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

Comment author: RyanCarey 24 April 2015 10:01:29PM 1 point [-]

For what it's worth, I used xelatex and some of Alex Vermeer's code, but I can't see why any would effect the links, and can't find any suggestions for why this would occur in Sumatra. I'll just sit on this for now, but if more people have a similar issue, I'll look further. Thanks.

Comment author: lukeprog 26 April 2015 03:02:30AM 1 point [-]

People have complained about Sumatra not working with MIRI's PDF ebooks, too. It was hard enough already to get our process to output the links we want on most readers, so we decided not to make the extra effort to additionally support Sumatra. I'm not sure what it would take.

Comment author: Epictetus 10 February 2015 11:23:20AM *  9 points [-]

I suppose I can think up a few tomes of eldritch lore that I have found useful (college math specifically):


Recommendation: Differential and Integral Calculus

Author: Richard Courant


Stewart, Calculus: Early Transcendentals: This is a fairly standard textbook for freshman calculus. Mediocre overall.

Morris Kline, Calculus: An Intuitive and Physical Approach: Great book. As advertised, focuses on building intuition. Provides a lot of examples that aren't the usual contrived "applications". This would work well as a companion piece to the recommended text.

Courant, Differential and Integral Calculus (two volumes): One of the few math textbooks that manages to properly explain and motivate things and be rigorous at the same time. You'll find loads of actual applications. There are plenty of side topics for the curious as well as appendices that expand on certain theoretical points. It's quite rigorous, so a companion text might be useful for some readers. There's an updated version edited by Fritz John (Introduction to Calculus and Analysis), but I am unfamiliar with it.

Linear Algebra:

Recommended Text: Linear Algebra

Author: Georgi Shilov


David Lay, Linear Algebra and its Applications: Used this in my undergraduate class. Okay introduction that covers the usual topics.

Sheldon Axler, Linear Algebra Done Right: Ambitious title. The book develops linear algebra in a clean, elegant, and determinant-free way (avoiding determinants is the "done right" bit, though they are introduced in the last chapter). It does prove to be a drawback, as determinants are a useful tool if not abused. This book is also a bit abstract and is intended for students who have already studied linear algebra.

Georgi Shilov, Linear Algebra: No-nonsense Russian textbook. Explanations are clear and everything is done with full rigor. This is the book I used when I wanted to understand linear algebra and it delivered.

Horn and Johnson, Matrix Analysis: I'm putting this in for completion purposes. It's a truly stellar book that will teach you almost everything you wanted to know about matrices. The only reason I don't have this as the recommendation is that it's rather advanced and ill-suited for someone new to the subject.

Numerical Methods

Recommendation: Numerical Recipes: The Art of Scientific Computing

Author: Press, Teukolsky, Vetterling, Flannery


Bulirsch and Stoer, Introduction to Numerical Analysis: German rigor. Thorough and thoroughly terse, this is one of those good textbooks that only a sadist would recommend to a beginner.

Kendall Atkinson, An Introduction to Numerical Analysis: Rigorous treatment of numerical analysis. It covers the main topics and is far more accessible than the text by Bulirsch and Stoer.

Press, Teukolsky, Vetterling, Flannery, Numerical Recipes: The Art of Scientific Computing: Covers just about every numerical method outside of PDE solvers (though this is touched on). Provides source code implementing just about all the methods covered and includes plenty of tips and guidelines for choosing the appropriate method and implementing it. THE book for people with a practical bent. I would recommend using the text by Atkinson or Bulirsch and Stoer to brush up on the theory, however.

Richard Hamming, Numerical Methods for Scientists and Engineers: How can I fail to mention a book written by a master of the craft? This book is probably the best at communicating the "feel" of numerical analysis. Hamming begins with an essay on the principles of numerical analysis and the presentations in the rest of the book go beyond the formulas. I docked points for its age and more limited scope.

Ordinary Differential Equations

Recommended: Ordinary Differential Equations

Author: Vladimir Arnold


Coddington, An Introduction to Ordinary Differential Equations: Solid intro from the author of one of the texts in the field. Definite theoretical bent that doesn't really touch on applications.

Tenenbaum and Pollard, Ordinary Differential Equations: This book manages to be both elementary and comprehensive. Extremely well-written and divides the material into a series of manageable "Lessons". Covers lots and lots of techniques that you might not find elsewhere and gives plenty of applications.

Vladimir Arnold, Ordinary Differential Equations: Great text with a strong geometric bent. The language of flows and phase spaces is introduced early on, which becomes relevant as the book ends with a treatment of differential equations on manifolds. Explanations are clear and Arnold avoids a lot of the pedantry that would otherwise preclude this kind of treatment (although it requires more out of the reader). It's probably the best book I've seen for intuition on the subject and that's why I recommend it. Use Tenenbaum and Pollard as a companion if you want to see more solution methods.

Abstract Algebra:

Note: I am mainly familiar with graduate texts, so be warned that these books are not beginner-friendly.

Recommended: Basic Algebra

Author: Nathan Jacobson


Bourbaki, Algebra: The French Bourbaki tradition in all its glory. Shamelessly general and unmotivated, this is not for the faint of heart. The drawback is its age, as there is no treatment of category theory.

Lang, Algebra: Lang was once a member of the aforementioned Bourbaki. In usual Serge Lang style, this is a tough, rigorous book that has no qualms with doing things in full generality. The language of category theory is introduced early and heavily utilized. Great for the budding algebraist.

Hungerford, Algebra: Less comprehensive, but more accessible than Lang's book. It's a good choice for someone who wants to learn the subject without having to grapple with Lang.

Jacobson, Basic Algebra (2 volumes): Note that the "Basic" in the title means "so easy, a first-year grad student can understand it". Mathematicians are a strange folk, but I digress. It's comprehensive, well-organized, and explains things clearly. I'd recommend it as being easier than Bourbaki and Lang yet more comprehensive and a better reference than Hungerford.

Elementary Real Analysis:

"Elementary" here means that it doesn't emphasize Lebesgue integration or functional analysis

Recommended: Principles of Mathematical Analysis

Author: Walter Rudin


Rudin, Principles of Mathematical Analysis: Infamously terse. Rudin likes to do things in the greatest generality and the proofs tend to be slick (i.e. rely on clever arguments that don't really clarify the thing being proved). It's thorough, it's rigorous, and the exercises tend to be difficult. You won't find any straightforward definition-pushing here. If you had a rigorous calculus course (like Courant's book), you should be fine.

Kenneth Ross, Elementary Analysis: The Theory of Calculus: I'd put this book as a gap-filler. It doesn't go into topology and is rather straightforward. If you learned the "cookbook" approach to calculus, you'll probably benefit from this book. If your calculus class was rigorous, I'd skip it.

Serge Lang, Undergraduate Analysis: It's a Serge Lang book. Contrary to the title, I don't think I'd recommend it for undergraduates.

G.H. Hardy, A Course of Pure Mathematics: Classic text. Hardy was a first-rate mathematician and it shows. The downside is that the book is over 100 years old and there are a few relevant topics that came out in the intervening years.

Comment author: lukeprog 15 April 2015 12:19:58AM 1 point [-]

Updated, thanks!

Comment author: Gram_Stone 02 January 2015 06:28:40AM 0 points [-]

Just so you know, the title of Spivak's book has been misspelled as 'Caclulus.'

Comment author: lukeprog 15 April 2015 12:07:56AM 0 points [-]

Fixed, thanks.

Comment author: lukeprog 07 April 2015 02:27:47AM 9 points [-]

Maybe just use odds ratios. That's what I use when I'm trying to make updates on the spot.

Comment author: lukeprog 22 March 2015 10:05:42PM *  22 points [-]

Working on MIRI's current technical agenda mostly requires a background in computer science with an unusually strong focus on logic: see details here. That said, the scope of MIRI's research program should be expanding over time. E.g. see Patrick's recent proposal to model goal stability challenges in a machine learning system, which would require more typical AI knowledge than has usually been the case for MIRI's work so far.

MIRI's research isn't really what a mathematician would typically think of as "math research" — it's more like theory-heavy computer science research with an unusually significant math/logic component, as is the case with a few other areas of computer science research, e.g. program analysis.

Also see the "Our recommended path for becoming a MIRI research fellow" section on our research fellow job posting.

Comment author: richard_reitz 19 March 2015 10:31:18PM *  2 points [-]

"Baby Rudin" refers to "Principles of Mathematical Analysis", not "Real and Complex Analysis" (as was currently listed up top.) (Source)

Comment author: lukeprog 19 March 2015 11:08:36PM 1 point [-]

Fixed, thanks!

Comment author: lukeprog 18 March 2015 11:37:39PM 8 points [-]

I tried this earlier, with Great Explanations.

Comment author: quinox 15 March 2015 10:52:47AM 9 points [-]

I can't mail that address, I get a failure message from Google:

We're writing to let you know that the group you tried to contact (errata) may not exist, or you may not have permission to post messages to the group.

I'll post my feedback here:


I got the book "Rationality: From AI to Zombies" via intelligence.org/e-junkie for my Kindle (5th gen, not the paperwhite/touch/fire). So far I've read a dozen pages, but since it will take me a while to get to the end of the book I'll give some feedback right away:

  • The book looks great! Some other ebooks I have don't use page-breaks at the end of a chapter, don't have a Table of Content, have inconsistent font types/sizes etc. The PDF version is very pretty as well.

  • The filename "Rationality.mobi" (AI-Zombie) is the same as "rationality.mobi" (HPMOR)

  • A bunch of inter-book links such as "The Twelve Virtues of Rationality"/"Predictably Wrong"/"Fake Beliefs"/"Noticing Confusion" (all from Biases: An introduction) don't work: On my Kindle I have the option to "Follow link", but when I choose it the page refreshes and I'm still at the same spot.

    Inspecting the .mobi source with Calibre e-book reader I see:

    < a href="XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX" >Noticing Confusion< /a>

    The links from the TOCs and some other chapters do work properly.

  • Due to the lack of quotation marks and the nonuse of italics I didn't realize the part "As a consequence, it might be necessary" was a quote (Biases: An introduction). The extra margin left and right do indicate something special, but with the experience of so many bad ebooks my brain assumed it was just a broken indentation level.

  • The difference between a link going to the web and one going to a location within the book aren't obvious: one is only a slighter darker grey than the other. In Calibri the links are a nice green/blue, but my kindle doesn't have colours.


Comment author: lukeprog 15 March 2015 06:27:14PM 5 points [-]

I can't mail that address, I get a failure message from Google

Oops. Should be fixed now.

Comment author: Nanashi 13 March 2015 06:09:41PM 1 point [-]

Re: 0%, that's fair. Originally I included 0% because certain questions are either unanswerable (due to being blank, contextless, or whatnot) but even then there's still a non-zero possibility of guessing the right answer out of a near-infinite number of choices.

Re: Calibration across multiple sessions. Good idea. I'll start with a local-based solution because that would be easiest and then eventually do an account-based thing.

Re: Blank questions. Yeah, I should probably include some kind of check to see if the question is blank and skip it if so.

Comment author: lukeprog 13 March 2015 09:57:50PM 2 points [-]

Thanks! BTW, I'd prefer to have 1% and 0.1% and 99% and 99.9% as options, rather than skipping over the 1% and 99% options as you have it now.

Comment author: owencb 13 March 2015 07:56:56PM 4 points [-]

I think it's misleading to just drop in the statement that 0 and 1 are not probabilities.

There is a reasonable and arguably better definition of probabilities which excludes them, but it's not the standard one, and it also has costs -- for example probabilities are a useful tool in building models, and it is sometimes useful to use probabilities 0 and 1 in models.

(aside: it works as a kind of 'clickbait' in the original article title, and Eliezer doesn't actually make such a controversial statement in the post, so I'm not complaining about that)

Comment author: lukeprog 13 March 2015 09:55:55PM 1 point [-]

Fair enough. I've edited my original comment.

(For posterity: the text for my original comment's first hyperlink originally read "0 and 1 are not probabilities".)

View more: Next