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Announcement: The Sequences eBook will be released in mid-March

47 Post author: RobbBB 03 March 2015 01:58AM

The Sequences are being released as an eBook, titled Rationality: From AI to Zombies, on March 12.

We went with the name "Rationality: From AI to Zombies" (based on shminux's suggestion) to make it clearer to people — who might otherwise be expecting a self-help book, or an academic text — that the style and contents of the Sequences are rather unusual. We want to filter for readers who have a wide-ranging interest in (/ tolerance for) weird intellectual topics. Alternative options tended to obscure what the book is about, or obscure its breadth / eclecticism.

 

The book's contents

Around 340 of Eliezer's essays from 2009 and earlier will be included, collected into twenty-six sections ("sequences"), compiled into six books:

  1. Map and Territory: sequences on the Bayesian conceptions of rationality, belief, evidence, and explanation.
  2. How to Actually Change Your Mind: sequences on confirmation bias and motivated reasoning.
  3. The Machine in the Ghost: sequences on optimization processes, cognition, and concepts.
  4. Mere Reality: sequences on science and the physical world.
  5. Mere Goodness: sequences on human values.
  6. Becoming Stronger: sequences on self-improvement and group rationality.

The six books will be released as a single sprawling eBook, making it easy to hop back and forth between different parts of the book. The whole book will be about 1,800 pages long. However, we'll also be releasing the same content as a series of six print books (and as six audio books) at a future date.

The Sequences have been tidied up in a number of small ways, but the content is mostly unchanged. The largest change is to how the content is organized. Some important Overcoming Bias and Less Wrong posts that were never officially sorted into sequences have now been added — 58 additions in all, forming four entirely new sequences (and also supplementing some existing sequences). Other posts have been removed — 105 in total. The following old sequences will be the most heavily affected:

  • Map and Territory and Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions are being merged, expanded, and reassembled into a new set of introductory sequences, with more focus placed on cognitive biases. The name 'Map and Territory' will be re-applied to this entire collection of sequences, constituting the first book.
  • Quantum Physics and Metaethics are being heavily reordered and heavily shortened.
  • Most of Fun Theory and Ethical Injunctions is being left out. Taking their place will be two new sequences on ethics, plus the modified version of Metaethics.

I'll provide more details on these changes when the eBook is out.

Unlike the print and audio-book versions, the eBook version of Rationality: From AI to Zombies will be entirely free. If you want to purchase it on Kindle Store and download it directly to your Kindle, it will also be available on Amazon for $4.99.

To make the content more accessible, the eBook will include introductions I've written up for this purpose. It will also include a LessWrongWiki link to a glossary, which I'll be recruiting LessWrongers to help populate with explanations of references and jargon from the Sequences.

I'll post an announcement to Main as soon as the eBook is available. See you then!

Comments (45)

Comment author: ciphergoth 03 March 2015 06:21:11AM 19 points [-]

I've seen the most recent draft of the PDF eBook and read all Rob's introductions, and I'm much happier recommending this to people than the sequences as they currently exist. I won't be taking my eBook version offline altogether, but I will be putting a big notice at the start saying "Don't read this, read Rationality from AI to Zombies".

Comment author: zedzed 03 March 2015 04:13:15AM 10 points [-]

I'm given to understand that the print and audio versions are being held off until readers of the eBook root out the last of the errata. Where should I submit any I find?

Comment author: RobbBB 03 March 2015 11:56:06PM *  5 points [-]

There are a lot of reasons we're releasing the eBook early, including wanting community feedback on what people like in the existing text, what mistakes we've slipped in, etc. I don't want to make promises about how many small fixes will be incorporated into the print version, if any. Regardless, fixes might show up in second editions of the eBook and/or print books, so do clue us in if you spot mistakes. You can e-mail errata to errata@intelligence.org.

I don't expect any fixes to be incorporated into the audio books, because it takes a lot of resources to re-record anything. Castify has been working on creating the audio book for months, in parallel with our putting finishing touches on the eBook. In some cases the recording will actually correspond more closely to Eliezer's original prose than the eBook does.

Comment author: [deleted] 03 March 2015 08:53:45PM 9 points [-]

I want a leatherbound hardcopy. This is not fanboyism. I very, very bad at reading on my tablet or laptop, too many distractions. I take a paper book, go to bed, shut out everything, and read even the hardest topics. The leatherbound part is part sentimental, part rational: I think I want to leave a heirloom of great books in durable versions to my daughter.

Comment author: Coscott 04 March 2015 03:28:04AM 12 points [-]

I want a leatherbound hardcopy. This is fanboyism.

Comment author: Vaniver 04 March 2015 05:34:50PM *  2 points [-]

I very, very bad at reading on my tablet or laptop, too many distractions. I take a paper book, go to bed, shut out everything, and read even the hardest topics.

I am a book fanboy, who has a deep and abiding admiration for physical libraries. Nevertheless, I have found the e-ink Kindle to be an adequate book substitute, and this is particularly true for long-form books. Among other things, there's no backlight, so I can use a red lamp and not inhibit melatonin production. Since Amazon is running a sale on it now, I think it's worth getting a Kindle to try it out--if you end up liking it enough to switch, the eventual savings of buying cheaper versions of books will pay for the Kindle fairly quickly.

I'm reading through the Romance of Three Kingdoms right now, and while my translation (downloaded for free!) occupies well over a thousand pages, the Kindle takes up the same amount of hand-space as always. And when I want to switch to any of the other books I'm reading, they're a few button presses away.

Comment author: [deleted] 05 March 2015 09:26:13AM *  3 points [-]

Thanks for the idea. I don't actually buy much paper books as my mother has thousands of old ones, and already we moved about five hundred into our apartment, and for newer stuff that is occasionally interesting I rather I tend to pirate e-books, not buy them, partially out of anti-IP principle and partially as savings. Although less and less, as for learning things it seems there is less and less need to get books as they are put into online articles etc. and as for literature IMHO the older was better anyway. Still, I avoid any device with DRM or generally not being very open for a wide variety of pirated file formats, and I am not sure about Kindle in this regard. Generally I am suspicious about major manufacturers like Apple or Amazon, they tend to like DRM / anti-piracy and try to enforce it one way or another. I like cheap Chinese products who don't give a hoot about it because their culture is sensible enough to find IP violations normal, in fact the manufacturers themselves often "stealing" (i.e. ignoring the artificial monopoly of) patents and suchlike.

Comment author: Mark_Eichenlaub 04 March 2015 04:55:16PM 4 points [-]

Great project! What will the copyright be? I'm interested in putting a few essays into a course reader.

Comment author: RobbBB 04 March 2015 05:40:15PM *  4 points [-]

It will be released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. So you can freely copy, distribute, transmit, or adapt the work, provided you (a) note who made the original, (b) don't use the content commercially, and (c) make your adaptation free for others to copy/distribute/transmit/adapt in turn.

Comment author: TylerJay 05 March 2015 08:33:36AM 2 points [-]

I don't know much about copyright law, but I still don't understand whether it's okay to use this in a classroom setting. If it's a free course or nonprofit, it seems it's allowed, but what about:

  • A paid course offered by a for-profit institution where the reading material is linked to or provided for no additional (explicit) fee?
  • A course where excerpts are part of a reader that costs money?

I've been wondering this in general, not just related to this particular e-book, so if you know the answers, I'd appreciate it. Thanks!

Comment author: RobbBB 05 March 2015 10:19:07PM *  1 point [-]

I don't think there's any simple catch-all answer in the general case. The license's wording (which just forbids use "primarily intended for commercial advantage or monetary compensation") is deliberately ambiguous to give the licensor leeway in assessing each case. The licensor's intent is what matters, so if you're unsure about whether a specific real-world case would be likely to qualify as "primarily intended for commercial advantage or monetary compensation," just shoot me an e-mail at rob@intelligence.org and I can explicitly confirm for you whether the use jibes with MIRI's intentions.

Comment author: diegocaleiro 05 March 2015 08:42:33PM 1 point [-]

Seconded

Comment author: Mark_Eichenlaub 05 March 2015 01:53:56PM 0 points [-]

Thanks!

Comment author: CronoDAS 06 March 2015 03:02:16AM *  3 points [-]

Are any traditional non-fiction publishers interested in this? "Self-published" still has a bad reputation as the haven of kooks and cranks.

Comment author: Vaniver 04 March 2015 05:24:46PM 3 points [-]

(I'll update this post when we have a more precise release date.)

I strongly recommend releasing it on the 14th or 15th, and advertising it at the HPMoR wrapup. What additional resources would that require?

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 04 March 2015 10:40:44PM *  6 points [-]

I think it should be linked from the last chapter of HPMoR.

Comment author: RobbBB 04 March 2015 05:34:52PM *  1 point [-]

Yes, if the project is ready in time we'd like to use HPMoR's conclusion to advertise it.

Why release on the 15th as opposed to, e.g., the 13th?

Comment author: Vaniver 04 March 2015 05:42:26PM *  6 points [-]

First, to maintain the similarity to upcoming HPMoR release dates; saying "this is the final chapter of this story, but the next text released by Eliezer comes out at 10:00 AM Pacific Time on March 15th, and is a nonfiction work explaining the actual methods of rationality" seems like it will manage to capture many HPMoR readers whose attention Eliezer might not have again. I suspect that a day-long wait before release does a good job of accruing benefits from anticipation without paying too many costs from exhaustion or attention loss.

Second, I assume that it will be easier to release it on the 15th than the 14th, and the 14th will be easier than the 13th, and so on.

Comment author: somervta 03 March 2015 04:28:40AM 3 points [-]

Is the novel content written by you, Eliezer, or others?

Comment author: RobbBB 03 March 2015 04:34:05AM *  6 points [-]

The novel content is nearly all my doing, with input and ideas from MIRI staff and volunteers.

Comment author: Benito 03 March 2015 06:42:11PM 2 points [-]

I'd like to say that Rob's introductions help tie the book together very well. There is a fine, short preface by EY on his mistakes which gives a very good tone to the book. The ordering is excellent and I cannot wait to give this to ALL of my friends.

Comment author: jsalvatier 03 March 2015 04:32:01AM *  2 points [-]

I'm very surprised you guys are releasing them all at once rather than releasing them on a year or something. That seems like it would generate more interest.

Also, I'm sort of disappointed that they were not more substantially edited. When I show the sequences to other people, people often complain a lot about the examples being terrible and more offensive than necessary even if they agree with the argument. But I get that that would require a lot of work.

Comment author: RobbBB 03 March 2015 04:51:38AM 6 points [-]

We may do a staggered release for the print version. Splitting up the eBook might have given people headaches because of all the clickable links between different parts of the book.

Comment author: jsalvatier 03 March 2015 05:53:53AM 1 point [-]

Ah, I didn't realize you were also doing a print version.

Comment author: passive_fist 03 March 2015 03:20:30AM *  2 points [-]

A very nice project and thanks for the effort. I look forward to picking it up.

What are your opinions on a shorter, abridged version of the book (perhaps fitting into the 'standard' 300 pages or so)?

Comment author: RobbBB 03 March 2015 03:28:16AM *  3 points [-]

My hope is that Book I of the eBook (Map and Territory), which will be released as its own print volume, will be able to serve a purpose a bit like that. Book II (How to Actually Change Your Mind) may also be viable as a stand-alone work, though its main intended audience is people who have read Map and Territory.

Compressing the entire 1800 pages into just 300 pages is a harder task, since it would require rewriting a lot of material. At that point it might be more useful to just write an entirely new rationality handbook loosely inspired by the Sequences.

Comment author: bramflakes 03 March 2015 03:57:38PM 1 point [-]

Does this have the FOOM debate in it?

Comment author: RobbBB 03 March 2015 07:16:02PM 2 points [-]

You can find the FOOM debate eBook here: https://intelligence.org/ai-foom-debate/

Comment author: Benito 03 March 2015 06:35:43PM 0 points [-]

No. There's already an ebook for that btw, and can be found on the seqences less wrong page.

Comment author: edanm 04 March 2015 06:09:38AM 1 point [-]

So, do you have a specific marketing plan for getting the word out there about these books?

More specifically, you have access to an entire community rooting for you... how can we help?

(Also, I've been convinced by other commenters here - I normally don't buy physical books anymore, but here I'll make an exception for '"fanboyism" and "gifting" purposes).

Comment author: RobbBB 04 March 2015 09:55:12PM *  3 points [-]

My advice to people who want to promote the sequences in their new form would be 'Try lots of things and report back about what works/doesn't.' Focus primarily on people who are already interested in science, philosophy, and math (or at least two of those three), and keep in mind that the book will criticize religions quite a bit (e.g., Religion's Claim To Be Non-Disprovable and posts from 'Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions') very early on.

Methods fans may be interested (since they already like Eliezer's writing style, and Methods itself is ending). Vaniver suggested that diving straight from a 2000-page Eliezer tome (Methods) to an 1800-page one (Rationality: From AI to Zombies) might feel overwhelming without some kind of break, but I still feel this is a good time to get the word out about the eBook. In terms of larger-scale projects, I love the idea of a fan-led effort to annotate Methods and e.g. cross-reference its contents to relevant parts of R:AZ.

If things go well, we plan to market the print volumes (and maybe similar-sized eBooks) in a more robust way, since a 300-page book is a much easier sell than an 1800-page one.

Comment author: Vaniver 04 March 2015 10:30:05PM *  0 points [-]

Vaniver suggested that diving straight from a 2000-page Eliezer tome (Methods) to an 1800-page one (Rationality: From AI to Zombies) might feel overwhelming without some kind of break, but I still feel this is a good time to get the word out about the eBook.

I want to point out that I very much agree, and my primary concern is making sure that this audience that is about to evaporate knows about R:AZ (I see why you don't use R:FAtZ!), and once that is taken care of then there is the tactical question about whether or not R:AZ is released before/with/shortly after the final chapter of HPMoR. I don't have strong feelings on the tactical question; I guess that a day after is good, but also guess that the same time is about as good.

Comment author: [deleted] 03 March 2015 05:14:21AM 1 point [-]

Who is narrating he audio book?

Comment author: Coscott 03 March 2015 05:26:54AM 3 points [-]
Comment author: casebash 10 March 2015 01:13:22PM 0 points [-]

Are there any plans to post the new sequences to Less Wrong/update the content on the website, or is it going to be left as is?

Comment author: Coscott 03 March 2015 02:54:13AM 0 points [-]

Could you provide any kind of estimate for time/cost of the physical/audio books.

I ask because I am deciding if I should read the ebook or wait for the audio.

Comment author: RobbBB 03 March 2015 04:18:10AM *  0 points [-]

My vague impression is that the entire set of audio books will cost about $50 total, and will come out not terribly long after March (or perhaps in late March).

The print books are probably further off. I'd like to see how people react to the eBook, and what uses they put it to, before that project gets properly started.

Comment author: chaosmage 03 March 2015 05:01:17PM 5 points [-]

I hereby precommit to buying at least 250$ worth of print versions.

500$ if there's a posh and fancy edition that looks particularly impressive as a gift.

Because gifts are what I buy most of my paper books for these days, and I love to evangelize.

Comment author: Benito 03 March 2015 06:37:20PM 4 points [-]

I will second the idea of having a posh and fancy edition. But this is for myself. I want them to be awesome, perhaps even leather-bound. I will pay as much money as I can get for these.

Comment author: Vaniver 04 March 2015 05:27:20PM 2 points [-]

I also precommit to spending up to double Folio Society prices on Folio Society quality books.

Comment author: DanArmak 09 March 2015 04:51:50PM *  -1 points [-]

How much of the ebook and p-book price will go to Eliezer/MIRI, and how much is publishing overhead? I'd like to estimate the value of buying copies to give vs. donating.

Comment author: RobbBB 10 March 2015 06:10:46PM 1 point [-]

We make $3.50 for every $5 spent on the Amazon eBook. (The eBook will also be available for free on intelligence.org.) I don't know what the overhead will be like for the print versions.

Comment author: Gram_Stone 07 March 2015 09:37:21PM *  0 points [-]

As many others have recommended, I have been reading the Sequences in chronological order. I do this because the essays are highly interdependent, and it seems that they will remain so despite some changes. Within the eBook, will there be an appendix of some sort linking to the essays in order of posting date?

Comment author: RobbBB 07 March 2015 11:04:21PM *  1 point [-]

Also, any complete list of sequence posts will include posts higher in the list that depend on ones lower in the list, because Eliezer went back and edited some of his earlier posts to refer to later ones. The chronological reading has advantages, but has the problem of being more meandering and disjointed and doesn't fully solve the interdependency problem.

Comment author: RobbBB 07 March 2015 10:30:29PM 1 point [-]

No, and I think reading the R:AZ essays in their new order will work better than reading that subset in strict chronological order. Still, that's one of a few features i'd like to introduce in the print versions, and in future versions of the eBook. Perhaps a general chronological list that includes posts that weren't in the eBook too, and marks the eBook-included posts in bold.