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Welcome to LessWrong (10th Thread, January 2017) (Thread A)

11 Post author: folkTheory 07 January 2017 05:43AM

(Thread B for January is here, created as a duplicate by accident)

Hi, do you read the LessWrong website, but haven't commented yet (or not very much)? Are you a bit scared of the harsh community, or do you feel that questions which are new and interesting for you could be old and boring for the older members?

This is the place for the new members to become courageous and ask what they wanted to ask. Or just to say hi.

The older members are strongly encouraged to be gentle and patient (or just skip the entire discussion if they can't).

Newbies, welcome!


The long version:


If you've recently joined the Less Wrong community, please leave a comment here and introduce yourself. We'd love to know who you are, what you're doing, what you value, how you came to identify as an aspiring rationalist or how you found us. You can skip right to that if you like; the rest of this post consists of a few things you might find helpful. More can be found at the FAQ.


A few notes about the site mechanics

To post your first comment, you must have carried out the e-mail confirmation: When you signed up to create your account, an e-mail was sent to the address you provided with a link that you need to follow to confirm your e-mail address. You must do this before you can post!

Less Wrong comments are threaded for easy following of multiple conversations. To respond to any comment, click the "Reply" link at the bottom of that comment's box. Within the comment box, links and formatting are achieved via Markdown syntax (you can click the "Help" link below the text box to bring up a primer).

You may have noticed that all the posts and comments on this site have buttons to vote them up or down, and all the users have "karma" scores which come from the sum of all their comments and posts. This immediate easy feedback mechanism helps keep arguments from turning into flamewars and helps make the best posts more visible; it's part of what makes discussions on Less Wrong look different from those anywhere else on the Internet.

However, it can feel really irritating to get downvoted, especially if one doesn't know why. It happens to all of us sometimes, and it's perfectly acceptable to ask for an explanation. (Sometimes it's the unwritten LW etiquette; we have different norms than other forums.) Take note when you're downvoted a lot on one topic, as it often means that several members of the community think you're missing an important point or making a mistake in reasoning— not just that they disagree with you! If you have any questions about karma or voting, please feel free to ask here.

Replies to your comments across the site, plus private messages from other users, will show up in your inbox. You can reach it via the little mail icon beneath your karma score on the upper right of most pages. When you have a new reply or message, it glows red. You can also click on any user's name to view all of their comments and posts.

All recent posts (from both Main and Discussion) are available here. At the same time, it's definitely worth your time commenting on old posts; veteran users look through the recent comments thread quite often (there's a separate recent comments thread for the Discussion section, for whatever reason), and a conversation begun anywhere will pick up contributors that way.  There's also a succession of open comment threads for discussion of anything remotely related to rationality.

Discussions on Less Wrong tend to end differently than in most other forums; a surprising number end when one participant changes their mind, or when multiple people clarify their views enough and reach agreement. More commonly, though, people will just stop when they've better identified their deeper disagreements, or simply "tap out" of a discussion that's stopped being productive. (Seriously, you can just write "I'm tapping out of this thread.") This is absolutely OK, and it's one good way to avoid the flamewars that plague many sites.

There's actually more than meets the eye here: look near the top of the page for the "WIKI", "DISCUSSION" and "SEQUENCES" links.
LW WIKI: This is our attempt to make searching by topic feasible, as well as to store information like common abbreviations and idioms. It's a good place to look if someone's speaking Greek to you.
LW DISCUSSION: This is a forum just like the top-level one, with two key differences: in the top-level forum, posts require the author to have 20 karma in order to publish, and any upvotes or downvotes on the post are multiplied by 10. Thus there's a lot more informal dialogue in the Discussion section, including some of the more fun conversations here.
SEQUENCES: A huge corpus of material mostly written by Eliezer Yudkowsky in his days of blogging at Overcoming Bias, before Less Wrong was started. Much of the discussion here will casually depend on or refer to ideas brought up in those posts, so reading them can really help with present discussions. Besides which, they're pretty engrossing in my opinion. They are also available in a book form.

A few notes about the community

If you've come to Less Wrong to  discuss a particular topic, this thread would be a great place to start the conversation. By commenting here, and checking the responses, you'll probably get a good read on what, if anything, has already been said here on that topic, what's widely understood and what you might still need to take some time explaining.

If your welcome comment starts a huge discussion, then please move to the next step and create a LW Discussion post to continue the conversation; we can fit many more welcomes onto each thread if fewer of them sprout 400+ comments. (To do this: click "Create new article" in the upper right corner next to your username, then write the article, then at the bottom take the menu "Post to" and change it from "Drafts" to "Less Wrong Discussion". Then click "Submit". When you edit a published post, clicking "Save and continue" does correctly update the post.)

If you want to write a post about a LW-relevant topic, awesome! I highly recommend you submit your first post to Less Wrong Discussion; don't worry, you can later promote it from there to the main page if it's well-received. (It's much better to get some feedback before every vote counts for 10 karma—honestly, you don't know what you don't know about the community norms here.)

Alternatively, if you're still unsure where to submit a post, whether to submit it at all, would like some feedback before submitting, or want to gauge interest, you can ask / provide your draft / summarize your submission in the latest open comment thread. In fact, Open Threads are intended for anything 'worth saying, but not worth its own post', so please do dive in! Informally, there is also the unofficial Less Wrong IRC chat room, and you might also like to take a look at some of the other regular special threads; they're a great way to get involved with the community!

If you'd like to connect with other LWers in real life, we have  meetups  in various parts of the world. Check the wiki page for places with regular meetups, or the upcoming (irregular) meetups page. There's also a Facebook group. If you have your own blog or other online presence, please feel free to link it.

If English is not your first language, don't let that make you afraid to post or comment. You can get English help on Discussion- or Main-level posts by sending a PM to one of the following users (use the "send message" link on the upper right of their user page). Either put the text of the post in the PM, or just say that you'd like English help and you'll get a response with an email address. 
Barry Cotter

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

A list of some posts that are pretty awesome

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

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

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

Comments (4)

Comment author: TiffanyAching 11 January 2017 10:10:17PM 5 points [-]

Hello folks!

I think to accurately trace my development as a rationalist I'd have to ramble about my formative years for about fifteen paragraphs and it would bore the bejeezus out of anyone who isn't my mother, so I'll spare you, as Holden put it, the David Copperfield crap.

I value reason, logic and the search for truth - but also compassion, patience for human error and a sense of humour. (Hey, I'm Irish, flippancy is written in my genes just as humour with a "u" is written in my dictionary.)

I don't like irrationality or ignorance, but I detest "shrug" or "let's agree to disagree" or, worst of all, "who can really say what truth is anyway?". I believe that someone passionately wrong is closer to being right that someone who doesn't care. Believing that the truth matters is the sine qua non.

I promise I don't go around sprinkling Latin into all my arguments, by the way. "Sine qua non" and "semper ubi sub ubi" are about all I've got.

I've read a great many posts on this site and others like it, and I've often constructed chains of reasoning in response to them, in order to work out whether I agree, partially agree, agree with the conclusion but not the steps leading to it or disagree entirely. Thing is, all of that is taking place in an empty room, literally and figuratively.

Talking to the walls in my flat about religion and morality and logic is unsatisfying and may be causing my neighbours some concern. I tried talking to my pot plant but it died, probably of boredom although possibly because I forgot to water it. Either way I'm reluctant to repeat the experiment with a hamster.

My problem is that I often feel awkward and diffident about participating in group discussions. I want to respond to everyone and then I get caught up in etiquette anxiety about what constitutes spamming or whether it'll look like I'm trying to dominate the discussion, or I get embarrassed about replying to a five-year-old comment on a ten-year-old post, or I go into conflict-resolution mode and end up trying to moderate between two disputants instead of just participating on my own behalf. And I sometimes find being one voice among many competing for attention a bit dispiriting. I don't just want to (ugh) "express my opinion", and I certainly don't want the last word - I can get that by talking to my poor dead pot-plant. I want to convince someone or be convinced myself.

Group discussion is usually not my bag, is what I'm saying, even in such a generally sensible community as LW - but I'll try to give it a shot.

What I'd really like, though, (and please tell me if this is not an appropriate request or the appropriate place to make it - see etiquette anxiety, supra) is some good old-fashioned one-on-one conversation. So if you're reading this and you're at all like me, or you'd just like to do your kind deed for the day, PM me something - anything! - and let's have a discussion or a debate or an argument. Religion, morality, trolley problems, the Great Santa Question, whatever - I'm down. I could perhaps be of some use to Advanced Rationalist Types who want to assess their ability to explain something clearly to someone with no background in formal logic or probability theory without ruining a dinner party, or to fellow newbs who want to test-drive a line of reasoning before taking it out in public. Try it on the dog, so to speak.

Looking forward to participating one way or another. My username, by the way, is the name of a Terry Pratchett character, and if anyone just wants to talk Pratchett I am so there.

Comment author: Viliam 17 January 2017 01:03:48PM *  0 points [-]

If there is a local LW meetup in your area, you should also have plenty opportunity for one-on-one conversations there.

Comment author: Osthanes 08 January 2017 02:10:15AM 2 points [-]

(Reposted from the old thread.)

Hello everyone. I've slowly become entangled in rationality after stumbling across the site when I was quite young and looking for information about cognitive biases and logical fallacies to use in my speech and debate club. This played a minor role in my deconversion and I've been poking around the website and the #lesswrong IRC ever since. (Some of you know me as Madplatypus.) After moving to Seattle I became much more heavily involved because the community here is the best in all sorts of ways.

I'm still young, and hunting for the best opportunities to meet my goals of,becoming the best person I can be, protecting and growing my expanding circles of loyalty, and insuring humanity has a glorious future. Yes, I already know about 80,000 hours.

I'm interested in finding mentors/building networks beyond Seattle/finding new friends so send me a message and let's talk!

I'm interested in talking about: Virtue ethics, Historical Models, Introspection, Better Life Plans, Oratory, Psychology, Geopolitics, Self-Education, Mental Movements, Phenomenology, Metaphor, Martial Arts, Poetry, and ways of thinking about ethics that aren't horrendously simplified. And more!

I'm busy catching up on some more technical fields like mathematics, programming, and information security, but my passions are generally humanistic.

I want you to tell me about: Your passions/drive, the phenomenology of music, your metaphors of mind, unusual things you find valuable, and social constructs you think should be instantiated.

What I love about the Rationality community: Intentional community building, a focus on clear thinking, and the beautiful combination of people who generate lots of crazy hypotheses and people who knock them down.

What I dislike: Getting told to "Go read X" in response to some disagreement I have with rationalist canon. Chances are, I already have read X. People who critique old philosophy which they have not read. Ethical systems which render humans as a fungible moral asset and abstract individual interests away from their reasoning.

Osthanes is a mythical figure in Greek magical pseudepigrapha, who was held to be the first disciple of Zarathustra. It was held that Zarathustra invented magic, and Osthanes brought it to Greece where it was written down for the first time.

Comment author: Elo 08 January 2017 03:03:06AM 0 points [-]

will PM