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Thank you to everyone who took the 2012 Less Wrong Survey (the survey is now closed. Do not try to take it.) Below the cut, this post contains the basic survey results, a few more complicated analyses, and the data available for download so you can explore it further on your own. You may want to compare these to the results of the 2011 Less Wrong Survey.
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11/26: The survey is now closed. Please do not take the survey. Your results will not be counted.
It's that time of year again.
If you are reading this post, and have not been sent here by some sort of conspiracy trying to throw off the survey results, then you are the target population for the Less Wrong Census/Survey. Please take it. Doesn't matter if you don't post much. Doesn't matter if you're a lurker. Take the survey.
This year's census contains a "main survey" that should take about ten or fifteen minutes, as well as a bunch of "extra credit questions". You may do the extra credit questions if you want. You may skip all the extra credit questions if you want. They're pretty long and not all of them are very interesting. But it is very important that you not put off doing the survey or not do the survey at all because you're intimidated by the extra credit questions.
The survey will probably remain open for a month or so, but once again do not delay taking the survey just for the sake of the extra credit questions.
Please make things easier for my computer and by extension me by reading all the instructions and by answering any text questions in the most obvious possible way. For example, if it asks you "What language do you speak?" please answer "English" instead of "I speak English" or "It's English" or "English since I live in Canada" or "English (US)" or anything else. This will help me sort responses quickly and easily. Likewise, if a question asks for a number, please answer with a number such as "4", rather than "four".
Okay! Enough nitpicky rules! Time to take the...
Thanks to everyone who suggested questions and ideas for the 2012 Less Wrong Census Survey. I regret I was unable to take all of your suggestions into account, because some of them were contradictory, others were vague, and others would have required me to provide two dozen answers and a thesis paper worth of explanatory text for every question anyone might conceivably misunderstand. But I did make about twenty changes based on the feedback, and *most* of the suggested questions have found their way into the text.
By ancient tradition, if you take the survey you may comment saying you have done so here, and people will upvote you and you will get karma.
The human brain is a massively parallel system. The best such system can do for doing anything efficiently and quickly is to have different small portions of brain compute and submit their partial answers and progressively reduce, combine and cherrypick - a process of which we seem to have almost no direct awareness of, and can only conjecture indirectly as it is the only way thought can possibly work on such slow clocked (~100..200hz) such extremely parallel hardware which uses up a good fraction of body's nutrient supply.
Yet it is immensely difficult for us to think in terms of parallel processes. We have very little access to how the parallel processing works in our heads, and we have very limited ability of considering a parallel process in parallel in our heads. We are only aware of some serial-looking self model within ourselves - a model that we can most easily consider - and we misperceive this model as self; believing ourselves to be self aware when we are only aware of that model which we equated to self.
People aren't, for the most part, discussing how to structure the parallel processing for maximum efficiency or rationality, and applying that to their lives. It's mostly the serial processes that are being discussed. The necessary, inescapable reality of how mind works is entirely sealed from us, and we are not directly aware of it, nor are we discussing and sharing how that works. Whatever little is available, we are not trained to think in those terms - the culture trains us to think in terms of serial, semantic process that would utter things like "I think, therefore I am".
This is in a way depressing to realize.
But at same time this realization brings hope - there may be a lot of low hanging fruit left if the approach has not been very well considered. I personally have been trying to think of myself as of parallel system with some agreement mechanism for a long while now. It does seem to be a more realistic way to think of oneself, in terms of understanding why you make mistakes and how they can be improved, but at same time as with any complex approach where you 'explain' existing phenomena there's a risk of being able to 'explain' anything while understanding nothing.
I propose that we should try to overcome the long standing philosophical model of mind as singular serial computing entity, but instead try approaching it from the parallel computing angle; literature is rife with references to "a part of me wanted", and perhaps we should all take this as much more than allegory. Perhaps the way you work when you decide to do or not do something, is really best thought of as a disagreement of multiple systems with some arbitration mechanism forcing default action; perhaps training - the drill-response kind of training, not simply informing oneself - could allow to make much better choices in the real time, to arrive at choices rationally rather than via some sort of tug of war between regions that propose different answers and the one that sends the strongest signal winning the control.
Of course that needs to be done very cautiously as in the complex and hard to think topics in general its easy to slip towards fuzzy logic where each logical step contains a small fallacy which leads to rapid divergence to the point that you can prove or explain anything. The Freudian style id/ego/superego as simple explanation for literally everything which predicts nothing is not what we want.
A big thank you to the 1090 people who took the second Less Wrong Census/Survey.
Does this mean there are 1090 people who post on Less Wrong? Not necessarily. 165 people said they had zero karma, and 406 people skipped the karma question - I assume a good number of the skippers were people with zero karma or without accounts. So we can only prove that 519 people post on Less Wrong. Which is still a lot of people.
I apologize for failing to ask who had or did not have an LW account. Because there are a number of these failures, I'm putting them all in a comment to this post so they don't clutter the survey results. Please talk about changes you want for next year's survey there.
Of our 1090 respondents, 972 (89%) were male, 92 (8.4%) female, 7 (.6%) transexual, and 19 gave various other answers or objected to the question. As abysmally male-dominated as these results are, the percent of women has tripled since the last survey in mid-2009.
I've tried to keep the structure of the last survey intact so it will be easy to compare results and see changes over time, but there were a few problems with the last survey that required changes, and a few questions from the last survey that just didn't apply as much anymore (how many people have strong feelings on Three Worlds Collide these days?)
Please try to give serious answers that are easy to process by computer (see the introduction). And please let me know as soon as possible if there are any security problems (people other than me who can access the data) or any absolutely awful questions.
I will probably run the survey for about a month unless new people stop responding well before that. Like the last survey, I'll try to calculate some results myself and release the raw data (minus the people who want to keep theirs private) for anyone else who wants to examine it.
Like the last survey, if you take it and post that you took it here, I will upvote you, and I hope other people will upvote you too.
In the next month, the administrators of Less Wrong are going to sit down with a professional designer to tweak the site design. But before they do, now is your chance to make suggestions that will guide their redesign efforts.
How can we improve the Less Wrong user experience? What features aren’t working? What features don’t exist? What would you change about the layout, templates, images, navigation, comment nesting, post/comment editing, side-bars, RSS feeds, color schemes, etc? Do you have specific CSS or HTML changes you'd make to improve load time, SEO, or other valuable metrics?
The rules for this thread are:
- One suggestion per comment.
- Upvote all comments you’d like to see implemented.
BUT DON’T JUMP TO THE COMMENTS JUST YET: Take a few minutes to collect your thoughts and write down your own ideas before reading others’ suggestions. Less contamination = more unique ideas + better feature coverage!
Thanks for your help!
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