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2016 LessWrong Diaspora Survey Results

31 ingres 14 May 2016 05:38PM


As we wrap up the 2016 survey, I'd like to start by thanking everybody who took
the time to fill it out. This year we had 3083 respondents, more than twice the
number we had last year. (Source:
This seems consistent with the hypothesis that the LW community hasn't declined
in population so much as migrated into different communities. Being the *diaspora*
survey I had expectations for more responses than usual, but twice as many was
far beyond them.

Before we move on to the survey results, I feel obligated to put a few affairs
in order in regards to what should be done next time. The copyright situation
for the survey was ambiguous this year, and to prevent that from happening again
I'm pleased to announce that this years survey questions will be released jointly
by me and Scott Alexander as Creative Commons licensed content. We haven't
finalized the details of this yet so expect it sometime this month.

I would also be remiss not to mention the large amount of feedback we received
on the survey. Some of which led to actionable recommendations I'm going to
preserve here for whoever does it next:

- Put free response form at the very end to suggest improvements/complain.

- Fix metaethics question in general, lots of options people felt were missing.

- Clean up definitions of political affilations in the short politics section.
  In particular, 'Communist' has an overly aggressive/negative definition.

- Possibly completely overhaul short politics section.

- Everywhere that a non-answer is taken as an answer should be changed so that
  non answer means what it ought to, no answer or opinion. "Absence of a signal
  should never be used as a signal." - Julian Bigelow, 1947

- Give a definition for the singularity on the question asking when you think it
  will occur.

- Ask if people are *currently* suffering from depression. Possibly add more
  probing questions on depression in general since the rates are so extraordinarily

- Include a link to what cisgender means on the gender question.

- Specify if the income question is before or after taxes.

- Add charity questions about time donated.

- Add "ineligible to vote" option to the voting question.

- Adding some way for those who are pregnant to indicate it on the number of
  children question would be nice. It might be onerous however so don't feel
  obligated. (Remember that it's more important to have a smooth survey than it
  is to catch every edge case.)

And read this thread:,
it's full of suggestions, corrections and criticism.

Without further ado,

Basic Results:

2016 LessWrong Diaspora Survey Questions (PDF Format)

2016 LessWrong Diaspora Survey Results (PDF Format, Missing 23 Responses)

2016 LessWrong Diaspora Survey Results Complete (Text Format, Null Entries Included)

2016 LessWrong Diaspora Survey Results Complete (Text Format, Null Entries Excluded)

2016 LessWrong Diaspora Survey Results Complete (Text Format, Null Entries Included, 13 Responses Filtered, Percentages)

2016 LessWrong Diaspora Survey Results Complete (Text Format, Null Entries Excluded, 13 Responses Filtered, Percentages)

Our report system is currently on the fritz and isn't calculating numeric questions. If I'd known this earlier I'd have prepared the results for said questions ahead of time. Instead they'll be coming out later today or tomorrow. (EDIT: These results are now in the text format survey results.)


Philosophy and Community Issues At LessWrong's Peak (Write Ins)

Peak Philosophy Issues Write Ins (Part One)

Peak Philosophy Issues Write Ins (Part Two)

Peak Community Issues Write Ins (Part One)

Peak Community Issues Write Ins (Part Two)

Philosophy and Community Issues Now (Write Ins)

Philosophy Issues Now Write Ins (Part One)

Philosophy Issues Now Write Ins (Part Two)

Community Issues Now Write Ins (Part One)

Community Issues Now Write Ins (Part Two)


Rejoin Conditions

Rejoin Condition Write Ins (Part One)

Rejoin Condition Write Ins (Part Two)

Rejoin Condition Write Ins (Part Three)

Rejoin Condition Write Ins (Part Four)

Rejoin Condition Write Ins (Part Five)


CC-Licensed Machine Readable Survey and Public Data

2016 LessWrong Diaspora Survey Structure (License)

2016 LessWrong Diaspora Survey Public Dataset

(Note for people looking to work with the dataset: My survey analysis code repository includes a sqlite converter, examples, and more coming soon. It's a great way to get up and running with the dataset really quickly.)

In depth analysis:

Analysis Posts

Part One: Meta and Demographics

Part Two: LessWrong Use, Successorship, Diaspora

Part Three: Mental Health, Basilisk, Blogs and Media

Aggregated Data

Effective Altruism and Charitable Giving Analysis

Mental Health Stats By Diaspora Community (Including self dxers)

How Diaspora Communities Compare On Mental Health Stats (I suspect these charts are subtly broken somehow, will investigate later)

Improved Mental Health Charts By Obormot (Using public survey data)

Improved Mental Health Charts By Anonymous (Using full survey data)

Political Opinions By Political Affiliation

Political Opinions By Political Affiliation Charts (By anonymous)

Blogs And Media Demographic Clusters

Blogs And Media Demographic Clusters (HTML Format, Impossible Answers Excluded)

Calibration Question And Brier Score Analysis

More coming soon!

Survey Analysis Code

Some notes:

1. FortForecast on the communities section, Bayesed And Confused on the blogs section, and Synthesis on the stories section were all 'troll' answers designed to catch people who just put down everything. Somebody noted that the three 'fortforecast' users had the entire DSM split up between them, that's why.

2. Lots of people asked me for a list of all those cool blogs and stories and communities on the survey, they're included in the survey questions PDF above.

Public TODO:

1. Add more in depth analysis, fix the ones that decided to suddenly break at the last minute or I suspect were always broken.

2. Add a compatibility mode so that the current question codes are converted to older ones for 3rd party analysis that rely on them.

If anybody would like to help with these, write to

Lesswrong 2016 Survey

28 Elo 30 March 2016 06:17PM

It’s time for a new survey!

Take the survey now

The details of the last survey can be found here.  And the results can be found here.


I posted a few weeks back asking for suggestions for questions to include on the survey.  As much as we’d like to include more of them, we all know what happens when we have too many questions. The following graph is from the last survey.


(Source: JD’s analysis of 2014 survey data)

Two factors seem to predict if a question will get an answer:

  1. The position

  2. Whether people want to answer it. (Obviously)

People answer fewer questions as we approach the end. They also skip tricky questions. The least answered question on the last survey was - “what is your favourite lw post, provide a link”.  Which I assume was mostly skipped for the amount of effort required either in generating a favourite or in finding a link to it.  The second most skipped questions were the digit-ratio questions which require more work, (get out a ruler and measure) compared to the others. This is unsurprising.

This year’s survey is almost the same size as the last one (though just a wee bit smaller).  Preliminary estimates suggest you should put aside 25 minutes to take the survey, however you can pause at any time and come back to the survey when you have more time.  If you’re interested in helping process the survey data please speak up either in a comment or a PM.

We’re focusing this year particularly on getting a glimpse of the size and shape of the LessWrong diaspora.  With that in mind; if possible - please make sure that your friends (who might be less connected but still hang around in associated circles) get a chance to see that the survey exists; and if you’re up to it - encourage them to fill out a copy of the survey.

The survey is hosted and managed by the team at FortForecast, you’ll be hearing more from them soon. The survey can be accessed through

Survey responses are anonymous in that you’re not asked for your name. At the end we plan to do an opt-in public dump of the data. Before publication the row order will be scrambled, datestamps, IP addresses and any other non-survey question information will be stripped, and certain questions which are marked private such as the (optional) sign up for our mailing list will not be included. It helps the most if you say yes but we can understand if you don’t.  

Thanks to Namespace (JD) and the FortForecast team, the Slack, the #lesswrong IRC on freenode, and everyone else who offered help in putting the survey together, special thanks to Scott Alexander whose 2014 survey was the foundation for this one.

When answering the survey, I ask you be helpful with the format of your answers if you want them to be useful. For example if a question asks for an number, please reply with “4” not “four”.  Going by the last survey we may very well get thousands of responses and cleaning them all by hand will cost a fortune on mechanical turk. (And that’s for the ones we can put on mechanical turk!) Thanks for your consideration.


The survey will be open until the 1st of may 2016


Addendum from JD at FortForecast: During user testing we’ve encountered reports of an error some users get when they try to take the survey which erroneously reports that our database is down. We think we’ve finally stamped it out but this particular bug has proven resilient. If you get this error and still want to take the survey here are the steps to mitigate it:


  1. Refresh the survey, it will still be broken. You should see a screen with question titles but no questions.

  2. Press the “Exit and clear survey” button, this will reset your survey responses and allow you to try again fresh.

  3. Rinse and repeat until you manage to successfully answer the first two questions and move on. It usually doesn’t take more than one or two tries. We haven’t received reports of the bug occurring past this stage.

If you encounter this please mail with details. Screenshots would be appreciated but if you don’t have the time just copy and paste the error message you get into the email.


Take the survey now

Meta - this took 2 hours to write and was reviewed by the slack.

My Table of contents can be found here.

Attention! Financial scam targeting Less Wrong users

24 Viliam_Bur 14 May 2016 05:38PM

Recently, multiple suspicious user accounts were created on Less Wrong. These accounts don't post any content in the forum. Instead, they are used only to send private messages to the existing users.

Many users have received a copy of the same message, but different variants exist, too. Here are the examples I know about. If you have received a different variant, please post it in a comment below this article:


Hi good day. My boss is interested on donating to MIRI's project and he is wondering if he could send money through you and you donate to miri through your company and thus accelertaing the value created. He wants to use "match donations" as a way of donating thats why he is looking for people in companies like you. I want to discuss more about this so if you could see this message please give me a reply. Thank you!


hi. ive made 500k+ the last half year on esport betting and i can show proof. i was a great poker player before that so i have reason to believe i am good and wellsuited at this. i want to offer free education to one of the efw people that have their priorities straight in this world and will work towards minimising existential risk. the higher intelligence the better. ultimately i would like to offload some work to someone because currently i am gettin gquite a bit burnt out and i would like to study finance, and having someone take advantage of the incredible ineffeciencies in this area is of huge importance. i would like to discuss this with someone and how to make it real, and have exchange of thoughts on all of the aspects on how to best do it. i can post proof and make donations to miri to show im serious so that we or someone else could have a discussion about it


I don't know yet about anyone who replied and got scammed, so this is all based on indirect evidence. If you got scammed, please tell me. If you are ashamed, I can publish your story anonymously. Your story could help other potential victims.

Most likely, the scheme is the following:

  1. The scammer will send you money.
  2. Then they will ask some of the money back because they changed their mind, or they mistakenly sent you more than they wanted, or their financial situation suddenly changed, or whatever.
  3. After receiving the money from you, they will flag the original transaction as a fraud, so they get back the money they originally sent you, plus the money you sent them back. Then they disappear, or it will turn out they used a stolen identity, etc.

(Thanks to ChristianKl for explaining the system in the Open Thread.)

If you replied to the original message and now you are already in the middle of the process, please inform your bank as soon as possible! Even if the step 2 didn't happen yet, so you can still get out without losing money, warning your bank about the scammer could help other potential victims.


Warning: If you have already received a check or a payment confirmation, and someone is asking you to send the overpayment back quickly, do not send anything. The check or the payment confirmation is fake, and the goal is to make you send money before you find out. (Thanks to qsz for explaining.)

Several free CFAR summer programs on rationality and AI safety

17 AnnaSalamon 14 April 2016 02:35AM
CFAR will be running several free summer programs this summer which are currently taking applications.  Please apply if you’re interested, and forward the programs also to anyone else who may be a good fit!
continue reading »

Meetup : Washington, D.C.: Survivorship Bias

1 RobinZ 04 May 2016 03:28AM

Discussion article for the meetup : Washington, D.C.: Survivorship Bias

WHEN: 08 May 2016 03:30:00PM (-0400)

WHERE: Reynolds Center

We will be meeting in the courtyard to discuss survivorship bias - statistical biases that come into play when someone tries to understand a whole group by only looking at the examples that made it through a winnowing process.

As always, side conversations are allowed and encouraged.

Upcoming meetups:

  • May 15: Fun & Games
  • May 22: Typical Mind Fallacy
  • May 29: meeting canceled for Memorial Day
  • Jun. 5: Intro to Rationality

Discussion article for the meetup : Washington, D.C.: Survivorship Bias

Meetup : Meet up LW Sao Paulo

1 leohmarruda 09 April 2016 04:57PM

Discussion article for the meetup : Meet up LW Sao Paulo

WHEN: 16 April 2016 02:00:27PM (-0300)

WHERE: Vanilla café - 2o andar, Rua Antônio Carlos, 452. São Paulo, Brazil.

Encontro mensal de racionalistas, novatos são bem vindos! Teremos algumas lições de racionalidade prática, discussões diversas e jogos de tabuleiro no final.

Discussion article for the meetup : Meet up LW Sao Paulo

Meetup : San Jose Meetup: Park Day

1 steven0461 30 March 2016 04:39AM

Discussion article for the meetup : San Jose Meetup: Park Day

WHEN: 03 April 2016 02:00:00PM (-0700)

WHERE: 438 Coleman Ave, San Jose, CA 95110

We thought we'd take advantage of the good weather and have what will hopefully be the first meetup in a series. (There will be at least two people attending.) You're invited to bring whatever you'd like to see at Park Day - balls, frisbees, food, etc. We'll carry a green blanket so you can recognize us. (Or my CFAR bag, if I can find it. If you want to be sure, please check back here later.) The idea is to gather outside near the listed address at the park entrance first, but probably walk elsewhere soon. If you can't find us or there's something else, please call me (Steven) at 510-6844565.

Discussion article for the meetup : San Jose Meetup: Park Day

Meetup : Dallas Meetup

0 DubiousTwizzler 26 June 2016 07:01PM

Discussion article for the meetup : Dallas Meetup

WHEN: 09 July 2016 01:30:00PM (-0500)

WHERE: 3725 Belt Line Rd, Addison, TX 75001

It's been too long since we last had a Dallas meetup. We will be meeting at Dunn Brothers Coffee. Look for the sign that says "LessWrong" on it.

Feel free to comment or PM me if you have any questions.

Discussion article for the meetup : Dallas Meetup

Meetup : Ann Arbor Area Amalgam of Rationalist-Adjacent Anthropoids: Assemblage at Adam's

0 Asymmetric 24 June 2016 04:39PM

Discussion article for the meetup : Ann Arbor Area Amalgam of Rationalist-Adjacent Anthropoids: Assemblage at Adam's

WHEN: 09 July 2016 07:00:00PM (-0400)

WHERE: 2065 Commerce Blvd. #327 Ann Arbor, MI 48103

(Reposted from the advert on the Google Group).

I propose that the next meetup be on Saturday, the Ninth of July in the Two-Thousand-Sixteenth Year of the Common Era, at around 1900 EST.

(It would have been sooner, but I'm busy this weekend and the weekend after is the Fourth of July Weekend.)

If you can read this sentence, you're invited.

If you had to have someone else read that sentence for you or you divined its meaning through clairvoyance or some dark ritual, you're still invited, but in the latter case we will expect a lightning talk on how to practice clairvoyance or dark rituals.

If someone told you about it, you're invited.

If someone re-posted it somewhere else and you read it, you're invited.


No level of expertise is required, however I will expect some people to discourse on the subjects of Alabama and Memory.

They know who they are.

Do not worry if you don't think you're interesting enough. You're much more interesting than you think you are.

Even if you're not, you're invited anyway.

If you're interested in anything at all, speak up. No topic is off limits. (I expect civility, but that hasn't ever been an issue and I don't think it will be.)


We will be meeting at my apartment. Located at: 2065 Commerce Blvd. #327 Ann Arbor, MI 48103

If you need a ride there or back, please let someone know or mail the group well beforehand so we can figure out a way to transport you.

The apartment building has two entrances. If you go around the strip of buildings, there will be a parking lot, vast and free. Buzz at the door (just push the button labelled 327) and I (or someone) will let you in.

To get there on the bus from Down Town Ann Arbor, you can:

  • Take the 28 to Pine Lake Cooperative which is near Pennsylvania Avenue.
  • Take the 29 bus to Liberty and Maple, cross to the kitty corner (there are push-buttons on the signals), and walk south on Maple to Pennsylvania Avenue.
  • Take the 27 bus to Pauline and Maple and walk north to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Pennsylvania Avenue leads into the back parking lot, see above for instructions from there.

If you are allergic to cats, please take something for it beforehand.

Discussion article for the meetup : Ann Arbor Area Amalgam of Rationalist-Adjacent Anthropoids: Assemblage at Adam's

Meetup : Moscow: Words of estimative probability, transparency illusion, belief investigation, rational games

0 berekuk 24 June 2016 12:23AM

Discussion article for the meetup : Moscow: Words of estimative probability, transparency illusion, belief investigation, rational games

WHEN: 26 June 2016 02:00:00PM (+0300)

WHERE: Москва, ул. Большая Дорогомиловская, 5к2

Note: most our members join meetups via other channels. Still, the correlation between "found out about Moscow meetups via" 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 26.06.2016 meetup.

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

Discussion article for the meetup : Moscow: Words of estimative probability, transparency illusion, belief investigation, rational games

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