Introducing others to LessWrong-ism... through comics!

Having read through the Sequences, Methods of Rationality, related blogs and books and so on, and having changed my mind a few times on at least a few ideas that I'd been fairly sure about... I feel that I finally have enough of a grasp of the basics of LessWrong-style rationality to start trying to introduce it to other people. And while the Sequences form a good set of basics, getting someone interested enough in rationality to start reading them is a step of its own... and, as best as I can tell, one that needs to be custom-tailored to a particular audience.

For my first attempt, I've focused on two online subcultures which I'm at least somewhat familiar with: furries and a certain subset of libertarians. For example, a large number of furry fans are fairly easy to please - give them a short comic to read involving a cute anthropomorphic animal, throw in a bit of sex appeal and maybe a message that's compatible with tolerance of all people, and that comic will be happily read by a lot of them. Trying to avoid "politics is the mind-killer" derailment, the community of libertarians I'm aiming for tend to have their own quirks about what attracts their attention.

The result I came up with was the creation of Rationality Matters, a couple of comics pages that introduce some LW-type thoughts in an audience-compatible fashion without beating the readers' heads with them. I've already received some positive feedback from members of both target groups, indicating that I've accomplished my goal with at least a few individuals... so now I'm posting the link here, for whatever feedback I can get that could improve the existing pages (mainly for the text, since re-doing the art at this stage is impractical), and to make any future pages (should I decide to create them) better than I would have made them without such help.

(And yes, I try to follow Crocker's Rules.)

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Ok, I just finished reading what you have so far, and there's a very serious problem. It's full of politics. Politics is the Mind Killer, and politics and rationalism just don't mix. I'm not saying your politics are wrong, per se, but the way they're presented isn't good for rationality. The second comic explicitly promotes an us-vs-them mindset, rather than a problem-solving mindset. It invents a fictional, innately evil enemy ("oligarchs") upon which to pin the world's problems. Then you present a "libertarian compact", which sounds good but is mostly meaningless, so that people can feel good about not having infringed on anyone's rights without having to actually improve the world.

The real enemies of rationality are not evil, or selfish, but merely confused people, doing what they think is right in spite of the fact that it isn't. Portraying that sort of villain takes skill and subtlety, because they can save orphans with one hand while destroying the world with the other.

I assumed this was a necessary ill, applause lights to keep the demographic reading and not part of the actual content.

That's a plausible approach, but I don't think it's what's going on here. The comics, especially the second, read more as rationalist (note suffix) arguments for libertarianism than as libertarian arguments for rationality.

The real enemies of rationality are not evil, or selfish, but merely confused people, doing what they think is right in spite of the fact that it isn't.

I notice that I am confused.

I have a reasonably firm belief that there are at least some people who /are/ evil and selfish, acting to benefit themselves in ways that cause harm to large numbers of other people; people who act as if the universe were either a zero-sum or negative-sum game rather than a positive-sum game; and that such people tend to seek power over others, including political and economic power. But I can't think of any evidence that would be reasonably persuasive to someone who believed such people don't exist. And I'm not sure what it would take to convince me that such people don't exist.

I sense that I'm failing at being a rationalist somehow, but I can't quite figure out the nature of that failure or how to fix it.

Eliezer's Politics is the Mind Killer sequence (named after but larger than the article by that name) is relevant, particularly Are Your Enemies Innately Evil. While people deliberately choosing evil over good does happen, it is very, very rare. Much more common is evil that's shrouded in muddled thinking, and misperception of people as evil due to correspondence bias and tribalism.

I'm going to have to re-absorb that sequence, and see if I can teach myself to understand on a deep gut level what practical differences there are between "how to deal with people who want to do things to you you don't like because they want to help you" and "how to deal with people who want to do things to you you don't like because they want to help themselves".

"Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by incompetence"

"how to deal with people who want to do things to you you don't like because they want to help themselves"

Another issue is that while they may have done whatever out of self-interest, they aren't necessarily trying to do damage to you.

What's probably much much more common in bad outcomes is people doing something and not knowing its impact on other things, not thinking about it at all, or just thinking that it was in fact a good idea in the first place.

Every revolutionary thinks that they're right, and most people in power think that they're exercising it for the good of the people, and act in ways that they think will actually help.

One issue in the comic is jumping from "some people are selfish" to "we need to follow a libertarian compact".

It'd be better if you preached less and metaphorized more. The wireheading cheese is excellent, for example; do more of that. Also, careful what you preach; everyone admits they could be wrong - that is, they say "Of course I could be wrong" and then do nothing to prepare for that case. Show people changing their mind, don't tell us it's a good idea. Your incentive is, however, perfect, and I will immediately go find something I'm wrong about.

Content-wise: I disagree libertarianism and democracy are good ideas, because I don't expect we'll need economic and political systems to distribute scare ressources. Very soon, either scarcity will end or we will.

Re "Show people changing their mind", that's at the top of my list for ideas for a third comic. (In association with "Learn how to lose" as applied to ideas - that before you can have a meaningful victory, defeat has to be at least conceivable. Probably throwing in a Litany of Tarski while I'm at it.)

Content-wise: I have two justifications for what you disagree with, one involving taking broad principles and narrowing them down into "do it today" tactics, the other involving writing about a topic the intended audience wants to read about. The latter is more important - if I'm not going to talk to a target audience about that which makes them a target audience, that doesn't leave me much to hang a comic on that they'll want to read.

I don't think Rationality Matters could be generalized to be appealing to all audiences while still being appealing - to interest different groups, I'd have to comic up with comics that focus on their particular areas of interest... and I know more about the current targets than I do most other groups, so a re-aimed comic would likely do more poorly. I'm not saying it's impossible, just that I don't think I've got the chops to do it.

I don't think Rationality Matters could be generalized to be appealing to all audiences

The outside view (sellout!) confirms this. Also, Eagles will like a comic more if only fellow Eagles like it than if both Eagles and Rattlers do.

(Does that count as changing my mind about how often I have occasion to reply with arguments for more agreement rather that arguments for disagreement? Pretty please?)

(Does that count as changing my mind about how often I have occasion to reply with arguments for more agreement rather that arguments for disagreement? Pretty please?)

I'm afraid that I'm going to appeal that one to the harshest judge I can imagine - your own honest self-assessment. :)

This was partly a deliberate choice, since the artist I selected has done a number of other "rant" comics in similar style, but you're quite right. Increasing the art-to-text ratio is one of my priorities for any future comics.

Looks pretty good so far. I'm not a libertarian or a furry, but I have aesthetic sympathies for both.

Random thoughts as they come to me:

The artwork is good.

Despite your intentions, the political stuff will probably be pretty mind-killery, and mainly looks like applause lights for libertarians. (Ask yourself if libertarians are likely to learn anything new from it and/or if non-libertarians are likely to seriously reconsider anything as a result of reading it.)

We generally avoid calling things "irrational". Since we don't want to get attached to rituals of cognition deemed "rational" by definition or by habit, properly hugging queries generally reduces questions like "Is this rational?" to "Is it true?", "Is the __ bias likely to be causing this belief?", etc.

Ask yourself if libertarians are likely to learn anything new from it

I've paid reasonably close attention to libertarian discussions for a few years now; and it was only this year that I had certain insights into the nature of politics, ideas which I hadn't seen discussed amongst libertarians before. It was one of these insights that I used as the basis of the comic's discussion on oligarchs and democracy - as far as I can tell, it is a new idea for its target audience.

(Of course, I could be wrong.)

We generally avoid calling things "irrational".

I'll try to remember that in the future.

The first comic is distinctly better - though the ending is very disorienting, but that's because I usually budget my furry-cheesecake time and my rationality-cheerleading time very separately, and you caused a memory protection fault in my brain.

The second comic... no, just no. The bottom line it writes is visible from space. I know you want to get already-libertarians to read it, but the only way you could get this aligned with rationality is to start from the beginning, chronicle your entire process of deciding what political position to take, and be genuinely unsure of which side you would end up taking.

The first comic is distinctly better - though the ending is very disorienting, but that's because I usually budget my furry-cheesecake time and my rationality-cheerleading time very separately, and you caused a memory protection fault in my brain.

I'll take that as a compliment, I think.

The second comic... no, just no. The bottom line it writes is visible from space. I know you want to get already-libertarians to read it, but the only way you could get this aligned with rationality is to start from the beginning, chronicle your entire process of deciding what political position to take, and be genuinely unsure of which side you would end up taking.

This is what I'm thinking of trying to cover in the potential third instalment - that, in order to truly know/believe/understand that (political position X) is a useful social tool, you have to consider that it might not be, and do so seriously. At the moment, I'm trying to figure out which of LessWrong's most quotable thoughts could be applied therein, with the top of the list being the Litany of Tarski and an adapted version of learning how to lose (eg, that "losing must be thinkable").

I applaud the attempt (I occasionally draw comics myself, though haven't done so for some time now), but it's not good enough that I would want to send the link to people.

Biggest turn-off: that smug punk rat makes me want to smack it. I don't enjoy being preached at by what looks like a stereotypical arrogant teenager (and I don't know anybody who does).

I've read some pretty good comics that teach some stuff about science (I don't know what the English translations are worth), and the main character is generally either confused or curious. Not preachy.

(Also, adding politics and caricatures doesn't help)

Seconded. The art style is not helping.

Actually, I like the art in itself. It's giving me nostalgia goosebumps for early 90s fanzines I was too young to read. But in combination with the walls of text it's rubbing me the wrong way. Even if you were just explaining Bayes' Theorem, it would look like a rant.

Fair enough. I can't expect to create Eisner-winning material on my first try, after all. :)

Assuming I do continue with any further instalments, do you have any suggestions for what I can do to fix the problems you've identified?

Maybe make a clear distinction between the author and the message? Like, if you have an author avatar, have him take a second place like a TV show host, who doesn't provide any content or opinion himself, and doesn't take sides (like the "Cartoon History of the Universe" guy), or just don't have an author avatar or a main character that is "close" to you (Eliezer seems to be trying to do that with Harry Potter, but kinda fails - Harry does kinda come off as an Eliezer avatar, even though he tries to put some other facets of Eliezer in other characters).

Show, don't tell - it may be better to illustrate points with small stories.

Maybe, try squeezing less material in a single strip - the first one already covers the existential risk, the fact that the laws of physics don't care, wireheading, space exploration, consequentialist reasoning, and the usefulness of a community of rationalists. Each of those ideas would probably be enough for a single strip (some required several posts in the sequences), and some might just require too many inferential steps.

So, I'd recommend longer strips with less text overall (so much less text density), repeating a simpler point multiple ways (the old "tell them what you're going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them").

(Or at least, that's the way I'd do it, which isn't exactly the same as the best. You should factor in your own tastes at well.)

So, I'd recommend longer strips with less text overall (so much less text density), repeating a simpler point multiple ways (the old "tell them what you're going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them").

I haven't got any argument with any of that.

just don't have an author avatar or a main character that is "close" to you

I think I'm going to avoid this one; the furry part of my target audience has a fairly well-developed tradition of "fursonas", a blend between a separate fictional character, an avatar, and an alter-ego.

I think that I might go with one more installment in roughly the current format, and then, perhaps, branch into more story-like comics, focusing on different characters and so on. (I'd probably need to find a new artist for those, if I do so, as the one I've been working with has his own commitments.)

This looks like it's aimed at (furries ∩ libertarians) rather than (furries ∪ libertarians).

I've gotten a bit of positive feedback from both non-furry libertarians and non-libertarian furries, so I think I'm doing reasonably well at targeting both audiences both together and separately.

(Of course, I could be wrong.)

The first comic is nsfw and assumes its audience is attracted to women. The message is mostly ok though, I think. The second comic makes a lot of assumptions that I'm not sure are necessarily true, while the final compact is not terribly original, and, as with all brief compacts, is needlessly ambigous (how much freedom of property do I have. What does ownership mean precisely (can I inherit it? Is the only way to obtain it via the exchange of goods? How far does self defence stretch?)

The first comic is nsfw

Really? Hunh. I'd tried very hard to avoid crossing that line. What in particular do you feel makes it so?

and assumes its audience is attracted to women.

I have survey data backing up my anecdotal experience suggesting that the audience generally is attracted to women. :)

The message is mostly ok though, I think.

Good to hear.

The second comic makes a lot of assumptions that I'm not sure are necessarily true, while the final compact is not terribly original, and, as with all brief compacts, is needlessly ambigous (how much freedom of property do I have. What does ownership mean precisely (can I inherit it? Is the only way to obtain it via the exchange of goods? How far does self defence stretch?)

I could argue about various aspects of this, but that's not what I'm here to do. (At least, it's not what I'm trying to be here to do.) I will say that a lot of the ambiguity you refer to can be cleared up by assuming that the terms in question are subculture-specific jargon, with relatively well-defined meanings understood within the target audience, and that once those jargon terms are considered defined, at least some of the areas of ambiguity are deliberate in order to allow different subgroups of the audience to agree with the non-ambiguous parts, to allow 'fellow travellers' to cooperate towards their shared goals.

I'm not really sure how I could improve this aspect. Taking the time to define terms the target audience already knows would give me fewer panels in which to describe the new ideas I want to introduce to them. Any advice on broadening the appeal without losing core target interest would be cheerfully accepted.

The final image is nsfw. I appreciate that your survey does show that most of the target audience are attracted to women, but the downside of trying to appeal to the majority is you can alienate the minority. Still, its not the worst approach in the world.

My issue with the second comic is that I'm not sure its about rationality. Are the things in that compact new to your audience? You mention the prisoners dilemma, which is a good way to extrapolate some of those principles, but don't really argue how one acheives that. I also would argue that applying rationality to morality isn't actually that interesting for a lay observer, because generally speaking what you're going to end up with are results which were intuitive to begin with. If you go up to someone and say "hey, you're a libertarian, you want goal x. Well cognitive bias y is stopping you from acheiving x!" then (I believe) that will be persuasive. If instead, as I feel like you are in the comic, you say "hey, you're a libertarian, you want goal x. Well rationality leads to desiring x!" You're just appealing to their ego. After all, most people tend to consider themselves rational, so if you get to an intuitively obvious conclusion using clear thinking not many people are going to impressed

[small note, I'm not saying that getting an intuitive result using clear thinking isn't useful, but I don't believe its that persuasive]

The final image is nsfw.

Hrm. I'd been using the rule of thumb "swimwear okay, lingerie not okay". I can see that some workplaces wouldn't allow even bikinis, but I'm not familiar with the specifics of such codes, or how widespread they might be. Do you have any references to help me determine a better rule of thumb?

Are the things in that compact new to your audience?

I've recently exchanged some email with a prominent libertarian authour, and while there are similar sorts of ideas, such as the Covenant of Unanimous Consent , none seem to fill the particular niche this Compact does.

I'm hoping to have a third part written, in which the narrator asks "What would the world look like if libertarianism was a poor social tool to accomplish your goals? What would it look like if it was a good tool?", drawing heavily from Methods of Rationality's chapters of Draco questioning blood purism.

It's not just the type of clothes, it's the posture and the expression. And if you say that "lingerie not okay", then "torn lingery with visible nipples" should be even more nsfw, no?

Aha - I now understand where we are seeing different things from the same image. I asked the artist to draw a modified version of a bikini, with a "furry" visual gag that in addition to the usual two human-style mammaries, she also has two pairs of nipples further down.

Ah, right - I don't think many readers got that, it would have been more visible if the other nipples had prominent breasts.

The "flowery" pattern around the edges of the clothes make it look like lace lingerie, not a bikini (I don't think I've seen bikini with that kind of "crenelated" edges).

I like the technical quality of the art and the apparent positive intent, but I didn't enjoy reading it, and don't imagine I would even if I was in the target audience.

There no introduction of any sort, the reader is bombarded with the argument right from the top corner of the first panel. And that argument itself is not much more than a barely sketched out chain of emphatically stated positions. Way too much compression.

The character, who doesn't seem to have a name, seems neither sympathetic nor believable as a person (leaving matters of species aside). The humor doesn't work for me at all and is distracting, particularly because the same character is responsible for both the narration and most of the illustrating random antics accompanying it. If you want to keep a similar format you absolutely need a second character.

I'm not sure what the reader is supposed to think about being bribed with imaginary erotic favors (even assuming they find the offer in principle alluring), particularly when they are supposed to be persuaded of the virtues of changing their mind based on evidence. Or what that offer is supposed to mean for her barely existent characterization.

I appreciate your well-considered criticism - and agree with a good deal of it.

However, this one line...

I didn't enjoy reading it, and don't imagine I would even if I was in the target audience.

... has run counter to the feedback I've been getting from individuals in my target audience; while they've commented on the various points raised, those who have gotten in touch with me so far have seemed to enjoy the comic. Thus, I'm having to keep in mind the difference between your statement here and what I've experienced so far as I consider the rest of your points.

The character, who doesn't seem to have a name, seems neither sympathetic nor believable as a person

I've noticed that I have a strange habit, when I write fiction of any sort, of occasionally completely ignoring the whole idea of names. (I even tried writing a story specifically about that, in the Orion's Arm setting.)

As for sympathy and believability - she's a "fursona", a furry-subculture cross between a personal avatar and a fictional/roleplaying character, so I'm curious which parts of her you find least sympathetic or believable (so I can determine whether those are the parts based directly on myself).

the same character is responsible for both the narration and most of the illustrating random antics accompanying it. If you want to keep a similar format you absolutely need a second character.

Hm... Would it really make much of a difference if the second character is also responsible for both narration and random antics?

I ask because I have an example of a previous comic done by the artist, "Karno's Heresies", the non-adult pages of which can currently be found here, which was done in a similar format and aimed at a similar audience.

I'm not sure what the reader is supposed to think about being bribed with imaginary erotic favors (even assuming they find the offer in principle alluring), particularly when they are supposed to be persuaded of the virtues of changing their mind based on evidence.

It's partly a joke, and partly an as-obvious-as-possible invocation of the Dark Arts.

As for sympathy and believability - she's a "fursona", a furry-subculture cross between a personal avatar and a fictional/roleplaying character, so I'm curious which parts of her you find least sympathetic or believable (so I can determine whether those are the parts based directly on myself).

Part of it is that she sounds extremely serious, but mostly looks like a fun loving person just fooling around. This clash makes her seem less believable to me (fun loving people can be serious and serious people can have fun, but usually not both at the same time, at least to this degree), and in as far as it meshes it makes her seem smug.

Hm... Would it really make much of a difference if the second character is also responsible for both narration and random antics?

There are possible arrangements where having a second character wouldn't help, of course. But even if both were involved in the antics the character less involved and with more leisure to talk to the audience in that particular scene taking over the narration would probably already help.

Part of it is that she sounds extremely serious, but mostly looks like a fun loving person just fooling around. This clash makes her seem less believable to me (fun loving people can be serious and serious people can have fun, but usually not both at the same time, at least to this degree),

Hunh. I guess it's true what they say - truth can be stranger than fiction, because fiction has to be plausible. Those parts of the narrator character are fairly closely based on me... so I guess if I want her to seem more believable, I'd have to make her less realistic.

and in as far as it meshes it makes her seem smug.

Well, I've also been accused of being 'arrogant' when trying to talk about serious matters, which is fairly close, so I suppose I could have expected that appearance.

even if both were involved in the antics the character less involved and with more leisure to talk to the audience in that particular scene taking over the narration would probably already help.

I see what you mean - and I'll certainly take that idea into consideration as I continue thinking about what would work best.

Small suggestion: maybe create a separate webpage for each of those pages, with "backwards" and "forwards" buttons, or a list of page links etc. Webcomics and short stories usually do that, and it does make them less intimidating. That could reduce the repelling effect of the Wall of Text.

Put on the 'to-do' list - after all, no reason I can't have both presentations on different pages.

For my first attempt, I've focused on two online subcultures which I'm at least somewhat familiar with: furries and a certain subset of libertarians. For example, a large number of furry fans are fairly easy to please - give them a short comic to read involving a cute anthropomorphic animal, throw in a bit of sex appeal and maybe a message that's compatible with tolerance of all people, and that comic will be happily read by a lot of them. Trying to avoid "politics is the mind-killer" derailment, the community of libertarians I'm aiming for tend to have their own quirks about what attracts their attention.

I guess spreading rationality to 4chan is out of the picture now?

Creating media that promotes LW tought is a good idea, more people should give it a try.

A few thoughts ...


An audience of libertarians might benefit more from some thoughts on instrumental rationality than from what appears to be yet another variation on "I promise not to kill you, you promise not to kill me."

Libertarians are (roughly) people who believe that political, economic, and personal liberty are desirable goals. These can be terminal goals (a society of people exercising liberty is itself good) or instrumental goals (liberty is the most effective way of getting things we want, like peace and prosperity). Either way, most libertarians do not seem to think that the movement has been very effective at accomplishing these goals; rather, they seem to believe that those goals get further and further away with each act of the legislature.

This suggests that there is some serious need for instrumental rationality.


One of the perils of political topics is that people tend to mistake agreement in principle with ability to work together on goals. If you actually want to accomplish goals, it is probably more useful to find people you can work with, than people with whom you agree on everything. But politics, especially fringe politics, seems to inspire splitting and declarations of intolerance — "I refuse to stand beside someone who believes that sort of thing!" — rather than practical alliance-building.


Rationality (both epistemic and instrumental) is about applying methods, not having beliefs about those methods. Illustrating the methods, rather than just talking about them and saying that they are good, would probably be more effective. Show characters engaging in rationality, not just praising it.


I really do not like the panel where the ostensibly rationalist rat character is beating the religious dog character over the head with a stick. In my experience, hitting people is not a useful way to get them to think. Moreover, giving "rationalist" people arguments for hating "non-rationalist" people is probably a really, really bad idea.

A few thoughts ...

Which I am very happy to read.

Rationality (both epistemic and instrumental) is about applying methods, not having beliefs about those methods. Illustrating the methods, rather than just talking about them and saying that they are good, would probably be more effective. Show characters engaging in rationality, not just praising it.

I agree - and this is what I'm currently trying to figure out how to script out. (I'd tried to do something like this in the second part, describing how to try 'getting the job done' of increasing liberty even when stuck in a political system full of 'top of the dung heap oligarchs', but it ended up being more about the specific tactics than the thinking processes used to figure those tactics out.)

At this point, any suggestions on how to do that would be cheerfully welcomed.

I really do not like the panel where the ostensibly rationalist rat character is beating the religious dog character over the head with a stick. In my experience, hitting people is not a useful way to get them to think.

Maybe I should start a discussion thread here on the 'Stick Test' I came up with some time ago, a rather more direct method to refute certain forms of philosophical navel-gazing such as solipsism, adapted from Dr. Johnson's famous "I refute it thus!".

Moreover, giving "rationalist" people arguments for hating "non-rationalist" people is probably a really, really bad idea.

... hate? Hrm. Do you really see that panel as involving hatred? I was hoping it would be closer to 'frustration with people who disparage not just the truth, but the methods of determining it' (and a bit of harmless cartoon-humorous release of said frustration).

At this point, any suggestions on how to do that would be cheerfully welcomed.

What's something your rat might have wrong beliefs about?

How might she discover they were wrong?

In what way would she behave differently after this discovery?

... hate? Hrm. Do you really see that panel as involving hatred? I was hoping it would be closer to 'frustration with people who disparage not just the truth, but the methods of determining it' (and a bit of harmless cartoon-humorous release of said frustration).

It seems to me that a lot of people who think highly of their own rationality might take this panel as expressing a belief that "non-rationalist" people are not worth being treated well ... though this may not be all of what disturbed me about it.

Perhaps it's the contradiction between your rationalist rat doing violence here, and in the next page (the libertarian-oriented one) advocating not infringing on the rights of others.

Perhaps it's that one of the presumptions that many folks have against "rationality" is that it involves being cold or inhumane; unsympathetic; cruel to those less intelligent or less rational. These are not at all what LW folks mean by "rationality", but they are presumptions out there in the world which we shouldn't reinforce.

Perhaps it's that I associate a frustrated impatience with others' stupidity or ignorance, as being one of the primary character flaws of nerds; one of the things that attracted me to LW was a sympathetic, patient approach to irrationality: "we've all got cognitive biases and other irrationality — we are running on flawed hardware — but if we practice together, we have a shot at getting better."

Perhaps it's the fact that historically, people who have treated other people as "inanimate objects" "slowing down the vital work" of advancement, have been some of the worst moral wrongdoers most folks can think of.

(As a matter of furry artistic style, I suspect that "harmless cartoon-humorous" violence works better with more 'animalistic' or 'brutish' characters rather than more 'humane' ones. Wile E. Coyote in Looney Tunes deals and receives cartoon violence; Chuck Katt in Omaha doesn't.)

What's something your rat might have wrong beliefs about?

How might she discover they were wrong?

In what way would she behave differently after this discovery?

Good questions - and while my target audience's interests tend to narrow the field down of which beliefs to deal with, there's still a wide variety to choose from.

frustrated impatience

I find myself not wanting your points to be true, my mind trying to come up with counter-arguments rather than trying to come up with the truth, whatever the truth may be. So I'm not entirely sure I can trust myself here, but: what process can be used to help gather evidence about whether this panel helps me achieve my current goal (of getting at least some members of my target audience interested in LW-style rationalism, and the more the better)? Or, perhaps, should the question being investigated be what could be done with said panel to best achieve my current goal?

what process can be used to help gather evidence about whether this panel helps me achieve my current goal

Well, I suppose the answer there is "show it to people and see what they think." But you're already doing that.

You mentioned something about no alternative dimensions. What about Many Worlds?

I wanted to start out by ruling out as many of the unverified/unverifiable 'escape hatch' versions of physics of possible, such as being able to open a door to alternate timelines. Since, as far as I understand it, Many Worlds 'adds up to normality', that is the single apparent universe we see around us, and I don't understand Many Worlds well enough to argue about it, I felt safe enough in sweeping it under the rug for this presentation.

So, you're afraid people will think it would be easier to build a device to send you to a parallel, uninhabited version of Earth than to build a space shuttle and go to a different planet?

Many Worlds has very different universe, but the idea of actually going to them is silly.

While there's no easy way to test Many Worlds, it's vastly more likely than any other theory.

See the Quantum Physics Sequence.

it's vastly more likely than any other theory

I maintain that much as a cached thought, even if I can't always remember how it's derived.

So, you're afraid people will think it would be easier to build a device to send you to a parallel, uninhabited version of Earth than to build a space shuttle and go to a different planet?

Not... exactly.

A certain segment of my target audience is very fond of conspiracy theories, and I've seen particular cases that make Time Cube look sane. I may not be able to reach the worst instances, but I can at least try to tug the remainder back in the right direction.

While I agree with most of the criticisms already expressed, I just wanted to give some words of support, you've clearly put a lot of work into this and we do need more introductory material like this. It reminds me of Scott McCloud's work.

I think that another version of this comic that has a non-furry "protagonist", and with other tweaks suggested here, would go a long way. I honestly think it would be a shame if this didn't happen, because you definitely have the skill, and the will, which is pretty rare around here.

In case anyone's still reading this thread - I just got a plug for RM from the libertarian SF authour, L. Neil Smith himself, at http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2011/tle625-20110626-01.html#letter01 , and have already gotten feedback from people who've read that plug.

Great work! While I honestly can't say I personally enjoyed the comic, you seem to know your target audience and the technical quality is great. While some would probably point fingers about dark arts, I'd say it's fair game in a political cartoon like that, and you pull it of skilfully if a bit bruteforced.

The general practice of making art is somehting this community in general do seem to undervalue, thanks for spending all this effort and actually doing somehting!

Minor nitpick: if your browser is too wide, then there are two images per row, which makes the order of the panels confusing. Putting
s in between would fix that.

Putting
s in between would fix that.

Fixed! Thank you kindly.

I don't think politics should be off limits on Less Wrong, but I do think it is something that is too difficult for all except experienced rationalists. Since this comic is aimed at beginners you should probably substitute politics with something less mind-killerish.

I agree.

Particularly with respect to the "Citizens should keep themselves well armed" part, I have serious doubts that this is useful advice in practice or principle; it makes it more difficult for me not to view the rest of the comic negatively, and if you want to cultivate good epistemological and instrumental rationalists, this is probably some of the lowest priority advice you could be giving.

Politics is high priority stuff, and it's important that it be approached rationally, but if you want to instruct rationalists, it's one of the worst possible teaching tools.

To be clear, the reason I retracted my post was because jimrandomh had already made the same point. Next time I will check the comments before posting. Also, I would not have retracted it if I had known someone had already replied to it.

I'm currently trying to explore the range of topics for a third RM comic, with the same goals I had with the first two: attracting furries and libertarians to LessWrong-ish rationalism. Keeping the interest of furries will be fairly easy; but to keep the libertarian audience reading, I'll want to focus on using the Methods of Rationality on a topic they'd like to read about. I'm in no rush, so I can try thinking about possible topics without pIcking a particular one to defend against the others... But since it's very possible I could completely miss a good one, I'd like to solicit your suggestions: what would you enjoy reading another RM comic covering?

A few possibilities include what's worth using as a currency, how property should be initially claimed, whether copyrights or patents should exist (and if so for how long), what to do when incompatible property-claim systems bump up against each other, how to decide whether a given entity should be treated as having rights... That is, having the narrator use such as the springboard to describe LW techniques for thinking about that particular issue (which could then be used by the reader for any number of subjects).

I'd also welcome any other suggestions that haven't already been covered.