This is the monthly thread for posting media of various types that you've found that you enjoy. I find that exposure to LW ideas makes me less likely to enjoy some entertainment media that is otherwise quite popular, and finding media recommended by LWers is a good way to mitigate this. Post what you're reading, listening to, watching, and your opinion of it. Post recommendations to blogs. Post whatever media you feel like discussing! To see previous recommendations, check out the older threads.


  • Please avoid downvoting recommendations just because you don't personally like the recommended material; remember that liking is a two-place word. If you can point out a specific flaw in a person's recommendation, consider posting a comment to that effect.
  • If you want to post something that (you know) has been recommended before, but have another recommendation to add, please link to the original, so that the reader has both recommendations.
  • Please use the comment trees for genres. There is a meta thread for comments about future threads.
  • If you think there should be a thread for a particular genre of media, please post it to the Other Media thread for now, and add a poll to the Meta thread asking if it should be a thread every month.
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Non Fiction Books Thread

In descending order of how much I liked them, I read in October nonfiction:

  • When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God, Luhrmann
  • Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus, Carrier
  • Liars and Outliers: How Security Holds Society Together, Schneier
  • Walden, Thoreau
  • Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, Murray
  • Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, Crawford
  • When Prophecy Fails, Festinger
  • Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche
  • Psychiatry And The Human Condition, Charlton
I also really enjoyed When God Talks Back. I had a review copy around the same time as I was reading Thinking Fast and Slow and did two posts on Luhrmann's book that may be of interest to LWers or, at least, give you a better idea of whether you'd be interested in the book: “What’s Hard is Simple, What’s Natural Comes Hard” [] and "Quasi-Transhumanist Charismatic Christians" []

The Personal MBA

Generally I hate business stuff but this book presents it really well, references modern cognitive science and avoids the bullshit management speak. Were I feeling cheesy I'd call it "a business book for rationalists" (they even quote Eleizer).

Disclaimer, since I've never read any other proper business books so I don't know how someone with more domain specific knowledge would find it.

Previously: the author describing it on LessWrong. []
Cool, I noticed a lot of parallels but didn't realise he was a contributor. I reiterate my endorsement.
I have read a number of business books. That one is by far my favorite, and I've given away at least two copies to friends now. (Which reminds me, I ought to buy myself another copy.)
ordered, thanks.
Does anyone want to share Good Read accounts? Here's mine [].
I created a group for this purpose: LessWrong on GoodReads []. Join us (me) !
Joined! and, I created an account: []
2wedrifid11y []
I'm at []
Church & Regis, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves []. Choice quote: The authors mention the singularity, and Singularity University, shortly after that, and they cite Good and Vinge and Kurzweil, but they ignore Yudkowsky and Singularity Institute.

Doom: Repercussions of Reaction

Multiheaded waited. The posts above him got downvoted and hidden from view. There were reactionaries on Less Wrong. He didn't see them, but had expected them now for years. His warnings to Konkvistador were not listenend to and now it was too late. Far too late for now, anyway. Multiheaded was a neurotic leftist for four years. When he was young he watched the internet debates and he said to dad "I want to be on the net daddy."

Dad said "No! You will BE TROLL BY REACTIONARIES!"

There was a time when he bel... (read more)

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

Fiction Books Thread

I recommend Harry Potter and the Natural 20. I noticed a recommendation for it in a thread somewhere here, then there was another recommendation at HPMoR. It's quite good, even if it requires an understanding of D&D.

26 chapters: epub [] mobi [] compiled by flagfic []
It does not require an intimate understanding of D&D to enjoy, just in case that put you off. If you've never played, but you know the general idea of how the game works, then you should be okay.
Agreed. I think I might've appreciated the slobberworm test more if I had ever played D&D, but as it stands it doesn't require more appreciation than, say, Dresden Codak's 'Dungeons & Discourse' comic.
I have only read the first chapter, but anything that makes me go "Yes! So cool!" is starting off on the right foot :D EDIT: Okay, a bit in - if you are particularly sensitive to Mary-Litigation, this does tread near that territory - Harry is well-characterized and interesting, but becomes a clearly supporting character, with our D&D planar expatriate winning the Initiative roll on all of the plans. On the other hand, you might simply call it munchkining.
It's just occurred to me recently to recommend this, but one of my favorite all time works of literature is White Noise by Don DeLillo. It's a pretty decent satire of modern consumptionism, academia, media, and other aspects of society. But I read it a year and a half ago though, before I had really been exposed to anything from LessWrong - to my recollection, there is nothing in it that would bother me now, although I'm not entirely certain of that. If anyone else has read it, I would appreciate their comment on this. As a trigger warning, it also explores violence as a theme and there are a couple of moderately graphic scenes, if I recall correctly.
I haven't read White Noise in a long time, but remember loving it. D'you mean that the stuff in the novel that's satirized doesn't seem to warrant satirizing? I'd agree that a lot of what the novel mocks or caricatures is basically harmless, although I'd find the clusterfuck around the airborne toxic event outrageous if it happened to me in real life. There's a chapter that describes one character shooting another in some detail. (There might be other graphic scenes I don't recall.)
I don't mean anything specifically, I'm just not sure there weren't some quotes or themes that would induce major eye rolling now.

Television and Movies Thread

I, Robot is a stupid movie, but I'll always remember what Will Smith says to one of the robots:

"You are a clever imitation of life. Can a robot write a symphony? … Can a robot take a blank canvas and turn it into a masterpiece?"

Not even a decade after the film's release and robots are already writing symponies and turning blank canvases into masterpieces.

I like the robot's response:

Can you?

Even if robots fail to reach the peak of human capability, so do most ordinary people.

And if you specify more than one capability, nearly everyone does.
Interesting when contrasted to this exchange:
I think its underrated, if it hadn't been sold as an adaption of Asimov I suspect people would have loved it as a moderately clever scifi thriller (in the same vein as minority report and the matrix). It tackles a lot of themes in interesting ways that aren't normally shown, e.g. I like that the main character is portrayed as a bit of a luddite, but thats not shown to be the best view; and it examines the social impact of robotics a lot more than normal. If anything it gives an optimistic view of robots and a grim one of humans, but YMMV.

I actually liked the movie quite a bit. The antagonist follows a really weird and bad strategy for the sake of creating an action movie (a much subtler take-over of humanity would have made far more sense). But I think it's a decent stab at Friendly AI difficulty, in a way the general public can understand - you can give a machine several rules that theoretically make it perfectly safe for humans, but those rules can still have ramifications you didn't expect, leading to actions you wouldn't have wanted.

Agreed that if it wasn't called "I, Robot" it would have been "better."

I don't know much about painting, but aren't these, well, ugly?
I'm about 17 years late to the party here, but I've been really enjoying watching Neon Genesis Evangelion, a Japanese anime series about giant robots, Christian symbolism*, and teen angst. It's really atmospheric and intense a lot of the time, although given what I'd heard before the thing that's surprised me the most is how funny the more comedic scenes are. Also, Does anyone have any recommendations for good anime series? Apparently I've been missing out. *Or possibly Christian literalism depending on how the main plot arc works out - I'm only halfway through.
I am pretty nuts about NGE [], so you may find my anime rankings [] of use (or just enjoy my anime-related writings []).
Thanks. I'd had the series sitting around on my hard drive for a while, and it was noticing on your site that you apparently thought that it was worth writing a large amount of material about that pushed me to finally start watching. What point should I get to before I read any of your analysis, by the way? Presumably at least I should watch The End of Evangelion, but is there anything else? PS I just finished episode 21 and jbj Zvfngb, V jnf whfg fgnegvat gb yvxr Xnwv :/
I don't really have any finished 'analysis'; right now most of my material is still in the nature of source-gathering, translating interviews, that sort of thing. (You would not believe how hard it has been to track down some of this material.) But yes, if you haven't watched EoE, much of the material will be uninteresting. It's probably not necessary to watch Rebuild first (unless you want to read the translated parts of the 2.0 CRC which, as it's all about Rebuild's 2.0, will be less interesting if you haven't seen said movie).
I gather this means you're fluent in Japanese. What would you recommend as the optimal course of learning the language that feels more like fun gallivanting than tedious study; I realise your answer will be idiosyncratic to you.
That's a good educated guess, but actually no: I retain a decent bit of my highschool French (excellent visual memory), and I translate the occasional key French interview. (France is a huge anime/manga market, which has supported anime magazines, and for some reason Gainaxers seem to like going to France and giving interviews or roundtables much more than going to the USA.) At the start of my researches, I thought hard about whether not learning Japanese was a good idea; I decided it'd suck up at least 2-3 years to gain enough proficiency to make sufficiently high quality translations and that there was enough English language material which had simply become lost or obscure that it was better to search & compile than translate anew. I have had reason to question my original decision since then...
While hardly optimal, I found coordinating with Japanese on dialogue-supplemental team based activities develops a joy for speaking (thus learning?) the language, though some foundational speaking ability is a prerequisite for that method. Most importantly, I think, one should take pains to develop an intuitive sense of proper grammar, rather memorize sets of rules, as one can then during conversation direct understanding towards picking up new sentence forms and vocabulary rather than parsing sentences.
Anime is pretty broad. What type of fiction do you like in general? edit to add I'll go a head and start by recommending Gurren Lagann as it is awesome, about giant and by the same people as Evangelion, but with a rather different take on the genre.
That's actually an interesting question because just saying "Science Fiction" doesn't seem specific enough. But with that recommendation plus the others who replied, I think I'll have enough for now. Thanks.
We had an anime thread a couple times: [] []
There is now a Church of NERV [] in India. Make of that what you will.
So, My Little Pony [] resumed today. For those who haven't tried it yet, I recommend it! It's cute and fun and happy. Anyway, I had been both excited about new episodes and afraid for my (still under construction) fanfiction- sweeping changes to canon might require sweeping changes to the fanfiction. The episodes were just as much fun to watch as I expected, but better yet, everything new in this episode dovetailed neatly with what I'd written, with many of the changes making things even easier for me. (Instead of having to concoct a reason for Twilight to research rationality, now it's basically been handed to me, so long as I jump on the opportunity quickly enough.)
Ponies are great. Though "Feeling Pinkie Keen" could have been handled better; there was a rationalist lesson there, but it's not the one that ended up in the letter. Then again, Twilight's letters generally do a poor job of summing up the day's Aesop.
Re-watched Boogiepop Phantom. Had a hard time getting a watchable copy: the old fansub is quite old, and the filters and muddy image effects that BP was originally produced with do not come out well at all. Rewatching it was interesting since I first watched it a very long time ago, I think somewhere around 2003 or 2004. I found it incomprehensible back then, but watching it now, I understand better the overlapping storylines and flashbacks & forwards as they construct the overall story. Payoffs are spaced out curiously, and I find myself questioning the timing: wouldn't it have been much better to combine the really creepy red balloon plot with the Manticore plot, so as to not put too much spotlight on either and dilute the creepiness?
The British folk band "Show of hands" [] has some good songs that touch on rationalist/skeptic issues. E.g. Worried Well, IED:Science or Nature [] and ([Evolution [[Evolution].] Their other contemporary stuff is also good, but I don't know how it would play out of a uk context.
Katzenjammer, a band from Norway. It's one of the rare occasions when I enjoy almost every piece of music by one band and not only one or two songs, as usually. Nice, melodic songs with interesting lyrics. Examples: lSoviet Trumpeter [] Demon Kitty Rag [] Virginia Clemm []
Seconded; they're very human, and explore a wide range of genre and styles.
Someone arranged some Carl Sagan sayings for small choir and piano []. Not being komponisto, I'll refrain from going in-depth, but it's fun, so you should give it a listen.
I was just going to post about liking Mumford and Sons new album, Babel, but while making sure I wasn't double-posting a recommendation, found that it doesn't seem like much modern folkish stuff has been posted at all, so: Mumford and Sons- (example (from new album)- Hopeless Wanderer [])- These guys are the most popular of the genre, and get a lot of radio play (but they're good). If you listen to the radio at all, you probably have heard their song "Little Lion Man". The Unseen Guest- (example- Let Me In [])- Unseen Guest is a mix of Western songs with Indian instruments. Not quite "folk", but I like them enough to put them in this list anyways. They are the least known group in this list. They don't even have a website, or wikipedia page, so you can be all hipster. But everyone who gives them a try, loves them. Eddie Vedder- (example- Rise [])- Although well-known as the front man for Pearl Jam, Vedder's solo work has a different very down-to-earth sound. His two solo albums include the soundtrack for Into the Wild, and a collection of ukulele songs, called Ukulele Songs. Ray LaMontagne and the Prairie Dogs (example- Empty [])- Generic folk singer, but I still love it, and a folk list wouldn't be complete without it. ...I'll stop now.
I am a huge fan of All The Wild Horses [] by Ray LaMontagne.
The Mountain Goats have some really great music. It's the kind of music the focus of which is the lyrics, which is something I look for. I'm not sure if these are my favorite songs by them, but they are among them: No Children [], This Year [] (weird video), and The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton [].
Based on army1987's recommendation [], and the fact that I have previously liked music by Muse, I downloaded The Second Law. Most of it was pretty decent, although none of the songs lived up to some of their other music.
I wouldn't say "none". Maybe half of the album seemed to be up to the Muse standard, if a little over-the-top. But the dubstep parts really didn't impress.
By "music" I really meant some of my favorite songs of theirs. I tend to rate my favorite songs by an artist and just listen to rated music. What I was trying to convey was that none of the songs from The Second Law got rated.
One of my favorite YouTube signers just covered "The Future Soon" by Jonathan Coulton []. Sample lyric:
I'm really enjoying Coheed and Cambria's new album [] (the second part is releasing in early February), though it may not be for everyone. Their music is an interesting mix of pop-oriented prog rock (with some emo and metal) and it comes with a sci-fi story along with each album. It might be better to listen to their albums chronologically, I rank the albums [1,2,4,3,6,5] in terms of how much I enjoy listening to them most to least.
The British folk band "Show of hands" [] has some good songs that touch on rationalist/skeptic issues. E.g. Worried Well, IED:Science or Nature [] and Evolution. [] Their other contemporary stuff is also good, but I don't know how it would play out of a uk context.
(You've got the last link backwards.)
Fixed thanks

Other Media Thread

The new XCOM game [] is ridiculously addictive. I only managed to break my addiction by setting a sufficiently high difficulty that play became frustrating, and I'm still in danger of relapsing. You may take this as a recommendation or a caution. :-)
Note that the higher difficulty settings introduce artificial difficulty and some tricks that might be considered "cheating". Your soldiers start weaker, there are more aliens, the aliens get arbitrary bonuses, etc. Thankfully, the modding community knows how to fix that []*, so with a minimum of technical skill at using computers and finding instructions (finding them is much harder than reading and following the instructions, seriously), the above can be corrected if you consider them downsides, and you'll get the full benefits of XCOM's AI opponents without the ridiculous arbitrary modifiers. *(Fair warning: The realm of videogame 'modding' can increase a game's addiction potential exponentially. If this is something you have to watch out for, be careful.)
Since we still don't have a lectures/talks thread I put it here: [] The Singularity Summit 2012 Content: * Singularity Summit: Opening Remarks with Nathan Labenz * Temple Grandin: How Different People Think Differently * Singularity Summit: Olah, Deming & Other Thiel Fellows * Julia Galef: Rationality and the Future * Luke Muehlhauser: The Singularity, Promise and Peril * Linda Avey: Personal Genomics * Steven Pinker: A History of Vio * Ray Kurzweil: How to Create a Mind * Q&A: Economist Daniel Kahneman, the Pioneer of Heuristics * Melanie Mitchell: AI and the Barrier of Meaning * Author Carl Zimmer: Our Viral Future * Robin Hanson: Extraordinary Society of Emulated Minds * Jaan Tallinn: Why Now? A Quest in Metaphysics * John Wilbanks: Your Health, Your Data, Your Choices * Stuart Armstrong: How We're Predicting AI * Vernor Vinge: Who's Afraid of First Movers? * Peter Norvig: Channeling the Flood of Data
I'd love to get these as audio files. I'd even volunteer to transcribe them if that were to happen.
Funny strip about seeing yourself as an NPC [].
A Slower Speed of Light is a first-person game prototype in which players navigate a 3D space while picking up orbs that reduce the speed of light in increments: []
If you want a free computer game that is highly delightful and not especially addictive, I recommend Cave Story []. (Even in the worst case, if you feel overly compelled to play it, it's an RPG with a finite storyline so its opportunity for damage is pretty limited.) There really is an art to finding break activities that have a high rejuvenation rate per minute but can also be put down easily...
I am terribly amused by the parody Nate Silver twitter feed []:
I don't know how to feel about this [].
Lloyd, A Turing Test for Free Will []:
Glitch [] is an excellent infinite peaceful MMORPG that involves harvesting from egg plants and making cheese from butterfly butter. After two days I vowed never to play it again lest I become addicted and die.
Is there a way I can check this game out, even though they've closed new account-making as they're heading towards their shut-down? E.g. the FAQ says "existing account holders are still able to invite people in order to create new accounts.". Can one of you account-holders please so invite me?
Glitch is shutting down: [] So you probably could've played it just as much as you pleased, since a power greater than you determined how long you would play...
Haven't tried the game yet, but mostly because the gameplay videos I watched and the overall concept remind me enormously of the Harvest Moon series (and spinoffs and fan-remakes), which gave me an urge to resume my latest save of Rune Factory 3. Note: Most Harvest Moon games are peaceful; the Rune Factory spinoffs are not - at least, not entirely. There's combat, though the storyline / dialogue insists upon the fact that nothing you "beat" actually dies... this doesn't change the fact that you're beating up monsters until they disappear, from a gameplay and visual standpoint). TL;DR: Harvest Moon seems similar to this, and is generally single-player, and has a fixed storyline, so they've got much less potential for long-term time-wasting.
I found the addictiveness to fall off after a few days of play (as the time horizon of my ingame goals stretched out). I now find it a good activity for winding down in the evening or filling odd-sized/unpredictable bits of time.
Addictiveness? Falls off after a few days? I don't think that word means what you think it means. Do we still call it inflationary [] if the word actually means something close the opposite of that which it is used for?
I mean that for a few days it looked like it was going to eat my life, and then it stopped. Had it carried on being as compulsive as it was at first, I would classify it as addictive-for-me. It did something else instead. (Was that really unclear?)
It was clear that the word "compulsive" would work perfectly.and that we have inflated "addictive" enough that is used in contexts that make me double take at the irony of the contrast between the usage and the actual meaning.
Addictive means "creates compulsion which increases with use", right? So it's addictive at first and then compulsive but not addictive and then neither.
...Damn you. I just spend two hours of my life squeezing chickens and milking butterflies.
Doom: Repercussions of Reaction Multiheaded waited. The posts above him got downvoted and hidden from view. There were reactionaries on Less Wrong. He didn't see them, but had expected them now for years. His warnings to Konkvistador were not listenend to and now it was too late. Far too late for now, anyway. Multiheaded was a neurotic leftist for four years. When he was young he watched the internet debates and he said to dad "I want to be on the net daddy." Dad said "No! You will BE TROLL BY REACTIONARIES!" There was a time when he believed him. Then as he got oldered he stopped. But now in the Discussion section of LW he knew there were reactionaries. "This is Konkvistador" the inbox crackered. "You must fight the reactionaries!" So Multiheaded gotted his freudo-marxism and replied to comments. "HE GOING TO KILL US" said the reactionaries "I will troll at him" said the moldbugger and he fired the unqualified reservations. Multiheaded zizek'd at him and tried to blew him up. But then the server fell and they were trapped and not able to troll. "No! I must kill the reactionaries" he typed. The inbox said "No, Multiheaded. You are the reactionaries" And then Multiheaded was a fascist.
This is simply beautiful.
My recent karma - A quick rewrite of an old copypasta: +5. Pat-on-the-back comment on a titillating story about the community leader: +4. Attempts to (somewhat) seriously debate gender relations from the mainsteam position without insta-mindkilledness: net negative. Gee, it sure is perverse incentives around here!
Perhaps there could be a debate on standards of karma, so that we may feel compelled to use a consistent, non-perverse system? By setting up what to strive for and what to avoid in some detail, we would make it easier for users to interpret punctuation. By agreeing on how we ought to vote, we may find ourselves voting more often in ways that satisfy our values, rather than our base/silly/suboptimal desires.
There have been attempts at such debate before. I don't know why, but they never seem to lead to anything.
I think the basic problem's unfixable. Obvious jokes and back-patting comments are easy for readers to judge, so they get more extreme scores because it's easy to decide how to vote on them. Ideologically charged comments of questionable seriousness are harder to judge, as well as more divisive. Hard-to-judge comments are more likely to be misinterpreted (leading to downvotes) and more likely to be passed over by normal readers (leaving them at the mercy of the minority who feel strongly about the topic/poster). I doubt debates can fix this asymmetry. If LW readers spent longer thinking about their votes on edgier comments, that'd help, but that won't happen because it's no fun to spend 5 minutes deciding which little Internet thumb to click.
How would they, when one is completely unaccountable on what they post? There seems to be no extrinsic incentive to be fair or constructive.
And easily automated too!

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