These events were run bi-weekly by myself as a tired and burnt out university student, and I didn't spend too much time on the event descriptions at the time so they're a bit sparse. At this point, the meetups were not yet explicitly rationalist-coded, and so it wasn't a priority for me to add explicitly rationalist readings to every single one of these events.

These meetups are also not representative of the average event, which just involved discussing a Scott/LW article, or two Scott/LW articles about similiar things, or a rat and a non-rat take on a specific topic.

I think these events would play well as occasional, slightly more general-interest events in established rationalist groups.

Feel free to steal any of these events, including wording for event posts, in whole or in part.

 

Policy Resource Allocation

Event post:

The Canadian government (specifically, SSHRC, the single largest social sciences research fund in Canada by a significant margin) developed a report on emerging issues that they anticipate will need addressing by 2030. In this meetup, we'll review their list of 16 challenges/problem statements and discussed which ones seemed more important/deserving of resources than others, as they didn't do any sort of prioritization.

Read it here:

https://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/funding-financement/programs-programmes/challenge_areas-domaines_des_defis/index-eng.aspx (also all in one page here, and as a PDF here)

Notes:

I tried looking to see if NEH (the US equivalent of SSHRC) has put out anything similiar, but it doesn't seem like they have. I do think the Canadian list is not particularly fixed to Canadian contexts though and should work for all developed countries.

An explicitly rationalist reading pairing could be We Are In Triage Every Second of Every Day or a similar post. This would also be a great way to spin the event in a more EA-adjacent direction, and discuss to what extent solving any of the 16 issues above should take precedence over tiling Nigeria over in bednets.

 

Philosophy Variety Show

Event Post:

Go go to this website: https://www.philosophyexperiments.com/

Do one quiz that you're unfamiliar with, and we'll all share our results with each other at the salon. Light roasting may follow. I'll start a post in the event page for claims so that we minimize the number of doubles, but also it's not a big deal if you pick the same thing as someone else.

Notes:

People are much better at doing quizzes than readings. At the meetup, get them to go around and describe both the quiz that they did and their results. Stimulating discussion should follow with less effort than usual on the part of the organizer.

If you have access to a computer/projector, it could also be fun to do some quizzes together.

I threw this one together for a meetup in finals week because I was too busy to think of anything that required more brain power to run. This one seems intuitively rat-ish enough that I don't feel the need to pair a more rationalist reading with it.

 

The Money Shot

Event Post:

This week, we talk about art, fanservice, and gratification. Reading is a short but dense tumblr poast:

https://thesublemon.tumblr.com/post/617231817288876032/quarantine-has-led-me-to-use-youtube-more-food

After reading, I'd like you to either browse r/oddlysatisfying for a bit, or go on youtube and search up something like "satisfying compilation" and watch like 5 minutes of that. Think about how you feel watching the content. How does it feel in your body? Do you feel creeped out, or like that you like it? In what ways is it different from watching porn? In what ways is it similar?

Notes:

Example of a meetup "trope" I like of pairing a reading with a slightly more unconventional activity. For a chatty group/if your standard approach is to just throw out a reading and discuss it at the meetup, you'll be off to the races about superstimulus, internet addiction, pornography, etc. 

The reading was very obviously written mid-pandemic, and might bring back pandemic feelings to read.

Similar readings that you can assign in addition are two stuart mcmillen comics:

Supernormal Stimuli

The Town Without Television

Those readings will move the discussion in more of a general discussion of alienation and technology/luddism, instead of focusing specifically on sensation/disembodiedness.

 

Who Goes Nazi? (Tag Yourself)

Event Post:

Next Sunday let's discuss "Who Goes Nazi?", a super fun and thoughtful 1941 essay by journalist Dorothy Thompson. You can access it here: https://harpers.org/archive/1941/08/who-goes-nazi/

Notes:

This event is pretty edgy. The article is a fun one from 1941 and reminds me of Scott's writing, and the title/event asks people to consider under what circumstances they might become nazis. (I think it's always important to think about where your philosophy can lead you astray and into harming other people.) For my event, I encouraged people to engage with the article/question in good faith, but I think you can also get pretty far discussing, like, how outdated this article is, which parts of it hold up 80 years later and which parts don't, questioning the fundamental assumptions, etc. Good for chiller groups, or groups where the organizer is more comfortable with doing some moderation.

 

Doing Gender

Event Post:

This week, try to pay extra attention to how you're performing gender.

Read Tannen's 1993 essay, "Marked Women, Unmarked Men": https://www.nytimes.com/1993/06/20/magazine/wears-jump-suit-sensible-shoes-uses-husbands-last-name.html

And do this quiz: https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/OSRI/ 
I'm not so much interested in your results, as I am thinking through: Do you think this a good quiz? Do you buy the hypothesis? Do you think Bem is actually testing for "gender" in this quiz? Etc.

Notes:

You could say that gender studies is a bit of a special interest of mine, and I've designed a couple different meetups about specific gender-related stuff (including queerness, masculinity, and transfemininity). I'm showcasing this one as one that an organizer that doesn't have a gender studies minor can run. Tannen's essay is old enough that you can discuss it in the more removed terms of "has this dyanmic changed since 1993" instead of "is this dynamic good/bad", and the OSRI quiz invites discussion more about what people do themselves and think of their own gender, vs any culture war stuff - and making explicit how you want people to approach the quiz further helps frame the activity productively.

I'll suggest a few more readings below for variations of this event, or as sequels if your attendees are super into this gender thing. All readings below come from rationalist or rationalist-adjacent sources, so should be parseable by meetup attendees despite going further into the gender weeds.

Masculinity-focused Variation

Gender-focused Variation

The gender-focused variation especially could lead to some more contentious conversations, so make sure you're up for it as an organizer.

 

De Amicitia

Event Post:

De Amicitia is a classic treatise on friendship, written by notorious thinkpiece writer Cicero something like 2000 years ago. Cicero has cool takes sometimes but he's also a windbag, so here's what we're going to do. Everyone read this really short summary of De Amicitia: https://web.archive.org/web/20220518023643/https://department.monm.edu/classics/courses/clas210/coursedocuments/cicero_on_friendship_a_summary.htm

Pick out 3 or 4 lines that intrigue you from the summary, and then go to this page to read the summarized passages in full (along w surrounding paragraphs for context if necessary): https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cicero/Laelius_de_Amicitia/text*.html

There's a bunch of different numbers in the full text, but the ones you're looking for are the small red numbers that accompany the highlighter yellow blocks. At the salon we'll take some time to go around to share which passages we've investigated and our findings.

Notes:

I genuinely loved this event and format so much! It was such a good way to facilitate a group discussion of something really interesting, but ordinarily too dense to assign as a reading. De Amicitia in full is something that I wanted to discuss for a long time, but wasn't able to because I knew that if I put it out as a reading, only a tiny fraction of the attendees would actually come having read it.

This event was only made possible because some classicist professor somewhere did the work of doing a paragraph-by-paragraph condensation of the essay in question, so there was no way for me at the time to do other events along the same lines.

We ended up having a really deep discussion around friendship, and if they were historically stronger than they could be now - we couldn't imagine praising our own best friends in the way that Cicero did so, or thinking of them in the same way.

Good discussion too around which passages stuck out/was exanded by more people - lots of meetups attendees ended up clumping on one or two paragraphs.

As the event facilitator I highly recommend reading the entire uncondensed essay to provide additional context.

It is of course now possible to do this event with many other readings, doing paragraph by paragraph summaries using AI models. Maybe this is how we can finally get everyone to read Meditations on Moloch :')

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