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2013 Survey Results

73 Post author: Yvain 19 January 2014 02:51AM

Thanks to everyone who took the 2013 Less Wrong Census/Survey. Extra thanks to Ozy, who helped me out with the data processing and statistics work, and to everyone who suggested questions.

This year's results are below. Some of them may make more sense in the context of the original survey questions, which can be seen here. Please do not try to take the survey as it is over and your results will not be counted.

Part I. Population

1636 people answered the survey.

Compare this to 1195 people last year, and 1090 people the year before that. It would seem the site is growing, but we do have to consider that each survey lasted a different amount of time; for example, last survey lasted 23 days, but this survey lasted 40.

However, almost everyone who takes the survey takes it in the first few weeks it is available. 1506 of the respondents answered within the first 23 days, proving that even if the survey ran the same length as last year's, there would still have been growth.
As we will see lower down, growth is smooth across all categories of users (lurkers, commenters, posters) EXCEPT people who have posted to Main, the number of which remains nearly the same from year to year.

We continue to have very high turnover - only 40% of respondents this year say they also took the survey last year.

II. Categorical Data

SEX:
Female: 161, 9.8%
Male: 1453, 88.8%
Other: 1, 0.1%
Did not answer: 21, 1.3%

[[Ozy is disappointed that we've lost 50% of our intersex readers.]]

GENDER:
F (cisgender): 140, 8.6%
F (transgender MtF): 20, 1.2%
M (cisgender): 1401, 85.6%
M (transgender FtM): 5, 0.3%
Other: 49, 3%
Did not answer: 21, 1.3%

SEXUAL ORIENTATION:
Asexual: 47, 2.9%
Bisexual: 188, 12.2%
Heterosexual: 1287, 78.7%
Homosexual: 45, 2.8%
Other: 39, 2.4%
Did not answer: 19, 1.2%

RELATIONSHIP STYLE:
Prefer monogamous: 829, 50.7%
Prefer polyamorous: 234, 14.3%
Other: 32, 2.0%
Uncertain/no preference: 520, 31.8%
Did not answer: 21, 1.3%

NUMBER OF CURRENT PARTNERS:
0: 797, 48.7%
1: 728, 44.5%
2: 66, 4.0%
3: 21, 1.3%
4: 1, .1%
6: 3, .2%
Did not answer: 20, 1.2%

RELATIONSHIP STATUS:
Married: 304, 18.6%
Relationship: 473, 28.9%
Single: 840, 51.3%

RELATIONSHIP GOALS:
Looking for more relationship partners: 617, 37.7%
Not looking for more relationship partners: 993, 60.7%
Did not answer: 26, 1.6%

HAVE YOU DATED SOMEONE YOU MET THROUGH THE LESS WRONG COMMUNITY?
Yes: 53, 3.3%
I didn't meet them through the community but they're part of the community now: 66, 4.0%
No: 1482, 90.5%
Did not answer: 35, 2.1%

COUNTRY:
United States: 895, 54.7%
United Kingdom: 144, 8.8%
Canada: 107, 6.5%
Australia: 69, 4.2%
Germany: 68, 4.2%
Finland: 35, 2.1%
Russia: 22, 1.3%
New Zealand: 20, 1.2%
Israel: 17, 1.0%
France: 16, 1.0%
Poland: 16, 1.0%

LESS WRONGERS PER CAPITA:
Finland: 1/154,685.
New Zealand: 1/221,650.
Canada: 1/325,981.
Australia: 1/328,659.
United States: 1/350,726
United Kingdom: 1/439,097
Israel: 1/465,176.
Germany: 1/1,204,264.
Poland: 1/2,408,750.
France: 1/4,106,250.
Russia: 1/6,522,727

RACE:
Asian (East Asian): 60, 3.7%
Asian (Indian subcontinent): 37, 2.3%
Black: 11, .7%
Middle Eastern: 9, .6%
White (Hispanic): 73, 4.5%
White (non-Hispanic): 1373, 83.9%
Other: 51, 3.1%
Did not answer: 22, 1.3%

WORK STATUS:
Academics (teaching): 77, 4.7%
For-profit work: 552, 33.7%
Government work: 55, 3.4%
Independently wealthy: 14, .9%
Non-profit work: 46, 2.8%
Self-employed: 103, 6.3%
Student: 661, 40.4%
Unemployed: 105, 6.4%
Did not answer: 23, 1.4%

PROFESSION:
Art: 27, 1.7%
Biology: 26, 1.6%
Business: 44, 2.7%
Computers (AI): 47, 2.9%
Computers (other academic computer science): 107, 6.5%
Computers (practical): 505, 30.9%
Engineering: 128, 7.8%
Finance/economics: 92, 5.6%
Law: 36, 2.2%
Mathematics: 139, 8.5%
Medicine: 31, 1.9%
Neuroscience: 13, .8%
Philosophy: 41, 2.5%
Physics: 92, 5.6%
Psychology: 34, 2.1%
Statistics: 23, 1.4%
Other hard science: 31, 1.9%
Other social science: 43, 2.6%
Other: 139, 8.5%
Did not answer: 38, 2.3%

DEGREE:
None: 84, 5.1%
High school: 444, 27.1%
2 year degree: 68, 4.2%
Bachelor's: 554, 33.9%
Master's: 323, 19.7%
MD/JD/other professional degree: 31, 2.0%
PhD.: 90, 5.5%
Other: 22, 1.3%
Did not answer: 19, 1.2%

POLITICAL:
Communist: 11, .7%
Conservative: 64, 3.9%
Liberal: 580, 35.5%
Libertarian: 437, 26.7%
Socialist: 502, 30.7%
Did not answer: 42, 2.6%

COMPLEX POLITICAL WITH WRITE-IN:
Anarchist: 52, 3.2%
Conservative: 16, 1.0%
Futarchist: 42, 2.6%
Left-libertarian: 142, 8.7%
Liberal: 5
Moderate: 53, 3.2%
Pragmatist: 110, 6.7%
Progressive: 206, 12.6%
Reactionary: 40, 2.4%
Social democrat: 154, 9.5%
Socialist: 135, 8.2%
Did not answer: 26.2%

[[All answers with more than 1% of the Less Wrong population included. Other answers which made Ozy giggle included "are any of you kings?! why do you CARE?!", "Exclusionary: you are entitled to an opinion on nuclear power when you know how much of your power is nuclear", "having-well-founded-opinions-is-really-hard-ist", "kleptocrat", "pirate", and "SPECIAL FUCKING SNOWFLAKE."]]

AMERICAN PARTY AFFILIATION:
Democratic Party: 226, 13.8%
Libertarian Party: 31, 1.9%
Republican Party: 58, 3.5%
Other third party: 19, 1.2%
Not registered: 447, 27.3%
Did not answer or non-American: 856, 52.3%

VOTING:
Yes: 936, 57.2%
No: 450, 27.5%
My country doesn't hold elections: 2, 0.1%
Did not answer: 249, 15.2%

RELIGIOUS VIEWS:
Agnostic: 165, 10.1%
Atheist and not spiritual: 1163, 71.1%
Atheist but spiritual: 132, 8.1%
Deist/pantheist/etc.: 36, 2.2%
Lukewarm theist: 53, 3.2%
Committed theist 64, 3.9%

RELIGIOUS DENOMINATION (IF THEIST):
Buddhist: 22, 1.3%
Christian (Catholic): 44, 2.7%
Christian (Protestant): 56, 3.4%
Jewish: 31, 1.9%
Mixed/Other: 21, 1.3%
Unitarian Universalist or similar: 25, 1.5%

[[This includes all religions with more than 1% of Less Wrongers. Minority religions include Dzogchen, Daoism, various sorts of Paganism, Simulationist, a very confused secular humanist, Kopmist, Discordian, and a Cultus Deorum Romanum practitioner whom Ozy wants to be friends with.]]

FAMILY RELIGION:
Agnostic: 129, 11.6%
Atheist and not spiritual: 225, 13.8%
Atheist but spiritual: 73, 4.5%
Committed theist: 423, 25.9%
Deist/pantheist, etc.: 42, 2.6%
Lukewarm theist: 563, 34.4%
Mixed/other: 97, 5.9%
Did not answer: 24, 1.5%

RELIGIOUS BACKGROUND:
Bahai: 3, 0.2%
Buddhist: 13, .8%
Christian (Catholic): 418, 25.6%
Christian (Mormon): 38, 2.3%
Christian (Protestant): 631, 38.4%
Christian (Quaker): 7, 0.4%
Christian (Unitarian Universalist or similar): 32, 2.0%
Christian (other non-Protestant): 99, 6.1%
Christian (unknown): 3, 0.2%
Eckankar: 1, 0.1%
Hindu: 29, 1.8%
Jewish: 136, 8.3%
Muslim: 12, 0.7%
Native American Spiritualist: 1, 0.1%
Mixed/Other: 85, 5.3%
Sikhism: 1, 0.1%
Traditional Chinese: 11, .7%
Wiccan: 1, 0.1%
None: 8, 0.4%
Did not answer: 107, 6.7%

MORAL VIEWS:
Accept/lean towards consequentialism: 1049, 64.1%
Accept/lean towards deontology: 77, 4.7%
Accept/lean towards virtue ethics: 197, 12.0%
Other/no answer: 276, 16.9%
Did not answer: 37, 2.3%

CHILDREN
0: 1414, 86.4%
1: 77, 4.7%
2: 90, 5.5%
3: 25, 1.5%
4: 7, 0.4%
5: 1, 0.1%
6: 2, 0.1%
Did not answer: 20, 1.2%

MORE CHILDREN:
Have no children, don't want any: 506, 31.3%
Have no children, uncertain if want them: 472, 29.2%
Have no children, want children: 431, 26.7%
Have no children, didn't answer: 5, 0.3%
Have children, don't want more: 124, 7.6%
Have children, uncertain if want more: 25, 1.5%
Have children, want more: 53, 3.2%

HANDEDNESS:
Right: 1256, 76.6%
Left: 145, 9.5%
Ambidextrous: 36, 2.2%
Not sure: 7, 0.4%
Did not answer: 182, 11.1%

LESS WRONG USE:
Lurker (no account): 584, 35.7%
Lurker (account) 221, 13.5%
Poster (comment, no post): 495, 30.3%
Poster (Discussion, not Main): 221, 12.9%
Poster (Main): 103, 6.3%

SEQUENCES:
Never knew they existed: 119, 7.3%
Knew they existed, didn't look at them: 48, 2.9%
~25% of the Sequences: 200, 12.2%
~50% of the Sequences: 271, 16.6%
~75% of the Sequences: 225, 13.8%
All the Sequences: 419, 25.6%
Did not answer: 24, 1.5%

MEETUPS:
No: 1134, 69.3%
Yes, once or a few times: 307, 18.8%
Yes, regularly: 159, 9.7%

HPMOR:
No: 272, 16.6%
Started it, haven't finished: 255, 15.6%
Yes, all of it: 912, 55.7%

CFAR WORKSHOP ATTENDANCE:
Yes, a full workshop: 105, 6.4%
A class but not a full-day workshop: 40, 2.4%
No: 1446, 88.3%
Did not answer: 46, 2.8%

PHYSICAL INTERACTION WITH LW COMMUNITY:
Yes, all the time: 94, 5.7%
Yes, sometimes: 179, 10.9%
No: 1316, 80.4%
Did not answer: 48, 2.9%

VEGETARIAN:
No: 1201, 73.4%
Yes: 213, 13.0%
Did not answer: 223, 13.6%

SPACED REPETITION:
Never heard of them: 363, 22.2%
No,  but I've heard of them: 495, 30.2%
Yes, in the past: 328, 20%
Yes, currently: 219, 13.4%
Did not answer: 232, 14.2%

HAVE YOU TAKEN PREVIOUS INCARNATIONS OF THE LESS WRONG SURVEY?
Yes: 638, 39.0%
No: 784, 47.9%
Did not answer: 215, 13.1%

PRIMARY LANGUAGE:
English: 1009, 67.8%
German: 58, 3.6%
Finnish: 29, 1.8%
Russian: 25, 1.6%
French: 17, 1.0%
Dutch: 16, 1.0%
Did not answer: 15.2%

[[This includes all answers that more than 1% of respondents chose. Other languages include Urdu, both Czech and Slovakian, Latvian, and Love.]]

ENTREPRENEUR:
I don't want to start my own business: 617, 37.7%
I am considering starting my own business: 474, 29.0%
I plan to start my own business: 113, 6.9%
I've already started my own business: 156, 9.5%
Did not answer: 277, 16.9%

EFFECTIVE ALTRUIST:
Yes: 468, 28.6%
No: 883, 53.9%
Did not answer: 286, 17.5%

WHO ARE YOU LIVING WITH?
Alone: 348, 21.3%
With family: 420, 25.7%
With partner/spouse: 400, 24.4%
With roommates: 450, 27.5%
Did not answer: 19, 1.3%

DO YOU GIVE BLOOD?
No: 646, 39.5%
No, only because I'm not allowed: 157, 9.6%
Yes, 609, 37.2%
Did not answer: 225, 13.7%

GLOBAL CATASTROPHIC RISK:
Pandemic (bioengineered): 374, 22.8%
Environmental collapse including global warming: 251, 15.3%
Unfriendly AI: 233, 14.2%
Nuclear war: 210, 12.8%
Pandemic (natural) 145, 8.8%
Economic/political collapse: 175, 1, 10.7%
Asteroid strike: 65, 3.9%
Nanotech/grey goo: 57, 3.5%
Didn't answer: 99, 6.0%

CRYONICS STATUS:
Never thought about it / don't understand it: 69, 4.2%
No, and don't want to: 414, 25.3%
No, still considering: 636, 38.9%
No, would like to: 265, 16.2%
No, would like to, but it's unavailable: 119, 7.3%
Yes: 66, 4.0%
Didn't answer: 68, 4.2%

NEWCOMB'S PROBLEM:
Don't understand/prefer not to answer: 92, 5.6%
Not sure: 103, 6.3%
One box: 1036, 63.3%
Two box: 119, 7.3%
Did not answer: 287, 17.5%

GENOMICS:
Yes: 177, 10.8%
No: 1219, 74.5%
Did not answer: 241, 14.7%

REFERRAL TYPE:
Been here since it started in the Overcoming Bias days: 285, 17.4%
Referred by a friend: 241, 14.7%
Referred by a search engine: 148, 9.0%
Referred by HPMOR: 400, 24.4%
Referred by a link on another blog: 373, 22.8%
Referred by a school course: 1, .1%
Other: 160, 9.8%
Did not answer: 29, 1.9%

REFERRAL SOURCE:
Common Sense Atheism: 33
Slate Star Codex: 20
Hacker News: 18
Reddit: 18
TVTropes: 13
Y Combinator: 11
Gwern: 9
RationalWiki: 8
Marginal Revolution: 7
Unequally Yoked: 6
Armed and Dangerous: 5
Shtetl Optimized: 5
Econlog: 4
StumbleUpon: 4
Yudkowsky.net: 4
Accelerating Future: 3
Stares at the World: 3
xkcd: 3
David Brin: 2
Freethoughtblogs: 2
Felicifia: 2
Givewell: 2
hatrack.com: 2
HPMOR: 2
Patri Friedman: 2
Popehat: 2
Overcoming Bias: 2
Scientiststhesis: 2
Scott Young: 2
Stardestroyer.net: 2
TalkOrigins: 2
Tumblr: 2

[[This includes all sources with  more than one referral; needless to say there was a long tail]]

III. Numeric Data

(in the form mean + stdev (1st quartile, 2nd quartile, 3rd quartile) [n = number responding]))

Age: 27.4 + 8.5 (22, 25, 31) [n = 1558]
Height: 176.6 cm + 16.6 (173, 178, 183) [n = 1267]

Karma Score: 504 + 2085 (0, 0, 100) [n = 1438]
Time in community: 2.62 years + 1.84 (1, 2, 4) [n = 1443]
Time on LW: 13.25 minutes/day + 20.97 (2, 10, 15) [n = 1457]

IQ: 138.2 + 13.6 (130, 138, 145) [n = 506]
SAT out of 1600: 1474 + 114 (1410, 1490, 1560) [n = 411]
SAT out of 2400: 2207 + 161 (2130, 2240, 2330) [n = 333]
ACT out of 36: 32.8 + 2.5 (32, 33, 35) [n = 265]

P(Aliens in observable universe): 74.3 + 32.7 (60, 90, 99) [n = 1496]
P(Aliens in Milky Way): 44.9 + 38.2 (5, 40, 85) [n = 1482]
P(Supernatural): 7.7 + 22 (0E-9, .000055, 1) [n = 1484]
P(God): 9.1 + 22.9 (0E-11, .01, 3) [n = 1490]
P(Religion): 5.6 + 19.6 (0E-11, 0E-11, .5) [n = 1497]
P(Cryonics): 22.8 + 28 (2, 10, 33) [n = 1500]  
P(AntiAgathics): 27.6 + 31.2 (2, 10, 50) [n = 1493]
P(Simulation): 24.1 + 28.9 (1, 10, 50) [n = 1400]
P(ManyWorlds): 50 + 29.8 (25, 50, 75) [n = 1373]
P(Warming): 80.7 + 25.2 (75, 90, 98) [n = 1509]
P(Global catastrophic risk): 72.9 + 25.41 (60, 80, 95) [n = 1502]
Singularity year: 1.67E +11 + 4.089E+12 (2060, 2090, 2150) [n = 1195]

[[Of course, this question was hopelessly screwed up by people who insisted on filling the whole answer field with 9s, or other such nonsense. I went back and eliminated all outliers - answers with more than 4 digits or answers in the past - which changed the results to: 2150 + 226 (2060, 2089, 2150)]]

Yearly Income: $73,226 +423,310 (10,000, 37,000, 80,000) [n = 910]
Yearly Charity: $1181.16 + 6037.77 (0, 50, 400) [n = 1231]
Yearly Charity to MIRI/CFAR: $307.18 + 4205.37 (0, 0, 0) [n = 1191]
Yearly Charity to X-risk (excluding MIRI or CFAR): $6.34 + 55.89 (0, 0, 0) [n = 1150]

Number of Languages: 1.49 + .8 (1, 1, 2) [n = 1345]
Older Siblings: 0.5 + 0.9 (0, 0, 1) [n = 1366]
Time Online/Week: 42.7 hours + 24.8 (25, 40, 60) [n = 1292]
Time Watching TV/Week: 4.2 hours + 5.7 (0, 2, 5) [n = 1316]

[[The next nine questions ask respondents to rate how favorable they are to the political idea or movement above on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "not at all favorable" and 5 being "very favorable". You can see the exact wordings of the questions on the survey.]]

Abortion: 4.4 + 1 (4, 5, 5) [n = 1350]
Immigration: 4.1 + 1 (3, 4, 5) [n = 1322]
Basic Income: 3.8 + 1.2 (3, 4, 5) [n = 1289]
Taxes: 3.1 + 1.3 (2, 3, 4) [n = 1296]
Feminism: 3.8 + 1.2 (3, 4, 5) [n = 1329]
Social Justice: 3.6 + 1.3 (3, 4, 5) [n = 1263]
Minimum Wage: 3.2 + 1.4 (2, 3, 4) [n = 1290]
Great Stagnation: 2.3 + 1 (2, 2, 3) [n = 1273]
Human Biodiversity: 2.7 + 1.2 (2, 3, 4) [n = 1305]

IV. Bivariate Correlations

Ozy ran bivariate correlations between all the numerical data and recorded all correlations that were significant at the .001 level in order to maximize the chance that these are genuine results. The format is variable/variable: Pearson correlation (n). Yvain is not hugely on board with the idea of running correlations between everything and seeing what sticks, but will grudgingly publish the results because of the very high bar for significance (p < .001 on ~800 correlations suggests < 1 spurious result) and because he doesn't want to have to do it himself.

Less Political:
SAT score (1600)/SAT score (2400): .835 (56)
Charity/MIRI and CFAR donations: .730 (1193)
SAT score out of 2400/ACT score: .673 (111)
SAT score out of 1600/ACT score: .544 (102)
Number of children/age: .507 (1607)
P(Cryonics)/P(AntiAgathics): .489 (1515)
SAT score out of 1600/IQ: .369 (173)
MIRI and CFAR donations/XRisk donations: .284 (1178)
Number of children/ACT score: -.279 (269)
Income/charity: .269 (884)
Charity/Xrisk charity: .262 (1161)
P(Cryonics)/P(Simulation): .256 (1419)
P(AntiAgathics)/P(Simulation): .253 (1418)
Number of current partners/age: .238 (1607) 
Number of children/SAT score (2400): -.223 (345)
Number of current partners/number of children: .205 (1612)
SAT score out of 1600/age: -.194 (422)
Charity/age: .175 (1259)
Time on Less Wrong/IQ: -.164 (492)
P(Warming)/P(GlobalCatastrophicRisk): .156 (1522)
Number of current partners/IQ: .155 (521)
P(Simulation)/age: -.153 (1420)
Immigration/P(ManyWorlds): .150 (1195)
Income/age: .150 (930)
P(Cryonics)/age: -.148 (1521)
Income/children: .145 (931)
P(God)/P(Simulation): .142 (1409)
Number of children/P(Aliens): .140 (1523)
P(AntiAgathics)/Hours Online: .138 (1277)
Number of current partners/karma score: .137 (1470)
Abortion/P(ManyWorlds): .122 (1215)
Feminism/Xrisk charity donations: -.122 (1104)
P(AntiAgathics)/P(ManyWorlds) .118 (1381)
P(Cryonics)/P(ManyWorlds): .117 (1387)
Karma score/Great Stagnation: .114 (1202)
Hours online/P(simulation): .114 (1199)
P(Cryonics)/Hours Online: .113 (1279)
P(AntiAgathics)/Great Stagnation: -.111 (1259)
Basic income/hours online: .111 (1200)
P(GlobalCatastrophicRisk)/Great Stagnation: -.110 (1270)
Age/X risk charity donations: .109 (1176)
P(AntiAgathics)/P(GlobalCatastrophicRisk): -.109 (1513)
Time on Less Wrong/age: -.108 (1491)
P(AntiAgathics)/Human Biodiversity: .104 (1286)
Immigration/Hours Online: .104 (1226)
P(Simulation)/P(GlobalCatastrophicRisk): -.103 (1421)
P(Supernatural)/height: -.101 (1232)
P(GlobalCatastrophicRisk)/height: .101 (1249)
Number of children/hours online: -.099 (1321)
P(AntiAgathics)/age: -.097 (1514)
Karma score/time on LW: .096 (1404)

This year for the first time P(Aliens) and P(Aliens2) are entirely uncorrelated with each other. Time in Community, Time on LW, and IQ are not correlated with anything particularly interesting, suggesting all three fail to change people's views.

Results we find amusing: high-IQ and high-karma people have more romantic partners, suggesting that those are attractive traits. There is definitely a Cryonics/Antiagathics/Simulation/Many Worlds cluster of weird beliefs, which younger people and people who spend more time online are slightly more likely to have - weirdly, that cluster seems slightly less likely to believe in global catastrophic risk. Older people and people with more children have more romantic partners (it'd be interesting to see if that holds true for the polyamorous). People who believe in anti-agathics and global catastrophic risk are less likely to believe in a great stagnation (presumably because both of the above rely on inventions). People who spend more time on Less Wrong have lower IQs. Height is, bizarrely, correlated with belief in the supernatural and global catastrophic risk.

All political viewpoints are correlated with each other in pretty much exactly the way one would expect. They are also correlated with one's level of belief in God, the supernatural, and religion. There are minor correlations with some of the beliefs and number of partners (presumably because polyamory), number of children, and number of languages spoken. We are doing terribly at avoiding Blue/Green politics, people.

More Political:
P(Supernatural)/P(God): .736 (1496)
P(Supernatural)/P(Religion): .667 (1492)
Minimum wage/taxes: .649 (1299)
P(God)/P(Religion): .631 (1496)
Feminism/social justice: .619 (1293)
Social justice/minimum wage: .508 (1262)
P(Supernatural)/abortion: -.469 (1309)
Taxes/basic income: .463 (1285)
P(God)/abortion: -.461 (1310)
Social justice/taxes: .456 (1267)
P(Religion)/abortion: -.413
Basic income/minimum wage: .392 (1283)
Feminism/taxes: .391 (1318)
Feminism/minimum wage: .391 (1312)
Feminism/human biodiversity: -.365 (1331)
Immigration/feminism: .355 (1336)
P(Warming)/taxes: .340 (1292)
Basic income/social justice: .311 (1270)
Immigration/social justice: .307 (1275)
P(Warming)/feminism: .294 (1323)
Immigration/human biodiversity: -.292 (1313)
P(Warming)/basic income: .290 (1287)
Social justice/human biodiversity: -.289 (1281)
Basic income/feminism: .284 (1313)
Human biodiversity/minimum wage: -.273 (1293)
P(Warming)/social justice: .271 (1261)
P(Warming)/minimum wage: .262 (1284)
Human biodiversity/taxes: -.251 (1270).
Abortion/feminism: .239 (1356)
Abortion/social justice: .220 (1292)
P(Warming)/immigration: .215 (1315)
Abortion/immigration: .211 (1353)
P(Warming)/abortion: .192 (1340)
Immigration/taxes: .186 (1322)
Basic income/taxes: .174 (1249)
Abortion/taxes: .170 (1328)
Abortion/minimum wage: .169 (1317)
P(warming)/human biodiversity: -.168 (1301)
Abortion/basic income: .168 (1314)
Immigration/Great Stagnation: -.163 (1281)
P(God)/feminism: -.159 (1294)
P(Supernatural)/feminism: -.158 (1292)
Human biodiversity/Great Stagnation: .152 (1287)
Social justice/Great Stagnation: -.135 (1242)
Number of languages/taxes: -.133 (1242)
P(God)/P(Warming): -.132 (1491)
P(Supernatural)/immigration: -.131 (1284)
P(Religion)immigration: -.129 (1296)
P(God)/immigration: -.127 (1286)
P(Supernatural)/P(Warming): -.125 (1487)
P(Supernatural)/social justice: -.125 (1227)
P(God)/taxes: -.145
Minimum wage/Great Stagnation: -124 (1269)
Immigration/minimum wage: .122 (1308)
Great Stagnation/taxes: -.121 (1270)
P(Religion)/P(Warming): -.113 (1505)
P(Supernatural)/taxes: -.113 (1265)
Feminism/Great Stagnation: -.112 (1295)
Number of children/abortion: -.112 (1386)
P(Religion)/basic income: -.108 (1296)
Number of current partners/feminism: .108 (1364)
Basic income/human biodiversity: -.106 (1301)
P(God)/Basic Income: -.105 (1255)
Number of current partners/basic income: .105 (1320)
Human biodiversity/number of languages: .103 (1253)
Number of children/basic income: -.099 (1322)
Number of children/P(Warming): -.091 (1535)

V. Hypothesis Testing

A. Do people in the effective altruism movement donate more money to charity? Do they donate a higher percent of their income to charity? Are they just generally more altruistic people?

1265 people told us how much they give to charity; of those, 450 gave nothing. On average, effective altruists (n = 412) donated $2503 to charity, and other people (n = 853) donated $523  - obviously a significant result. Effective altruists gave on average $800 to MIRI or CFAR, whereas others gave $53. Effective altruists gave on average $16 to other x-risk related charities; others gave only $2.

In order to calculate percent donated I divided charity donations by income in the 947  people helpful enough to give me both numbers. Of those 947, 602 donated nothing to charity, and so had a percent donated of 0. At the other extreme, three  people donated 50% of their (substantial) incomes to charity, and 55 people donated at least 10%. I don't want to draw any conclusions about the community from this because the people who provided both their income numbers and their charity numbers are a highly self-selected sample.

303 effective altruists donated, on average, 3.5% of their income to charity, compared to 645 others who donated, on average, 1% of their income to charity. A small but significant (p < .001) victory for the effective altruism movement.

But are they more compassionate people in general? After throwing out the people who said they wanted to give blood but couldn't for one or another reason, I got 1255 survey respondents giving me an unambiguous answer (yes or no) about whether they'd ever given blood. I found that 51% of effective altruists had given blood compared to 47% of others - a difference which did not reach statistical significance.

Finally, at the end of the survey I had a question offering respondents a chance to cooperate (raising the value of a potential monetary prize to be given out by raffle to a random respondent) or defect (decreasing the value of the prize, but increasing their own chance of winning the raffle). 73% of effective altruists cooperated compared to 70% of others - an insignificant difference.

Conclusion: effective altruists give more money to charity, both absolutely and as a percent of income, but are no more likely (or perhaps only slightly more likely) to be compassionate in other ways.

B. Can we finally resolve this IQ controversy that comes up every year?

The story so far - our first survey in 2009 found an average IQ of 146. Everyone said this was stupid, no community could possibly have that high an average IQ, it was just people lying and/or reporting results from horrible Internet IQ tests.
Although IQ fell somewhat the next few years - to 140 in 2011 and 139 in 2012 - people continued to complain. So in 2012 we started asking for SAT and ACT scores, which are known to correlate well with IQ and are much harder to get wrong. These scores confirmed the 139 IQ result on the 2012 test. But people still objected that something must be up.

This year our IQ has fallen further to 138 (no Flynn Effect for us!) but for the first time we asked people to describe the IQ test they used to get the number. So I took a subset of the people with the most unimpeachable IQ tests - ones taken after the age of 15 (when IQ is more stable), and from a seemingly reputable source. I counted a source as reputable either if it name-dropped a specific scientifically validated IQ test (like WAIS or Raven's Progressive Matrices), if it was performed by a reputable institution (a school, a hospital, or a psychologist), or if it was a Mensa exam proctored by a Mensa official.

This subgroup of 101 people with very reputable IQ tests had an average IQ of 139 - exactly the same as the average among survey respondents as a whole.

I don't know for sure that Mensa is on the level, so I tried again deleting everyone who took a Mensa test - leaving just the people who could name-drop a well-known test or who knew it was administered by a psychologist in an official setting. This caused a precipitous drop all the way down to 138.

The IQ numbers have time and time again answered every challenge raised against them and should be presumed accurate.

C. Can we predict who does or doesn't cooperate on prisoner's dilemmas?

As mentioned above, I included a prisoner's dilemma type question in the survey, offering people the chance to make a little money by screwing all the other survey respondents over.

Tendency to cooperate on the prisoner's dilemma was most highly correlated with items in the general leftist political cluster identified by Ozy above. It was most notable for support for feminism, with which it had a correlation of .15, significant at the p < .01 level, and minimum wage, with which it had a correlation of .09, also significant at p < .01. It was also significantly correlated with belief that other people would cooperate on the same question.

I compared two possible explanations for this result. First, leftists are starry-eyed idealists who believe everyone can just get along - therefore, they expected other people to cooperate more, which made them want to cooperate more. Or, second, most Less Wrongers are white, male, and upper class, meaning that support for leftist values - which often favor nonwhites, women, and the lower class - is itself a symbol of self-sacrifce and altruism which one would expect to correlate with a question testing self-sacrifice and altruism.

I tested the "starry-eyed idealist" hypothesis by checking whether leftists were more likely to believe other people would cooperate. They were not - the correlation was not significant at any level.

I tested the "self-sacrifice" hypothesis by testing whether the feminism correlation went away in women. For women, supporting feminism is presumably not a sign of willingness to self-sacrifice to help an out-group, so we would expect the correlation to disappear.

In the all-female sample, the correlation between feminism and PD cooperation shrunk from .15 to a puny .04, whereas the correlation between the minimum wage and PD was previously .09 and stayed exactly the same at .09. This provides some small level of support for the hypothesis that the leftist correlation with PD cooperation represents a willingness to self-sacrifice in a population who are not themselves helped by leftist values.

(on the other hand, neither leftists nor cooperators were more likely to give money to charity, so if this is true it's a very selective form of self-sacrifice)

VI. Monetary Prize

1389 people answered the prize question at the bottom. 71.6% of these [n = 995] cooperated; 28.4% [n = 394] defected.
The prize goes to a person whose two word phrase begins with "eponymous". If this person posts below (or PMs or emails me) the second word in their phrase, I will give them $60 * 71.6%, or about $43. I can pay to a PayPal account, a charity of their choice that takes online donations, or a snail-mail address via check.

VII. Calibration Questions

The population of Europe, according to designated arbiter Wikipedia, is 739 million people.

People were really really bad at giving their answers in millions. I got numbers anywhere from 3 (really? three million people in Europe?) to 3 billion (3 million billion people = 3 quadrillion). I assume some people thought they were answering in billions, others in thousands, and other people thought they were giving a straight answer in number of individuals.

My original plan was to just adjust these to make them fit, but this quickly encountered some pitfalls. Suppose someone wrote 1 million (as one person did). Could I fairly guess they meant 100 million, even though there's really no way to guess that from the text itself? 1 billion? Maybe they just thought there were really one million people in Europe?

If I was too aggressive correcting these, everyone would get close to the right answer not because they were smart, but because I had corrected their answers. If I wasn't aggressive enough, I would end up with some guy who answered 3 quadrillion Europeans totally distorting the mean.

I ended up deleting 40 answers that suggested there were less than ten million or more than eight billion Europeans, on the grounds that people probably weren't really that far off so it was probably some kind of data entry error, and correcting everyone who entered a reasonable answer in individuals to answer in millions as the question asked.

The remaining 1457 people who can either follow simple directions or at least fail to follow them in a predictable way estimated an average European population in millions of 601 + 35.6 (380, 500, 750).

Respondents were told to aim for within 10% of the real value, which means they wanted between 665 million and 812 million. 18.7% of people [n = 272] got within that window.

I divided people up into calibration brackets of [0,5], [6,15], [16, 25] and so on. The following are what percent of people in each bracket were right.

[0,5]: 7.7%
[6,15]: 12.4%
[16,25]: 15.1%
[26,35]: 18.4%
[36,45]: 20.6%
[46,55]: 15.4%
[56,65]: 16.5%
[66,75]: 21.2%
[76,85]: 36.4%
[86,95]: 48.6%
[96,100]: 100%

Among people who should know better (those who have read all or most of the Sequences and have > 500 karma, a group of 162 people)

[0,5]: 0
[6,15]: 17.4%
[16,25]: 25.6%
[26,35]: 16.7%
[36,45]: 26.7%
[46,55]: 25%
[56,65]: 0%
[66,75]: 8.3%
[76,85]: 40%
[86,95]: 66.6%
[96,100]: 66.6%

Clearly, the people who should know better don't.

This graph represents your performance relative to ideal performance. Dipping below the blue ideal line represents overconfidence; rising above it represents underconfidence. With few exceptions you were very overconfident. Note that there were so few "elite" LWers at certain levels that the graph becomes very noisy and probably isn't representing much; that huge drop at 60 represents like two or three people. The orange "typical LWer" line is much more robust.

There is one other question that gets at the same idea of overconfidence. 651 people were willing to give valid 90% confidence interval on what percent of people would cooperate (this is my fault; I only added this question about halfway through the survey once I realized it would be interesting to investigate). I deleted four for giving extremely high outliers like 9999% which threw off the results, leaving 647 valid answers. The average confidence interval was [28.3, 72.0], which just BARELY contains the correct answer of 71.6%. Of the 647 of you, only 346 (53.5%) gave 90% confidence intervals that included the correct answer!

Last year I complained about horrible performance on calibration questions, but we all decided it was probably just a fluke caused by a particularly weird question. This year's results suggest that was no fluke and that we haven't even learned to overcome the one bias that we can measure super-well and which is most easily trained away. Disappointment!

VIII. Public Data

There's still a lot more to be done with this survey. User:Unnamed has promised to analyze the "Extra Credit: CFAR Questions" section (not included in this post), but so far no one has looked at the "Extra Credit: Questions From Sarah" section, which I didn't really know what to do with. And of course this is most complete survey yet for seeking classic findings like "People who disagree with me about politics are stupid and evil".

1480 people - over 90% of the total - kindly allowed me to make their survey data public. I have included all their information except the timestamp (which would make tracking pretty easy) including their secret passphrases (by far the most interesting part of this exercise was seeing what unusual two word phrases people could come up with on short notice).

Download public data from 2013 LW Census/Survey -> (.spss) (.xls) (.csv)

Comments (557)

Comment author: jamesf 19 January 2014 03:32:04AM 39 points [-]

Next survey, I'd be interested in seeing statistics involving:

  • Recreational drug use
  • Quantified Self-related activities
  • Social media use
  • Self-perceived physical attractiveness on the 1-10 scale
  • Self-perceived holistic attractiveness on the 1-10 scale
  • Personal computer's operating system

Excellent write-up and I look forward to next year's.

Comment author: Desrtopa 21 January 2014 09:48:26PM 5 points [-]

Self-perceived physical attractiveness on the 1-10 scale Self-perceived holistic attractiveness on the 1-10 scale

While I don't remember the precise level, I would note that there are studies suggesting a rather surprisingly low level of correlation between self perceived attractiveness and attractiveness as perceived by others, and if we could induce a sufficient sample of participants to submit images of themselves to be rated by others (possibly in a context where they would not themselves find out the rating they received,) I think the comparison of those two values would be much more interesting than self-perceived attractiveness alone.

Comment author: Acidmind 19 January 2014 11:04:04AM 10 points [-]

I'd like:

  • Estimated average self-perceived physical attractiveness in the community
  • Estimated average self-perceived holistic attractiveness in the community

Oh, we are really self-serving elitist overconfident pricks, aren't we?

Comment author: Creutzer 19 January 2014 11:11:25AM 3 points [-]

How do you expect anybody to be able to answer that and what does it even mean? First, what community, exactly? Second, average - over what?

Comment author: ChristianKl 19 January 2014 03:55:13PM 2 points [-]

I think he means the people who take the survey.

If you ask in the survey for the self-perceived physical attractiveness you can ask in the same survey for the estimated average of all survey takers.

Comment author: jkaufman 19 January 2014 03:44:35PM 2 points [-]

I think Acidmind means we should ask people their self-perceived attractiveness, and then ask them to estimate the average that will be given by all people taking the survey.

Comment author: ChristianKl 19 January 2014 04:08:27PM 2 points [-]

Quantified Self-related activities

I thought quite a bit about this and couldn't decide on many good questions.

The Anki question is sort of a result of this desire.

I thought of asking about pedometer usage such as Fitbit/Nike Plus etc but I'm not sure if the amount of people is enough to warrant the question.

Which specific questions would you want?

Social media use

By what metric? Total time investment? Few people can give you an accurate answer to that question.

Asking good questions isn't easy.

Self-perceived physical attractiveness on the 1-10 scale

I personally don't think that term is very meaningful. I do have hotornot pictures that scored a 9, but what does that mean? The last time I used tinder I click through a lot of female images and very few liked me back. But I haven't yet isolated factors or know about average success rates for guy's using Tinder.

Recreational drug use

There interested in not gathering data that would cause someone to admit criminal behavior. A person might be findable if you know there stances on a few questions. There also the issue of possible outsiders being able to say: "30% of LW participants are criminals!"

Personal computer's operating system

I agree, that would be nice question.

Comment author: jamesf 19 January 2014 05:17:56PM *  3 points [-]

Quantified Self examples:

  • Have you attempted and stuck with the recording of personal data for >1 month for any reason? (Y/N)
  • If so, did you find it useful? (Y/N)

Social media example:

  • How many hours per week do you think you spend on social media?

Asking about self-perceived attractiveness tells us little about how attractive a person is, but quite a bit about how they see themselves, and I want to learn how that's correlated with answers to all these other questions.

Maybe the recreational drug use question(s) could be stripped from the public data?

Comment author: shokwave 19 January 2014 10:20:51AM 2 points [-]
  • Are you Ask or Guess culture?
Comment author: ChristianKl 19 January 2014 03:55:48PM *  10 points [-]

I'm not culture.

In some social circles I might behave in one way, in others another way. In different situations I act differently depending on how strongly I want to communicate a demand.

Comment author: shokwave 20 January 2014 01:05:24PM 5 points [-]

Good point. It might not even make sense to ask "Which culture of social interaction do you feel most at home with, Ask or Guess?".

Comment author: Frazer 02 May 2014 03:35:41AM 1 point [-]

I'd also like to see time spent per day meditating, or other form of mental training

Comment author: jkaufman 19 January 2014 04:12:22PM 23 points [-]

The IQ numbers have time and time again answered every challenge raised against them and should be presumed accurate.

What if the people who have taken IQ tests are on average smarter than the people who haven't? My impression is that people mostly take IQ tests when they're somewhat extreme: either low and trying to qualify for assistive services or high and trying to get "gifted" treatment. If we figure lesswrong draws mostly from the high end, then we should expect the IQ among test-takers to be higher than what we would get if we tested random people who had not previously been tested.

The IQ Question read: "Please give the score you got on your most recent PROFESSIONAL, SCIENTIFIC IQ test - no Internet tests, please! All tests should have the standard average of 100 and stdev of 15."

Among the subset of people making their data public (n=1480), 32% (472) put an answer here. Those 472 reports average 138, in line with past numbers. But 32% is low enough that we're pretty vulnerable to selection bias.

(I've never taken an IQ test, and left this question blank.)

Comment author: VincentYu 20 January 2014 03:01:31PM *  27 points [-]

What if the people who have taken IQ tests are on average smarter than the people who haven't? My impression is that people mostly take IQ tests when they're somewhat extreme: either low and trying to qualify for assistive services or high and trying to get "gifted" treatment. If we figure lesswrong draws mostly from the high end, then we should expect the IQ among test-takers to be higher than what we would get if we tested random people who had not previously been tested.

This sounds plausible, but from looking at the data, I don't think this is happening in our sample. In particular, if this were the case, then we would expect the SAT scores of those who did not submit IQ data to be different from those who did submit IQ data. I ran an Anderson–Darling test on each of the following pairs of distributions:

  • SAT out of 2400 for those who submitted IQ data (n = 89) vs SAT out of 2400 for those who did not submit IQ data (n = 230)
  • SAT out of 1600 for those who submitted IQ data (n = 155) vs SAT out of 1600 for those who did not submit IQ data (n = 217)

The p-values came out as 0.477 and 0.436 respectively, which means that the Anderson–Darling test was unable to distinguish between the two distributions in each pair at any significance.

As I did for my last plot, I've once again computed for each distribution a kernel density estimate with bootstrapped confidence bands from 999 resamples. From visual inspection, I tend to agree that there is no clear difference between the distributions. The plots should be self-explanatory:

(More details about these plots are available in my previous comment.)

Edit: Updated plots. The kernel density estimates are now fixed-bandwidth using the Sheather–Jones method for bandwidth selection. The density near the right edge is bias-corrected using an ad hoc fix described by whuber on stats.SE.

Comment author: jkaufman 20 January 2014 10:53:41PM 4 points [-]

Thanks for digging into this! Looks like the selection bias isn't significant.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 19 January 2014 05:06:20PM 2 points [-]

But 32% is low enough that we're pretty vulnerable to selection bias

The large majority of LessWrongers in the USA have however also provided their SAT scores, and those are also very high values (from what little I know of SATs)...

Comment author: Vaniver 19 January 2014 08:45:42PM *  9 points [-]

The large majority of LessWrongers in the USA have however also provided their SAT scores, and those are also very high values (from what little I know of SATs)...

The reported SAT numbers are very high, but the reported IQ scores are extremely high. The mean reported SAT score, if received on the modern 1600 test, corresponds to an IQ in the upper 120s, not the upper 130s. The mean reported SAT2400 score was 2207, which corresponds to 99th but not 99.5th percentile. 99th percentile is an IQ of 135, which suggests that the self-reports may not be that off compared to the SAT self-reports.

Comment author: michaelsullivan 22 January 2014 05:29:19PM *  2 points [-]

Some of us took the SAT before 1995, so it's hard to disentangle those scores. A pre-1995 1474 would be at 99.9x percentile, in line with an IQ score around 150-155. If you really want to compare, you should probably assume anyone age 38 or older took the old test and use the recentering adjustment for them.

I'm also not sure how well the SAT distinguishes at the high end. It's apparently good enough for some high IQ societies, who are willing to use the tests for certification. I was shown my results and I had about 25 points off perfect per question marked wrong. So the distinction between 1475 and 1600 on my test would probably be about 5 total questions. I don't remember any questions that required reasoning I considered difficult at the time. The difference between my score and one 100 points above or below might say as much about diligence or proofreading as intelligence.

Admittedly, the variance due to non-g factors should mostly cancel in a population the size of this survey, and is likely to be a feature of almost any IQ test.

That said, the 1995 score adjustment would have to be taken into account before using it as a proxy for IQ.

Comment author: private_messaging 22 January 2014 05:38:01PM 1 point [-]

Conversion is a very tricky matter, because the correlation is much less than 1 ( 0.369 in the survey, apparently).

With correlation less than 1, regression towards the mean comes into play, so the predicted IQ from perfect SAT is actually not that high (someone posted coefficients in a parallel discussion), and predicted SAT from very high IQ is likewise not that awesome.

The reason the figures seem rather strange, is that they imply some kind of extreme filtering by IQ here. The negative correlation between time here and IQ suggest that the content is not acting as much of a filter, or is acting as a filter in the opposite direction.

Comment author: jaime2000 20 January 2014 07:55:39PM *  1 point [-]

The Wikipedia article states that those are percentiles of test-takers, not the population as a whole. What percentage of seniors take the SAT? I tried googling, but I could not find the figure.

My first thought is that most people who don't take the SAT don't intend to go to college and are likely to be below the mean reported SAT score, but then I realized that a non-negligible subset of those people must have taken only the ACT as their admission exam.

Comment author: Vaniver 20 January 2014 08:01:39PM 3 points [-]

I don't have solid numbers myself, but percentile of test-takers should underestimate percentile of population. However, there is regression to the mean to take into account, as well as that many people take the SAT multiple times and report the most favorable score, both of which suggest that score on test should overestimate IQ, and I'm fudging it by treating those two as if they cancel out.

Comment author: Vaniver 19 January 2014 06:15:13AM *  23 points [-]

Repeating complaints from last year:

So in 2012 we started asking for SAT and ACT scores, which are known to correlate well with IQ and are much harder to get wrong. These scores confirmed the 139 IQ result on the 2012 test.

The 2012 estimate from SATs was about 128, since the 1994 renorming destroyed the old relationship between the SAT and IQ. Our average SAT (on 1600) was again about 1470, which again maps to less than 130, but not by much. (And, again, self-reported average probably overestimates actual population average.)

Last year I complained about horrible performance on calibration questions, but we all decided it was probably just a fluke caused by a particularly weird question. This year's results suggest that was no fluke and that we haven't even learned to overcome the one bias that we can measure super-well and which is most easily trained away. Disappointment!

I still think you're asking this question in a way that's particularly hard for people to get right. (The issue isn't the fact you ask about, but what sort of answers you look for.)

You've clearly got an error in your calibration chart; you can't have 2 out of 3 elite LWers be right in the [95,100] category but 100% of typical LWers are right in that category. Or are you not including the elite LWers in typical LWers? Regardless, the person who gave a calibration of 99% and the two people who gave calibrations of 100% aren't elite LWers (karmas of 0, 0, and 4; two 25% of the sequences and one 50%).

With few exceptions you were very overconfident.

The calibration chart doesn't make clear the impact of frequency. If most people are providing probabilities of 20%, and they're about 20% right, then most people are getting it right- and the 2-3 people who provided a probability of 60% don't matter.

There are a handful of ways to depict this. One I haven't seen before, which is probably ugly, is to scale the width of the points by the frequency. Instead, here's a flat graph of the proportion of survey respondents who gave each calibration bracket:

Significant is that if you add together the 10, 20, and 30 brackets (the ones around the correct baseline probability of ~20% of getting it right) you get 50% for typical LWers and 60% for elite LWers; so most people were fairly close to correctly calibrated, and the people who thought they had more skill on the whole dramatically overestimated how much more skill they had.

(I put down 70% probability, but was answering the wrong question; I got the population of the EU almost exactly right, which I knew from GDP and per-capita comparisons to the US. Oops.)

Comment author: private_messaging 19 January 2014 02:24:50PM 1 point [-]

The 2012 estimate from SATs was about 128, since the 1994 renorming destroyed the old relationship between the SAT and IQ. Our average SAT (on 1600) was again about 1470, which again maps to less than 130, but not by much. (And, again, self-reported average probably overestimates actual population average.)

It's very interesting that the same mistake was boldly made again this year... I guess this mistake is sort of self reinforcing due to the uncannily perfect equality between mean IQ and what's incorrectly estimated from the SAT scores.

Comment author: Vaniver 19 January 2014 09:16:43PM 5 points [-]

Actually, I just ran the numbers on the SAT2400 and they're closer; the average percentile predicted from that is 99th, which corresponds to about 135.

Comment author: private_messaging 19 January 2014 11:10:39PM *  2 points [-]

For non-Americans, what's the difference between SAT 2400 and SAT 1600 ?

Averaging sat scores is a little iffy because, given a cut-off, they won't have Gaussian distribution. Also, given imperfect correlation it is unclear how one should convert the scores. If I pick someone with SAT in top 1% I shouldn't expect IQ in the top 1% because of regression towards the mean. (Granted I can expect both scores to be closer if I were picking by some third factor influencing both).

It'd be interesting to compare frequency of advanced degrees with the scores, for people old enough to have advanced degrees.

Comment author: Prismattic 20 January 2014 12:18:45AM 4 points [-]

The SAT used to have only two sections, with a maximum of 800 points each, for a total of 1600 (the worst possible score, IIRC, was 200 on each for 400). At some point after I graduated high school, they added a 3rd 800 point section (I think it might be an essay), so the maximum score went from 1600 to 2400.

Comment author: Fermatastheorem 21 January 2014 04:32:15AM 2 points [-]

Yes, it's a timed essay.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 20 January 2014 12:06:31AM *  2 points [-]

Also, given imperfect correlation it is unclear how one should convert the scores. If I pick someone with SAT in top 1% I shouldn't expect IQ in the top 1% because of regression towards the mean.

The correlation is the slope of the regression line in coordinates normalised to unit standard deviations. Assuming (for mere convenience) a bivariate normal distribution, let F be the cumulative distribution function of the unit normal distribution, with inverse invF. If someone is at the 1-p level of the SAT distribution (in the example p=0.01) then the level to guess they are at in the IQ distribution (or anything else correlated with SAT) is q = F(c invF(p)). For p=0.01, here are a few illustrative values:

c   0.0000 0.1000 0.2000 0.3000 0.4000 0.5000 0.6000 0.7000 0.8000 0.9000 1.0000
q   0.5000 0.4080 0.3209 0.2426 0.1760 0.1224 0.0814 0.0517 0.0314 0.0181 0.0100

The standard deviation of the IQ value, conditional on the SAT value, is the unconditional standard deviation multiplied by c' = sqrt(1-c^2). The q values for 1 standard deviation above and below are therefore given by qlo = F(-c' + c invF(p)) and qhi = F(c' + c invF(p)).

qlo 0.1587 0.1098 0.0742 0.0493 0.0324 0.0212 0.0141 0.0096 0.0069 0.0057 0.0100
qhi 0.8413 0.7771 0.6966 0.6010 0.4944 0.3832 0.2757 0.1803 0.1036 0.0487 0.0100
Comment author: almondguy 21 February 2014 04:26:47PM 1 point [-]

2210 was 98th percentile in 2013. But it was 99th in 2007.

I haven't seen an SAT-IQ comparison site I trust. This one listed on gwern's website for example seems wrong.

Comment author: Vaniver 21 February 2014 09:30:38PM *  1 point [-]

2210 was 98th percentile in 2013. But it was 99th in 2007.

If I remember correctly, I did SAT->percentile->average, rather than SAT->average->percentile; the first method should lead to a higher estimate if the tail is negative (which I think it is).

[edit]Over here is the work and source for that particular method- turns out I did SAT->average->percentile to get that result, with a slightly different table, and I guess I didn't report the average percentile that I calculated (which you had to rely on interpolation for anyway).

This one listed on gwern's website for example seems wrong.

It's only accurate up to 1994.

Comment author: Yvain 20 January 2014 02:41:20AM 1 point [-]

One reason SAT1600 and SAT2400 scores may differ is that some of the SAT1600 scores might in fact have come from before the 1994 renorming. Have you tried doing pre-1994 and post-1994 scores separately (guessing when someone took the SAT based on age?)

Comment author: Yvain 21 January 2014 03:02:46AM 2 points [-]

According to Vaniver's data downthread, SAT taken only from LWers older than 36 (taking the old SAT) predicts 140 IQ.

I can't calculate the IQ of LWers younger than 36 because I can't find a site I trust to predict IQ from new SAT. The only ones I get give absurd results like average SAT 1491 implies average IQ 151.

Comment author: Zack_M_Davis 19 January 2014 12:47:42AM 19 points [-]

The second word in the winning secret phrase is pony (chosen because you can't spell the former without the latter); I'll accept the prize money via PayPal to main att zackmdavis daht net.

(As I recall, I chose to Defect after looking at the output of one call to Python's random.random() and seeing a high number, probably point-eight-something. But I shouldn't get credit for following my proposed procedure (which turned out to be wrong anyway) because I don't remember deciding beforehand that I was definitely using a "result > 0.8 means Defect" convention (when "result < 0.2 means Defect" is just as natural). I think I would have chosen Cooperate if the random number had come up less than 0.8, but I haven't actually observed the nearby possible world where it did, so it's at least possible that I was rationalizing.)

(Also, I'm sorry for being bad at reading; I don't actually think there are seven hundred trillion people in Europe.)

Comment author: simplicio 20 January 2014 02:18:35PM 7 points [-]

When I heard about Yvain's PD contest, I flipped a coin. I vowed that if it came up heads, I would Paypal the winner $200 (on top of their winnings), and if it came up tails I would ask them for the prize money they won.

It came up tails. YOUR MOVE.

(No, not really. But somebody here SHOULD have made such a commitment.)

Comment author: Zack_M_Davis 21 January 2014 04:47:53AM 10 points [-]

Hey, it's not too late: if you should have made such a commitment, then the mere fact that you didn't actually do so shouldn't stop you now. Go ahead, flip a coin; if it comes up heads, you pay me $200; if it comes up tails, I'll ask Yvain to give you the $42.96.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 21 January 2014 03:52:19PM 7 points [-]

...I don't think this is a very wise offer to make on the Internet unless the "coin" is somewhere you can both see it.

Comment author: Zack_M_Davis 22 January 2014 04:20:25AM 4 points [-]

Yes, of course I thought of that when considering my reply, but in this particular context (where we're considering counterfactual dealmaking presumably because the idea of pulling such a stunt in real life is amusing), I thought it was more in the spirit of things to be trusting. As you know, Newcomblike arguments still go through when Omega is merely a very good and very honest predictor rather than a perfect one, and my prior beliefs about reasonably-well-known Less Wrongers make me willing to bet that Simplicio probably isn't going to lie in order to scam me out of forty-three dollars. (If it wasn't already obvious, my offer was extended to Simplicio only and for the specified amounts only.)

Comment author: simplicio 21 January 2014 03:02:23PM 5 points [-]

Em, I don't actually like those odds all that much, thanks!

Comment author: notsonewuser 19 January 2014 06:32:29PM 16 points [-]

Yvain - Next year, please include a question asking if the person taking the survey uses PredictionBook. I'd be curious to see if these people are better calibrated.

Comment author: John_Maxwell_IV 23 January 2014 06:28:27AM 2 points [-]

Maybe ask them how many predictions they have made so we can see if using it more makes you better.

Comment author: Vaniver 19 January 2014 04:30:14AM *  14 points [-]

Thanks for doing this!

Results from previous years: 2009 2011 2012

Comment author: MondSemmel 19 January 2014 12:59:07PM *  12 points [-]

Thanks for taking the time to conduct and then analyze this survey!

What surprised me:

  • Average IQ seemed insane to me. Thanks for dealing extensively with that objection.
  • Time online per week seems plausible from personal experience, but I didn't expect the average to be so high.
  • The overconfidence data hurts, but as someone pointed out in the comments, it's hard to ask a question which isn't misunderstood.

What disappointed me:

  • Even I was disappointed by the correlations between P(significant man-made global warming) vs. e.g. taxation/feminism/etc. Most other correlations were between values, but this one was between one's values and an empirical question. Truly Blue/Green. On the topic of politics in general, see below.
  • People, use spaced repetition! It's been studied academically and been shown to work brilliantly; it's really easy to incorporate in your daily life in comparison to most other LW material etc... Well, I'm comparatively disappointed with these numbers, though I assume they are still far higher than in most other communities.

And a comment at the end:

"We are doing terribly at avoiding Blue/Green politics, people."

Given that LW explicitly tries to exclude politics from discussion (and for reasons I find compelling), what makes you expect differently?

Incorporating LW debiasing techniques into daily life will necessarily be significantly harder than just reading the Sequences, and even those have only been read by a relatively small proportion of posters...

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 19 January 2014 03:56:32PM *  15 points [-]

Average IQ seemed insane to me.

To me it has always sounded right. I'm MENSA-level (at least according to the test the local MENSA association gave me) and LessWrong is the first forum I ever encountered where I've considered myself below-average -- where I've found not just one or two but several people who can think faster and deeper than me.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 20 January 2014 10:12:59AM 3 points [-]

Same for me.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 31 January 2014 05:48:27PM 1 point [-]

Below average or simply not exceptional? I'm certainly not exceptional here but I don't think I'm particularly below average. I suppose it depends on how you weight the average.

Comment author: Sophronius 20 January 2014 10:55:49AM *  6 points [-]

Average IQ seemed insane to me. Thanks for dealing extensively with that objection.

With only 500 people responding to the IQ question, it is entirely possible that this is simply a selection effect. I.e. only people with high IQ test themselves or report their score while lower IQ people keep quiet.

Even I was disappointed by the correlations between P(significant man-made global warming) vs. e.g. taxation/feminism/etc. Most other correlations were between values, but this one was between one's values and an empirical question. Truly Blue/Green.

There's nothing necessarily wrong with this. You are assuming that feminism is purely a matter of personal preference, incorrectly I feel. If you reduce feminism to simply asking "should women have the right to vote" then you should in fact find a correlation between that and "is there such a thing as global warming", because the correct answer in each case is yes.

Not saying I am necessarily in favour of modern day feminism, but it does bother me that people simply assume that social issues are independent of fact. This sounds like "everyone is entitled to their opinion" nonsense to me.

What I find more surprising is that there is no correlation between IQ and political beliefs whatsoever. I suspect that this is simply because the significance level is too strict to find anything.

Given that LW explicitly tries to exclude politics from discussion (and for reasons I find compelling), what makes you expect differently?

With this, on the other hand, I agree completely.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 25 January 2014 11:56:35PM 9 points [-]

I've heard GMOs described as the left equivalent for global warming-- maybe there should be a question about GMOs on next survey.

Comment author: army1987 26 January 2014 10:07:26AM 4 points [-]

I've heard GMOs described as the left equivalent for global warming-- maybe there should be a question about GMOs on next survey.

While we're here, there may be questions about animal testing, alternative medicine, gun control, euthanasia, and marijuana legalization. (I'm not saying that the left is wrong about all of these.)

Comment author: Jiro 26 January 2014 12:09:55AM *  1 point [-]

I object to GMOs, but I object to GMOs not because of fears that they may be unnoticed health hazards, but rather because they are often used to apply DRM and patents to food, and applying DRM and patents to food has the disadvantages of applying DRM and patents to computer software. Except it's much worse since 1) you can do without World of Warcraft, but you can't do without food, and 2) traditional methods of producing food involve copying and organisms used for food normally copy themselves.

Comment author: army1987 26 January 2014 09:56:57AM 2 points [-]

2) traditional methods of producing food involve copying and organisms used for food normally copy themselves

ISTR I've read farmers have preferred to buy seeds from specialized companies rather than planting their own from the previous harvest since decades before the first commercial GMO was introduced.

Comment author: CellBioGuy 26 January 2014 08:38:00PM 2 points [-]

Yes, but they wouldn't be sued out of existence IF they had to keep their own.

Comment author: Lumifer 26 January 2014 03:00:46AM 5 points [-]

I object to GMOs, but I object to GMOs not because of fears that they may be unnoticed health hazards, but rather because they are often used to apply DRM and patents to food

It seems that should make you object to certain aspects of the Western legal system.

Given your reasoning I don't understand why you object to GMOs but don't object on the same grounds to, say, music and videos which gave us DMCA, etc.

Comment author: Jiro 26 January 2014 04:51:35AM *  2 points [-]

I object to DRM and patents on entertainment as well. (You can't actually patent music and videos, but software is subject to software patents and I do object to those.)

If you're asking why I don't object to entertainment as a class, it's because of practical considerations--there is quite a bit of entertainment without DRM, small scale infringers are much harder to catch for entertainment, much entertainment is not patented, and while entertainment is copyrighted, it does not normally copy itself and copying is not a routine part of how one uses it in the same way that producing and saving seeds is of using seeds. Furthermore, pretty much all GMO organisms are produced by large companies who encourage DRM and patents. There are plenty of producers of entertainment who have no interest in such things, even if they do end up using DVDs with CSS.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 26 January 2014 02:18:54AM 1 point [-]

What do you think of golden rice?

Comment author: Sophronius 26 January 2014 06:46:41PM *  1 point [-]

Is it, though? I did a quick fact check on this, and found this article which seems to say it is more split down the middle (for as much as US politicians are representative, anyway). It also highlights political divides for other topics.

It's a pity that some people here are so anti-politics (not entirely unjustified, but still). I think polling people here on issues which are traditionally right or left wing but which have clear-cut correct answers to them would make for quite a nice test of rationality.

Comment author: Lumifer 26 January 2014 11:10:32PM 3 points [-]

which have clear-cut correct answers to them

Are you quite sure about that? Any examples outside of young earth / creationists?

Comment author: Sophronius 27 January 2014 06:03:26PM *  -1 points [-]

Am I sure that some political questions have clear cut answers? Well, yes... of course. Just because someone points at a factual question and says "that's political!" doesn't magically cause that question to fall into a special subcategory of questions that can never be answered. That just seems really obvious to me.

It's much harder to give examples that everyone here will agree on of course, and which won't cause another of those stupid block-downvoting sprees, but I can give it a try:
-My school gym teacher once tried to tell me that there is literally no difference between boys and girls except for what's between their legs. I have heard similar claims from gender studies classes. That counts as obviously false, surely?
-A guy in college tried to convince me that literally any child could be raised to be Mozart. More generally, the whole "blank slate" notion where people claim that genes don't matter at all. Can we all agree that this is false? Regardless of whether you see yourself as left or right or up or down?
-Women should be allowed to apply for the same jobs as men. Surely even people who think that women are less intelligent than men on average should agree with this? Even though in the past it was a hot-button issue?
-People should be allowed to do in their bedroom whatever they want as long as it doesn't harm anyone. Is this contentious? It shouldn't be.

Do you agree that the above list gives some examples of political questions that every rational person should nonetheless agree with?

Comment author: James_Miller 30 January 2014 08:46:35PM *  4 points [-]

People should be allowed to do in their bedroom whatever they want as long as it doesn't harm anyone. Is this contentious? It shouldn't be.

But you can always find harm if you allow for feelings of disgust, or take into account competition in sexual markets (i.e. if having sex with X is a substitute for having sex with Y then Y might be harmed if someone is allowed to have sex with X.)

Comment author: Sophronius 31 January 2014 11:31:40AM *  1 point [-]

Ok, that's a fair enough point. Sure, feelings do matter. However, I generally distinguish between genuine terminal preferences and mere surface emotions. The reason for this is that often it is easier/better to change your feelings than for other people to change their behaviour. For example, if I strongly dislike the name James Miller, you probably won't change your name to take my feelings into account.

(At the risk of saying something political: This is the same reason I don't like political correctness very much. I feel that it allows people to frame political discourse purely by being offended.)

Comment author: army1987 30 January 2014 08:04:34PM 4 points [-]

My school gym teacher once tried to tell me that there is literally no difference between boys and girls except for what's between their legs.

I think it's more likely he was misusing the word “literally”/wearing belief as attire (in technical terms, bullshitting) than he actually really believed that. After all I guess he could tell boys and girl apart without looking between their legs, couldn't he?

Comment author: Lumifer 27 January 2014 06:22:29PM 8 points [-]

Do you agree that the above list gives some examples of political questions that every rational person should nonetheless agree with?

No, I don't. To explain why, let me point out that you list of four questions neatly divides into two halves.

Your first two questions are empirically testable questions about what reality is. As such they are answerable by the usual scienc-y means and a rational person will have to accept the answers.

Your last two questions are value-based questions about what should be. They are not answerable by science and the answers are culturally determined. It is perfectly possible to be very rational and at the same time believe that, say, homosexuality is a great evil.

Rationality does not determine values.

Comment author: army1987 28 January 2014 04:39:53PM *  2 points [-]

The question “should people be allowed to do in their bedroom whatever they want as long as it doesn't harm [directly] anyone [else]?” (extra words added to address Vaniver's point) can be split into two: “which states of the world would allowing people to do in their bedroom etc. result in?”, and “which states of the world are good?”

Now, it's been claimed that most disagreements about policies are about the former and all neurologically healthy people would agree about the latter if they thought about it clearly enough -- which would make Sophronius's claim below kind-of sort-of correct -- but I'm no longer sure of that.

Comment author: Lumifer 29 January 2014 04:53:42PM 4 points [-]

Now, it's been claimed that most disagreements about policies are about the former and all neurologically healthy people would agree about the latter if they thought about it clearly enough

First, I don't think this claim is true. Second, I'm not sure what "neurologically healthy" means. I know a lot of people I would call NOT neurotypical. And, of course, labeling people mentally sick for disagreeing with the society's prevailing mores was not rare in history.

Comment author: nshepperd 30 January 2014 01:33:14AM *  3 points [-]

all neurologically healthy people would agree about the latter if they thought about it clearly enough

This is what you are missing. The simple fact that someone disagrees does not mean they are mentally sick or have fundamentally different value systems. It could equally well mean that either they or the "prevailing social mores" are simply mistaken. People have been known to claim that 51 is a prime number, and not because they actually disagree about what makes a number prime, but just because they were confused at the time.

It's not reasonable to take people's claims that "by 'should' I mean that X maximises utility for everyone" or "by 'should' I mean that I want X" at face value, because people don't have access to or actually use logical definitions of the everyday words they use, they "know it when they see it" instead.

Comment author: nshepperd 27 January 2014 10:58:02PM 2 points [-]

Your last two questions are value-based questions about what should be. They are not answerable by science and the answers are culturally determined. It is perfectly possible to be very rational and at the same time believe that, say, homosexuality is a great evil.

If "should" has a meaning, then those two questions can be correctly and incorrectly answered with respect to the particular sense of "should" employed by Sophronius in the text. It would be more accurate to say that you can be very rational and still disapprove of homosexuality (as disapproval is an attitude, as opposed to a propositional statement).

Comment author: Sophronius 27 January 2014 07:35:03PM *  -2 points [-]

We seem to disagree on a fundamental level. I reject your notion of a strict fact-value distinction: I posit to you that all statements are either reducible to factual matters or else they are meaningless as a matter of logical necessity. Rationality indeed does not determine values, in the same way that rationality does not determine cheese, but questions about morality and cheese should both be answered in a rational and factual manner all the same.

If someone tells me that they grew up in a culture where they were taught that eating cheese is a sin, then I'm sorry to be so blunt about it (ok, not really) but their culture is stupid and wrong.

Comment author: Lumifer 27 January 2014 07:53:43PM 4 points [-]

I strongly reject your notion of a strict fact-value distinction. I posit to you that all statements are either reducible to factual matters or else they are meaningless as a matter of logical necessity.

Interesting. That's a rather basic and low-level disagreement.

So, let's take a look at Alice and Bob. Alice says "I like the color green! We should paint all the buildings in town green!". Bob says "I like the color blue! We should paint all the buildings in town blue!". Are these statements meaningless? Or are they reducible to factual matters?

By the way, your position was quite popular historically. The Roman Catholic church was (and still is) a big proponent.

Comment author: Alejandro1 27 January 2014 08:26:29PM *  2 points [-]

I cannot speak for Sophronius of course, but here is one possible answer. It may be that morality is "objective" in the sense that Eliezer tried to defend in the metaethics sequence. Roughly, when someone says X is good they mean that X is part of of a loosely defined set of things that make humans flourish, and by virtue of the psychological unity of mankind we can be reasonably confident that this is a more-or-less well-defined set and that if humans were perfectly informed and rational they would end up agreeing about which things are in it, as the CEV proposal assumes.

Then we can confidently say that both Alice and Bob in your example are objectively mistaken (it is completely implausible that CEV is achieved by painting all buildings the color that Alice or Bob happens to like subjectively the most, as opposed to leaving the decision to the free market, or perhaps careful science-based urban planning done by a FAI). We can also confidently say that some real-world expressions of values (e.g. "Heretics should be burned at the stake", which was popular a few hundred years ago) are false. Others are more debatable. In particular, the last two examples in Sophronius' list are cases where I am reasonably confident that his answers are the correct ones, but not as close to 100%-epsilon probability as I am on the examples I gave above.

Comment author: Sophronius 27 January 2014 08:16:51PM *  -1 points [-]

So, let's take a look at Alice and Bob. Alice says "I like the color green! We should paint all the buildings in town green!". Bob says "I like the color blue! We should paint all the buildings in town blue!". Are these statements meaningless? Or are they reducible to factual matters?

These statements are not meaningless. They are reducible to factual matters. "I like the colour blue" is a factual statement about Bob's preferences which are themselves reducible to the physical locations of atoms in the universe (specifically Bob's brain). Presumably Bob is correct in his assertion, but if I know Bob well enough I might point out that he absolutely detests everything that is the colour blue even though he honestly believes he likes the colour blue. The statement would be false in that case.

Furthermore, the statement "We should paint all the buildings in town blue!" follows logically from his previous statement about his preferences regarding blueness. Certainly, the more people are found to prefer blueness over greenness, the more evidence this provides in favour of the claim "We should paint all the buildings in town blue!" which is itself reducible to "A large number of people including myself prefer for the buildings in this town to be blue, and I therefore favour painting them in this colour!"

Contrast the above with the statement "I like blue, therefore we should all have cheese", which is also a should claim but which can be rejected as illogical. This should make it clear that should statements are not all equally valid, and that they are subject to logical rigour just like any other claim.

Comment author: Vaniver 28 January 2014 12:07:12AM 3 points [-]

-People should be allowed to do in their bedroom whatever they want as long as it doesn't harm anyone. Is this contentious? It shouldn't be.

The standard reply to this is that many people hurt themselves by their choices, and that justifies intervention. (Even if we hastily add an "else" after "anyone," note that hurting yourself hurts anyone who cares about you, and thus the set of acts which harm no one is potentially empty.)

Comment author: army1987 28 January 2014 06:47:57AM 2 points [-]

Women should be allowed to apply for the same jobs as men.

Including as basso singers? ;-)

(As you worded your sentence, I would agree with it, but I would also add "But employers should be allowed to not hire them.")

Comment author: Nornagest 27 January 2014 06:22:37PM *  2 points [-]

In all of these cases, the people breaking with the conclusion you presumably believe to be obvious often do so because they believe the existing research to be hopelessly corrupt. This is of course a rather extraordinary statement, and I'm pretty sure they'd be wrong about it (that is, as sure as I can be with a casual knowledge of each field and a decent grasp of statistics), but bad science isn't exactly unheard of. Given the right set of priors, I can see a rational person holding each of these opinions at least for a time.

In the latter two, they might additionally have different standards for "should" than you're used to.

Comment author: ChristianKl 29 January 2014 08:24:18PM 3 points [-]

-My school gym teacher once tried to tell me that there is literally no difference between boys and girls except for what's between their legs. I have heard similar claims from gender studies classes. That counts as obviously false, surely?

It's wrong on a biological level. From my physiology lecture: Woman blink twice as much as men. The have less water in their bodies.

-People should be allowed to do in their bedroom whatever they want as long as it doesn't harm anyone. Is this contentious? It shouldn't be.

So you are claiming either: "Children are no people" or "Pedophilia should be legal". I don't think any of those claims has societal approval let alone is a clear-cut issue.

But even if you switch the statement to the standard: "Consenting adults should be allowed to do in their bedroom whatever they want as long as it doesn't harm anyone" The phrases consenting (can someone with >1.0 promille alcohol consent?) and harm (emotional harm exists and not going tested for STD's and having unprotected sex has the potential to harm) are open to debate.

-A guy in college tried to convince me that literally any child could be raised to be Mozart. More generally, the whole "blank slate" notion where people claim that genes don't matter at all.

The maximal effect of a strong cognitive intervention might very will bring the average person to Mozart levels. We know relatively little about doing strong intervention to improve human mental performance.

But genes to matter.

-Women should be allowed to apply for the same jobs as men. Surely even people who think that women are less intelligent than men on average should agree with this?

It depends on what roles. If a movie producer casts actors for a specific role, gender usually matters a big deal.

A bit more controversial but I think there are cases where it's useful for men to come together in an environment where they don't have to signal stuff to females.

Comment author: nshepperd 30 January 2014 06:34:56AM 3 points [-]

So you are claiming either: "Children are no people" or "Pedophilia should be legal". I don't think any of those claims has societal approval let alone is a clear-cut issue.

I'd expect them to assert that paedophilia does harm. That's the obvious resolution.

Comment author: ChristianKl 30 January 2014 08:46:15AM 2 points [-]

I'd expect them to assert that paedophilia does harm. That's the obvious resolution.

Court are not supposed to investigate whether the child is emotionally harmed by the experience but whether he or she is under a certain age threshold. You could certainly imagine a legal system where psychologists are always asked whether a given child is harmed by having sex instead of a legal system that makes the decision through an age criteria.

I think a more reasonable argument for the age boundary isn't that every child gets harmed but that most get harmed and that having a law that forbids that behavior is preventing a lot of children from getting harmed.

I don't think you are a bad person to arguing that we should have a system that focuses on the amount of harm done instead of focusing on an arbitrary age boundary but that's not the system we have that's backed by societal consensus.

We also don't put anybody in prison for having sex with a 19-year old breaking her heart and watching as they commit suicide. We would judge a case like that as a tragedy but we wouldn't legally charge the responsible person with anything.

The concept of consent is pretty important for our present system. Even in cases where no harm is done we take a breach of consent seriously.

Comment author: army1987 30 January 2014 07:59:39PM 1 point [-]

Actually I'm under the impression that the ‘standard’ resolution is not about the “harm” part but about the “want” part: it's assumed that people below a certain age can't want sex, to the point that said age is called the age of consent and sex with people younger than that is called a term which suggests it's considered a subset of sex with people who don't want it.

(I'm neither endorsing nor mocking this, just describing it.)

Comment author: Lumifer 30 January 2014 08:08:09PM *  4 points [-]

Actually I'm under the impression that the ‘standard’ resolution is not about the “harm” part but about the “want” part

I think your impression is mistaken.

it's assumed that people below a certain age can't want sex, to the point that said age is called the age of consent

Nope. It is assumed that people below a certain age cannot give informed consent. In other words, they are assumed to be not capable of good decisions and to be not responsible for the consequences. What they want is irrelevant. If you're below the appropriate age of consent, you cannot sign a valid contract, for example.

Below the age of consent you basically lack the legal capacity to agree to something.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 30 January 2014 06:11:51AM -1 points [-]

So you are claiming either: "Children are no people" or "Pedophilia should be legal". I don't think any of those claims has societal approval let alone is a clear-cut issue.

Well, I suppose Sophronius could argue that pedophilia should be legal, after all many things (especially related to sex) that were once socially unacceptable are now considered normal.

Comment author: ChristianKl 30 January 2014 12:53:03PM 2 points [-]

I suppose Sophronius could argue that pedophilia should be legal

Even if he thinks that it should be legal, it's no position where it's likely that everyone will agree. Sophronius wanted to find examples where everyone can agree.

Comment author: ChristianKl 26 January 2014 11:45:20PM 1 point [-]

There is a question about it. It's the existential thread that's most feared among Lesswrongers. Bioengineered pandemics are a thread due to gene manipulated organisms.

If that's not what you want to know, how would you word your question?

Comment author: taryneast 09 February 2014 05:14:13AM *  1 point [-]

"Time online per week seems plausible from personal experience, but I didn't expect the average to be so high."

I personally spend an average of 50 hours a week online.

That's because, by profession, I am a web-developer.

The percentage of LessWrong members in IT is clearly higher than that of the average population.

I postulate that the higher number of other IT geeks (who, like me, are also likely spending high numbers of hours online per week) is pushing up the average to a level that seems, to you, to be surprisingly high.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 19 January 2014 05:56:30AM *  12 points [-]

Other answers which made Ozy giggle [...] "pirate,"

Not necessarily a joke.

Comment author: Creutzer 19 January 2014 09:43:51AM *  5 points [-]

The link contains a typo, it links to a non-existing article on the/a Pirate part instead of the Pirate Party.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 19 January 2014 12:18:38PM 3 points [-]

Fixed, thanks.

Comment author: Beluga 19 January 2014 01:22:53PM *  11 points [-]

Not sure how much sense it makes to take the arithmetic mean of probabilities when the odds vary over many orders of magnitude. If the average is, say, 30%, then it hardly matters whether someone answers 1% or .000001%. Also, it hardly matters whether someone answers 99% or 99.99999%.

I guess the natural way to deal with this would be to average (i.e., take the arithmetic mean of) the order of magnitude of the odds (i.e., log[p/(1-p)], p someone's answer). Using this method, it would make a difference whether someone is "pretty certain" or "extremely certain" that a certain statement is true or false.

Does anyone know what the standard way for dealing with this issue is?

Comment author: Manfred 19 January 2014 11:17:30PM *  4 points [-]

Yeah, log odds sounds like a good way to do it. Aggregating estimates is hard because peoples' estimates aren't independent, but averaging log odds will at least do better than averaging probabilities.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 20 January 2014 03:42:55AM 2 points [-]

Use medians and percentiles instead of means and standard deviations.

Comment author: redlizard 19 January 2014 04:38:44AM *  9 points [-]

Passphrase: eponymous haha_nice_try_CHEATER

Well played :)

Comment author: RRand 19 January 2014 06:08:08AM 7 points [-]

True, though they forgot to change the "You may make my anonymous survey data public (recommended)" to "You may make my ultimately highly unanonymous survey data public (not as highly recommended)".

Comment author: lmm 20 January 2014 09:01:13PM 1 point [-]

It'd be easy enough to claim the prize anonymously, no?

Comment author: AlexMennen 19 January 2014 06:51:55PM *  8 points [-]

On average, effective altruists (n = 412) donated $2503 to charity, and other people (n = 853) donated $523 - obviously a significant result.

There could be some measurement bias here. I was on the fence about whether I should identify myself as an effective altruist, but I had just been reminded of the fact that I hadn't donated any money to charity in the last year, and decided that I probably shouldn't be identifying as an effective altruist myself despite having philosophical agreements with the movement.

1265 people told us how much they give to charity; of those, 450 gave nothing. ... In order to calculate percent donated I divided charity donations by income in the 947 people helpful enough to give me both numbers. Of those 947, 602 donated nothing to charity, and so had a percent donated of 0.

This is blasphemy against Saint Boole.

Comment author: Gunnar_Zarncke 19 January 2014 10:37:09AM 8 points [-]

Some thoughts on the correlations:

At first I saw that IQ seems to correlate with less children (a not uncommon observation):

Number of children/ACT score: -.279 (269)

Number of children/SAT score (2400): -.223 (345)

But then I noticed that number of children obviously correlate with age and age with IQ (somewhat):

Number of children/age: .507 (1607)

SAT score out of 1600/age: -.194 (422)

So it may be that older people just have lower IQ (Flynn effect).


Something to think about:

Time on Less Wrong/IQ: -.164 (492)

This can be read as smarter people stay shorter on LW. It seems to imply that over time LW will degrade in smarts. But it could also just mean that smarter people just turn over faster (thus also entering faster).

On the other hand most human endeavors tend toward the mean over time.


Time on Less Wrong/age: -.108 (1491)

Older people (like me ahem) either take longer to notice LW or the community is spreading from younger to older people slowly.


This made me laugh:

Number of current partners/karma score: .137 (1470)

Guess who does the voting :-)

Comment author: ChristianKl 19 January 2014 03:35:26PM 4 points [-]

So it may be that older people just have lower IQ (Flynn effect).

In the data set older people have a significantly higher IQ than younger people. The effect however disappears if you start to control for whether someone lives in the US.

US LW users are on average more intelligent and older.

Comment author: taryneast 09 February 2014 05:23:59AM 2 points [-]

"Time on Less Wrong/IQ: -.164 (492)

This can be read as smarter people stay shorter on LW. It seems to imply that over time LW will degrade in smarts. But it could also just mean that smarter people just turn over faster (thus also entering faster)."

Alternatively: higher IQ people can get the same amount of impact out of less reading-time on the site, and therefore do not need to spend as much time on the site

Comment author: Omegaile 19 January 2014 06:31:47PM 3 points [-]

Time on Less Wrong/IQ: -.164 (492)

Wait, this means that reading less wrong makes you dumber!

Hmmm, there was something about correlation and causation... but I don't remember it well. I must be spending too much time on less wrong.

Comment author: RRand 19 January 2014 06:30:48AM *  8 points [-]

There's something strange about the analysis posted.

How is it that 100% of the general population with high (>96%) confidence got the correct answer, but only 66% of a subset of that population? Looking at the provided data, it looks like 3 out of 4 people (none with high Karma scores) who gave the highest confidence were right.

(Predictably, the remaining person with high confidence answered 500 million, which is almost the exact population of the European Union (or, in the popular parlance "Europe"). I almost made the same mistake, before realizing that a) "Europe" might be intended to include Russia, or part of Russia, plus other non-EU states and b) I don't know the population of those countries, and can't cover both bases. So in response, I kept the number and decreased my confidence value. Regrettably, 500 million can signify both tremendous confidence and very little confidence, which makes it hard to do an analysis of this effect.)

Comment author: army1987 21 January 2014 05:22:04PM 7 points [-]

I expected that the second word in my passphrase would stay secret no matter what and the first word would only be revealed if I won the game.

Well, thank goodness I didn't pick anything too embarrassing.

Comment author: Bayeslisk 19 January 2014 04:06:21AM *  7 points [-]

I don't know if this is the LW hug or something but I'm having trouble downloading the xls. Also, will update with what the crap my passphrase actually means, because it's in Lojban and mildly entertaining IIRC.

EDIT: Felt like looking at some other entertaining passphrases. Included with comment.

sruta'ulor maftitnab {mine! scarf-fox magic-cakes!(probably that kind)}

Afgani-san Azerbai-chan {there... are no words}

DEFECTORS RULE

do mlatu {a fellow lojbanist!}

lalxu daplu {and another?}

telephone fonxa {and another! please get in contact with me. please.}

xagfu'a rodo {indeed! but where are all you people coming from, and why don't I know you?}

zifre dunda {OH COME ON WHERE ARE YOU PEOPLE]

eponymous hahanicetry_CHEATER {clever.}

fart butt {I am twelve...}

FROGPENIS SPOOBOMB {... and so is a lot of LW.}

goat felching {good heavens}

I don't want the prize! Pick someone else please!

I dont care about the MONETARY REWARD but you shoudl know that

Irefuse myprize

No thanks

not interested

{a lot of refusers!}

I'm gay

john lampkin (note: this is not my name)

lookatme iwonmoney {nice try guy}

mencius suckedmoziwasbetter

mimsy borogoves {repeated!}

TWO WORD {repeated, and try harder next time}

octothorpe interrobang

SOYUZ NERUSHIMIY {ONWARD, COMRADE(note: person is apparently a social democrat.)}

TERRORISTS WIN

thisissuspiciouslylike askingforourpasswordmethodologies {I should think not.}

zoodlybop zimzamzoom {OH MY GODS BILL COSBY IS A LESSWRONGER.}

AND THAT'S ALL, FOLKS.

Comment author: SaidAchmiz 19 January 2014 06:30:48AM 4 points [-]

SOYUZ NERUSHIMIY

Actual translation: INDESTRUCTIBLE UNION

(It's from the national anthem of the U.S.S.R.)

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 19 January 2014 02:06:08AM 7 points [-]

Nice work Yvain and Ozy, and well done to Zack for winning the MONETARY REWARD.

I continue to be bad at estimating but well calibrated.

(Also, I'm sure that this doesn't harm the data to any significant degree but I appear to appear twice in the data, both rows 548 and 552 in the xls file, with row 548 being more complete.)

Comment author: shminux 19 January 2014 04:15:24AM 14 points [-]

Yvain is not hugely on board with the idea of running correlations between everything and seeing what sticks, but will grudgingly publish the results because of the very high bar for significance (p < .001 on ~800 correlations suggests < 1 spurious result) and because he doesn't want to have to do it himself.

The standard way to fix this is to run them on half the data only and then test their predictive power on the other half. This eliminates almost all spurious correlations.

Comment author: Nominull 19 January 2014 04:59:15AM 9 points [-]

Does that actually work better than just setting a higher bar for significance? My gut says that data is data and chopping it up cleverly can't work magic.

Comment author: Dan_Weinand 19 January 2014 05:53:07AM 10 points [-]

Cross validation is actually hugely useful for predictive models. For a simple correlation like this, it's less of a big deal. But if you are fitting a local linearly weighted regression line for instance, chopping the data up is absolutely standard operating procedure.

Comment author: Kawoomba 19 January 2014 08:48:10AM *  7 points [-]

Alternatively, Bonferroni correction.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 19 January 2014 09:51:25AM *  8 points [-]

That's roughly what Yvain did, by taking into consideration the number of correlations tested when setting the significance level.

Comment author: rationalnoodles 22 January 2014 07:03:05AM *  5 points [-]

I've just noticed there was no Myers-Briggs question this year. Why?

Comment author: Kawoomba 20 January 2014 10:56:21AM 5 points [-]

The IQ numbers have time and time again answered every challenge raised against them and should be presumed accurate.

N.B.: Average IQ drops to 135 when only considering tests administered at an adult age -- those "IQ 172 at age 7" entries shouldn't be taken as authoritative for adult IQ.

Comment author: William_Quixote 19 January 2014 12:47:34PM 5 points [-]

GLOBAL CATASTROPHIC RISK: Pandemic (bioengineered): 374, 22.8% Environmental collapse including global warming: 251, 15.3% Unfriendly AI: 233, 14.2% Nuclear war: 210, 12.8% Pandemic (natural) 145, 8.8% Economic/political collapse: 175, 1, 10.7% Asteroid strike: 65, 3.9% Nanotech/grey goo: 57, 3.5% Didn't answer: 99, 6.0%

For the second year in a row Pandemic is the leading cat risk. If you include natural and designed it has twice the support of the next highest cat risk.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 24 January 2014 03:19:23PM 2 points [-]

That surprised me slightly, more because I'm not particularly aware of discussion of bioengineered pandemics as an existential risk than that I don't think its plausible. Suppose this means a lot of people are worried about it but not discussing it?

Comment author: fubarobfusco 19 January 2014 06:00:36PM 3 points [-]

For the second year in a row Pandemic is the leading cat risk.

That's because cats never build research stations.

Comment author: Vaniver 19 January 2014 05:07:37AM 5 points [-]

So, I was going through the xls, and saw the "passphrase" column. "Wait, what? Won't the winner's passphrase be in here?"


Not sure if this is typos or hitting the wrong entry field, but two talented individuals managed to get 1750 and 2190 out of 1600 on the SAT.


I was curious about the breakdown of romance (whether or not you met your partner through LW) and sexuality. For "men" and "women," I just used sex- any blanks or others are excluded. Numbers are Yes/No/I didn't meet them through community but they're part of the community now:

Gay men: 2/36/3

Lesbian women: 0/2/0

Bi men: 4/111/9

Bi women: 12/32/7

Straight men: 29/1031/26

Straight women: 1/55/10

I'm not quite sure how seriously to take these numbers, though. If 29 straight guys found a partner through the LW community, and a total of 14 straight and bi women found partners through the community, we need to have men to be about twice as likely to take the survey as women. (Possible, especially if women are more likely to go to meetups and less likely to post, but I don't feel like looking that up for the group as a whole.)

But the results are clear: the yes/no ratio was way higher for bi women than anyone else. Bi women still win the yes+didn't/no ratio with .6, but straight women are next with .2, followed by gay men at .14 and bi men at .12.

So, uh, advertise LW to all the bi women you know?

Comment author: Nornagest 19 January 2014 05:44:22AM 3 points [-]

I'm not quite sure how seriously to take these numbers, though. If 29 straight guys found a partner through the LW community, and a total of 14 straight and bi women found partners through the community, we need to have men to be about twice as likely to take the survey as women.

That seems fairly plausible to me, actually. My impression of the community is that the physical side of it is less gender-skewed than the online side, although both are mostly male.

There's also polyamory to take into account.

Comment author: somervta 19 January 2014 05:14:01AM 2 points [-]

So, I was going through the xls, and saw the "passphrase" column. "Wait, what? Won't the winner's passphrase be in here?"

In a manner of speaking: eponymous hahanicetry_CHEATER

Comment author: Vaniver 19 January 2014 06:17:28AM *  3 points [-]

I know, that's why I mentioned it- I decided not to quote it to leave it as a surprise for people who decided to then go check. But I had missed that someone else posted it.

Comment author: Omegaile 20 January 2014 03:17:03AM 5 points [-]

You know, it would be interesting if Yvain had put something else there just to see how many people would try to cheat.

Comment author: MTGandP 19 January 2014 12:49:56AM *  5 points [-]

The links to the public data given at the end appear to be broken. They give internal links to Less Wrong instead of redirecting to Slate Star Codex. These links should work:

sav xls csv

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 19 January 2014 01:52:36AM 2 points [-]

Fixed.

Comment author: gwern 19 January 2014 04:36:15AM 12 points [-]

REFERRAL SOURCE:...Gwern: 9

Hah, my score almost doubled from last year.

Comment author: Coscott 20 January 2014 06:35:36PM 4 points [-]

It looks like lots of people put themselves as atheist, but still answered the religion question as Unitarian Universalist, in spite of the fact that the question said to answer your religion only if you are theist.

I was looking forward to data on how many LW people are UU, but I have no way of predicting how many people followed the rules as written for the question, and how many people followed the rules as (I think they were) intended.

We should make sure to word that question differently next year, so that people who identify as atheist and religious know to answer the question.

Comment author: Coscott 20 January 2014 06:47:13PM 2 points [-]

It looks like Judaism and Buddhism might have had a similar problem.

Comment author: Xodarap 19 January 2014 12:58:23PM 4 points [-]

I found that 51% of effective altruists had given blood compared to 47% of others - a difference which did not reach statistical significance.

I gave blood before I was an EA but stopped because I didn't think it was effective. Does being veg*n correlate with calling oneself an EA? That seems like a more effective intervention.

Comment author: David_Gerard 19 January 2014 01:06:13PM *  -1 points [-]

The term refers to a specific subculture that calls itself "Effective Altruism".

Comment author: jkaufman 19 January 2014 02:13:55PM 10 points [-]

Hypothesis: the predictions on the population of Europe are bimodal, split between people thinking of geographical Europe (739M) vs people thinking of the EU (508M). I'm going to go check the data and report back.

Comment author: jkaufman 19 January 2014 03:30:58PM 7 points [-]

I've cleaned up the data and put it here.

Here's a "sideways cumulative density function", showing all guesses from lowest to highest:

There were a lot of guesses of "500" but that might just be because 500 is a nice round number. There were more people guessing within 50 of 508M (165) than in the 100-wide regions immediately above or below (126 within 50 of 408, 88 within 50 of 608) and more people guessing within 50 of 739 (107) than in the 100-wide regions immediately above or below (91 within 50 of 639, 85 within 50 of 839).

Here's a histogram that shows this, but in order to actually see a dip between the 508ish numbers and 739ish numbers the bucketing needs to group those into separate categories with another category in between, so I don't trust this very much:

If someone knows how to make an actual probability density function chart that would be better, because it wouldn't be sensitive to these arbitrary divisions on where to place the histogram boundaries.

Comment author: VincentYu 19 January 2014 09:47:05PM *  14 points [-]

Here is a kernel density estimate of the "true" distribution, with bootstrapped pointwise 95% confidence bands from 999 resamples:

It looks plausibly bimodal, though one might want to construct a suitable hypothesis test for unimodality versus multimodality. Unfortunately, as you noted, we cannot distinguish between the hypothesis that the bimodality is due to rounding (at 500 M) versus the hypothesis that the bimodality is due to ambiguity between Europe and the EU. This holds even if a hypothesis test rejects a unimodal model, but if anyone is still interested in testing for unimodality, I suggest considering Efron and Tibshirani's approach using the bootstrap.

Edit: Updated the plot. I switched from adaptive bandwidth to fixed bandwidth (because it seems to achieve higher efficiency), so parts of what I wrote below are no longer relevant—I've put these parts in square brackets.

Plot notes: [The adaptive bandwidth was achieved with Mathematica's built-in "Adaptive" option for SmoothKernelDistribution, which is horribly documented; I think it uses the same algorithm as 'akj' in R's quantreg package.] A Gaussian kernel was used with the bandwidth set according to Silverman's rule-of-thumb [and the sensitivity ('alpha' in akj's documentation) set to 0.5]. The bootstrap confidence intervals are "biased and unaccelerated" because I don't (yet) understand how bias-corrected and accelerated bootstrap confidence intervals work. Tick marks on the x-axis represent the actual data with a slight jitter added to each point.

Comment author: William_Quixote 19 January 2014 03:21:07PM 3 points [-]

As one datapoint I went with Europe as EU so it's plausible others did too

Comment author: ahbwramc 20 January 2014 03:34:47AM 2 points [-]

Me too, at least sort of - I just had a number stored in my brain that I associated with "Europe." Turned out it was EU only, although I didn't have any confusion about the question - I thought I was answering for all of Europe.

Comment author: XiXiDu 19 January 2014 03:27:12PM 2 points [-]

As one datapoint I went with Europe as EU so it's plausible others did too

Same here.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 19 January 2014 04:00:52PM *  2 points [-]

The misinterpretation of the survey's meaning of "Europe" as "EU" is itself a failure as significant as wrongly estimating its population... so it's not as if it excuses people who got it wrong and yet neither sought for clarification, nor took the possibility of misinterpretation into account when giving their confidence ratios...

Comment author: Aleksander 19 January 2014 04:28:57PM 7 points [-]

You might as well ask, "Who is the president of America?" and then follow up with, "Ha ha got you! America is a continent, you meant USA."

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 19 January 2014 04:35:39PM *  3 points [-]

I don't think you're making the argument that Yvain deliberately wanted to trick people into giving a wrong answer -- so I really don't see your analogy as illuminating anything.

It was a question. People answered it wrongly whether by making a wrong estimation of the answer, or by making a wrong estimation of the meaning of the question. Both are failures -- and why should we consider the latter failure as any less significant than the former?

EDIT TO ADD: Mind you, reading the excel of the answers it seems I'm among the people who gave an answer in individuals when the question was asking number in millions. So it's not as if I didn't also have a failure in answering -- and yet I do consider that one a less significant failure. Perhaps I'm just being hypocritical in this though.

Comment author: William_Quixote 19 January 2014 09:13:27PM 6 points [-]

Its also not obvious that people who went with the EU interpretation were incorrect. Language is contextual, if we were to parse the Times, Guardian, BBC, etc over the past year and see how the word "Europe" is actually used, it might be the land mass, or it might be the EU. Certainly one usage will have been more common than the other, but its not obvious to me which one it will have been.

That said, if I had noticed the ambiguity and not auto parsed it as EU, I probably would have expected the typical American to use Europe as land mass and since I think Yvain is American that's what I should have gone with.

On the other other hand, the goal of the question is to gauge numerical calibration, not to gauge language parsing. If someone thought they were answering about the EU, and picked a 90% confidence interval that did in fact include the population of the EU that gives different information about the quantity we are trying to measure then if someone thinks Europe means the continent including Russia and picks a 90% confidence interval that does not include the population of the landmass. Remember this is not a quiz in school to see if someone gets "the right answer" this is a tool that's intended to measure something.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 20 January 2014 03:57:43AM 3 points [-]

Yvain explicitly said "Wikipedia's Europe page".

Comment author: simplicio 20 January 2014 01:56:56PM 2 points [-]

Which users could not double-check because they might see the population numbers.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 21 January 2014 03:59:37AM 6 points [-]

But they should expect the Wikipedia page to refer to the continent.

Comment author: ExaminedThought 23 January 2014 03:27:14PM 3 points [-]

It was interesting to see how very average I am (as a member of Less Wrong). My feelings of being an outsider (here at least) have diminished.

I've also resolved to do two things this year, thanks in part to this survey: 1) sign the hell up for cryonics already and 2) take a professional IQ test.

For cryonics, the number of yeses compared to the number who want to or are still considering is a bit of a wake-up call for me.

Comment author: linkhyrule5 23 January 2014 08:52:51AM 3 points [-]

Were there enough CFAR workshoppers to check CFAR attendance against calibration?

Comment author: chkno 17 October 2014 07:34:37AM *  1 point [-]
Comment author: Brillyant 20 January 2014 10:17:10PM 3 points [-]

Things that stuck out to me:

HPMOR: - Yes, all of it: 912, 55.7% REFERRAL TYPE: Referred by HPMOR: 400, 24.4%

EY's Harry Potter fanfic is more popular around here than I'd thought.

PHYSICAL INTERACTION WITH LW COMMUNITY: Yes, all the time: 94, 5.7% Yes, sometimes: 179, 10.9%

CFAR WORKSHOP ATTENDANCE: Yes, a full workshop: 105, 6.4% A class but not a full-day workshop: 40, 2.4%

LESS WRONG USE: Poster (Discussion, not Main): 221, 12.9% Poster (Main): 103, 6.3%

~6% at the maximum "buy-in" levels on these 3 items. My guess is they are all made up of a similiar group of people?

I'd be curious to know of 6.3% aho have published articles in Main (and, to a lesser extent, of the 12.9% who have published in Discussion), how many unique user are there?

Comment author: [deleted] 21 January 2014 11:23:54PM 2 points [-]

EY's Harry Potter fanfic is more popular around here than I'd thought.

Haven't you seen all those sprawling HPMOR discussion threads with >500 comments usually?

Comment author: Brillyant 22 January 2014 03:16:29PM 2 points [-]

I hadn't paid attention, no.

It was the ~25% referral rate that was pretty shocking to me. And 55% of LWers have read all of it?! Wow.

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 19 January 2014 09:58:42AM 3 points [-]

I would like to see how percent of positive karma, rather than total karma, correlates with the other survey responses. I find the former a more informative measure than the latter.

Comment author: gjm 19 January 2014 10:52:03AM 3 points [-]

I agree that it would be interesting but I suspect that just as "total karma" is a combination of "comment quality" and "time on LW" (where for most purposes the former is more interesting, but the latter makes a big difference), so "percent positive karma" is a combination of "comment quality" and "what sort of discussions one frequents", where again the former is more interesting but the latter makes a big difference.

Comment author: Username 04 February 2014 08:00:41PM *  2 points [-]

Some unique passphrases that weren't so unique (I removed the duplicates from people who took the survey twice). You won't want to reuse your passphrase for next year's survey!

  • animatronic animorphs / animatronic tapeworm
  • Apple pie / Apple Sauce
  • bunny nani / Bunny Mathematics
  • Dog Puck / dog vacuum
  • duck soup / Duck pie
  • Falling Anecdote / falling waffles
  • flightless shadow / Flightless Hitchhiker
  • fraggle frelling / fraggle poyoyonrock Huh?
  • google calico / google translate
  • green a@a@a2A3 / green prevybozbycbex
  • hello hello / hello lamppost
  • hen hao / hen piaoliang There were a couple pinyin passphrases.
  • infinite jest / infinite cohomology
  • john lampkin / John Brown
  • less wrong / less right
  • Meine Güte / Meine Kindergeburtstagsfeier
  • misty may / misty moop
  • Modest Mouse / Modest Brand
  • not rhinocerous / not interested
  • point conception / Point Break
  • rose Hulman / Rose Lac
  • SQUEAMISH OSSIFRAGE / SQUEAMISH OSSIFRAGE This is the one passphrase that was exactly the same. You did a good job of being memorable but poor job of being random.
  • Swedish Spitfire / Swedish Berries
  • Toad Man / Toad Hall
  • TWO WORD / Two Word
  • Unicorn Flask / UNICORN STARTUP
  • wingardium leviathan / wingardium avocado
  • yellow jacket / Yellow dart
Comment author: Pfft 23 February 2014 02:32:16AM 2 points [-]

I guess this is not a problem though: when the first word is announced two people will reply, but only one of them has the right answer. So the prize still goes to the right person.

Comment author: mgin 22 January 2014 02:07:18PM 2 points [-]

I find it odd that 66.2% of LWers are "liberal" or "socialist" but only 13.8% of LWers consider themselves affiliated with the Democrat party. Can anybody explain this?

Comment author: nshepperd 22 January 2014 02:12:31PM 11 points [-]

First reason: by European standards, I imagine the Democrat party is still quite conservative. Median voter theorem and all that. Second reason: "affiliated" probably implies more endorsement than "it's not quite as bad as the other party". It could also be both of these together.

Comment author: army1987 23 January 2014 10:27:56AM 2 points [-]

I'd interpret “affiliated” as ‘card-carrying’. If anything, it surprises me as high, but ISTR that in the US you need to be a registered member of a party to vote for their primaries, which would explain that.

Comment author: drethelin 22 January 2014 06:39:03PM 1 point [-]

The democrat party is only socialist in the republican party's eyes.

Comment author: almondguy 06 March 2014 10:10:59PM 1 point [-]

I was wondering about this word "liberal" -- when Will Wilkinson says he's a liberal, that means something entirely different from what you're describing. So, is it possible we have many right liberals here?

Comment author: philh 19 January 2014 12:46:53PM 2 points [-]
Comment author: XiXiDu 19 January 2014 01:33:48PM *  5 points [-]

Unfriendly AI: 233, 14.2%

Nanotech/grey goo: 57, 3.5%

Could someone who voted for unfriendly AI explain how nanotech or biotech isn't much more of a risk than unfriendly AI (I'll assume MIRI's definition here)?

I ask this question because it seems to me that even given a technological singularity there should be enough time for "unfriendly humans" to use precursors to fully fledged artificial general intelligence (e.g. advanced tool AI) in order to solve nanotechnology or advanced biotech. Technologies which themselves will enable unfriendly humans to cause a number of catastrophic risks (e.g. pandemics, nanotech wars, perfect global surveillance (an eternal tyranny) etc.).

Unfriendly AI, as imagined by MIRI, seems to be the end product of a developmental process that provides humans ample opportunity to wreck havoc.

I just don't see any good reason to believe that the tools and precursors to artificial general intelligence are not themselves disruptive technologies.

And in case you believe advanced nanotechnology to be infeasible, but unfriendly AI to be an existential risk, what concrete scenarios do you imagine on how such an AI could cause human extinction without nanotech?

Comment author: dspeyer 20 January 2014 05:03:30AM 5 points [-]

Two reasons: uFAI is deadlier than nano/biotech and easier to cause by accident.

If you build an AGI and botch friendliness, the world is in big trouble. If you build a nanite and botch friendliness, you have a worthless nanite. If you botch growth-control, it's still probably not going to eat more than your lab before it runs into micronutrient deficiencies. And if you somehow do build grey goo, people have a chance to call ahead of it and somehow block its spread. What makes uFAI so dangerous is that it can outthink any responders. Grey goo doesn't do that.

Comment author: XiXiDu 20 January 2014 09:37:30AM *  1 point [-]

This seems like a consistent answer to my original question. Thank you.

If you botch growth-control, it's still probably not going to eat more than your lab before it runs into micronutrient deficiencies.

You on the one hand believe that grey goo is not going to eat more than your lab before running out of steam and on the other hand believe that AI in conjunction with nanotechnology will not run out of steam, or only after humanity's demise.

And if you somehow do build grey goo, people have a chance to call ahead of it and somehow block its spread.

You further believe that AI can't be stopped but grey goo can.

Comment author: dspeyer 23 January 2014 01:05:02AM 7 points [-]

Accidental grey goo is unlikely to get out of the lab. If I design a nanite to self-replicate and spread through a living brain to report useful data to me, and I have an integer overflow bug in the "stop reproducing" code so that it never stops, I will probably kill the patient but that's it. Because the nanites are probably using glucose+O2 as their energy source. I never bothered to design them for anything else. Similarly if I sent solar-powered nanites to clean up Chernobyl I probably never gave them copper-refining capability -- plenty of copper wiring to eat there -- but if I botch the growth code they'll still stop when there's no more pre-refined copper to eat. Designing truely dangerous grey goo is hard and would have to be a deliberate effort.

As for stopping grey goo, why not? There'll be something that destroys it. Extreme heat, maybe. And however fast it spreads, radio goes faster. So someone about to get eaten radios a far-off military base saying "help! grey goo!" and the bomber planes full of incindiaries come forth to meet it.

Contrast uFAI, which has thought of this before it surfaces, and has already radioed forged orders to take all the bomber planes apart for maintenance or something.

Comment author: KnaveOfAllTrades 19 January 2014 02:15:31PM *  4 points [-]

I think a large part of that may simply be LW'ers being more familiar with UFAI and therefore knowing more details that make it seem like a credible threat / availability heuristic. So for example I would expect e.g. Eliezer's estimate of the gap between the two to be less than the LW average. (Edit: Actually, I don't mean that his estimate of the gap would be lower, but something more like it would seem like less of a non-question to him and he would take nanotech a lot more seriously, even if he did still come down firmly on the side of UFAI being a bigger concern.)

Comment author: RobbBB 20 January 2014 11:24:42AM 3 points [-]

If I understand Eliezer's view, it's that we can't be extremely confident of whether artificial superintelligence or perilously advanced nanotechnology will come first, but (a) there aren't many obvious research projects likely to improve our chances against grey goo, whereas (b) there are numerous obvious research projects likely to improve our changes against unFriendly AI, and (c) inventing Friendly AI would solve both the grey goo problem and the uFAI problem.

Cheer up, the main threat from nanotech may be from brute-forced AI going FOOM and killing everyone long before nanotech is sophisticated enough to reproduce in open-air environments.

The question is what to do about nanotech disaster. As near as I can figure out, the main path into [safety] would be a sufficiently fast upload of humans followed by running them at a high enough speed to solve FAI before everything goes blooey.

But that's already assuming pretty sophisticated nanotech. I'm not sure what to do about moderately strong nanotech. I've never really heard of anything good to do about nanotech. It's one reason I'm not sending attention there.

Comment author: Kawoomba 20 January 2014 12:05:36PM *  2 points [-]

Considering ... please wait ... tttrrrrrr ... prima facie, Grey Goo scenarios may seem more likely simply because they make better "Great Filter" candidates; whereas a near-arbitrary Foomy would spread out in all directions at relativistic speeds, with self-replicators no overarching agenty will would accelerate them out across space (the insulation layer with the sparse materials).

So if we approached x-risks through the prism of their consequences (extinction, hence no discernible aliens) and then reasoned our way back to our present predicament, we would note that within AI-power-hierachies (AGI and up) there are few distinct long-term dan-ranks (most such ranks would only be intermediary steps while the AI falls "upwards"), whereas it is much more conceivable that there are self-replicators which can e.g. transform enough carbon into carbon copies (of themselves) to render a planet uninhabitable, but which lack the oomph (and the agency) to do the same to their light cone.

Then I thought that Grey Goo may yet be more of a setback, a restart, not the ultimate planetary tombstone. Once everything got transformed into resident von Neumann machines, evolution amongst those copies would probably occur at some point, until eventually there may be new macroorganisms organized from self-replicating building blocks, which may again show significant agency and turn their gaze towards the stars.

Then again (round and round it goes), Grey Goo would still remain the better transient Great Filter candidate (and thus more likely than uFAI when viewed through the Great Filter spectroscope), simply because of the time scales involved. Assuming the Great Filter is in fact an actual absence of highly evolved civilizations in our neighborhood (as opposed to just hiding or other shenanigans), Grey Goo biosphere-resets may stall the Kardashev climb sufficiently to explain us not having witnessed other civs yet. Also, Grey Goo transformations may burn up all the local negentropy (nanobots don't work for free), precluding future evolution.

Anyways, I agree that FAI would be the most realistic long-term guardian against accidental nanogoo (ironically, also uFAI).

Comment author: RobbBB 20 January 2014 11:47:13PM *  4 points [-]

My own suspicion is that the bulk of the Great Filter is behind us. We've awoken into a fairly old universe. (Young in terms of total lifespan, but old in terms of maximally life-sustaining years.) If intelligent agents evolve easily but die out fast, we should expect to see a young universe.

We can also consider the possibility of stronger anthropic effects. Suppose intelligent species always succeed in building AGIs that propagate outward at approximately the speed of light, converting all life-sustaining energy into objects or agents outside our anthropic reference class. Then any particular intelligent species Z will observe a Fermi paradox no matter how common or rare intelligent species are, because if any other high-technology species had arisen first in Z's past light cone it would have prevented the existence of anything Z-like. (However, species in this scenario will observe much younger universes the smaller a Past Filter there is.)

So grey goo creates an actual Future Filter by killing their creators, but hyper-efficient hungry AGI creates an anthropic illusion of a Future Filter by devouring everything in their observable universe except the creator species. (And possibly devouring the creator species too; that's unclear. Evolved alien values are less likely to eat the universe than artificial unFriendly-relative-to-alien-values values are, but perhaps not dramatically less likely; and unFriendly-relative-to-creator AI is almost certainly more common than Friendly-relative-to-creator AI.)

Once everything got transformed into resident von Neumann machines, evolution amongst those copies would probably occur at some point, until eventually there may be new macroorganisms organized from self-replicating building blocks, which may again show significant agency and turn their gaze towards the stars.

Probably won't happen before the heat death of the universe. The scariest thing about nanodevices is that they don't evolve. A universe ruled by nanodevices is plausibly even worse (relative to human values) than one ruled by uFAI like Clippy, because it's vastly less interesting.

(Not because paperclips are better than nanites, but because there's at least one sophisticated mind to be found.)

Comment author: gjm 19 January 2014 02:07:29PM 3 points [-]

Presumably many people fear a very rapid "hard takeoff" where the time from "interesting slightly-smarter-than-human AI experiment" to "full-blown technological singularity underway" is measured in at days (or less) rather than months or years.

Comment author: MathieuRoy 22 January 2014 06:22:11PM *  2 points [-]

P(Aliens in observable universe): 74.3 + 32.7 (60, 90, 99) [n = 1496] P(Aliens in Milky Way): 44.9 + 38.2 (5, 40, 85) [n = 1482]

There are (very probably around) 1.7x10^11 galaxies in the observable universe. So I don't understand how can P(Aliens in Milky Way) be so closed to P(Aliens in observable universe)? If P(Aliens in an average galaxy) = 0.0000000001, P(Aliens in observable universe) should be around 1-(1-0.0000000001)^(1.7x10^11)=0.9999999586. I know there are other factors that influence these numbers, but still, even if there's a only a very slight chance for P(Aliens in Milky Way), then P(Aliens in observable universe) should be almost certain. There are possible rational justifications for the results of this survey, but I think (0.95) most people were victim of a cognitive bias. Scope insensitivity maybe? because 1.7*10^11 galaxies is too big to imagine. What do you think?

Tendency to cooperate on the prisoner's dilemma was most highly correlated with items in the general leftist political cluster.

I wonder how many people cooperated only (or in part) because they knew the results would be correlated with their (political) views, and they wanted their "tribe"/community/group/etc. to look good. Maybe next year we could say that this result won't be compared to the other? So if less people cooperate, then it will indicate that maybe some people cooperate for their 'group' to look good. But if these people know that I/we want to compare the results we this year in order to verify this hypothesis, they will continue to cooperate. To avoid most of these, we should compare only the people that will have filled the survey for the first time next year. What do you think?

I ended up deleting 40 answers that suggested there were less than ten million or more than eight billion Europeans, on the grounds that people probably weren't really that far off so it was probably some kind of data entry error, and correcting everyone who entered a reasonable answer in individuals to answer in millions as the question asked.

I think you shouldn't have corrected anything. When I assign a probability to the correctness of my answer, I included a percentage for having misread the question or made a data entry error.

This year's results suggest that was no fluke and that we haven't even learned to overcome the one bias that we can measure super-well and which is most easily trained away. Disappointment!

Would some people be interested in answering 10 such questions and give their confidence about their answer every month? That would provide better statistics and a way to see if we're improving.

Comment author: cousin_it 22 January 2014 07:24:25PM *  7 points [-]

If P(Aliens in an average galaxy) = 0.0000000001, P(Aliens in observable universe) should be around 1-(1-0.0000000001)^(1.7x10^11)=0.9999999586.

Only if our uncertainties about the different galaxies are independent, and don't depend on a common uncertainty about the laws of nature or something. It's true that P2>P1, but they can be made arbitrarily close, I think.

Comment author: Vaniver 22 January 2014 06:43:21PM 3 points [-]

Would some people be interested in answering 10 such questions and give their confidence about their answer every month? That would provide better statistics and a way to see if we're improving.

There's both PredictionBook and the Good Judgment Project as venues for this sort of thing.

Comment author: MathieuRoy 26 January 2014 05:06:45PM *  2 points [-]

Thank you.

EDIT: I just made my first (meta)prediction which is that I'm 50% sure that "I will make good predictions in 2014. (ie. 40 to 60% of my predictions with an estimate between 40 and 60% will be true.)"

Comment author: gwern 22 January 2014 06:49:18PM *  1 point [-]

There are (very probably around) 1.7x10^11 galaxies in the observable universe. So I don't understand how can P(Aliens in Milky Way) be so closed to P(Aliens in observable universe)? If P(Aliens in an average galaxy) = 0.0000000001, P(Aliens in observable universe) should be around 1-(1-0.0000000001)^(1.7x10^11)=0.9999999586.

Perhaps this is explainable with reference to why the Great Silence / Fermi paradox is so compelling? That even with very low rates of expansion, the universe should be colonized by now if an advanced alien civilization had arisen at any point in the past billion years or so. Hence, if there's aliens anywhere, then they should well have a presence here too.

Comment author: elharo 22 January 2014 11:02:21PM 1 point [-]

Intergalactic travel is much harder than intragalactic. It's conceivable that even civilizations that colonize their galaxy might not make it further.

Comment author: ikajaste 27 January 2014 08:44:58AM 1 point [-]

I wonder how many people cooperated only (or in part) because they knew the results would be correlated with their (political) views, and they wanted their "tribe"/community/group/etc. to look good.

I don't think the responses of people here would be so much affected by directly wanting to present their own social group as good. However (false) correlation between those two could happen just because of framing by other questions.

E.g. the answer to prisoner's dilemma question might be affected by whether you've just answered "I'm associated with the political left" or whether you've just answered "I consider rational calculations to be the best way to solve issues".

If that is the effect causing a false correlation, then adding the statment "these won't be correlated" woudn't do any good - in fact, it would only serve as a further activation for the person to enter the political-association frame.

This is a common problem with surveys that isn't very easy to mitigate. Individually randomizing question order and analyzing differences in correlations based on presented question order helps a bit, but the problem still remains, and the sample size for any such difference-in-correlation analysis becomes increasingly small.

Comment author: gjm 19 January 2014 10:57:03AM 2 points [-]

The correlations with number of partners seem like they confound two very different questions: "in a relationship or not?" and "poly or not, and if so how poly?". This makes correlations with things like IQ and age less interesting. It seems like it would be more informative to look at the variables "n >= 1" and "value of n, conditional on n >= 1".

(Too lazy to redo those analyses myself right now, and probably ever. Sorry. If someone else does I'll be interested in the results, though.)

Comment author: buybuydandavis 05 September 2014 07:37:23AM 1 point [-]

B. Can we finally resolve this IQ controversy that comes up every year?

The story so far - our first survey in 2009 found an average IQ of 146. Everyone said this was stupid, no community could possibly have that high an average IQ,

Why not? If we're such smarty pants, maybe we should learn how to shut up and multiply. There are lots of people. Let's go with the 146 value. That's roughly 1 in a 1000 people have IQ >= 146. That high IQ people congregate at a rationality site shouldn't shock anyone. The site is easily accessible to all of the Anglosphere, which not so coincidentally, is 3/4 of the members.

One in a thousand just isn't that special of a snowflake for a special interest site.

Comment author: Taurus_Londono 20 January 2014 08:00:44PM *  -2 points [-]

"So I took a subset of the people with the most unimpeachable IQ tests - ones taken after the age of 15 (when IQ is more stable), and from a seemingly reputable source."

I am a member of this population, and I lied. Although I have taken variants of the aforementioned tests, I have never done so in an academic or professional context (ie; Raven's via iqtest.dk). I suspect that I am not the only one.

"People were really really bad at giving their answers in millions. I got numbers anywhere from 3 (really? three million people in Europe?) to 3 billion (3 million billion people = 3 quadrillion)."

Two-thirds have a college degree and roughly one third are European citizens. Does this bode well for the affirmation about self-reported IQ?

"...so it was probably some kind of data entry error..." "Computers (practical): 505, 30.9%"

If people lie about IQ, why not just check Wikipedia and cheat on the Europe question? I lied about IQ, but I did not cheat for the Europe question. I suspect that I am not alone.

IQ is arguably as direct a challenge to self-appraisal as you can put to anyone who would self-select for an LW survey. Because mean for HBD was 2.7, many of the respondents may feel that IQ does not fall into predictable heritability patterns by adulthood (say, 27.4 years old). Could it be intertwined with self-attribution bias and social identity within a community devoted to rational thinking? Perhaps they don't realize that rational decision-making =/= improved performance on Raven's Progressive Matrices.

If I was a member of a health club for 2.62 years, ipso facto, would I be inclined to self-report as physically fit/strong/healthy (especially if I thought I had control over said variable, and that it wasn't largely the result of inheritance and environmental factors in a seemingly distant childhood)?

Self-reported IQ data via an online survey: robust? C'mon, you're smarter than that...

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 21 January 2014 09:37:23AM *  7 points [-]

I am a member of this population, and I lied.

Helpful for letting us know there are bad people out there that will seek to sabotage the value of a survey even without any concrete benefit to themselves other than the LOLZ of the matter. But I think we are already aware of the existence of bad people.

As for your "I suspect that I am not alone", I ADBOC (agree denotationaly but object connotationaly). Villains exist, but I suspect villains are rarer than they believe themselves to be, since in order to excuse their actions they need imagine the whole world populated with villains (while denying that it's an act of villainy they describe).

"Two-thirds have a college degree and roughly one third are European citizens. Does this bode well for the affirmation about self-reported IQ?"

Well, I'm also a European (with a Master's Degree in Computer Science ) who didn't give my number in millions, and I could have my MENSA-acceptance letter scanned and posted if anyone disbelieves me on my provided IQ.

So bollocks on that. You are implying that people like me are liars just because we are careless readers or careless typists. Lying is a whole different thing than mere carelessness.

Comment author: ChristianKl 21 January 2014 04:25:21PM 1 point [-]

Did you select cooperate or defect on the prisoner dilemma question?

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 19 January 2014 09:17:42AM *  0 points [-]

NUMBER OF CURRENT PARTNERS:

0: 797, 48.7%

1: 728, 44.5%

2: 66, 4.0%

3: 21, 1.3%

4: 1, .1%

6: 3, .2

Why is there no data for respondents who stated they had 5 partners?

Comment author: Pablo_Stafforini 19 January 2014 09:43:26AM 6 points [-]

I should have looked at the data set. The answer is that zero people reported having 5 partners.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 20 January 2014 01:31:17AM -3 points [-]

Wow, 48.7% of us have 797 partners? That's a lot!

Comment author: jobe_smith 22 January 2014 04:27:20PM 1 point [-]

I don't understand how P(Simulation) can be so much higher than P(God) and P(Supernatural). Seems to me that "the stuff going on outside the simulation" would have to be supernatural by definition. The beings that created the simulation would be supernatural intelligent entities who created the universe, aka gods. How do people justify giving lower probabilities for supernatural than for simulation?

Comment author: TheOtherDave 22 January 2014 05:59:29PM 3 points [-]

At least part of it is that a commonly endorsed local definition of "supernatural" would not necessarily include the beings who created a simulation. Similarly, the definition of "god" around here is frequently tied to that definition of supernatural.

I am not defending those usages here, just observing that they exist.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 20 January 2014 10:22:11AM *  1 point [-]

Formatting: I find the reports a bit difficult to scan, because each line contains two numbers (absolute numbers, relative percents), which are not vertically aligned. An absolute value of one line may be just below the value of another line, and the numbers may similar, which makes it difficult to e.g. quickly find a highest value in the set.

I think this could be significantly improved with a trivial change: write the numbers at the beginning of the line, that will make them better aligned. For even better legibility, insert a separator (wider than just a comma) between absolute and relative numbers.

Now:

Yes, all the time: 94, 5.7%
Yes, sometimes: 179, 10.9%
No: 1316, 80.4%
Did not answer: 48, 2.9%

Proposed:

94 = 5.7% - Yes, all the time
179 = 10.9% - Yes, sometimes
1316 = 80.4% - No
48 = 2.9% - Did not answer

For example in the original version it is easy to see something like "94.5, 179, 80.4, 48.2" when reading carelessly.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 26 January 2014 01:41:38AM *  1 point [-]

Two more possibilities with things really lined up. I think the first is somewhat better. The dots are added so Markdown doesn't destroy the spacing.

Yes, all the time........94......5.7%
Yes, sometimes......179......10.9%
No.........................1316.....80.4%
Did not answer...........48......2.9%

...94 = 5.7%.......Yes, all the time
.179 = 10.9%......Yes, sometimes
1316 = 80.4%......No
....48 = 2.9%......Did not answer