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Meetup : Washington, D.C.: Fun & Games

0 RobinZ 07 October 2015 04:49PM

Discussion article for the meetup : Washington, D.C.: Fun & Games

WHEN: 11 October 2015 03:00:00PM (-0400)

WHERE: National Portrait Gallery

Cross-posted from the mailing list.

We'll be meeting to hang out, play games, converse, and any combination thereof.

If you would like to play a specific game, especially a long one or one with many players, feel free to send messages to the list to organize - they kick us out a little before 7 p.m.

Upcoming meetups:

  • Oct. 18: Utilitarianism
  • Oct. 25: Wise Sayings
  • Nov. 1: Fun & Games

Discussion article for the meetup : Washington, D.C.: Fun & Games

Meetup : Less Wrong NH Meet-up

1 Tuk 06 October 2015 03:39AM

Discussion article for the meetup : Less Wrong NH Meet-up

WHEN: 13 October 2015 07:00:00PM (-0400)

WHERE: 269 Pearl St Manchester NH

The fifth NH meet-up is Tuesday, 10/13, in Manchester, NH at 7 pm at a private residence. Light refreshments will be provided.

Have you read Rationality: from AI to Zombies, or any of the Sequences on Less Wrong? Maybe you're just a fan of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Come hang out with us and discuss optimization of whatever it is you want to optimize.

You may want to bring a notebook.


Discussion article for the meetup : Less Wrong NH Meet-up

Meetup : LessWrong Sao Paulo

3 leohmarruda 06 October 2015 01:54AM

Discussion article for the meetup : LessWrong Sao Paulo

WHEN: 10 October 2015 02:00:00PM (-0300)

WHERE: Rua Mourato Coelho, 25 Pinheiros, São Paulo Brazil

At Casa cafe (possibly on the second floor). Monthly meeting of the budding rationalist meetup :) We'll have a short presentation at the beginning and possibly board games. :D Don't be shy! Join our mail list https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/racionalidade

Discussion article for the meetup : LessWrong Sao Paulo

Deliberate Grad School

18 Academian 04 October 2015 10:11AM

Among my friends interested in rationality, effective altruism, and existential risk reduction, I often hear: "If you want to have a real positive impact on the world, grad school is a waste of time. It's better to use deliberate practice to learn whatever you need instead of working within the confines of an institution."

While I'd agree that grad school will not make you do good for the world, if you're a self-driven person who can spend time in a PhD program deliberately acquiring skills and connections for making a positive difference, I think you can make grad school a highly productive path, perhaps more so than many alternatives. In this post, I want to share some advice that I've been repeating a lot lately for how to do this:

  1. Find a flexible program. PhD programs in mathematics, statistics, philosophy, and theoretical computer science tend to give you a great deal of free time and flexibility, provided you can pass the various qualifying exams without too much studying. By contrast, sciences like biology and chemistry can require time-consuming laboratory work that you can't always speed through by being clever.


  2. Choose high-impact topics to learn about. AI safety and existential risk reduction are my favorite examples, but there are others, and I won't spend more time here arguing their case. If you can't make your thesis directly about such a topic, choosing a related more popular topic can give you valuable personal connections, and you can still learn whatever you want during the spare time a flexible program will afford you.


  3. Teach classes. Grad programs that let you teach undergraduate tutorial classes provide a rare opportunity to practice engaging a non-captive audience. If you just want to work on general presentation skills, maybe you practice on your friends... but your friends already like you. If you want to learn to win over a crowd that isn't particularly interested in you, try teaching calculus! I've found this skill particularly useful when presenting AI safety research that isn't yet mainstream, which requires carefully stepping through arguments that are unfamiliar to the audience.


  4. Use your freedom to accomplish things. I used my spare time during my PhD program to cofound CFAR, the Center for Applied Rationality. Alumni of our workshops have gone on to do such awesome things as creating the Future of Life Institute and sourcing a $10MM donation from Elon Musk to fund AI safety research. I never would have had the flexibility to volunteer for weeks at a time if I'd been working at a typical 9-to-5 or a startup.


  5. Organize a graduate seminar. Organizing conferences is critical to getting the word out on important new research, and in fact, running a conference on AI safety in Puerto Rico is how FLI was able to bring so many researchers together on its Open Letter on AI Safety. It's also where Elon Musk made his donation. During grad school, you can get lots of practice organizing research events by running seminars for your fellow grad students. In fact, several of the organizers of the FLI conference were grad students.


  6. Get exposure to experts. A top 10 US school will have professors around that are world-experts on myriad topics, and you can attend departmental colloquia to expose yourself to the cutting edge of research in fields you're curious about. I regularly attended cognitive science and neuroscience colloquia during my PhD in mathematics, which gave me many perspectives that I found useful working at CFAR.


  7. Learn how productive researchers get their work done. Grad school surrounds you with researchers, and by getting exposed to how a variety of researchers do their thing, you can pick and choose from their methods and find what works best for you. For example, I learned from my advisor Bernd Sturmfels that, for me, quickly passing a draft back and forth with a coauthor can get a paper written much more quickly than agonizing about each revision before I share it.


  8. Remember you don't have to stay in academia. If you limit yourself to only doing research that will get you good post-doc offers, you might find you aren't able to focus on what seems highest impact (because often what makes a topic high impact is that it's important and neglected, and if a topic is neglected, it might not be trendy enough land you good post-doc). But since grad school is run by professors, becoming a professor is usually the most salient path forward for most grad students, and you might end up pressuring yourself to follow that standards of that path. When I graduated, I got my top choice of post-doc, but then I decided not to take it and to instead try earning to give as an algorithmic stock trader, and now I'm a research fellow at MIRI. In retrospect, I might have done more valuable work during my PhD itself if I'd decided in advance not to do a typical post-doc.

That's all I have for now. The main sentiment behind most of this, I think, is that you have to be deliberate to get the most out of a PhD program, rather than passively expecting it to make you into anything in particular. Grad school still isn't for everyone, and far from it. But if you were seriously considering it at some point, and "do something more useful" felt like a compelling reason not to go, be sure to first consider the most useful version of grad that you could reliably make for yourself... and then decide whether or not to do it.

Please email me (lastname@thisdomain.com) if you have more ideas for getting the most out of grad school!

Meetup : San Francisco Meetup: Projects

1 rocurley 04 October 2015 03:27AM

Discussion article for the meetup : San Francisco Meetup: Projects

WHEN: 05 October 2015 06:15:00PM (-0700)

WHERE: 1597 Howard St. San Francisco, CA

SUPER IMPORTANT THING: This is not our normal place, although hopefully it will be in the future. Please check the address. We'll be meeting to work on projects. Bring something to work on, come up with something there, or help other people out!

As usual, I can be reached at 301-458-0764.

Discussion article for the meetup : San Francisco Meetup: Projects

Meetup : Meetup : Turku Meetup - Critique towards Less Wrong and MIRI

1 asd 03 October 2015 06:11PM

Discussion article for the meetup : Meetup : Turku Meetup - Critique towards Less Wrong and MIRI

WHEN: 10 October 2015 04:00:00PM (+0300)

WHERE: Cosmic Comic Cafe, Kauppiaskatu 4, 20100 Turku, Finland

Meetup to discuss rationality and all things LessWrong and meet the local community. Theme: critique towards Less Wrong, MIRI and other related groups.

Discussion article for the meetup : Meetup : Turku Meetup - Critique towards Less Wrong and MIRI

Rationality Cardinality

15 jimrandomh 03 October 2015 03:54PM

Rationality Cardinality is a card game which takes memes and concepts from the rationality/Less Wrong sphere, and mixes them with jokes to make a game. After nearly two years of card-creation, playtesting and development, today, I'm taking the "beta" label off the web-based version of Rationality Cardinality. Go to the website and, if at least two other people visit at the same time, you can play against them.

I've put a lot of thought and a lot of work into the cards, and they're not just about humor; I also went systematically through blog posts and glossaries collecting terms and concepts that I think people should know about and be reminded of, and wrote concise explanations for them. It provides an easy way for everyone to quickly learn the jargon that's floating around, in a fun way; and it provides spaced repetition for concepts that might not otherwise have sunk in.

Rationality Cardinality will also soon have a print version. The catch is that in order to mass-produce it, I need to be sure there's enough demand. So, here's the deal: once enough people have played the online version, I'll launch a Kickstarter to sell print copies. You can speed this up by inviting people who might not otherwise see it to play.


Rationality Cardinality is somewhat inspired by Cards Against Rationality. Software for the web-based implementation is based on Cards for Humanity, with modifications.

Monthly Bragging Thread October 2015

1 elharo 03 October 2015 01:27PM

Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to comment on this thread explaining the most awesome thing you've done this month. You may be as blatantly proud of yourself as you feel. You may unabashedly consider yourself the coolest freaking person ever because of that awesome thing you're dying to tell everyone about. This is the place to do just that.

Remember, however, that this isn't any kind of progress thread. Nor is it any kind of proposal thread. This thread is solely for people to talk about the awesome things they have done. Not "will do". Not "are working on"Have already done. This is to cultivate an environment of object level productivity rather than meta-productivity methods.

So, what's the coolest thing you've done this month?

(Previous bragging thread)

Rationality Quotes Thread October 2015

3 elharo 03 October 2015 01:23PM

Another month, another rationality quotes thread. The rules are:

  • Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson. If you'd like to revive an old quote from one of those sources, please do so here.
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.
  • Provide sufficient information (URL, title, date, page number, etc.) to enable a reader to find the place where you read the quote, or its original source if available. Do not quote with only a name.

New LW Meetups: Reading, Stockholm, and Suzhou

1 FrankAdamek 02 October 2015 04:22PM

New meetups (or meetups with a hiatus of more than a year) are happening in:

Irregularly scheduled Less Wrong meetups are taking place in:

The remaining meetups take place in cities with regular scheduling, but involve a change in time or location, special meeting content, or simply a helpful reminder about the meetup:

Locations with regularly scheduled meetups: Austin, Berkeley, Berlin, Boston, Brussels, Buffalo, Cambridge UK, Canberra, Columbus, Denver, London, Madison WI, Melbourne, Moscow, Mountain View, New Hampshire, New York, Philadelphia, Research Triangle NC, Seattle, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Vienna, Washington DC, and West Los Angeles. There's also a 24/7 online study hall for coworking LWers.

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