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

Meetup : Moscow: pedagogy goals, willpower research, community growth

0 berekuk 08 December 2016 09:05PM

Discussion article for the meetup : Moscow: pedagogy goals, willpower research, community growth

WHEN: 11 December 2016 02:00:00PM (+0300)

WHERE: Москва, ул. Большая Дорогомиловская, д.5к2

Note: most our members join meetups through other channels. Still, the correlation between "found out about Moscow meetups via lesswrong.com" and "is a great fit for our community" is very high. So we're posting just a short link to the hackpad document with the schedule here instead of the full translation of the announcement into English.

Pad with the details about 11.12.2016 meetup.

We're meeting at the "Kocherga" anticafe, as usual.

Discussion article for the meetup : Moscow: pedagogy goals, willpower research, community growth

Meetup : AI safety Berlin

0 blob 08 December 2016 02:36PM

Discussion article for the meetup : AI safety Berlin

WHEN: 07 January 2017 04:00:00PM (+0100)

WHERE: U Mendelssohn-Bartholdy-Park, Berlin, Germany

We invite everyone with a technical interest in AI safety to a get-together in the Bayesment (see below) on Saturday, January 7th 16:00 - 20:00. Sign up here.

We’re looking forward to meeting everyone with an interest in AI safety research, no matter whether you’re just getting started or already working in the field. After the intro round (which starts 16:30) we expect we’ll be talking about prerequisites, approaches and current developments. In particular: What’s the path for engaged people to start contributing usefully?

To give focus to the meeting we’d like to exclude discussion of “is AI safety a problem?”.

We will probably be ordering dinner.

Sign up

Best, Dima and Christian

[1] Hafenplatz 5, 10963 Berlin, near S Anhalter Bahnhof and U Mendelssohn-Bartholdy-Park, Doorbell says Schreiber / Wissemann, 5th floor and to the right

Discussion article for the meetup : AI safety Berlin

Meetup : Solstice Day-After Megameetup

0 Raemon 07 December 2016 05:42PM

Discussion article for the meetup : Solstice Day-After Megameetup

WHEN: 18 December 2016 01:00:00AM (-0500)

WHERE: Manhattan - TBD

Coming to NYC for the Secular Solstice? Want more time to hangout with all the cool rational-folk people who ALSO came to NY to ALSO do that? And possibly the cool people who lived in NY anyway? We'll have people from several interrelated communities: people interested in skepticism, secularism, rationality and scientific-philanthropy. You can RSVP on the FB event: https://www.facebook.com/events/187105845029955/

Discussion article for the meetup : Solstice Day-After Megameetup

Meetup : December Rationality meetup featuring Double Crux

0 Marko 07 December 2016 08:05AM

Discussion article for the meetup : December Rationality meetup featuring Double Crux

WHEN: 10 December 2016 05:00:00PM (+0100)

WHERE: Tibits Oerlikon, Zurich, Switzerland

Double Crux is a strategy for resolving and illuminating disagreements by investigating what it would take to make each party change their minds:


Prepare some beliefs you have that other people are likely to disagree with and you would like to investigate.

Discussion article for the meetup : December Rationality meetup featuring Double Crux

Meetup : Washington, D.C.: Statistics

0 RobinZ 05 December 2016 10:37PM

Discussion article for the meetup : Washington, D.C.: Statistics

WHEN: 11 December 2016 03:30:00PM (-0500)

WHERE: Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture

Note: the Game Theory meetup has been postponed to accommodate the schedule of the person who requested the topic.

We will be meeting in the courtyard to discuss topics related to probability and statistics.

Upcoming meetups:

  • Dec. 18: Game Theory
  • Dec. 25: no meetup (Christmas)
  • Jan. 1: Fun & Games

Discussion article for the meetup : Washington, D.C.: Statistics

Meetup : Meetup #8 - Reversed stupidity is not intelligence

0 toonalfrink 05 December 2016 07:59PM

Discussion article for the meetup : Meetup #8 - Reversed stupidity is not intelligence

WHEN: 11 December 2016 03:11:11PM (+0100)

WHERE: Meester Treublaan 18, 1097 DP Amsterdam, Netherlands

Part relaxed socializing, part rationalist dojo. Hang around at the coffee shop, having the most interesting conversations you'll have all week, occasionally interrupted by practicing and discussing the next big applied rationality technique.

See you on Sunday the 11th!

Discussion article for the meetup : Meetup #8 - Reversed stupidity is not intelligence

CFAR’s new focus, and AI Safety

25 AnnaSalamon 03 December 2016 06:09PM

A bit about our last few months:

  • We’ve been working on getting a simple clear mission and an organization that actually works.  We think of our goal as analogous to the transition that the old Singularity Institute underwent under Lukeprog (during which chaos was replaced by a simple, intelligible structure that made it easier to turn effort into forward motion).
  • As part of that, we’ll need to find a way to be intelligible.
  • This is the first of several blog posts aimed at causing our new form to be visible from outside.  (If you're in the Bay Area, you can also come meet us at tonight's open house.) (We'll be talking more about the causes of this mission-change; the extent to which it is in fact a change, etc. in an upcoming post.)

Here's a short explanation of our new mission:
  • We care a lot about AI Safety efforts in particular, and about otherwise increasing the odds that humanity reaches the stars.

  • Also, we[1] believe such efforts are bottlenecked more by our collective epistemology, than by the number of people who verbally endorse or act on "AI Safety", or any other "spreadable viewpointdisconnected from its derivation.

  • Our aim is therefore to find ways of improving both individual thinking skill, and the modes of thinking and social fabric that allow people to think together.  And to do this among the relatively small sets of people tackling existential risk. 

continue reading »

Fact Posts: How and Why

60 sarahconstantin 02 December 2016 06:55PM

The most useful thinking skill I've taught myself, which I think should be more widely practiced, is writing what I call "fact posts."  I write a bunch of these on my blog. (I write fact posts about pregnancy and childbirth here.)

To write a fact post, you start with an empirical question, or a general topic.  Something like "How common are hate crimes?" or "Are epidurals really dangerous?" or "What causes manufacturing job loss?"  

It's okay if this is a topic you know very little about. This is an exercise in original seeing and showing your reasoning, not finding the official last word on a topic or doing the best analysis in the world.

Then you open up a Google doc and start taking notes.

You look for quantitative data from conventionally reliable sources.  CDC data for incidences of diseases and other health risks in the US; WHO data for global health issues; Bureau of Labor Statistics data for US employment; and so on. Published scientific journal articles, especially from reputable journals and large randomized studies.

You explicitly do not look for opinion, even expert opinion. You avoid news, and you're wary of think-tank white papers. You're looking for raw information. You are taking a sola scriptura approach, for better and for worse.

And then you start letting the data show you things. 

You see things that are surprising or odd, and you note that. 

You see facts that seem to be inconsistent with each other, and you look into the data sources and methodology until you clear up the mystery.

You orient towards the random, the unfamiliar, the things that are totally unfamiliar to your experience. One of the major exports of Germany is valves?  When was the last time I even thought about valves? Why valves, what do you use valves in?  OK, show me a list of all the different kinds of machine parts, by percent of total exports.  

And so, you dig in a little bit, to this part of the world that you hadn't looked at before. You cultivate the ability to spin up a lightweight sort of fannish obsessive curiosity when something seems like it might be a big deal.

And you take casual notes and impressions (though keeping track of all the numbers and their sources in your notes).

You do a little bit of arithmetic to compare things to familiar reference points. How does this source of risk compare to the risk of smoking or going horseback riding? How does the effect size of this drug compare to the effect size of psychotherapy?

You don't really want to do statistics. You might take percents, means, standard deviations, maybe a Cohen's d here and there, but nothing fancy.  You're just trying to figure out what's going on.

It's often a good idea to rank things by raw scale. What is responsible for the bulk of deaths, the bulk of money moved, etc? What is big?  Then pay attention more to things, and ask more questions about things, that are big. (Or disproportionately high-impact.)

You may find that this process gives you contrarian beliefs, but often you won't, you'll just have a strongly fact-based assessment of why you believe the usual thing.  

There's a quality of ordinariness about fact-based beliefs. It's not that they're never surprising -- they often are. But if you do fact-checking frequently enough, you begin to have a sense of the world overall that stays in place, even as you discover new facts, instead of swinging wildly around at every new stimulus.  For example, after doing lots and lots of reading of the biomedical literature, I have sort of a "sense of the world" of biomedical science -- what sorts of things I expect to see, and what sorts of things I don't. My "sense of the world" isn't that the world itself is boring -- I actually believe in a world rich in discoveries and low-hanging fruit -- but the sense itself has stabilized, feels like "yeah, that's how things are" rather than "omg what is even going on."

In areas where I'm less familiar, I feel more like "omg what is even going on", which sometimes motivates me to go accumulate facts.

Once you've accumulated a bunch of facts, and they've "spoken to you" with some conclusions or answers to your question, you write them up on a blog, so that other people can check your reasoning.  If your mind gets changed, or you learn more, you write a follow-up post. You should, on any topic where you continue to learn over time, feel embarrassed by the naivety of your early posts.  This is fine. This is how learning works.

The advantage of fact posts is that they give you the ability to form independent opinions based on evidence. It's a sort of practice of the skill of seeing. They likely aren't the optimal way to get the most accurate beliefs -- listening to the best experts would almost certainly be better -- but you, personally, may not know who the best experts are, or may be overwhelmed by the swirl of controversy. Fact posts give you a relatively low-effort way of coming to informed opinions. They make you into the proverbial 'educated layman.'

Being an 'educated layman' makes you much more fertile in generating ideas, for research, business, fiction, or anything else. Having facts floating around in your head means you'll naturally think of problems to solve, questions to ask, opportunities to fix things in the world, applications for your technical skills.

Ideally, a group of people writing fact posts on related topics, could learn from each other, and share how they think. I have the strong intuition that this is valuable. It's a bit more active than a "journal club", and quite a bit more casual than "research".  It's just the activity of learning and showing one's work in public.

Meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup

0 iarwain1 02 December 2016 05:55PM

Discussion article for the meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup

WHEN: 04 December 2016 08:00:00PM (-0500)

WHERE: Performing Arts and Humanities Bldg Room 456, 1000 Hilltop Cir, Baltimore, MD 21250

Meeting is on 4th floor of the Performing Arts and Humanities Building. Permit parking designations do not apply on weekends, so park pretty much wherever you want.

Discussion article for the meetup : Baltimore Area / UMBC Weekly Meetup

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

0 RobinZ 02 December 2016 03:07AM

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

WHEN: 04 December 2016 03:30:00PM (-0500)

WHERE: Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture

We will be meeting in the courtyard to hang out, play games, and engage in fun conversation.

Upcoming meetups:

  • Dec. 11: Game Theory
  • Dec. 18: Statistics

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

View more: Next