rage I felt knowing that not one of my three statistics teachers ever mentioned Bayes was an unusual experience).

I worked my way through the sequences and was finally inspired to comment on Epistemic Viciousness and some of the insanity in the martial arts world. If your goal is to protect yourself from violence, martial arts is more likely to get you hurt or thrown in jail.

It seems inappropriate that I went by Truth_Seeker before discovering this site, so a chose a handle that was in opposition to that. And I like the word aether.

Comment author: jooyous 22 February 2013 06:24:14AM *  3 points [-]

Hellooo! I de-lurked during the survey and gradually started rambling at everyone but I never did one of these welcome posts!

My exposure to rationality started with idea that your brain can have bugs, which I had to confront when I was youngish because (as I randomly mentioned) I have a phobia that started pretty early. By then I had fairly accurate mental models of my parents to know that they wouldn't be very helpful/accommodating, so I just developed a bunch of workarounds and didn't start telling people about it until way later. The experience helped me reason about a lot of these blue-killing robot types of situations, and get used to handling involuntary or emotional responses in a goal-optimizing way. As a result, I'm interested in cognitive biases, neurodiversity and braaains, as well as how to explain and teach useful life skills to my tiny brother so that he doesn't have to learn them the hard way.

My undergrad degree is in CS/Math, I'm currently a CS grad student (though I don't know if I'm sticking around) and I'm noticing that I have a weird gap in my understanding of AI-related discussions, so I'll probably start asking more questions about it. I regret to admit I've been avoiding probability because I was bad at it, but I'm slowly coming around to the idea that it's important and I need to just suck it up and learn. Also, a lot of sciencey people whine about this, but I think AP Lit (and similar classes) helped me think better; it taught me to read the question carefully, read the text closely, pay attention to detail and collect evidence! But it has possibly made me way too sensitive to word choice; I apologize for comments saying "you could have used this other word but you didn't, so clearly this means something!" when the other word has never crossed your mind.

I started reading the site so long ago that I can't actually remember how I found it. One of the things I appreciate the most about the community is the way people immediately isolate problems, suggest solutions and then evaluate results, which is awesome! and also not an attitude I'm used to seeing a lot. I also appreciate having a common vocabulary to discuss biases, distortions, and factors that lead to disagreements. There were a lot of concepts I wanted to bring up with people that I didn't have a concise word for in the past.

Comment author: netcode 31 December 2012 09:14:35AM 3 points [-]

It really feels good to be here. The name along sounds comforting..... 'less wrong'. I've always loved to be around people who write and provide of intuitive solutions to everyday challenges. Guess am gonna read a few posts and get acquainted to the customs here then make meaningful contributions too.

Thanks Guys for this great opportunity.

Comment author: shardfilterbox 04 October 2012 02:00:47AM 3 points [-]

Hi! I'm shard. I have been looking for a community just like this for quite awhile. Someone on the Brain Workshop group recommended this site too me. It looks great, I am very excited to sponge as much knowledge off as I can, and hopefully to add a grain someday.

I love the look of the site. What forum or bb do you use? or is it a custom one? I've never seen one like it, it's very clean, and I'd like to use it for a forum I wanted to start.

Comment author: aperrien 18 September 2012 10:08:59PM *  3 points [-]

Greetings. My name is Albert Perrien. I was initially drawn to this site by my personal search on metacognition; and only really connected after having stumbled across “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality”, which I found an interesting read. My professional background is in computer engineering, database administration, and data mining, with personal studies of Machine Learning, AI and mathematics. I find the methods given here to promote rational thought and bias reduction fascinating, and the math behind everything enlightening.

Recently I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the topic of a Resetting Gandhi-Einstein, and personally, I find that I would volunteer for such a state, given prior knowledge of what I signed up for and an interesting and useful enough problem. I realize that I would only retain limited knowledge from incarnation to incarnation, but given a worthy enough mental problem and reasonably well simulated environment, I see nothing innately wrong with it. And finally, that leads me to some questions:

  • What sort of challenges would there be in volunteering to do this, and how should volunteers be chosen?

  • Should this even be something that should be done, even given a willing subject?

  • How many iterations should an individual be subjected to?

  • How many others here would volunteer for such a state, and what sort of problems would you be willing to make that sacrifice for?

This last question being possibly personal, please don't think me too forward. For me, I'd like to help with some sort of medical problem, say for example, autoimmune diseases... (edit: Mangled the formatting...)

Comment author: lloyd 14 September 2012 05:09:30PM *  3 points [-]

It took me a few hours to find this thread like a kid rummaging through a closet not knowing what he is looking for.

As my handle indicates, I am Lloyd. Not much I think is worth saying about myself but I would like to ask a few questions to see what interests readers here, if anyone reads this, and present a sample of where my thinking may come from.

Considering the psychological model of five senses we are taught since grade school is there a categorical difference in our ability to logically perceive that 2+2=4 vs perceiving the temperature is decreasing? The deeper question being is the realness of logic (and possibly other mental faculties not being considered here) the same as the realness of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch? There are questions which unfold from considering logic as a 'sense', but I wish to clarify this question first.

I have not found any proponent of a physical view of the universe as fundamentally alive rather than dead. Is there someone who has proposed, for example, that the stars are living and thus self-directing and the observations of galaxies may be that stars are purposefully forming these structures under their own will much like we form cities? Or maybe the idea that stars induce gravity and feed off of a source of energy from the subatomic regime? Or that different star systems may be fundamentally different on a quantum level like blood types? I mean the language is filled with terms like birth, death, and life, but it sounds like they are disconnected from their biologically meaning altogether.

Does anyone ever discuss the post-industrial society, no, not right question. Why is it that the discussion of post-industrial society is what it is? For example, in mainstream storytelling post-industrial=post-apocalyptic for much of what I have seen. There is Gene Roddenberry who cast post-industrial society as being rescued by aliens. There are Orwell and Huxley who left the world to be forever locked in an industrial nightmare. Zombies. Am I to understand that the culture's mind has settled on imaging the industrial society as its death?

Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 15 September 2012 02:21:22AM 4 points [-]

Why is it that the discussion of post-industrial society is what it is?

This was the hardest of your questions to get a grip on. :-) You mention disaster fiction, Star Trek, 1984, and Brave New World, and you categorize the first two as post-industrial and the second two as bad-industrial perpetuated. If I look for the intent behind your question... the idea seems to be that visions of the future are limited to destruction, salvation from outside, and dystopia.

Missing from your list of future scenarios is the anodyne dystopia of boredom, which doesn't show up in literature about the future because it's what people are already living in the present, and that's not what they look for in futurology, unless they are perverse enough to want true realism even in their escapism, and experienced enough to know that real life is mostly about boredom and disappointment. The TV series "The Office" comes to mind as a representation of what I'm talking about, though I've never seen it; I just know it's a sitcom about people doing very mundane things every day (like every other sitcom) - and that is reality.

If you're worried that reality might somehow just not contain elements that transcend human routine, don't worry, they are there, they pervade even the everyday world, and human routine is something that must end one day. Human society is an anthill, and anthills are finite entities, they are built, they last, they are eventually destroyed. But an anthill can outlive an individual ant, and in that sense the ant's reality can be nothing but the routine of the anthill.

Humans are more complex than ants and their relation to routine is more complex. The human anthill requires division of labor, and humans prepared to devote themselves to the diverse functional roles implied, in order to exist at all. So the experience of young humans is typically that they first encounter the boredom of human routine as this thing that they never wanted, that existed before them, and which it will be demanded that they accept. They may have their own ideas about how to spend the time of their life, or they may just want to be idle, but either way they will find themselves at odds with the social order to which they have been born. There are places in the social ecosystem where it works differently, but this is how it turns out for many or even most people.

So my thesis is really that boredom is the essence of human life, human society, human history, and human experience. Note well: the essence of human reality, not of reality as a whole, which is bigger than human beings. I will also say that boredom was the essence of preindustrial life as well as of industrial life, and also of any postindustrial life so long as it is still all about human beings. Some people get not to live boring lives, and wonder and terror can also just force themselves upon humanity in a certain time and place; and finally, I should add that people can live amid the boredom and not be bored, if they are absorbed in something. Our Internet society is full of distractions and so the typical Internet citizen is not just flatly bored all the time, they will be in a succession of hyper moods as they engage with one thing after another. But most of it is trivia that has no meaning in the long run and that is why it's reasonable to say that it adds up to boredom.

All these non-boring stories about the future are partly expressive of reality, but they are also just distractions from the boredom for the people who consume them. Apocalypse doesn't solve the problem of giving me a happy free life, but it does solve the problem of boredom! Salvation by aliens is an instance of something exciting and non-boring coming from outside and forcing itself upon us. Huxley and Orwell's worlds actually are boring when they're not oppressive or dissipative, so in that sense they resemble reality.

Some people in some times aren't born to boredom. What this really means is that there's some form of instability. Either it's the instability of novelty, that eventually settles down and becomes a new boredom, or it's the instability of something truly dreadful. Our favorite instability on this site is artificial intelligence, which is a plausible candidate for the thing that really will end "human reality" and inaugurate a whole new Something. There may be a cosmic boredom that eventually sets in on the other side of the singularity, but for now, dealing with everything implied by the rise of AI is already more than anyone can handle. (There may be people out there who are thinking, I can think about the possibilities of AI with equanimity, so I can handle this. But no-one's in charge, the situation is completely out of any sort of consensual control, and in that practical sense the human race isn't "handling" the situation.) There are many other ways to avoid boredom, for example the study of the universe. The main challenge then is just convincing the human race to allow you to spend all your time doing this.

But the original question was about the culture's own image of the future. My thesis is that adults generally know in their bones that their lives are boring, and that fact is itself so familiar as to be boring, so there's no market for stories which say the future itself will also be boring. You're finding the available non-boring narratives unsatisfactory - they're either dystopian or involve wishful thinking. But the problem here is whether there's a viable collective solution to boredom, or whether every such solution will be just another type of Watchtower-like unrealism (I mean the little magazine circulated worldwide by Jehovah's Witnesses, in which future life is an agrarian paradise with the sort of nonstop happiness you only see in TV commercials). I should emphasize that the narratives which dominate the part of the culture that is concerned with the practicalities of the future, such as politics, do not try to solve the boredom problem, that's not remotely on the agenda and it would be considered insanely unrealistic. Realistic politics is about ensuring that the social machine, the division of labor, continues to function, and about dealing with crises when they show up. So it might be regarded as depressing rather than boring.

I can't say that the problem of collective boredom concerns me very much. Like other singularity fans, I have my hands full preparing for that future event, which probably is the end of the boredom as we know it. The task for you may just be to come to grips with your own difference from everyone else, accept that most people will end up in some boring but functionally necessary niche, and then try to make sure that you don't end up like most people.

Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 15 September 2012 01:25:54AM *  3 points [-]

physical view of the universe as fundamentally alive rather than dead ... stars are living and thus self-directing

Since life is considered a solved problem by science, any remaining problem of "aliveness" is treated as just a perspective on or metaphor for the problem of consciousness. But talking about aliveness has one virtue; it militates against the tendency among intellectuals to identify consciousness with intellectualizing, as if all that is to be explained in consciousness is "thinking" and passive "experiencing".

The usual corrective to this is to talk about "embodiment". And it's certainly a good corrective; being reminded of the body reintroduces the holism of experience, as well as activity, the will, and the nonverbal as elements of experience. Still, I wouldn't want to say that talking about bodies as well as about consciousness is enough to make up for the move from aliveness to consciousness as the discursively central concept. There's an inner "life" which is also obscured by the easily available ways of talking about "states of mind"; and at the other extreme, being alive is also suggestive of the world that you're alive in, the greater reality which is the context to all the acting and willing and living. This "world" is also a part of cognition and phenomenology that is easily overlooked if one sticks to the conventional tropes of consciousness.

So when we talk about a living universe, we might want to keep all of that in mind, as well as more strictly biological or psychological ideas, such as whether it's like something to be a star, or whether the states and actions of stars are expressive of a stellar intentionality, or whether the stars are intelligences that plan, process information, make choices, and control their physical environment.

People do exist who have explored these ways of thought, but they tend to be found in marginal places like science fiction, crackpot science, and weird speculation. Then, beyond a specific idea like living stars, there are whole genres of what might be called philosophical animism and spiritual animism.

I think pondering whether the stars are intelligences isn't a bad hobby to have, it's the sort of obscure reaching for the unknown which over time can turn into something real and totally new. But know and study your predecessors, especially their mistakes. If you're going to be a crackpot, try at least to be a new type of crackpot, so that humanity can learn from your example. :-)

Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 15 September 2012 12:55:17AM 2 points [-]

Whether there is a "logic-sense" is a question about consciousness so fundamental and yet so hard that it's scarcely even recognized by science-friendly philosophy of mind. Phenomenologists have something to say about it because they are just trying to characterize experience, without concern for whether or how their descriptions are compatible with a particular scientific theory of nature. But if you look at "naturalist" philosophers (naturalism = physicalism = materialism = an intent that one's philosophy should be consistent with natural science), the discussion scarcely gets beyond the existence of colors and other "five-sense" qualities.

The usual approach is to talk as if a conscious state is a heap of elementary sense-qualia, somehow in the same way that a physical object could be a pile of atoms. But experience is about the perception of form as well, and this is related to the idea of a logic-sense, because logic is about concepts and abstract properties, and the properties of a "form" have an abstractness about them, compared to the "stuff" that the form is made from.

In the centuries before Kant and Husserl, there was a long-running philosophical "problem of universals", which is just this question of how substance and property are related. How is the greenness in one blade of grass, related to the greenness in another blade of grass? Suppose it were the exact same shade of green. Is it the same thing, mysteriously "exemplified" in two different places? If you say yes, then what is "exemplification" or "instantiation"? Is it a new primitive ontological relation? If you say no, and say that these are separate "color-instances", you still need to explain their sameness or similarity.

With the rise of consciousness itself as a theme of human thought, the problem has assumed a new character, because now the greenness is in the observer rather than in the blade of grass. We can still raise the classic questions, about the greenness in one experience and the greenness in another experience, but the deeper problem is whether we are even conceiving of the basic facts correctly. Experience isn't just "green stuff happening" or "round stuff happening", it's "green round stuff happening to my hand, eyes, and mouth" (if I'm eating an apple), it's "happening to me " (whoever and whatever "I" am), it's "green round stuff being experienced as green and round" - and that little word "as" sums up a whole dimension of consciousness that the focus on sense-qualia obscures; the aspect of consciousness known as its "intentionality", the fact that an experience is an experience "of" something or "about" something.

Names can be useful. The sense that "stuff is happening to me" has been called apperception. (That's jargon that you won't see on LW. Jargon that you will see, that comes at the same phenomenon from a different angle, is indexicality, the me-here-now component of an experience. One also needs to distinguish between me-here-now experienced or conceptualized in terms of difference to other "me-here-now"s, and me-here-now as simply another component of an experience, even if you're not thinking about other people at the time. Apperception is more about this second aspect, whereas discussions of indexicality tend to puzzle over what it is that distinguishes one person, as a locus of experience, from another - they're both "me" to themselves, but ontologically they are two entities, not one.) If there is a logic-sense, then it is presumably at work both in intentionality and in apperception; in fact the latter appears to contain a sort of indexical intentionality, the logic-sense applied to the perceiving self.

Two other very different perspectives: First, in Objectivism, you will see "concept formation" discussed as "measurement omission". The idea being that a concept is a perception with something removed - the sensory and indexical particularities. It doesn't quite deal with the ontological problem of what "instantiation of a property" is in the first place, but it highlights a psychological and cognitive/computational aspect.

Second, for the five senses, there are sense organs. If there is a logic sense, one should ask whether there's a logic organ too. Here the neurocomputational answer is going to be that it's a structure in the brain which has the outputs of sense organs as its inputs. This answer doesn't do away with the miasma of dualism that hangs over all functionalist explanations of experience, but it does plausibly mimic the causal dependence of higher-order experience on raw experience.

Finally, I'll point out that the nature of logic and a logic-sense is tied up with the nature of being and our awareness of it. We have a sense that reality exists, that individual things exist, and that they are a certain way. If you can stand to read something like Heidegger's historical phenomenology of Being, you'll see that grammar and logic have roots in a certain experience of being and a certain analysis of that experience, e.g. into "thatness" and "whatness", existence and essence: that a thing is, and what a thing is. These perceptions and distinctions were originally profound insights, but they were codified in language and became the everyday tools of the thinking, wilful mind. Heidegger's work was partly about recovering a perception of being prior to its resolution into existence and essence, out of a conviction that that is not the end of the story. The problem with trying to think "beyond" or "before" subject-predicate thinking is that it just turns into not thinking at all. Is there intellectual progress to be had beyond the raw observation that "Something is there", if you don't "apply concepts", or is the latter simply an essential condition of understanding? Et cetera, ad infinitum.

Comment author: biased_tracer 12 September 2012 09:49:15PM 3 points [-]

Hi all! I'm Leonidas and I was also a lurker for quite some time. I forget how I exactly found Less Wrong but most likely is via Nick Bostrom's website, when I was reading about anthropics about a year ago. I'm an astronomer working on observational large-scale structure and I have a big interest in all aspects of cosmology. I also enjoy statistics, analyzing data and making inferences and associated computational techniques.

It was only during the final year of my undergraduate studies in physics that I consciously started to consider myself a rationalist and then begun trying to improve my thinking. Even though I discovered Less Wrong years later the excitement was still there and I had great pleasure reading its posts and learning about a variety of subjects. I'm now looking forward to contribute in the discussions.

Comment author: erikerikson 06 September 2012 09:16:57PM 3 points [-]

I am Erik Erikson. By day I currently write patents and proofs of concept in the field of enterprise software. My chosen studies included neuro and computer sciences in pursuit of the understanding that can produce generally intelligent entities of equal to or greater than human intelligence less our human limitations. I most distinctly began my "rationalist" development around the age of ten when I came to doubt all truth, including my own existence. I am forever in debt to the "I think, therefore I am" idiom as my first piece of knowledge. I happened upon LW through singularity.org and appreciate the efforts here. Of particular interest to me is improved consideration of the formulated goal for AI (really for any sentient entity) I have devised: the manifested unification of all ideals. I pleasantly found this related to the formulation of intelligence that appears commonly accepted here: "cross-domain optimization". However, I have also been concerned for some time about the mechanical bias that may be implicit: it seems clear that a system which functions through growth (the establishment of connections) as a result of correlated signals would be inherently and, of concern, incorrectly biased towards favoring the unification concept.

Comment author: Elec0 03 September 2012 09:06:19AM 3 points [-]

Hello everyone. I've been lurking around this site for a while now. I found this site from HPMOR, as I'm sure a lot of people have. The fanfic was suggested to me by one of my friends who read it.

Random cliffnotes about myself. I'm a highschool senior. I'm a programmer, been programming since I was 10, it's one of my favorite things to do and it's what I plan on doing for my career. I love reading, which I would imagine is a given to most people here. I've always been interested in how the universe and people work, and I want to know the why of everything I can.

Comment author: DuncanF 02 September 2012 10:21:22AM *  3 points [-]

Hello everyone

I've been lurking here for a while now but I thought it was about time I said "Hi".

I found Less Wrong through HPMOR, which I read even though I never read Rowling's books.

I'm currently working my way through the Sequences at a few a day. I'm about 30% through the 2006-2010 collection, and I can heartily recommend reading them in time order and on something like Kindle on your iPhone. ciphergoth's version suited me quite well. I've been making notes as I go along and sooner or later there'll be a huge set of comments and queries arriving all at once.

I have a long standing love of expressing my beliefs with respect to probability but reading through those first sequences has really sharpened my appreciation for the art.

I've been reading quite a lot of papers recently and had got the point where I had read enough to be really worried about p ~ 0.05 - which I reasoned at the time meant there was a good chance something I'd read recently was wrong… and now I need to take into account that the p-value might be a complete mess in the first place. Anyone have a figure for how many papers published at p ~ 0.05 have a Bayesian probability of less than that?

What else can I tell you? I was raised in the Church of England but I imagine I was fortunate in that representatives of the church told me whilst I was still young that it wasn't possible to answer my questions. From comparison with the rest of the world that alone seemed to make the whole belief structure seem to be on pretty shaky ground.

I'm in the Cambridge area in the UK and have been lurking on their mailing list for a while but haven't said hello there yet.

I'm in my late-thirties now and soon expecting to become a father for the first time. There is a shocking level of lack of rationality in and around childbirth and significant low-hanging fruit to be taken by being rational. I'll post about this later. Any other parents found some easy gains by reading the science? I'd love to hear about it.

I'm a software engineer and until recently a project manager for bespoke software projects for small businesses. Right now I'm trying to get some iPhone apps off the ground to add to the passive income flow so that I can spend as much time with my new child as possible.

Topics of interest to me at the moment are:

  • The rationality and practicalities of changing to a passive income stream.
  • Open access to government-paid science.
  • The practicalities of home schooling.
  • The practicalities of setting up some better memes for my child than the ones I finished my own childhood with.
Comment author: Rixie 20 January 2013 12:02:35AM 6 points [-]

Hi! I was wondering where to start on this website. I started reading the sequence "How to actually change your mind", but there's a lot of lingo and stuff I still don't understand. Is there a sequence here that's like, Rationality for Beginners, or something? Thanks.

Comment author: Kindly 20 January 2013 06:04:03AM 2 points [-]

Probably the best thing you can do, for yourself and for others, is to post comments on the posts you've read, asking questions where you don't understand something. The sequences ought to be as easy to understand as possible, but the reality may not always approach the ideal.

But if the jargon is the problem, the LW wiki has a dictionary

Comment author: anansi133 03 January 2013 06:21:57PM 6 points [-]

Hello, newbie here. I'm intrigued by the premise of this forum.

About me: I think a lot- mostly by myself. That's trained me in some really lazy habits that I am looking to change now.

In the last few weeks, I noticed what I think are some elemental breakdowns in human politics. When things go bad between people, I think it can be attributed to one of three causes: immaturity, addiction, or insanity. I would love to discuss this further, hoping someone's interested.

I wasn't going to mention theism, but it's here in the main post, and suddenly I'm interested: I trend toward the athiestic- I'm really unimpressed with my grandmother's deity, and "supernatural" doesn't seem a useful or interesting category of phenomena. But I like being agnostic more than atheist, just on a few tiny little wiggle-words that seem powerfully interesting to me, and I notice that other people seem to find survival value in it. So that's probably something I will want to talk about.

Many of my more intellectual friends and neighbors can seem like bullies a lot of the time. So I like the word "rationality" in the title of this place, much more than I like "science" or "logic". When I see the war of the darwin fish on people's bumpers, I remember that the Romans still get a lot of credit for their accomplishments even though math and science as we know it barely existed. Obsession with mere logic seems to put an awful lot of weight on some unexamined premises- and people don't talk in formal logic any more than they math in roman numerals.

I'm not against vaccination, but I am a caregiver to a profoundly autistic child. It's frustrating to try to have any sort of conversation about autism without it devolving into a vaccination tirade.

I don't think of myself as a 9/11 "truther", and yet I still have many questions about those events and the response that trouble me. Some of these questions are getting answered now that the 10 year anniversary has seen the release of more information. As with the Kennedy assassination, I don't think the full story will ever be widely known. I'm cynical enough that I doubt that it matters.

SETI fascinates me. Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs- not so much. Whitley Streiber is actually kind of interesting, when I can muster up the required grains of salt.

Anyway, it feels a bit like I'm crawling out from under a rock, not sure what the weather is really like out here. I want to outgrow the pleasures of cleverness, hoping for some happiness in wisdom.

Comment author: Rixie 14 November 2012 02:01:15AM *  5 points [-]

Hi, I'm Rixie, and I read this fan fic called Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by lesswrong, so I decided to check out Lesswrong.com. It is totally different from what I thought it would be, but it's interesting and I like it. And right now I'm reading the post below mine, and wow, my comment sounds all shallow now . . .

Comment author: SamLL 09 February 2013 02:02:19AM 13 points [-]

Hello and goodbye.

I'm a 30 year old software engineer with a "traditional rationalist" science background, a lot of prior exposure to Singularitarian ideas like Kurzweil's, with a big network of other scientist friends since I'm a Caltech alum. It would be fair to describe me as a cryocrastinator. I was already an atheist and utilitarian. I found the Sequences through Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

I thought it would be polite, and perhaps helpful to Less Wrong, to explain why I, despite being pretty squarely in the target demographic, have decided to avoid joining the community and would recommend the same to any other of my friends or when I hear it discussed elsewhere on the net.

I read through the entire Sequences and was informed and entertained; I think there are definitely things I took from it that will be valuable ("taboo" this word; the concept of trying to update your probability estimates instead of waiting for absolute proof; etc.)

However, there were serious sexist attitudes that hit me like a bucket of cold water to the face - assertions that understanding anyone of the other gender is like trying to understand an alien, for example.

Coming here to Less Wrong, I posted a little bit about that, but I was immediately struck in the "sequence rerun" by people talking about what a great utopia the gender-segregated "Failed Utopia 4-2" would be.

Looking around the site even further, I find that it is over 90% male as of the last survey, and just a lot of gender essentialist, women-are-objects-not-people-like-us crap getting plenty of upvotes.

I'm not really willing to put up with that and still less am I enthused about identifying myself as part of a community where that's so widespread.

So, despite what I think could be a lot of interesting stuff going on, I think this will be my last comment and I would recommend against joining Less Wrong to my friends. I think it has fallen very squarely into the "nothing more than sexism, the especially virulent type espoused by male techies who sincerely believe that they are too smart to be sexists" cognitive failure mode.

If you're interested in one problem that is causing at least one rationalist to bounce off your site (and, I think the odds are not unreasonable, where one person writes a long heartfelt post, there might be multiple others who just click away) here you go. If not, go ahead and downvote this into oblivion.

Perhaps I'll see you folks in some years if this problem here gets solved, or some more years after that when we're all unfrozen and immortal and so forth.



Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 09 February 2013 02:18:03AM *  13 points [-]

Thanks for writing this. It's true that LW has a record of being bad at talking about gender issues; this is a problem that has been recognized and commented on in the past. The standard response seems to have been to avoid gender issues whenever possible, which is unfortunate but maybe better than the alternative. But I would still like to comment on some of the specific things you brought up:

assertions that understanding anyone of the other gender is like trying to understand an alien, for example.

I think I know the post you're referring to, I didn't read this as sexist, and I don't think that indicates a male-techy failure mode on my part about sexism. Some men are just really, really bad at understanding women (and maybe commit the typical mind fallacy when they try to understand men, and maybe just don't know anyone who doesn't fall into one of those categories), and I don't think they should be penalized for being honest about this.

gender essentialist

I haven't seen too much of this. Edit: Found some more.

women-are-objects-not-people-like-us crap

Where? Edit: Found some of this too.

I think it has fallen very squarely into the "nothing more than sexism, the especially virulent type espoused by male techies who sincerely believe that they are too smart to be sexists" cognitive failure mode.

This is a somewhat dangerous weapon to wield. It is very easy to classify any attempt to counter this argument as falling into the failure mode you describe; please don't use this as a fully general counterargument.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 09 February 2013 04:57:27PM 2 points [-]

Try to keep in mind selection effects. The post was titled Failed Utopia - people who agreed with this may have posted less than those who disagreed.

I confess to being somewhat surprised by this reaction. Posts and comments about gender probably constitute around 0.1% of all discussion on LessWrong.

Comment author: Kawoomba 09 February 2013 05:24:03PM 5 points [-]

Your comment's first sentence answers your second paragraph.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 10 February 2013 10:01:41AM 11 points [-]

Whenever I see a high quality comment made by a deleted account (see for example this thread where the two main participants are both deleted accounts), I'd want to look over their comment history to see if I can figure out what sequence of events alienated them and drove them away from LW, but unfortunately the site doesn't allow that. Here SamLL provided one data point, for which I think we should be thankful, but keep in mind that many more people have left and not left visible evidence of the reason.

Also, aside from the specific reasons for each person leaving, I think there is a more general problem: why do perfectly reasonable people see a need to not just leave LW, but to actively disidentify or disaffiliate with LW, either through an explicit statement (SamLL's "still less am I enthused about identifying myself as part of a community where that's so widespread"), or by deleting their account? Why are we causing them to think of LW in terms of identity in the first place, instead of, say, a place to learn about and discuss some interesting ideas?

Comment author: Gastogh 10 February 2013 12:10:08PM 10 points [-]

Why are we causing them to think of LW in terms of identity in the first place, instead of, say, a place to learn about and discuss some interesting ideas?

Some possibilities:

  1. There have been deliberate efforts at community-building, as evidenced by all the meetup-threads and one whole sequence, which may suggest that one is supposed to identify with the locals. Even relatively innocuous things like introduction and census threads can contribute to this if one chooses to take a less than charitable view of them, since they focus on LW itself instead of any "interesting idea" external to LW.

  2. Labeling and occasionally hostile rhetoric: Google gives dozens of hits for terms like "lesswrongian" and "LWian", and there have been recurring dismissive attitudes regarding The Others and their intelligence and general ability. This includes all snide digs at "Frequentists", casual remarks to the effect of how people who don't follow certain precepts are "insane", etc.

  3. The demographic homogeneity probably doesn't help.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 11 February 2013 03:17:36AM 3 points [-]

I agree with these, and I wonder how we can counteract these effects. For example I've often used "LWer" as shorthand for "LW participant". Would it be better to write out the latter in full? Should we more explicitly invite newcomers to think of LW in instrumental/consequentialist terms, and not in terms of identity and affiliation? For example, we could explain that "joining the LW community" ought to be interpreted as "making use of LW facilities and contributing to LW discussions and projects" rather than "adopting 'LW member' as part of one's social identity and endorsing some identifying set of ideas", and maybe link to some articles like Paul Graham's Keep Your Identity Small.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 February 2013 03:51:21AM 17 points [-]

"Here at LW, we like to keep our identity small."

Comment author: shminux 11 February 2013 04:50:57AM 2 points [-]

Nice one.

Comment author: prase 11 February 2013 01:22:11AM 5 points [-]

Why are we causing them to think of LW in terms of identity in the first place, instead of, say, a place to learn about and discuss some interesting ideas?

It may be because lot of LW regulars visibly think of it in terms of identity. LW is described by most participants as a community rather than a discussion forum, and there has been a lot of explicit effort to strengthen the communitarian aspect.

Comment author: Kawoomba 10 February 2013 10:32:24AM 2 points [-]

why do perfectly reasonable people see a need to not just leave LW, but to actively disidentify or disaffiliate with LW

As a hypothesis, they may be ambivalent about discontinuing their hobby ("Two souls alas! are dwelling in my breast; (...)) and prefer to burn their bridges to avoid further ambivalence and decision pressures. Many prefer a course of action being locked in, as opposed to continually being tempted by the alternative.

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 10 February 2013 06:55:58AM 2 points [-]

I guess you get considered fully unclean even if you're only observed breaking a taboo a few times.

Comment author: khriys 08 February 2013 08:53:03AM *  4 points [-]

Hello everyone!

My personal and professional development keep leading me back to the LessWrong sequences, so I've gathered up enough humility to join in the discussions. I hope to meet your high standards.

I'm 27 and my background is in business and the life sciences; I see rationality as a critically important tool in these areas, but ultimately a relatively minor tool for life as a successful human animal. As such I see this community as being similar to a bodybuilding/powerlifting community, where the interest is in training the rational faculty instead of physical strength.

Edit: Wow, all my comments downvoted? That's a pretty strongly negative response. Care to explain?

Comment author: CoffeeStain 08 February 2013 11:40:30AM 4 points [-]

From what I can see, people probably thought you were belaboring a point which was not a part of the discussion at hand. You said you were answering the moral value of "there exists 3^^^3 people AND..." versus the situation without that prefix, but people discussing it did not take that interpretation of the problem, nor did Eliezer when he asked it. You might say that to determine the value of 3^^^3 people getting specks in their eye you would have to presuppose it included the value of them existing, but nobody was discussing that as if it were part of the problem. It sucks, yeah, but the way that people prefer to have discussions wins out, and you can but prefer it or not, or persuade in the right channels. A good lesson to learn, and don't be discouraged.

Comment author: deathpigeon 06 January 2013 12:41:11PM 4 points [-]

Greetings! I am Viktor Brown (please do not spell Viktor with a c), and I tend to go by deathpigeon (please do not capitalize it or spell pigeon with a d) on the internet. (I cannot actually think of a place I don't go by deathpigeon...) I'm currently 19 years old. I'm unemployed and currently out of school since my parents cut off me off for paying for school. I consider myself to be a rationalist, a mindset that comes from how I was raised rather than any particular moment in my life. When I was still in university, I was studying computer science, a subject that still interests me, and I learned some programming in C++. When I get a positive enough income flow that I can afford to continue my schooling, I plan on continuing to study computer science. Around the internet, I tend to hang out in the TvTropes fora, where I also go by deathpigeon. I make a point of regularly reviewing my beliefs, be they political, religious, or something else. I'm not entirely sure what else to say, since I'm terrible with social situations, and introducing myself to a bunch of strangers is a situation I'm especially bad with.

Comment author: DeeElf 07 September 2012 12:35:00AM 2 points [-]

Just joined. Into: Hume, Nietzsche, J.S. Mill, WIliam James, Aleister Crowley, Wittgenstein, Alfred Korzybski, Robert Anton Wilson, Paul K. Feyerabend, etc.... DeeElf

Comment author: a_sandwich 03 September 2012 10:17:37PM 2 points [-]

Hello, I found LessWrong through a couple of Tumblr posts. I don't really identify as a rationalist but it seems like a sane enough idea. I look forward to figuring out how to use this site and maybe make some contributions. I found reading some of the sequences interesting, but I think I might just stick to the promoted articles. As of now I have no plans on figuring out the Bayes thing, although I did give it a try. My name is Andrew.