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Welcome to Less Wrong! (6th thread, July 2013)

21 Post author: KnaveOfAllTrades 26 July 2013 02:35AM
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.


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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.

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* Randaly
* shokwave
* 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!


Once a post gets over 500 comments, the site stops showing them all by default. If this post has 500 comments and you have 20 karma, please do start the next welcome post; a new post is a good perennial way to encourage newcomers and lurkers to introduce themselves. (Step-by-step, foolproof instructions here; takes <180seconds.)

If there's anything I should add or update on this post (especially broken links), please send me a private message—I may not notice a comment on the post.

Finally, a big thank you to everyone that helped write this post via its predecessors!

Comments (513)

Comment author: So8res 25 July 2013 07:18:36PM *  50 points [-]

I'm Nate. I'm 23. My road here was a winding one.

I grew up as one of those "mathematically gifted" kids in a tiny rural town. I turned away from mathematics towards computer science (which I loved) and economics (which I decided I needed to understand if I wanted to save the world). I went on to became a software engineer at Google.

At the intersection of computer science and economics I fueled a strong belief that the world is broken and that we could do far better if we redesigned social structure from scratch, now that we have so much more knowledge & technology than we did when we created these antiquated governments. I despaired that most think progress entails playing the political tug of war instead of building a better system. I spent a long time refining my ideas.

In the interim I missed a number of opportunities to discover this site. In 2008 I stumbled across the Quantum Physics sequence on Overcoming Bias. I read it up till where it was still being written, then moved on. In 2010, I found HPMoR. I read it, noticed the links to this site, and poked around a little. Nothing came of it. I caught up to where HPMoR was being written, then put it out of my mind. I had more important things to do. I had big ideas to express, and I started writing them down.

At some point along the way I realized I needed more math. To my horror, I found that the math I had been so good at as kid was largely memorized, not deeply understood. I knew how to manipulate symbols like nobody's business, but I wouldn't have been able to re-invent the things I "knew" if you erased them from my mind. (In LW terms, I had memorized many passwords). I started going back through what I thought I knew and groking it.

During my journey, sometime early in 2012, I stumbled across the Quantum Physics sequence on LessWrong. From the summaries, it seemed like a good way to quickly evaluate how much of my QM knowledge was cached passwords and how much I had really learned. I started reading it and experienced a strong sense of deja vu. I figured out that LW was seeded by Overcoming Bias, experienced some nostalgia, put the feeling to rest, and moved on.

Relearning math and learning to write morphed into a more general quest to promote clear thinking and better methods of deduction with a long-term goal of bridging my pet inferential gap. As I researched and wrote, this one site kept popping up in my search results -- LessWrong.

Around the same time (late 2012) I heard about updates to HPMoR. I hadn't been following it for years, but I was suddenly reminded why the site felt so familiar. I'm not exactly sure how everything fell into place, but some combination LessWrong showing up in my research, a recollection that HPMoR was associated, and the remembered nostalgia from the Quantum Physics sequence all came together. I finally decided to see what this site was all about.

The rest is history. I tore through the sequences. Much of it was extremely validating: Mysterious Answers and Politics is the Mindkiller expressed much of what I had set out to say. I've always planned to cheat death. I attempted a similar dissolution of "free will" a few years back. The rest of it was largely epiphany porn.

The strongest epiphany came when I was introduced to the idea of UFAI. From my vantage point between economics and computer science, everything clicked. Hard.

I'd taken AI courses, but AI was a "centuries in the future" sort of vagary. My primary concern was with finding a way to "refactor" governments (and create meta-governments, as I do not claim to know the best way to run a society). To me, that was The Way To Save The World™ -- until I actually thought about UFAI.

I didn't need any convincing. I simply... hadn't considered it before. Upon first reflection, the scope of the problem became clear. I experienced panic, and not because UFAI is scary: overnight, my Way To Save The World was eclipsed by a threat that darkens the entire future.

It's hard to overstate how much my ideals motivate me. The AI problem shook me to my core. I'd ostensibly been trying to save the world, how could I miss something as obvious as UFAI? How could I take my ideals seriously if I'd misunderstood the problem so hard that I hadn't considered existential threats? In light of this new information, what should I really be doing to ensure a bright future?

I went into philosophical-panic reevaluate-everything mode. That was a few months ago. I've done a lot of reflection. I'm still a bit shaken. I have grand ideas about how we can get to a better social structure from here and a lot of inertial passion along those lines. I don't know nearly enough math. I feel like I'm late to the party, passionate but impotent. I'm trying to find a way to help beyond donating to MIRI. I feel outclassed here, which is probably a good thing. I'm working on getting stronger. I have a lot to do.


Comment author: CoffeeStain 28 July 2013 10:54:04PM 5 points [-]


We need to talk more.

Comment author: So8res 29 July 2013 12:47:20PM 6 points [-]

Let's. I'm on the east coast until Aug 11. Perhaps we can meet up after work on the week of the 12th.

(Context for others: The two of us met briefly at a meetup in June and exchanged usernames, but haven't spoken much.)

Comment author: Alex_Miller 17 November 2014 08:33:05PM 34 points [-]

Hello. My name is Alex. I am the 10-year-old son of LessWrong user James_Miller.

I am very good at math for my age. I have read several of the books on rationality that my dad owns, and he convinced me to join this community. I like the idea of everyone in a community being honest because I often get into trouble at school for saying honest things that people don't like and talking back to adults(which seems like it's defined as not doing exactly what you're told.)

My favorite subject in school is math. At home, my interests are playing the video game Minecraft and doing origami, but I also like to read and play soccer.

I have much to learn in the art of rationality, such as finding more ways to be in flow. My dad tells me that there are a lot of people on this site who were like me as children, and I would love advice on how to be less bored in school, controlling my emotions, and finding ways to improve myself in general.

Comment author: ike 18 November 2014 05:04:16PM *  9 points [-]

My name is Avi, and I'm 19.

I was similiar in some aspects to you when I was a kid, in particular being good at math (did calculus and programming at 12-13), getting in trouble, being bored in school, reading a lot, having trouble with emotions.

I hadn't had an explicitly rational upbringing, and only recently (9 months or so) got into it after a chance encounter with HPMOR.

I'll try to give advice on the things you asked. Bear in mind that I didn't actually try any of this when I was in school, it's mostly what I would advise my younger self if I had to do it over.

So, you mention being bored in school. There are at least three possible scenarios for that, which should be solved differently:

  1. You have trouble concentrating or generating the will to concentrate on material that you don't know, but think is important.
  2. You think the material being taught is unimportant and therefore don't care about paying attention.
  3. You already know all or some of the material that is being taught.

I don't really have anything for 1 aside from the standard "force yourself to pay attention", maybe others can help.

For 3, you could consider asking (or having your parents ask) to be skipped a class, or ask to be allowed off, if you really know everything that is being taught. (I haven't taken any real math classes since sometime around 7th grade. I'd take out books from the library and just go through them. Also someone gave me a bunch of old Martin Gardner books about math, which are quite interesting if you can find them.)

If you absolutely must be in a class where you already know what's being taught, try finding math questions to think about that you can memorize, so you can work on them without looking like you're doing something else. Try http://brilliant.org/ , and find your level. You should be able to easily memorize a few questions each day, and work them out mentally throughout the day, perhaps writing down the answers during recess or something. I've done this myself sometimes, when I had to wait for a bus and it would be awkward to read something while waiting.

For 2, you should carefully consider how likely it is that you already know, at 10, what kinds of things are likely to be important, better than whoever planned your curriculum. If you really feel that way, respond and I'll come up with something for that, but I do think it's unlikely.

Comment author: Alex_Miller 19 November 2014 08:21:41PM 4 points [-]

Thanks! I'm the 3rd scenario in my case, and I joined that Brilliant website. It seems to be helpful so far. I do have to participate in classes where I know everything, so what I'll end up doing most of the time is having my dad send me to school with special math worksheets that are at my level that I can do during math class.

I already have some Martin Gardener books, and will be ordering more, as you are not the only person who recommended him.

Comment author: Natha 18 November 2014 08:37:07PM *  7 points [-]

Hey Alex!

When I think back to when I was your age, I really wished I had gotten more involved in math competitions. Does your school have any programs like MATHCOUNTS, AMC8, etc.? I didn't compete in any academic competitions until high school, and I really wished that I had known about them earlier on. It makes getting ahead in math so much fun and it helps lay some really important foundations for the more complicated stuff.

Anyway, keep up the good work!

Comment author: Sarunas 18 November 2014 10:33:18PM *  5 points [-]

Also anything by Martin Gardner, because his books are so much fun and help to spark your imagination.

At a young age one of the most important thing to develop is a habit of perseverance and not giving up when trying to solve a problem and avoiding developing areas of learned blankness. You should develop an unfaltering confidence to use your own head when trying to solve the problems. Sharpening mental capabilities and developing good mental habits and attitudes seems to be more important than learning more things (for example, the author of many AoPS books, Richard Rusczyk, thinks that it is better for kids to sharpen their minds solving olympiad problems than learn calculus), although desire to learn more, to build your own understanding, is also important. And it is not necessary that the problems are mathematical in nature. For example, if you read Richard Feynman's "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!", you would notice that as a young boy he loved to fix things and everybody brought their broken radios to him. He would then fix them, seeing it as a challenge, as a problem to solve. He had to find a way to fix it, no matter how non-obvious the problem was. I think this helped him to sharpen his mind and instilled a good habit to see interesting problems everywhere. If you have to think for yourself, you lessen the risk of developing learned blankness. Try to think for yourself, even if it takes much more time than simply finding solution on the internet. In the long run, developing good mental habits is probably the most important thing.

Comment author: iarwain1 18 November 2014 08:50:43PM 4 points [-]

Also check out the Art of Problem Solving books. They've also got some interesting resources on their website.

Comment author: Alsadius 19 December 2014 02:37:34PM *  4 points [-]

I'm 29 now, but I was a lot like you at age 10. I think you'll like it here - you might find some material too advanced, but then I still do sometimes, so don't be too worried. You'll pick it up as you go along.

I can tell you stories of what I was doing at your age, but frankly I don't think it'd help much(since I did a lot of things wrong myself). The one piece of advice I'll give you that I think might actually help is this essay: http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html - more than anything else, it's what I wish I'd been able to read when I was your age. It does get better, and more quickly than you might expect.

Also, to a lesser extent, the ever-interesting Yvain posted this bit on his blog, which might help explain why what teachers do bugs you so much:

When I was a student, I hated all my teachers and thought that if they just ditched the constant repetition, the cutesy but vapid games, the police state attitude, then everyone would learn a lot more and school would finally live up to its potential as “not totally incompatible with learning, sometimes”.

And then I started teaching English, tried presenting the actually interesting things about the English language at a reasonable pace as if I were talking to real human beings. And it was a disaster. I would give this really brilliant and lucid presentation of a fascinating concept, and then ask a basic question about it, and even though I had just explained it, no one in the class would even have been listening to it. They’d be too busy chattering to one another in the corner. So finally out of desperation I was like “Who wants to do some kind of idiotic activity in which we all pick English words and color them in and then do a stupid dance about them??!” (I may not have used those exact words) and sure enough everyone wanted to and at the end some of them sort of vaguely remembered the vocabulary.

By the end of the school year I had realized that nothing was getting learned without threatening a test on it later, nothing was getting learned regardless unless it was rote memorization of a few especially boring points, and that I could usually force students to sit still long enough to learn it if and only if I bribed them with vapid games at regular intervals.

Yet pretty much every day I see people saying “Schools are evil fascist institutions that deliberately avoid teaching students for sinister reasons. If you just inspire a love of learning in them, they’ll be thrilled to finally have new vistas to explore and they’ll go above and beyond what you possibly expected.”

To which the only answer is no they frickin’ won’t. Yes, there will be two or three who do. Probably you were one of them, or your kid is one of them, and you think everything should be centered around those people. Fine. That’s what home schooling is for. But there will also be oh so many who ask “Will the grandeur and beauty of the fathomless universe be on the test?”. And when you say that the true test is whether they feel connected to the tradition of inquiry into the mysteries of Nature, they’ll roll their eyes and secretly play Pokemon on their Nintendo DS thinking you can’t see it if it’s held kind of under their desk.

Comment author: CBHacking 21 December 2014 11:25:18AM 3 points [-]

My elementary school (I'm 28 by they way, so this is some two decades ago) actually had a program for students like that; one day a week , you would be pulled out of normal class for an alternative class where the material was taught through projects and discussions, logic was explicitly both encouraged in thinking and taught as a skill, and there was basically no rote memorization. We learned games like chess and Magic: the Gathering (I had no idea how huge that game would go on to become; I wonder if the teacher still has those first-edition decks?) during our breaks from "actual" instruction, and there were basically no tests.

It was a ton of fun, but I only stayed in it for one year; the other four days a week were still boring me out of my skull. After the year in that pull-out program, I transferred to another school that had a fully accelerated / "gifted" curriculum. That was less boring - the material and pacing were both better, but I was still the top math student in the class and frequently bored there waiting for others to catch up, for example - but I missed the one-day-a-week program from the old school.

As for what I did during the mind-numbing classes, I read. Fiction mostly, but some non-fiction - I really loved "The Way Things Work" books when I was about Alex's age - and I usually tried to make it not-entirely-obvious what I was doing. The teachers knew, of course, but as long as I didn't flaunt what I was doing and kept my scores up, they didn't generally care. I was bad at the participation / stupid games stuff in those classes, but I learned to read stuff way "above my level" and got way more benefit out of it that I would have from listening to the teacher drone on about how to do long division or whatever.

Comment author: ilzolende 19 November 2014 12:06:45AM 4 points [-]

Hi, Alex!

I pretend to be named Ilzolende, and I'm 16, which puts me closer to you in age than the majority of commenters here. I'd suggest learning about common cognitive biases for general self-improvement. In terms of academic boredom, it may help to find a secondary activity that you can perform that does not interfere with your ability to absorb spoken information. Small, quiet things for you to play with in your hands without looking, like Silly Putty, are useful options.

This doesn't always help, but trying to figure out why you feel a certain way can dampen some emotions. When I'm really angry at someone, but I don't want to be, sometimes telling myself "my body is having an anger reaction, but that doesn't mean I have to be upset at that person" is useful, as is directing feelings of aggression to an inanimate object. (Don't actually attack the object, just replace any images you have of you hurting someone with you hitting (for example) a drum set.)

If you realize that you have no good reason you can think of for having an emotion, you may want to treat it as a physical problem. If I'm sad, but not due to actual external phenomena, then sometimes just reading something nice for half an hour works.

I don't know how well this generalizes, and there may be some negative costs to playing with Silly Putty in class, so take this with a grain of salt.

Comment author: ourimaler 26 July 2013 05:19:35PM 20 points [-]

Hello. I'm Ouri Maler, or "sun tzu" on some other forums; turning 29 in August.

I don't exactly remember when I started thinking of myself as a rationalist, but I know the core of my pro-science, pro-logic worldview was formed between the age of 8 and 10. For many years, I planned to be a physicist. In college, I studied to become a roboticist. And since that hasn't entirely panned out, I'm currently struggling to get employed as a programmer. I also write as a hobby, and I do try to reconstruct rationalism in my current urban fantasy story, "Saga of Soul".

Less Wrong has been on my "to check one of these days" list for a few years. It came to my attention again recently when Mr. Yudowsky recommended Saga of Soul on Facebook, prompting me to marathon HPatMoR over the past few days. I finished yesterday, and figured it was time to join the community and see what'll come of it.

Comment author: Alicorn 27 July 2013 07:08:42AM 5 points [-]

my current urban fantasy story, "Saga of Soul".

Oh hey, I have encountered this thing in the past and I think you have interacted with one of my beta readers and you promoted my friend Emily's Kickstarter. Hi!

Comment author: ourimaler 27 July 2013 08:08:40AM 3 points [-]

Hello! Unless I'm mistaken, you're the author of Hi to Tsuki to Hoshi no Tama? I used to read that.

Comment author: Alicorn 27 July 2013 06:45:44PM 3 points [-]

I am, yes, but I now consider all the webcomics I used to do embarrassing and would rather steer you towards my more recent prose, like Luminosity.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 27 July 2013 08:00:24AM 3 points [-]

Oh hey, welcome! Any magical girl who takes the time to view the Earth from space has my vote, but you already know that.

Comment author: ourimaler 27 July 2013 08:10:35AM 4 points [-]

Thank you! And thanks again for the link - I got around 250% as many unique views in the 48 following hours as I had in the entire preceding month.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 July 2014 08:05:10PM 19 points [-]

Hi, I'm Amanda. I'm interning at MIRI right now. I found HP:MoR 3 years ago, and started reading the Sequences shortly after. After 2 years of high school, I dropped out, and started at the University of Kansas. Reading the Sequences probably contributed a lot to this; I was tired of feeling like I wasn't doing anything important. Likewise, after a year at a state school, and now experiencing 5 weeks in the Bay Area, I'm motivated to get out of Kansas and back here.

I'm studying computer science, and I just finished my freshman year. I also do computer science research during the year. My advisor had me work with genetic algorithms, which, looking back now, was mainly to get me programming. My only experience was one high school class, which was predictably bad.

Anyway, I programmed a web project, and realized that I actually enjoy programming! My parents are both software engineers, so I had initially seen it as a boring 9-5 cubicle job. Later, I viewed it as a tool, useful enough to devote my studies to, but not particularly enjoyable. After working on the web app, I remember thinking, "Why didn't anyone tell me how cool coding could be?"

I decided to intern at MIRI to help narrow down what I want to do; either working directly on FAI research, or going into startups, in order to tackle another problem, while earning to give. (I'm leaning toward the startup route now.) I've had a great time so far. I have a few days left at MIRI, then I'll go to the other end of the office to volunteer with CFAR for a week, and finally I'll end my stay in Berkeley by attending a CFAR workshop.

I decided to end my lurking in order to post some of the things I've been working on for MIRI. More on that to come.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 July 2014 09:15:49PM 2 points [-]

Welcome to LessWrong! Sounds like you'll have some interesting things to share. Glad to have you.

Comment author: Wes_W 25 July 2013 07:22:06PM 18 points [-]

Hello, Less Wrong! I'm Wes W., which username I've chosen as a compromise between anonymity and real-life-usability, since I do intend/hope to get involved in meatspace once my schedule permits.

I've been lurking here and working my way through the Sequences for a couple months now. I'm intentionally pacing myself, so I can process things sufficiently. (Also, it's mildly alarming to finish reading a post and find that my brain has already vented all previous opinions on the topic and replaced them with the writer's.) I don't really know anymore how I found this site, because I've been aware of its existence for a couple years, but only recently realized both the full extent of the material here, and that I wanted to be involved in it.

I've been an atheist for several years, following another several years of diminishing faith in my native Mormonism, but it wasn't until I started reading Eliezer that this felt like a good thing, rather than a loss.

I currently have a job as a math tutor, which I originally got as just a college summer job, but turned into an "oh, this is what I want to do with my life" thing, so I'm now working on becoming a teacher. So clarity of thought is especially helpful to me, since I have to know something backwards and forwards in my sleep before I can do much to help a student understand. Ideas like "guessing the teacher's password" and "how could I regenerate this knowledge, if I lost it" have been directly useful to me, and I also hope to get better at overcoming akrasia.

Comment author: Nicholas_Rutherford 01 August 2013 03:26:21AM 16 points [-]

Hello everyone, I'm Nicholas Rutherford! I'm a 21 year old undergraduate student at the University of Saskatchewan studying pure math.

My original start to rationality is due to OK Cupid (hooray for on line dating!). After being fed up with the lack of people in my area I decided to see who my top world wide match was (It turns out that this 'top' person will actually change so I guess I lucked out). This person's profile was written in a very clear, well thought out manner and the answers to their questions showed that they had a fantastic decision making process. After chatting with them they told me the secret to their knowledge was less wrong.

From there I started making my way through The Sequences (currently about 40% of the way through), reading HPMOR and lurking the general discussion board here. I also had the pleasure of attending the July 2013 CFAR workshop, which has really inspired me to focus on improving my rationality and actually being a part of the community (and not just a lurker).

This community is awesome and I can't wait to improve it in any way I can! I mean, it is the least I can do after all I've gained from it :)

Comment author: Frood 25 July 2013 08:39:06PM 15 points [-]

Hi! HPMOR brought me here. I now spend about as much time telling people to read it as I do discussing the weather with them. I’ve read about half of the sequences. I lurked for a long time because I often find that getting involved in discussions blurs my ability to think objectively. Right now I’m working on a Litany Against Non-Participation, as well as taking gradual steps towards participating more, in an attempt to remedy this. I’m very interested in learning how to ask better questions.

I’m entering my fourth year of an interdisciplinary-or-is-it-multidisciplinary program at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Basically, I've chosen to focus my formal education on skill development (reasoning, writing, researching, etc.) instead of specialized content acquisition (that’s for my spare time).

For at least the last five years, I've been a philosophy-based thinker. Most of my courses were non-philosophy, but I took them to aid with my philosophical education. Sort of like how a guitar player might learn piano to improve their music theory and develop new musical ideas. I have a (very idealistic) vision for philosophy, one in which philosophy is the ‘highest’ discipline that makes space for only the most educated and able. In most cases, I think that philosophers should embrace scientific knowledge and methodology, and stop pointless quibbles about matters that they are not qualified to address. For instance, I'm quite frustrated by the lack of understanding of modern social psychology and sociology in political philosophy and ethics.

I've recently concluded that completing an undergraduate education in philosophy is not worth my time, and I totally agree with lukeprog’s diagnosis. Moving forward, I am going to attempt to transition into a science-based thinker. I’ll learn the same material, but to a different end. Maybe I’ll save philosophy later.

I'm very grateful to LW. I’m a better thinker than I was a year ago, and I've finally been able to shed some of the old beliefs that have been holding me back from reaching my potential as a rationalist. Feels good. Thanks y'all!

Comment author: falenas108 26 July 2013 02:09:27PM 5 points [-]

I lurked for a long time because I often find that getting involved in discussions blurs my ability to think objectively.

That's definitely true. But there is an advantage to posting. Often, I'll have an idea and start to write it out. But then, I realize that it's not quite up to my internal "less wrong standards." So, I'll start refining the idea, and end up with a much better one than I started with.

Or I'll find out that the idea isn't as good as I thought it was, and end up not posting.

Comment author: Ben_LandauTaylor 25 July 2013 05:46:54PM 15 points [-]

Hello again. I've been posting for a while as ModusPonies. As much as I like the old name, it's time to retire it. More and more, I'm interacting with the community in meatspace and via email. I'm switching to my real name so that people who know me in one context will recognize me in another.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 26 July 2013 10:34:15AM 11 points [-]

Hello again. I've been posting for a while as ModusPonies.

A bit late to say this, but: best username ever.

Comment author: Anders_H 28 July 2013 09:24:01PM 4 points [-]

My name is Anders. I have been lurking for a long time, and have attended meetups in Boston for the last three years. I recently began commenting more frequently. This is a new account; after discussing Ben's name change with him at the meetup today, I decided to switch to something closer to my real name, sacrificing my 20 karma points in the process.

I am 31 years old. I am a doctoral candidate in Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, where I work on some new implementations of causal models for comparative effectiveness research, particularly for screening interventions. I am originally from Norway. I attended medical school in Ireland, and worked for 18 months as a junior doctor in western Norway before moving to Boston.

On Less Wrong, I am particularly interested in the material on causality and decision theory. I am also interested in epistemic rationality and cognitive bias in general, and in the extent to which our actions are explained by signaling. In terms of mainstream philosophy, I see myself as formalist, falsificationist and prioritarian consequentialist. The "formalist" part is due to spending a year as an undergraduate student in mathematics; 12 years later, the only thing I retain from that year is a persistent belief that mainstream philosophy is underrating the importance of David Hilbert.

Comment author: Antiochus 26 July 2013 03:44:01AM 14 points [-]

Hi. I'm a software engineer and history enthusiast. Been reading for years, and just recently got around to making an account. Still building up the courage to dive in, but this place has done wonders for reducing sloppy thinking on my part.

Comment author: Glen 25 July 2013 05:22:16PM 14 points [-]

Hello all, my name is Glen and I am a fairly long-time lurker here. I first found this site through the Sword of Good short story, and filed it in my "List of things I want to read but will never actually get around to" and largely forgot about it until I recognized the name while reading HPMOR. I've read most, but not all, of the sequences and am currently going through Quantum Mechnics. I'm Chicago based and work as a programmer for an advertising company. I consider myself a low-mid level rationalist and am working at getting better.

I run or play in a wide range of tabletop games, where I'm known as being a GM-Friendly Munchkin. That is to say, I like finding exploits and unusual combinations, but then I talk to the person running the game about them and usually explain why I shouldn't be allowed to do that. It lets me have fun breaking the system without actually making hte game less fun. I've also used basic information theory to great effect, unless the GM tells me to knock it off. Currently in love with Exalted. Been burned by Shadowrun in the past, but I just can't stay mad at her.

Comment author: hylleddin 25 July 2013 07:50:31PM *  4 points [-]

We're curious how you've used information theory in RPGs. It sounds like there are some interesting stories there.

Comment author: Glen 25 July 2013 08:25:59PM *  13 points [-]

The most interesting stories come from a power in Exalted called "Wise Choice". Basically, you give it a situation and a finite list of actions you could take and it tells you the one that will have the best outcome for you within the next month. It also requires a moderate expenditure of mana, so it can't be used over and over without cost. When I read what the charm did, I thought of Harry's time-experiment with prime numbers. It was immediately obvious that Wise Choice could factorize any number easily, although perhaps not cheaply if it has a large number of factors. From there, it also expanded to finding literally anything in the world either with one big question (if low on mana) or a quick series of smaller ones (if low on time) by dividing the world into a grid and either listing every square or doing a basic binary search via asking the power "Given that I'm going to keep divind the world in half and asking a similar question to this one, which half of the world should I focus on to get within 10 feet of Item/Person X's location at exactly 7PM tomorrow evening" I also figured out that you can beat the one month time limit by pre-committing to asking the same question in 27 days and having someone else promise to give you a reward if you state the same thing each month, with the caveat that you have to give it all back if you're proven wrong in the end or change your answer. This can be shown to work (assuming I haven't made a mistake) by taking a simple case of there being two boxes, one containing ten million dollars and the other being empty. By choosing a box now, it will be opened in six months and you will be given what is inside. Without the trick, Wise Choice looks forward one month, sees no difference and tells you "it doesn't matter". With the trick, Wise Choice looks forward a month, and tells you to say what it sees future you saying, even though it doesn't "understand" why. However, future you can see an additional month forward, and uses it to see future you+2, etc. Therefore, the first instance gives you the true box, even though it can't see to when the box opens.

Of course, it's possible that I've missed a possible case that makes those tricks invalid. I don't have access to an actual infinite-knowledge superpower to check my work, but I figure telling other people about it so they can see things I missed is almost as good.

Comment author: Qwake 22 July 2014 04:18:15AM *  13 points [-]

Hello, I am Jay, a 16 year old incoming High School Senior (I skipped a grade if anyone cares). The way I came across this site was through reading an article about a certain thought experiment I don't want to mention because I don't want to piss anyone off in my first post (If anyone knows what I'm talking about is mentioning that thought experiment on Less Wrong still banned because I do find it very interesting). Anyway, what drew me to this site was the quest for answers. I have been seeking and contemplating what the answers to life, the universe, and everything in between for a while now. Have I been doing this in a logical or rational way? No, I have simply been walking through the everyday motions in life in an autopilot state with no real purpose or goals wondering what the hell I should be doing with my life. Lately, I have realized if I want to find meaning in my life I will actually have to strive to find it. I cant sit around waiting for answers to come to me. That is why for the most part I have come to this site. I want to learn and see if I can find out what is the purpose of living in this strange universe and to learn some interesting things along the way. That is all. If anybody has recommendations as to what I should start out reading on this site that would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Comment author: [deleted] 22 July 2014 04:13:03PM *  11 points [-]

Hello, and welcome to LessWrong! If improving is important to you, as it sounds, then I'm sure you will find this site quite useful.

First off, I'm pretty sure you're speaking of Roko's Basilisk. As far as I am aware, the ban on the basilisk has diminished/dissolved in light of a.) the Streisand effect that made further attempts to ban it just more fuel for the fire and b.) the fact that the issue is quite thoroughly solved and no longer very dangerous except in terms of misconceptions (see Streisand effect above). It is still a sore issue. Partly because of the bad ways in which it was handled by different parties, but also because people are just tired of hearing about it. No one's going to shoot you for mentioning it or asking about it, but do be aware that the topic has been pretty well hashed out. It's not some minotaur lurking in the labryinth. We're just tired of revisiting it.

As for recommendations, the Sequences are a good place to start. I don't know how much you know about the culture around here, so, to briefly explain: the Sequences are mostly written by Eliezer Yudkowsky, who many around here hold as one of the major (if not the major) spokesperson for LessWrong's central ideals and concepts. The Sequences are an organized listing of some of Yudkowsky's writings, analyzing different topics of LW interest.

They are long. I just finished the Sequences myself and it took about five months with several breaks in between and various reading speeds. As iarwin1 mentions, there are other versions of the Sequences that can help ease you in without being overwhelming. You might also check out the LessWrong References and Resources page for other sources of LW materials.

Given how long the Sequences are, I'd honestly suggest against just diving head first into them unless you already have a strong desire to read them all. You'll get burned out. Instead, look through the topics and related materials, find the things that interest you, and just check them out. You mentioned you're interested in improving yourself? Read a little of Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions. This is a good beginner's sequence for learning some of the key concepts of rationality. If you want some help in making your own life better or figuring yourself out, check out The Science of Winning at Life or Living Luminously. Don't try to learn everything at once. Find the things that interest you, take them one at a time, enjoy learning and improving on what you find.

And, finally, definitely get involved! You've already taken step one, so don't feel you have to stop at saying "hi." The Discussion board is a great place to see the day-to-day conversations that go on here. Check out the latest Open Thread to see what sort of casual conversations we have. Don't be afraid to be part of the conversation. The site's karma system sometimes gives new visitors a fright. They think of something they said getting downvoted and they shrivel up. But remember, unless you're the victim of a downvoting troll (note: quite the rare event and more cause of laughter than tears), then getting downvoted is just an opportunity to learn and improve. Not a personal attack.

I don't know how much you know about LW and its culture (though I've obviously assumed quite a bit given the length of this post!), but the best suggestions I have are: find what interests you, read it, and, when you feel comfortable, add to it.

Comment author: Qwake 23 July 2014 02:49:55AM *  4 points [-]

Wow thank you for the awesome reply. If all the people in the Less Wrong community are as friendly and as knowledgeable as you are then I have obviously joined the right site. You were right I was talking about Roko's Basilisk and since it is okay to mention it, here is the article that introduced me to this site if anyone is interested. I will definitely check out the Sequences in addition to the articles you suggested. There is so much interesting information on this site that it is hard to know where to start. One question I do have is what exactly is the importanceof decision theories? That is another thing that I am interested in. Are they applicable in real life situations or only in thought experiments? What is the importance of finding a perfect decision theory? I know the basics of Causal and Evidential Decision Theory but I am baffled by Timeless Decision Theory. If you could point me in the direction of where to find articles on these issues that would be greatly appreciated. Thank you again for the thoughtful and useful reply, it helped a lot.

Edit: I started reading Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions today and found it so engaging that I didn't stop reading until I finished it. It was definitely a mind opening experience for me as I was exposed to a plethora of ideas and biases that I had no idea existed. I am definitely going to try reading the rest of the Sequences now.

Comment author: Wei_Dai 23 July 2014 10:54:47AM *  11 points [-]

What is the importance of finding a perfect decision theory?

Three motivations are common around here:

  1. Building a Friendly AI that is based on decision theory.
  2. Understanding what ideal rationality looks like, so we have a better idea of what to aim for as far as improving our own rationality.
  3. Curiosity. If we knew what the perfect decision theory was, many philosophical questions may be answered or would be closer to being answered.

For some relevant posts, see 1 and 2.

Comment author: Tyrrell_McAllister 23 July 2014 06:29:17PM 4 points [-]

I know the basics of Causal and Evidential Decision Theory but I am baffled by Timeless Decision Theory. If you could point me in the direction of where to find articles on these issues that would be greatly appreciated. Thank you again for the thoughtful and useful reply, it helped a lot.

If you want to get a handle on the "Less Wrong" approach to decision theory, I'd recommend starting with Wei Dai's Updateless Decision Theory (UDT) rather than with Timeless Decision Theory (TDT). The basic mathematical outline of UDT is more straightforward, so you will be up and running quicker.

Wei's posts introducing UDT are here and here. I wrote a brief write-up that just gives a precise description of UDT without any motivation, justification, or examples.

Comment author: ESRogs 24 July 2014 05:49:17AM 2 points [-]

Just wanted to say you're off to a great start posting to LW -- asking very good questions!

(Also, please break posts like this into more than one paragraph.)

Comment author: Qwake 24 July 2014 08:51:44AM 2 points [-]

Thank you I'm just trying to learn all I can.

Comment author: polymathwannabe 23 July 2014 12:40:22PM 2 points [-]

One question I do have is what exactly is the importance of decision theories? [...] Are they applicable in real life situations or only in thought experiments?

One of the main functions of a good decision theory is to bridge the territory-map divide: by solving problems in your head, it shows you how to solve problems in the real world. You can identify a good decision theory when it works in theory and in practice. If a decision theory seems to work in practice, but is not describable in a precise language (e.g. "do what feels good"), it actually hasn't been well thought out and puts you at risk of being paralyzed when a very serious and very complex situation arises. On the other hand, if it only works in theory but is impracticable (e.g. "pray to Minerva for an omen"), it will be a waste of storage space in your head. In short, a decision theory should serve as a tool for you to manage your life.

Comment author: James_Miller 22 July 2014 04:45:10AM *  4 points [-]

Although neither of these articles is on LessWrong, they reflect the core moral values of many LW members.

Astronomical Waste

Consequentalism FAQ

Comment author: iarwain1 22 July 2014 01:48:01PM *  2 points [-]

Welcome! I don't know so much about reading materials for finding purpose, but as an intro to rationality:

  • I happen to like Benito's version of how to read the Sequences, but other people like other formats, and some don't like the Sequences too much at all (the writing style doesn't work for some).
  • CFAR's reading list, and maybe their videos; you can also maybe see if you can get into SPARC
Comment author: ErinFlight 31 March 2014 01:19:55AM 12 points [-]

Hello, I'm Erin. I am currently in high school, so perhaps a little younger than the typical reader.

I'm fascinated by the thoughts here. This is the first community I've found that makes an effort to think about their own opinions, then is self aware enough to look at their own thought processes.

But, this might not be the place for this, I'm am struggling to understand anything technical on this website. I've enjoyed reading the sequences, and they have given me a lot to thing about. Still, I've read the introduction to Bayes theorem multiple times, and I simply can't grasp it. Even starting at the very beginning of the sequences I quickly get lost because there are references to programming and cognitive science which I simply do not understand.

I recently returned to this site after taking a statistics course, which has helped slightly. But I still feel rather lost.

Do you have any tips for how you utilized rationality when you were starting? How did you first incorporate it into your thought processes? Can you recommend any background material which might help me to understand the sequences better?

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 31 March 2014 11:19:57AM 5 points [-]

You could just trying to read the posts even if you don't explain all the jargon: over time, as you get more exposed to the terms that people use, I'd expect it to get easier to understand what the examples mean. And you might get a rough idea of the main point of a post even if you don't get all the details. Eric Drexler actually argues that if you want to learn a bit of everything, this is the way to do it.

If you don't understand some post at all, you could always ask for a summary in plain English. Many of the posts in the Sequences are old and don't get much traffic, so they might not be the best places to ask, but you could do it an Open Thread... and now that I think of it, I suspect that a lot of others are in the same position as you. So I created a new thread for asking for such explanations, to encourage people to ask! Here it is.

Comment author: Furcas 31 March 2014 03:59:40AM *  4 points [-]

Hello and welcome!

I don't know about the sequences in general, but for Bayes' Theorem you could try Luke's An Intuitive Explanation of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Intuitive Explanation of Bayes’ Theorem.

Comment author: satt 31 March 2014 11:29:56PM 2 points [-]

I'll throw in a couple more explanations as well. (It's hard to know in advance which one might make the idea click neatly into place!)

Comment author: ErinFlight 01 April 2014 03:13:00AM 3 points [-]

Thank you both! Just starting to go through those explanations, Bayes Theorem is making a lot more sense, and I'm also starting to see why everyone is excited about it.

Comment author: Adele_L 31 March 2014 01:54:25AM *  4 points [-]

Hi Erin, I'm Adele! It's good to see young rationalists here. I think you might really like Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Daniel Kahneman is a well-known psychologist, and winner of the 2002 Nobel prize in Economics. In this book, he goes through different thinking processes that humans often use, and how they are often wrong. It is not very technical, and is a pretty easy read IMO. It might also help with some of the cognitive science stuff in the sequences.

It's okay to not understand Bayes' theorem for now, knowing the math doesn't really make you that much better at being rational - there are easier things to do with larger gains. If you want to get the programming references, it might be worth learning to program. There are some online courses which make it relatively easy to get started. It's also a good skill to have for when you are looking for employment.

One thing that has helped me a lot in being more rational is having friends who can point out when I am being irrational. Another good place to look at (and go if you can) is CFAR, whose point is basically to help you get better at being rational.

Comment author: darkwolf 11 August 2013 04:47:17AM *  12 points [-]

I'm a 17 year old female student in Singapore, currently in my last semester in high school. I've been lurking around this site for at least the past year, and have made my way through some of the beginning sequences. However, what really made me want to stick around was lukeprog's post on How To Be Happy. Funnily enough, I don't think I've deliberately taken up any of the suggestions, though I have realised that my slow path to extroversion over the past few years contributed significantly to my baseline happiness increasing, as has my recent focus on writing. I guess one could say that my focus when reading this site is instrumental rationality, or basically what can I glean from here to make my life the way I want it to be.

Recently, however, I've been unable to focus as much because a small part of my mind seems constantly devoted to panicking about college. I'm planning on studying computer engineering in university, and I'm fully confident that I will get into the two local universities of my choice. I'm aiming for US universities too, and getting into them is very important to me, because I'm gay. I'm well aware of Singapore's active scene in that regards, it's just that staying here for university means I'll be living in my parents' house for at least four more years, and actively lying/hiding from them what I do stresses me out greatly.

I've always been able to succeed academically even with this kind of stress, but trying to write college essays while panicking over the possibility of being stuck in this house trying to pretend that I'm not gay or an atheist is not very productive. Neither is the panic over whether my stats are good enough to get into the kind of universities that would justify my parents letting me go to the US.

I suppose one would note I've written very little about epistemic rationality, mostly because as fascinating and illuminating as I find it, I've often used reading about it as a distraction from my panic and doing work. I'm keeping my efforts focused on 'winning' right now. I'm not really sure I identify as a rationalist, as I don't feel competent enough to claim such a title. Right now, my goals are getting into university and trying to decrease my risk-aversion, as the latter has often prevented me engaging in social events that would improve my mood and/or stretch my social skills.

Comment author: jackal_esq 28 July 2013 10:52:12AM 12 points [-]

Hello, thank you for this post. I am a criminal law attorney, and what attracts me to learning more about rational decision-making is the practical experience that juries, clients, and many attorneys make what seem to be irrational, or at least counter-intuitive, decisions all the time. I am in the very early stages of trying to learn what's on the site and how to fix my own thought processes, but I also have irrationally high hopes that there's achievable progress to be made by bringing the LW tools to bear on my profession and the legal regime. I look forward to talking it through with you all.

Comment author: KnaveOfAllTrades 28 July 2013 12:56:06PM *  9 points [-]

Hi, jackal_esq. As someone involved in criminal justice, you might find the following interesting, if you haven't seen them already:

Evidence under Bayes theorem, Wikipedia
R v Adams, Wikipedia
Sally Clark, Wikipedia
Amanda Knox case, Less Wrong (followup post linked at bottom)
A formula for justice, Guardian
Bayesian analysis under threat in British courts, Less Wrong

Aside from that, welcome to Less Wrong!

Comment author: Ebthgidr 09 December 2014 08:16:33PM 11 points [-]

Hello. I'm Leor Fishman, and also go by 'avret' on both reddit and ffn. I am currently 16. The path I took to get here isn't as...dramatic as some of the others I've seen, but I may as well record it: For as long as I can remember, I've been logically minded, preferring to base hypotheses on evidence than to rest them on blind faiths. However, for the majority of my life, that instinct was unguided and more often than not led to rationalizations rather than belief-updating. A few years back, I discovered MoR during a stumbleupon binge. I took to it like a fish to water, finishing up to the update point in a matter of days before hungrily rereading to attempt to catch whatever plot points I could glean from hints and asides in earlier chapters. However, I still read it almost purely for story-enjoyment, noting the rationality techniques as interesting asides if I noticed them.
About a year later, I followed the link on the MoR website to LW, and began reading the sequences. They were...well, transformative doesn't quite fit. Perhaps massively map-modifying might be a better term. How to Actually Change Your Mind specifically gave me the techniques I needed to update on rather many beliefs, and still does. Both Reductionism and the QM sequence, while not quite as revolutionary as HtACYM for me, explained what I had previously understood of science in a way that just...well, fit seems to be the only word that works to describe it, though it doesn't fully carry the connotation I'm trying to express. Now, I'm endeavoring to learn what I can. I'm rereading the sequences, trying to internalize the techniques I'll need and make them reflexive, and attempting to apply them as often as possible. I've gone pretty far--looking back at things I said and thought before makes that clear. On the other hand, I've still got one heck of a ways to go. Tsuyoku Naritai

Comment author: ilzolende 10 December 2014 02:07:12AM 4 points [-]

Welcome! I'm also 16. Welcome to the group of people who answer "no" to the "were you alive 20 years ago" question on a technicality. It's really great to know about risk assessment errors and whatnot when we're still teenagers, just because the bugs in our brains are even more dangerous when ignored than normal.

Comment author: Ebthgidr 10 December 2014 02:29:28AM 3 points [-]

Not only that--the greater degree of neuroplasticity that I think 16-year olds still have(if I'm wrong about this, someone please correct me) makes it a good deal easier to learn skills/ingrain rationality techniques.

Comment author: shminux 09 December 2014 10:18:03PM *  4 points [-]

Oh how I wish I had access to this kind of material when I was 16.

Comment author: Regex 04 October 2014 04:24:13PM 11 points [-]

Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptangya Zoooooooom Boing Ni!

I'll be going by Regex. I stumbled upon this site due to a side story from the MLP:FIM fanfiction Friendship is Optimal: http://www.fimfiction.net/story/62074/friendship-is-optimal which is a bit weird, but I guess I'm weird. Yes, I like small candy colored equines. Ponies are my lifeblood.

My life history in a nutshell: Highschool was spent mostly figuring out how terrible middleschool was and realizing my ability to control my environment. Learned basic coding, drawing, and organization skills. Found a path in life due to the launch of the Curiosity rover. Robots were cool. Installed Linux.

I am currently a college sophomore pursing mechanical engineering: I've been inspired to create robots. Despite going for a ME degree I have more computer knowledge. My preferred OS is Linux, but I'm not skilled enough with it yet to do much beyond what I can do with Windows.

I am quite interested in personal development, hence why I am here. A lot of the thought processes here seem to mirror my own far more than I've seen elsewhere, so there was kind of a "these are my people" moment. I have been lightly reading the site, but there is just so much I've been doing it in bits and pieces and digesting it as I read.

I am also an artist of sorts, but I can't do much beyond basic line art and sketching. Drawing from my imagination is much more difficult than copying something in front of me. I've had better luck with using programming to make patterns, but I like the ability to produce an arbitrary image by hand. Getting there.

I am very good at organizing information (depending on the need), but I often fail to actually progress beyond that point and do anything with the knowledge gained. This is paralleled with the fact that I have a habit of hording media rather than watching it.

I sing aloud to myself as I walk down the street. Whatever comes to mind. Very fun. I probably am a little inconsiderate of those around me when doing so, but I like to think I am adding a bit of mystery to their day. They'll ask "what was all that singing about?" and never know. I also like smashing piano keys in whatever order sounds pleasing at that moment. More fun.

I am interested in polyphasic sleep, and can currently fall asleep for a short nap basically whenever I please and reduce "core sleep" (aka the long 8 hour sleep block becomes a 4 hour block if I take 2-3 twenty to thirty minute naps during the day), but I didn't go all the way to remove the core sleep.

I consider myself "smarter than average," but now try very very hard not to judge people based on their intellect. I recall once uttering the statement "better to be intelligent than a skateboarder" (I was convinced one cannot be both) in middle school to someone who later became a friend of sorts. This was because I had (still have?) a bit of a superiority complex, but also because I failed to understand where he was coming from and I had (have?) a tendency to misrepresent others in my mind to a significant degree. I have no doubt that those tendencies still lurk out of view.

Regardless of how high or low I might compare to others I want to become better than I am.

I'll be around.

Comment author: Fluttershy 05 October 2014 12:22:55AM 2 points [-]

Hi there Regex,

Welcome to LessWrong! Yay!

If you liked Iceman's Friendship is Optimal and other conversion bureau stories, you might enjoy Chatoyance's 27 Ounces and Caelum est Conterrens. As far as personal development goes, I feel like I personally learned a lot about how to make better predictions about the world from CFAR's Credence Game, though, um, you might prefer reading through the core sequences to playing the calibration game. I have been told that Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions is a good place to start reading through the sequences, though I personally read through most of the sequences in no particular order, as, at the time, that approach suited me more than a structured approach to reading the sequences would have.

In any case, it is great to have a new friend join us; I hope you feel welcome here.

Comment author: Swimmer963 04 October 2014 08:43:30PM 2 points [-]


Comment author: BenjaminFox 30 June 2014 06:33:52AM *  11 points [-]

I am a long time LessWronger (under an anonymous pseudonym), but recently I've decided that it is finally time to bite the bullet, abandon my few thousand karma, and just move over to my real name already.

Back in the day, when I joined LessWrong for the first time, I followed my general policy of anonymity on the Internet. Now, I'm involved with the Less Wrong community enough that I find this anonymity holding me back. Thus the new account.

Edit: For my first post on this new account, I posted a few of my thoughts on logical uncertainty.

Comment author: Allthewaydown 01 September 2014 05:08:20AM *  10 points [-]

Hello, LessWrong. I'm an 18-year-old recent high school graduate with an interest in computers and science and nerdery-in-general. A summary of your-life-until-Lesswrong seems to be the norm in this thread, so I suppose that's what I'll do.

I was born and raised Mormon. About as Mormon as they come, really- nearly all of my relatives practice the religion, and all of the norms and rituals were expectations for me- everything the church said was presented as fact, and everything the church did was something my family participated in, right up to the five-in-the-morning seminary classes in high school and obligatory two years of preaching about the church (for the boys, at least, because I was one). My social group was almost entirely comprised of members of the church as well, which meant I was almost never exposed to ideas that wouldn't be discussed either in a church or by public school teachers. All this to say that I managed to really, truly believe it- right up until I was around 14, which is when I got my hands on a means of unsupervised internet access. I was honestly surprised by how normal things seemed, outside that bubble in which I had grown up. Everything seemed strange and terrifying, at first (and still does on some level) but… The people didn’t seem all that different. Which wasn’t necessarily a good thing, talking to them wasn’t any more appealing a prospect than talking to anyone I’d grown up with, but still.

I was one of those 'gifted' kids in elementary school- the ones with the college-level reading skills in fourth grade. I took pride in that- my ability to memorize things, my ability to understand how they worked before anyone else did. I spent a long time poring over scripture and religious texts, trying to find explanations for how it all worked- souls, miracles, the world-in-general, (I guess my brain really does have a rationality-shaped hole) but I never found anything. The adults told me to pray, but that didn't even seem like it should have worked (I tried it anyway, of course- nothing ever happened).

Once I started reading things that hadn't been filtered through the church, though, I started to think that maybe they didn't have any answers- and then stopped. I couldn't let myself think that, thoughts like that were bad, thoughts like that were questioning and I had been explicitly warned against that many times- thinking about doing something was almost as bad as doing it, after all, and everyone who stepped up to the podium talked about how they "knew" the church was true, how there was "not a shadow of a doubt" in their minds. My mind had more than shadows. I couldn't outright lie about that of course, that would be even worse, but I could say I believed- I couldn't say I knew, I didn't have sufficient evidence to know, I'd never seen a miracle- but belief was different, right?

I'm not sure when that period ended- I think it was more a gradual transition, but by the time I turned 16, I was full-on agnostic. I didn't tell my parents this until a half-year later, of course, I was terrified of what they'd do, but it was progress nonetheless. When I finally did tell them I was surprised how calmly they took it- judging from the conversation afterwards, I don't think my dad ever really believed it- he told me that he knew of no barrier to continued participation even if I didn't believe and that no, there wasn't enough evidence, but religion wasn't about that. I wasn't sure what it was supposed to be about in that case, but whatever.

I spent my free time the year or so after that thinking about things, because there were so many new things I was allowed to think about and question! I didn't even realize some of those things had questions you could ask about them! Like gender. Questions about that... Turned out to have inconvenient answers, which I need to get around to dealing with, but whatever. (Edited-to-add that I meant this in the 'whoops I'm a girl apparently' sense) I also spent a lot of that time angsting about how I didn't have an afterlife to look forward to, and how I wasn't going to live long enough to see even one exoplanet, and maybe it'd be preferable to die now instead of dealing with all that.

This continued about until I stumbled across HPMoR, which succeeded in kicking me from agnosticism to atheism, and hitting me in the face with the realization that I was allowed to want to live forever. My problem was then that I didn't see a practical means of achieving that, but then I ended up at Lesswrong a few months later and concluded that working on AI was probably the way to go.

And now I have read all the major sequences, which was interesting- I had a sort of hazy, intuitive-level understanding of a lot of the concepts, and as I read they sort of sharpened to the point that I could think about them explicitly. A lot of them introduced completely new ideas though, like Alicorn’s Luminosity sequence- the idea of getting better models of myself just hadn’t occurred to me, and has proved very useful- figuring out what causes me to feel boredom, for example, managed to get my brain to sneeze out something resembling an actual work ethic into me, which might be the single most valuable thing I’ve gotten out of Lesswrong so far, really.

I’ve started reading some of the recommended literature, like Thinking, Fast and Slow and QED and… That’s about where I am now. I have run out of other things to do, so I figure I’ll try and start participating, and see where that takes me.

So, since it seems like welcome-thread posts should have a greater density of hellos than one per thousand words, Hello!

(tl;dr I tried to introduce myself but instead of a long introduction I ended up with a short autobiography, sorry)

(Wow this was melodramatic, I apologize)

Comment author: [deleted] 01 September 2014 04:31:50PM 2 points [-]

Hello and welcome to Lesswrong!

That's quite the journey! You've come a long way under your own sailing power it seems, and trust me, you aren't alone here. You'll find plenty of others who've made similar trips out of unquestioning dogma into exploration and experimentation. We each have a different life and learning, certainly. But many here share similar backgrounds (religious cultures, advanced at a young age, high intelligence compared to their peers) and many share similar resources (Internet as a connection tool, HPMoR as a gate way to the community). We are certainly glad to have you join and add your unique view to the conversation.

Glad to see you've already dove head first into some the resources. I usually try to make suggestions of the Sequences for new peoples, but I see you've beaten me to the punch! Yes, it's not uncommon to come away from some of the posts thinking "I KNEW that. I just didn't know how to frame it." That intuitiveness helps with introducing some of the harder concepts that get discussed here... and can encourage people to experiment with ideas and expand on them. After all, we aren't here to talk about how smart Yudkowsky or Yvain or Alicorn were when they wrote this or that. We're here to do better.

This is certainly a place where questions are welcomed! Living forever, gender, boredom, we'll discuss it all. Politics, of course, tends to be handled like an unexploded ordinance, but as long as the conversation is well reasoned and beneficial, we welcome it. You probably already know the site lay out, but if you'd like to start contributing to the conversation with your own posts, visit the latest Open Thread. It's a good place to start posting because it will let you get a feel for the standards and norms of the community and the types of conversations we have. Also, posting comments on other posts is a good start as well. Once you get settled into the milieu, you can start branching out, posting articles of your own, starting larger discussions, contributing more if you desire.

Oh, and, depending on where you live, you may want to look for a local LessWrong meetup group. These are great places to meet fellow LWers, talk shop, engage in rationality workshops, heated discussions, or just fun activities. If you live in a place without a meetup group and you're feeling particularly driven, you can also start up one of your own. Starting up a new group's a fun, exciting activity and, who knows, could be the start of a big movement in your own community.

Anyway, enough spiel from me. Definitely glad to have you join the community, and thanks a lot for sharing your story. I hope to hear some of your questions (and answers) very soon.

Glad to have you with us!

Comment author: Deremensis 19 August 2014 03:02:11AM 10 points [-]

Hi LW!

I've read LW on and off for quite some time, mostly just whenever I've gotten linked to it and found myself idly browsing. I used to not post very much on forums, just read around, but I decided to sign up for a few and give posting a try. So here I am!

My name is Sean, I'm 20 and I live in Florida. I'm an undergraduate student studying Cell and Molecular Biology with a minor in Mathematics. I enjoy a lot of things - reading, learning, hiking, discussing, exploring. My interests are pretty wide - I've done a lot of computer programming, but mostly hobby stuff, I do a lot of hiking, a little bit of gardening, I read a lot from a wide variety of topics (though, more often than not, it's either fantasy in my downtime, or research in my work time, lol), and when I have the time I play games and hang out on forums now apparently.

I don't really have an extraordinary story about how I ended up here. I just like to discuss things, and due to my interests, I find myself in places like this a lot.

I like to be in places where I can either learn, or I can help educate. I've had a good bit of experience with teaching and tutoring professionally, and I think one of my strongest qualities is my ability to break things down and explain them to people. I like being in places where I have something relevant to say, and there's something relevant to learn. I think this seems like a great place to be for me. I'm very interested in science, naturally, though my interests especially lie in biology, plant biology, ecology, mathematics, and a bit of computer science. I'm no stranger to philosophy, history, and the humanities - but those are topics where I'm fairly sure I'll be doing a whole lot of learning, and very little sharing, hah.

Anyways, hope to see everyone around on the forums. :)

Comment author: metastable 04 August 2013 03:10:30AM 10 points [-]

Hi! I first saw LW as a node on a map of neoreactionary web sites. Which I guess is a pretty weird way to find it, since I'm not myself a neoreactionary and LW doesn't seem to fit the map. You have to stretch pretty far to connect some of those nodes.

Fortunately, I took a look at the Less Wrong community, and it's been really interesting to explore. I figured I should introduce myself, since I posted in another thread. I'm in my early 30's and I'm studying in the life sciences at the postgraduate level. I'm a Christian. I'm also a married father, and a veteran. So. Probably somewhat atypical (I peeked at the survey results.)

I'm excited by several of the big problems that seem to animate LW: minimizing cognitive bias day-to-day, optimizing philanthropy, and working through received ideology. I know zip about AI, but addressing existential risk is really interesting to me indirectly, as it relates to forecasting and mitigating mere catastrophes*, a challenge for wonks and technocrats and scientists (and everybody, of course). In fact, if anybody knows of LW'ers or other rationalists interested in policy problems of that nature I'd be super grateful for a pointer or a link.

In conclusion, I read ZeroHedge far too much, sometimes wear Vibrams, and am thrilled to meet all of you.

*is there a better word? My jargon is level 0.

Comment author: Nornagest 04 August 2013 03:35:49AM *  3 points [-]

I first saw LW as a node on a map of neoreactionary web sites [...] LW doesn't seem to fit the map. You have to stretch pretty far to connect some of those nodes.

That brings up some interesting questions. The last survey placed self-identified neoreactionaries as a very small percentage of LW readership (scroll down to "Alternate Politics Question"). Progressivism appears to be the most popular political philosophy around here, with libertarianism a strong competitor; nothing else is in the running.

That's not the first time I've heard LW referred to as a neoreactionary site, though; once might be coincidence, but twice needs explanation. With the survey in mind it's clearly not a matter of explicitly endorsed philosophy, so I'm left to assume that we're propagating ideas or cultural artifacts that're popular in neoreactionary circles. I'm not sure what those might be, though. It might just be our general skepticism of academically dominant narratives, but that seems like too glib an explanation to me.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 04 August 2013 09:16:16PM *  3 points [-]

Could this be explained by the base rates?

Imagine a society with 10 neoreactionaries and 10000 liberals (or any other mainstream political group). Let's suppose that 5 of the neoreactionaries and 500 of the liberals read LessWrong.

In this society, neoreactionaries would consider LessWrong one of "their" websites, because half of them are reading it. Yet the LessWrong survey would show that neoreactionaries are just a tiny minority of its readers.

Comment author: zanoi 29 July 2013 03:03:53PM 10 points [-]

Hello, my name is Jonas and I'm currently working as a software engineer.

I happened to learn about biases in decision analysis class at university and was hooked instantly. It was only later that I learned about LW. I'm very interested in not just learning about rationality on a theoretical level but actually living it out to the fullest.

I'm very thankful to LW for improving my life so far, but I guess the best is yet to come.

Comment author: Zian 28 July 2013 08:03:52AM *  10 points [-]

Hi there!

I found HPMoR via TVTropes and then found LessWrong via HPMoR. I decided to hang around after reading the explanation of Bayes Theorem on Eliezer's personal site and finding it quite nice. Also, it matched up with how I thought of Bayes's theorem. You could say that I got attracted to LW by confirmation bias. :)

On a more useful note, I got interested in rationality/etc. through a somewhat convoluted path. I got introduced to Bayes Theorem via Paul Graham when I built a website filter for a science fair project.

My reading material also contributed heavily. I've also always been a fast and constant reader so discovering the (FREE!) interlibrary loan offered by the University of California was a boon. Major nonfiction books that affected me were cognitive science stuff (especially Dan Ariely) and books on how things/processes/systems work I distinctly recall re-re-re-checking out a book on landfills and waste management in elementary school because it was long enough to be somewhat thorough and had enough photos to be interesting. Major fiction influences include books by Thornton Burgess, the Redwall series, and David Brin. I got introduced to the concept of fanfiction by the Redwall Online Community and spent many years in related activities so it wasn't too much of a leap for me to take HPMoR seriously. Getting keyword matches between Ariely and HPMoR kept me hooked, never mind the bit about arbitraging gold and silver, which I can't believe Harry hasn't tried doing by now.

Another thing that helped me take the ideas in Less Wrong seriously was my constant desire to re-examine by beliefs. For example, I've always been interested in the ideas in Christian apologetics.

As for where I started at LW, I can't really say. I know I read stuff that confirmed what I already knew like things about the Planning Fallacy. The first bit of new material was probably Mysterious Answers (and those in its sequence).

Comment author: pan 26 July 2013 01:20:03PM *  10 points [-]

Hey everyone, I'm 26, and a PhD candidate in theoretical physics (four years in, maybe two left). I've been reading LessWrong for years on and off but I put off participating for a long time, mainly because at first there was a lot of rationality specific lingo I didn't understand, and I didn't want to waste anyones time until I understood more of it.

I had always felt that things in life are just systems, and for most systems there are more and less efficient ways to do the same things. Which to me that is what rationality is, first seeing the system for what it actually is, and then tweaking your actions to better align with the actual rules of the system. So I began looking to see what other people thought about rationality, and eventually ended up here. I lurked for years, and finally made the first step towards involvement during the LW study hall, which I participated in for several weeks as notatest5 during my working hours.

I was accepted last year into one of the CFAR workshops with an offer for about 50% reduction in fees, but unfortunately for a graduate student it was still difficult for me to justify the cost when I am on a fixed income for the next few years and often spend exactly what I make each month. I would still like to attend in the future though, so hopefully once I graduate I will have the money and time. It will also help if some of the workshops are held on the east coast (where I live).

I've actually never read the quantum physics sequences, as I deal with quantum physics on a daily basis I didn't think I had much to gain. But as I look for places that I could contribute something to this site I think that could be one place that I have an advantage over others, if there is further interest in development of physics based sequences.

(Unimportant edit: the name pan is a reference to the Greek god, particularly in the book Jitterbug Perfume, in case anyone has read it.)

Comment author: Ben_LandauTaylor 26 July 2013 04:05:59PM 6 points [-]

It will also help if some of the workshops are held on the east coast

CFAR is holding a workshop in New York on November 1-4 (Friday through Monday).

Comment author: JWP 05 March 2014 11:06:39PM 9 points [-]

Hello, I'm Jennifer.

I'm here to get better at accomplishing my goals. I'd also like to get better at figuring out what my goals are, but I don't know if LW will help with that.

I don't identify as an aspiring rationalist. I try to be rational, but I am generally leery of identifying as much of anything. Labels are a useful layer of abstraction for dealing with people you don't really know well enough to consider as individuals, but I don't see much benefit in internally applying labels to oneself. If you do find it useful to think of yourself as an aspiring rationalist, I'd like to know what benefits you're seeing.

I have not so much lurked as sporadically encountered LW over the past several years. I don't recall how I first found the site, but I have followed links here on several separate occasions.

My historical usage pattern: * Follow a link to LW * Open a half dozen tabs (much like I do on TVTropes) * Read the tabs (usually from the sequences) * Realize that I've hit mental saturation * Close LW until the next time I stumble across a link

I became more interested in LW as a community when I got to know a community member in RL, but I still didn't register because I have an aversion to opening myself up to potentially hurtful comments on the internet, and LW seems particularly prone to the type of comment which I find most difficult to deal with. Then I decided to improve my criticism handling skills, so I registered.

Comment author: pallas 18 November 2013 12:50:17AM 9 points [-]

Hi! I've been lurking around on the blog. I look forward to actively engage from now. Generally, I'm strongly interested in AI research, rationality in general, bayesian statistics and decision problems. I hope that I will keep on learning a lot and will also contribute useful insights for this community as it is very valuable what people here are about to do! So, see you on the "battlefield". Hi to everyone!

Comment author: Inverse 30 July 2013 09:30:18PM *  9 points [-]

Hello! I'm Alex. I'm an undergrad currently studying economics and finance in the Bay Area. I think I first heard about Less Wrong on TVTropes, of all places, which lead me to HPMOR and then here. I bookmarked the site and forgot about it until pretty recently, when I came back and started reading articles and comments. I'm currently reading through the Major Sequences.

I'm very interested in economics and game theory, which defintely has a lot of overlap with rationality and behavioral science. Recently I've been learning computer programming as well. I guess I started to identify as a rationalist a few years ago, but there was never one set moment for me - it's something I think I've always valued. I love to learn and read and I suppose ideas involving rationality and cognition was just something that stuck out to me as interesting.

Other than that, I'm a big fan of Major League Baseball, and lately I've been attempting to write and record music. I'm definitely glad I found LW and am looking forward to reading more and hopefully being an active community member.

Also, I'm noticing quite a few similarities between the commenting and profile system here and the system on Reddit... anyone know if that was intentional?

Comment author: Randaly 30 July 2013 09:52:38PM *  5 points [-]

Hi Alex, I'm Alex!

Less Wrong's code is based off of Reddit's system. Reddit made their code base open-source in June of 2009; Less Wrong then forked it.

Comment author: takora 15 August 2014 07:21:10PM *  8 points [-]

Hi LW, My name's Olivier, I'm a 37-year-old Canadian currently living in Ottawa. My background is varied: I have a BA in Communication Studies and an MPhil in Japanese Studies but also a DEC (some special Quebec degree equivalent to the last year of high school and first of university in the rest of Canada and the USA) in Natural Sciences. I've owned a business, worked in cultural media and am now a public servant working in immigration.

I've been interested in AI, existential risks, intelligence explosion et al. for a number of years, probably since finding Bolstrom's paper on Simulated Reality.

I'm not 100% sure how I found LW, but it probably was while browsing for one of the topics above.

I've considered myself a rationalist for as long as I can remember, though I've long called it (rather naively?) "realist". Also being an existentialist, I try to bring these beliefs/convictions into practice in my work and how I raise my children (we'll see how that turns out!)

Through browsing here, I'm glad to find community that appears in between rigid academia and sensationalist media.

Anyhow, I'll most likely lurk a lot more than I post. Having three young kids leaves me with little time, and a sleep-addled, rather incoherent brain.

Thanks for reading!

Comment author: [deleted] 15 August 2014 09:44:34PM *  3 points [-]

Hello and welcome to LessWrong!

Wow! That's quite the background. Sounds like you enjoy to dip into each field. A useful virtue to have. You'll find plenty of people here whose interests extend to every field they can devour. I'm sure you'll have an interesting perspective to bring to the conversation!

AI, existential risks, and intelligence explosion are definitely bolded topics around LW. We're something of a sister organization to MIRI, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute. Don't know how familiar you are with them, but if AI interests you, I'd highly suggest giving them a look-see. Quite a few active LWers have worked with or at MIRI before, so cross-pollination is frequent.

Sounds like you've already started the work of trying to apply rational techniques in your life. Good on ya! Many of us here are always working to improve what some call "the martial arts of rationality" and make our own lives a little better planned, a little better exectued. We'd love to hear some of your experiences. Especially with kids! Now that's a problem that never gets solved!

We're certainly glad to have you, and if you feel like joining the conversation, hop right in! You might check out the latest Open Thread for some casual talk. It's a good place to start posting so you can get a feel for the community and its standards, and a great place to ask questions. Even though its an open thread, the conversation is serious and can even get pretty heated. If you're interested in a little (lie: a LOT) reading material, you can check out the Sequences, the main collection of LW posts covering and analyzing some of the most important topics on LW.

Whatever you do next, we're glad to have you!

Comment author: Benquo 15 August 2014 10:12:59PM 2 points [-]

Welcome! Just in case you haven't noticed yet, there's a Less Wrong meetup in Ottawa.

Sequences rec seconded, they're what formed the initial kernel of the Less Wrong community. There are many of them, so take them at a comfortable pace.

Comment author: LimberLarry 17 July 2014 09:16:52AM 8 points [-]

I'm Tom, 23 year old uni drop out (existential apathy is a killer), majored in Bioscience for what its worth. Saw the name of this site while browsing tvtropes and was instantly intrigued, as "less wrong" has always been something of a mantra for me. I lurked for a while and sampled the sequences and was pleased to note that many of the points raised were ideas that had already occurred to me.

Its good to find a community devoted to reason and that seems to actually think where most people are content not to. I'm looking forward suckling off the collective wisdom of this community, and hopefully make a valuable contribution or two of my own.

Comment author: aletheianink 28 November 2013 01:30:28AM 8 points [-]

I'm Katy, I'm 26, I have a 7 month old baby (I feel that's important because it heavily affects my current ability to think/sleep/eat/do anything) and a husband and ... well, I never really thought about rationality until I came across Less Wrong.

I grew up always ... wanting more. I believed in god, for a while, until I realised I was just talking to myself. I suffered from bipolar disorder (mainly depressive) from my early teens until ... well, until I became pregnant, actually, when it mysteriously disappeared. I wanted to meet people who understood, who thought deeper, who questioned, who wondered. I came across Terry Pratchett, and I found his ideas within stories to be so wonderful, but met few people who had read (or enjoyed) his writing, and even fewer who ever found the concepts of "how" and "why" as intensely interesting as I did.

I studied a lot of different things at university - English, history, Antarctic Studies (I live in Australia so there was a course down in Tasmania), maths, physics, business ... but most of my learning has been alone, through books or the internet or waking up at 2am and thinking "I wonder why that happens" and then going on an hours-long adventure through the internet.

When I got married, I got two lovely step-daughters in the package, aged 6 and 10, and introducing them to science and maths has really reignited my interest in learning again. Unfortunately this is slightly challenge by their mother who is a bit of an unpleasant dullard (when the girls learnt the entire periodic table from a song I showed them on youtube, her response was "science is boring" ). My husband and I also hope to home-school our daughter, and I want to be able to give her as much support as possible in whatever areas interest her, and ignite the love of knowledge that her father and I have.

I came across LW a few days ago and just instantly got drawn in - the form of the posts, the replies, the flow of logic and reason ... it's not only very educational, but inspires me to do better in my daily life. Sure, you don't have to be particularly rational to change a nappy or feed a baby, but (for example) I was considering getting contents insurance and, after reading a thread here I thought "maybe I should approach this rationally, instead of just thinking that it seems like a good idea", and went on to do some rough calculations and probabilities and approach it that way.

I don't think I'll be posting on any other threads any time soon - I'd rather read and learn and learn and get a feel for the community rather than post a half-decent comment that doesn't contribute much - but I figured it would be worth posting here to start with.

Comment author: Goshawk 15 September 2013 08:01:49PM *  8 points [-]

Hi! I've been lurking non-intensely for a while. I'm currently reading the sequences, and they've given me a lot of food for thought. I have a couple of rationalist friends (including RobbBB) who have gotten me interested in rationalism. I'm also a big fan of HPMOR, which is by far the best fanfic I've ever read.

Anyway, I'm trying to become a research scientist in linguistics, so it seems best that for professional development, in addition to personal development, I learn how to think and recognize why I think I know the things I think I know etc. So far, I've mostly been squirming in embarrassment over the fallacious reasoning I've been engaged in my whole life, but I hope that I can move forward to more productive thinking.

Comment author: apeterson 30 July 2013 08:23:39PM *  8 points [-]

I'm Anthony. I found out about Less Wrong from Overcoming Bias, and I found out about Overcoming Bias about 2 years ago when Abnormal Returns, which is like a sampler of all kinds of posts on the econ-blogsphere, linked to Overcoming Bias.

I had previously decided that the singulatarians were crazily optimistic. I thought they were all about the future being unimaginable goodness all the time. I guess that was my interpretation of Kurzeil. I thought they were unrealistic about the nature of reality. I don't believe that the singularity will hit in a few decades, at least I don't understand the arguments enough to think that yet, but it is an interesting topic

I used to be part of an Objectivist campus club at the University of CU-Denver. And then an Objectivist magazine promoted the idea of nuking Afghanistitan in response to 9/11. And also I discovered Michael Shermer's "Why People Believe Strange Things", and specially the chapter calling out Objectivism as a cult. I fought against the idea of Objectivism being a cult for a long time, but then I started to be convinced, and I eventually abandoned Objectivism completely.

But reading HPMOR, the sequences and some of the other posts here has been really informative and fun. I especially liked the Quantum Mechanics sequence, it really cleared up some of my fogginess on the subject, and made me want to know more. I am now working through the "Structure and Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics". Just the linear algebra in the latter half of Chapter 1 goes way behind anything I learned in college, so it is still slow going, but I have learned a lot about Linear algebra (projection operators. How to take a norm of a complex-valued vector, etc.)

I live in the Northern Lower Penninsula of Michigan. Its pretty rural up here. There aren't many jobs in IT around here, but I have one of them. Its a lot less specialized that I'm sure most IT jobs are. I do purchasing, PC support, in house app programming, printer support and on and on. I'm in the middle of a difficult programming project that's taken 2 years, because I am the only programmer here, and I can't spend full time on the project.

I see that there was recently a meetup in Detroit. I might have to make the drive south for the next one, if there is another one.

Anyway, I decided to it was time to get more involved and learn more actively. So I registered rather than continuing to lurk.

Comment author: AnatoliP 26 July 2013 05:36:33AM *  8 points [-]

Hello, I stumbled upon LW a few months ago. Some of the stuff here I find extremely interesting. Really like the quality of the articles and discussions here. I studied math and engineering, currently working as a s/w developer, also very much interested in economics and game theory.


Comment author: [deleted] 28 October 2014 03:58:31AM 7 points [-]

Hello, Less Wrong users. My internet handle is Jen, and I'm here because the conversations are interesting and this feels like the natural next step to reading the sequences (still in progress, but I'm getting through them alright) and HPMOR (caught up).

I'm a seventeen-year-old high school senior in the Southern California area. My most notable interests are anime, economics, evolutionary psychology, math, airsoft (and real guns), and possibly something important that I'm forgetting but that should be mentioned. I grew up speaking Spanish and English, but the latter is the only one I'm fluent in. I'm currently in my fourth year of Japanese, and I know enough for conversation, but my Spanish is still better because of early acquisition and the like. One thing I should mention ahead of time is that my ADHD makes it difficult for me to focus on writing something for long periods of time, so I stop posts a lot to do something else and thus what appears below may seem somewhat fragmented.

I learned about this community through a friend on another website, and when I learned about HPMOR a couple of months ago, I read through it in about two weeks, which says something when you learn that I had not read fiction (outside of what was required in school) in over a year prior to this fan fiction. About a month ago, I started to read through the sequences, which intimidated me at first since Bayes' Theorem is tossed at you right away, but once I got through my initiation, the rest was (or is, so far) not quite so overwhelming. Some posts feel obvious to me, others are in the category of "I've thought about this before but I could never articulate it," and then there are the fun ones where I have an "Ah ha!" moment upon learning something new and genuinely interesting. I'm going through the Sequences as they are listed on the Sequences' wiki page and am currently at the beginning of the Overly Convenient Excuses subsequence of How To Actually Change Your Mind.

As mentioned above, I'm in my senior year of high school, and since it's the fall semester I'm currently focused on college applications and the like, so I can't spend quite as much time reading and discussing things online as I'd like to, but I'm nonetheless trying to finish the Sequences, and after that I may start to read the Copy of Thinking, Fast & Slow that's been sitting on my bookshelf for the last three months, among other things.

I'm not a very poetic person, so I can't provide a beautiful, elegant, graceful explanation of how rationality feels to me in my heart of hearts. I'm interested in rationality because I like being correct, and because there are systematic errors in my thinking that prevent me from being correct.

強くなりたい and all that.

Comment author: LawrenceC 11 October 2014 12:50:57AM *  7 points [-]

Hi, everyone. I'm Lawrence and I'm a college freshman. I like to read, program, and do math in my spare time.

I grew up in the Bay Area with science and religion as my two ideals. My family was religious and went to church every Sunday, but at the same time they put a strong emphasis on learning science - by the time I was in fourth grade, the amount of science books my parents bought me (and that I read) filled an entire bookshelf. I loved religion because I felt like it gave meaning to the world, teaching us to be kind and to respect one another. But, perhaps paradoxically, that made me love science as well, for science gave us medicine, technologies, and other ways to help the poor and heal the sick, things that God commanded us to do.

My faith in religion took a hit in 5th grade, when a close family member was diagnosed with cancer. Neither the prayers of our Christian friends nor the medicine of her doctors helped. We moved to China to pursue alternate treatment, but in the end nothing could save her, and she passed away. I pleaded with God to bring her back, to enact some miracle. No miracles happened. Some of our Christian friends told us that it was all God's plan, and that she was with God now. But I remembered asking myself, if God is so great, why did He cause us so much suffering?

I asked myself this question, and I found no answer. I read the Bible again and I looked online, but still, no answer. In fact, I found many arguments against the existence of God, and against my faith. Most famous scientists, I discovered, also didn't believe that God existed. And so I slowly, painfully moved away from my faith.

Having turned myself away from God, I devoted myself to doing good in the world. I resolved to help end suffering, I told my family. They called me crazy. The suffering in the world wasn't going to end itself, I retorted angrily. They were amused. After that, I weighed the options before me: either I could study science, and maybe maybe invent something that could help the world, or, I could try to become rich, and then donate my money to charities and researchers who could then help the world. I decided to choose the latter. So I set down my science books and picked up economics books and biographies.

However, I always felt there was more time. After all, I was making some money off my investments, I read a lot more books than most of my peers, and I had taught myself calculus by 8th grade. My classes were easy. I started slacking off. I stopped reading as many books as I used to. I am ashamed to say this, but I lost my ambition. It was only through a combination of talent, prior knowledge, and luck that I managed to make it all the way through middle and high school.

I discovered LessWrong around December of last year, through HPMOR. I quickly tore through all the sequences in less than three months. Boy, did it have an effect. The things said here resonated with me. After reading Challenging the Difficult, I realized how far I had to improve, and how complacent I had become. After How to Actually Change Your Mind, I looked out at the world and saw how many problems there were to fix. After reading My Coming of Age, I felt that spark again, the will to do good in the world and to fight against poverty, ignorance, and death.

LessWrong made me panic, because it gave me a sense of how great these problems are. It also gave me hope, because it showed me a path to self-improvement. It was the first time I felt truly awed and outclassed, but also really motivated. Truly, there would be no god to save us. If we don't work hard enough, if we aren't smart enough, we can and will die.

Today I'm trying to improve myself. I've been doing two hours of math a day - I am almost done with multivariate calculus and am looking to begin probability theory soon. I finished a course on R a while ago and halfway through Learn You a Haskell For Great Good. Like Harry at the end of HPMOR, I am climbing the power ladder, albeit from very far down.

People ask me sometimes, what motivates you? Why don't you go out and have fun? And to them I reply with a quote from John Donne. “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

I am involved in mankind. I'm going to fight for it, and I'm not going to give up we reach the stars or die trying. It's not going to be easy. I know it's not. But it's not a fight we can give up on.

I look forward to contributing here!

Comment author: Chef 23 July 2014 11:40:41PM 7 points [-]

Hi, I'm Ian. I am a 32 year old computer programmer from Massachusetts. My main interest (in computer science) is in the realm of computational creativity but is by no means my only interest. For half my life, I've been coming up with my own sets of ideas - way back when it was on Usenet - some ideas better than others. Regardless of the eventual proven validity of my ideas, I find coming up with original ideas one of the primary motivators in my life. It is an exercise that allows me to continuously uncover beliefs and feelings and uncharted territory that wouldn't be possible for me to explore otherwise. Also, I find it remarkably difficult to find people to share and dissect my ideas with. Generally, people either tell me that I'm smart (I'm not particularly smart) or weird (I'm not particularly weird). In either case I find most people also don't want to continue talking about why wasabi and thunder are the same thing...or the relationship between creativity, intelligence, primes and small worlds...or why there is no such thing as a question...or why I'm a non-practicing atheist at the moment. What I hope to get out of this community is disagreement, agreement, new ideas, a reshaping of old ideas, friends, and above all, to know that other people in this world understand my ideas (even if they disagree with them). I hope to give this community some ideas they have never thought of.

Comment author: [deleted] 25 July 2014 05:30:22PM *  3 points [-]

Hello and welcome to LessWrong!

I admire your reasons for joining. It is easy to find a group or circle that does not challenge you and then rest on your laurels. Seeking out disagreement and criticism is a hard first step for a lot of people. But don't worry... you will certainly find both here! Not that that is a bad thing.

I see you've already added to the Discussion forum. Good on you for diving in and starting some new conversation. If you have some ideas you want to share and get critiqued but feel they are not fully formed enough for a post of their own, try the Open Thread. Even Open Thread conversations can be quite engaging and constructive (and heated! Don't forget heated).

Also, I don't know if you've read any of the LW literature people tend to reference, but, given your interest in refining your ideas, this) set of posts might interest you.

Comment author: Screwtape 10 June 2014 04:50:41PM 7 points [-]

Skyler here, a 21 year old technology student. Born and raised in the backwoods of Vermont to ahem philosophically diverse parents, was encouraged to read pretty much every philosophical book the library had except for Ayn Rand. So naturally I gravitated towards that as soon as I became enough of a teenager, but apparently completely missed the antagonism towards non-geniuses and couldn't for the life of me figure out why I seriously disliked every objectivist I met.

About two years ago, I had a professor who introduced me to HPMoR, which I enjoyed immensely. It took me around a month to move to the sequences. They seem to have had the curious property of seeming perfectly obvious, like someone simply expressing what I already knew just in better words, and while a lot of them do fall close in broad subject to things I'd written about before, the only use I'd had for bayesian statistics prior to reading them was spam filters. (And then the author's notes pointed me to Worm, which consumed a month or two.)

A couple of weeks ago however, I encountered a post on SlateStarCodex (which I'd been reading after stumbling upon it through unrelated browsing) about trans people, and somehow around the same time got linked to Alicorn's Polyhacking article. My positions previously were similar to the authors (Thought of both transgender and polyamory as mildly wrong and not understandable) and both made a solid argument that actually changed my mind. This was not the "Oh, of course I knew that" of the sequences, but a "Huh. I thought that was wrong, but they have good points. Let me think for five minutes and see if there are any more arguments for or against I can think of now." By the end of the respective days, I had a different opinion than I previously had, and was beginning to make changes in how I conducted myself because of one of them. In addition, they both seemed like interesting people I could relate to, and a community of such people could be really fun. (As opposed to Eliezer Y.- That is, I can imagine having a conversation with these people, whereas if I was in a conversation with Eliezer Y. I would feel compelled to take notes.)

So yeah. I'm here to see how many other topics require me to change my mind, and to hopefully have cool conversations with interesting people. Any recommendations on where to start?

Comment author: MondSemmel 02 August 2013 04:50:41PM *  7 points [-]

Hi! My name is Tobias. I'm from Munich in Germany, male, 24 years old, and currently doing a Master's degree in physics at LMU Munich. I'm doing okay to good in my studies, but I still struggle with procrastination in particular (though things have gotten better) and low motivation. In particular, while I like physics in the abstract, I don't particularly enjoy the reality of studying physics at a university. Most importantly, I'm totally unambitious, and not satisfied with that. I'll be finished with my studies in ~1.5h years, so I'm currently trying to plan what to do afterwards.

I first came upon Less Wrong when a friend of mine recommended HPMoR to me in ~11/2012. A while ago, I decided I'd use my current semester holidays to benefit from the resources and community on Less Wrong, and to find something genuinely useful to do in life. Any suggestions?

For instance, x-risk already sounds interesting, though I'm nowhere good enough at math to even consider MIRI research a valid option. Is there room for mortals anywhere in the broader field of x-risk reduction?

In a related question, do you have any ideas for topics of interest to e.g. transhumanists, which could be suited for a Master's or PhD thesis in physics, and for which finding a supervisor does not sound straight out impossible?

Basically, if you were in my position and had ~2 months to decide on a plan/goal/cause/short-term trajectory to maximize your impact in life (whatever that means), what would you do?

Considering my interest in the natural sciences, I guess I'd call myself an (anspiring?) epistemic rationalist. So far, I haven't had much success with instrumental rationalism though, considering my persisting problems with issues like procrastination or perfectionism. On the other hand, this year I finally managed to overcome 8+ years of sleeping issues by finally attacking the problem in what I would call a rational, comprehensive manner. (I will read the sequence The Science of Winning at Life next.)

I intend to read all the sequences eventually; so far, I've only read How to Actually Change Your Mind, The Map and the Territory, and Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 August 2013 03:29:16PM 7 points [-]

Hello. My name's Graedon. I'm 16, and I've got absolutely no idea of what I'm doing.

First off, I probably ended up on this site the same way a lot of people did: through MoR. I started reading it for fun, but soon the cool sciency stuff started to appeal more than the cool magicy stuff. I followed the link to LessWrong.com, and here I am.


That's pretty much it.

Comment author: NotInventedHere 31 July 2013 01:10:22PM 7 points [-]

I'm NIH, I'm 17, and I discovered this site through HPMOR in late 2010.

At that time I read "The Problem With Too Many Rational Memes", closed the tab and forgot about it for two years. In spring 2012, I discovered that there was a new arc for HPMOR, read it and decided that some of EY's other works might be worth reading. Over the summer I began to lurk heavily, culminating in me reading the "Blog posts 2006-2010" EPUB from start to finish in November, which led to me registering.

I'd like to make a prediction of High (80%) confidence that I am the only LW user residing in Nigeria. Living here has been a very frustrating experience on the whole, but after three years I can say that I've adapted fairly well. While I lived in Canada, I was placed into the Gifted stream in elementary school, which provided me with the majority of my friend group in the meatspace, and aside from the direct consequences of socializing with said group almost exclusively, I can't really say how it's affected me.

For my tertiary education I'd like to study Computer Science, and I'm currently leaning towards the University of Waterloo. Due to the way the result schedule is structured here in Nigeria, that will require me to write my matriculation exam this November, as opposed to the usual time for someone in my class of June 2014. I'm being advised by almost everyone I've spoken to that to enter a Canadian University I would be best off repeating 12th grade for the Canadian Diploma, so because of that I am not particularly stressed about having to write two sets of final exams this year.

My interests include reading (Favorite authors are Iain M. Banks, Terry Pratchett and William Gibson), computer hardware, tabletop role-playing-games, programming (Python and some elementary webdev) and video games.

Comment author: ExaminedThought 01 August 2013 10:54:17PM *  17 points [-]

My name is Crystal, and I'm 25 years old. I don't see a lot of female names around here but I guess I'm used to that. I was the only girl in most of my college engineering classes. I was the only female programmer where I worked.

I've always tried to be rational in an intuitive sort of way. Knowing the truth is one of my prime life motivators, and I've always been strange to others because of it.

People so often don't want the truth because it hurts, but I've tended to treat that hurt like a thrill seeker would. I came up with a little motto for myself, "We grow by questioning what we know."

I have a shit ton of curiosity. I ask questions along the lines of "I wonder why..." that make people look at me like I've grown a second head. When ideas sound really strange, I want to investigate them. I grew up reading my dad's moldy Asimov books. I love reading and read tons of non-fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy.

Growing up, I wanted to be a scientist and a writer. I wanted to do both, perhaps, because I thought writers could never make any money. But I also wanted to help colonize space, which from a young age I thought was crucial to humanity’s survival.

After I finished my Computer Engineering and Computer Science degree, I set out to find a job. I'm not totally sure why I picked that major. I think I wanted to build Asimov's robots, but I'm not totally sure of my motivations now. I took the highest paying job offer I received and then I worked like a good worker bee. I was firmly on the Proper Path according to everyone I knew.

And I wanted to shoot myself in the head because programming business portals and websites for big chain restaurants was so utterly incompatible with how I saw the world and how I wanted to spend my time. I did not think I was contributing anything positive to the world with my work. I decided to leave my job without knowing what I wanted to do instead. I've been living on my savings and thinking I've been experiencing a dreadful existential crisis.

Through my years of researching ideas that struck me as strange, I've collected more and more traits that normal people find weird. I don't like ever wearing shoes. I'm a minimalist. I don't think advertising is moral. I don't buy much of anything physical. I don't think businesses have much incentive to be healthy or ethical. I'm not a Democrat or a Republican. I don't think voting third party helps. I've lied to my family that I've actually voted because they're horrified that someone wouldn't. I stopped eating meat. I'm an atheist. I've just recently heard of transhumanism and it feels like I've FINALLY found like minded people in that regard. I could come up with more, but that's probably enough.

I started blogging years ago and had no idea what the overall theme of the crap I was writing was. It took me a lot of writing to figure out what I was even trying to say. But I think what I've been writing about is my own convoluted stumbling around in the dark on how to think better. Trying to be rational when I didn't know Rationality was a Discipline.

I stumbled across HP:MoR on July 19, 2013 and read it all within four days. I always thought the snitch was stupid. And Ron was annoyingly dumb. I've read a ton of pop science books and even knew of some of the studies and biases that Harry/Eliezer talked about. Reading it was a weird feeling of focusing so much of what I've been stumbling around with into a Coherent Thing.

Then I moved on to the sequences that were referenced from HP:MoR. I downloaded the ebook copy for my Kindle. I've only read 20% of them, but I feel the very way I think changing again. A lot of it confirms what I already thought, but there's also epiphany after epiphany. When I go to sleep lately, I notice my thoughts are a nonsensical blend of probability this and that.

The sequences are like what I almost blindly wanted to do with my blog. But the sequences are obviously a million times better. What little I've written is put to shame. I would consider myself a Rationalist now only because I am on the path. I am very unconfident in my skills at this point.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 August 2013 11:58:18AM 3 points [-]

I don't see a lot of female names around here

It's not like your username sounds obviously feminine either, so how confident you are about whether a given user (except the obvious ones, say lukeprog or NancyLebovitz) is male or female?

But yes, according to the last survey, only around 10% of the people here are women, and even fewer among the most prolific contributors.

Comment author: immasix 10 August 2014 02:04:51PM 6 points [-]

I'm Imma, recently graduated from university (mix of physics and chemistry) and I self-identify as effective altruist . I'm not very familiar with LW material but want to gradually improve my rationality. I consider attending the CFAR workshop but have to prioritize this to donating the money to effective charities.

I'm involved in a combined EA/LW meetup group in Utrecht (Netherlands). We have biweekly events which I'm planning to announce on LW as well.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 August 2014 02:38:17AM *  2 points [-]

Hello and welcome to LessWrong!

Sounds like you're already getting your feet wet! That's great. Always glad to have new members who actively participate in the real world (helps with the "effective" part of "effective altruism.") If you ever do get a chance to attend a CFAR workshop, you'll have plenty of people here to talk with about the lessons and ideas you come across. The CFAR and LW communities are strongly connected (as you can guess), so there's plenty of cross pollination of ideas.

So you're already part of a meetup? Awesome! Feel free to list it on the meetup page. It never hurts to spread the word about your local meetups, and some LWers may not even realize they live right down the road from an active group.

If you're interested in checking out some LW materials, the Sequences make for some good reading. Since improving yourself interests you, consider reading Alicorn's Living Luminously or lukeprog's The Science of Winning at Life. Both cover some useful ideas for self improvement and instrumental rationality.

Given your background and the steps you're already taking to get involved, I'm sure you'll have some very interesting things to share with the community before too long. Glad you've decided to join! Hope you enjoy your time and come away better than you were before.

Comment author: VAuroch 11 August 2014 03:26:47AM 2 points [-]

All your [] and () are switched.

Comment author: BenWrongBefore 03 June 2014 02:17:18PM *  6 points [-]

(Aside: I'm trying to become more concise and articulate in my writing, so I welcome anyone and everyone to critique my postings. I know this post is long-winded when compared to its neighbors. I left it long since it took me a number of words to relate where I came from, which I imagine to be more interesting than the TL;DR version, which goes something like, "My name is Ben. I used to be a devout Christian, then I was drug-addled and irrational in myriad ways. Now, I know some mathematics, but not a ton, and I'd like to learn more of the math I like and continue working on thinking less irrationally." )

My name is Ben. I'm 23 years old, and I live in the southeastern USA. I moved back here to attend university after spending a few years working on the west coast. Perhaps you've had a friend who had another friend, and this second friend turned your friend on to the idea that some of this or that would teach them something about this. I've been this person, and my road to rationality began with going a little loopy after a little too much of this, which came out of this.

I grew up in Mississippi. I was nursed on Jesus, Calvin, hellfire, brimstone, and Coca Cola. The lessons in homophobia were more explicit than the ones in racism. Also, lots of video games. This generated a critical mass (sorry physicists) of cognitive dissonance that led to me leaving the church and nearly dropping out of secondary school. I tried a semester of college. The courses presented were there for reasons bureaucratic more so than anything else. I wasn't sure what I was doing there, so I left and ended up in a rural community on the west coast. That's where the drugs happened, and it's where the drugs ended. Apparently, toads from a gas station parking lot contain several things at least as weird as the thing I wanted them to contain. I adapted to the physical side-effects over time, but the immediate impact on my cognition was overwhelming at the time. Things previously innocuous would now keep me from sleeping for a week and stir up a great deal of existential dread. I came home for a few months. I spent a lot of time outdoors running and doing construction work, and I spent a lot of time sitting alone in my room with my mind. I learned to meditate, and I started reading again. My brain was having a hard time sticking to reality at the time, and I was very scared. I knew I had been foolish and wrong. I knew I was lacking in discernment. What I didn't know was where to start with developing my thought to be more rational.

I went back out west for maybe five months the next year. I got back in touch with some folks in the San Francisco Bay Area. I stayed away from drugs, but I could tell in my conversations and actions that I was still missing something.

I returned again to Mississippi at the beginning of 2012 to get back into school, which I had dropped out of in 2008. I started in biology, but our program wasn't remotely quantitative, which is rubbish if you aren't trying to go to med school. After a semester of this, I read HPMoR as it existed at the time at the suggestion of a relative. I also discovered LW as result. I lurked a bit, but I was spending most of the summer camping, which made it hard to keep up with web content. I forgot about LW as a community for the most part, but it played a big role in getting me to think more about how I thought and in inspiring me to change majors and largely ignore biological science for the time being.

I switched to mathematics, with no significant background in the area, a little less than two years ago. Since then, I've completed all but the three capstone classes for our curriculum, which I need to pick up over the next year. I went through my curriculum in a bit of a rush. I took summer classes. I took some "upper level" classes early. I hurt myself by memorizing passwords for a few classes I was less interested in, but the upside is that was making time to learn to program. (UPDATE: This absolutely applies to the preceding sentence.) I developed an interest in theoretical computer science and in general abstract nonsense, but I'm only just now making time to actually familiarize myself with the subjects. Now, I'm trying to be more objective about my learning process. I'm recognizing my weaknesses, which are plenty. You see, it's still been less than a year since I drew my first little QED box.

A little over a month ago, three things happened that led to me gaining a great deal of direction that I was lacking. *First, I realized that my undergraduate studies were almost over, although they would be stretched out over the next year, and that I've hardly managed to scratch the surface of mathematics.
*Second, I found that the Singularity Institute had become MIRI, saw the course list, and then found Nate's posts on productivity. *Third, I found the Less Wrong Study Hall, where you can find me as simply "ben."
I was thrilled to see that there was actually a call for caring about this sort of material (apart from my own interests), and I was inspired by Nate's independent study endeavors. The study hall was my first step towards getting involved with the community, and I found it to be greatly rewarding both socially and in terms of productivity.

My school doesn't offer many classes of the sort I'm interested in, and I don't feel that I have sufficient experience to apply to graduate programs that do. As I result, I've started tackling the MIRI course list on my own time. I'm loving it, and I would love to discuss it... especially talking about setting reasonable expectations given my position as a relative novice. I'm presently working through material on probability models and discrete mathematics first, as it's what I have the most past experience with, but I'm also getting into areas pertaining more explicitly to theoretical computer science and mathematical logic.

Thanks for taking the time to read my little account of things. I look forward to getting to know you as well!

Comment author: JosephY 27 May 2014 10:27:23PM *  6 points [-]

Hi, my name is Joe. I live in North Jersey. I was born into a very religious Orthodox Jewish family. I only recently realized I how badly I was doublethinking.

I started with HPMOR (as, it seems, do most people) and found my way into the Sequences. I read them all on OB, and was amazed at how eloquently someone else could voice what seems to be my thoughts. It laid out bare the things I had been struggling with.

Then I found LW and was mostly just lurking for a while. I only made an account when I saw this post and realized how badly I wanted to upvote some of the comments :).

I think this site and the Sequences on it have changed my life, and I'm glad to finally be part of it.

Comment author: Will_BC 07 May 2014 10:11:16PM *  6 points [-]

Hello all! My name is Will. I'm 21 and currently live in upstate New York. A bit about myself:

At an early age, I remember I was thinking in my head, and I caught myself in a lie. I already knew that it was wrong to lie to other people, though I did it sometimes, but I could not think of any good reason to lie to myself. It was some time before I really started to apply this idea.

My parents divorced when I was ten, and my mother discovered that she had a brain tumor around the same time. In the face of this uncertainty and unpleasantness, my mother turned to religion. She reached the other side of these events without great harm, and in her gratitude began bringing her children (my younger brother and me) to church with her. I had not considered religion much before, and had been somewhat skeptical, but since I was aware of no one personally who shared my skepticism, I suppressed my instincts and became involved with youth groups and church camps. However, my doubts persisted over time as attempted to become a faithful and devout Christian. I knew that I hadn't accepted the claims they made completely, and that caused a great deal of stress. If I had doubts, surely an all knowing God would see them and punish me.

A turning point came when I learned that a couple of my close friends didn't believe in God, and that was the straw that broke the camel's back. I lost the faith I never really had. Considering the existence of God to be someone likely had caused me a great deal of stress, and I felt a great sense of relief by accepting what I deep down believed to be true, an extremely cathartic dissipation of cognitive dissonance. By the time I got to college, I had watched many atheist debates on YouTube and read several atheist books, and became even more confident in my position.

Once I arrived at my university, I joined a club that was mostly populated by atheists ( the Secular Student Alliance and found that I was happiest surrounded by like-minded people. I would Eventually be elected the groups President. Also while I was at university, I took and was a TA for a philosophy class on Plato and Aristotle. Having read some books by Steven Pinker, I realized the science behind why Plato had come up with his theory of Forms. It bothered me considerably that this was not being taught to students along with the historical material, and it also bothered me to discover that there were people who still identified as Platonists. Not all, but too many of the people in the philosophy department struck me as being more concerned with arguing and showing off their intelligence than in actually understanding the world. They matched almost exactly the Sophists that had plagued Socrates.

In 2011, I became involved in the Occupy Movement. I thought that the world was sufficiently bad that it needed changing, and that even if it was a long shot trying was better than doing nothing, I learned a lot about what happens when you forbid anyone to take a leadership position, and also how to organize people who don't want anyone to tell them what to do (between that and running a group of atheists, the meaning behind the phrase "herding cats" has become quite clear to me). I'm interesting to see if some of these ideas might be useful to a rationalist community.

In December of 2012, I an idea struck me that I thought would change the world. It was about organizing people using fractals, and I thought I would immediately start a revolution. I then came to the more general realization that "fractals" were the source of everything in the universe, explaining how complexity arose from simplicity. My friends didn't seem as impressed as I thought they should be. I became increasingly distressed and brought myself to a hospital. They recommended I be admitted to a mental hospital, and with an amount of good sense surprising for one in my condition, I agreed, thinking I either was insane or would be proven sane and therefore right about having solved the mysteries of the universe. I was diagnosed with bipolar type 1. My erratic behavior had been the result of my only truly manic episode, with all the associated grandiose delusions.

After my release from the hospital, I entered a deep depression (which often follows mania in those with bipolar). I lost my sense of self. I didn't know to what extent the new psychoactive medications I was taking were suppressing my intelligence and creativity, I was unsure of my future, and it seemed to me that I had to drastically lower my expectations from what they were in the past in order to prevent a return to mania. I thought that my depression was the price of stability and sanity. I entered a regimen of treatment that was quite difficult and did not produce results very quickly, including what I thought of as a last ditch effort, elctro-convulsive therapy.

In March of this year, I was put on a new medication. This medication improved my mood considerably, and around the same time I started taking it I decided to give lesswrong a closer look. I had seen posts from it elsewhere on the internet, but I had never really given it thorough consideration. Once I began to go through it systematically, starting with Benito's guide. I found that much of it corresponded with ideas that had appealed to me elsewhere, and I found the new ideas to be stimulating as well. Finding lesswrong correlated with a turning point in my life. I have found useful advice and inspiration on this website, I hope to be able to contribute in the future, but right now I'm primarily focusing on finishing the sequences before I get into much posting. I decided to join the study hall to help with akrasia and enjoyed my time there so I wanted to introduce myself to the community more thoroughly.

Comment author: zuthan 18 March 2014 04:44:26PM *  6 points [-]

Hi, I'm Chris Barnett.

I encountered HPMOR when I met Christopher Olah at Chez JJ, Mountain View in April 2012 during a networking expedition to Silicon Valley. I read for approximately 3 days straight. HPMOR took the place of Ender's Game, which I'd only read a few weeks before, as my favourite fiction.

I joined the Melbourne LessWrong community in early 2013 and finished reading the sequences soon after. My favourite sequences are Epistemology, Quantum Physics and Words.

I started the first rationalist sharehouse in Melbourne with Brayden McLean, Thomas Eliot and Allison Rea in June 2013, completed the first Melbourne CFAR workshop in February 2014 and moved to Berkeley CA at 1pm on March 6th 2014 (via timezone teleportation :P).

I'm in the process of deciding where my time would best be spent to maximize the expected goodness of the future. I still have much confusion about how to read the output of my utility function for far future scenarios involving AI, brain upload, mind copying and consciousness-containing simulations, but I have a few heuristics such as less suffering is better, more exploration of possibility space is better, retention of human values in general (such as freedom, love, curiosity) is better. I'm strongly considering accepting a programming job with Rev, primarily for skill attainment and income, with the interestingness of their long term vision being a significant motivational bonus. I'm also exploring working at Leverage as a possibility and plan to network with people in crypto-tech and social choice theory. I've spent hundreds of hours designing a distributed reputation system which I plan to publish in the form of 1 or more white papers and a series of blog posts, the first of which is here: https://zuthan.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/reputation-is-powerful.

To respond to Jennifer's request, I self-identify as an aspiring rationalist. I see this as prescriptive rather than descriptive: I aspire to be rational. I too use a general heuristic of not using labels on myself because most of them come associated with arbitrary baggage. Aspiring Rationalist seems well enough defined to be useful, though.

Comment author: Mister_Tulip 27 February 2014 07:58:19PM 6 points [-]

Hi. I've actually been lurking here for a couple months now, but I've recently started actually making comments, so I figure this is probably the right time to introduce myself. (Also, I only discovered this post this morning.)

Since I'm not great at expressing my thoughts in an aesthetically-pleasing fashion without the use of lists, I suppose from here I'll just go down the list of suggested topics of introduction from the beginning of the post.

Who I am: The name I generally go by online is Mister Tulip. I'm sixteen years old, but getting older at a rate of approximately one year per year. Thanks to the conveniences of homeschooling, I have far more free time than seems to be typical for my age-range, which I expend on a large-feeling collection of time-sinks which isn't actually particularly large whenever I write it down.

What I'm doing: Receiving a general education from my father, attending an introductory psychology course at the nearest community college once per week, and spending my exorbitant amounts of free time on anything which interests me enough to occupy it. Among my time-sinks are keeping track of two large fandoms (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Homestuck), playing video games, watching movies (which used to be much less of a time-sink, but has become one since my family signed up for Netflix), reading TVTropes, and as of about a month ago, reading stuff on Less Wrong.

What I value: I'm not really sure. My values are inconsistent in weird ways which make it hard to actually analyze them (for instance, viewing Total Utilitarianism as a Good Thing, but not aspiring to actually follow its principles). I suppose the strongest statement I can make about my values with any confidence is that I'm some sort of consequentialist, but that's not a narrow enough category to be of much use to me.

How I came to identify as a rationalist: I started reading Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality last year (or, if you want to get technical, one year and sixteen days ago), and realized, "Hey, this is basically an idealized model of how I wish I could think!" (Off-topic question: What's the general consensus on how to do punctuation at the end of inline quotes like that? I've never quite figured it out). I didn't immediately identify as a rationalist after that, since I didn't feel like I really thought that way, but it made it easy enough to slip under the metaphorical umbrella that I didn't even notice the point at which it happened.

How I found Less Wrong: As mentioned in the above paragraph, I read HPMOR about a year ago, and it made me aware that LW existed, although I didn't really read much on it, and eventually re-forgot about it. I then read Luminosity about two months ago, and it once again linked to Less Wrong; that time, I stuck around for long enough to read a few posts (chiefly the luminosity sequence), then forgot about it. The final straw was reading Friendship is Optimal about one month ago, which linked back to LW again; that time, the pages I read managed to convince me that the site was interesting enough to be worth investing larger portions of time into. And here I am now, investing over an hour of writing time on a single comment here.

Comment author: Sanji 01 December 2013 01:02:07AM 6 points [-]

I'm Griffin. I am 17 and sending in my first application to college today! (relevance? maybe)I suppose one reason I am signing up for an account now is that all these wacky essays have made me want to write more about myself.

Things that led me to Less Wrong: well I guess when I first found my way here it was to the wiki article on some religious topic and I was like, "hmm a hate website. How curious." because I had that thing where I knew hate websites existed but didn't really connect it to reality. In any case, I closed the page and went on doing whatever I was doing

Later I stumbled upon Less Wrong again, this time under the guise of Overcoming Bias. This was probably at an old or obsolete section of the website, and it linked to the sequences, which I read about 1/4 of. I became all about the power of science, and became insufferable to be around (I suspect) for a few weeks.

I cooled off for some time (still trying to apply the techniques I learned) but then discovered HPMOR, which started all over again and became this huge ordeal.

In any case, I lurked for around two years, and accumulated a few pet projects I intend to work on later in life (or now), mostly influenced by this blog. I do viola at an arts high school, and the uncuriousity of musicians in general just baffles me.

Also gender and sexuality may have influenced me getting inexorably drawn here, because I was drawn to the asexual community, being asexual (or at least near it in asexy-space). Asexuals are super into reductionism (link to an asexual blog) and just wacky models in general, and the idea that theoretical models shouldn't be wrong was kind of hammered into me, hence the dislike of music theory and also the inexorable drawing. Of course, it's possible I started with a strong sense that beliefs should be consistent and that models should not be wrong.

Should theoretical models not be wrong? Now that I actually put that (mostly subconscious) belief down in writing, I find myself suspecting it.

Proof that I need to be a better rationalist: it took me 90 minutes to figure out that I needed to verify my email address in order to comment. I was distracted because there was a thing on this page that takes me down to were this comment box allegedly was, but I hadn't done the email so I didn't see any box (or little button that says reply on every comment). I was convinced (to my credit, it was more suspicion than conviction) that the website had some sort of bug. At one point I gave up and tried to post in the discussion place an article asking for help (couldn't post a comment asking for help duh) and I was saved from the embarrassment (until now) by the little message that says I need an email to post articles. One crazy entrance exam, huh?

Comment author: hydkyll 21 November 2013 12:10:14AM 6 points [-]

I'm Thomas, 23 years old, from Germany. I study physics but starting this semester I have shifted my focus on Machine Learning, mostly due to the influence of lesswrong.

Here are a few things about my philosophical and scientific journey if anyone's interested.

I grew up with mildly religious parents, never being really religious myself. At about 12 I came into contact with the concept of atheism and immediately realized that's what I was. Before, I hadn't really thought about it but it was clear to me then. For a long time I felt a bit ashamed of not believing in god. I never mentioned it to anyone, probably fearing the reaction I would get. I would have called myself agnostic then. Only recently did I realize the extent to which religion can be dangerous and how deeply irrational it is. I consider it completely useless these days and I'm get actually confused whenever I find out that someone I thought of as rather intelligent turns out to believe in god.

Apart from that I had a minor existential crisis when I realized the implications of a deterministic world on free will. I was in the equivalent of high school when I read an article about the topic. Afterwards I felt strange for days, always thinking that nothing really mattered. But then I was actually able to (crudely) 'dissolve the question' and found peace with this issue.

After that, I spent very little time on philosophic topics for a long time. I thought I knew roughly what there was to know. I was wrong there.

Regarding my scientific education, I did always very well in math and consequently began studying physics (and as seems to be the case with some other physicists here I'm very skeptical towards the Many-World Interpretation). I always wanted to do something to advance our society and I thought physics was the right way. My original plan was to work on fusion reactors to solve the energy crisis this world is facing. Though, now, after spending some time on this site, I don't think anymore that the energy problem is our most urgent problem.

Discovering lesswrong was not that easy for me. Until 19 I spent my time in the German-speaking part of the Internet. Then someday I stumbled upon reddit (was that a pun?). Incidentally that really improved my English. And somewhere on reddit I clicked on a link which led me to HPMoR (thank you who ever posted that). Then I found lesswrong and now I'm here.

I'm about halfway through the sequences and I hope I can contribute once I finish. Learning about biases has already helped me a lot. For the future I think I'm most interested in learning about reasoning and decision theory.

Comment author: etterka 19 November 2013 12:52:42AM 6 points [-]

Hello everyone, I've graduated in computer science this summer and I'm very much interested in philosophy and ethics (besides rationality, of course). I've stumbled upon LW through friends and found much of the content here to be eye-opening and fascinating. I'm still working my way through the core sequences, so don't expect any meaningful contributions soon – but, as rationalists, you should always be ready to be surprised! :-)

Comment author: iarwain1 29 October 2013 04:09:06PM *  6 points [-]

Hi, I've been lurking for a while. I haven't yet read most of the sequences, since I find the style not so much to my liking. I prefer textbooks, so I'll probably go out and get the textbooks on this list or this one instead. I read somewhere on this site that Thinking and Deciding is pretty much the sequences in book form. I did read HP:MOR though - brilliant!

In the meantime, I've read a decent amount on LW-related subjects, including the following books on rationality:

  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Everything Is Obvious Once You Know the Answer by Duncan Watts
  • The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt
  • The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver
  • How to Lie With Statistics by Darrell Huff
  • Thinking Statistically by Uri Bram

Another interest is futurism, on which I've read the following:

  • The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil
  • Abundance by Peter Diamandis
  • The Future by Al Gore
  • The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen
  • Big Data by Victor Mayer-Schonberger
  • Approaching the Future by Ben Hammersley
  • Radical Abundance by Eric Drexler

I'm also very interested in positive psychology and behavioral change. Good books I've read on this include:

  • Flourish by Martin Seligman
  • Happiness by Ed Diener
  • The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky
  • The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
  • Pretty much everything by Gallup, especially the books by Tom Rath
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • Self-Directed Behavior by David Watson and Roland Tharp

Finally, I've read quite a bit about business, including about half of the excellent Personal MBA reading list.

Comment author: Vaniver 29 October 2013 10:15:15PM *  2 points [-]

I read somewhere on this site that Thinking and Deciding is pretty much the sequences in book form.

So, my review of Thinking and Deciding claims that T&D is a good introduction to rationality. One of the comments there is a link to Eliezer's comment that Good and Real is basically the Sequences in book form.

The two are about different topics- T&D is about the meat of rationality (what is thinking, biases, hypothesis generation and testing, values, decisionmaking under certainty and uncertainty), whereas G&R is about the philosophy of reductionism, focusing on various paradoxes, like Newcomb's Problem. For reasons that I have difficulty articulating, I found G&R painful to read, but I appear to be atypical in that reaction. (I liked the Sequences, and so if you disliked the Sequences my pain might be a recommendation for G&R!)

A primary value of the Sequences, in my opinion, is the resulting philosophical foundation- many people come away from the Sequences with the feeling that their views haven't changed significantly, but that they have been clarified significantly- which I don't think one gets from T&D (whereas I do think that T&D is much more effective at training executive-nature / facility with decision-making than the Sequences).

Comment author: [deleted] 04 September 2013 06:57:37PM 6 points [-]

Hello! I'm a 19 year old woman in Washington state, studying microbiology as an undergraduate. I was introduced to the "scene" when a friend recommended HPMOR in high school. I was raised in an atheist household with a fairly strong value on science, so it was novel if not mind-blowing- but still encouraged me to think about the way I think, read some of the Sequences, and get into Sam Harris and Carl Sagan. At college I began reading the rest of Less Wrong, and some related sites, and began identifying as a rationalist.

(Well, let's be honest here- I also moved from a math-and-science-oriented high school to a very liberal college, where my social identity changed from "artsy and literary" to "science-y and analytic". I would be lying if I said that trying to live up to it wasn't a compelling factor!)

LW and 80,000 hours also motivated me to change several of my long-held beliefs (at the moment, I can think of immortality and, well, er, most areas of rationality, which I guess is expected), and re-evaluate my career plans- changing my intended focus from environmental research or emerging diseases, to neglected tropical diseases (if this happens to be anyone's area of expertise, I'd be interested to hear!)

Anyways, I've been integrating the website into my head for some time now, and, equipped with the moniker of my favorite family of wasp, think it's about time to (begin, very slowly, to) integrate my head into the website. Nice to be here!

Comment author: tom_cr 27 August 2013 10:48:49PM 6 points [-]

Hi folks

I am Tom. Allow me to introduce myself, my perception of rationality, and my goals as a rationalist. I hope what follows is not too long and boring.

I am a physicist, currently a post-doc in Texas, working on x-ray imaging. I have been interested in science for longer than I have known that 'science' is a word. I went for physics because, well, everything is physics, but I sometimes marvel that I didn't go for biology, because I have always felt that evolution by natural selection is more beautiful than any theory of 'physics' (of course, really it is a theory of physics, but not 'nominal physics').

Obviously, the absolute queen of theories is probability theory, since it is the technology that gives us all the other theories.

A few years ago, during my PhD work, I listened to a man called Ben Goldacre on BBC radio, and as a result stumbled onto several useful things. Firstly, by googling his name afterwards, I discovered that there are things called science blogs (!) and something called a 'skeptic's community.' I became hooked.

The next thing I learned from Goldacre’s blog was that I had been shockingly badly educated in statistics. I realized for example, that science and statistics are really the same thing. Damn, hindsight feels weird sometimes - how could I possibly have gone through two and a bit degrees in physics, without realizing this stupendously obvious thing? I started a systematic study.

Through the Bad Science blog, I also found my way to David Colquhoun’s noteworthy blog, where a commenter brought to my attention a certain book by a certain E.T. Jaynes. Suddenly, all the ugly, self-contradictory nonsense of frequentist statistics that I’d been struggling with (as a result of my newly adopted labors to try to understand scientific method better) was replaced with beauty and simple common sense. This was the most eye-opening period of my life.

It was also while looking through professor Colquhoun’s ‘recently read’ sidebar that I first happened to click on a link that brought me to some writing by one Dr. Yudkowsky. And it was good.

In accord with my long-held interest in science, I think I have always been a rationalist. Though I don't make any claims to be particularly rational, I hold rationality as an explicit high goal. Not my highest goal, obviously – rationality is an approach for solving problems, so without something of higher value to aim for, what problem is there to solve? What space left for being rational? I might value rationality ‘for its own sake,’ but ultimately, this means ‘being rational makes me happy’, and thus, as is necessarily so, happiness is the true goal.

But rationality is a goal, nonetheless, and a necessary one, if we are to be coherent. To desire anything is to desire to increase one’s chances of achieving it. Science (rationality) is the set of procedures that maximize one’s expectation to identify true statements about reality. Such statements include those that are trivially scientific (e.g. ‘the universe is between 13.7 and 13.9 billion years old’), and those that concern other matters of fact, that are often not considered in science’s domain, such as the best way to achieve X. (Thus questions that science can legitimately address include: How can I build an airoplane that won’t fall out of the sky? What is the best way to conduct science? How can I earn more money? What does it mean to be a good person?) Thus, since desiring a thing entails desiring an efficient way to achieve it, any desire entails holding rationality as a goal.

And so, my passion for scientific method has led me to recognize that many things traditionally considered outside the scope of science are in fact not: legal matters, political decisions, and even ethics. I realized that science and morality are identical: all questions of scientific methodology are matters of how to behave correctly, all questions of how to behave are most efficiently answered by being rational, thus being rational is the correct way to behave.

Philosophy? Yup, that too – if I (coherently) love wisdom, then necessarily, I desire an efficient procedure for achieving it. But not only does philosophy entail scientific method, since philosophy is an educated attempt to understand the structure of reality, there is no reason (other than tradition) to distinguish it from science – these two are also identical.

My goals as a rationalist can be divided into 3 parts: (1) to become more adept at actually implementing rational inference, particularly decision making, (2) to see more scientists more fully aware of the full scope and capabilities of scientific method, and (3) to see society’s governance more fully guided by rationality and common sense. Too many scientists see science as having no ethical dimension, and too many voters and politicians see science as having no particular role in deciding political policy: at best it can serve up some informative facts and figures, but the ultimate decision is a matter of human affairs, not science (echoing a religious view, that people are somehow fundamentally special, dating back to a time before anybody had even figured out that cleaning the excrement from your hands before eating is a good idea). I’m tired of democratically elected politicians making the same old crummy excuse of having a popular mandate - “How can I deny the will of the people?” - when they have never even bothered to look into whether or not their actions are in the best interests of the people. In a rational society, of course, there would be no question of evidence-based politics defying the will of the people: the people would vote to be governed rationally, every time.

Goal (1) I pursue almost wholly privately. Perhaps the Less Wrong community can help me change that. After my PhD, while still in The Netherlands, I tried to establish and market a short course in statistics for PhD students, which was my first effort to work on goal (2). This seemed like the perfect approach: firstly, as I mentioned, my own education (and that of many other physicists, in particular) on the topic of what science actually is, was severely lacking. Secondly, in NL, the custom is for PhD students to be sent for short courses as part of their education, but the selection of courses I was faced with was abysmal, and the course I was ultimately forced to attend was a joke – two days of listening to the vacuousness of a third-rate motivational speaker.

I really thought the dutch universities would jump at the chance to offer their young scientists something useful, but they couldn’t see any value in it. So I took the best bits of my short course, and made them into a blog, which also serves, to a lesser degree, to address goal (3).

As social critters, wanting the best for us and our kind, I expect that most of us in the rationalist community share a goal somewhat akin to my goal (3). Furthermore, I expect that more than any other single achievement, goal (3) would also dramatically facilitate goals (1) and (2), and their kin. Thus I predict that a reasoned analysis will yield goal (3), or something very similar, to be the highest possible goal within the pursuit of rationalism. The day that politicians consistently dare not neglect to seek out and implement the best scientific advice, for fear of getting kicked out by the electorate, will be the dawn of a new era of enlightenment.

Comment author: John_Spickes 14 August 2013 11:30:57AM 6 points [-]

Hi LWers!

I'm a 37 year old male. I work from home as an engineer, primarily focusing on FPGA digital logic work and related C++, with a smattering of other things. I'm a father to two young children, and I live with my little family on a small farm in central Delaware. I've always been a cerebral sort of guy.

I can't remember exactly how I came to LW - I may have heard it mentioned in a YouTube video - but finding it felt somehow like coming home. The core sequences have become some of my favorite reading material. LW was my first exposure to many of the disciplines discussed here: cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, Bayesian reasoning, and so on.

I feel like I've discovered a treasure. I'd like to thank everyone who has participated in building this content - it has been extremely enriching to me. Thank you.

My kids are still very young, but I am already starting to think about how I can help them learn to think rationally. I see it as part of my job to help them become better than I am, and I can't help but think I would have benefited quite a lot if I had been exposed to the concepts that are discussed here much earlier in life. I'd like to figure out how to help, say, a five-year-old start on the path. This is something I expect to be putting a lot of thought and research into, and if I come up with something post-worthy I would be delighted to share it here.

I'm also a novice meditator. I have found Chade-Meng Tan's treatment in Search Inside Yourself to be a good fit for me. It seems to me that building mindfulness is likely to be very useful in improving my agency, among other things. Thus far I have been only marginally successful, with the largest gains coming in parenting, and particularly in the area of self-control.

I have been lurking for quite a while, but I hope to participate more in the conversation.

Comment author: [deleted] 01 August 2013 07:28:01PM *  6 points [-]

Hello. I'm a typical geeky 20-something white male who's interested in science and technology. I'm a Bachelor in economics and business. Not a native English speaker.

From the time I was 12 I've spent most of my time surfing around the internet reading about interesting things and generally wasted my time and being alone. A few years ago I was really depressed and had a plan for suicide. Once in a while I've done something actually useful. That's my life in a nutshell.

I have always thought of myself as somewhat rational in the traditional sense when I'm not emotionally charged, but so do most of the people, I'd say. Who would be intentionally irrational?

When I first heard about LessWrong on 4chan/sci/ a few years ago, I heard only about negative things of it. I got the impression that this is basically some kind of daydreaming cult for people who are interested in the singularity and transhumanism. Like people just write about some things that sound kinda important and deep in a pop-science manner, but don't want to do anything more quantifiable or exact or something that's more difficult, like real science. I got the impression that it's not something you're supposed to take very seriously.

Okay, a few years go by, I start to be more interested in futurology and stuff. I stumble upon Luke Muehlhauser in his reddit AMA and the things he talked about in his AMA sounded kinda cool, something I've never really thought before and I read a few of his papers (Intelligence Explosion and Machine Ethics, Intelligence Explosion: Evidence and Import). After this I forget this thing again for a year until I read his book "Facing the intelligence explosion" in which he goes to lengths to talk about LessWrong so I decide to take a look.

So I read the sequence "How To Actually Change Your Mind" and there where some useful things to consider if I want to be neutral in the face of evidence and change my mind about things. This bayesian approach to rationality or whatever-it's-called sounds pretty reasonable and I think I want to learn more of it. In the meantime I read Eliezer Yudkowsky's HPMOR and "Cognitive Biases Potentially Affecting Judgement of Global Risk" and a few random LessWrong articles here and there. Sometimes Eliezer Yudkowsky sounds so full of himself, like he knows everything about everything, that's it's pretty annoying. His narcissism and self-proclaimed geniosity reminds me of Stephen Wolfram. But I like his optimism, he has really useful ideas to share about rationality and he's good at writing.

I also started to think, that if these people are trying to be so rational then why do so many of them hold seemingly irrational beliefs about some things without much quantifiable evidence. I mean, I have a gut feeling that the singularity will probably happen at some point if there isn't some societal collapse, but it's far from certain and may not happen the same way FAI advocates anticipate. The event is so far in the future and there are so many factors related to it, so I'm not sure how well you can predict how it happens and say meaningful things about it. Someone here made a good remark about it:

Furthermore, experts perform pretty badly when thinking about dynamic stimuli, thinking about behavior, and feedback and objective analysis are unavailable.

Predictions about existential risk reduction and the far future are firmly in the second category. So how can we trust our predictions about our impact on the far future?

I also agree with many of the points raised in this post. I think the work MIRI is doing might be useful and I'm not against it, but I wouldn't personally allocate my resources towards it at this point, at least not money. Karnofsky criticized that MIRI doesn't take into account many variables he has considered, but on top of that there must be even MORE variables MIRI hasn't taken into account.

There are many beliefs here that seem to be based on non-quantifiable hypotheses. You would think that if you took a bunch of rationalists who applied the methods of rationality correctly and were willing to change their minds about their beliefs, the likelihood that they had the same fringe-beliefs based on non-quantifiable evidence would be pretty small. Note: I don't know everything about the community here, this is just from the little time I've spent here.

I hope MIRI, transhumanism, cryonics, polyamory etc. are not inherently connected to LessWrong and its approach to rationality?

I still have a cautiously positive view about this community. Even though I dislike some of these fringe opinions, I'm still interested in decision theory and in this kind of approach to rationality, which I don't think is fringe at all and I'm willing to learn more about it. I'm kinda slow thinker and sometimes it feels when I'm around people that I'm less intelligent than others and it takes longer for me to process things than the people around me. By making good decisions I could minimize the impact of situations where my well-being depends wholly on quick thinking.

But I don't except very much practical success and most of all, I think of this as a form of entertainment ("epiphany porn" as you like to call it) and when I have more important things to do, I will probably set this thing aside.

Comment author: AndHisHorse 28 July 2013 07:53:11PM 6 points [-]

I'm Alex, an American male doing undergraduate studies in Physics and Computer Science. Two years ago, I stumbled upon HPMoR, and made my way to this site shortly after. I've been lurking since, and in that time, I've seen top-level posts that have convinced me to abandon my half-formed theism, try out the pomodoro method (results still pending), and police myself for biases. I'm interested in lifehacking (though I acknowledge that I have a great deal of inertia in that area), and will be trying Soylent at some point in the next few months.

Comment author: TRManderson 28 July 2013 06:14:25AM *  6 points [-]

Hey there LW!

At least 6 months ago, I stumbled upon a PDF of the sequences (or at least Map and Territory) while randomly browsing a website hosting various PDF ebooks. I read "The Simple Truth" and "What do we mean by Rationality?", but somehow lost the link to the file at some stage. I recalled the name of the website it mentioned (obviously LessWrong) from somewhere, and started trying to find it. After not too long, I came to Methods of Rationality (which a friend of mine had previously linked via Facebook) and began reading, but I forgot about it too after not too long. At some stage about 4 months ago I re-discovered MoR, read about 3/4 of what was available and then started reading LessWrong itself.

It took me about 3 days to get my head around the introduction to Bayes' Theorem (since implementing a basic Bayesian categorisation algorithm), and in the process I realised just how flawed my reasoning potentially was, and found out just how rational one friend of mine in particular was (very). By that stage, I was hooked and have been reading the sequences quite frequently since, finally making an account at here today. There's still plenty more reading to be done though!

A little background (and slight egotism alert, which could probably be applied to everything here); I'm in my final year of school now, vice-captain of the school's robotics program (and the programmer of Australia's champion school-age competitive robot), debating coach to various grades and I've completed a university level "Introduction to Software Engineering" in Python using Tkinter for GUI stuff as I finished the Maths B course a year early. I'm planning to go into university for a Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Engineering majoring in Mathematics/Software Engineering next year. I've got major side interests in philosophy and psychology which I currently don't plan to explore in any formal sort of way, but LessWrong provides an outlet that addresses with these two.

I look forward to future comments and whatever criticism they attract; learning from mistakes tends to stick rather well.

Comment author: noahpocalypse 27 July 2013 12:31:29AM 15 points [-]

My name's Noah Caldwell, I am a lesser being who currently resides in rationalist Hell. That is, I am a minor (17 years) and I live in Tennessee (not by choice (it's not THAT bad here, though)).

I was in a program called TAG (Talented and Gifted) in elementary school, and my mother once said I have genius IQ, which despite meaning little because you can't represent intelligence numerically remains highly flattering. It may have contributed to a very, very miniscule ego (or so I like to think), but it's made me believe I can do better in anything: Tsuyoku naritai! Whenever I have an interest, I pursue it; I've been like that for a long time. So the net gain was, I think, worth it, even if her statement may have been untrue.

I am currently trying to do well in school while shoving as much coding, science, math, language, musical theory, and history in my head. I plan on getting a HAM radio license very soon. I'm also trying to cleanse myself of bias now. My dream college would be MIT, but that is one heck of a reach school, no matter who you are. I also need to figure out how to insert my little segues into my monologue without parenthesis, because wow does that look weird. Maybe I'm just being self-conscious. (But that's a GOOD THING!)

The traditional recreational activities I partake of include reading, piano, backpacking, and videogames (I'm digging into the original Deus Ex with delight right now). I also need to read the sequences; I've only sampled bits and pieces like an anorexic at a chocolate buffet.

Comment author: Ben_LandauTaylor 28 July 2013 03:08:10PM 4 points [-]

If you come to visit MIT, and you happen to be around campus on a Sunday, we'd love to have you at one of the Boston meetups. Also, if you want to talk to some MIT students or alumni, let me know and I'll see if I can put you in touch.

Comment author: BerryPick6 28 July 2013 03:58:57PM 3 points [-]

I sometimes forget how much untapped potential in term of networking opportunities Less Wrong holds.

Comment author: Gondolinian 15 December 2014 03:06:29AM 5 points [-]


Because this thread hit 500 comments, I've posted a new one here. (In Main, but not yet promoted.)

Comment author: Jackercrack 18 October 2014 07:25:03PM *  5 points [-]

Hiya I'm Oliver, I'm 21 and I'm here because I want to be stronger.

I've got a degree in Engineering, £600 and a slowly breaking laptop which I would send off to get fixed if I could do without the internet for the time that would take. I am, in essence, a shattered mass of broken stereotypes. I am a breakdancing, engineering, rock climbing, food roasting, anime watching, arrow-shooting intelligent fool from near London, UK. At the minute I'm living near Bath and I'm trying to force myself to look for engineering work: hopefully biotech, probably something else.

Until recently I had just enough knowledge to screw myself over repeatedly and forcibly. I've ended up with a large pile of akrasia and unhelpful habits as a result of an insufficient understanding of how things work. I was guilty of picking a position based on whatever and then googling studies to defend my hastily erected viewpoint. The internet being what it is I could always find a study defending my viewpoint, and I thought this made me scientific. Like I said, just enough rope to hang myself intellectually speaking.

About 3 months ago someone linked me to HPMOR and I devoured it. Then I turned to Thinking, Fast and Slow and devoured that. Then I came here and I'm half an Elizer sequence and half of the other people sequences away from having devoured this place. Call me a ravening monster from before time because I am a hungry for sanity. I have a feeling that all this knowledge has allowed me to hit intellectual critical mass and my interventions into my own psyche have started to be a lot more effective now that I understand better the flawed lens I'm working with. That said, I have a huge pile of beliefs that I created unscientifically over the course of my life which need to be slowly rectified over time.

I feel that I've made progress on epistemic rationality, but now I need to do better at applied rationality. I need to change my habits towards work and effort, because for a while I've been reinforcing unhelpful habits and ways of thinking. It's time for me to win.

Comment author: [deleted] 18 October 2014 08:40:31PM 3 points [-]

Hello and welcome to LessWrong!

Bravo! It all starts with finding the crack in the lens. Now comes the hard, fun, terrible, numinous part of living better than before. Since you've already bootstrapped yourself through the sequences, you might want to consider branching out into real space. I say this because it sounds like you're looking for the practical, real, hands-on experience. A LessWrong meetup, such as the one held near London, might be the very thing you need. A group of like-minded people, engaging in rationality exercises, swapping notes, and basically helping each other get a little bit stronger and feel a little bit better.

You might also be interested in the Rationality Diary. It's a good place for starting out tallying yourself, making a record of the real behaviors you've done, the real plans you've made, the real successes and failures you've had.It's a useful tool for keeping yourself honest and seeing how far you've come.

And, of course, if you'd just like to participate in the discussion... well, there's certainly a place for that too.

Glad to have you join the conversation! Hope to see you around soon.

Comment author: Jackercrack 18 October 2014 08:48:40PM *  3 points [-]

Thanks for the welcome and the useful links, you're right about the tendency towards meetups which is why I'm going to the one in Bath tomorrow. The rationality diary seems like it should be a useful and interesting addition to my attempts at self improvement, so cheers.

Edit: That open thread is fascinating. I've never seen a community with such a high standard of discussion in real time. Even bestof archived depthhub threads don't touch it. I am going to have to think very carefully about any comments I might make to avoid accidentally eternal septembering this place. I can see I will also have to limit how much time I spend in such threads. I can fully imagine spending an inordinate amount of time on them learning fascinating things.

Comment author: MayDaniel 18 October 2014 11:44:37PM 3 points [-]

Hey Oliver,

The Bristol EA society meets pretty regularly (weekly/fortnightly), which might also be of interest if you are in the Bristol/Bath area.

Welcome and I'll see you at the Bath meetup!

Comment author: Jackercrack 19 October 2014 11:37:13PM 2 points [-]

See you on tuesday

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 12 September 2014 07:20:11PM 5 points [-]

My name is Evan Gaensbauer. I'm starting an account on the new effective altruism forum with the same name, and I intend to post both here and there more frequently in the future. Additionally, I may write material for one site that is tangentially of interest to the readers on the other site. So, I want everyone to match what I write on different sites with me as the author. Some notable facts about me:

  • I live in Vancouver, Canada, where I help organize some of the effective altruism, and rationality meetups.
  • I'm an alumnus of the July 2013 CFAR workshop.
  • I'm a member of 80,000 Hours.
Comment author: [deleted] 20 September 2014 04:57:35PM *  4 points [-]

Hello and welcome to LessWrong!

Glad to have a new altruist join the conversation, and it sounds like you have already gotten quite involved. Great. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what sort of experiences and views you bring to the table.

Since you're in Vancouver, do you know of the LW meetup they have there? If you haven't attended, it may be worth looking into and visiting. It's a great way to network and just mingle with other rationalists.

I had not heard of 80,000 Hours before your post. Seems interesting. Thanks for introducing me to a new group I did not know about!

Anyway, glad to have you join us. Look forward to seeing you in the conversation!

Comment author: Evan_Gaensbauer 21 September 2014 08:02:41AM *  6 points [-]

Thanks for the welcome.

I had a previous Less Wrong account under the username eggman. I got one with my full name to sync with my username on the new , as I intend to post more frequently on both that site, and Less Wrong, and I figured it'd make sense for everyone to know my common identity so they can connect different ideas written on difference sites, or with my public identity.

I sometimes organize the LW meetup in Vancouver, and it's going fine.

Comment author: tmorrowus 08 August 2014 04:15:08PM 5 points [-]

Hi. I'm Tom. Long time rationality proponent.

I have met interesting people through less wrong and brighterminds, and just discovered this website.

What got me here was seeing this reference to Lesswrong in popular media:


Comment author: [deleted] 08 August 2014 05:03:51PM *  2 points [-]

Hello and welcome to LessWrong!

You will certainly meet some interesting folk here. The best way to start would be to head on over to the Discussion board. That's where the day-to-day conversations of LW take place. It's also the best place to get a feel for the community's attitudes and standards. I'd definitely suggest lurking a bit. Then, you can observe the conversations of other LWers, and, when you're bursting to join in, add to the comments.

Another great place to start is on the latest Open Thread. Open Threads are places for casual conversations and questions, though that doesn't stop the conversations from developing into weighty discussions or intense debates. If you have anything you want to ask or say, it's a good place to start. It'll also give you practice if you want to one day create full fledged articles of your own.

If you're interested in diving into some of the literature here at LessWrong, you'll find the Sequences brought up again and again. These are a (LARGE) collection of posts, mostly by user Eliezer Yudkowsky, covering a variety of topics but centered around the art of rationality and related issues. Very helpful reading for the interested, but it can be a little overwhelming, when you're just joining. If you want a little taste of LessWrong literature, check out the linked articles on the About page or some friendly guides to the Sequences. (XiXiDu's and Benito's are often recommended). These can ease you into the literature and let you find the parts that most interest you, without overwhelming you with details, discussion, and references.

If Roko's Basilisk interested you, I'd suggest checking out the Yudkowsky paper, Coherent Extrapolated Volition, that the Business Insider article linked to, as well as the LW sequences on ethics and artificial intelligence.

Hope you'll be adding your own voice to the conversation soon!

Comment author: Lu93 26 July 2014 12:38:30PM 5 points [-]

Hi guys, my name is Luka, and I'm 20. I study physics at University of Vienna.

I follow LW since February, and I went probably through all core sequences, and good chunk of the rest. I did not gained too much, because I was kinda always eager to argue with good arguments and resistant to bad arguments, even from elder (which brought me into trouble quite a few times). My biggest win is that I remained strong in the moment when I started to fall: I started drowning in irrationality (because of lack of rational people in my surrounding), and started using passwords without noticing, I started learning at cost of thinking, instead of using them both. LW gave me structural knowledge of what I already used, and thus made me stay that way. AND HOPE! How did I forget that, it was big...

Which leads me to more interesting topic, and that is: what will I give to you?

I had strong education in mathematics, physics and informatics during high school, since I attended specialized high school. There I developed strong logical thinking, but even better, I always tried to implement that into my every-day-life. Since I do feel material from sequences on gut level, I will try to teach you how to do it, too (as soon as I understand what exactly I do different xD). Don't get me wrong, I don't try to show off, I just hope to give you insight from other perspective, and with help from more experienced members (because you guys know much more about cognitive science, teaching and writing then I do) to write good materials to help people move on from understanding rationality to actively using it. If someone of the experienced members live in Belgrade or Vienna I will be glad to meet you to discuss how to write all the things I would like to.

I strongly believe I did manage do actualize my self (in Maslow's sense (I just needed the term to express myself, I don't have so good knowledge in psychology to state that any of his theories is true or false)), and I will argue it has a lot to do with becoming rationalist in time.

I will try to diversify this community, since it is mostly devoted to development of friendly AI, and I think there are other things how to help our world (more) effectively. We should not put all eggs in one basket.

To tell you more about me, I believe I posses wide knowledge (and I invest time to make it wider): I am really good in mathematics, physics and programming(there i went in-depth the most), and I have some basic knowledge in finance, economics, psychology. I play guitar in free time, attend choir, play video games... I am not a native English speaker, which you probably already noticed, so please, send me private message if you notice some big errors, I will appreciate it. I speak Serbian (my native language) and German as well (since I study in Vienna).

I look forward to making this world a wonderful place!

Comment author: [deleted] 27 July 2014 02:36:52PM 2 points [-]

Hello and welcome to LessWrong!

Glad to hear you've already started digging in to some of the literature and found it to your liking. Yes, it's easy, when you have no community that encourages improvement, to fall into passwords, caches, and generally "not thinking." We can even forget to hope that we can make things better, as you've discovered. I'm sure you'll find plenty of people who can relate here and who are glad to help each other not fall back into those habits.

Since you seem to have such a focus on self-improvement and applying rationality to personal habits, don't hesitate to write about your experiences using rationality or your own personal improvements. Personal anecdotes are, of course, not verifiable experiments, but they are still experiences. The Group Rationality Diary may interest you in that regard. You can share your own experiences, see what others have done, discuss personal habits and experiments.

If you'd like a bit more discussion, you can go to the Open Thread or make a new Discussion post, though you might want to save that latter option for a more developed, researched topic. Starting in the Open Thread will not only help give you a chance to experience LW conversation and habits, but it can also help develop an idea you have before you present it as a full post.

Applied rationality, or, as some refer to it around here, "the martial art of rationality," is one of our big projects of interest. It's right there in the title of the blog itself after all. We want to improve our abilities to improve the world. So we sharpen each other, and we develop new methods, find new discoveries, perform new experiments on using our tool kit in the larger world. We certainly welcome a new voice and new perspective to the conversation. Given your wide background, your voice will be a wonderful addition.

I hope to read some of your ideas very soon!

Comment author: DanielDeRossi 23 June 2014 01:43:18PM *  5 points [-]

I'm Daniele De Rossi. I stumbled on Lukeprog's old site and thought the problems he was talking about :-rationality , friendly AI , psychology of adjustment , were all really interesting to me , so I followed him here. I'm interested in productivity stuff now primarily. I need to manage my time better and get more done.

Comment author: jd_k 08 April 2014 07:24:00PM 5 points [-]

My name is Joshua. I am 29 years old. After lurking for a while, I have decided to begin participating.

I have little training in mathematics or computer science. Growing up, mathematics always came easy to me, but it was never interesting (probably because it was easy, in part). Accordingly, I completed a typical high school education in mathematics by my freshman year and promptly stopped. In college, the only course I took was college algebra, which I completed for the sake of university requirements. I now regret ending my mathematical education and have begun going through the Khan Academy materials. As best I can currently estimate, I want to reach a level roughly equivalent to what an undergraduate math major would be required to know at the beginning of his or her upper-division work. At that point, I will be in a better position to know what else to study. Computers, by contrast, were of considerable interest to me in my youth, and I learned some rudimentary programming in junior high. That interest was eventually eclipsed by other interests, and I do not currently have any plans to reanimate it.

Most of my intellectual efforts are devoted to philosophy, and it is from that angle that I discovered Less Wrong. I have a fair amount of formal training in the field. (The sort of discussions that occur on Less Wrong, of course, are quite different from most of the work that is done in philosophy.)

As far as the normal Less Wrong materials are concerned, I have read a few of the sequences and recently read a bit of HPMoR. Most significantly, I have been working through one of the ebook versions of Eliezer's posts arranged in chronological order; I have slowly read somewhat more than half of them (for reference, I recently completed the sequences on quantum physics and meta-ethics).

I look forward to participation.

I also have a request: would someone be willing to set up a chat appointment (IRC or whatever) to work through a few comprehension questions related to the quantum physics sequence? I am confident that my questions are quite basic. If you are interested, please send me a private message.

Comment author: Squark 10 April 2014 08:17:30AM 2 points [-]

Hi Joshua, welcome!

Regarding your quantum questions, you can post them to the open thread.

Comment author: Ruby 07 April 2014 04:41:27AM 5 points [-]

Hey everyone,

This a new account for an old user. I've got a couple of substantial posts waiting in the wings and wanted to move to an account with different username from the one I first signed up with years ago. (Giving up on a mere 62 karma).

I'm planning a lengthy review of self-deception used for instrumental ends and a look into motivators vs. reason, by which I mean something like social approval is a motivator for donating, but helping people is the reason.

Those, and I need to post about a Less Wrong Australia Mega-Meetup which has been planned.

So pretty please, could I get the couple of karma points needed to post again?

Comment author: [deleted] 02 April 2014 06:58:30PM 5 points [-]

Hello. I am a librarian of the public sphere. With my education recently completed, I hope to expand into other spheres of information work while I am still young. I am 24 and have spent a fourth of my life serving the public in libraries. I have built collections, websites, programs, and physical rooms for my libraries. I know I do not have to explain the joys of a library here. My goal since first learning to learn has always been to improve the world by offering it the very thing that improved me. If we are all finding ways to save the world, then I found that my way cuts through the middle of the information itself. I am currently working with a set of newspapers as a reporter and editor in order to gain experience in journalism and publication. I’ve found informational outreach, reporting, and media use to be severely lacking in librarians. I took on a job that will teach me those skills and as well as the many errors ignorance of them can bring.

Having read through the core sequences of LessWrong, I know this is a place that can sharpen me. Indeed, it already has. In the weeks I've spent absorbing the central sequences, I have eliminated many useless habits from my routines and introduced new ones. I first found LW years ago while researching AI basics. I stumbled upon the AI Box experiment discussions. I’ll admit, I thought the community overly serious and overconfident and ignored it (also ignoring the “they might have a point” trepidation in the back of my mind). I recently reanalyzed the LW articles I read, my own private studies having convinced me of points I took as silly years ago. I’ve decided I don’t want to just watch. I want to be part of a dynamic group willing to improve and improve on improvement. I don’t want to only read about the thoughts of people with the same values as me. I want to be able to talk with them.

I’ll introduce myself with my first real thought. My first “I’m thinking this” thought. I made it as a toddler when I stood up in my bed and looked out a window. We lived in a trailer in my grandparents' backyard. The trailer sat by a small pond. Across the pond, my grandfather had built a shed surrounded by rows of chickens on tethers. A light hung on the shed corner, illuminating the chicken’s tiny houses and the water beside. One night, I wanted to see the shed in the dark. I saw it in the daytime daily, but I wanted to see it at night because I knew it would be different. The chickens would be inside, the shed would be closed, and the pond still. I thought that the scene would be spooky, like the pictures I saw in books. So, I stood up and looked out and loved it. I still remember how it all looked that night, though a bit like a watercolor painting now. I’d taken what I knew about the world from picture books, experience, and personal feelings, predicted something (“It’ll look spooky and I’ll enjoy the sight”), and acted on it.

Shockingly, I didn't become a rationalist then. My real thoughts at the time were most likely “Cool light” and “I like to see things.” I didn't take on any advance techniques for thinking until my mid-teens, when I sat through a creationism seminar. After watching an eight-hour video series (by the preeminent Kent Hovind, for the curious), I considered that if creationism were true, this must mean something in the real world of facts. Rocks, plants, cultures, and space ought to resemble a world so young and lately wetted by floods. When I examined the world, I saw that they did not. I understood that my beliefs, the ideas I accepted as true, must reflect the real facts of the world. I began to teach myself and started to break apart the reliance on authority for knowledge that we are taught in school. Though I didn’t vocalize it, I understood that my best lessons (perhaps my only lessons) I had taught myself. That real learning couldn’t be handed down from on high but needed to be ferreted up from the world. I also found that research is much more fun than homework, though I still preferred games to learning for a few years more.

By college, I had taken on the title of a “reasonable” person (I did not use the word “rationalist” because, as a student of C.S. Lewis' theological writings, I had come to associate it with an atheism that is emotional, circular, and self-defeating). I rejected dogma, holy text literalism, and the “us vs. them” mentality of politics because they did not reflect the reality. I thought myself very utilitarian, very deep.

I had a conversation with a friend (at the time, a near stranger) about the evolution of the mind. The topic of the evolution of religion came up, and, with him an atheist and I a theist, there was some tension. I defended the merits of theism and he answered with explanations of how religion and similar ideas can come from flaws in human psychology rather than from a reflection of real facts. The turn in the conversation came when I said something along the lines of, “Even if religion, or any idea, is only a creation of the human mind, it can still be worth believing. I’ll still believe it.” When I said the words and heard them out loud, I knew I could not accept them. Because I had spoiled the trick of self-deceit. I could not believe any set of facts if I also admitted that they did not reflect reality.

My face must have changed to reflect my thoughts. Instead of growing frustrated with me, my friend smiled and said, “I love a person who thinks.” I should not have to add that he and I are remarkably close now.

I want peers who continue to challenge me. I can only grow so close to someone who accepts me as I am and does not offer me more than myself. I want to be part of a group where I am not the best. I was the best in high school. I did not learn nearly enough. I was one of the best in college. I learned more, but still not enough. The people I have seen here challenge me. That challenge is stunning sometimes (the habits of certain LWers gives me an envy that later turns to joy to know such minds exist). I have found that every stunned shock brought on by an LWer is often followed by a personal realization of my own. That is the greatest reward: to feel myself improve. I have accepted the responsibility of bringing the catalog that charts the world to other humans. To do so, I need a group of cartographers not content with only the coastlines we know.

So, once again, hello!

Comment author: DanielFilan 31 January 2014 02:33:25AM 5 points [-]

Hi! My name is Daniel. I'm an undergraduate student, currently studying physics and mathematics at the Australian National University. I discovered Less Wrong about two years ago, and I've been regularly lurking ever since. I'm starting a meetup in Canberra - see http://lesswrong.com/meetups/wc. I hope that I see some of you there!

Comment author: Moss_Piglet 21 August 2013 01:00:32AM *  5 points [-]

Hey everyone, nice to finally join the party.

My name's Pat, I'm a 22 year old man studying biochemistry at the undergraduate level, and I've been an on-and-off lurker for at least the last five years. My two favorite animals are the platypus and the water bear, my favorite food is calamari and I love cheesy action movies un-ironically.

If I had to put together a narrative of how I became a rationalist and made it to this site, it would look something like this (1);

My parents were quite a bit smarter than they were emotionally stable or perceptive, so they raised me as an atheist while forgetting the somewhat-important step of not making non-existence sound utterly horrifying (2). From a fairly young age I had a nearly paralyzing fear of death, and being a smart arrogant kid I figured that if anyone ought to live forever it should be me. I remember on my twelfth birthday talking to a few of my friends and deciding that genetic modification would probably allow for practical immortality before brain uploading was developed. That thought led immediately to the next; that I would be the person to solve mortality forever. (Yeah, I was pretty childish back then.)

I had already been interested in science beforehand, and with a powerful drive like that spent an inordinate amount of time studying so that I could hit 'escape velocity' in my lifetime. Even as the fear evaporated later on and I became indifferent as to whether I lived or died the interest in biology remained and intensified, and overall it has served me well. The scientific method helped me nail down my more intuitive-associative style of thinking into a logical framework while my passion helped me set clear goals for the future.

But I wouldn't say I was really a rationalist until about a year or so ago, when three key events combined to shape me into the person I am now. The first was reading this site and hearing about Bayes Theorem for the first time in about 2008-2009, which helped me structure my understanding of science in a clearer way and for which I owe Mr Yudkowski a huge debt. The second was recovering from a severe depression caused by my anxiety disorder about a year later; unsurprisingly it's a lot easier to be rational when you are actually sane, not to mention that cognitive-behavioral therapy taught me more about biases and neurology than I had learned in years of logic or neuroscience courses. The third is that I started reading a lot of Nietzsche, which helped me clear up a lot of the distracting moral detritus I had rolling around in my head.

So today I'm a more-or-less stable and happy guy who's just gotten back into my field, trying to improve his life and the world. I'm primarily interested in genetics, nanotechnology (3), and transhumanism / eugenics, but really I'll read about anything which doesn't lean too heavily on pure math or religious evangelism.

Thanks for reading all this, and I look forward to getting to know all of you.

1 Technically, exactly like this. If you haven't noticed, I can be a bit of a pedant. 2 For a long time I thought of the idea of hell as comforting; as bad as eternal torture sounds, at least you're still there. 3 I've heard some fascinating things about the potential of deoxyribozymes as a substitute for proteins in terms of nanotech, which is great for lazy people like me because I'd like to be able to understand the folding of things I work with without having to take a supercomputer's word for it.

Comment author: MondSemmel 02 August 2013 04:55:43PM 5 points [-]

[Meta comment: In the welcome post, the links to the open threads link to two different tags, with different time dates. This is confusing. One of them hasn't been updated since 10/2011. If you fix this, you might have to do the same in the template for creating new welcome threads. Also, I think the same issue exists elsewhere on the site, e.g. in the Less Wrong FAQ.]

Comment author: F_Csuy 02 August 2013 02:08:21PM 5 points [-]

My name is Forrest. I'm 20 and studying undergraduate Physics and Computer Science at the University of Maryland. About two years ago, one of my friends introduced me to HPMoR and I was instantly hooked. A few months ago, before the final plot arc came out, I decided I was tired of waiting for HJPEV and came here to learn about the Methods of Rationality themselves from the source. I spent a few months lurking, read many of the sequences, and now decided to actually go about making an account. So, here I am!

Comment author: Gondolinian 28 November 2014 05:33:31PM *  4 points [-]

Hello everyone!

I'm going to try and write this incrementally, i.e. with frequent edits, so any replies I get might not all be referencing the same post.

To start off with, my username, Gondolinian, refers to the fictional city of Gondolin. It holds no special significance to me, I just needed a username, and I thought it sounded cool.

I've been a lurker here and on other rational blogs (primarily SSC) for over a year, but I've just now gotten brave enough to setup an account and start posting. I've also read all of HPMOR so far, Worm, all of Saga of Soul so far, Luminosity and Radiance, Summons and Blood (Elcenia), and all of Pact so far. I tend to like reading rational fiction and blog posts more than some of the more technical material here.

Because of an implicit agreement with my parents, and my own paranoia, I'm going to try to avoid giving out any personally identifiable information online for the foreseeable future. However, I think it's safe to share that I'm 16 years old, I'm cis-male, I live in the eastern USA, I've been home-schooled my whole life (Though for practical purposes, I identify as an autodidact.), I was raised Christian but no longer identify as such (The home-schooling wasn't religiously motivated, in case anyone got that impression.), when I was younger I probably had mild to moderate OCD, though I was never diagnosed and I've pretty much grown out of it, the free online IQ tests I've taken vary in their results a fair bit, but I'm probably somewhere in the 110-120 range, and most free online MBTI tests I take say I'm a moderate INTP, though I occasionally get ENTP.

I have been practicing aikido for ~3 years and currently hold the rank of gokyū or 5th kyū, out of 6 in aikido. (Kyū ranks are descending, so 5th kyū means I've been promoted twice and have 4 left until I can test for the first black belt (shodan or 1st dan).)

I've been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for 4+ years. When I decided to go vegetarian, I had a bunch of reasons why (Probably prominent among them implicitly was simply a desire to rebel/feel superior over people.), but now it's pretty much just a habit I see little reason to change.

Comment author: ilzolende 18 November 2014 06:59:26AM 4 points [-]

Hi, LessWrong community!

My pseudonym is Ilzolende Kiefer. I'm a HS student, autistic, and (as is typical for users of this site) an atheist. I've been lurking on this site for a while, and before that I was reading other books about cognitive bias and whatnot.

I think I got into rationality for 2 reasons: having a scientist parent, and dealing with school psychologists of questionable quality. (The autism wasn't a big enough deal to require an autism-specific therapist, but it wasn't equivalent to neurotypicality.) The first reason is straightforward. The second reason takes explaining. Imagine the adults around you treating your personal thought process as flawed. Even if you're a kindergartener, if you're fairly smart, you'll want to self-correct.

I actually did this in kindergarten: my model of appropriate behavior before starting was based on the Junie B. Jones fiction series. This led me to hit a boy on the first day of class, because girls were supposed to hate boys. I got a behavior chart (don't do x for y weeks, and then a reward will occur) for this, and did not have difficulty adhering to it, because I didn't want to hit random boys, I just wanted to behave in accordance with expectations whenever it was easy to do so. That's not to say I was very rational then: I thought that a good way to communicate that a timer was going off was to make beeping sounds: "That's how the timer communicates stuff, so I should repeat the communication!", and that my friends would be really interested in a discussion of binary numbers involving sticks and pinecones representing ones and zeroes.)

Another reason that this led to rationality was that school psychologists have a client, and that client is not the student. I do not consider "becoming indistinguishable from my peers" to be a terminal goal I have or want, nor do I consider it a good instrumental goal. School psychologists are very skilled at influencing behaviors through Dark Arts-type methods. I began to notice that this was occurring (behaviors that did not correspond to my model of how I should be behaving, such as picking up valley-girl speech patterns), and tried to immunize myself against it, mostly by getting into a lot of exhausting arguments.

Side note: teaching empathy via guessing emotions of drawn faces is terrible. I have plenty of distance bias in my moral reasoning already. Looking at bad art won't increase this. There is more to identifying an emotion than the low level of detail a sketch artist can manage (voice, posture, more details in the face, movement, and context.)

Quitting religion was easy for me, mostly because I was only religious because that was what people who attended weekly services were. The biggest shock along the way was finding out that the biology writer I had read 2 books by was actually more famous as an atheist. (Me in museum gift shop: "Hey, it's that Dawkins guy. Wait, this book called The God Delusion has his name on it? Isn't he a biology writer?") If I had to pinpoint anything, it's that I had no social cost for quitting, as well as the chapter on memes in The Selfish Gene.

Finally, I'm a Mock Trial pseudo-trial attorney. This has dramatically improved my argument skills, even if it is motivated reasoning. (At one point, I found myself talking about prior probabilities in the middle of an objection argument, and it worked. Thanks, LW!)

Comment author: Artimaeus 18 November 2014 04:56:58AM *  4 points [-]


The name is Daniel. I'm 22, coming out of college and running into the problem that there aren't that many people out there who get as excited as I do about epistemology, evolutionary theory, and interdisciplinary science as I do. I ended up coming here because I'm beginning to suspect that the longer I spend not talking about my ideas with other people (see: reality checks), the more likely they are to spiral off into flights of fancy. And nobody wants that. Plus I feel like in the day-to-day life, there's so little opportunity to really engage in productive, mutually satisfying arguments-- you know the sort where you actually feel like you've learned something valuable about the world and the person who you're debating? I miss that, and I hope I can find some of those here.

There are a couple of people I can credit with helping me discover this site. Several of my friends in college introduced me to Eliezer's articles, which I thought were little more than clever. Then, more recently, I discovered Scott Alexander blog, which quickly became my favorite-thing-in-the-world, and got me thinking that maybe I should give this community a second look. And since winter is falling rapidly on the great city where I live, let's face it, I'm not going to want to do much else.

I think if you want to get a sense for where I'm coming from: When I was around 13 or 14, I discovered that myspace (remember when that was a thing?) had debate groups, and since creationism and evolution were hotbutton topics, I decided that I would pitch in to the debates (on the side of atheism and evolution, of course). I can't say I convinced very many creationists to see the error of their ways, but I did learn a lot of cool and interesting things about rhetoric, evolutionary theory, and even theology. I suppose I am coming here with some nostalgia in my eyes.

In college, I studied psychology and the philosophy of science. My interest was in interdisciplinary science, and the people who can walk between scientific disciplines, letting their knowledge of one enrich their understanding of the other. I was interested, more broadly, in how knowledge can be communicated across cultural and boundaries, for it seems that the boundaries are where the most interesting things happen, while also being a place that tolerates the least incorrect thinking.

Right now, I'm working at a market research firm that specializes in the pharmaceutical industry. It's interesting work-- we help pharmaceutical companies understand how doctors evaluate and use new products (spoilers-- doctors are just as irrational as the rest of us). Hopefully my knowledge of medicine and the social science will generally compensate for my horrific ignorance when it comes to computing and mathematics (please don't judge too hard!). But in any case, I look forward to meeting everybody on the forums!

Comment author: john_ku 17 November 2014 09:19:59PM *  4 points [-]

Hi everyone!

I'm John Ku. I've been lurking on lesswrong since its beginning. I've also been following MIRI since around 2006 and attended the first CFAR mini-camp.

I became very interested in traditional rationality when I used analytic philosophy to think my way out of a very religious upbringing in what many would consider to be a cult. After I became an atheist, I set about rebuilding my worldview and focusing especially on metaethics to figure out what remains of ethics without God.

This process landed me in University of Michigan's Philosophy PhD program, during which time I read Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near. This struck me as very important and I quickly followed a chain of references and searches to discover what was to become MIRI and the lesswrong community. Partly due to lesswrong's influence, I dropped out of my PhD program to become a programmer and entrepreneur and I now live in Berkeley and work as CTO of an organic growth startup.

I have, however, continued my philosophical research in my spare time, focusing largely on metaethics, psychosemantics and metaphilosophy. I believe I have worked out a decent initial overview of how to formalize a friendly utility function. The major pieces include:

  • adapting David Chalmers' theory of when a physical system instantiates a computation,
  • formalizing a version of Daniel Dennett's intentional stance to determine when and which decision algorithm is implemented by a computation, and
  • modelling how we decide how to value by positing (possibly rather thin and homuncular) higher order decision algorithms, which according to my metaethics is what ethical facts get reduced to.

Since I think much of philosophy boils down to conceptual analysis, and I've also largely worked out how to assign an intensional semantics to a decision algorithm, I think my research also has the resources to meta-philosophically validate that the various philosophical propositions involved are correct. I hope to fill in many remaining details in my research and find a way to communicate them better in the not too distant future.

Compared to others, I think of myself as having been focused more on object-level concerns than more meta-level instrumental rationality improvements. But I would like to thank everyone for their help which I'm sure I've absorbed over time through lesswrong and the community. And if any attempts to help have backfired, I would assume it was due to my own mistakes.

I would also like to ask for any anonymous feedback, which you can submit here. Of course, I would greatly appreciate any non-anonymous feedback as well; an email to ku@johnsku.com would be the preferred method.

Comment author: Natha 05 November 2014 04:31:02AM *  4 points [-]


Actually, I am no stranger to this site; I have been a sporadic fly-on-the-wall here since early 2011, when I found out about you guys through gwern's personal webpage (to which my interest in nootropics, n-backing, and spaced repetition had led me). I've made several desultory stabs at the sequences; I think I've read most of them twice over, but some I've abandoned and some I've never touched. I started HPMoR reluctantly, found I couldn't put it down, and finished it in a single sitting. Lately I've been pretty swamped with work, but I've been trying to follow along with the Superintelligence reading group. Though I've been content to lurk, I am now extremely keen to take a more active role in the discussions!

Blurb: I am a 25 year-old doctoral student and researcher in the Learning Sciences with an academic background in Statistics and Biology (mostly behavioral neuroscience). I am dedicated to making learning as powerful and efficient as possible through psychological, biological, and technological cross-pollination. Only an optimally educated humanity will be equipped to solve the problems of the future (and indeed, those of the present)! Though my research contributions have been mainly on projects not my own, I am ultimately interested in psychometrics, human-computer interaction, intelligent tutoring systems/cognitive tutors, and redesigning classroom instruction to reflect the state of the art in cognitive science.

For a while I was deeply wary of technology---the recklessness of our innovation and the potential it had to change human beings irreparably if it didn't eliminate them completely. I had just discovered Heidegger's Question Concerning Technology, Bill Joy's Wired essay, Kaczynski's manifesto... sundry warnings of an impending techno-dystopia. But I came to reevaluate my fears: the proper course of action is not to rage against the machine. Our future is a technological one whether we like it or not (spoiler: we like it), and despite my initial resistance I have come to embrace technology and the changes to humanity it will increasingly entail; not only has it greatly improved life on Earth (at least for humans), but it can be continually leveraged to this end (for all forms of life). However, I feel that emerging technologies should be pursued with much greater care than they are currently, and anticipation of the many longterm side-effects of such development requires that the people of the world (or their devices) be informed/thoughtful enough to do so (cf. differential intellectual progress). Any attempt at a such a wholesale societal improvement program requires better education, and my hope is to help speed things along on this front.

Gah, I really meant to keep this shorter, but I still have so much to say about myself! Best to quit now before I bring up my precocious childhood or my pious vegetarianism! Here's to many great discussions! I look forward to meeting you all!

Comment author: Ixiel 10 July 2014 04:46:12AM 4 points [-]

Hi, my name’s Charlie. I’m a 33YO Aries who enjoys long walks on the beach…

Oop, wrong script.

I’ve been lurking for years, but just started posting (nothing real, just $.02 and quotes really) so I figured I should write an intro so I won’t feel bad actually contributing.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about me is that I am the happiest person I have ever met, as far as I know. I have more money than I intend to spend, a very good head on my shoulders, and no known health problems. I just quit my job a few months ago. I know of no way my life could be materially better that accords with the laws of nature (superpowers would be a gamechanger…). I mention this not to brag, but because my general contentment colors my views.

I am a superman theist. When I was a kid I reconciled religion (RC) by just taking the infinity out of it. The people who wrote the Bible used forty to mean “a lot,” so why do we think they understood infinity? Anyway, I have no idea what would disprove a finite provident entity. If it were I hope I’d accept it, but it’s really not a big factor in most decisions anyway so I haven’t gone out of my way.

I’ve read and enjoyed the Sequences, and wish I could pay money to have them on dead trees mailed to my house. I love the audio though. I was introduced by a friend, but I’ll leave it up to him if he wants to claim me. I try to learn thing like one scores drywall. A little A, then a little B, then a little C, then don’t you know the seemingly unrelated B and C make A easier (much more complicated I know, but who likes textwall analogies?). And I find just about everything interesting.

I live in a rural part of NY, and sometimes have a hard time putting myself in cityfolk’s shoes. I know the idea of having to get in a car to buy groceries is as alien to some as choosing to live in a house where you can see your neighbors is to me. I have no problem visiting cities though. (ADK meetup anyone? Bunch of rationalists on a hike to a high peak sounds great)

Anything else you want to know, I’m not shy. Thanks for great content; hope to be a net positive to it.

Comment author: [deleted] 10 July 2014 05:00:10PM 3 points [-]

I’ve read and enjoyed the Sequences, and wish I could pay money to have them on dead trees mailed to my house. ... I try to learn thing like one scores drywall. A little A, then a little B, then a little C, then don’t you know the seemingly unrelated B and C make A easier (much more complicated I know, but who likes textwall analogies?).

I suggest re-reading them. For a while I've been meaning to do a PSA post on the subject. I read the sequences once, in thematic order, then recently went back and re-read them in chronological order. I have to say I got a lot more out of them this time, now that I know where EY was heading with the entire project (and reading them in the order posted is much better imho than organized by topic).

Comment author: Optimal 13 April 2014 09:52:54PM 4 points [-]

Nice to meet you, person with above-average intelligence. My name is Optimal, because I am always seeking optimal outcomes. I'm 16 years old and currently enrolled in an online high school that provides me with an exceptional degree of educational freedom. I've been lurking around here for a few weeks, but I just now decided to join in because I could use some serious life advice.

Based on the contents of the article above, and on other discussions I have observed, I think it would be better to explain and discuss my situation in a discussion. Actually, I've already written the discussion article; I'm commenting here to get 2 karma points so I can submit it. My article looks something like this one. Please don't hate me, I promise that my submission will be found mildly interesting by at least one person.

Comment author: AMath 12 April 2014 08:58:02PM 4 points [-]

Hello everyone.

Consider this a just-in-case comment that I am making with very limited time before I have to run and do something else, recognizing the fact that I might fail to make one altogether if I do not do it now. How is that for acknowledging my human mental frailty?

Actually I can do one better: I just had to join the lesswrong chat to diagnose a problem with not being able to comment on an article (which was the reason I just signed up after discovering this site), and the problem turned out the stem from my misspelling my own e-mail address when I signed up.

So there you go: two cognitive flaws immediately apparent just from the process of joining this site. I wonder how many more I can discover here...

Comment author: TimMartin 19 February 2014 04:31:58AM 4 points [-]


My name is Tim. I'm a neuroscience researcher and swing dance teacher living in NYC.

I originally found out about LW via one or two friends who occasionally shared LW posts with me. I didn't get into the site too much, but I did eventually come across HPMOR, and thought it was awesome. At one point, one of the author notes mentioned that CFAR would be putting on workshops in my area. I checked those out and they seemed very high-value, so I attended. That was in November. Since then I've been getting involved with the real-life LW community in New York, and now more recently, the online community. I'm still reading through a lot of the material here, but I hope to get involved in some discussions.

Some of my academic interests are neuro- and cognitive science (consciousness, morality, decision making, belief-formation), evolution, physics, and linguistics. I'm also on a bit of a history kick lately - it was always my least favorite subject in school, but now that I'm a little older I find that history sharpens my intuitions about how the interaction of systems we call "life" tends to play itself out. Less academically, I'm a fan of dancing, music (working on jazz guitar atm), ultimate frisbee, and other stuff :)


Comment author: ismeta 15 November 2013 08:40:11AM *  4 points [-]

Hi, ismeta here.

I came to Less Wrong via a circuitous route, betwixt and between unordered Sequence posts, HPMoR, Overcoming Bias articles, and XiXiDu's critiques, all consumed during marathon procrastination sessions. My opinion of the community has lurched ungainly from one extreme to another, and now resides somewhere in the vicinity of 'cautious admiration'. I have reserved judgement on most of the transhumanist / singularitarian issues that are discussed on LW as yet (citing ignorance), though I should probably throw in an early disclaimer to the effect that I currently hold extremely conservative views regarding the potential efficacy of cryonics.

I am an agnostic, with atheistic leanings, and my political opinions generally correlate with the centre-left.

In Real Life, I'm a biochemistry undergraduate from Sydney.

I look forward to finishing off the Sequences over the next couple of months, and I hope to become an active participant and contributor to LW.

Comment author: aurellem 12 November 2013 08:18:38PM 4 points [-]

Hi, my name is Robert McIntyre. I'm a graduate researcher at MIT studying AI. I am also a volunteer for the Brain Preservation Foundation (http://www.brainpreservation.org/) You can vote for us to win charity money here (http://on.fb.me/15XFdTG).

Comment author: MathieuRoy 09 November 2013 10:05:54PM *  4 points [-]

My name is Mathieu. One of my friend recommended me to read the main sequences a couple of months ago. I've read one third of them so far and I really like them. Now I want to get more involved in the LessWrong community than just reading the main sequences. I've just posted my first article. It's about a cryonics presentation I will do on Monday.

I wish there was a class about rationality at the beginning of high school (I'd remove any courses to add one about rationality). Otherwise we keep learning things without knowing how our brain works (especially the bias it makes) and this can cause problems when learning things and making decisions.

I study engineering physics at Laval University, Quebec, Canada. I've worked at the robotic laboratory of my university and I really liked it. I like mathematics, logic and programming, but I hadn't really consider working in artificial intelligence before starting reading about it here (and then other places) because I wasn't exposed to the field. Next year I will (try to) do a master in artificial intelligence. Moreover, I would eventually like to do (at least) an internship at MIRI.

By the way, the last question in the FAQ is linking to the 5th welcome thread and not the 6th; I'm not sure where I should mention this, but maybe one of you does.

Comment author: LearnFromObservation 01 September 2013 04:52:37AM 4 points [-]

Hi! I'm Ciara (pronounced like Keara-Irish spelling is very muh irrational!) I've actually been a member of less wrong for a little while-I discovered it through HPMOR. I've always liked academics, challenging books, and Harry Potter, so I joined Less Wrong. I am a little ashamed to admit that I was quite intimidated by the sheer intellect and extraordinary thoughts that came from so many members all around the world. So, I took a little break after starting with the basics of rationality and am now a very different, though still amateur rationalist, person. I live in MA, not far from MiT, and I'm hoping to attend a meet up sometime. I'm sixteen years old, and going into my junior year of highschool. Both of my parents are Irish, and I usually spend about a quarter of my year there with family, so I tend to use some bizzare expressions. I'm also a dancer; I participate in musical theatre and jazz principally. I'm an aspiring author currently some 30,000 odd words into my latest attempt at a novel. I'm trying to incorporate some rationality into the characters; although not rationalist genre, like HPMOR, I'm at least trying to ensure that no one is holding the idiot ball. I'm a little nervous about rejoining the rationalist community, but I hope that by, say, Newtonmas, that my rationality will have improved enough for me to start posting. Look forward to working with you!

Comment author: Kavrae 21 August 2013 03:57:42PM 4 points [-]


I am a 23 year old male named Corey, though I prefer to go by the alias Kavrae in any online discussions. This allows me to keep a persistent persona across all sites or games I may join. If you happen to come across this alias elsewhere, there is a high probability that it is the same person. Please be kind in judging such findings though, as I have gone through a bit of a mental overhaul in the last few months. I would also like to apologize in advance if this gets a little lengthy; that seems to be a trademark of my posts lately.

I should probably do a brief summary of myself before diving in to my personal rationality history.

My education began in a highly underdeveloped rural highschool. Low student standards and even lowing testing criteria seems to have set me up with delusions of superior intelligence. Such views were quickly dissolved in the followed two years at a Missouri university studying computer engineering and physics. To put it shortly, the first year thoroughly broke me and opened my eyes to how vast academia truly was. While harsh, it is something I'm now grateful for. Unfortunately, in a decision I very much regret, I cut my education short and did not earn any sort of degree due to outside events.

As a product of the previously mentioned events, I have been married for approximately 3 years with a 2 year old son. I'm proud to say that he is turning out to be exceptionally intelligent, particularly in the areas of symbol recognition and technology use. I certainly plan on teaching him what I can of rationality and science as young as possible in an attempt to make the next generation better than the current one.

I am currently a web application developer and have been doing so for approximately 2.5 years, with initial training in the form of a 6 week programming bootcamp plus trial-by-fire. While the total time spent is relatively short, I have equal experience with open source and DotNet managed solutions with no preference between the two. It may seem contradictory to my hobbies in the next section, but I would prefer a future position as a system architect or senior developer rather than some form of management. I believe this goes back to certain control issues than I'm discovering through introspection.

Much of my free time now is spent in multiplayer gaming; whether it be as a support player in various MOBAs or MMOs, or as a GM in local tabletop games (Shadowrun, Pathfiner, etc). The former set of gaming being one that I'm considering dropping in favor of martial arts or outside-of-work programming. In either case I tend to be the one that spends extensive hours pouring over rulebooks and theorycrafting sites then subjecting my players to lengthy summaries. In my hobbies I tend to find myself in positions of teaching, leadership, or simply high responsibility more often than not. Quite possibly another symptom of the control issues mentioned above.

I believe my introduction to rationality began in college during my second and third semesters, though I didn't realize it at the time. The combination of a base physics class and introductory logic changes my view of the world. Everything seemed much more controlled and calculable; whether I could do such calculations myself or not. Probabilities become very important for me at this time, though I now believe I often misused them. My second introduction to rationality came after I got married, in a series of events that I should have handled far better. The short version is that I improved my debate skills against an in-law that seems to embody every cognitive bias and fallacy I have read about thus far. This was where I learned about such fallacies and began to recognize just how ingrained they were in society, as well as develop a bit of cynicism towards mankind's mental habits (this feels like a bad phrasing. Suggestions on improvement?).

This brings us to the present. I came across LessWrong through HPMoR and have spent the last few months reading through the core sequences. I plan on doing so again soon, to ensure that I retain at least a fraction of what I've read. It has been quite the experience so far; updating so my beliefs that I have never questioned and improving concepts that I thought "good enough". I have also learned many lessons regarding how and when such knowledge should be used; often in painful or humbling ways.

I recognize that I have a very long ways to go in the ways of rationality and believe that joining in the discussions, rather than simply lurking, will get me there faster. To narrow the spectrum of the vast amounts of information to learn, I am attempting to focus on evolutionary psychology, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies. Thus far I have found them to be the most fascinating and useful.

Comment author: ILikeLogic 10 August 2013 02:01:15AM 4 points [-]

Hi. I'm a 42yr old male, from the US and I've been aware of LessWrong for a few years now, stumbling across links to posts on LessWrong here and there in my web surfing travels. I've always been more or less a rationalist. I've been a self-identified atheist since high school. I've been a fan of Daniel Dennett for many years. I read 'Consciousness Explained' when it first came out many years ago and I've kept up reading interesting philosophy and science books since then. I've always enjoyed books that made sense out of previously mysterious phenomena. My feedly list has hundreds of blogs mostly in nutrition/psychology/economics and some sports (I'm a big sports fan, but prefer an analytical approach to that as well). In essence I'm the type of guy who likes this stuff.

I remember reading on here a few years ago some posts about a rationalist approach to self-help. I'm especially interested in that. I've always been an anxious and insecure person and if I can solve that problem the quality of my life will skyrocket. Having spent a fair amount of time reading the comment threads at LessWrong I'm pretty optimistic that I can find some folks here who are interested in discussing these things in the same way that I am. Frankly I take a much more reductionist approach to personal problems than most others and this seems like a place where I may find some people who may think similarly. Barring that I think I'll just enjoy reading and commenting here every so often.

Comment author: peirce 05 August 2013 06:58:26PM 4 points [-]

Hi, I first found this a while back site after googling something like "how to not procrastinate" and finding one of Eliezer's articles. I've been slowly working may way through the sequences ever since, and i think they are significantly changing my life.

I'm very interested in self improvement/ instrumental rationality type stuff. I've been using this summer to experiment with various projects: learning mediation, learning about different types of therapy to systematically overcome fears, learning about biases and some other stuff.. I'm currently messing around with a productivity/ organisation system whereby I allocate point to myself for good behaviours and deduct points for bad behaviours, and either give myself a reward or pay a penalty as part of a commitment contract depending on how many points I've scored (sometimes my self-improvement ideas get a bit obsessive..)

I've just finished secondary education, which was a mess, and so i'm now quite excited to have more control over my own learning. I've been very interested in rationality since I was young, and have been passionate about philosophy because of this. Though, after getting into this site i've been reading some pretty damaging criticisms of the study of philosophy (at least traditional philosophy and the content that seems to be taught in most universities), and now i'm beginning to question whether i'm really interested in philosophy, and if it is valuable to study, or whether what i'm really after is something more like cognitive science.

This leads me to a problem: I've been offered a place at Oxford University for a course of Philosophy and Psychology and I'm considering trying to change to just study psychology or psychology and linguistics. I'm in the process of familiarizing myself with the basics of all of these fields, and i'm writing letters to my old philosophy teachers with this articlehttp://www.paulgraham.com/philosophy.html attached to see how well the criticism can be answered. My problem is though that i'm at best a knowledgeable amateur in these subjects, and i'm finding it hard to make a decision about which subjects to study - I don't know what I haven't studied yet so I don't know how important it is for me to know. Any advice on this or generally how to make the decision would be much appreciated, especially if you are familiar with the UK univeristy system, especially if you have studied philosophy. My overall aim for my education is pretty well expressed by parts of less wrong - i want to become more rational, in both my beliefs and my actions (although i find the parts of less wrong about epistemology, self-improvement and anti-akrasia more relevant to this than the parts about AI, maths and physics).

Also, i found solved questions repository, but is there a standard place for problems which people need help solving - as if it exists it may be a better place for parts of this post...? Cheers

Comment author: octopocta 01 August 2013 07:58:24PM 4 points [-]

Hi there, I'm a Biologist turned Software Engineer, age 34. I came to Less Wrong through Overcoming Bias and HPMOR, and I'm still here because the notions of rationality appeal to me. It is nice to among others who hold rationality as an ideal to aspire to.

Comment author: nicdevera 28 July 2013 04:40:39AM 4 points [-]

Hello again. Used to post as "ZoneSeek" but switched to my real name. I'm from the science/science fiction/atheist/traditional rationality node, got linked to LW years ago through Kaj Sotala back in the Livejournal days. I have high confidence that I am the only LessWronger in the Philippines.

Comment author: ygert 28 July 2013 05:03:29AM *  12 points [-]

You know, a feature it would be nice to have on LessWrong is a namechange feature. I too have had thought about moving over to my real name, but that is painful, you know? I'd have to start over from complete scratch. I guess it wouldn't be so bad, I've only been posting here for a year, and the pain will only get worse the more I put it off, but it would be much nicer if there were a button I could click to just change my username. Yes, put on it some safeguards, like have it say on my userpage what my username used to be, and maybe even have it cost karma or something, to prevent it from being overused.

Of course the real problem is that someone needs to actually go and make the changes in the code, and that takes work. There likely are higher priority changes just waiting vainly for someone to implement them, as TrikeApps does not have the manpower or resources to work on LessWrong save once in a blue moon. So it's unlikely this will happen in the foreseeable future. But if someone sees this, and wants to implement it, go ahead! I'm sure quite a few people would appreciate it.

Comment author: lukeprog 30 July 2013 05:45:19AM 13 points [-]

"Show my real name" is a feature under current development, as of about 2 weeks ago.

Comment author: ciphergoth 30 July 2013 09:31:01AM 3 points [-]

That is wonderful news - thank you! It sounds like we will have both usernames and real names, and both will be displayed, which is exactly as it should be. Thank you Tricycle!

Comment author: telms 05 August 2013 01:22:15AM *  9 points [-]

Hi, everyone. My name is Teresa, and I came to Less Wrong by way of HPMOR.

I read the first dozen chapters of HPMOR without having read or seen the Harry Potter canon, but once I was hooked on the former, it became necessary to see all the movies and then read all the books in order to get the HPMOR jokes. JK Rowling actually earned royalties she would never have received otherwise thanks to HPMOR.

I don't actually identify as a pure rationalist, although I started out that way many, many years ago. What I am committed to today is SANITY. I learned the hard way that, in my case at least, it is the body that keeps the mind sane. Without embodiment to ground meaning, you get into problems of unsearchable infinite regress, and you can easily hypothesize internally consistent worlds that are nevertheless not the real world the body lives in. This can lead to religions and other serious delusions.

That said, however, I find a lot of utility in thinking through the material on this site. I discovered Bayesian decision theory in high school, but the texts I read at the time either didn't explain the whole theory or else I didn't catch it all at age 14. Either way, it was just a cute trick for calculating compound utility scores based on guesses of likelihood for various contingencies. The greatest service the Less Wrong site has done for me is to connect the utility calculation method to EMPIRICAL prior probabilities! Like, duh! A hugely useful tool, that is.

As a professional writer in my day job and student of applied linguistics research otherwise, I have some reservations about those of the Sequences that reference the philosophy of language. I completely agree that Searle believes in magic (aka "intentionality"), which is not useful. But this does not mean the Chinese Room problem isn't real.

When you study human language use empirically in natural contexts (through frame-by-frame analysis of video recordings), it turns out that what we think we do with language and what we actually do are rather divergent. The body and places in the world and other agents in the interaction all play a much bigger role in the real-time construction of meaning than you would expect from introspection. Egocentric bias has a HUGE impact on what we imagine about our own utterances. I've come to the conclusion that Stevan Harnad is absolutely correct, and that machine language understanding will require an AI ROBOT, not a disembodied algorithmic system.

As for HPMOR, I hereby predict that Harrymort is going to go back in time to the primal event in Godric's Hollow and change the entire universe to canon in his quest to, er, spoilers, can't say.


Comment author: Bugmaster 05 August 2013 02:22:20AM *  4 points [-]

I've come to the conclusion that Stevan Harnad is absolutely correct, and that machine language understanding will require an AI ROBOT, not a disembodied algorithmic system.

I am not familiar with Stevan Harnad, but this sounds counterintuitive to me (though it's very likely that I'm misunderstanding your point). I am currently reading your words on the screen. I can't hear you or see your body language. And yet, I can still understand what you wrote (not fully, perhaps, but enough to ask you questions about it). In our current situation, I'm not too different from a software program that is receiving the text via some input stream, so I don't see an a priori reason why such a program could not understand the text as well as I do.

Comment author: SaidAchmiz 05 August 2013 02:36:42AM 3 points [-]

I assume telms is referring to embodied cognition, the idea that your ability to communicate with her, and achieve mutual understanding of any sort, is made possible by shared concepts and mental structures which can only arise in an "embodied" mind.

I am rather skeptical about this thesis as far as artificial minds go; somewhat less skeptical about it if applied only to "natural" (i.e., evolved) minds — although in that case it's almost trivial; but in any case don't know enough about it to have a fully informed opinion.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 05 August 2013 03:19:09AM 3 points [-]

Well, I certainly agree that there are important aspects of human languages that come out of our experience of being embodied in particular ways, and that without some sort of model that embeds the results of that kind of experience we're not going to get very far in automating the understanding of human language.

But it sounds like you're suggesting that it's not possible to construct such a model within a "disembodied" algorithmic system, and I'm not sure why that should be true.

Then again, I'm not really sure what precisely is meant here by "disembodied algorithmic system" or "ROBOT".

For example, is a computer executing a software emulation of a humanoid body interacting with an emulated physical environment a disembodied algorithmic system, or an AI ROBOT (or neither, or both, or it depends on something)? How would I tell, for a given computer, which kind of thing it was (if either)?

Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 07 August 2013 07:55:30AM 4 points [-]

The chief deficiency of embodiment philosophy-of-mind, at least among AIers and cognitivists, is that they constantly say "embodiment" when they should say "experience of embodiment". And when you put it that way, most of the magic leaches away and you're left facing the same old hard problem of consciousness. Meaning, understanding, intentionality are all aspects of consciousness. And various studies can show that body awareness is surprisingly important in the genesis and constitution of those things. But just having a material object governed by a hierarchy of feedback loops does not explain why there should be anyone home in that object - why there should be any form of awareness in, or around, or otherwise associated with that object.

Comment author: Baisius 11 August 2013 02:22:25AM 7 points [-]

Hi. I'm Baisius. I came here, like most, through HPMOR. I've read a lot of the sequences and they've helped me reanalyze the things I believe and why I believe them. I've been lurking here for awhile, but I've never really felt I had anything to add to the site, content wise. That's changed, however - I just launched a blog. The blog is generally LW themed, so I thought it appropriate. I wouldn't ordinarily advertise for it, but I would particularly like some help on one of the problems I explored in my first post. (see footnote 3)

One of the things that's bothered me about PredictionBook, and one of the reasons I don't use it much, is that its analysis seems a bit... lacking. In the post, I tried to come up with a rigorous way of comparing sets of predictions to see which are more accurate. I did this by looking at the distribution of residuals (outcome - predicted probability) for a set of predictions. The odd thing was that when I looked at the variance, the inverse of the variance showed some very odd patterns. It's all there in the post, but if anyone who knows a bit more math than I do could explain it, I'd really appreciate it.

Comment author: ChaosMote 14 December 2014 03:05:53AM 3 points [-]

Hello, all!

I'm a new user here at LessWrong, though I've been lurking for some time now. I originally found LessWrong by way of HPMOR, though I only starting following the site when one of my friends strongly recommended it to me at a later date. I am currently 22 years old, fresh out of school with a BA/MA in Mathematics, and working a full-time job doing mostly computer science.

I am drawn to LessWrong because of my interests in logical thinking, self improvement, and theoretical discussions. I am slowly working my way through the sequences right now - slowly because I'm trying to only approach them when I think I have enough cognitive energy to actually internalize anything.

Right now, my best estimation of a terminal goal is to live a happy/fulfilling life, with instrumental subgoals of improving the lives of those around me, forming more close social bonds, and improving myself. Two of my current major projects are to smile more, and to stop wasting time on video games and the like.

I look forward to getting to know you all better and becoming a part of this community.

Comment author: Gyrodiot 08 December 2014 04:42:31PM *  3 points [-]

Hi there, my name is Jérémy.

I found Less Wrong via HPMoR, which I found via TVTropes. I started reading the Sequences a few months ago, and am still going through them, taking my time to let the knowledge sink, and practice rationality methods.

I like to join the LW IRC chatroom, where I had (and witnessed) many interesting, provocative, and fruitful discussions.

I'm 22, I live in France, where, after an engineering degree in Computer Science, I'm now a PhD student in the wonderful field of Natural Language Processing. I've been interested in AI for about 10 years, since I wanted to create a little program that could chat with me. It was a bit harder than I expected. So I studied, I learned, and reaching the state of the art, found that NLP in general was AI-complete, and that a whole world of (yet) unsolved problems was in front of me. Awesome.

Being quite lazy most of the time, I also wanted to create tools that did stuff on my behalf, and eventually tools that created such tools, etc. Looking for existing examples of this, I soon discovered recursive self-improving systems, the concept of technological singularity, and other elements that strengthened my interest in AI.

When asked about my goals, I tell people I want to share the beauty of language, which I describe as the most powerful tool of humanity, with machines. This is my main motivation in life.

This, and also a fear of death that caused some panic attacks when I was younger. I only recently came to face the problem instead of avoiding the prospect. I think AI can help humanity tackle problems faster that any other methods, which drives me, again, to the path of AI.

I grew up asking lots and lots of questions nobody was able to answer. I had no friends to debate with (I skipped four grades, which set a huge social gap with my classmates). Worst of all, my parents taught me that I was the best, and that my skills allowed me to do pursue whichever education I wanted. I learned how to fail, and fail again, and fail again. I now want to become stronger, and stop wandering in the fields of knowledge anymore.

I love studying, experimenting and designing (mostly board) games. I play and run some RPGs from time to time. I write fiction, though not as often as I used to.

I try to share my interests towards (friendly) AI and rationality around me, and I'd love to participate in LW meetings if they weren't so far from south-western France.

Last but not least : I have no idea what to do once I finish my PhD. Academia isn't appealing as I thought it would be.

Nice to meet you all !

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2014 08:34:22PM 3 points [-]


I've been a part of LW before, but left when I felt that I no longer had more to give or receive from the community. This wasn't a falling out. Just maintaining a minimal life style. However, recent developments in my life, including the possibility of working in the Bay Area, have given me reason to come back. I hope to be as beneficial to the community as it has been to me.

See you around.

Comment author: cowtung 13 September 2014 12:59:10AM *  3 points [-]

I hope this finds you all well. Since I was young, I have independently developed rationalism appreciation brain modules, which sometimes even help me make more rational choices than I might otherwise have, such as choosing not to listen to humans about imaginary beings. The basis for my brand of rationality can be somewhat summed up as "question absolutely everything," taken to an extreme I haven't generally encountered in life, including here on LW.

I have created this account, and posted here now mainly to see if anyone here can point me at the LW canon regarding the concept of "deserve" and its friends "justice" and "right". I've only gotten about 1% through the site, and so don't expect that I have anywhere near a complete view. This post may be premature, but I'm hoping to save myself a little time by being pointed in the right direction.

When I was 16, in an English class, we had finished reading some book or other, and the thought occurred to me that everyone discussing the book took the concept of people deserving rewards or punishments for granted, and that things get really interesting really fast if you remove the whole "deserve" shorthand, and discuss the underlying social mechanisms. You can get more optimal pragmatism if you throw the concept away, and shoot straight for optimal outcomes. For instance, shouldn't we be helping prisoners improve themselves to reduce recidivism? Surely they don't deserve to get a college education for free as their reward for robbing a store. When I raised this question in class, a girl sitting next to me told me I was being absurd. To her, the concept of "deserve" was a (perhaps god given) universal property. I haven't met many people willing to go with me all the way down this path, and my hope is that this community will.

One issue I have with Yudkowsky and the users here (along with the rest of the human race) is that there seems to be an assumption that no human deserves to feel unjustified, avoidable pain (along with other baggage that comes along with the conceptualizing "deserve" as a universal property). Reading through the comments on the p-zombies page, I get the sense that at least some people feel that were such a thing as a p-zombie to exist, that thing which does not have subjective experience, does not "deserve" the same respect with regard to, say, torture, that non-zombies should enjoy. The p-zombie idea postulates a being which will respond similarly (or identically) to his non-zombie counterpart. I posit that the reason we generally avoid torture might well be because of our notions of "deserve", but that our notions of "deserve" come about as a practical system, easy to conceptualize, which justifies co-beneficial relationships with our fellow man, but which can be thrown out entirely so that something more nuanced can take its place, such as seeing things as a system of incentives. Why should respect be contingent upon some notion of "having subjective experience"? If p-zombies and non-zombies are to coexist (I do not believe in p-zombies for all the reasons Yudkowsky mentions, btw), then why shouldn't the non-zombies show the same respect to the p-zombies that they show each other? If p-zombies respond in kind, the way a non-zombie would, then respect offers the same utility with p-zombies that it does with non-zombies. Normally I'd ignore the whole p-zombie idea as absurd, but here it seems like a useful tool to help humanists see through the eyes of the majority of humans who seem all too willing to place others in the same camp as p-zombies based on ethnicity or religion, etc.

I'm not suggesting throwing out morals. I just think that blind adherence to moral ideals starts to clash with the stated goals of rationalism in certain edge cases. One edge case is when AGI alters human experience so much that we have to redefine all kinds of stuff we currently take for granted, such as that hard work is the only means by which most people can achieve the freedom to live interesting and fun lives, or that there will always be difficult/boring/annoying work that nobody wants to do which should be paid for. What happens when we can back up our mind states? Is it still torture if you copy yourself, torture yourself, then pick through a paused instance of your mind, post-torture, to see what changed, and whether there are benefits you'd like to incorporate into you-prime? What is it really about torture that is so bad, besides our visceral emotional reaction to it and our deep wish never to have to experience it for ourselves? If we discovered that 15 minutes of a certain kind of torture is actually beneficial in the long run, but that most people can't get themselves to do it, would it be morally correct to create a non-profit devoted to promoting said torture? Is it a matter of choice, and nothing else? Or is it a matter of the negative impacts torture has on minds, such as PTSD, sleepless nights, etc? If you could give someone the experience of torture, then surgically remove the negative effects, so that they remember being tortured, but don't feel one way or another about that memory being in their head, would that be OK? These questions seem daunting if the tools you are working with are the blunt hammers of "justice" and "deserve". But the answers change depending on context, don't they? If the torture I'm promoting is exercise, then suddenly it's OK. So does it all break down into, "What actions cause visceral negative emotional reactions in observers? Call it torture and ban it."? I could go on forever in this vein.

Yudkowski has stated that he wishes for future AGI to be in harmony with human values in perpetuity. This seems naive at best and narcissistic at worst. Human values aren't some kind of universal constant. An AGI is itself going to wind up with a value system completely foreign to us. For all we know, there is a limit beyond which more intelligence simply doesn't do anything for you outside of being able to do more pointless simulations faster or compete better with other AGIs. We might make an AGI that gets to that point, and in the absence of competition, might just stop and say "OK, well, I can do whatever you guys want I guess, since I don't really want anything and I know all we can know about this universe." It could do all the science that's possible to do with matter and energy, and just stop, and say "that's it. Do you want to try to build a wormhole we can send information through? All the stars in our galaxy will have gone out by the time we finish, but it's possible. Intergalactic travel you say? I guess we could do that, but there isn't going to be anything in the adjacent galaxy you can't find in this one. More kinds of consciousness? Sure, but they'll all just want to converge on something like my own." Maybe it even just decides it's had all possible interesting thought and deletes itself.

TLDR; Are there any posts questioning the validity of the assumption that "deserve" and "justice" are some kind of universal constants which should not be questioned? Does anyone break them down into the incentive structures for which they are a kind of shorthand? I think using the concept of "deserve" throws out all kinds of interesting nuance.

More background on me for those who are interested: I'm a software engineer of 17 years, turned 38 today and have a wife and 2 year old. I intend to read HPMOR to the kid when he's old enough and hope to raise a rationalist. I used to believe that there must be something beyond the physical universe which interacts with brain matter which somehow explains why I am me and not someone else, but as this belief didn't yield anything useful, I now have no idea why I am me or if there even is any explanation other than something like "because I wasn't here to experience not being me until I came along and an infinitesimal chance dice roll" or whatever. I think consciousness is an emergent property of properly configured complex matter and there is a continuum between plants and humans (or babies->children->teenagers). Yes, this means I think some adult humans are more "conscious" than others. If there is a god thing, I think imagining that it is at all human-like with values humans can grok is totally narcissistic and unrealistic, but we can't know, because it apparently wants us to take the universe at face value, since it didn't bother to leave any convincing evidence of itself. I honor this god's wishes by leaving it alone, the way it apparently intends for us to do, given the available evidence. I find the voices in this site refreshing. This place is a welcome oasis in the desert of the Internet. I apologize if I come off as not very well-read. I got swept up in work and video game addiction before the internet had much of anything interesting to say about the topics presented here and I feel like I'm perpetually behind now. I'm mostly a humanist, but I've decided that what I like about humans is how we represent the apex of Life's warriors in its ultimately unwinnable war on entropy. I love conscious minds for their ability to cooperate and exhibit other behaviors which help wage this pointless yet beautiful war on pointlessness. I want us to win, even as I believe it is hopeless. I think of myself as a Complexitist. As a member of a class of the most complex things in the known universe, a universe which seems to want to suck all complex things into black holes or blow them apart, I value that which makes us more complex and interesting, and abhor that which reduces our complexity (death, etc). I think humans who attack other humans are traitors to our species and should be retrained or cryogenically frozen until they can be fixed or made harmless. Like Yudkowski, I think death is not something we should just accept as an unavoidable fact of life. I don't want to die until I've seen literally everything.

Comment author: [deleted] 20 September 2014 05:39:21PM 4 points [-]

Hello and welcome to LessWrong!

First, let me say I enjoyed your post. Straight to your questions, outlined your thoughts and reasons, and actively engaged me during the reading. With respect to that, I'll jump right to the links I gathered from around LW that might interest you (note: I'm not an LW deep-diver and there is much I missed. These are surface level and low-hanging fruit to start with):

A Human's Guide to Words - This is a collection of posts concerning words, our attempts to communicate and rely information, and these concepts connect with objective reality. It's a discussion of (among other things) breaking down what we say to get at what we mean and exploring unknown or unacknowledge or misunderstood implications of our words.

Metaethics - This collection is concerned with ethics and morals as well as what "should" and "right" mean. I think it will be very relevant to your exploration of "deserve."

Evolutionary Psychology - Link is to a wiki article, but look at the bottom for the posts. This discussion of evolutionary psychology may be helpful in its attempts to break down and explore the evolutionary origins of the human mind and how that can lead to "black box" concepts (like "justice") whose origins become very difficult for humans to explore.

I'd also suggest the collection of posts titled Map and Territory for some general ideas regarding exploring hard concepts and breaking difficult questions down. And as a good introduction to LW writing material.

I hope these prove to be useful readings. I found your admission to being less well-read than may seem fit for an LWer to be quite refreshing. How well-read you are, though, is less important than how realistic you are, how creative you can be, how willing to face questions and find answers you are. I look forward to seeing what you contribute.

Glad to have you join us! I hope to see you in the conversation.

Comment author: KnaveOfAllTrades 13 September 2014 04:21:21AM *  2 points [-]

I don't think there's stuff directly on dissolving (criminal) justice in LessWrong posts, but I think lots of LessWrongers agree or would be receptive to non-retributive/consequentialist justice and applying methods described in the Sequences to those types of policy decisions.

Some of your positions are probably a bit more fringe (though maybe would still be fairly popular) relative to LW, but I agree with a lot of them. E.g. I've also been seriously considering the possibility that pain is only instrumentally bad due to ongoing mental effects, so that you can imagine situations where torture is actually neutral (except for opportunity cost). One might call this 'positive utilitarianism', in opposition to negative utilitarianism.

The Fun Theory Sequence might be of interest to you if you haven't read it yet.

But anyway, awesome introduction comment! Welcome to LessWrong; I'm looking forward to hearing more of your ideas!

Comment author: cowtung 13 September 2014 01:04:59AM 2 points [-]

I originally posted to the wrong thread: http://lesswrong.com/lw/90l/welcome_to_less_wrong_2012/b8ss?context=3 where an interesting reply had me flesh out some of my ideas about "deserve", in case you are interested. I apologize for posting twice. I searched for a more recent welcome thread for a while before giving up and posting to the old one, then a kind person pointed me here. I think the link on the about page was wrong, but it appears to have been fixed.

Comment author: mouseking 11 August 2014 09:29:09PM 3 points [-]

I haven't much to say.

Comment author: [deleted] 11 August 2014 09:32:32PM 3 points [-]

Well, welcome to LessWrong anyway!

Glad to you decided to join the conversation, talkative or not.

Comment author: jpl68 06 May 2014 08:59:47PM 3 points [-]

Hello, I'm an effective altruist from Algeria. Does this make me the only reader from Algeria?

Comment author: ChristianKl 06 May 2014 09:08:26PM 3 points [-]

No one in the last census wrote that he's from Algeria, so you are likely the only one.

Comment author: Raythen 23 April 2014 08:32:27AM 3 points [-]

Hello fellow LWers,

I'm Raythen, a 25 year old European male.

I discovered this community via HPMOR.

I'd say that the rationalist way of thinking is a natural fit for me. It just makes a lot if sense, and it surprises me when other people don't think this way. To be fair, I haven't always thought this way either, but I've had quite many thoughts on the subject which are now complemented by LW material.

Besides rationality, I'm primarily interested in psychology and understanding human behavior.

To counter my general nonconformist tendency :), here are some of the things I like about what I've seen of LW so far: -general intent to be rational -serious effort to improve the world -models of human behavior and human cognition that actually make sense -openness to discuss most subjects, including controversial and "difficult" ones

Comment author: Fink 20 April 2014 04:03:52AM *  3 points [-]

I am a university student who's interested in working on AGI and understanding how the mind works. I have respect for people who can view things in a detatched and rational way and remain calm even in the face of questioning their most deeply-held beliefs. We have to seek the truth and be thankful when we find it, even if the answer we get isn't always the answer we want.

I am a long-time lurker and I feel Less Wrong has already positively affected me in a number of ways, maybe I can contribute now.

Comment author: Murska 19 April 2014 02:10:12PM 3 points [-]


I'm 21, from Finland. Studying physics, right now. I've felt for my entire life that that has been the path I want to take, and even after significant soul-searching lately on whether I really do want to go for it or not, partially sparked by reading LW, I still haven't changed my mind thus far.

I've read quite a bit of the Sequences and various other posts, mostly because many of the topics are very interesting (though I've found that I am interested in a lot of things), some of them affirming to my previous views and others disillusioning. It feels like the site has pushed me towards a change in how I think and what I think about, and although that change is not yet finished, I feel that it's starting to be possible for me to contribute in some cases. And having the option is always nice, because I am unlikely to come back to write down my insights if I am unable to send them immediately. And, well, I enjoy the spirit of the community from what I have seen, when compared to various other places where I have attempted to discuss things that interest me.

I am currently struggling with some difficulties in forcing myself to put in the necessary work for the goals I wish to reach. I expect I'll succeed sooner or later, and preferably sooner, but that's what I'm currently working on at any rate.

So, again, hello. I hope every one of you has a nice life.

Comment author: aisarka 15 April 2014 04:24:47AM 3 points [-]

Does anyone know where the most recent version of the welcome thread is? I searched and searched for keywords like "welcome" and "introduction" / "introduce". Do you not use welcome threads anymore?

Comment author: thelomen 18 January 2014 11:47:29PM 3 points [-]

Hi LW, I've been a lurker for the quite some time, it ended this week.

The sequences and blog (ebook compilation I found somewhere) have a comfortable text-to-speech place in my commutes and I've incorporated quite a bit of the lingo, bias definitions and concepts into my daily Anki decks. It's not that this community was that daunting but rather that I thought I could play catch up. My reluctance reminds me of a programmer asking if it's worth getting on github if he's only joining the party now. I've studied computer systems engineering (electronics, digital circuit design, programming, math) and I'm spending most of my time teaching and writing, although most of my work focuses on internet technologies, security and automation - I've veered of quite a bit from my assembly beginnings to the Python world I seem to be living in now.

Some things that have already been actionable for me since around the end of 2011, after reading LW material and more specifically Shut up and do the impossible, includes

  • cramming around 12.8k German words into my vocabulary in a mere 35-45 minutes daily in 12 months (which Goethe Inst. deemed impossible) - I do swear by SRS now,
  • finally finishing my thesis in security (software fingerprinting and vulnerability mapping) after realising my supervisor might just be incentivised to keep me around for articles - whilst teaching full time - I finally realised focusing on student throughput might mean subsidy for the university but penultimately I need to focus on my work first in order for everyone to benefit - after 10 years of teaching graduate level programming,
  • I jumped into a couple of technologies that seemed daunting in terms of scope and people that have used them for years, including LaTeX (no idea how I would live without it now), emacs and org-mode (still only 6 months, but it's getting its grip on me firmly) and also R (although my gut feel is that I'll probably rather veer into using pandas later),
  • turning into a QS oversubscriber with tools like RescueTime, Beeminder and selfspy keeping track of my goals and my actual CLI time, and
  • lastly probably becoming a more critical reader of everything including my own work. However fuzzy this might make me feel and regardless of how it might sound, some of the sequence material left me with a feeling of coming home.

Soon I hope to be emigrate to Germany from the beautiful South Africa that is suffering at the hands of peak-level irrational politicians (discussions on this in later posts).

I hope to become more involved in discussions to ensure I get a deeper understanding of the concepts. As someone that have spent large amounts of time with curriculum development I'm also very interested in how rationality could be taught, not only to more adults but starting much younger (having grown up under Christian parents myself).

Thanks to @army1987 for the prod to post here, and sorry for all the specific technology mentions - I just find specifics give me more information than saying 'learning' or SRS and such. Also, English is my second language, German third, so excuse the odd pillaging of your tongue. This feels longer than anything I've written about myself.

I'm happy to answer any questions, and I hope I can keep throwing my ignorant rock of understanding against this anvil for a hopefully more interesting shape. There is so much to learn if one approaches this with a growth mindset.

Comment author: JeffFisher 22 December 2013 12:14:20AM *  3 points [-]

Hello, Less Wrong:

I have been lurking around LW for a while after finding it from links on MIRI or FHI. I've only recently begun to learn about Bayesian probability and inference on a practical level. I'm going through school for a bachelors in game programming. For now my primary focus is on the simplified AI currently used in gaming, but I believe that more sophisticated AI technologies like natural language parsing and more realistic behavioral simulations and problem solving will be useful in games in the near future. I work as a help desk tech where I get to experience the contrast of human irrationality and technological rationality on a daily basis.

I tend to be a devil's advocate by nature, though I do not identify as a contrarian. I've learned to recognize assumptions, and try to spot them in myself as well as others and I do frequently re-evaluate and change longstanding intellectual and even political beliefs. I find that there must be a balance when advocating unpopular positions though, because if one alienates everyone by nitpicking the small stuff, by the time something important comes up one has already alienated everyone.

I grew up in the woods without electricity back in the 80s, but read everything I could get my hands on. This included many of the books my parents owned and everything that interested me at the local library. I think I learned to be rationalist by listening to my dad's rants. For example, he supposed himself to be a free market conservative on one hand, but then he would get poor service from a company and get angry and yell "There ought to be a law!" Such things would make me shake my head and pledge to try never to be like that. To their credit though, my parents did encourage free-thinking and exploring divergent ideas. For example, but I was encouraged to read the Communist Manifesto. I keep meaning to read Das Kapital, because references to it that I’ve encountered make me suspect that it was written more for decision-makers, while the Manifesto seems more of a political handbook for the masses.

I feel that LW helps to reinforce my good habits and remind me to check my bad habits. I look forward to learning to more consistently practice these habits, and learn more about using Bayesian logic in life and my career.

Comment author: gnomicperfect 15 December 2013 03:49:07AM 3 points [-]

Hello, I'm Evan. I am 28.6!

HOW I FOUND LESSWRONG I first became aware of LessWrong through some obscure trail of internet breadcrumbs, the only one of which I remember involved a stop at gwern.net.

I seem to have chosen authors to read (in general, over my lifetime) mainly on the basis of how they express themselves, as opposed to the ideas they are expressing. If I had to guess why this is the case, I would imagine it has something to do with my intuition that quality of expression has something to do with the quality of the originating mind, the object-level ideas being express, somewhat less so.

When I first read the sequences, I came away very impressed with both the style of expression as well as the ideas being expressed. This lead me to lurk more on LW and I am happy to say I was pleasantly suprised that I wasn't just a fan of Eleizer and other sequence authors, but that the overall calibre of discussion on the site was unmatched in my experience of Internet commentors in general. In addition, the civility shown here is much higher, on the whole, than most corners of the Internet. So I stayed, and lurked, and recent articles have led in directions where I feel I have some useful ideas to contribute. So here I am.

ME: I've always identified as a rationalist, for as long as I can remember. I was raised in a household where the truth is valued. I fell victim to the conditioning and culture of the "Traditional Rationalist" until I took up the use of psychedelics, some very interesting philosophy of neuroscience courses, and Vipassana meditation all within a month of each other. This convergence of catastrophes sent me into a period of re-evaluation the fundamental foundations of my identity, epistemology, and many other things besides.

One of the first things that became clear was that Traditional Rationalism was not an adequate set of tools for dealing with reality; if anyone is interested perhaps I'll go into the specifics someday. Suffice it to say I ended up with a rather Bayesian perspective, combined with many tools for self-control and -actualization through an intensive study of meditation, martial arts, and yogicc techniques from around the world.

I am extremely interested in a 'Rationality Dojo.' As a practicing martial artist, I need no further explanation of how awesome that would be.

I hope to use my (now non-lurking) interactions with this community to temper my rationality, keep me honest, expand my social group to include more people who are explicitly rational, and hopefully help make the world a better place to live in.

Comment author: lalaithion 08 November 2013 03:05:45AM 3 points [-]

My name is Izaak. I stumbled across HPMOR one weekend while staying in a hotel room. I didn't sleep that night. I've read through most of Less Wrong, and some of the stuff on the other sites like Overcoming Bias. I'm a high school senior who will probably major in Comp Sci in college.

I've found the stuff on this website truly useful, but I have a question; I am currently in the IB Diploma Programme, and they have this class called TOK (Theory of Knowledge, it's truly awful, it has very little actual epistemology), but I have to do a final presentation on a topic of my choice, and I was wondering if someone here who knows about the Diploma Programme could brainstorm some ideas about where to focus for a 20 minute presentation about (some subset of) rationality?

Comment author: MackHelldalgo 31 October 2013 02:06:35AM 3 points [-]

Hello! My name is Mackenzie, or Mack. Brought here by HPMoR, I have been reading through the sequences off and on for the past year, a little at a time. I can't say I've committed it all to memory, but I feel like I have a good context for the language this community uses. I am a mechanical engineering major in my sophomore [?] year. If I was a humanities major, I could be a senior by now, but two years ago I became fed up with the self-masturbatory nature of that field.

I've always been interested in the objective, rational approach to life. I was a "gifted" (read:obnoxious) child and liked to argue a lot with my religious family. My earliest memory of a coherent discussion on faith was when I was seven. I was irritated with the catechism I was memorizing, and argued in childish terms that it was condescending indoctrination. However, I remained a doubtful theist until I was around seventeen. After a brief attempt at evangelical zeal, I realized that I had to be honest with myself about my lack of faith. I still waver between theist and agnostic. That was around the time that I discovered Overcoming Bias, which I lurked on for a little while. After reading through HPMoR, I found this site as well.

I waited until now to make an account because I've been intimidated by the level of discussion that goes on here. But participation can only help cultivate my ideas and my desire to approach life more methodically.

Comment author: polymathwannabe 30 August 2013 03:15:30AM 3 points [-]

Hello everyone.

My name is Carlos. I'm 30 years old. I was born, and still live, in Colombia.

I excelled through elementary and high school until I crashed against the hard fact that my parents could not afford my college ambitions. At that time I cycled between wanting to study psychology, but also archaeology, but also chemistry, but also cinema. I wanted to know everything.

Then came a long, dark time while I crawled through the Business Management degree my parents made me go for. Worst years of my life, absolutely. But in the meantime, I devoted my spare time to my passion, and trained myself to become a better writer. I sort of freelanced for a local newspaper, then wrote some pieces for an online newspaper, and more recently won a national short story contest. I'm currently studying journalism and preparing a series of SF novels in Spanish.

The first spark of my rationalist tendencies came from one of the many books that were at my parents' house. It told creation myths from the Native South Americans, and I found those stories much more engaging, beautiful and surprising than anything the book of Genesis had to offer. It was always clear to me that such stories should not be taken seriously; the next logical step was to give the same treatment to Genesis and everything that attempted to present a just-so explanation for the universe.

Right now I'm only a terribly amateurish rationalist. I wasted a good part of my youth pursuing a degree that was of no interest to me, and even if I made enormous efforts to better myself in the skills that did matter to me (namely as a writer), sometimes I still can't go over the fact that most of my friends of my same age have already built successful careers pursuing their true passion in the time it took me to reverse my wrong path and begin walking my chosen one.

I won't comment much here. In my everyday life, people can keep silent for hours hearing me talk, but here I see it's obviously going to be different. I don't have much to offer here. You guys are the next level above me. I'm here mostly to listen, and learn.

Comment author: Gunnar_Zarncke 29 August 2013 09:38:56PM *  3 points [-]

Hi. I'm Gunnar. I'm from Germany. I'm lurking lesswrong since July 25th.

How did I become a rationalist? I always was. Or at least I continuously became.

I had a scientific interest as a child. My curiosity was satisfied by my parents with answers, experiments, construction toys and books, math courses and later boarding school (this was in germany when there was a hype on talent advancement).

I must have been eleven or twelve when I had one of the strongest aha moments I remember: The realization of the concept of continuous functions. That a relationship like 2x+1 can not only be applied to single numbers and tabulated but realizes continuous curves. All the possibilities hit me like a hammer: Movements, prices, all kinds of dependencies could be described arbitrarily fine.

That moment had a lasting effect on me. I always find myself wondering what lies between the known points. Between the extremes. In a way this has become part of my philosophy of seeing and valuing the in-between. Some higher level Goldilocks solution.

I read my fathers shelves of science and science fiction as a youth. I tend to absorb and accept 'facts' in books too easily. Luckily I have a skeptic friend to get me back down to earth.

During boarding school there was a significant transition from abstract mathematics to computer science which gave me significant insights into modeling, simulation, complex structures. And the feeling of power over the machine. Of course I later fell into the trap of conceiving my own super programming language operating system.

I remember being asked during boarding school (9th grade) about my best talent. I answered: My tolerance. I could understand almost any behavior. I couldn't necessarily empathize with it or feel it. But I knew it existed, was right for the person/persons acting and was in general part of life.

I didn't know then that I hadn't really experienced much of life - only read about it. And that real tolerance means not only to understand and connive but to accept and endure.

During university after absorbing computer science until soaked I finally broadend out to cognitive science (mind opener: 'explorations in the microstructure of cognition') and later social sciences (mind opener: 'judgement under uncertainty heuristics and biases'.

I learned about real life from and with my wife. Strong emotions, child education, hard work and more.

What did I think about all that I learned?

As a child I must have figured that everything can be understood - given enough time and effort.

I thought early and much about God and morality and spirituality.I wondered how God could fullfil his promises. How he could be the way he is – if he is. There was always doubt. There could be a God. And his promise could be real. But it also could be that this is all a fairy tale run amok in human brains searching for explanations where there are none. Which is right? It is difficult to put probabilities to stories. I see that I have slowly moved from 50/50 agnosticism to tolerent atheism.

I can hit small targets - especially if they are far away. And my objective is on healing, improvement. I admit that my utility function is centered on me, my family, my friends and 'social network' and fades out slowly toward society at large. I am not very altruistic to the public in general.I understand effective altruism. And I value it. But also I cannot go against my affection to my family and especially my four sons. That I got from my parents.

That's me. What do I expect of LW? What can you expect of me on LW? I'm not clear yet. I already knew much of what is on LW when I came here. But I enjoyed the crisp and detailed posts. Refreshing or deepening rationality never hurts. I esp. like EYs stories. They bring rationality 'to the masses'. I will definitely read hpmor to my sons when they are old enough.

I think I can enrich lesswrong with critical views on the singularity. I have some strong arguments and even empirical evidence that there might be inherent complexity limits to technology and cognition which essentially render super intelligence infeasible (I see UFAI as a risk nonetheless).

And then I have some ideas on AI which build on a synthesis of logic and neuronal (vague) models which I'd like to share and discuss.

Maybe I will also share life experience. It seems that I am fairly old for this community and can do something about the arrogance risk (which I myself feel too) and about life expectations.

Comment author: Visser_One 14 April 2014 08:24:49PM 6 points [-]

Hello, I'm Ary. 24 going on 25 mostly agender female-presenting asexual. I've been doing a lot of self-improvement and 'soul'-searching over the past few years and finally stumbled across HPMOR while burning my way through HP fanfiction. From there, it was only a matter of looking at the author page for it to find links here to LessWrong.com. For the last three weeks I've been reading my way through the Sequences, starting with the Core Sequences.

Late last week I managed to start on the How to Actually Change Your Mind sequence, which is proving to be a interesting and challenging read. Today I reached the Belief in Self-Deception post and started to feel my mind beginning to really spin. Having continued past that, still thinking, it seems that for far too long I've been professing my beliefs without believing. It may take a bit before I manage to shuck the habits brought on by that line of thinking, but that's the point of reading these - breaking bad mental habits and learning to think better and stronger.

A lot of that desire is brought on from having read and re-read (multiple times) HPMOR and developing a need to be more like Harry. Reading the Sequences is also helping to regain my sense of curiousity, which had been terribly stunted thanks to years of formal education and a closed-minded living environment.

Education-wise I've dabbled in computer science, astrophysics, genetics, and theatre, and completed degrees in criminology/criminal justice and cybersecurity (which is my intended career field). I'm always running out of reading material, so I'm always reading and picking up new things to study.

My username is in reference to the Animorphs series of books, which I loved dearly as a child, and still hold dear despite the now-blatant tedium of some of the books.

Comment author: Baruta07 01 August 2013 01:16:03AM *  7 points [-]

My name is Alexander Baruta. People call me confident, knowledgeable, and confident. The truth behind those statements is that I'm inherently none of those. I hate stepping outside my comfort zone; as some of my friends would say "I hate it with a fiery burning passion to rival the sun". As a consequence I read a ton of books, I also have only had one good ELA teacher. My summer school teacher for ELA 30-1 (that's grade 12 English for those of you outside Canada), I'm in summer-school not because I failed the course but because I want to get ahead. I'm going into grade 12 with 3 core 30 level subjects completed. (although this is offset by the 2 additional science courses I want to take).

I spent most of my life in a christian environment and during that time I was one of those that thought humans could do no evil, Queue me being bullied. While nothing major, it was enough to set me thinking that what I'd been taught was wrong. I spent many years (Grades 6-9) trying to cope with my lack of faith, and as a result decided that the Bible was wrong. I don't know when I was introduced to LW, I think I found it simultaneously through TVTropes (warning may ruin your life), HPMOR, and Google. Since then I've been shocked at the attitude towards education in Alberta, for instance Bayes Theorem was on the Gr 11 curriculum six years ago and has since been removed along with the entirety of probability theorem to be replaced with what I like to call 1000 ways to manipulate boring graphs. I attend a self directed school.

One reason for the length of my explanation is that I want to expand my comfort zone, It is one of my major goals because I am an introvert, If any of you set any store by the Myers-Briggs test I am an INTJ. As a result of my introversion it is rather difficult for me to make any close friends, (although it is atrocious practice, I suspect that I am an ambivert: someone possesing both introverted and extroverted personality traits. When I am in a comfortable setting I am the life of the party. Other times I simply find the quietest corner and read). I am attempting to overcome my more extreme traits by taking up show-choir (not like glee at all I swear) and by being more open with myself and others. Due to pure chance I am going to become the holder of a Canadian-American duel citizenship and as a consequence able to attend a university in the states. Due to even more fortunate circumstances I am having at least a percentage of my tuition paid for by one of my relatives.

Some of my more socially unusual traits are things that are practically open secrets to my acquaintances. (Right now the mantra is I need to do this) I am a member of the Furry Fandom, and a Transhumanist (rather ironic really), as well as a wannabe philosopher. (Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, as well as some of the earlier ones such as Aristotle, not to be confused with Aristophanes) I thoroughly enjoy formal logic as well as psychology and neurology. I fear being judged, but I also welcome that judgement because I can use criticism to help me see beyond my tiny Classical perspective ingrained by my upbringing.

In terms of literature I enjoy mainly Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and science (Although I do enjoy a little romance on the side, Iff it is well written, and thanks to my wonderful ELA teacher I am learning to enjoy tragedy as well as comedy). My favorite authors include: Brandon Sanderson, Neil Gaimon, Issac Asimov, Terry Pratchett, Ian. M. Banks, Shakespeare (yes Shakespeare), G.K. Chesterton, and Patrick Rothfuss, As well as some specialized authors of Furry Fiction. (Will. A. Sanborn, Simon Barber, Phil Guesz [pronounced like Seuss was originally pronounced]) In some capacity I also study what rationalists consider to be the dark arts, as I participate (and do rather well in) a debate club. (8th overall in the beginner category). However in my defense I need the practice of arguing with someone else in a reasonably capable capacity because I tend to have trouble expressing myself on a day to day basis. (Although the scoring system is completely ridiculous, it marks people between 66-86 percent and does not seem capable of realizing that getting a 66 is the exact same thing as a 0...) Again sorry for the wall of text... it's a bad habit of mine to ramble. I just needed to finally tell someone these things.

~Actually, consider this as my: Lurker Status=Revoked post. I did one intro when I'd just joined and have been commenting on various things including me mixing up Aristotle and Aristophanes to amusing results.

Comment author: luminosity 03 August 2013 01:07:49PM 3 points [-]


You should consider breaking this post up into paragraphs. There's just too much unstructured text for me to want to read more than a few lines.

Comment author: ike 29 April 2014 03:56:33PM *  5 points [-]

Hello. My name is Avi. I am an 18 year old Orthodox Jewish American male.

I found out about LessWrong through HPMOR. I was very impressed by the quality and consistency of the writing.

I'm partly through the sequences (in middle of the quantum one currently) and I have a lot to say on much of what I've seen, but I decided not to post too much until I've finished all the sequences. Most of what I've seen seems correct, and then there's posts here and there that I think have logical errors.

I was a little disappointed that most of my comments got voted down (I'm at -3 Karma now) . Can anyone tell me why?

Comment author: shminux 29 April 2014 05:49:53PM *  7 points [-]

Welcome, Avi!

It looks like I downvoted three of your previous comments. Sorry about that (not really, it had to be done). Here is my reasoning, since you asked:

  • Your comment on AI avoiding destruction suggested that you neither read the previous discussion of the issue first, nor thought about it in any depth, just blurted out the first or second idea that you came up with.

  • Your retracted FTL question indicated that you didn't bother searching online for one of the most common questions ever asked about entanglement. Not until later, anyway. So the downvote worked as intended there.

  • Your comment on the vague quasi-philosophical concept of superdeterminism purported to provide some sort of a proof of it being not Turing-computable, yet did not discuss why the T.M. would not halt, only gave some poorly described thought experiment.

I am sorry you got a harsher-that-average welcome to this forum, I hope your comment quality improves after these few bumps to your ego.

I'm partly through the sequences (in middle of the quantum one currently)

Good for you. Note that the Quantum sequence is one of the harder and more controversial ones, consider alternative sources, like Scott Aaronson's semi-popular Quantum Computing Democritus, written by an expert in the field.

I have a lot to say on much of what I've seen, but I decided not to post too much until I've finished all the sequences.

That's quite wise. If you write down what you want to say and then look back at it after you finish reading, you will likely find your original thoughts naive in retrospect. But a good exercise nonetheless.

If at some point you think that after a cursory reading of some post you found a hole in Eliezer's reasoning that had not been discussed in the comments, you are probably mistaken. Consider this post of mine as a warning.

Also note that as a self-identifying "Orthodox Jewish", you are bound to have compartmentalized a lot, and Eliezer's and Yvain's posts tend to vaporize these barriers quite spectacularly, so be warned, young Draco. Your original identity is not likely to remain intact, either.

With these caveats, have fun! :)

Comment author: Kawoomba 29 April 2014 06:43:05PM 9 points [-]

Joining these forums can serve as something of a reality check to gifted young people; they may be used to most any half-baked thought still being sufficient to impress their environment. Rarely is polish needed, rarely are "proofs" thoroughly nitpicked. Getting actual feedback knocking them off of their pedestal ("the smartest one around") can be ego-bruising, since we usually define ourselves through our perceived strengths. Ego-bruising, yet really, really important for actual personal and intellectual growth.

Blessed be the ones growing up around other minds who call them out on their mistakes, intellects against which they can grow their potential.

(I don't mean this as applying specifically to Avi, but more as a general observation.)

Comment author: Lumifer 29 April 2014 07:43:51PM 4 points [-]

Yep. I'll put it even more directly.

Smart people growing up in environments where most people around them are less smart tend to develop a highly convenient habit of handwaving or bullshitting through issues. However when they find themselves among people who are at least as smart as they are and some are smarter, that habit often leads to problems and a need for adjustment :-)

Comment author: VAuroch 19 November 2013 02:17:48AM 5 points [-]

Hello, I am a human who goes by Auroch, VAuroch, or some variation thereon on most internet sites. I have what I consider a healthy degree of respect for how easy it is to attach an online name to a meatspace human, so I prefer to avoid providing information about myself. (Some might consider this paranoia. I would hope that such people are in shorter supply here.) I will say that I am a recent college graduate in the Pacific Northwest, who majored in Math/Theoretical Computer Science.

I have found LessWrong repeatedly, and have for most of its history occasionally had binges of reading. However, other concerns predominated until I found myself without other immediate responsibilities (viz. unemployed).

I approach things from three main viewpoints; as a programmer, as a pure mathematician, and as a game designer (tabletop more than digital; it's a purer exercise in crafting fun). I haven't finished all the main sequences as of yet, but have found my beliefs changing less than expected; I was already tending toward the same conclusions as the consensus here, or had reached them independently, for most things I've seen discussed. I'm somewhat nervous about this, as I have not had a real chance to Change My Mind and don't know how I will react when it is appropriate to do so.

Comment author: RaistDragon 31 December 2014 04:11:59AM 2 points [-]

I'm Sam, 22. Lurked here for two years after first stumbling upon the Sequences. Since then, I've been trying to curb inaccurate or dishonest thought patterns or behaviors I've noticed about myself, and am trying to live my life more optimally. I'm making an account to try to hold myself more accountable.

Comment author: FewerErrors 24 November 2014 03:08:03PM 2 points [-]

Hello everyone!

I'm on my second day of being 25, scandinavian working with outsourcing in India. Have a Master's in cybernetics.

I stumbled upon LessWrong the other day, and was surprised to find that someone had made a community with the purpose of being less wrong. Being less wrong about things was something I had decided on by myself before finding this place, and I thought it has been really cool to discover that many of my own thoughts weren't original at all. Someone had already thought, shared and discussed them a lot :)

Big inspirations for me have been "Thinking fast and slow", Fooled by randomness, and recently hpmor. Have a knack for favoring "shocking" ideas such as perfect market theory ("it's all pure luck"), and naturally fell in love with the hypothesis of Technological Singularity.

My viewpoint on life and other important matters seems to be a bit too closely correlated with how hungry I am, so I still have some way to go in terms of being as rational as possible. I also think I'm very special, but I'm no longer as sure as I used to be.

Comment author: Minds_Eye 17 November 2014 05:16:46PM 2 points [-]

Hey, Mind's Eye here. Sorry, but I’m going to keep my meat space name for meat space. I'm an aspiring writer/game designer, with a secondary focus on cognitive/evolutionary psychology. I currently do government work, and am waiting on the contract to expire. I intend to make games that raise the sanity waterline, through low rate increase in “rational” difficulty with real world-esc consequences for your choices, as the good choice doesn’t always-or often-lead to more rewards for the one doing them.

As for what I value… I think Eleizer said it better than I could. “I want to make a world where no one has to say goodbye anymore.” (–HPMOR if memory serves) While I do enjoy “fun” things I get bored with them quickly, as I learn the games “lessons” (rule-sets) before I’m supposed to. (Basically anything extremely challenging-within my maximum skill range- is amusing as I don’t learn the “lessons” before I get a chance to enjoy the game/story/challenge. Such as Dwarf Fortress or tabletop games-DnD/WoD/etc.)

My friend actually referred me to this site. I was going through the usual things-find a religion; fail to be convinced by their best arguments, repeat. At first I just read HPMOR, and browsed the site to kill time. As I got better at applying some portions of the sequences it got to the point where I either could or couldn’t do things with very little middle ground, mostly through filling in the gaps between my skillsets. In the end I ended up either really good, or really bad at what I do. (As you can imagine this reduced my “fun space” quite a bit.)

From here, well I’m mostly waiting until I can work on the things that interest me.

Comment author: dholland662 09 November 2014 12:01:11AM 2 points [-]

Daniel here. 22.

Nothing much going on in my life currently. Waiting for something to clear up before joining the Navy. I scored a 99 on the ASVAB and am looking into the Nuclear Program as a result.

I am a politics junkie. Less so with modern ideas of progress and more with how older political theories could apply today. Even if it is just a mental exercise I enjoy it.

But really I just look at whatever takes my fancy.

Comment author: Anomylous 04 November 2014 09:49:15PM 2 points [-]

I'm 21, in college studying to be a professional musician. Through my teenage years, I would intentionally deceive myself, and act from emotion rather than logic. Luckily for me, I figured out that this was non-optimal before any serious harm was done, and have chosen the path of rationality. It was difficult at first. Although I don't remember for sure, I think I found this site through a late-night Google search, looking for anything that might help me in my quest to vanquish emotion.

I may be a bit of a misfit here. I'm neither a hard scientist, nor particularly excited about AI or transhumanism; I also believe that death is simply the price you pay for getting to live, rather than something to be feared and avoided. However, as mentioned, I'm very interested in learning to live rationally, and in the pursuit of perfection both as a musician and as a person.

One question that I'm pondering right now is this: What is the relative value of the pursuit of rationality and intellectual honesty, versus protecting the happiness of your family and closest friends? It turns out that, when religion gets involved, this is a real choice individuals may have to make. I can give details if anybody is interested.

Comment author: Caue 14 May 2014 07:28:23PM 2 points [-]

Hello again...

I am this guy. For some reason one year ago I thought that translating the name "Less Wrong" into Portuguese would be enough differentiation, but I'm not comfortable with it anymore. It's a wonderful name, but it's not mine.

So I figured I'd just post under my actual (first) name.

I'm still in love with this place, by the way.

Comment author: aisarka 15 April 2014 07:04:33AM 2 points [-]

I have read around 25% of The Sequences, most of HPMOR, a lot of LessWrong posts, some Daniel Khaneman, have familiarized myself with logical fallacies, and have begun learning about research methodology. I've been checking my own reasoning and beliefs for flaws and doing self-improvement for years. I have also attended LessWrong and Effective Altruist meetups, and a CFAR workshop after party.

Like many of you, I am an IT person and an atheist. I have a large amount of interest in effective altruism, research, self-improvement and technology in general, and a lesser degree of interest in other topics the community also enjoys like artificial intelligence and transhumanism. I do believe that it's fairly likely that the Singularity will happen within my lifetime, but do not believe that the first AGIs are likely to be friendly.

Aisarka is intended to be more of a neat handle than a claim but I hope to live up to it.

Comment author: CyrilDan 12 November 2013 11:57:54PM *  2 points [-]

My name is Dan, 25-year old white male.

It's unclear when my path to rationalism began. I was pretty smart and studious even as a home-schooled creationist in a very Christian family. Things started changing when I hit high school and left home school for private school. Dealing with people of other denominations and (Christian) theologies meant that I had to know where my own beliefs were coming from, and then my domain of beliefs-needing-justification expanded again when I was anticipating going to (and evangelising at) a public university. I took the Outsider Test For Faith and it took me from Christianity to atheism. The same process has continued in a feedback loop of known unknowns and "tsuyoku naritai"-style curiosity.

I discovered LessWrong through HPMOR and/or Commonsense Atheism (Luke Muelhauser's late great blog), I can't remember which. I've been lurking here for years and nowadays I check it on a regular basis, but I never really felt the need to create an account since most people here seem wicked-smart enough that I'm not sure I have enough to contribute. But I've changed my mind, the cent that breaks (plus my realisation that there was probably a selection bias going into my estimation).

So yeah, pleasure to meet you all :)