Jul 12 Bay Area meetup - Hanson, Vassar, Yudkowsky

Just a reminder that the July 12th Overcoming Bias / Less Wrong meetup in Santa Clara, CA @7pm will feature Robin Hanson, Michael Vassar, and the Singularity Institute summer interns.  This meetup will also take place in a larger house - there should be plenty of room to mingle.

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The meet-up was a great opportunity for me to put faces to names and (more importantly) talk about LW/OB/SIAI issues. Thanks to those I spoke with, I have a lot to think about.

That said, I think there are a couple of ways later meet-ups could be improved:

  • Name tags. Although some of us improvised, it would have been nice if everyone had them. I'm absolutely terrible with names.

  • Have a greeter/host/MC/whatever. I just showed up and started introducing myself while exploring the house. A leader of some kind could also help to coordinate any group activities. ("Food is ready!" or "Hey, everyone who wants to play Bang! meet over here.")

  • Have an introduction game of some kind. I recommend werewolf/mafia. This would provide a great chance for people to introduce themselves ("Hi, my name is Geoff and I am a villager, not a werewolf.") and break the initial barrier to socialization.

Still, I very much enjoyed the get-together and I'll certainly show up again. My thanks goes out to the organizers.

It was great; thanks to all for hosting and coming. :)

Thanks for coming out everyone -- I had a lot of fun =)

Can we just show up? Or we we need to RSVP some place, somewhere?

Regards.

Just showing up is acceptable, but RSVP'ing can be done via the Meetup.com link.

Never been to one of the meetups before, but I'm thinking of showing up to this one. What can I expect?

Never been to one of the meetups before, but I'm thinking of showing up to this one. What can I expect?

The summer interns I have met are all nice, interesting and extremely bright. unless I am severely mistaken, the summer interns are mostly college age, 18-22, though Roko is probably a few years older than that. Some are under 18, and the dad of one of them came to pick him up during the last meetup. Most of the summer interns live in the big house where the meetup will take place.

There will be four to six full-time employees of the Singularity Institute in attendance. Most of these have science and math as their strongest skills or are full scientific generalists with a mastery of all the sciences, natural and social, and of important social skills like philanthropic networking or running a technology startup. You can tell how wondeful Eliezer is just by studying his vast body of written public communications. What you might not yet know is that Eliezer's standards for whom he works with are extremely high in the intellect department and in the altruism department.

In case you are now intimidated, rest assured that there will also be a few less scintillating intellects in attendance, like my pal Richard Karpinski and I, who although welcoming and well-meaning are not extremely bright, but rather only very bright, that is, only 2 standard deviations above the human average [insert: in IQ :insert] and who now suffer from the inevitable mental decline that comes with our being old farts.

(In case you are wondering, I did clear this paragraph with Richard Karpinski before posting it!)

Probably because the attendees have spent little of their lives trying to conform and to be similar to the people around them, the individual personalities vary more than they do at most gatherings.

In summary, if you get pleasure from discussing the world from an atheistic scientific perspective and from an altruistic or selfless/global perspective and if you are even remotely presentable, then there is a good chance that this meetup is among the best opportunities to experience that particular pleasure you will ever have.

Actually there are only two undergraduate interns, and one local high school senior. Most of the interns have graduate education.

OK but in addition to the local high school senior, one of last year's summer interns is 17 or just turned 18. (And both were present at the meetup.)

Yes, but that left the group with four out of sixteen age 22 or below. The rest were older.

Well that sounds interesting. And fairly terrifying too, given that I'm somewhat shy.

Only two standard deviations above the human average... sounds like you're talking about IQ?

We are probably far more afraid of you than you are of us.

Meaning it was a joke and we're fun people who make jokes and we totally don't want you to feel intimidated!

lol, just that some of us are shy, socially-awkward folk I guess =)

I'm somewhat shy

Don't worry, we should have lots of socially awkward people present. (As well as non-socially-awkward people. We take all sorts.)

Well that sounds interesting. And fairly terrifying too, given that I'm somewhat shy.

Only two standard deviations above the human average... sounds like you're talking about IQ?

I am talking about IQ. Parenthetically, an IQ 2 standard deviations above the mean is by definition an IQ of 130 which is right about the average for professional computer programmers and some engineering occupations. (Scientific occupations tend to average around 140.)

Not to dispute the veracity of that claim, but that I find terrifying. I work almost exclusively with scientists, programmers and engineers, and the idea that on average they make up the top 2% of the population in terms of (whatever it is that is measured by) IQ... If that's true I have to work much harder to stretch downward what I think of as "normal" human intellect.

Yes, indeed!

As I said recently:

there is a tendency among high-IQ folks to underestimate how rare their abilities are. The way they do this is not by underestimating their own cognitive skills, but instead by overestimating those of most people.

In other words, what it feels like to be a genius is not that you're really smart, but rather that everyone else is really dumb.

To respond to part of that comment

I would expect that both you and Will would see the light on this if you spent some more time probing the thought processes of people of "normal" intelligence in detail, e.g. by teaching them mathematics (in a setting where they were obliged to seriously attempt to learn it, such as a college course; and where you were an authority figure, such as the instructor of such a course).

I might be pretty strongly wired not to get this concept, because I spent several semesters teaching in college, and most of the time when someone can't seem to "get it", I just assume that this isn't what they're good at, but they must be great at something else.

Despite this, I'm still skeptical. I'm not sure that I will ever get over that, but I can try to modify my behavior to circumvent that overestimation.

Most people aren't good at most things, though, so that's actually the situation that counts as normal, even if most people do have specializations that they're good at (which may or may not be the case).