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

Meetup : West LA—Behold Moloch! Beware of Moloch!

0 OpenThreadGuy 31 July 2014 08:57AM

Discussion article for the meetup : West LA—Behold Moloch! Beware of Moloch!

WHEN: 06 August 2014 07:00:00PM (-0700)

WHERE: 11066 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

How to Find Us: Go into this Del Taco. We will be in the back room.

Parking is free in the lot out front or on the street nearby.

Discussion: Yvain has done it. He has gone beyond the impossible and kicked reason to the curb! He has written Peak Essay, a persuasive epic, a poem in prose of hope and despair. For there is an Enemy; its name is Moloch, the Creator, Moloch the Destroyer, Moloch the Devious Maw! We will be discussing his post Meditations on Moloch.

Recommended Reading:

No prior exposure to Less Wrong is required; this will be generally accessible. But you may be changed beyond repair, and the better for it.

Discussion article for the meetup : West LA—Behold Moloch! Beware of Moloch!

Meetup : West LA

0 OpenThreadGuy 06 June 2014 07:08AM

Discussion article for the meetup : West LA

WHEN: 31 July 2014 04:05:00AM (-0700)

WHERE: 11066 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

VOID

Discussion article for the meetup : West LA

Comment author: OpenThreadGuy 30 April 2014 06:13:40PM 4 points [-]

I was there.

"but most of our time was spent thinking about probability distributions on consistent theories" seems incorrect to me, unless I'm a lot more confused than I thought I was. What I saw was that we spent an equal amount of time on essentially three topics:

  1. Trying to manufacture a truth-predicate weaker than provability but still able to do work, for getting around Löb's theorem;
  2. Binary logical versions/formulations of Solomonoff Induction (Abram's prior);
  3. What to do if you have an inconsistent set of probabilities over sentences / how to turn inconsistent probabilities into a prior (probability distributions on consistent theories).

(The hosts then talked about #3 for seven more hours after the official end of the mini-workshop. Scott apparently spent n hours after that writing down what he had talked and thought about. And then it was a dead end. Таких математике!)

Despite my lack of math knowledge, I enjoyed attending. I am even told that I did not distract everyone with my stupid questions and uninteresting ideas, so I will go to future ones as well.

The other participants were madmen. They didn't take any breaks at all, only furiously bashed brains against unsolvable problems, demanding solutions from the aether and holding their ideas hostage until some otherworldly god, some invisible champion of mathematics relented to give them what they want. They did not succeed, nor did they fail, for they have not given up. To tell the truth, it was a little bit frightening.

I got all excited about math because of this, which may or may not be a positive effect, and hopefully next time I'll have read some of the relevant papers, and understood more than a modicum.

Meetup : West LA—Honor and Glory

2 OpenThreadGuy 24 April 2014 10:24PM

Discussion article for the meetup : West LA—Honor and Glory

WHEN: 30 April 2014 06:59:00PM (-0700)

WHERE: 11066 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

How to Find Us: Go into this Del Taco. I will bring a Rubik's Cube. The presence of a Rubik's Cube will be strong Bayesian evidence of the presence of a Less Wrong meetup.

Parking is completely free. There is a sign that claims there is a 45-minute time limit, but it is not enforced.

Discussion: Honor, next to courage, is the manliest virtue, but manliness and chivalry are dead, and so one wonders (when one is not me) whether honor matters anymore, whether it brings goodness to the world or whether it is merely another status signal. I claim that it is still a virtue even in these depraved and decadent times, that the function of honor is a commitment device: it is the ability to make promises, to fail gracefully if one should fail, to be punished with harm rather than death when one makes a reasonable mistake, and to grow in reputation and in stature. But while it can be true and beautiful, it can be exploited, by mountebanks and scavengers alike. For honor is inextricably tied to reputation, and no commitment device can give a man enough control over what others think of him to reliably prevent atrocities.

Recommended Reading:

NB: No prior knowledge of or exposure to Less Wrong is necessary; this will be generally accessible. However, I will tolerate no slights nor aspersions on my ancestry.

You must thoroughly research this.

Discussion article for the meetup : West LA—Honor and Glory

Meetup : West LA—Expert At Vs. Expert On

2 OpenThreadGuy 07 March 2014 10:10AM

Discussion article for the meetup : West LA—Expert At Vs. Expert On

WHEN: 12 March 2014 06:00:00PM (-0800)

WHERE: 11066 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

How to Find Us: Go into this Del Taco. I will bring a Rubik's Cube. The presence of a Rubik's Cube will be strong Bayesian evidence of the presence of a Less Wrong meetup.

Parking is completely free. There is a sign that claims there is a 45-minute time limit, but it is a lie.

Discussion: Expert at vs. expert on is a fairly important distinction. It's also a really simple one, which makes it conceptual low-hanging fruit. It's not totally without nuance; for example the terminology implies either total mastery or encyclopedic knowledge, but it applies just as well at any level of competence.

Recommended Reading:

  • Expert At Versus Expert On. I know of no other writing that is explicitly on this topic. Robin Hanson emphasizes the signaling aspect (of course he does), but I do not.
  • It is well-known that you learn to play baseball by playing baseball, not by reading essays about baseball. However, it is not usually made explicit that the former makes you an expert at baseball, and the latter makes you an expert on baseball.
  • Another nuance: Being an expert at something helps you become an expert on it; the vice versa may be true also. For example, you are probably a better linguist if you speak many languages.

NB: No prior knowledge of or exposure to Less Wrong is necessary; this will be generally accessible. Also, we may or may not play a card game.

Discussion article for the meetup : West LA—Expert At Vs. Expert On

Meetup : West LA—Practical Taoism

2 OpenThreadGuy 21 February 2014 08:05AM

Discussion article for the meetup : West LA—Practical Taoism

WHEN: 26 February 2014 07:00:00PM (-0800)

WHERE: 11066 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

How to Find Us: Go into the Del Taco. I will bring a Rubik's Cube and put it on a table, in case you require visual confirmation that You Are In The Right Place before asking anyone whether you're in the right place.

Parking is, well, I don't actually know. There's a sign that says the local lot allows only 45 minutes, but that may or may not be enforced. Others have reported that it's easy to find less time-unlimited parking nearby, although not as guaranteed.

Discussion:

Look at your Internet argument. Now look at http://ow.ly/nt1B3 Now look at your Internet argument. Your Internet argument is now stupid. Actually, your internet argument was already stupid.—St. Rev

If you have political opinions, you are a fool. If you think your political opinions matter, you are doubly the fool. If you think it's important that other people share your political opinions: fool. If you actually spend a significant portion of your time trying to get people to have the same political opinions as you, you cannot be redeemed. These are the facts that we must face, because you and I are but human and do not understand society. Metapolitical opinions, of course, are completely rational and not at all subject to these considerations.

We will be discussing Michael Huemer's paper In Praise of Passivity, of which section 4 is practical advice given its conclusions. Hence practical Taoism: useful inaction.

Recommended Reading:

No prior knowledge of or exposure to Less Wrong is necessary; this will be generally accessible. However, I would very much like it if someone, anyone, anyone at all, were to read the material beforehand.

Discussion article for the meetup : West LA—Practical Taoism

Comment author: OpenThreadGuy 17 February 2014 06:34:54AM *  13 points [-]

Capital idea, old sport. I was considering making a thread about our group, but now there's no need. Supposing then that I, Grognor, should kick things off with a State of the Union address for the West Los Angeles LW meetups, eh, wot?

Our relocation last week went well. It was my goal to make it as difficult as possible not to know we had Officially Moved Somewhere Else; to that end I mentioned it in every single paragraph in the meetup post and the post to the mailing list, and individually messaged everyone I could contact who had ever attended who was not there when we agreed to move, two weeks ago. To the extent that this means anything, it means fast food places with good acoustics (no matter how loud we are in the back, you can't hear us at the front! which is cool) are better than dark, noisy, out-of-the-way bars where closed-to-the-public events frequently happen.

Abram recently proposed (because we are ostensibly a Less Wrong meetup group) that each week we openly report on rational or irrational things we've noticed ourselves doing since the last date of attendance, or whenever, really. I think it's a good idea, as it may provide useful feedback, motivation for the speakers, and inspiration to the audience, but it's been difficult to put into practice, because people naturally tend to talk of sundrier things, and because it's just really difficult to keep track of one's rationality. "The" checklist is unwieldy and there are still few objective day-to-day rationality metrics. I'm going to keep trying, though.

Over the last year, there has been a transition from/to, and a tension between, more practical meetup topics, and more theoretical, mathematical ones. I think this distinction is unprincipled and lacking in nuance; nevertheless it exists, and to the extent I do not say "mu" to the very framework, I lean toward the theoretical and the mathematical. This even though the meetups I've hosted have been more on the former side, with two exceptions. This is entirely because I don't know enough math, which I now consider a character flaw. One which I am remedying, 'ho!.

A couple of times, we've played a game called Contact, which is surprisingly fun for something that requires no equipment. It has nothing to do with rationality. We have played The Resistance a few times, which has received mixed reactions. Anton has introduced us to Quantum Go-Fish (also called Quantum Fingers, although Anton's name is better), which everyone likes the idea of but is really hard to play. There are basically two versions: one where we have cards and paperclips and everyone tries to play, and the version where we try to keep track of everything in our heads and on our fingers and all the fun is from everybody getting confused about the actual state of the game. The latter might be called "Drunken Quantum Go-Fish", since there's no reason to play it while sober. We have not tried the former. We haven't tried very many activities together, nor projects, even though I've tried to inspire people to make something more out of the group.

It seems most others just want a group to hang out with on Wednesday nights, and I'm the only one that wants to do some useful stuff with the group. This is okay; people shouldn't engineer some project just because I want them to. However, some of us have a Secret Awesome Thing in the works; stay tuned, but don't be surprised if it produces nothing.

This comment is already pretty long, so I might as well soapbox a bit: The "How to Run a Successful Less Wrong Meetup Group" PDF is terrible. It's full of gross salesman prose and useless pictures that require more scrolling, and because it's two columns, half the scrolling you must do is upways. If no one else wants to be a hero, I might just (with the blessing of (Luke? Kaj? whoever owns this thing)) condense it into a proper LW post or wiki article like it should have been all along, if I have another burst of mania like the one that caused this comment. and free access to a CFAR workshop.

For lack of a better name, The West LA LW Meetup Group is a fun and growing crowd. By the ever-reliable metric of "intuition", I think we are a successful group, in part thanks to me. We seem to be unique in that, rather than having zero hosts or one person who hosts every time, whoever feels like hosting the next meetup just goes ahead and does so. We meet every week, but when no one feels like hosting, the meetup is unannounced, on both this site and the mailing list, and attendance is smaller when that happens. I prefer these meetups, because they are more intimate and less stressful, although this is an uncommon sentiment. I might prefer if "someone" took over and hosted every meetup, to reduce the total number of decisions we collectively have to make about who hosts.

I really appreciate this crowd. They have directly improved my life, not only with their presence but also with acts of kindness and of prudence, and I have improved theirs with my stage presence and the items I give to every newcomer. The West LA LW Meetup Group is approximately my entire meatspace social life, and thus I say hooray.

Meetup : [ALERT] West LA [ALERT] Location Change!!

5 OpenThreadGuy 06 February 2014 08:50AM

Discussion article for the meetup : [ALERT] West LA [ALERT] Location Change!!

WHEN: 12 February 2014 07:00:00PM (-0800)

WHERE: 11066 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

WARNING

THE BAD THING WILL HAPPEN IF YOU GO TO THE OLD LOCATION

YOU WILL BE ALONE, AND SCARED

WE HAVE MOVED

We are now meeting in this Del Taco.

Parking is completely free, no chicanery required. This is because we have relocated to a Del Taco where parking is free.

Discussion: We have relocated. Do not go to the old location. We are now meeting in a Del Taco near Santa Monica Blvd. and Sepulveda Blvd. It is not a very classy place, but there is cheap food and plenty of room.

Recommended reading:

  • Please, do not go to the old location. Go to the new location. Seriously.

No prior knowledge or exposure to Less Wrong or Del Taco is necessary; this will be generally accessible. Only suffering and death awaits those who go to the wrong place.

Discussion article for the meetup : [ALERT] West LA [ALERT] Location Change!!

Meetup : West LA—How to Live on 22 Hours a Day

2 OpenThreadGuy 06 January 2014 06:11AM

Discussion article for the meetup : West LA—How to Live on 22 Hours a Day

WHEN: 08 January 2014 07:00:00PM (-0800)

WHERE: 10850 West Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064, USA

How to get in: Go to the Westside Tavern in the upstairs Wine Bar (all ages welcome), located inside the Westside Pavillion on the second floor, right by the movie theaters. The entrance sign says "Lounge".

Parking is free for 24 hours a day. Sorry, I mean three hours. Just three.

Discussion: Previously discussed on Less Wrong, How to Live on 24 Hours a Day, by Arnold Bennett, is a remarkable and short book from 1910 about how to make the most out of your time. Hustle and bustle have increased a tad since then, so it it is my goal to compress the book's 24-hour methodology into a paltry 22. Bennett gives you two hours with which to deviate from his programme—I am giving you two more.

Recommended reading:

  • How to Live on 24 Hours a Day, by Arnold Bennett. I highly recommend reading this book, either before the meetup, so that you are prepared to discuss it, or after the meetup, when you've been sufficiently oiled for it. Either is fine, as I will prepare a summary.

No prior knowledge of or exposure to Less Wrong is necessary; this will be generally accessible. It's been a while, comrades; this will be our first meetup of 2014! Might I say, welcome back, returners, and welcome, new-folk!

Discussion article for the meetup : West LA—How to Live on 22 Hours a Day

Meetup : West LA—A Conversation About Conversations

0 OpenThreadGuy 29 November 2013 12:01AM

Discussion article for the meetup : West LA—A Conversation About Conversations

WHEN: 04 December 2013 07:00:00PM (-0800)

WHERE: 10850 West Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064, USA

How to get in: Go to the Westside Tavern in the upstairs Wine Bar (all ages welcome), located inside the Westside Pavillion on the second floor, right by the movie theaters. The entrance sign says "Lounge".

Parking is free for three hours, or for longer if you have ascended.

Discussion:

OPTIMIZE LITERALLY EVERYTHING

—rejected t-shirt idea

We are going to talk about the way we talk about things. We are rationalists, and that means we make things, such as conversations, better than they are. When should we allow topics to drift? How do we determine who gets to speak, and when? How do we prevent useful technical discussions from decaying into talking about movies or the weather? What is the best topic? Why won't anyone listen to me? Where is everyone going? Come back!

Required reading:

Recommended reading:

No prior knowledge of or exposure to Less Wrong is necessary; this will be generally accessible.

Discussion article for the meetup : West LA—A Conversation About Conversations

View more: Next