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Wow. Some of your other posts are intelligent, but this is pure troll-bait.

EDIT: I suppose I should share my reasoning. Copied from my other post lower down the thread:

Hello, I expect you won't like me, I'm

Classic troll opening. Challenges us to take the post seriously. Our collective 'manhood' is threatened if react normally (eg saying "trolls fuck off").

dont want to be turned onto an immortal computer-brain-thing that acts more like Eliezer thinks it should

Insulting straw man with a side of "you are an irrational cult".

I've been lurking for a long time... overcoming bias... sequences... HP:MOR... namedropping

"Seriously, I'm one of you guys". Concern troll disclaimer. Classic.

evaporative cooling... women... I'm here to help you not be a cult.

Again undertones of "you are a cult and you must accept my medicine or turn into a cult". Again we are challenged to take it seriously.

I just espoused, it'll raise the probability that you start worshiping the possibility of becoming immortal polyamorous whatever and taking over the world.

I didn't quite understand this part, but again, straw man caricature.

I'd rather hang around a

... (read more)

You've got an interesting angle there, but I don't think AspiringKnitter is a troll in the pernicious sense-- her post has led to a long reasonable discussion that she's made a significant contribution to.

I do think she wanted attention, and her post had more than a few hooks to get it. However, I don't think it's useful to describe trolls as "just wanting attention". People post because they want attention. The important thing is whether they repay attention with anything valuable.


I don't have the timeline completely straight, but it looks to me like AspiringKnitter came in trolling and quickly changed gears to semi-intelligent discussion. Such things happen. AspiringKnitter is no longer a troll, that's for sure; like you say "her post has led to a long reasonable discussion that she's made a significant contribution to".

All that, however, does not change the fact that this particular post looks, walks, and quacks like troll-bait and should be treated as such. I try to stay out of the habit of judging posts on the quality of the poster's other stuff.

I don't know if this is worth saying, but you look a lot more like a troll to me than she does, though of a more subtle variety than I'm used to. You seem to be taking behavior which has been shown to be in the harmless-to-useful range and picking a fight about it.

Thanks for letting me know. If most people disagree with my assessment, I'll adjust my troll-resistance threshold.

I just want to make sure we don't end up tolerating people who appear to have trollish intent. AspiringKnitter turned out to be positive, but I still think that particular post needed to be called out.

Well Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism.

You're welcome. This makes me glad I didn't come out swinging-- I'd suspected (actually I had to resist the temptation to obsess about the idea) that you were a troll yourself. If you don't mind writing about it, what sort of places have you been hanging out that you got your troll sensitivity calibrated so high? I'm phrasing it as "what sort of places" in case you'd rather not name particular websites.

what sort of places have you been hanging out that you got your troll sensitivity calibrated so high?

4chan, where there is an interesting dynamic around trolling and getting trolled. Getting trolled is low-status, calling out trolls correctly that no-one else caught is high-status, and trolling itself is god-status, calling troll incorrectly is low status like getting trolled. With that culture, the art of trolling, counter-trolling and troll detection gets well trained.

I learned a lot of trolling theory from reddit, (like the downvote preventer and concern trolling). The politics, anarchist, feminist and religious subreddits have a lot of good cases to study (they generally suck at managing community, tho).

I learned a lot of relevant philosophy of trolling and some more theory from /i/nsurgency boards and wikis (start at partyvan.info). Those communities are in a sorry state these days.

Alot of what I learned on 4chan and /i/ is not common knowledge around here and could be potentially useful. Maybe I'll beat some of it into a useful form and post it.

For one thing, the label "trolling" seems like it distracts more than it adds, just like "dark arts." AspiringKnitter's first post was loaded with influence techniques, as you point out, but it's not clear to me that pointing at influence techniques and saying "influence bad!" is valuable, especially in an introduction thread. I mean, what's the point of understanding human interaction if you use that understanding to botch your interactions?
There is a clear benefit to pointing out when a mass of other people are falling for influence techniques in a way you consider undesirable.
That's interesting-- I've never hung out anywhere that trolling was high status. In reddit and the like, how is consensus built around whether someone is a troll and/or is trolling in a particular case? I think I understand concern trolling, which I understand to be giving advice which actually weakens the receiver's position, though I think the coinage "hlep" from Making Light is more widely useful--inappropriate, annoying/infuriating advice which is intended to be helpful but doesn't have enough thought behind it, but what's downvote preventer? Hlep has a lot of overlap with other-optimizing. I'd be interested in what you have to say about the interactions at 4chan and /i/, especially about breakdowns in political communities. I've been mulling the question of how you identify and maintain good will-- to my mind, a lot of community breakdown is caused by tendencies to amplify disagreements between people who didn't start out being all that angry at each other.
On reddit there is just upvotes and downvotes. Reddit doesn't have developed social mechanisms for dealing with trolls, because the downvotes work most of the time. Developing troll technology like the concern troll and the downvote preventer to hack the hivemind/vote dynamic is the only way to succeed. 4chan doesn't have any social mechanisms either, just the culture. Communication is unnecessary for social/cultural pressure to work, interestingly. Once the countertroll/troll/troll-detector/trolled/troll-crier hierarchy is formed by the memes and mythology, the rest just works in your own mind. "fuck I got trolled, better watch out better next time", "all these people are getting trolled, but I know the OP is a troll; I'm better than them" "successful troll is successful" "I trolled the troll". Even if you don't post them and no-one reacts to them, those thoughts activate the social shame/status/etc machinery. Not quite. A concern troll is someone who comes in saying "I'm a member of your group, but I'm unsure about this particular point in a highly controversial way" with the intention of starting a big useless flame-war. Havn't heard of hlep. seems interesting. The downvote preventer is when you say "I know the hivemind will downvote me for this, but..." It creates association in the readers mind between downvoting and being a hivemind drone, which people are afraid of, so they don't downvote. It's one of the techniques trolls use to protect the payload, like the way the concern troll used community membership. Yes. A big part of trolling is actually creating and fueling those disagreements. COINTELPRO trolling is disrupting peoples ability to identify trolls and goodwill. There is a lot of depth and difficulty to that.
Wow, I don't post over Christmas and look what happens. Easiest one to answer first. 1. Wow, thanks! 2. You're a little mean. You don't need an explanation of 2, but let me go through your post and explain about 1. Huh. I guess I could have come up with that explanation if I'd thought. The truth here is that I was just thinking "you know, they really won't like me, this is stupid, but if I make them go into this interaction with their eyes wide open about what I am, and phrase it like so, I might get people to be nice and listen". That was quite sincere and I still feel that that's a worry. Also, I don't think I know more about friendliness than EY. I think he's very knowledgeable. I worry that he has the wrong values so his utopia would not be fun for me. Wow, you're impressive. (Actually, from later posts, I know where you get this stuff from. I guess anyone could hang around 4chan long enough to know stuff like that if they had nerves of steel.) I had the intuition that this will lead to fewer downvotes (but note that I didn't lie; I did expect that it was true, from many theist-unfriendly posts on this site), but I didn't think consciously this procedure will appeal to people's fear of the hivemind to shame them into upvoting me. I want to thank you for pointing that out. Knowing how and why that intuition was correct will allow me to decide with eyes wide open whether to do something like that in the future, and if I ever actually want to troll, I'll be better at it. Actually, I just really need to learn to remember that while I'm posting, proper procedure is not "allow internal monologue to continue as normal and transcribe it". You have no idea how much trouble that's gotten me into. (Go ahead and judge me for my self-pitying internal monologue if you want. Rereading it, I'm wondering how I failed to notice that I should just delete that part, or possibly the whole post.) On the other hand, I'd certainly hope that being honest makes me a sympathetic

Note that declaring Crocker's rules and subsequently complaining about rudeness sends very confusing signals about how you wish to be engaged with.

For what it's worth, I generally see some variant of "please don't flame me" attached only to posts which I'd call inoffensive even without it. I'm not crazy about seeing "please don't flame me", but I write it off to nervousness and don't blame people for using it. Caveat: I'm pretty sure that "please don't flame me" won't work in social justice venues.
Excellent analysis. I just changed my original upvote for that post to a downvote, and I must admit that it got me in exactly every way you explained.

Hi, I am Alyssa, a 16-year-old aspiring programmer-and-polymath who found her way to the wiki page for Egan's Law from the Achron forums. From there I started randomly clicking on links that mostly ended up leading to Eliezer's posts. I was a bit taken aback by his attitude toward religion, but I had previously seen mention of his AI Box thing (where (a) he struck me as awesome, and (b) he said some things about "intelligence" and "wisdom" that caused me to label him as an ally against all those fools who hated science), and I just loved his writing, so I spent about a week reading his stuff alternately thinking, "Wow, this guy is awesome" and "Poor atheist. Doesn't he realize that religion and science are compatible?" Eventually, some time after reading Religion's Claim to be Non-disprovable, I came to my senses. (It is a bit more complicated and embarrassing than that, but you get the idea.)

That was several months ago. I have been lurking not-quite-continuously since then, and it slowly dawned on me just how stupid I had been -- and more importantly, how stupid I still am. Reading about stuff like confirmation bias and overconfidence, I gra... (read more)

Welcome, Alyssa! Finding out how "stupid" I am is one of the most important things I have ever learned. I hope I never forget it! Also, congrats on seriously questioning your religion at your age. I didn't do so until much later.
You should check out the lesswrong for highschoolers facebook page

It's not that I'm having trouble communicating; it's that I'm not trying to.

So it is more just trolling.

The contents of my comments are more like expressions of complexes of emotions about complex signaling equilibria.

Which, from the various comments Will has made along these lines we can roughly translate to "via incoherent abstract rationalizations Will_Newsome has not only convinced himself that embracing the crazy while on lesswrong is a good idea but that doing so is in fact a moral virtue". Unfortunately this kind of conviction is highly resistant to persuasion. He is Doing the Right Thing. And he is doing the right thing from within a complex framework wherein not doing the right thing has potentially drastic (quasi-religious-level) consequences. All we can really do is keep the insane subset of his posts voted below the visibility threshold and apply the "don't feed the troll" policy while he is in that mode.

Good phrase, I think I'll steal it. Helps me quickly describe how seriously I take this whole justification thing.

Turns out LW is a Chesterton-esque farce in which all posters are secretly Wills trolling Wills.

Then I'm really wasting time here.
Yes, I all are!

That's some interesting reasoning. I've met people before who avoided leaving an evaporatively cooling group because they recognized the process and didn't want to contribute to it, but you might be the first person I've encountered who joined a group to counteract it (or to stave it off before it begins, given that LW seems to be both growing and to some extent diversifying right now). Usually people just write groups like that off. Aside from the odd troll or ideologue that claims similar motivations but is really just looking for a fight, at least-- but that doesn't seem to fit what you've written here.

Anyway. I'm not going to pretend that you aren't going to find some hostility towards Abrahamic religion here, nor that you won't be able to find any arguably problematic (albeit mostly unconsciously so) attitudes regarding sex and/or gender. Act as your conscience dictates should you find either one intolerable. Speaking for myself, though, I take the Common Interest of Many Causes concept seriously: better epistemology is good for everyone, not just for transhumanists of a certain bent. Your belief structure might differ somewhat from the tribal average around here, but the actual goal of this tribe is to make better thinkers, and I don't think anyone's going to want to exclude you from that as long as you approach it in good faith.

In fewer words: welcome to Less Wrong.

Erm. I can't say that this raises my confidence much. I am reminded of the John McCarthy quote, "Your denial of the importance of objectivity amounts to announcing your intention to lie to us. No-one should believe anything you say."

I feel responsible for the current wave of gibberish-spam from Will, and I regret that. If it were up to me, I would present him with an ultimatum - either he should promise not to sockpuppet here ever again, and he'd better make it convincing, or else every one of his accounts that can be identified will be banned. The corrosive effect of not knowing whether a new identity is a real person or just Will again, whether he's "conducting experiments" by secretly mass-upvoting his own comments, etc., to my mind far outweighs the value of his comments.

people who only want me to hate God

I don't think there are any of those around here. Most of us would prefer you didn't even believe in gods!

My name's Normal Anomaly, and I'm paranoid about giving away personal information on the Internet. Also, I don't like to have any assumptions made about me (though this is likely the last place to worry about that), so I'd rather go without a gender, race, etc. Apologies for the lack of much personal data. I can say that my major interest is biology, although I am not yet anything resembling an expert. I eventually hope to work in life extension research. I’m an Asperger’s Syndrome Sci Fi-loving nerd, which is apparently the norm here.

I used to have religious/spiritual beliefs, though I was also a fan of science and was not a member of an organized religion. I believed it was important to be rational and that I had evidence for my beliefs, but I was rationalizing and refusing to look at the hard questions. A couple years ago, I was exposed to atheism and rationalism and have since been trying to make myself more reasonable/less insane. I found LW through Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality a few months ago, and have been lurking and reading the sequences. I'm still scared of posting on here because it’s the first discussion forum where I have known myself to be intellectual... (read more)

I have found that some of the time you can make up for a (perceived) lack of intellect with a little work, and this is true (from my own experience) here on LessWrong: when about to comment on an issue, it pays big dividends to use the search feature to check for something related in previous posts with which you can refine, change, or bolster your position. Of the many times I have done it, twice I caught myself in grievous and totally embarrassing errors! For what it's worth, commenting on LW is so far from normal conversation and normal internet use that most intellects haven't developed methods for it; they have to grind through mostly the same processes as everyone else - and nobody can actually tell if it took you five seconds or five minutes to type your reply. My own replies might be left in the comment box for hours, to be reread with a fresh mind later and changed entirely. tl;dr Don't be afraid to comment!
This is interesting-- LW seems to be pretty natural for me. I think the only way my posting here is different from anywhere else is that my sentences might be more complex. On the other hand, once I had a choice, I've spent most of my social life in sf fandom, where the way I write isn't wildly abnormal, I think. Anyone who's reading this, do you think what's wanted at LW is very different from what's wanted in other venues?
I find writing on LW pretty 'normal', on par with some other forums or blog comments (though with possibly less background hostility and flamewars). I suspect the ban on discussing politics does more to increase the quality of discourse here than the posts on cognitive bias.
Yes. I get the sense that here you are expected to at least try for rigor. In other venues - it's totally ok to randomly riff on a topic without actually having thought deeply about either the consequences, or whether or not there's any probability of your idea actually having any basis in reality.
LW is substantially higher-level than most (all?) forums that I've been to, including private ones and real name only ones. The standard of discourse just seems better here in general.
Wow, that is interesting ... conditional on more people feeling this way (LW is natural), I might just have focused my intellect on rhetoric and nonreasonable convincing to the point that following LW's guidelines is difficult, and then committed the typical mind fallacy and assumed everyone had too.

Actually, I've come to notice that rhetoric and other so-called Dark Arts are still worth their weight in gold on LW, except when the harder subjects (math and logic) are at hand.

But LessWrong commenters definitely have plenty of psychological levers, and the demographic uniformity only makes them more effective. For a simple example, I guesstimate that, in just about any comment, a passing mention of how smart LessWrongers are is worth on average 3 or 4 extra karma points - and this is about as old as tricks can get.

But LessWrongers are really smart.
That is a true but banal observation that shouldn't be worth karma. Of course, so was this response. And so forth.
Do you have a preferred set of gender-neutral pronouns?
FYI, this had a "don't think of a pink elephant" effect on me. I immediately made guesses about your gender, race and age. I'm betting I'm not the only one. Sorry! Anyway welcome! Sounds like you'll fit right in. Don't be too scared to comment, especially if it is just to ask a question (I don't recall ever seeing a non-sarcastic question downvoted).

I'm Ellen, age 14, student, planning to major in molecular biology or something like that. I'm not set on it, though.

I think I was browsing wikipedia when I decided to google some related things. I think I found some libertarian or anarchist blog that then had a link to Overcoming Bias or Lesswrong. Or I might've seen the word transhumanism on the wiki page for libertarianism and googled it, with it eventually leading here somehow. My memory is fuzzy as it was pretty irrelevant to me.

I'm an atheist, and have been for a while, as is typical for this community. I wasn't brought up religiously, so it was pretty much untheism that turned into atheism.

My rationalist roots... I've always wanted to be right, of course. Partly because I could make mistakes from being wrong, partly because I really, really hated looking stupid. Then I figured that I couldn't know if I was right unless I listened to the other side, really listened, and was careful. (Not enough people do even this. People are crazy, the world is mad. Angst, angst.) I found lesswrong which has given me tools to much more effectively do this. w00t.

I'm really lazy. Curse you, akrasia!

It should be obvious how I came up with my us... (read more)

5Eliezer Yudkowsky14y
Welcome on board! You're a key segment of my target audience, so please speak up if you have any thoughts on things I could have done better in my writing.
I strongly recommend people go to school for something they find interesting, but since I don't think it's commonly known information, I would like to note that salaries for biologists are lower than for other scientists. Lots more people graduate with PhDs in biology than PhDs in physics which really drives down the salaries for biologists that don't have tenure. Though if you plan on going to professional school (medical school, business school, etc.), a molecular biology degree is a good thing to have if you enjoy molecular biology. Again, I really think people should go to school for something they like, but if you want to make a lot of money, don't become a researching biologist. Biology researchers with MD's do a lot better financially.

Hi, Aspiring Knitter. I also find the Less Wrong culture and demographics quite different from my normal ones (being a female in the social sciences who's sympathetic to religion though not a believer. Also, as it happens, a knitter.) I stuck around because I find it refreshing to be able to pick apart ideas without getting written off as too brainy or too cold, which tends to happen in the rest of my life.

Sorry for the lack of persecution - you seem to have been hoping for it.

Very glad not to be persecuted, actually. Yay!

Hi, I'm Zoe. I found this site in a round-about way after reading Dawkin's The God Delusion and searching some things related to it. There was a comment in a forum mentioning Less Wrong and I was interested to see what it was.

I've been mainly lurking for the past few months, reading the sequences and some of the top posts. I've found that while I understand most of it, my high-school level math (I'm 16) is quite inadequate, so I'm working through the Khan Academy to try and improve it.

I'm drawn to rationalism because, quite simply, it seems like the world would be a better place if people were more rational and that has to start somewhere. Whatever the quotes say, truth is worthwhile. It also makes me believe in myself more to know that I'm willing and somewhat able to shift my views to better match the territory. Maybe someday I'll even advance from 'somewhat' into plain ol' 'able'.

My goals here, at this point, aren't particularly defined. I find the articles and the mission inspiring and interesting and think that it will help me. Maybe when I've learnt more I'll have a clearer goal for myself. I already analyze everything (to the point where many a teacher has been quite annoyed), so I suppose that's a start. I'm looking forward to learning more and seeing how I can use it all in my actual life.

Cheers, Zoe

Welcome! Hope now a few months later you still find some utility from our community. Overall, I just wanted to chime in and say good luck in getting sane in your lifetime, its something all of us here strive for and its far from easy. :)
Thank you! I am still enjoying the site - there's so much good stuff to get through. I've read most of the sequences and top posts now, but I'm still in the (more important, probably) process of compiling a list of all the suggested activities/actions, or any I can think of in terms of my own life and the basic principles, for easy reference to try when I have some down-time.
Such a list should be worth at least posting to discussion, if you finish it.
  • Cousin it's comment doesn't leave much room for doubt.
  • Baiting and switching by declaring Crocker's rules then shaming and condescending when they do not meet your standard of politeness could legitimately be considered a manipulative social ploy.
  • I didn't consider Crocker's rules at all when reading nyan's comment and it still didn't seem at all inappropriate. You being outraged at the 'vulgarity' of the phrase "damsel in distress crap" is a problem with your excess sensitivity and not with the phrase. As far as I'm concerned "damsel in distress crap" is positively gentle. I would have used "martyrdom bullshit" (but then I also use bullshit as a technical term).
  • Crocker's rules is about how people speak to you. But for all it is a reply about your comment nyan wasn't even talking to you. He was talking to the lesswrong readers warning them about perceived traps they are falling into when engaging with your comment.
  • Like it or not people tend to reciprocate disrespect with disrespect. While you kept your comment superficially civil and didn't use the word 'crap' you did essentially call everyone here a bunch of sexist Christian hating bullies. Why would you expect people to be nice to you when you treat them like that?

That doesn't sound right. Here's a quote from Crocker's rules:

Anyone is allowed to call you a moron and claim to be doing you a favor.

Another quote:

Note that Crocker's Rules does not mean you can insult people; it means that other people don't have to worry about whether they are insulting you.

Quote from our wiki:

Thus, one who has committed to these rules largely gives up the right to complain about emotional provocation, flaming, abuse and other violations of etiquette

There's a decision theoretic angle here. If I declare Crocker's rules, and person X calls me a filthy anteater, then I might not care about getting valuable information from them (they probably don't have any to share) but I refrain from lashing out anyway! Because I care about the signal I send to person Y who is still deciding whether to engage with me, who might have a sensitive detector of Crocker's rules violations. And such thoughtful folks may offer the most valuable critique. I'm afraid you might have shot yourself in the foot here.

Welcome to LessWrong!

You guys really hate Christians, after all. (Am I actually allowed to be here or am I banned for my religion?)

Do we? Do you hate Hindus, or do you just think they're wrong?

One thing I slightly dislike about "internet atheists" is the exclusive focus on religion as a source of all that's wrong in the world, whereas you get very similar forms of irrationality in partisan politics or nationalism. I'm not alone in holding that view - see this for some related ideas. At best, religion can be about focusing human's natural irrationality in areas that don't matter (cosmology instead of economics), while facilitating morality and cooperative behavior. I understand that some Americans atheists are more hostile to religion than I am (I'm French, religion isn't a big issue here, except for Islam), because they have to deal with religious stupidity on a daily basis.

Note that a Mormon wrote a series of posts that was relatively well received, so you may be overestimating LessWrong's hostility to religion.


I've been reading Less Wrong from its beginning. I stumbled upon Overcoming Bias just as LW was being launched. I'm a young mathematician (an analyst, to be more specific) currently working towards a PhD and I'm very interested in epistemic rationality and the theory of altruist instrumental rationality. I've been very impressed with the general quality of discussion about the theory and general practice of truth-seeking here, even though I can think of places where I disagree with the ideas that I gather are widely accepted here. The most interesting discussions seem to be quite old, though, so reviving those discussions out of the blue hasn't felt like - for lack of a better word - a proper thing to do.

There are many discussions here of which I don't care about. A large proportion of people here are programmers or otherwise from a CS background, and that colors the discussions a lot. Or maybe it's just that the prospect of an AGI in recent future doesn't seem at all likely to me. Anyway, the AI/singularity stuff, the tangentially related topics that I bunch together with them, and approaching rationality topics from a programmer's point of view I just don't care about. Not ... (read more)

Upvoted for this in particular.
I appreciate your honest criticisms here, as someone who participated (probably too much) in the silly gender discussion threads. I also encourage you to stay and participate, if possible. Despite some missteps, I think there's a lot of potential in this community, and I'd hate to see us losing people who could contribute interesting material.
The evils of in-group bias are getting at me. I felt a bit of anger when reading this comment. Go figure, I rarely feel noticeable emotions, even in response to dramatic events. The only feature that could trigger that reaction seems to be the dissenting theme of this comment, the way it breached the normal narrative of the game of sane/insane statements. I wrote a response after a small time-out, I hope it isn't tainted by that unfortunate reaction.
7Wei Dai14y
I don't think it's in-group bias. If anything, people are giving mni extra latitude because he or she is seen as new here. If an established member of the community were to make the same points, that much of the discussion is uninteresting or bullshit, that the community is failing and maybe not worth "wasting" time for, and to claim to have interesting things to say but make excuses for not actually saying them, I bet there would be a lot more criticism in response.
Interesting. You provide one counterexample to my opinion that the biased language wasn't driving away readers. I now have reason to believe I might have been projecting too much.
Welcome. :) One thing I hope you have noticed is that there are different subgroups of people within the community that like or dislike certain topics. Adding content that you prefer is a good way to see more growth in those topics.
mni, I followed in your footsteps years later, and then dropped away, just as you did. I came back after several months to look for an answer to a specific question -- stayed for a bit, poking around -- and before I go away again, I'd just like to say: if this'd been a community that was able to keep you, it probably would have kept me too. You seem awesome. Where did you go? Can I follow you there?
I see people leave Less Wrong for similar reasons all the time. In my optimistic moods, I try to understand the problem and think up ways to fix it. In my pessimistic moods, this blog and its meetups are doomed from the start; the community will retain only those women who are already dating people in the community; and the whole thing will end in a whimper.
This needs to be a primary concern during the setting-up of the rationality spin-off SIAI is planning. It needs to be done right, at the beginning.

Easiest first: I introduced "dark arts" as an example of a label that distracted more than it added. It wasn't meant as a reference to or description of your posts.

In your previous comment, you asked the wrong question ('were they attempting to persuade?') and then managed to come up with the wrong answer ('nope'). Both of those were disappointing (the first more so) especially in light of your desire to spread your experience.

The persuasion was "please respond to me nicely." It was richly rewarded: 20 welcoming responses (when most newbies get 0 or 1), and the first unwelcoming response got downvoted quickly.

The right question is, what are our values, here? When someone expressing a desire to be welcomed uses influence techniques that further that end, should we flip the table over in disgust that they tried to influence us? That'll show them that we're savvy customers that can't be trolled! Or should we welcome them because we want the community to grow? That'll show them that we're worth sticking around.

I will note that I upvoted this post, because in the version that I saw it started off with "Some of your other posts are intelligent" and then show... (read more)

Ok. That makes sense.

I sometimes feel discriminated against here for not being autistic enough.

Sorry, where does God say this? You are a Christian right? I'm not aware of any verse in either the OT or NT that calls for monogamy. Jacob has four wives, Abraham has two, David has quite a few and Solomon has hundreds. The only verses that seem to say anything negative in this regard are some which imply that Solomon just has way too many. The text strongly implies that polyandry is not ok but polygyny is fine. The closest claim is Jesus's point about how divorcing one woman and then marrying another is adultery, but that's a much more limited claim (it could be that the other woman was unwilling to be a second wife for example). 1 Timothy chapter 3 lists qualifications for being a church leader which include having only one wife. That would seem to imply that having more than one wife is at worst suboptimal.

That is a really good point. (Actually, Jesus made a stronger point than that: even lusting after someone you're not married to is adultery.)

You know, you could actually be right. I'll have to look more carefully. Maybe my understanding has been biased by the culture in which I live. Upvoted for knowledgeable rebuttal of a claim that might not be correct.

Is that something like "Plan to take steps to have sex with the person", or like "Experience a change in your pants"? (Analogous question for the "no coveting" commandment, too.) Because if you think some thoughts are evil, you really shouldn't build humans with a brain that automatically thinks them. At least have a little "Free will alert: Experience lust? (Y/n)" box pop up.

WHO I AM: I have 24 years of existence. I give math, chemistry and physics lessons to high school students since 17. I am pretty good at it and I never announced anywhere on planet that I give lessons - all new students appear from recommendations from older students. On the end of 2016 I already had 38 months going to the university, trying to get mechanical engineering credentials. I wasn't interested on the course - I really liked the math and the subjects, but the teachers sucked and the experience was, in general, terrible. I hated my life and was doing it just to look good for my parents - always loved arts and I study classical music since 14. I heard about "artificial intelligence" just once, and I decided all my actions in life should be towards automate the process of learning. I started a MIT Python course and then dropped out university. I am completely passionate about learning.

WHAT I'M DOING: (short-term) I am currently learning and doing beautiful animations with the python library called MANIM (Mathematical ANIMations). I am searching for people to unite forces to transform tens of posts in The Sequences into video content with this library. I h... (read more)

Welcome! Your story sounds exciting and I am looking forward to seeing you around!
Welcome :)

Hello! I'm a first-year graduate student in pure mathematics at UC Berkeley. I've been reading LW posts for awhile but have only recently started reading (and wanting to occasionally add to) the comments. I'm interested in learning how to better achieve my goals, learning how to choose better goals, and "raising the sanity waterline" generally. I have recently offered to volunteer for CFAR and may be an instructor at SPARC 2013.

I've read your blog for a long time now, and I really like it! <3 Welcome to LW!
Thanks! I'm trying to branch out into writing things on the internet that aren't just math. Hopefully it won't come back to bite me in 20 years...

But pointing this out to you doesn't change your mind because you value having most people be willing to engage in casual sex (am I wrong here? I don't know you, specifically)

I can't speak for Emile, but my own views look something like this:

  • I see nothing wrong with casual sex (as long as all partners fully consent, of course), or any other kind of sex in general (again, assuming fully informed consent).
  • Some studies (*) have shown that humans are generally pretty poor at monogamy.
  • People whose sex drives are unsatisfied often become unhappy.
  • In light of this, forcing monogamy on people is needlessly oppressive, and leads to unnecessary suffering.
  • Therefore, we should strive toward building a society where monogamy is not forced upon people, and where people's sex drives are generally satisfied.

Thus, I would say that I value "most people being able to engage in casual sex". I make no judgement, however, whether "most people should be willing to engage in casual sex". If you value monogamy, then you should be able to engage in monogamous sex, and I can see no reason why anyone could say that your desires are wrong.

(*) As well as many of our most prominent politicians. Heh.

I'm glad I actually asked, then, since I've learned something from your position, which is more sensible than I assumed. Upvoted because it's so clearly laid out even though I don't agree.
Thanks, I appreciate it. I am still interested in hearing why you don't agree, but I understand that this can be a sensitive topic...

Hello, Less Wrong.

I suppose I should have come here first, before posting anything else, but I didn't come here through the front door. :3 Rather, I was brought here by way of HP:MOR, as I'm sure many newbies were.

My name is Anthony. I'm 21 years old, married, studying Linguistics, and I'm an unapologetic member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Should be fun.

Enjoy :)

Hello, Less Wrong.

My name is Zachary Vance. I'm an undergraduate student at the University of Cincinnati, double majoring in Mathematics and Computer Science--I like math better. I am interested in games, especially board and card games. One of my favorite games is Go.

I've been reading Less Wrong for 2-3 months now, and I posted once or twice under another name which I dropped because I couldn't figure out how to change names without changing accounts. I got linked here via Scott Aaronson's blog Shtetl-Optimized after seeing a debate between him and Eliezer. I got annoyed at Eliezer for being rude, forgot about it for a month, and followed the actual link on Scott's site over here. (In case you read this Eliezer, you both listen to people more than I thought (update, in Bayesian) and write more interesting things than I heard in the debate.) I like paradoxes and puzzles, and am currently trying to understand the counterfactual mugging. I've enjoyed Less Wrong because everybody here seems to read everything and usually carefully think about it before they post, which means not only articles but also comments are simply amazing compared to other sites. It also means I try not to post too much so Less Wrong remains quality.

I am currently applying to work at the Singularity Institute.

6Paul Crowley13y
Hi, welcome to Less Wrong and thanks for posting an introduction!

FWIW, I agree that nyan-sandwich's tone was condescending, and that they used vulgar words.
I also think "I suppose they can't be expected to behave any better, we should praise them for not being completely awful" is about as condescending as anything else that's been said in this thread.

Yeah, you're probably right. I didn't mean for that to come out that way (when I used to spend a lot of time on places with low standards, my standards were lowered, too), but that did end up insulting. I'm sorry, nyan_sandwich.

You guys really hate Christians, after all. (Am I actually allowed to be here or am I banned for my religion?)

Technically, it's "Christianity" that some of us don't like very much. Many of us live in countries where people who call themselves "Christians" compose much of the population, and going around hating everyone we see won't get us very far in life. We might wish that they weren't Christians, but while we're dreaming we might as well wish for a pony, too.

And, no, we don't ban people for saying that they're Christians. It takes a lot to get banned here.

I shouldn't be here; you don't want me here, not to mention I probably shouldn't bother talking to people who only want me to hate God.

Well, so far you haven't given us much of a reason to want you gone. Also, people who call themselves atheists usually don't really care whether or not you "hate God" any more than we care about whether you "hate Santa Claus".

Why am I even here again? Seriously, why am I not just lurking? That would make more sense.

Because you feel you have something you want to say?

while we're dreaming we might as well wish for a pony, too.

Do you want a pony?

Can I have a kitty instead?
Amusingly, one of the things I've found after becoming a brony is that I mentally edit "wish for a pony" to "wish to be a pony."
No pony for you

Greetings, LessWrong!

I'm Saro, currently 19, female and a mathematics undergraduate at the University of Cambridge. I discovered LW by the usual HP:MoR route, though oddly I discovered MoR via reading EY's website, which I found in a Google search about Bayes' once. I'm feeling rather fanatical about MoR at the moment, and am not-so-patiently awaiting chapter 78.

Generally though, I've found myself stuck here a lot because I enjoy arguing, and I like convincing other people to be less wrong. Specifically, before coming across this site, I spent a lot of time reading about ways of making people aware of their own biases when interpreting data, and effective ways of communicating statistics to people in a non-misleading way (I'm a big fan of the work being done by David Spiegelhalter). I'm also quite fond of listening to economics and politics arguments and trying to tear them down, though through this, I've lost any faith in politics as something that has any sensible solutions.

I suspect that I'm pretty bad at overcoming my own biases a lot of the time. In particular, I have a very strong tendency to believe what I'm told (including what I'm being told by this site), I'm particularly... (read more)

Welcome! I wouldn't necessarily call that a failing in and of itself -- it's important to notice the influence that tone and eloquence and other ineffable aesthetic qualities have on your thinking (lest you find yourself agreeing with the smooth talker over the person with a correct argument), but it's also a big part of appreciating art, or finding beauty in the world around you. If it helps, I was raised atheist, only ever adopted organized religion once in response to social pressure (it didn't last, once I was out of that context), find myself a skeptical, materialist atheist sort -- and with my brain wiring (schizotypal, among other things) I still have intense, vivid spiritual experiences on a regular basis. There's no inherent contradiction, if you see the experiences as products-of-brain and that eerie sense that maybe there's something more to it as also a product-of-brain, with antecedents in known brain-bits.
Welcome! Honestly that made me cringe slightly and I wanted to write something about it when I came to the second paragraph: You are bad at overcoming your own biases, since all of us are. We've got pretty decent empirical evidence that knowing about some biases does help you, but not with others. The best practical advice to avoid being captured by slogans and inspirational tones is to practice playing the devils advocate. Check out LW's sister site Overcoming Bias. Robin Hanson loves to make unorthodox economical arguments about nearly everything. Be warned his contrarianism and cynicism with a simile are addictive! He also has some interesting people on his blogroll. I'm afraid hanging out here probably will not make it any better. Seek different treatment. :)
4Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 12y
Welcome! Sweet, another girl my age! Kind of similar to how I discovered it. I think I googled EY and found his website after seeing his name in the sl4 mailing list.
Welcome! Note to self: Organise Cambridge meet-up.

Hello fellow Less Wrongians,

My name is Josh and I'm a 16-year-old junior in high school. I live in a Jewish family at the Jersey Shore. I found the site by way of TV Tropes after a friend told me about the Methods of Rationality. Before i started reading Eliezer's posts, i made the mistake of believing I was smart. My goal here is mainly to just be the best that I can be and maybe learn to lead a better life. And by that I mean that I want to be better than everyone else I meet. That includes being a more rational person better able to understand complex issues. I think i have a fair grip on the basic points of rationality as well as philosophy, but i am sorely lacking in terms of math and science (which can't be MY fault obviously, so I'll just go ahead and blame the public school system). I never knew what exactly an logarithm WAS before a few days ago, sadly enough (I knew the term of course, but was never taught what it meant or bothered enough to look it up. I have absolutely no idea what i want to do with my life other than amassing knowledge of whatever i find to be interesting.

I was raised in a conservative household, believing in God but still trying to look at the world r... (read more)

Great to have you here Josh! Most of all as you read and participate in the community, don't be afraid to question common beliefs here, that's where the contribution is likley to be there I think. Also if you plan on going through one or more of the sequences systematically consider finding a chavruta. To quote myself: Also a great great resource for basic math are the Khan Academy videos and exercises.

HI, I'm GDC3. Those are my initials. I'm a little nervous about giving my full name on the internet, especially because my dad is googlible and I'm named after him. (Actually we're both named after my grandfather, hence the 3) But I go by G.D. in real life anyway so its not exactly not my name. I'm primarily working on learning math in advance of returning to college right now.

Sorry if this is TMI but you asked: I became an aspiring rationalist because I was molested as a kid and I knew that something was wrong, but not what it was or how to stop it, and I figure that if I didn't learn how the world really worked instead of what people told me, stuff like that might keep happening to me. So I guess my something to protect was me.

My something to protect is still mostly me, because most of my life is still dealing with the consequences of that. My limbic system learned all sorts of distorted and crazy things about how the world works that my neocortex has to spend all of its time trying to compensate for. Trying to be a functional human being is sort of hard enough goal for now. I also value and care about eventually using this information to help other people who've had simi... (read more)

I think that's the most succinct formulation of this pattern I've ever run into. Nicely thought, and nicely expressed. (I found the rest of your comment interesting as well, but that really jumped out at me.) Welcome!

Hi, I'm Taryn. I'm female, 35 and working as a web developer. I started studying Math, changed to Comp Sci and actually did my degree in Cognitive Science (Psychology of intelligence, Neurophysiology, AI, etc) My 3rd year Project was on Cyberware.

When I graduated I didn't see any jobs going in the field and drifted into Web Development instead... but I've stayed curious about AI, along with SF, Science, and everything else too. I kinda wish I'd known about Singularity research back then... but perhaps it's better this way. I'm not a "totally devoted to one subject" kinda person. I'm too curious about everything to settle for a single field of study.

That being said - I've worked in web development now for 11 years. Still, when I get home, I don't start programming, preferring pick up a book on evolutionary biology, medieval history, quantum physics, creative writing (etc) instead. There's just too damn many interesting things to learn about to just stick to one!

I found LW via Harry Potter & MOR, which my sister forwarded to me. Since then I've been voraciously reading my way through the sequences, learning just how much I have yet to learn... but totally fascinated. This site is awesome.


[Hi everyone!]

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

Hi, I'm Sarah. I'm 21 and going to grad school in math next fall. I'm interested in applied math and analysis, and I'm particularly interested in recent research about the sparse representation of large data sets. I think it will become important outside the professional math community. (I have a blog about that at http://numberblog.wordpress.com/.)

As far as hobbies go, I like music and weightlifting. I read and talk far too much about economics, politics, and philosophy. I have the hairstyle and cultural vocabulary of a 1930's fast-talking dame. (I like the free, fresh wind in my hair, life without care; I'm broke, that's Oke!)

Why am I here? I clicked the link from Overcoming Bias.

In more detail, I'm here because I need to get my life in order. I'm a confused Jew, not a thoroughgoing atheist. I've been a liberal and then a libertarian and now need something more flexible and responsive to reason than either.

Some conversations with a friend, who's a philosopher, have led me to understand that there are some experiences (in particular, experiences he's had related to poverty and death) that nothing in my intellectual toolkit can deal with, and so I've had to reconsider a ... (read more)

I don't know if it will help you, but the concept of comparative advantage might help you appreciate how being valuable does not require being better than anyone else at any one thing. I found the concept enlightening, but I'm probably atypical...
  • Persona: Rain
  • Age: 30s
  • Gender: Unrevealed
  • Location: Eastern USA
  • Profession: Application Administrator, US Department of Defense
  • Education: Business, Computers, Philosophy, Scifi, Internet
  • Interests: Gaming, Roleplaying, Computers, Technology, Movies, Books, Thinking
  • Personality: Depressed and Pessimistic
  • General: Here's a list of my news sources

Rationalist origin: I discovered the scientific method in highschool and liked the results of its application to previously awkward social situations, so I extended it to life in general. I came up with most of OB's earlier material by myself under different names, or not quite as well articulated, and this community has helped refine my thoughts and fill in gaps.

Found LW: The FireFox add-on StumbleUpon took me to EY's FAQ about the Meaning of Life on 23 October 2005, along with Max More, Nick Bostrom, Alcor, Sentient Developments, the Transhumanism Wikipedia page, and other resources. From there, to further essays, to the sl4 mailing list, to SIAI, to OB, to LW, where I started interacting with the community in earnest in late January 2010 and achieved 1000 karma in early June 2010. Previous to the StumbleUpon treasure trove, I had been ... (read more)

Downvoted, by the way. I want to signal my distaste for being confused for you. Are you using some form of mind-altering substance or are you normally like this? I think you need to take a few steps back. And breathe. And then study how to communicate more clearly, because I think either you're having trouble communicating or I'm having trouble understanding you.

I'm not quite in a mood to downvote, but I think you were wildly underestimating how hard it would be for Will to change what he's doing.

hi everybody,

I'm 22, male, a student and from Germany. I've always tried to "perceive whatever holds the world together in its inmost folds", to know the truth, to grok what is going on. Truth is the goal, and rationality the art of achieving it. So for this reason alone lesswrong is quite appealing.

But in addition to that Yudkowsky and Bostrom convinced me that existential risks, transhumanism , the singularity, etc. are probably the most important issues of our time.

Furthermore this is the first community I've ever encountered in my life that makes me feel rather dumb. ( I can hardly follow the discussions about solomonoff induction, everett-branches and so on, lol, and I thought I was good at math because I was the best one in high school :-) But, nonetheless being stupid is sometimes such a liberating feeling!

To spice this post with more gooey self-disclosure: I was sort of a "mild" socialist for quite some time ( yeah, I know. But, there are some intelligent folks who were socialists, or sort-of-socialists like Einstein and Russell). Now I'm more pro-capitalism, libertarian, but some serious doubts remain. I'm really interested in neuropsychological research of mystic exp... (read more)

5Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 12y
I can personally support this. I've never taken LSD or any other consciousness-altering drug, but I can trigger ecstatic, mystical "religious experiences" fairly easy in other ways; even just singing in a group setting will do it. I sing in an Anglican church choir and this weekend is Easter, so I expect to have quite a number of mystical experiences. At one point I attended a Pentecostal church regularly and was willing to put up with people who didn't believe in evolution because group prayer inevitably triggered my "mystical experience" threshold. (My other emotions are also triggered easily: I laugh out loud when reading alone, cry out loud in sad books and movies, and feel overpowering warm fuzzies when in the presence of small children.) I have done my share of reading "absurb and useless" books. Usually I found them, well, absurd and useless and pretty boring. I would rather read about the neurological underpinnings of my experience, especially since grokking science's answers can sometimes trigger a near-mystical experience! (Happened several times while reading Richard Dawkins' 'The Selfish Gene'.) In any case, I would like to hear more about your story, too.

Good day I'm a fifteen year-old high school student, Junior, and ended up finding this through the Harry Potter & MOR story, which I thought would be a lot less common to people. Generally I think I'm not that rational of a person, I operate mostly on reaction and violence, and instinctively think of things like 'messages' and such when I have some bad luck; but, I've also found some altruistic passion in me, and I've done all of this self observation which seems contradictory, but I think that's all a rationalization to make me a better person. I also have some odd moods, which split between talking like this, when usually I can't like this at all.

I'd say something about my age group but I can't think of anything that doesn't sound like hypocrisy, so I think I'll cut this off here.

  • Aaaugh, just looking at this giant block of text makes me feel like an idiot.
Don't be so hard on yourself. Or, more precisely: don't be hard on yourself in that way. Bitter self-criticism could lead to helpful reforms and improved habits, but it could also lead to despair and cynicism. If you feel that you need to be criticized, post some thoughts and let other LWers do it.

Hi everyone, I've been reading LW for a year or so, and met some of you at the May minicamp. (I was the guy doing the swing dancing.) Great to meet you, in person and online.

I'm helping Anna Salamon put together some workshops for the meetup groups, and I'll be posting some articles on presentation skills to help with that. But in order to do that, I'll need 5 points (I think). Can you help me out with that?



Yay 5 points! That was quick. Thanks everyone.

Do you really think it's only a bit overstated? I mean, has anybody been banned for being religious? And has anybody here indicated that they hate Christians without immediately being called on falling into blue vs. green thinking?

Okay, ready to be shouted down. I'll be counting the downvotes as they roll in, I guess. You guys really hate Christians, after all. (Am I actually allowed to be here or am I banned for my religion?) I'll probably just leave soon anyway. Nothing good can come of this. I don't know why I'm doing this. I shouldn't be here; you don't want me here, not to mention I probably shouldn't bother talking to people who only want me to hate God. Why am I even here again? Seriously, why am I not just lurking? That would make more sense.

From her other posts, AspiringKnitter strikes me as being open-minded and quite intelligent, but that last paragraph really irks me. It's self-debasing in an almost manipulative way - as if she actually wants us to talk to her like we "only want [her] to hate God" or as if we "really hate Christians". Anybody who has spent any non-trivial amount of time on LW would know that we certainly don't hate people we disagree with, at least to the best of my knowledge, so asserting that is not a charitable or reasonable expectation. Plus, it seems that it would now be hard(er) to downvote her because she specifically said she expects that, even given a legitimate reason to downvote.

I agree. See my other post deconstructing the troll-techniques used.
Well, some of Eliezer's posts about religion and religious thought have been more than a little harsh. (I couldn't find it, but there was a post where he said something along the lines of "I have written about religion as the largest imaginable plague on thinking...") They didn't explicitly say that religious people are to be scorned, but it's very easy to read in that implication, especially since many people who are equally vocal about religion being bad do hold that opinion.

Hello everyone,

My name is Allison, and I'm 15 years old. I'll be a junior next year. I come from a Christian background, and consider myself to also be a theist, for reasons that I'm not prepared to discuss at the moment... I wish to learn how to view the world as it is, not through a tinted lens that is limited in my own experiences and background.

While I find most everything on this site to be interesting, I must confess a particular hunger towards philosophy. I am drawn to philosophy as a moth is to a flame. However, I am relatively ignorant about pretty much everything, something I'm attempting to fix. I have a slightly above average intelligence, but nothing special. In fact, compared to everyone on this site, I'm rather stupid. I don't even understand half of what people are talking about half the time.

I'm not a science or math person, although I find them interesting, my strengths lie in English and theatre arts. I absolutely adore theatre, not that this really has much to do with rationality. Anyway, I kind of want to get better at science and math. I googled the double slit experiment, and I find it.. captivating. Quantum physics holds a special kind of appeal to me, but unfortunately, is something that I'm not educated enough to pursue at the moment.

My goals are to become more rational, learn more about philosophy, gain a basic understanding of math and science, and to learn more about how to refine the human art of rationality. :)

Hello everyone!

Name: Tuesday Next Age: 19 Gender: Female

I am an undergraduate student studying political science, with a focus on international relations. I have always been interested in rationalism and finding the reasons for things.

I am an atheist, but this is more a consequence of growing up in a relatively nonreligious household. I did experiment with paganism and witchcraft for several years, a rather frightening (in retrospect) display of cognitive dissonance as I at once believed in science and some pretty unscientific things.

Luckily I was able to to learn from experience, and it soon become obvious that what I believed in simply didn't work. I think I wanted to believe in witchcraft both as a method of teenage rebellion and to exert some control over my life. However I was unable to delude myself.

I tried to interest myself in philosophy many times, but often became frustrated by the long debates that seemed divorced from reality. One example is the idea of free will. Since I was a child (I have a memory of trying, when I was in elementary school, of trying to explain this to my parents without success) I have had a conception of reality and free will that seemed fa... (read more)

Hi, AspiringKnitter!

There have been several openly religious people on this site, of varying flavours. You don't (or shouldn't) get downvoted just for declaring your beliefs; you get downvoted for faulty logic, poor understanding and useless or irrelevant comments. As someone who stopped being religious as a result of reading this site, I'd love for more believers to come along. My impulse is to start debating you right away, but I realise that'd just be rude. If you're interested, though, drop me a PM, because I'm still considering the possibility I might have made the wrong decision.

The evaporative cooling risk is worrying, now that you mention it... Have you actually noticed that happening here during your lurking days, or are you just pointing out that it's a risk?

Oh, and dedicating an entire paragraph to musing about the downvotes you'll probably get, while an excellent tactic for avoiding said downvotes, is also annoying. Please don't do that.

Uh-oh. LOL. Normally, I'm open to random debates about everything. I pride myself on it. However, I'm getting a little sick of religious debate since the last few days of participating in it. I suppose I still have to respond to a couple of people below, but I'm starting to fear a never-ending, energy-sapping, GPA-sabotaging argument where agreeing to disagree is literally not an option. It's my own fault for showing up here, but I'm starting to realize why "agree to disagree" was ever considered by anyone at all for anything given its obvious wrongness: you just can't do anything if you spend all your time on a never-ending argument. Haven't been lurking long enough. In the future I will not. See below. Thank you for calling me out on that.

Talk of Aumann Agreement notwithstanding, the usual rules of human social intercourse that allow "I am no longer interested in continuing this discussion" as a legitimate conversational move continue to apply on this site. If you don't wish to discuss your religious beliefs, then don't.

Ah, I didn't know that. I've never had a debate that didn't end with "we all agree, yay", some outside force stopping us or everyone hating each other and hurling insults.
Jeez. What would "we all agree, yay" even look like in this case?
I suppose either I'd become an atheist or everyone here would convert to Christianity.

The assumption that everyone here is either an atheist or a Christian is already wrong.

Good point. Thank you for pointing it out.
There are additional possibilities, like everyone agreeing on agnosticism or on some other religion.
Hm. So, if I'm understanding you, you considered only four possible outcomes likely from your interactions with this site: everyone converts to Christianity, you get deconverted from Christianity, the interaction is forcibly stopped, or the interaction degenerates to hateful insults. Yes? I'd be interested to know how likely you considered those options, and if your expectations about likely outcomes have changed since then.

Well, for any given conversation about religion, yes. (Obviously, I expect different things if I post a comment about HP:MoR on that thread.)

I expected the last one, since mostly no matter what I do, internet discussions on anything important have a tendency to do that. (And it's not just when I'm participating in them!) I considered any conversions highly unlikely and didn't really expect the interaction to be stopped.

My expectations have changed a lot. After a while I realized that hateful insults weren't happening very much here on Less Wrong, which is awesome, and that the frequency didn't seem to increase with the length of the discussion, unlike other parts of the internet. So I basically assumed the conversation would go on forever. Now, having been told otherwise, I realize that conversations can actually be ended by the participants without one of these things happening.

That was a failure on my part, but would have correctly predicted a lot of the things I'd experienced in the past. I just took an outside view when an inside view would have been better because it really is different this time. That failure is adequately explained by the use of the outside view heuristic, which is usually useful, and the fact that I ended up in a new situation which lacked the characteristics that caused what I observed in the past.

Beliefs should all be probabilistic. I think this rules out some and only some branches of Christianity, but more importantly it impels accepting behaviorist criteria for any difference in kind between "atheists" and "Christians" if we really want categories like that.
There isn't a strong expectation here that people should never agree to disagree - see this old discussion, or this one. That being said, persistent disagreement is a warning sign that at least one side isn't being perfectly rational (which covers both things like "too attached to one's self-image as a contrarian" and like "doesn't know how to spell out explicitly the reasons for his belief").
I tried to look for a religious debate elsewhere in this thread but could not find any except the tangential discussion of schizophrenia. Then please feel free to ignore this comment. On the other hand, if you ever feel like responding then by all means do. A lack of response to this comment should not be considered evidence that AspiringKnitter could not have brilliantly responded. What is the primary reason you believe in God and what is the nature of this reason? By nature of the reason, I mean something like these: * inductive inference: you believe adding a description of whatever you understand of God leads to a simpler explanation of the universe without losing any predictive power * intuitive inductive inference: you believe in god because of intuition. you also believe that there is an underlying argument using inductive inference, you just don't know what it is * intuitive metaphysical: you believe in god because of intuition. you believe there is some other justification this intuition works

How would gwern, Alicorn or NancyLebowitz confirm that anything I said by phone meant AspiringKnitter isn't Will Newsome? They could confirm that they talked to a person. How could they confirm that that person had made AspiringKnitter's posts? How could they determine that that person had not made Will Newsome's posts?

At the very least, they could dictate an arbitrary passage (or an MD5 hash) to this person who claims to be AK, and ask them to post this passage as a comment on this thread, coming from AK's account. This would not definitively prove that the person is AK, but it might serve as a strong piece of supporting evidence. In addition, once the "AK" persona and the "WillNewsome" persona each post a sufficiently large corpus of text, we could run some textual analysis algorithms on it to determine if their writing styles are similar; Markov Chains are surprisingly good at this (considering how simple they are to implement). The problem of determining a person's identity on the Internet, and doing so in a reasonably safe way, is an interesting challenge. But in practice, I don't really think it matters that much, in this case. I care about what the "AK" persona writes, not about who they are pretending not to be.
How about doing this already, with all the stuff they've written before the original bet?

Hello. I expect you won't like me because I'm Christian and female and don't want to be turned into an immortal computer-brain-thing that acts more like Eliezer thinks it should.

I don't think you'll be actively hated here by most posters (and even then, flamewars and trolling here are probably not what you'd expect from most other internet spaces)

it'll raise the probability that you start worshiping the possibility of becoming immortal polyamorous whatever and taking over the world.

I wouldn't read polyamory as a primary shared feature of the posters here -- and this is speaking as someone who's been poly her entire adult life. Compared to most mainstream spaces, it does come up a whole lot more, and people are generally unafraid of at least discussing the ins and outs of it.

(I find it hard to imagine how you could manage real immortality in a universe with a finite lifespan, but that's neither here nor there.)

You guys really hate Christians, after all. (Am I actually allowed to be here or am I banned for my religion?)

You have to do a lot weirder or more malicious than that to get banned here. I frequently argue inarticulately for things that are rather unpopular here, ... (read more)

the possibility of becoming immortal polyamorous whatever and taking over the world.

I think I just found my new motto in life :-)

You guys really hate Christians, after all.

I personally am an atheist, and a fairly uncompromising one at that, but I still find this line a little offensive. I don't hate all Christians. Many (or probably even most) Christians are perfectly wonderful people; many of them are better than myself, in fact. Now, I do believe that Christians are disastrously wrong about their core beliefs, and that the privileged position that Christianity enjoys in our society is harmful. So, I disagree with most Christians on this topic, but I don't hate them. I can't hate someone simply for being wrong, that just makes no sense.

That said, if you are the kind of Christian who proclaims, in all seriousness, that (for example) all gay people should be executed because they cause God to send down hurricanes -- then I will find it very, very difficult not to hate you. But you don't sound like that kind of a person.

If you can call down hurricanes, tell me and I'll revise my beliefs to take that into account. (But then I'd just be in favor of deporting gays to North Korea or wherever else I decide I don't like. What a waste to execute them! It could also be interesting to send you all to the Sahara, and by interesting I mean ecologically destructive and probably a bad idea not to mention expensive and needlessly cruel.) As long as you're not actually doing that (if you are, please stop), and as long as you aren't causing some other form of disaster, I can't think of a good reason why I should be advocating your execution.
Calling down hurricanes is easy. Actually getting them to come when you call them is harder. :)
Sadly, I myself do not possess the requisite sexual orientation, otherwise I'd be calling down hurricanes all over the place. And meteorites. And angry frogs ! Mwa ha ha !

Hey everyone.

I'm Jandila (not my birth, legal or even everyday name), I'm a 28-year old transgendered woman living in Minnesota. I've been following EY's writings off and on since many years ago on the sl4 mailing list, mostly on the topic of AI; initially I got interested in cognitive architecture and FAI due to a sci-fi novel I've been working on forever. I discovered LW a few years ago but only recently started posting; somehow I missed this thread until just recently.

I've been interested in bias and how people think, and in modifying my own instrumental ability to understand and work around it, for many years. I'm on the autistic spectrum and have many clusters of neurological weirdness; I think this provided an early incentive to understand "how people think" so I could signal-match better.

So far I've stuck around because I like LW's core mission and what it stands for in abstract; I also feel that the community here is a bit too homogenous in terms of demographics for a community with such an ostensibly far-reaching, global goal, and thus want to see the perspective base broadened (and am encouraged by the recent influx of female members).

Hey everyone,

My name is Jennifer Davies. I'm 35 years old and am married with a 3 year old daughter. I live in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

Originally a computer programmer, I gave it up after spending a year coding for a bank (around 1997). Motivated by an interest in critical thinking, I earned a BA in Philosophy.

Currently, I'm completing a one year post-grad program to become a Career Development Practitioner. I plan to launch a private practice in 2012 to help people find and live their passions while providing them with the tools to do so.

A friend introduced me to Harry Potter: Methods of Rationality and Less Wrong. I have never enjoyed a piece of reading more than that fanfic -- I even saved a PDF version to introduce to my daughter once she's able to benefit from it.

My main motivations (that I'm aware of) for becoming a member of this community are to: improve my thinking skills (and better understand/evaluate values and motivations), help clients to think more rationally, better encourage independent, critical thought in my daughter.

Although it can be painful at times (for my ego) to be corrected, I appreciate such corrections and the time put into them.

Any tips for teaching young children rationality? I'm at a loss and wonder if I need to wait until she's older.

Hi Jennifer. There's been quite a bit written about teaching children rationality. Unfortunately, the relative newness of LW and the low percentage of parents means its all somewhat speculative. The following links cover most(but probably not all of what LW has on the subject). * http://lesswrong.com/lw/25/on_the_care_and_feeding_of_young_rationalists/ * http://lesswrong.com/lw/2q/on_juvenile_fiction/ * http://lesswrong.com/lw/3c/rationalist_storybooks_a_challenge/ * http://lesswrong.com/lw/63f/rational_parenting/ * http://lesswrong.com/lw/3i/little_johny_bayesian/ * http://lesswrong.com/lw/4uw/preschoolers_learning_to_guess_the_teachers/ * http://lesswrong.com/lw/70b/raise_the_age_demographic/ (You have to go down to the comments section for this one)

I've existed for about 24 years, and currently live in Boston.

I regard many of the beliefs popular here - cyronics, libertarianism, human biodiversity, pickup artistry - with extreme skepticism. (As if in compensation, I have my own unpopular frameworks for understanding the world.) I find the zeitgeist here to be interestingly wrong, though, because almost everyone comes from a basically sane starting point - a material universe, conventionally "Western" standards of science, reason, and objectivity - and actively discusses how they can regulate their beliefs to adhere to these. I have an interest in achieving just this kind of regulation (am a "rationalist",) and am aware that it's epistemically healthy to expose myself to alternative points of view expressed in a non-crazy way. So hopefully the second aspect will reinforce the first.

As for why I'm a rationalist, I don't know, and the question doesn't seem particularly interesting to me. I regard it beyond questions of justification, like other desires.

Welcome to Less Wrong! I'd love to hear more about this: I also like exposing myself to alternative points of view expressed in a non-crazy way, and I'm interested in your unpopular frameworks. Specifically: cryonics is highly speculative, but do you think there's a small chance it might work? When you say you don't believe in human biodiversity, what does that mean? And when you say you don't believe in pickup artistry, you don't think that dating and relationships skills exist?
Thanks for the friendly welcome! "I'd love to hear more about this: I also like exposing myself to alternative points of view expressed in a non-crazy way, and I'm interested in your unpopular frameworks." Specifically, I've become increasingly interested in Marxism, especially the varieties of Anglo post-Marxism that emerged from the analytical tradition. I don't imagine this is any more popular here than it is among normal people, but the general mode of analysis is probably less foreign to libertarian types than they might assume - as implied above, we're both working from materialist assumptions (beyond what's implied above, this applies to more than one meaning of "materialist," at least for certain types of libertarians.) In general, my bias is to assume that people's behavior is more rational (I mean this in a utility-maximizing sense, rather than in the "rationalist" sense) than it initially appears. In general, the more we know about the context of a decision, the more rational it usually appears to be; and there may be something beyond vanity for the tendency of people, who are in greatest possession of their own situations, to consider themselves atypically rational. I see this materialist (in the "latter," economic sense) viewpoint as avoiding unnecessary mulitiplication of entities and (not that it should matter for truth) a basically respectful way of facially analyzing people: "MAYBE they're just crazy, but until we have more contextual knowledge, let's take as a working assumption that this is in their self-interest." This is my general verbal justification for reflexively turning to materialist explanations, although the CAUSE of my doing so is probably just that I studied neoclassical economics for four years. "Specifically: cryonics is highly speculative, but do you think there's a small chance it might work?" Of course. The transparent wish-fulfillment seems inherently suspect, like the immortality claims of religions, but that doesn't mean

Hi all, I'm Jen, an Australian Jewish atheist, and an student in a Computer Science/Linguistics/Cognitive Science combined degree, in which I am currently writing a linguistics thesis. I got here through recommendations from a couple of friends who visit here and stayed mostly for the akrasia and luminosity articles (hello thesis and anxiety/self-esteem problems!) Oh and the other articles too, but the ones I've mentioned are the ones that I've put the most effort into understanding and applying. The others are just interesting and marked for further processing at some later time.

I think I was born a rationalist rather than becoming one - I have a deep-seated desire for things to have reasons that make sense, by which I mean the "we ran some experiments and got this answer" kind of sense as opposed to the "this validates my beliefs" kind of sense. Although having said that I'm still prey to all kinds of irrationality, hence this site being helpful.

At some point in the future I would be interested in writing something about linguistic pragmatics - it's basically another scientific way of looking at communication. There's a lot of overlap between pragmatics and the ideas I've seen here on status and signalling, but it's all couched in different language and emphasises different parts, so it may be different enough to be helpful to others. But at the moment I have no intention of writing anything beyond this comment (hello thesis again!), the account is mostly just because I got sick of not being able to upvote anything.

Welcome to Less Wrong! Please do! I have a keen interest in that topic.

I freely admit that I have one sockpuppet, who has made less than five comments and has over 20 karma.

I have a private message, dated 7 October, from an account with "less than five comments and [...] over 20 karma", which begins, "I'm Will_Newsome, this is one of my alts." (Emphasis mine.)

Will, I'm sorry it's turning out like this. I am not perfect myself; anyone who cares may look up users "Bananarama" and "OperationPaperclip" and see my own lame anonymous humor. More to the point, I do actually believe that you want to "keep the stars from burning down", and you're not just a troll out to waste everyone's time. The way I see it, because you have neither a job to tie you down, nor genuine intellectual peers and collaborators, it's easy to end up seeking the way forward via elaborate crazy schemes, hatched and pursued in solitude; and I suspect that I got in the way of one such scheme, by asserting that AK is you.

I have those! E.g. I spend a lot of time with Steve, who is the most rational person in the entire universe, and I hang out with folk like Nick Tarleton and Michael Vassar and stuff. All those 3 people are way smarter than me, though arguably I get around some of that by way of playing to my strengths. The point is that I can play intellectualism with them, especially Steve who's really good at understanding me. ETA: I also talk to the Black Belt Bayesian himself sorta often.
With no offense intended to Steve, no, he isn't.
If you know any rationalists that are better than Steve then please, please introduce me to them.

I'm confused. What happened overnight that made people suddenly start appreciating Will's advocacy of his own trolling here and the surrounding context? -5 to +7 is a big change and there have been similar changes to related comments. Either someone is sockpuppeting or people are actually starting to appreciate this crap. (I'm really hoping the former!)

Edit: And now it is back to -3. How bizarre!

I've been appreciating it all along. I would not be terribly surprised if there were a dozen or so other people who do.

Okay good, it took awhile for this to get downvoted and I was starting to get even more worried about the local sanity waterline.

I suspect that the reason for this is that the comment tree of which your post was a branch of is hidden by default, as it originates from a comment with less than -3 karma.

Um, on another note, could you just be less mean? 'Mean' seems to be the most accurate descriptor for posting trash that people have to downvote to stay hidden, after all.

No, I ran an actual test by posting messages in all caps to use as a control. Empiricism is so cool! (ETA: I also wrote a perfectly reasonable but mildly complex comment as a second control, which garnered the same number of downvotes as my insane set theory comment in about he same length of time.) Re meanness, I will consider your request Dorikka. I will consider it.

Stick around. Your contributions are fine. Not everyone will be accusatory like nyan_sandwich.

Read through the Sequences and comment on what seems good to you.

In addition to what APMason said, I think that many Christians would disagree with your second statement:

I doubt it'd be useful to go around trying to police people's morals.

Some of them are campaigning right now on the promise that they will "police people's morals"...

EY has read With Folded Hands and mentioned it in his CEV writeup as one more dystopia to be averted. This task isn't getting much attention now because unfriendly AI seems to be more probable and more dangerous than almost-friendly AI. Of course we would welcome any research on preventing almost-friendly AI :-)

Not everyone agrees with Eliezer on everything; this is usually not that explicit, but consider e.g. the number of people talking about relationships vs. the number of people talking about cryonics or FAI - LW doesn't act, collectively, as if it really believes Eliezer is right. It does assume that there is no God/god/supernatural, though.

(Also, where does this idea of atheists hating God come from? Most atheists have better things to do than hang on /r/atheism!)

I got the idea from various posts where people have said they don't even like the Christian God if he's real (didn't someone say he was like Azathoth?) and consider him some kind of monster. I can see I totally got you guys wrong. Sorry to have underestimated your niceness.

For my own part, I think you're treating "being nice" and "liking the Christian God" and "hating Christians" and "wanting other people to hate God" and "only wanting other people to hate God" and "forcibly exterminating all morality" and various other things as much more tightly integrated concepts than they actually are, and it's interfering with your predictions.

So I suggest separating those concepts more firmly in your own mind.

To be fair, I'm sure a bunch of people here disapprove of some actions by the Christian God in the abstract (mostly Old Testament stuff, probably, and the Problem of Evil). But yeah, for the most part LWers are pretty nice, if a little idiosyncratic!

Azathoth (the "blind idiot god") is the local metaphor for evolution - a pointless, monomaniacal force with vast powers but no conscious goal-seeking ability and thus a tendency to cause weird side-effects (such as human culture).

Azathoth is how Eliezer described the process of evolution, not how he described the christian god.

She's possibly thinking about Cthulhu.
Well, if there were an omnipotent Creator, I'd certainly have a few bones to pick with him/her/it...
Classic example of bikeshedding.

Hi, my handle is gscshoyru (gsc for short), and I'm new here. I found this site through the AIBox experiment, oddly enough -- and I think I got there from TVTropes, though I don't remember. After reading the fiction, (and being vaguely confused that I had read the NPC story before, but nothing else of his, since I'm a fantasy/sci-fi junkie and I usually track down authors I like), I started reading up on all of Eliezer's writings on rationality. And found it made a lot of sense. So, I am now a budding rationalist, and have decided to join this site because it is awesome.

That's how I found you -- as for who I am and such, I am a male 22-year-old mathematics major/CS minor currently working as a programmer in New Jersey. So, that's me. Hi everyone!

What about when information is obscured by deliberate impoliteness?

Basically, no. If you want to criticize people for being rude to you just don't operate by Crocker's rules. Make up different ones.

Crocker's rules don't say "explain things in an insulting way", they say "don't soften the truths you speak to me". You can optimize for information-- and even get it across better-- when you're not trying to be rude.

A lot of intelligent folks have to spend a lot of energy trying not to be rude, and part of the point of Crocker's Rules is to remove that burden by saying you won't call them on rudeness.


Being honest and having reasonable expectations of being treated like a troll does not disqualify a post from being a troll.

Hello, I expect you won't like me, I'm

Classic troll opening. Challenges us to take the post seriously. Our collective 'manhood' is threatened if react normally (eg saying "trolls fuck off").

dont want to be turned onto an immortal computer-brain-thing that acts more like Eliezer thinks it should

Insulting straw man with a side of "you are an irrational cult".

I've been lurking for a long time... overcoming bias... sequences... HP:MOR... namedropping

"Seriously, I'm one of you guys". Concern troll disclaimer. Classic.

evaporative cooling... women... I'm here to help you not be a cult.

Again undertones of "you are a cult and you must accept my medicine or turn into a cult". Again we are challenged to take it seriously.

I just espoused, it'll raise the probability that you start worshiping the possibility of becoming immortal polyamorous whatever and taking over the world.

I didn't quite understand this part, but again, straw man caricature.

I'd rather hang around and keep the Singularity from being an AI tha

... (read more)
I don't follow how indicating that she's actually read the site can be a mark against her. If the comment had not indicated familiarity with the site content, would you then describe it as less trollish?

Hello, Less Wrong!

I'm Bill McGrath. I'm 22 years old, Irish, and I found my way here, as with many others, from TVTropes and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

I'm a composer and musician, currently entering the final year of my undergrad degree. I have a strong interest in many other fields - friends of mine who study maths and physics often get grilled for information on their topics! I was a good maths student in school, I still enjoy using maths to solve problems in my other work or just for pleasure, and I still remember most of what I learned. Probablity is the main exception here - it wasn't my strongest area, and I've forgotten a lot of the vocabulary, but it's the next topic I intend to study when I get a chance. This is proving problematic in my understanding of the Bayesian approach, but I'm getting there.

I've been working my way through the core sequences, along with some scattered reading elsewhere on the site. So far, a lot of what I've encountered has been ideas that are familiar to me, and that I try to use when debating or discussing ideas anyway. I've held for a while now that you have to be ready to admit your mistakes, not be afraid of being wrong som... (read more)

Hi, I'm Lincoln. I am 25; I live and work in Cambridge, MA. I currently build video games but I'm going to start a Ph.D program in Computer Science at the local university in the fall.

I identified rationality as a thing to be achieved ever since I knew there was a term for it. One of the minor goals I had since I was about 15 was devising a system of morality which fit with my own intuitions but which was consistent under reflection (but not in so many words). The two thought experiments I focused on were abortion and voting. I didn't come up with an answer, but I knew that such a morality was a thing I wanted -- consistency was important to me.

I ran across Eliezer's work 907 days ago reading a Hacker News post about the AI-box experiment, and various other Overcoming Bias posts that were submitted over the years. I didn't immediately follow through on that stuff.

But I became aware of SIAI about 10 months ago, when rms on Hacker News linked an interesting post about the Visiting Fellows program at SIAI.

I think I had a "click" moment: I immediately saw that AI was both an existential risk and major opportunity, and I wanted to work on these things to save the world. I fol... (read more)

Hello, I'm Jeff, I found this site via a link on an XKCD forum post, which also included a link to the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality fan-fic. I read the book first (well, what has been written so far, I just couldn't stop!) and decided that whoever wrote that must be made of pure awesome, and I was excited to see what you all talked about here.

After some perusal, I decided I had to respond to one of the posts, which of course meant I had to sign up. The post used keyboard layouts (QWERTY, etc.) as an example of how to rephrase a question properly in order to answer it in a meaningful way. Posting my opinion ended up challenging some assumptions I had about the QWERTY layout and the Dvorak layout, and I am now three and a half hours into learning the Dvorak layout in order to determine which is actually the better layout (based on things I read it seemed a worthwhile endeavor, instead of too difficult like I assumed).

I would have posted this in Dvorak layout, but I only have half the keys down and it would be really, really slow, so I switched back to QWERTY just for this. QWERTY comes out practically as I think it - Dvorak, not so much yet. The speed with which... (read more)


Greetings, fellow thinkers! I'm a 19-year-old undergraduate student at Clemson University, majoring in mathematics (or, as Clemson (unjustifiably) calls it, Mathematical Sciences). I found this blog through Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality about three weeks ago, and I spent those three weeks doing little else in my spare time but reading the Sequences (which I've now finished).

My parents emigrated from the Soviet Union (my father is from Kiev, my mother from Moscow) just months before my birth. They spoke very little English upon their arrival, so they only spoke Russian to me at home, and I picked up English in kindergarten; I consider both to be my native languages, but I'm somewhat more comfortable expressing myself in English. I studied French in high school, and consider myself "conversant", but definitely not fluent, although I intend to study abroad in a Francophone country and become fluent. This last semester I started studying Japanese, and I intend to become fluent in that as well.

My family is Jewish, but none of my relatives practice Judaism. My mother identifies herself as an agnostic, but is strongly opposed to the Abrahamic religions and their co... (read more)

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I've been an egoist for as long as I can remember

No offense intended, but: If you could take a pill that would prevent all pain from your conscience, and it could be absolutely guaranteed that no one would ever find out, how many twelve-year-olds would you kill for a dollar?

(Perhaps you meant to say that you were mostly egoist, or that your deliberatively espoused moral principles were egoistic?)

PS: Welcome to Less Wrong!


Eliezer, I've been thinking about this a lot. When I backed up and asked myself whether, not why, I realized that

1) I'm no longer sure what "I am an egoist" means, especially given how far my understanding of ethics has come since I decided that, and

2) I derive fuzzies from repeating that back to myself, which strikes me as a warning sign that I'm covering up my own confusion.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
Eliezer, please don't think you can offend me by disagreeing with me or questioning my opinions - every disagreement (between rational people) is another precious opportunity for someone (hopefully me!) to get closer to Truth; if the person correcting me is someone I believe with high probability to be smarter than me, or to have thought through the issue at hand better than I have (and you fit those criteria!), this only raises the probability that it is I who stand to benefit from the disagreement. I'm not certain this is a very good answer to your question, but 1) I would not take such a pill, because I enjoy empathy and don't think pain is always bad, 2) peoples' deaths negatively affect many people (both through the ontologically positive grief incurred by the loss and the through ontologically negative utility they would have produced), and that negative effect is very likely to make its way to me through the Web of human interaction, especially if the deceased are young and have not yet had much of a chance to spread utility through the Web, and 3) I would have to be quite efficient at killing 12-year-olds for it to be worth my time to do it for a dollar each (although of course this is tangential to your question, since the amount "a dollar" was arbitrary). I should also point out that I have a strongly negative psychological reaction to violence. For example, I find the though of playing a first-person shooting game repugnant, because even pretending to shoot people makes me feel terrible. I just don't know what there is out there worse than human beings deliberately doing physical harm to one another. As a child, I felt little empathy for my fellow humans, but at some point, it was as if I was treated with Ludovico's Technique (à la A Clockwork Orange)... maybe some key mirror neurons in my prefrontal cortex just needed time to develop. Thank you for taking time to make me think about this!
If your moral code penalizes things that make you feel bad, and doing X would make you feel bad, then is it fair to say that not doing X is part of your moral code? I think the point Eliezer was getting at is that human morality is very complex, and statements like "I'm an egoist" sweep a lot of that under the rug. And to continue his example: what if the pill not only prevented all pain from your conscience, but also gave you enjoyment (in the form of seratonin or whatever) at least as good as what you get from empathy?
You're right, human morality is more complex than I thought it was when "I am an egoist" seemed like a reasonable assertion, and all the fuzzies I got from "resolving" the question of ethics prevented me from properly updating my beliefs about my own ethical disposition.
How much do bullets cost again? :P
If you mean that mathematics is not a natural science, then I agree with you. But ‘science’ has an earlier, broader meaning that applies to any field of knowledge, so mathematical science is simply the systematic study of mathematics. (I don't know why they put it in plural, but that's sort of traiditional.) Compare definitions 2 and 4 at dictionary.com.
You're right! I've been so caught up (for years now) with explaining to people that mathematics was not a science because it was not empirical (although, as I've since learned from Eliezer, "pure thought" is still a physical process that we must observe in order to learn anything from it), that I've totally failed to actually think about the issue. There goes another cached thought from my brain; good riddance, and thanks for the correction!

I originally wrote this for the origin story thread until I realized it's more appropriate here. So, sorry if it straddles both a bit.

I am, as nearly as I believe can be seen in the present world, an intrinsic rationalist. For example: as a young child I would mock irrationality in my parents, and on the rare occasions I was struck, I would laugh, genuinely, even through tears if they came, because the irrationality of the Appeal to Force made the joke immensely funnier. Most people start out as well-adapted non-rationalists; I evidently started as a maladaptive rationalist.

As an intrinsic (maladaptive) rationalist, I have had an extremely bumpy ride in understanding my fellow man. If I had been born 10 years later, I might have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. As it was, I was a little different, and never really got on with anyone, despite being well-mannered. A nerd, in other words. Regarding bias, empathic favoritism, willful ignorance, asking questions in which no response will effect subsequent actions or belief confidences, and other peculiarities for which I seem to be an outlier, any knowledge about how to identify and then deal with these peculiarities has been ex... (read more)

That's really cool. I'd be curious to know some examples of some ideas you've read here that you found useful.
Rationalist blogs cite a lot of biases and curious sociological behaviors which have plagued me because I tend optimistically accept what people say at face value. In explaining them in rationalist terms, LW and similar blogs essentially explain them to my mode of thinking specifically. I'm now much better at picking up on unwritten rules, at avoiding punishment or ostracism for performing too well, at identifying when someone is lying politely but absolutely expects me to recognize it as a complete lie, etc., thanks to my reading into these psychological phenomena. Additionally, explanations of how people confuse "the map" to be "the territory" have been very helpful in determining when correcting someone is going to be a waste of time. If they were sloppy and mis-read their map, I should step in; if their conclusion is the result of deliberately interpreting a map feature (flatness, folding) as a territory feature, unless I know the person to be deeply rational, I should probably avoid starting a 15-minute argument that won't convince them of anything.

I suppose it's high time I actually introduced myself.

Hullo LW! I'm Elizabeth Ellis. That's a very common first name and a very common last name, so if you want to google me, I recommend "relsqui" instead. (I'm not a private person, the handle is just more useful for being a consistently recognizable person online.) I'm 24 and in Berkeley, California, USA. No association with the college; I just live here. I'm a cyclist, an omnivore, and a nontheist; none of these are because of moral beliefs.

I'm a high school dropout, which I like telling people after they've met me, because I like fighting the illusion that formal education is the only way to produce intelligent, literate, and articulate people--or rather, that the only reason to drop out is not being one. In mid-August of this year I woke up one morning, thought for a while about things I could do with my life that would be productive and fulfilling, and decided it would be helpful to have a bachelor's degree. I started classes two weeks later. GEs for now, then a transfer into a communication or language program. It's very strange taking classes with people who were in high school four months ago.

My major area of inte... (read more)

Upvoted for the amusing phrase "electric meatball".

Greetings, all. Found this site not too long ago, been reading through it in delight. It has truly energized my brain. I've been trying to codify and denote a number of values that I held true to my life and to discussion and to reason and logic, but was having the most difficult time. I was convinced I'd found a wonderful place that could help me when it provided me a link to the Twelve Virtues of Rationality, which neatly and tidily listed out a number of things I'd been striving to enumerate.

My origins in rationality basically originated at a very, very young age, when the things adults said and did didn't make sense. Some of it did, as a matter of fact, make more sense once I'd gotten older - but they could have at least tried to explain it to me - and I found that their successes too often seemed more like luck than having anything to do with their reasons for doing things. I suppose I became a rationalist out of frustration, one could say, at the sheer irrationality of the world around me.

I'm a Christian, and have applied my understanding of Rationality to Christianity. I find it holds up strongly, but am not insulted that not everyone feels that way. This site may be... (read more)

My name is Laural, 33-yo female, degree in CS, fetish for EvPsych. Raised Mormon, got over it at 18 or so, became a staunch Darwinist at 25.

I've been reading OvercomingBias on and off for years, but I didn't see this specific site till all the links to the Harry Potter fanfic came about. I had in fact just completed that series in May, so was quite excited to see the two things combined. But I think I wouldn't have registered if I hadn't read the AI Box page, which convinced me that EY was a genius. Personally, I am more interested in life-expansion than FAI. I'm most interested in changing social policy to legalize drugs, I suppose; if people are allowed to put whatever existing substances in their bodies, the substances that don't yet exist have a better chance.

I also found this blog through HP:MoR.

My ultimate social value is freedom, by which I mean the power of each person to control their own life. I believe in something like a utilitarian calculus, where utility is freedom, except that I don't really believe that there is a common scale in which one person's loss of freedom can be balanced by another person's gain. However, I find that freedom is usually very strongly positive-sum on any plausible scale, so this flaw doesn't seem to matter very much.

Of course, freedom in this sense can only be a social value; this leaves it up to each person to decide their own personal values: what they want for their own lives. In my case, I value forming and sustaining friendships in meatspace, often with activities centred around food and shared work, and I also value intellectual endeavours, mostly of an abstract mathematical sort. But this may change with my whims.

I might proselytise freedom here from time to time. There would be no point in proselytising my personal values, however.

Now that I think about it, I may have found HP:MoR through this blog. (I don't read much fan fiction.) I can't remember anymore what linked me to HP:MoR, but I think that I got there after following a series of blog posts linking to blog posts on blogs that I don't ordinarily read. So I might well have gone through Less Wrong (or Overcoming Bias) along that way. But if so, I wasn't inspired to read further in Less Wrong until after I'd read HP:MoR.

Hi all.

I found this site through Methods of Rationality (as I suspect many have, of late). I've been reading through the sequences and archives for a while, and am finally starting to feel up to speed enough to comment here and there.

My name is Sam. I'm a programmer, mostly interested in writing and designing games. Oddly enough, my username derives from my much-neglected blog, which I believe predated this website.

I've always relished discovering that I'm wrong; if there's a better way to consistently improve the accuracy of one's beliefs, I'm not aware of it. So the LW approach makes an awful lot of sense to me, and I'm really enjoying how much concentrated critical thinking is available in the archives.

I'm also polyamorous, and so I'm considering a post or two on how polyamory (and maybe other kinds of alternative sexualities) relates to the practice of rationality. Would there be any interest in that sort of thing? I don't want to drag a pet topic into a place it's unwanted.

Furthermore, I am overfond of parentheses and semicolons. I apologize in advance.

Hello! I like your blog. I have a bit harsher filter than a number of prolific users of Less Wrong, I think - I would, pace Blueberry, like to see discussion of polyamory here only if you can explain how to imply the insights to other fields as well. I would be interested in the material, but I don't think this is the context for the merely interesting.
The post I'm envisioning is less an analysis of polyamory as a lifestyle and more about what I'm tentatively calling the monogamy bias. While the science isn't quite there (I think; I need to do more research on the topic) to argue that a bias towards monogamy is built into human brain chemistry, it's certainly built into (Western) society. My personal experience has been that overcoming that bias makes life much more fun, so I'd probably end up talking about how to analyze whether monogamy is something a person might actually want. The other LW topic that comes out of polyamory is the idea of managing romantic jealousy, which ends up being something of a necessity. Depending on how verbose I get, those may or may not get combined into a single post. In any case, would either of those pass your (or more general) filters?
I certainly find quality discussions about such topics interesting and worthwhile, and consistent with the mission statement of advancing rationality and overcoming bias, but I'm not sure if the way you define your proposed topic is good. Namely, you speak of the possibility that "bias towards monogamy is built into human brain chemistry," and claim that this bias is "certainly built into (Western) society." Now, in discussing topics like these, which present dangerous minefields of ideological biases and death-spirals, it is of utmost importance to keep one's language clear and precise, and avoid any vague sweeping statements. Your statement, however, doesn't make it clear whether you are talking about a bias towards social norms encouraging (or mandating) monogamy, or about a bias towards monogamy as a personal choice held by individuals. If you're arguing the first claim, you must define precisely the metric you use to evaluate different social norms, which is a very difficult problem. If you're arguing the second one, you must establish which precise groups of people your claim applies to, and which not, and what metric of personal welfare you use to establish that biased decisions are being made. In either case, it seems to me that establishing a satisfactory case for a very general statement like the one you propose would be impossible without an accompanying list of very strong disclaimers. Therefore, I'm not sure if it would be a good idea to set out to establish such a general and sweeping observation, which would, at least to less careful readers, likely be suggestive of stronger conclusions than what has actually been established. Perhaps it would be better to limit the discussion to particular, precisely defined biases on concrete questions that you believe are significant here.
I think I grouped my ideas poorly; the two kinds of bias you point out would be better descriptions of the two topics I'm thinking of writing about. (And they definitely seem to be separate enough that I shouldn't be writing about them in the same post.) So, to clarify, then: Topic 1: Individuals in industrialized cultures (but the U.S. more strongly than most, due to religious influence) very rarely question the default relationship style of monogamy in the absence of awareness of other options, and usually not even then. This is less of a bias and more of a blind spot: there are very few people who are aware that there are alternatives to visible monogamy. Non-consensual non-monogamy (cheating) is, of course, something of a special case. I'm not sure if there's an explicit "unquestioned assumptions that rule large aspects of your life" category on LW, but that kind of material seems to be well-received. I'd argue that there's at least as much reason to question the idea that "being monogamous is good" as the idea that "being religious is good." Of course my conclusions are a little different, in that one's choice of relationship style is ultimately a utilitarian consideration, whereas religion is nonsense. Topic 2: Humans have a neurological bias in favor of (certain patterns of behavior associated with) monogamy. This would include romantic jealousy, as mentioned. While the research in humans is not yet definitive, there's substantial evidence that the hormone vasopressin, which is released into the brain during sexual activity, is associated with pair-bonding and male-male aggression. In prairie voles, vasopressin production seems to be the sole factor in whether or not they mate for life. Romantic/sexual jealousy is a cultural universal in humans, and has no known purpose other than to enforce monogamous behavior. So there are definitely biological factors that affect one's reasoning about relationship styles; it should be obvious that if some people prefer t
Let me give an example of a topic that I think would pass my filter: establish that there is a bias (i.e. erroneous heuristic) toward monogamy, reverse-engineer the bias, demonstrate the same mechanisms working in other areas, and give suggestions for identifying other biases created by the same mechanism. Let me give an example of a topic that I think would not pass my filter: establish that there is a bias towards monogamy, demonstrate the feasibility and desirability of polygamy, and offer instructions on how to overcome the bias and make polyamory an available and viable option. Does that make sense?

I'm Valerie, 23 and a brand new atheist. I was directed to LW on a (also newly atheist) friend's recommendation and fell in love with it.

Since identifying as an atheist, I've struggled a bit with 'now what?' I feel like a whole new world has opened up to me and there is so much out there that I didn't even know existed. It's a bit overwhelming, but I'm loving the influx of new knowledge. I'm still working to shed old patterns of thinking and work my way into new ones. I have the difficulty of reading something and feeling that I understand it, but not being able to articulate it again (something left over from defending my theistic beliefs, which had no solid basis). I think I just need some practice :)

EDIT: Your link to the series of posts on why LW is generally atheistic is broken. Which makes me sad.

Welcome! The page on LW's views on religion (or something like that page — not sure if the old wiki's content was migrated directly or just replaced) is now here. The Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions, Reductionism, and How To Actually Change Your Mind sequences are also relevant, in that they provide the background knowledge sufficient to make theism seem obviously wrong. Sounds like you're already convinced, but those sequences contain some pretty crucial core rationalist material, so I'd recommend reading them anyway (if you haven't already). If there's anything in particular you're thinking "now what?" about, I and others here would be happy to direct you to relevant posts/sequences and help with any other questions about life, the universe, and everything. (Me, I recently decided to go back to the very beginning and read every post and the comments on most of them... but I realize not everyone's as dedicated/crazy (dedicrazy?) as me. :P)
  • Handle: thoughtdancer
  • Name: Deb
  • Location: Middle of nowhere, Michigan
  • Age: 44
  • Gender: Female
  • Education: PhD Rhetoric
  • Occupation: Writer-wannabe, adjunct Prof (formerly tenure-track, didn't like it)
  • Blog: thoughtdances Just starting, be gentle please

I'm here because of SoullessAutomaton, who is my apartment-mate and long term friend. I am interested in discussing rhetoric and rationality. I have a few questions that I would pose to the group to open up the topic.

1) Are people interested in rhetoric, persuasion, and the systematic study thereof? Does anyone want a primer? (My PhD is in the History and Theory of Rhetoric, so I could develop such a primer.)

2) What would a rationalist rhetoric look like?

3) What would be the goals / theory / overarching observations that would be the drivers behind a rationalist rhetoric?

4) Would a rationalist rhetoric be more ethical than current rhetorics, and if so, why?

5) Can rhetoric ever be fully rational and rationalized, or is the study of how people are persuaded inevitably or inherently a-rational or anti-rational (I would say that rhetoric can be rationalized, but I know too many scholars who would disagree with me here, either explici... (read more)

I rather like Eliezer's description of ethical writing given in rule six here. I'm honestly not sure why he doesn't seem to link it anymore.

I'm a 24 year old PhD student of molecular biology. I arrived here trying to get at the many worlds vs copenhagen debate as a nonspecialist, and as part of a sustained campaign of reading that will allow me to tell a friend who likes Hegel where to shove it. I'm also here because I wanted to reach a decision about whether I really want to do biology, if not, whether I should quit, and if I leave, what i actually want to do.

Hello. I've been browsing articles that show up on the front page for about a year now. Just recently started going through the sequences and decided it would be a good time to create an account.

Well, as best I can tell my maintainer didn't install the religion patch, so all I'm working with is the testaments of others; but I have seen quite a variety of such testaments. Buddhism and Hinduism have a typology of religious experience much more complex than anything I've seen systematically laid down in mainline Christianity; it's usually expressed in terms unique to the Dharmic religions, but vipassanā for example certainly seems to qualify as an experiential pointer to Buddhist ontology.

If you'd prefer Western traditions, a phrase I've heard kicked around in the neopagan, reconstructionist, and ceremonial magic communities is "unsubstantiated personal gnosis". While that's a rather flippant way of putting it, it also seems to point to something similar to your experiences.

I appreciate Will's contributions in general. Mostly the insane ones.

They remind me of a friend of mine who is absolutely brilliant but has lived his whole life with severe damage to vital parts of the brain.

I often appreciate his contributions as well. He is generally awful at constraining his abstract creativity so as to formulate constructive, concrete ideas but I can constrain abstract creativity just fine so his posts often provoke insights-- the rest just bumps up against my nonsense filter. Reading him at his best is a bit like taking a small dose of a hallucinogenic to provide my brain with a dose of raw material to hack away at with logic.
Folks like you might wanna friend me on Facebook, I'm generally a lot more insightful and comprehensible there. I use Facebook like Steven Kaas uses Twitter. https://www.facebook.com/autothexis Re your other comment re mechanisms for psi, I can't muster up the energy to reply unfortunately. I'd have to be too careful about keeping levels of organization distinct, which is really easy to do in my head but really hard to write about. I might respond later.
That's interesting. Which parts of the brain, if you don't mind sharing? (Guess: qbefbyngreny cersebagny pbegrk, ohg abg irel pbasvqrag bs gung.)
I believe that is spot on, but I can't recall specifics. Certainly in the neighborhood.
I enjoy following Will's contributions on facebook (and here when he isn't being willfully obnoxious). They remind me of, well, myself only worse.

The impression I have is that calling Crocker's rules being never acting offended or angry at the way people talk to you, with the expectation that you'll get more information if people don't censor themselves out of politeness.

Some of your reactions here are not those I expect from someone under Crocker's rules (who would just ignore anything insulting or offensive).

So maybe what you consider as "Crocker's rules" is what most people here would consider "normal" discussion, so when you call Crocker's rules, people are extra rude.

I would suggest just dropping reference to Crocker's rules, I don't think they're necessary for having a reasonable discussion, and they they put pressure on the people you're talking to to either call Crocker's rules too (giving you carte blanche to be rude to them), otherwise they look uptight or something.

Possible. I'm inexperienced in talking with neurotypicals. All I know is what was drilled into me by them, which is basically a bunch of things of the form "don't ever convey this piece of information because it's rude" (where the piece of information is like... you have hairy arms, you're wrong, I don't like this food, I don't enjoy spending time with you, this gift was not optimized for making me happy-- and the really awful, horrible dark side where they feel pressured never to say certain things to me, like that I'm wrong, they're annoyed by something I'm doing, I'm ugly, I sound stupid, my writing needs improvement-- it's horrible to deal with people who never say those things because I can never assume sincerity, I just have to assume they're lying all the time) that upon meeting other neurodiverse I immediately proceeded to forget all about. And so did they. And THAT works out well. It's accepted within that community that "Crocker's rules" is how the rest of the world will refer to it. Anyway, if I'm not allowed to hear the truth without having to listen to whatever insults anyone can come up with, then so be it, I really want to hear the truth and I know it will never be given to me otherwise. But there IS supposed to be something between "you are not allowed to say anything to me except that I'm right about everything and the most wonderful special snowflake ever" and "insult me in every way you can think of", even if the latter is still preferable to the former. (Is this community a place with a middle ground? If so, I didn't think such existed. If so, I'll gladly go by the normal rules of discussion here.)

My experience of LW is that:

  • the baseline interaction mode would be considered rude-but-not-insulting by most American subcultures, especially neurotypical ones
  • the interaction mode invoked by "Crocker's rules" would be considered insulting by most American subcultures, especially neurotypical ones
  • there's considerable heterogeneity in terms of what's considered unacceptably rude
  • there's a tentative consensus that dealing with occasional unacceptable rudeness is preferable to the consequences of disallowing occasional unacceptable rudeness, and
  • the community pushes back on perceived attempts to enforce politeness far more strongly than it pushes back on perceived rudeness.

Dunno if any of that answers your questions.

I would also say that nobody here has come even remotely close to "insult in every conceivable way" as an operating mode.

YES! There seem to be a lot of new people introducing themselves on the Welcome thread today/yesterday. I would like to encourage everyone to maybe be just a tad bit more polite, and cognizant of the Principle of Charity, at least for the next week or two, so all our newcomers can acclimate to the culture here. As someone who has only been on this site for a month or two (also as a NT, socially-skilled, female), I have spoken in the past about my difficulties dealing with the harshness here. I ended up deciding not to fight it, since people seem to like it that way, and that's ok. But I do think the community needs to be aware that this IS in fact an issue that new (especially NT) people are likely to shy away from, and even leave or just not post because of. tl;dr- I deal with the "rudeness", but want people to be aware that is does in fact exist. Those of us who dislike it have just learned to keep our mouths shut and deal with it. There are a lot of new people now, so try to soften it for the next week or two. (Note: I have not been recently down-voted, flamed, or crushed, so this isn't just me raging.)
I should hope not. I can conceive of more ways to insult than I can type in a day, depending on how we want to count 'ways'.

How do I insult thee? Let me count the ways.
I insult thee to the depth and breadth and height
My mind can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the lack of Reason and the craft of Bayes.

Turning and turning in the narrowing spiral The user cannot resist those memes which are viral; The waterline is lowered; beliefs begin to cool; Mere tribalism is loosed, upon Lesswrong's school, The grey-matter is killed, and everywhere The knowledge of one's ignorance is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
This should be strongly rejected, if Crocker's Rules are ever going to do more good than harm. I do not mean that it is not the case given existing norms (I simply do not know one way or the other), but that norms should be established such that this is clearly not the case. Someone who is unable to operate according to Crocker's Rules attempting to does not improve discourse or information flow - no one should be pressured to do so.

someone's attempt to convey information to me has obvious room for improvement

Do you mean improvement of the information content or the tone? If the former, I think saying "your comment was not informative enough, please explain more" is okay, both publicly and privately. If the latter, I think saying "your comment was not polite enough" is not okay under the spirit of Crocker's rules, neither publicly nor privately, even if the other person has declared Crocker's rules too.

What do you aspire to knit?

Sweaters, hats, scarves, headbands, purses, everything knittable. (Okay, I was wrong below, that was actually the second-easiest post to answer.) Do you like knitting too?

Acts 10:9-16:

On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.

If you read the rest of the chapter it's made clear that the dream is a metaphor for God's willingness to accept Gentiles as Christians, rather than a specific message about acceptable foods, but abandoning kashrut presumably follows logically from not requiring new Christians to count as Jews first, so.

(Upon rereading this, my first impression is how much creepier s... (read more)

You guys really hate Christians, after all.

The ten people I care about most in the world all happen to be Christians - devout, sincere Christians at that.

Hi, I've been hanging around for several months now and decided to join. My name is John and I found the site (I believe) via a link on CommonSenseAtheism to How to actually change your mind. I read through many of those posts and took notes and resonated with a lot. I loved EY's Twelve Virtues and the Litany of Gendlin.

I'm a graduate in mechanical engineering and work as one today. I don't know that I would call myself a rationalist, but only because I haven't perhaps become one. In other words, I want to be but do not consider myself to be well-versed in rationalist methods and thought compared to posts/comments I read here.

To close, I was brought to this site in a round-about way because I have recently de-converted from Catholicism (which is what took me to CSA). I'm still amidst my "quest" and blog about it HERE. I would say I'm not sure god doesn't exist or that Christianity is false, but the belief is no longer there. I seek to be as certain and justified I can in whatever beliefs I hold. LessWrong has seemed to be a good tool toward that end. I look forward to continuing to learn and want to take this opportunity to begin participating more.

Note: I also post as "Hendy" on several other blogs. We are the same.


I work in a semi-technical offshoot of (ducks!) online marketing. I've always had rationalist tendencies, and reading the material on this website has had a "coming home" feeling for me. I appreciate the high level of discourse and the low levels of status-seeking behaviors.

I am female, and I read with interest the discussion on gender, but unfortunately I do not think I can contribute much to that topic, because I have been told repeatedly that I am "not like other women." I certainly don't think it would be a good idea to generalize from my example what other women think or feel (although to be honest the same could be said about my ability to represent the general populace).

I found my way here through the Harry Potter story, which a friend sent to me knowing that I would appreciate the themes. I am enjoying it tremendously.

Yup, our only flaw is modesty.

I've noticed that karma points accrue for witty quips too.

My name's Axel Glibert. I'm 21, I just finished studying Biology and now I'm going for a teaching job. I found this wonderful site through hp and the methods of rationality and it has been an eyeopener for me.

I've been raised in a highly religious environment but it didn't take very long before I threw that out of the window. Since then I had to make my own moral rules and attempts at understanding how the universe works. My firsts "scientific experiments" were rather ineffective but it caused me to browse through the science section of the local library... and now, more then a decade later, here I am!

I have long thought I was the only one to so openly choose Science over Religion (thinking even scientists were secretly religious because it was the "right thing to do") but then I found Less Wrong filled with like-minded people! For the past 3 months I've been reading through the core sequences on this site and now I've finally made an account. I'm still too intimidated by the sheer brilliance of some of the threads here to actually post but that's just more motivation for me to study on my own.

Just to go cross-site (RW is slightly anti-endorsed by LW), would the Atheism FAQ for the Newly Deconverted have been of conceivable use to your recovering religious younger self?
Yes, that list has a lot of the answers I was looking for. However, for my younger self, breaking from religion meant making my own moral rules so there is a good chance I would have rejected it as just another text trying to control my life (yes my younger self was quite dramatic)

I'm Floris Nool a 24 year old recently graduated Dutch ex-student. I came across this site while reading Harry's new rational adventures, which I greatly enjoy by the way. I must say I'm intrigued by several of the subjects being talked about here. Although not everything makes sense at first and I'm still working my through the immense amounts of interesting posts on this site, I find myself endlessly scrolling through posts and comments.

The last few years I increasingly find myself trying to understand things, why they are like they are. Why I act like I do etc. Reading about the greater scientific theories and trying to relate to them in everyday life. While I do not understand as much as I want to, and probably never will seeing the amounts of information and theories out there, I hope to come to greater understanding of basically everything.

It's great to see so many people talking about these subjects, as in daily life hardly anyone seems to think about it like I do. Which can be rather frustrating when trying to talk about what I find interesting subjects.

I hope to be able to some day contribute to the community as I see other posters do, but until I feel comfortable enough about my understanding of everything going on here I will stay lurking for a while. Only having discovered the site two days ago doesn't exactly help.

I recently found Less Wrong through Eliezer's Harry Potter fanfic, which has become my second favorite book. Thank you so much Eliezer for reminding my how rich my Art can be.

I was also delighted to find out (not so surprisingly) that Eliezer was an AI researcher. I have, over the past several months, decided to change my career path to AGI. So many of these articles have been helpful.

I have been a rationalist since I can remember. But I was raised as a Christian, and for some reason it took me a while to think to question the premise of God. Fortunately as soon as I did, I rejected it. Then it was up to me to 1) figure out how to be immortal and 2) figure out morality. I'll be signing up for cryonics as soon as I can afford it. Life is my highest value because it is the terminal value; it is required for any other value to be possible.

I've been reading this blog every day since I've found it, and hope to get constant benefit from it. I'm usually quiet, but I suspect the more I read, the more I'll want to comment and post.

* AGI is death, you want Friendly AI in particular and not AGI in general. * "Life" is not the terminal value, terminal value is very complex.

Hello! I'm Sam. I'm 17, a newly minted high school graduate, and I'll be heading off to Reed College in Portland, Oregon next month.

I discovered Less Wrong through a link (whose origin I no longer remember) to "A Fable of Science and Politics" a couple of months ago. The post was rather striking, and the site's banner was alluring, so I clicked on it. The result, over the past couple of months, has been a massive accumulation of bookmarks (18 directly from Less Wrong at the time of this writing) accompanied by an astonishing amount of insight.

This place is probably the most intellectually stimulating site I've ever found on the internet, and I'm very much looking forward to discovering more posts, as well as reading through the ones I've stored up. I have, until now, mostly read bits and pieces that I've seen on the main page or followed links to, partially because I haven't had time and partially because some of the posts can be intimidatingly academic (I don't have the math and science background to understand some of what Eliezer writes about), but I've made this account and plan to delve into the Sequences shortly.

To some degree, I think I've always been a rationa... (read more)

Hi. I'm Cole from Maryland. I found this blog through a list of "greatest blogs of the year." I've forgot who published that list.

I'm in my 23rd year. I value happiness and work to spread it to others. I've been reading this blog for about a month. I enjoy reading blogs like this, because I'm searching for a sustainable lifestyle to start after college.


My name is Taiyo Inoue. I am a 32, male, father of a 1 year old son, married, and a math professor. I enjoy playing the acoustic guitar (American primitive fingerpicking), playing games, and soaking up the non-poisonous bits of the internet.

I went through 12 years of math study without ever really learning that probability theory is the ultimate applied math. I played poker for a bit during the easy money boom for fun and hit on basic probability theory which the 12 year old me could have understood, but I was ignorant of the Bayesian framework for epistemology until I was 30 years old. This really annoys me.

I blame my education for leaving me ignorant about something so fundamental, but mostly I blame myself for not trying harder to learn about fundamentals on my own.

This site is really good for remedying that second bit. I have a goal to help fix the first bit -- I think we call it "raising the sanity waterline".

As a father, I also want to teach my son so he doesn't have the same regret and annoyance at my age.

I'm just realizing this myself; probability theory is epistemology.

I go by Clarisse and I'm a feminist, sex-positive educator who has delivered workshops on both sexual communication and BDSM to a variety of audiences, including New York’s Museum of Sex, San Francisco’s Center for Sex and Culture, and several Chicago universities. I created and curated the original Sex+++ sex-positive documentary film series at Chicago’s Jane Addams Hull-House Museum; I have also volunteered as an archivist, curator and fundraiser for that venerable BDSM institution, the Leather Archives & Museum. Currently, I'm working on HIV mitigation in southern Africa. I blog at clarissethorn.wordpress.com and Twitter at @clarissethorn.

Besides sex, other interests include gaming, science fiction and fantasy, and housing cooperatives.

I've read some posts here that I thought had really awful attitudes about sexuality and BDSM in particular, so I'm sure I'll be posting about those. I would like it if people were more rational about sex, inasmuch as we can be.

3Eliezer Yudkowsky14y
?? Not any of mine, I hope. EDIT: I see, Phil Goetz on masochism. Well, I downvoted it. Not much else to say, aside from noting that it had net 4 points and that karma rules do make it easier to upvote than downvote. This is a community blog and I think it's pretty fair to say that what has not been voted high or promoted ought not to be blamed on "Less Wrong".
That's fair. And I'll add that for a site populated mainly by entitled white guys (I kid, I kid), this site does much better at being generally feminist than most within that demographic. PS It's kind of exciting to be talking to you, EY. Your article on heuristics and biases in the context of extinction events is one of my favorites ever. I probably think about it once a week.

But my dilemma is that Chris Langan is the smartest known living man, which makes it really hard for me to shrug the CTMU off as nonsense.

Eh, I'm smart too. Looks to me like you were right the first time and need to have greater confidence in yourself.

Ignoring the more obvious jokes people make in introduction posts: Hi. My name is Robin. I grew up in the Eastern Time Zone of the United States, and have lived in the same place essentially all my life. I was homeschooled by secular parents - one didn't discuss religion and the other was agnostic - with my primary hobby being the reading of (mostly) speculative fiction of (mostly) quite high quality. (Again, my parent's fault - when I began searching out on my own, I was rather less selective.) The other major activity of my childhood was participation in the Boy Scouts of America.

I entered community college at the age of fifteen with an excellent grounding in mathematics, a decent grounding in physics, superb fluency with the English language (both written and spoken), and superficial knowledge of most everything else. After earning straight As for three years, I applied to four-year universities, and my home state university offered me a full ride. At present, I am a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the same institution.

In the meantime, I have developed an affection for weblogs, web comics, and online chess, much to the detriment of my sleep schedule and work ethic.... (read more)

What gave you the idea that anyone cares about age and experience around here? ;)

Hey everyone,

My name is Owen, and I'm 17. I read HPMOR last year, but really got into the Sequences and additional reading (GEB, Thinking Fast and Slow, Influence) around this summer.

I'm interested in time management, with respect to dealing with distractions, especially with respect to fighting akrasia. So I'm trying to use what I know about how my own brain operates to create a suite of internalized beliefs, primers, and defense strategies for when I get off-track (or stopping before I get to that point).

Personally, I'm connected with a local environme... (read more)

Wikipedia and Google seem to think Eliezer is the authority on Crocker's Rules. Quoting Eliezer on sl4 via Wikipedia:

Anyone is allowed to call you a moron and claim to be doing you a favor.

Also, from our wiki:

The underlying assumption is that rudeness is sometimes necessary for effective conveyance of information, if only to signal a lack of patience or tolerance: after all, knowing whether the speaker is becoming angry or despondent is useful rational evidence.

Looking hard for another source, something called the DoWire Wiki has this unsourced:

... (read more)

I know Will Newsome in real life. If a means of arbitrating this bet is invented, I will identify AspiringKnitter as being him or not by visual or voice for a small cut of the stakes. (If it doesn't involve using Skype, telephone, or an equivalent, and it's not dreadfully inconvenient, I'll do it for free.)

More sex does not have to mean more casual sex. There are lots of people in committed relationships (marriages) that would like to have more-similar sex drives. Nuns wouldn't want their libido increased, but it's not only for the benefit of the "playahs" either.

Also, I think the highest-voted comment ("I don't think that any relationship style is the best (...) However, I do wish that people were more aware of the possibility of polyamory (...)") is closer to the consensus than something like "everyone should have as many partners ... (read more)


Hello Lesswrong

I am a nameless, ageless, genderless internet-being who may sometimes act like a 22 year old male from canada. I have always been quite rational and consciously aiming to become more rational, though I had never read any actual discussion of rationality, unless you count cat-v. I did have some possibly wrong ideas that I protected with anti-epistemology, but that managed to collapse on its own recently.

I got linked to lesswrong from reddit. I didn't record the details so don't ask. I do remember reading a few lesswrong articles and thinking ... (read more)

Hello LessWrong!

My name is Michelle. I am from the United States and am entering college this August. I am a graphic design student who is also interested in public speaking. I was lead to this site one day while browsing fanfiction. I am an avid reader and spend a good percentage of my life reading novels and other literature. I read HPMOR and found the story intriguing and the theories very interesting. When I finally reached the end, I read the author's page and realized that I could find more information on the ideas presented in the book. Naturally, ... (read more)

Greetings! While I naturally feel superior to people who came here via fanfiction.... I want to use this opportunity to peddle some of the fiction that got me here way back in 2009.
Here, have some more fanfiction!

Hello Less wrong.

I've been reading Yudkowsky for a while now. I'm a philosophy major from NJ and he's been quite popular around here since I showed some of my friends three worlds collide. I am here because I think I can offer this forum new and well considered views on cognition, computability, epistemology, ontology, valid inference in general and also have my views kicked around a bit. Hopefully our mutual kicking around of each others views will toughen them up for future kicking battles.

I have studied logic at high levels, and have an intricate und... (read more)

Awesome. Finally someone. Reading the intros I was starting to think only HP:MOR was still bringing people here.
Welcome! It sounds like you have a lot to offer here. You could put your Godel post in the discussion section now, it only requires 2 Karma to do that, and transfer it to the main page later if/when it's popular.The karma threshold is not very high, but asking for free karma instead of building up a record of commenting/discussion posts defeats the purpose of the 20-karma threshold.


Didn't realise that this thread existed, so this 'hello' is after 20 or so posts. Oh well! I found Less Wrong because my brother recommended TVtropes, that linked to Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and THAT led me back here. I've now recommended this site to my brother, completing the circle.

I've always been interested in rationality, I guess: I wouldn't identify any particular point of 'becoming a rationalist', though I've had times where I've come across ideas that help me be more accurate. Including some on here, actually. There's a secon... (read more)

Hi everyone!

I found this blog by clicking a link on Eliezer's site...which I found after seeing his name in a transhumanist mailing list...which I subscribed to after reading Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near when I was fifteen. I found Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality at the same time, and I've now successfully addicted my 16-year-old brother as well.

I'm 19 and I'm studying nursing in Ottawa. I work as a lifeguard and swim instructor at a Jewish Community Centre. (I'm not Jewish.) I sing in a girls' choir at an Anglican church. (I'm not C... (read more)

Er. For example, it is really hard to communicate here without being totally literal! And people don't get my jokes!:-)

I wasn't complaining. I was trying to point out that the risk of being discriminated against for having Aspergers Syndrome here was very low given the high number of autism spectrum commenters here and the general climate of the site. I thought I was making a humorous point about the uniqueness of Less Wrong, like "We're so different from the rest of the internet; we discriminate against neurotypicals! Take that rest of the world!&quo... (read more)

Hi there,

My name is Lachlan, 25 years old, and I too am a computer programmer. I found less wrong via Eliezer's site; having been linked there by a comment on Charles Stross's blog, if I recall correctly.

I've read through a lot of the LW backlog and generally find it all very interesting, but haven't yet taken the time and effort to try to apply the useful seeming guidelines to my life and evaluate the results. I blame this on having left my job recently, and feeling that I have enough change in my life right now. I worry that this excuse will metamorphose... (read more)

Love the username!
Completely coincidental -- just a word I liked the sound of 10 years ago. It does fit in here rather well though.

Hi, everyone, you can call me Gigi. I'm a Mechanical Engineering student with a variety of interests ranking among everything from physics to art (unfortunately, I know more about the latter than the former). I've been reading LW frequently and for long sessions for a couple of weeks now.

I was attracted to LW primarily because of the apparent intelligence and friendliness of the community, and the fact that many of the articles illuminated and structured my previous thoughts about the world (I will not bother to name any here, many are in the Sequences).

Wh... (read more)

Why "unfortunately"? I'd love to see more discussion about art on Less Wrong.

Hi, I`m Michèle. I'm 22 years old and studying biology in Germany. My parents are atheists and so am I.
I stumbled upon this blog, started reading and couldn't stop reading. Nearly every topic is very interesting for me and I'm really glad I found people to talk about these things! Sometimes I find myself over emotional and unable to get the whole picture of situations. I'm trying to work on that and I hope I could get some insight reading this blog.

My name is Dan, and I'm a 30 year old software engineer living in Maryland. I was a mostly lurking member of the Extropian mailing list back in the day and I've been following the progress of the SIAI sporadically since it's founding. I've made a few donations, but nothing terribly significant.

I've been an atheist for half my life now, and as I've grown older I've tended more and more to rational thinking. My wife recently made a comment that she specifically uses rational argument with me much more so than anyone else she has to deal with, even ... (read more)

That's a pretty compelling way to start a conversation on existential risk. I like it.

Name: Karl Smith

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

Born: 1978

Education: Phd Economics

Occupation: Professor - UNC Chapel Hill

I've always been interested in rationality and logic but was sidetracked for many (12+) years after becoming convinced that economics was the best way to improve the lives of ordinary humans.

I made it to Less Wrong completely by accident. I was into libertarianism which lead me to Bryan Caplan which lead me Robin Hanson (just recently). Some of Robin's stuff convinced me that Cryonics was a good idea. I searched for Cryonics and found ... (read more)

Hi all, my name's Drew. I stumbled upon the site from who-knows-where last week and must've put in 30-40 hours of reading already, so suffice to say I've found the writing/discussions quite enjoyable so far. I'm heavily interested in theories of human behavior on both a psychological and moral level, so most of the subject matter has been enjoyable. I was a big Hofstader fan a few years back as well, so the AI and consciousness discussions are interesting as well.

Anyway, thought I'd pop in and say hi, maybe I'll take part in some conversations soon. Looks like a great thing you've got going here.

Hi, I'm Hrishi, 26, male. I work in air pollution modelling in London. I'm also doing a part-time PhD.

I am an atheist but come from a very religious family background.

When I was 15, I once cried uncontrollably and asked to see God. If there is indeed such a beautiful supreme being then why didn't my family want to meet Him? I was told that their faith was weak and only the greatest sages can see God after a lot of self-afflicted misery. So, I thought nevermind.

I've signed up for cryonics. You should too, or it'll just be 3 of us from LW when we wake up on... (read more)

  • Handle: Alicorn
  • Location: Amherst, MA
  • Age: The number of full years between now and October 21, 1988
  • Gender: Female

Atheist by default, rationalist by more recent inclination and training. I found OB via Stumbleupon and followed the yellow brick road to Less Wrong. In the spare time left by schoolwork and OB/LW, I do art, write, cook, and argue with those of my friends who still put up with it.

ugly little lump.

Will is good-looking, normal-sized, and not at all lumpy. If you must insult people, can you do it in a less wrong way?

What did they win money for?

Betting money. That is how such things work.

And I would never have dreamed of the stupidity until someone did it, but someone actually interpreted metaphors from Proverbs literally and concluded that "her husband is praised at the city gates" actually means "women should go to the city limits and hold up signs saying that their husbands are awesome"

As a semi-militant atheist, I feel compelled to point out that, from my perspective, all interpretations of Proverbs as a practical guide to modern life look about equally silly...

There are places for this debate and they're not this thread. You're being rude.

My apologies. Interesting questions none the less.
And more disappointingly, confirming what should have been completely off-the-mark predictions about what reception Knitter would get as a Christian. I confess myself surprised. Hi, Knitter. What does EC stand for again?

The boring explanation is that Laoch was taught as the feet of PZ Myers and Hitchens, who operate purely in places open for debate (atheist blogs are not like dinner tables); talk about the arguments of religious people not to them, but to audiences already sympathetic to atheism, and thus care little about principles of charity; and have a beef with religion-as-harmful-organization (e.g. "Hassidic Judaism hurts queers!") and rather often with religious-people-as-outgroup-members (e.g. "Sally says abortion is murder because she's trying to manipulate me!"), which interferes with their beef with religion-as-reasoning-mistake (e.g. "Sadi thinks he can derive knowledge in ways that violate thermodynamics!").

The reading-too-much-HPMOR explanation is that Laoch is an altruistic Slytherin, who wants Knitter to think: "This is a good bunch. Not only are most people nice, but they can swiftly punish jerks. And there are such occasional jerks - I don't have to feel silly about expecting a completely different reaction than I got, it was because bad apples are noisier.".

I would have thought there ain't no such critter as "too much MoR", but after seeing that theory... ;)

It stands for evaporative cooling and I'm not offended. It's a pretty valid point. (Laoch: I expect God not to abuse his power, hence I wouldn't classify him as a whimsical tyrant. And part of my issue is with being turned into a computer, which sounds even worse than making a computer that acts like me and thinks it is me.) I can't decide which of MixedNuts's hypotheses is more awesome.

I'd be interested to hear more about your understanding of what a computer is, that drives your confidence that being turned into one is a bad thing.

Relatedly, how confident are you that God will never make a computer that acts like you and thinks it is you? How did you arrive at that confidence?

(this is totally off-topic, but is there a "watch comment" feature hiddent around the LW UI somewhere ? I am also interested to see AspiringKnitter's opinion on this subject, but just I know I'll end up losing track of it without technological assistance...)
Every LW comment has its own RSS feed. You can find it by going to the comment's permalink URL and then clicking on "Subscribe to RSS Feed" from the right column or by adding "/.rss" to the end of the aforementioned URL, whichever is easier for you. The grandparent's RSS feed is here.
For one thing, I'm skeptical that an em would be me, but aware that almost everyone here thinks it would be. If it thought it was me, and they thought it was me, but I was already dead, that would be really bad. And if I somehow wasn't dead, there could be two of us and both claiming to be the real person. God would never blunder into it by accident believing he was prolonging my life. And if it really was me, and I really was a computer, whoever made the computer would have access to all of my brain and could embed whatever they wanted in it. I don't want to be programmed to, just as an implausible example, worship Eliezer Yudkowsky. More plausibly, I don't want to be modified without my consent, which might be even easier if I were a computer. (For God to do it, it would be no different from the current situation, of course. He has as much access to my brain as he wants.) And if the computer was not me but was sentient (wouldn't it be awful if we created nonsentient ems that emulated everyone and ended up with a world populated entirely by beings with no qualia that pretend to be real people?), then I wouldn't want it to be vulnerable to involuntary modification, either. I'd feel a great deal of responsibility for it if I were alive, and if I were not alive, then it would essentially be the worst of both worlds. God doing this would not expose it to any more risk than all other living beings. Does this seem rational to you, or have I said something that doesn't make sense?

I'm going to scoop TheOtherDave on this topic, I hope he doesn't mind :-/

But first of all, who do you mean by "an em" ? I think I know the answer, but I want to make sure.

If it thought it was me, and they thought it was me, but I was already dead, that would be really bad.

From my perspective, a machine that thinks it is me, and that behaves identically to myself, would, in fact, be myself. Thus, I could not be "already dead" under that scenario, until someone destroys the machine that comprises my body (which they could do with my biological body, as well).

There are two scenarios I can think of that help illustrate my point.

1). Let's pretend that you and I know each other relatively well, though only through Less Wrong. But tomorrow, aliens abduct me and replace me with a machine that makes the same exact posts as I normally would. If you ask this replica what he ate for breakfast, or how he feels about walks on the beach, or whatever, it will respond exactly as I would have responded. Is there any test you can think of that will tell you whether you're talking to the real Bugmaster, or the replica ? If the answer is "no", then how do you know th... (read more)

That's a REALLY good response.

An em would be a computer program meant to emulate a person's brain and mind.

From my perspective, a machine that thinks it is me, and that behaves identically to myself, would, in fact, be myself. Thus, I could not be "already dead" under that scenario, until someone destroys the machine that comprises my body (which they could do with my biological body, as well).

If you create such a mind that's just like mine at this very moment, and take both of us and show the construct something, then ask me what you showed the construct, I won't know the answer. In that sense, it isn't me. If you then let us meet each other, it could tell me something.

If you ask this replica what he ate for breakfast, or how he feels about walks on the beach, or whatever, it will respond exactly as I would have responded. Is there any test you can think of that will tell you whether you're talking to the real Bugmaster, or the replica ? If the answer is "no", then how do you know that you aren't talking to the replica at this very moment ? More importantly, why does it matter ?

Because this means I could believe that Bugmaster is comfortable and able to... (read more)

I realize that theological debate has a pretty tenuous connection to the changing of minds, but sometimes one is just in the mood.... Suppose that tonight I lay I minefield all around your house. In the morning, I tell you the minefield is there. Then I send my child to walk through it. My kid gets blown up, but this shows you a safe path out of your house and allows you to go about your business. If I then suggest that you should express your gratitude to me everyday for the rest of your life, would you think that reasonable?.... According to your theology, was hell not created by God? I once asked my best friend, who is a devout evangelical, how he could be sure that the words of the Bible as we have it today are correct, given the many iterations of transcription it must have gone through. According to him, God's general policy of noninterference in free will didn't preclude divinely inspiring the writers of the Bible to trancribe it inerrantly. At least according to one thesist's account, then, God was willing to interfere as long it was something really important for man's salvation. And even if you don't agree with that particular interpretation, I'd like to hear your explanation how the points at which God "hardened Pharaoh's heart", for example, don't amount to interfering with free will.
I have nothing to say to your first point because I need to think that over and study the relevant theology (I never considered that God made hell and now I need to ascertain whether he did before I respond or even think about responding, a question complicated by being unsure of what hell is). With regard to your second point, however, I must cordially disagree with anyone who espouses the complete inerrancy of all versions of the Bible. (I must disagree less cordially with anyone who espouses the inerrancy of only the King James Version.) I thought it was common knowledge that the King James Version suffered from poor translation and the Vulgate was corrupt. A quick glance at the disagreements even among ancient manuscripts could tell you that. I suppose if I complain about people with illogical beliefs making Christianity look bad, you'll think it's a joke...
I don't really have a dog in this race. That said, Matthew 25:41 seems to point in that direction, although "prepared" is perhaps a little weaker than "made". It does seem to imply control and deliberate choice. That's the first passage that comes to mind, anyway. There's not a whole lot on Hell in the Bible; most of the traditions associated with it are part of folk as opposed to textual Christianity, or are derived from essentially fanfictional works like Dante's or Milton's.
That made me laugh. Calling Dante "fanfiction" of the Bible was just so unexpected and simultaneously so accurate.
Upvoted for self-awareness. The more general problem, of course, is that if you don't believe in textual inerrancy (of whatever version of the Bible you happen to prefer), you still aren't relying on God to decide which parts are correct.
As Prismattic said, if you discard inerrancy, you run into the problem of classifications. How do you know which parts of the Bible are literally true, which are metaphorical, and which have been superseded by the newer parts ? I would also add that our material world contains many things that, while they aren't as bad as Hell, are still pretty bad. For example, most animals eat each other alive in order to survive (some insects do so in truly terrifying ways); viruses and bacteria ravage huge swaths of the population, human, animal and plant alike; natural disasters routinely cause death and suffering on the global scale, etc. Did God create all these things, as well ?
That's not a very good argument. "If you accept some parts are metaphorical, how do you know which are?" is, but if you only accept transcription and translation errors, you just treat it like any other historical document.
Well, that really depends on what your translation criteria are. :) Reading KJV and, say, NIV side-by-side is like hearing Handel in one ear and Creed in the other.
When I feel the urge, I go to r/debatereligion. The standards of debate aren't as high as they are here, of course; but I don't have to feel guilty about lowering them.
Upvoted for dismissing the inclination to respond sarcastically after remembering the inferential distance.
That's what I thought, cool. Agreed; that is similar to what I meant earlier about the copies "diverging". I don't see this as problematic, though -- after all, there currently exists only one version of me (as far as I know), but that version is changing all the time (even as I type this sentence), and that's probably a good thing. Ok, that's a very good point; my example was flawed in this regard. I could've made the aliens more obviously benign. For example, maybe the biological Bugmaster got hit by a bus, but the aliens snatched up his brain just in time, and transcribed it into a computer. Then they put that computer inside of a perfectly realistic synthetic body, so that neither Bugmaster nor anyone else knows what happened (Bugmaster just thinks he woke up in a hospital, or something). Under these conditions, would it matter to you that you were talking to the replica or the biological Bugmaster ? But, in the context of my original example, with the (possibly) evil aliens: why aren't you worried that you are talking to the replica right at this very moment ? I agree that the issue of the soul would indeed be very important; if I believed in souls, as well as a God who answers specific questions regarding souls, I would probably be in total agreement with you. I don't believe in either of those things, though. So I guess my next two questions would be as follows: a). Can you think of any non-supernatural reasons why an electronic copy of you wouldn't count as you, and/or b). Is there anything other than faith that causes you to believe that souls exist ? If the answers to (a) and (b) are both "no", then we will pretty much have to agree to disagree, since I lack faith, and faith is (probably) impossible to communicate. Well, yes, preaching to me or to any other atheist is very unlikely to work. However, if you manage to find some independently verifiable and faith-independent evidence of God's (or any god's) existence, I'd convert in a heartbeat. I conf
Okay, but if both start out as me, how do we determine which one ceases to be me when they diverge? My answer would be the one who was here first is me, which is problematic because I could be a replica, but only conditional on machines having souls or many of my religious beliefs being wrong. (If I learn that I am a replica, I must update on one of those.) Besides being electronic and the fact that I might also be currently existing (can there be two ships of Theseus?), no. Oh, wait, yes; it SHOULDN'T count as me if we live in a country which uses deontological morality in its justice system. Which isn't really the best idea for a justice system anyway, but if so, then it's hardly fair to treat the construct as me in that case because it can't take credit or blame for my past actions. For instance, if I commit a crime, it shouldn't be blamed if it didn't commit the crime. (If we live in a sensible, consequentialist society, we might still want not to punish it, but if everyone believes it's me, including it, then I suppose it would make sense to do so. And my behavior would be evidence about what it is likely to do in the future.) If by "faith" you mean "things that follow logically from beliefs about God, the afterlife and the Bible" then no. No, but it could act like one. When I say "feel like a human" I mean "feel" in the same way that I feel tired, not in the same way that you would be able to perceive that I feel soft. I feel like a human; if you touch me, you'll notice that I feel a little like bread dough. I cannot perceive this directly, but I can observe things which raise the probability of it. But something acting like a person is sufficient reason to treat it like one. We should err on the side of extending kindness where it's not needed, because the alternative is to err on the side of treating people like unfeeling automata. Since I can think of none that I trust enough to, for instance, let them chain me to the wall of a soundproof cell in the
So... hm. So if I'm parsing you correctly, you are assuming that if an upload of me is created, Upload_Dave necessarily differs from me in the following ways: it doesn't have a soul, and consequently is denied the possibility of heaven, it doesn't have a sense of smell, taste, hearing, sight, or touch, it doesn't have my hands, or perhaps hands at all, it is easier to hack (that is, to modify without its consent) than my brain is. Yes? Yeah, I think if I believed all of that, I also wouldn't be particularly excited by the notion of uploading. For my own part, though, those strike me as implausible beliefs. I'm not exactly sure what your reasons for believing all of that are... they seem to come down to a combination of incredulity (roughly speaking, no computer program in your experience has ever had those properties, so it feels ridiculous to assume that a computer program can ever have those properties) and that they contradict your existing religious beliefs. Have I understood you? I can see where, if I had more faith than I do in the idea that computer programs will always be more or less like they are now, and in the idea that what my rabbis taught me when I was a child was a reliable description of the world as it is, those beliefs about computer programs would seem more plausible.
Mostly. More like "it doesn't have a soul, therefore there's nothing to send to heaven". I have a great deal of faith in the ability of computer programs to surprise me by using ever-more-sophisticated algorithms for parsing data. I don't expect them to feel. If I asked a philosopher what it's like for a bat to be a bat, they'd understand the allusion I'd like to make here, but that's awfully jargony. Here's an explanation of the concept I'm trying to convey. I don't know whether that's something you've overlooked or whether I'm asking a wrong question.

If it helps, I've read Nagel, and would have gotten the bat allusion. (Dan Dennett does a very entertaining riff on "What is it like to bat a bee?" in response.)

But I consider the physics of qualia to be kind of irrelevant to the conversation we're having.

I mean, I'm willing to concede that in order for a computer program to be a person, it must be able to feel things in italics, and I'm happy to posit that there's some kind of constraint -- label it X for now -- such that only X-possessing systems are capable of feeling things in italics.

Now, maybe the physics underlying X is such that only systems made of protoplasm can possess X. This seems an utterly unjustified speculation to me, and no more plausible than speculating that only systems weighing less than a thousand pounds can possess X, or only systems born from wombs can possess X, or any number of similar speculations. But, OK, sure, it's possible.

So what? If it turns out that a computer has to be made of protoplasm in order to possess X, then it follows that for an upload to be able to feel things in italics, it has to be an upload running on a computer made of protoplasm. OK, that's fine. It's just an engineer... (read more)

I would say that they both cease to be you, just as the current, singular "you" ceases to be that specific "you" the instant you see some new sight or think some new thought. Agreed, though I would put something like, "if a person diverged into two separate versions who then became two separate people, then one version shouldn't be blamed for the crimes of the other version". On a separate note, I'm rather surprised to hear that you prefer consequentialist morality to deontological morality; I was under the impression that most Christians followed the Divine Command model, but it looks like I was wrong. I mean something like, "whatever it is that causes you to believe in in God, the afterlife, and the Bible in the first place", but point taken. Ooh, I see, I totally misunderstood what you meant. By feel, you mean "experience feelings", thus something akin to qualia, right ? But in this case, your next statement is problematic: In this case, wouldn't it make sense to conclude that mind uploading is a perfectly reasonable procedure for anyone (possibly other than yourself) to undergo ? Imagine that Less Wrong was a community where mind uploading was common. Thus, at any given point, you could be talking to a mix of uploaded minds and biological humans; but you'd strive to treat them all the same way, as human, since you don't know which is which (and it's considered extremely rude to ask). This makes sense to me, but this would seem to contradict your earlier statement that you could, in fact, detect whether any particular entity had a soul (by asking God), in which case it might make sense for you to treat soulless people differently regardless of what they acted like. On the other hand, if you're willing to treat all people the same way, even if their ensoulment status is in doubt, then why would you not treat yourself the same way, regardless of whether you were using a biological body or an electronic one ? Good point. I should point out that some people d
Also: transcranial magnetic stimulation, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, physical damage...
Makes sense enough. For my own part, two things: * I entirely agree with you that various forms of mistaken and fraudulent identity, where entities falsely claim to be me or are falsely believed to be me, are problematic. Indeed, there are versions of that happening right now in the real world, and they are a problem. (That last part doesn't have much to do with AI, of course.) * I agree that people being modified without their consent is problematic. That said, it's not clear to me that I would necessarily be more subject to being modified without my consent as a computer than I am as whatever I am now -- I mean, there's already a near-infinite assortment of things that can modify me without my consent, and there do exist techniques for making accidental/malicious modification of computers difficult, or at least reversible. (I would really have appreciated error-correction algorithms after my stroke, for example, or at least the ability to restore my mind from backup afterwards. So the idea that the kind of thing I am right now is the ne plus ultra of unmodifiability rings false for me.)
Who wants to turn you into a computer? I'm confused. I don't want to turn anybody into anything, I have no sovereignty there nor would I expect it.
EY and Robin Hanson approve of emulating people's brains on computers.
Approving of something in principle doesn't necessarily translate into believing it should be mandatory regardless of the subject's feelings on the matter, or even into advocating it in any particular case. I'd be surprised if EY in particular ever made such an argument, given the attitude toward self-determination expressed in his Metaethics and Fun Theory sequences; I am admittedly extrapolating from only tangentially related data, though. Not sure I've ever read anything of his dealing with the ethics of brain simulation, aside from the specific and rather unusual case given in Nonperson Predicates and related articles. Robin Hanson's stance is a little different; his emverse is well-known, but as best I can tell he's founding it on grounds of economic determinism rather than ethics. I'm hardly an expert on the subject, nor an unbiased observer (from what I've read I think he's privileging the hypothesis, among other things), but everything of his that I've read on the subject parses much better as a Cold Equations sort of deal than as an ethical imperative.
And? Does that mean forcing you to be emulated?
Good point.
I'm sure you're pro self determination right? Or are you? One of the things that pushed me away from religion in the beginning was there was no space for self determination(not that there is much from a natural perspective), the idea of being owned is not nice one to me. Some of us don't want watch ourselves rot in a very short space of time.
Um, according to the Bible, the Abrahamic God's supposed to have done some pretty awful things to people on purpose, or directed humans to do such things. It's hard to imagine anything more like the definition of a petty tyrant than wiping out nearly all of humanity because they didn't act as expected; exhorting people to go wipe out other cultures, legislating victim blame into ethics around rape, sending actual fragging bears to mutilate and kill irreverent children? I'm not the sort of person who assumes Christians are inherently bad people, but it's a serious point of discomfort with me that some nontrivial portion of humanity believes that a being answering to that description and those actions a) exists and b) is any kind of moral authority. If a human did that stuff, they'd be described as whimsical tyrants at the most charitable. Why's God supposed to be different?
While I agree with some of your other points, I'm not sure about this: We shouldn't be too harsh until we are faced with either deleting a potentially self-improving AI that is not provably friendly or risking the destruction of not just our species but the destruction of all that we value in the universe.
That.... is a surprisingly good answer.

Hello, Less Wrong.

I am Russian, atheistic, 27, trying to be rational.

Initially I came here to read a through explanation of Bayes theorem, but noticed that LessWrong contains a lot more than that and decided to stay for a while.

I am really pleased by quality of material and pleasantly surprised by quality of comments. It is rare to see useful comments on the Internet.

I am going to read at least some sequences first and comment if I have something to say. Though, I know I WILL be sidetracked by HP:MoR and "Three worlds collide". Well, my love for SF always got me.

Salutations, Less Wrong.

I'm an undergraduate starting my third year at the University of Toronto (in Toronto, Ontario, Canada), taking the Software Engineer specialist program in Computer Science.

I found Less Wrong through a friend, who found it through Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, who found that through me, and I found HP: MoR through a third friend. I'm working my way through the archive of Less Wrong posts (currently in March of 2009).

On my rationalist origins: One of my parents has a not-insignificant mental problem that result in subtl... (read more)


I'm 17 and I'm from Australia.

I've always been interested in science, learning, and philosophy. I've had correct thinking as a goal in my life since reading a book by John Stossel when I was 13.

I first studied philosophy at school in grade 10, when I was 14 and 15. I loved the mind/body problem, and utilitarianism was the coolest thing ever. I had great fun thinking about all these things, and was fairly good at it. I gave a speech about the ethics of abortion last year which I feel really did strike to the heart of the matter, and work as a good use of ra... (read more)

You are 17. See Yudkowsky_1998, there is room for improvement at any age.
  • Handle: dvasya (from Darth Vasya)
  • Name: Vasilii Artyukhov
  • Location: Houston, TX (USA)
  • Age: 26
  • Occupation: physicist doing computational nanotechnology/materials science/chemistry, currently on a postdoctoral position at Rice University. Also remotely connected to the anti-aging field, as well as cryopreservation. Not personally interested in AI because I don't understand it very well (though I do appreciate its importance adequately), but who knows -- maybe that could change with prolonged exposure to LW :)

Hello, people.

I first found Less Wrong when I was reading sci-fi stories on the internet and stumbled across Three Worlds Collide. As someone who places a high value on the ability to make rational decisions, I decided that this site is definitely relevant to my interests. I started reading through the sequences a few months ago, and I recently decided to make an account so that I could occasionally post my thoughts in the comments. I generally only post things when I think I have something particularly insightful to say, so my posts tend to be infrequent... (read more)

Okay. Demographics. Boring stuff. Just skip to the next paragraph. I’m a masters student in mathematics (hopefully soon-to-be PhD student in economics). During undergrad, I majored in Biology, Economics and Math, and minored in Creative Writing (and nearly minored in Chemistry, Marine Science, Statistics and PE) … I’ll spare you the details, but most of those you won’t see on my resume for various reasons. Think: Master of None, not Omnidisciplinary Scientist.

My life goal is to write a financially self-sustainable computer game… for reasons I’ll keep secre... (read more)

Hi LW,

My name's Dan LaVine. I forget exactly how I got linked here, but I haven't been able to stop following internal links since.

I'm not an expert in anything, but I have a relatively broad/shallow education across mathematics and the sciences and a keen interest in philosophical problems (not quite as much interest in traditional approaches to the problems). My tentative explorations of these problems are broadly commensurate with a lot of the material I've read on this site so far. Maybe that means I'm exposing myself to confirmation bias, but so ... (read more)

Hello, community. I'm another recruit from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. After reading the first few chapters and seeing that it lacked the vagueness, unbending archetypes, and overt because the author says so theme that usually drives me away from fiction, then reading Less Wrong's (Eliezer's?) philosophy of fanfiction, I proceeded to read through the Sequences.

After struggling with the question of when I became a rationalist, I think the least wrong answer is that I just don't remember. I both remember less of my childhood than others seem... (read more)


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Welcome to Less Wrong! You seem to know your way around pretty well already! Thanks for introducing yourself. Also, I really appreciate this: The article says that of naturalistic pantheism: Wow, I had no idea you could believe all that and still count as a kind of theism! Best. Marketing. Ever.

Huh, I guess I should have come here earlier...

I'm Lorenzo, 31, from Madrid, Spain (but I'm Italian). I'm an evolutionary psychologist, or try to be, working on my PhD. I'm also doing a Master's Degree in Statistics, in which I discovered (almost by accident) the Bayesian approach. As someone with a longstanding interest in making psychology become a better science, I've found this blog a very good place for clarifying ideas.

I've been a follower of Less Wrong after reading Eliezer's essays on Bayesian reasoning some 3-4 months ago. I've known the Bayes t... (read more)

Bueno! I'm Jason from San Antonio, Texas. Nice to say 'hi' to all you nice people! (Nice, also, to inflate the number of comments for this particular post - give the good readers of Less Wrong an incrementally warmer feeling of camaraderie.)

I've been reading Overcoming Bias and Less Wrong for over a year since I found a whole bunch of discussions on quantum mechanics. I've stayed for the low, low cost intellectual gratification.

I (actually, formally) study physics and math, and read these blogs to the extent that I feel smarter...also, because the admitted... (read more)

Hi everyone!

I'm graduating law school in May 2010, and then going to work in consumer law at a small firm in San Francisco. I'm fascinated by statistical political science, space travel, aikido, polyamory, board games, and meta-ethics.

I first realized that I needed to make myself more rational when I bombed an online confidence calibration test about 6 years ago; it asked me to provide 95% confidence intervals for 100 different pieces of numerical trivia (e.g. how many nukes does China have, how many counties are in the U.S., how many species of spiders a... (read more)


Hello All,

my name is Markus, and just decided, after, well, years? of lurk-jumping from sl4 to OvercomingBias to LessWrong that maybe I should participate in the one or another discussion; not doing so seems to lead to constant increase of things I have a feeling I know but actually fall flat on the first occasion of another person posing a question.

The process of finding to (then non-existing) LW started during senior high, when I somehow got interested into philosophy, soon enough into AI. The interest in AI lead to interest in Weiqi (Chess was publicly ... (read more)

However intelligent he is, he fails to present his ideas so as to gradually build a common ground with lay readers. "If you're so smart, how come you ain't convincing?"

The "intelligent design" references on his Wikipedia bio are enough to turn me away. Can you point us to a well-regarded intellectual who has taken his work seriously and recommends his work? (I've used that sort of bridging tactic at least once, Dennett convincing me to read Julian Jaynes.)

"Convincing" has long been a problem for Chris Langan. Malcolm Gladwell relates a story about Langan attending a calculus course in first year undergrad. After the first lecture, he went to offer criticism of the prof's pedagogy. The prof thought he was complaining that the material was too hard; Langan was unable to convey that he had understood the material perfectly for years, and wanted to see better teaching.
  • Handle: Zvi
  • Name: Zvi Mowshowitz
  • Location: New York City
  • Age: 30
  • Education: BA, Mathematics

I found OB through Marginal Revolution, which then led to LW. A few here know me from my previous job as a professional Magic: The Gathering player and writer and full member of the Competitive Conspiracy. That job highly rewarded the rationality I already had and encouraged its development, as does my current one which unfortunately I can't say much about here but which gives me more than enough practical reward to keep me coming back even if I wasn't fascinated ... (read more)

Hello, my friends. I'm a brazilian man, fully blind and gay...

I knew Fanfiction.net, HP MOR and LessWrong. I hope to learn more :)

TL;DR: I found LW through HPMoR, read the major sequences, read stuff by other LWers including the Luminosity series, and lurked for six months before signing up.

My name, as you can see above if you don't have the anti-kibitzing script, Daniel. My story of how I came to self-identify as a rationalist, and then how I later came to be a rationalist, breaks down into several parts. I don't remember the order of all of them.

Since well before I can remember (and I have a fairly good long-term memory), I've been interested in mathematics, and later science. One ... (read more)

Hey, I've been an LW lurker for about a year now, and I think it's time to post here. I'm a cryonicist, rationalist and singularity enthusiast. I'm currently working as a computer engineer and I'm thinking maybe there is more I can do to promote rationality and FAI. LW is an incredible resource. I have a mild fear that I don't have enough rigorous knowledge about rationality concepts to contribute anything useful to most discussion.

LW has changed my life in a few ways but the largest are becoming a cryonicist and becoming polyamorous (naturally leaned toward this, though). I feel like I am in a one-way friendship with EY, does anyone else feel like that?

I am also in a one-way friendship with EY.

I used to be an atheist before realizing that was incorrect. I wasn't upset about that; I had been wrong, I stopped being wrong. Is that enough?

I am a video game developer. I find most of this site fairly interesting albeit once in a while I disagree with description of some behaviour as irrational, or the explanation projected upon that behaviour (when I happen to see a pretty good reason for this behaviour, perhaps strategic or as matter of general policy/cached decision).

If you like it than you should have put an upvote on it.

Now I have. And on that comment too. All the single comments.

The general impression of the Book of Job seems to be to lower people's opinion of God rather than raise their opinion of trolling.

And it was an atheist philosopher who first called trolling a art.

I hope you're not seeing the options as "keep up with all the threads of this conversation simultaneously" or "quit LW". It's perfectly OK to leave things hanging and lurk for a while. (If you're feeling especially polite, you can even say that you're tapping out of the conversation for now.)

(Hmm, I might add that advice to the Welcome post...)

Okay. I'm tapping out of everything indefinitely. Thank you.

Please don't consider this patronizing but... the writing style of this comment is really cute.

I think you broke whatever part of my brain evaluates people's signalling. It just gave up and decided your writing is really cute. I really have no idea what impression to form of you; the experience was so unusual that I felt I had to comment.

Thanks to your priming now I can't see "AspiringKnitter" without mentally replacing it with "AspiringKittens" and a mental image of a Less Wrong meetup of kittens who sincerely want to have better epistemic practices. Way to make the world a better place.

That's what the SF Less Wrong meetups are missing: Kittens.
Just make sure you don't have anyone with bad allergies...

This is the internet. Nothing anyone says on the internet is ever going away, even if some of us really wish it could. /nitpick

You would be surprised... If it weren't for the internet archive much information would have already been lost. Some modern websites are starting to use web design techniques (ajax-loaded content) that break such archive services.

that post wasn't using dark arts to persuade anything

Son, I am disappoint.




"I see that you're trying to extrapolate human volition. Would you like some help ?" converts the Earth into computronium

Soreff was probably alluding to User:Clippy, someone role-playing a non-FOOMed paperclip maximiser. Though yours is good too :-)
Yes, I was indeed alluding to User:Clippy. Actually, I should have tweaked the reference, since it it the possibility of a paperclip maximiser that has FOOMed that really represents the threat.

Welcome! And congratulations for creating what's probably the longest and most interesting introduction thread of all time (I haven't read all the introductions threads, though).

I've read all your posts here. I now have to update my belief about rationality among christians: so long, the most "rational" I'd found turned out to be nothing beyond a repetitive expert in rationalization. Most others are sometimes relatively rational in most aspects of life, but choose to ignore the hard questions about the religion they profess (my own parents fall i... (read more)

I think I've gotten such a nice reception that I've also updated in the direction of "most atheists aren't cruel or hateful in everyday life" and "LessWrong believes in its own concern for other people because most members are nice". The wish on top of that page is actually very problematic... Oh, and do people usually upvote for niceness?
For a certain value of niceness, yes.
The ordinary standard of courtesy here is pretty high, and I don't think you get upvotes for meeting it. You can get upvotes for being nice (assuming that you also include content) if it's a fraught issue.
I'm not sure atheist LW users would be a good sample of “most atheists”. I'd expect there to be a sizeable fraction of people who are atheists merely as a form of contrarianism.
Yes, that was a part of the point of the article - people try to fully specify what they want, it gets this complex, and it's still missing things; meanwhile, people understand what someone means when they say "I wish I was immortal."
Upvoted for linking The Hidden Complexity of Wishes. If Eliezer was actually advocating adjusting people's sex drives, rather than speculating as to the form a compromise might take, he wasn't following his own advice.

Welcome to LessWrong. Our goal is to learn how to achieve our goals better. One method is to observe the world and update our beliefs based on what we see (You'd think this would be an obvious thing to do, but history shows that it isn't so). Another method we use is to notice the ways that humans tend to fail at thinking (i.e. have cognitive bias).

Anyway, I hope you find those ideas useful. Like many communities, we are a diverse bunch. Each of our ultimate goals likely differs, but we recognize that the world is far from how any of us want it to be,... (read more)

Welcome to Less Wrong.

I don't think much people here hate Christians. At least I don't. I'll just speak for myself (even if I think my view is quite shared here) : I have a harsh view on religions themselves, believing they are mind-killing, barren and dangerous (just open an history book), but that doesn't mean I hate the people who do believe (as long as they don't hate us atheists). I've christian friends, and I don't like them less because of their religion. I'm a bit trying to "open their mind" because I believe that knowing and accepting th... (read more)

Salutations, LessWrong!

I am Daniel Peverley, I lurked for a few months and joined not too long ago. I was first introduced to this site via HPatMOR, my first and so far only foray into the world of fan-fiction. I've been raised as a mormon, and I've been a vague unbeliever for a few years, but the information on this site really solidified the doubts and problems I had with my religion. Just knowing how to properly label common logical fallacies has been vastly helpful in my life, and a few of the posts on social dynamics have likewise been of great uti... (read more)

Hi, I've been lurking on Less Wrong for a few months now, making a few comments here and there, but never got around to introducing myself. Since I'm planning out an actual post at the moment, I figured I should tell people where I'm coming from.

I'm a male 30-year-old optical engineer in Sydney, Australia. I grew up in a very scientific family and have pretty much always assumed I had a scientific career ahead of me, and after a couple of false starts, it's happened and I couldn't ask for a better job.

Like many people, I came to Less Wrong from TVTropes vi... (read more)

Hello everybody, I'm Stefano from Italy. I'm 30, and my story about becoming a rationalist is quite tortuous... as a kid I was raised as a christian, but not strictly so: my only obligation was to attend mass every sunday morning. At the same time since young age I was fond of esoteric and scientific literature... With hindsight, I was a strange kid: by the age of 13 I already knew quite a lot about such things as the Order of the Golden Dawn or General Relativity... My fascination with computer and artificial intelligence begun approximately at the same a... (read more)

I started posting a while ago (and was lurking for a while beforehand), and only today found this post.

My parents were both science teachers, and I got an education in traditional rationality basically since birth (I didn't even know it had such a name as "traditional rationality", I assumed it was just how you were supposed to think). I've always used that experimental mindset in order to understand people and the rest of the universe. I'm an undergrad in the Plan II honors program at the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in Chemistry Pre... (read more)

Jeff Kaufman. Working as a programmer doing computational linguistics in the boston area. Found "less wrong" twice: first through the intuitive explanation of bayes' theorem and then again recently through "hp and the methods of rationality". I value people's happiness, valuing that of those close to me more than that of strangers, but I value strangers' welfare enough that I think I have an obligation to earn as much as I can and live on as little as I can so I can give more to charity.

G'day LW Im an Aussie currently studying at the Australian National University in Canberra. My name is Sam and i should point out that the 'G'day' is just for fun, most Australians never use that phase and it kinda makes me cringe.

At at this very moment i'm trying to finish my thesis on the foundations of inductive reasoning, which i guess is pretty relevant to this community. A big part of my thesis is to translate a lot of very technical mathematics regarding Bayesianism and Sollomonoff induction into philosophical and intuitive explanations, so this wh... (read more)

Hey Lesswrong! I'm just going to ramble for a second..

I like art, social sciences, philosophy, gaming, rationality and everything that falls in between. Examples include Go, Evolutionary Psychology, Mafia (aka Werewolves), Improvisation, Drugs and Debate.

See you if I see you!


Heikki, 30, Finnish student of computer engineering. Found Less Wrong by via the IRC-channel of the Finnish Transhumanist Association, which was found by random surfing ("Oh, there's a name for what I am?")

As for becoming a rationalist, I'd say the recipe was no friends and a good encyclopedia... Interest in ideas, unhindered by the baggage of standard social activities. One of the most influential single things was probably finding evolution quite early on. I remember (might be a false memory) having thought it would sure make sense if a horse'... (read more)

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Hi everyone.

My name is Alan Godfrey.

I am fascinated by rational debate and logical arguments, and I appear to have struck gold in finding this site! I am the first to admit my own failings in these areas but am always willing to learn and grow.

I'm a graduate of mathematics from Trinity Hall, Cambridge University and probability and statistics have always been my areas of expertise - although I find numbers so much more pleasant to play with than theorems and proofs so bear with me!

I'm also a passive member of Mensa. While most of it does not interest me th... (read more)

  • Handle: arthurlewis
  • Location: New York, NY
  • Age: 28
  • Education: BA in Music.
  • Occupation: Musician / Teacher / Mac Support Guy
  • Blog/Music: http://arthurthefourth.com

My career as a rationalist began when I started doing tech support, and realized the divide between successful troubleshooting and what most customers tried to do. I think the key to "winning" is to challenge your assumptions about how to win, and what winning is. I think that makes me an instrumental rationalist, but I'm not quite sure I understand the term. I'm here because OB and ... (read more)

This community is too young to have veterans. Since this is the first such post, I think we should all be encouraged to introduce ourselves.

Thanks for doing this!

I'm a 20 year old mathematics/music double major at NYU. Mainly here because I want to learn how to wear Vibrams without getting self conscious about it.

I get nothing but positive social affect from Ninja Zemgears. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=zemgear Cheaper than Vibrams, more comfortable, less durable, less agile, much friendlier looking.
Hi there! This might help: http://www.psych.cornell.edu/sec/pubPeople/tdg1/Gilo.Medvec.Sav.pdf
Is this some kind of LW hazing, linking to academic papers in an introduction thread? (I joke, this looks super interesting).

We were talking about applying the metaphysics system to making an AI earlier in IRC, and the symbol grounding problem came up there as a basic difficulty in binding formal reasoning systems to real-time actions. It doesn't look like this was mentioned here before.

I'm assuming I'd want to actually build an AI that needs to deal with symbol grounding, that is, it needs to usefully match some manner of declarative knowledge it represents in its internal state to the perceptions it receives from the outside world and to the actions it performs on it. Given th... (read more)

You probably have a much more grassroot-level understanding of the symbol grounding problem. I have only solved the symbol grounding problem to the extent that I have formal understanding of its nature. In any case, I am probably approaching AI from a point of view that is far from the symbol grounding problem. My theory does not need to be seen as an useful solution to that problem. But when an useful solution is created, I postulate it can be placed within RP. Such a solution would have to be an algorithm for creating S-type or O-type sets of members of R. More generally, I would find RP to be useful as an extremely general framework of how AI or parts of AI can be constructed in relation to each other, ecspecially with regards to understanding lanugage and the notion of consciousness. This doesn't necessarily have anything to do with some more atomistic AI projects, such as trying to make a robot vacuum cleaner find its way back to the charging dock. At some point, philosophical questions and AI will collide. Suppose the following thought experiment: We have managed to create such a sophisticated brain scanner, that it can tell whether a person is thinking of a cat or not. Someone is put into the machine, and the machine outputs that the person is not thinking of a cat. The person objects and says that he is thinking of a cat. What will the observing AI make of that inconsistency? What part of the observation is broken and results in nonconformity of the whole? * 1) The brain scanner is broken * 2) The person is broken In order to solve this problem, the AI may have to be able to conceptualize the fact that the brain scanner is a deterministic machine which simply accepts X as input and outputs Y. The scanner does not understand the information it is processing, and the act of processing information does not alter its structure. But the person is different. RP should help with such problems because it is intended as an elegant, compact and flexible way o
I don't really understand this part. "The scanner does not understand the information but the person does" sounds like some variant of Searle's Chinese Room argument when presented without further qualifiers. People in AI tend to regard Searle as a confused distraction. The intelligent agent model still deals with deterministic machines that take input and produce output, but it incorporates the possibility of changing the agent's internal state by presenting the output function as just taking the entire input history X* as an input to the function that produces the latest output Y, so that a different history of inputs can lead to a different output on the latest input, just like it can with humans and more sophisticated machines. I suppose the idea here is that there is some difference whether there is a human being sitting in the scanner, or, say, a toy robot with a state of two bits where one is I am thinking about cats and the other is I am broken and will lie about thinking about cats. With the robot, we could just check the "broken" bit as well from the scan when the robot is disagreeing with the scanner, and if it is set, conclude that the robot is broken. I'm not seeing how humans must be fundamentally different. The scanner can already do the extremely difficult task of mapping a raw brain state to the act of thinking about a cat, it should also be able to tell from the brain state whether the person has something going on in their brain that will make them deny thinking about a cat. Things being deterministic and predictable from knowing their initial state doesn't mean they can't have complex behavior reacting to a long history of sensory inputs accompanied by a large amount of internal processing that might correspond quite well to what we think of as reflection or understanding. Sorry I keep skipping over your formalism stuff, but I'm still not really grasping the underlying assumptions behind this approach. (The underlying approach in the compute
I've read some of this Universal Induction article. It seems to operate from flawed premises. Suppose the brain uses algorithms. An uncontroversial supposition. From a computational point of view, the former citation is like saying: "In order for a computer to not run a program, such as Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, the computer must be executing some command to the effect of "DoNotExecuteProgram('IndianaJonesAndTheFateOfAtlantis')". That's not how computers operate. They just don't run the program. They don't need a special process for not running the program. Instead, not running the program is "implicitly contained" in the state of affairs that the computer is not running it. But this notion of implicit containment makes no sense for the computer. There are infinitely many programs the computer is not running at a given moment, so it can't process the state of affairs that it is not running any of them. Likewise, the use of an implicit bias towards simplicity cannot be meaningfully conceptualized by humans. In order to know how this bias simplifies everything, one would have to know, what information regarding "everything" is omitted by the bias. But if we knew that, the bias would not exist in the sense the author intends it to exist. Furthermore: The author says that there are variations of the no free lunch theorem for particular contexts. But he goes on to generalize that the notion of no free lunch theorem means something independent of context. What could that possibly be? Also, such notions as "arbitrary complexity" or "randomness" seem intuitively meaningful, but what is their context? The problem is, if there is no context, the solution cannot be proven to address the problem of induction. But if there is a context, it addresses the problem of induction only within that context. Then philosophers will say that the context was arbitrary, and formulate the problem again in another context where previous results will not apply. In a way, th
At first, I didn't quite understand this. But I'm reading Introduction to Automata Theory, Languages and Computation. Are you using the * in the same sense here as it is used in the following UNIX-style regular expression? * '[A-Z][a-z]*' This expression is intended to refer to all word that begin with a capital letter and do not contain any surprising characters such as ö or -. Examples: "Jennifer", "Washington", "Terminator". The * means [a-z] may have an arbitrary amount of iterations.
I don't find the Chinese room argument related to our work - besides, it seems to possibly vaguely try to state that what we are doing can't be done. What I meant is that AI should be able to: * Observe behavior * Categorize entities into deterministic machines which cannot take a metatheoretic approach to their data processing habits and alter them. * Categorize entities into agencies who process information recursively and can consciously alter their own data processing or explain it to others. * Use this categorization ability to differentiate entities whose behavior can be corrected or explained by means of social interaction. * Use the differentiation ability to develop the "common sense" view that, given permission by the owner of the scanner and if deemed interesting, the robot could not ask for the consent of the brain scanner to take it apart and fix it. * Understand that even if the robot were capable of performing incredibly precise neurosurgery, the person will understand the notion, that the robot wishes to use surgery to alter his thoughts to correspond with the result of the brain scanner, and could consent to this or deny consent. * Possibly try to have a conversation with the person in order to find out, why they said that they were not thinking of a cat. Failure to understand this could make the robot naively both take machines apart and cut peoples brains in order to experimentally verify, which approach produces better results. Of course there are also other things to consider when the robot tries to figure out what to do. I don't consider robots and humans fundamentally different. If the AI were complex enough to understand the aforementioned things, it also would understand the notion that someone wants to take it apart and reprogam it, and could consent or object. The latter has, to my knowledge, never been done. Arguably, the latter task requires different ability which the scanner may not have. The fo
About the classification thing: Agree that it's very important that a general AI be able to classify entities into "dumb machines" and things complex enough to be self-aware, warrant an intentional stance and require ethical consideration. Even putting aside the ethical concerns, being able to recognize complex agents with intentions and model their intentions instead of their most likely massively complex physical machinery is probably vital to any sort of meaningful ability to act in a social domain with many other complex agents (cf. Dennett's intentional stance) I understood the existing image reconstruction experiments measure the activation on the visual cortex when the subject is actually viewing an image, which does indeed get you a straightforward mapping to a bitmap. This isn't the same as thinking about a cat, a person could be thinking about a cat while not looking at one, and they could have a cat in their visual field while daydreaming or suffering from hysterical blindness, so that they weren't thinking about a cat despite having a cat image correctly show up in their visual cortex scan. I don't actually know what the neural correlate of thinking about a cat, as opposed to having one's visual cortex activated by looking at one, would be like, but I was assuming interpreting it would require much more sophisticated understanding of the brain, basically at the level of difficult of telling whether a brain scan correlates with thinking about freedom, a theory of gravity or reciprocality. Basically something that's entirely beyond current neuroscience and more indicative of some sort of Laplace's demon like thought experiment where you can actually observe and understand the whole mechanical ensemble of the brain. Quines are maps that contain themselves. A quining system could reflect on its entire static structure, though it would have to run some sort of emulation slower than its physical substrate to predict its future states. Hofstadter's GEB links
There are many ways to answer that question. I have a flowchart and formulae. The opposite of that would be something to the effect of having the source code. I'm not sure why you expect me to have that. Was it something I said? I thought I've given you links to my actual work, but I can't find them. Did I forget? Hmm... * The Metaphysical Origin of RP * Set Theoretic Explanation of the Main Recursion Loop If you dislike metaphysics, only the latter is for you. I can't paste the content, because the formatting on this website apparently does not permit html formulae. Wait a second, it does permit formulae, but only LaTeX. I know LaTeX, but the formulae aren't in that format right now. I should maybe convert them. You won't understand the flowchart if you don't want to discuss metaphysics. I don't think I can prove that something, of which you don't know what it is, could be useful to you. You would have to know what it is and judge for yourself. If you don't want to know, it's ok. I am currently not sure why you would want to discuss this thing at all, given that you do not seem quite interested of the formalisms, but you do not seem interested of metaphysics either. You seem to expect me to explain this stuff to you in terms of something that is familiar to you, yet you don't seem very interested to have a discussion where I would actually do that. If you don't know why you are having this discussion, maybe you would like to do something else? There are quite probably others in LessWrong who would be interested of this, because there has been prior discussion of CTMU. People interested in fringe theories, unfortunately, are not always the brightest of the lot, and I respect your abilities to casually namedrop a bunch of things I will probably spend days thinking about. But I don't know why you wrote so much about billions of years, babies, human cultural evolution, 100 megabytes and such. I am troubled by the thought that you might think I'm some loony hip
I'm mostly writing this stuff trying to explain what my mindset, which I guess to be somewhat coincident with the general LW one, is like, and where it seems to run into problems with trying to understand these theories. My question about the assumptions is basically poking at something like "what's the informal explanation of why this is a good way to approach figuring out reality", which isn't really an easy thing to answer. I'm mostly writing about my own viewpoint instead of addressing the metaphysical theory, since it's easy to write about stuff I already understand, and a lot harder to to try to understand something coming from a different tradition and make meaningful comments about it. Sorry if this feels like dismissing your stuff. The reason I went on about the complexity of the DNA and the brain is that this is stuff that wasn't really known before the mid-20th century. Most of modern philosophy was being done when people had some idea that the process of life is essentially mechanical and not magical, but no real idea on just how complex the mechanism is. People could still get away with assuming that intelligent thought is not that formally complex around the time of Russell and Wittgenstein, until it started dawning just what a massive hairball of a mess human intelligence working in the real world is after the 1950s. Still, most philosophy seems to be following the same mode of investigation as Wittgenstein or Kant did, despite the sudden unfortunate appearance of a bookshelf full of volumes written by insane aliens between the realm of human thought and basic logic discovered by molecular biologists and cognitive scientists. I'm not expecting people to rewrite the 100 000 pages of complexity into human mathematics, but I'm always aware that it needs to be dealt with somehow. For one thing, it's a reason to pay more attention to empiricism than philosophy has traditionally done. As in, actually do empirical stuff, not just go "ah, yes, empiricism is
You don't have to apologize, because you have been useful already. I don't require you to go out of your way to analyze this stuff, but of course it would also be nice if we could understand each other. That's a good point. The philosophical tradition of discussion I belong to was started in 1974 as a radical deviation from contemporary philosophy, which makes it pretty fresh. My personal opinion is that within decades of centuries, the largely obsolete mode of investigation you referred to will be mostly replaced by something that resembles what I and a few others are currently doing. This is because the old mode of investigation does not produce results. Despite intense scrutiny for 300 years, it has not provided an answer to such a simple philosophical problem as the problem of induction. Instead, it has corrupted the very writing style of philosophers. When one is reading philosophical publications by authors with academic prestige, every other sentence seems somehow defensive, and the writer seems to be squirming in the inconvenience caused by his intuitive understanding that what he's doing is barren but he doesn't know of a better option. It's very hard for a distinguished academic to go into the freaky realm and find out whether someone made sense but had a very different approach than the academic approach. Aloof but industrious young people, with lots of ability but little prestige, are more suitable for that. Nowadays the relatively simple philosophical problem of induction (proof of the Poincare conjecture is relatiely extremely complex) has been portrayed as such a difficult problem, that if someone devises a theoretic framework which facilitates a relatively simple solution to the problem, academic people are very inclined to state that they don't understand the solution. I believe this is because they insist the solution should be something produced by several authors working together for a century. Something that will make theoretical philosophy ag
I'll address the rest in a bit, but about the notation: T -> U is a function from set T to set U. P* means a list of elements in set P, where the difference from set is that elements in a list are in a specific order. The notation as a whole was a somewhat fudged version of intelligent agent formalism. The idea is to set up a skeleton for modeling any sort of intelligent entity, based on the idea that the entity only learns things from its surroundings though a series of perceptions, which might for example be a series of matrices corresponding to the images a robot's eye camera sees, and can only affect its surroundings by choosing an action it is capable of, such as moving a robotic arm or displaying text to a terminal. The agent model is pretty all-encompassing, but also not that useful except as the very first starting point, since all of the difficulty is in the exact details of the function that turns the most likely massive amount of data in the perception history into a well-chosen action that efficiently furthers the goals of the AI. Modeling AIs as the function from a history of perceptions to an action is also related to thought experiments like Ned Block's Blockhead, where a trivial AI that passes the Turing test with flying colors is constructed by merely enumerating every possible partial conversation up to a certain length, and writing up the response a human would make at that point of that conversation. Scott Aaronson's Why philosophers should care about computational complexity proposes to augment the usual high-level mathematical frameworks with some limits to the complexity of the black box functions, to make the framework reject cases like Blockhead, which seem to be very different from what we'd like to have when we're looking for a computable function that implements an AI.

There might not be many people here to who are sufficiently up to speed on philosophical metaphysics to have any idea what a Wheeler-style reality theory, for example, is. My stereotypical notion is that the people at LW have been pretty much ignoring philosophy that isn't grounded in mathematics, physics or cognitive science from Kant onwards, and won't bother with stuff that doesn't seem readable from this viewpoint. The tricky thing that would help would be to somehow translate the philosopher-speak into lesswronger-speak. Unfortunately this'd require some fluency in both.

It's not like your average "competent metaphysicist" would understand Langan either. He wouldn't possibly even understand Wheeler. Langan's undoing is to have the goals of a metaphysicist and the methods of a computer scientist. He is trying to construct a metaphysical theory which structurally resebles a programming language with dynamic type checking, as opposed to static typing. Now, metaphysicists do not tend to construct such theories, and computer scientists do not tend to be very familiar with metaphysics. Metaphysical theories tend to be deterministic instead of recursive, and have a finite preset amount of states that an object can have. I find the CTMU paper a bit sketchy and missing important content besides having the mistake. If you're interested in the mathematical structure of a recursive metaphysical theory, here's one: http://www.moq.fi/?p=242 Formal RP doesn't require metaphysical background knowledge. The point is that because the theory includes a cycle of emergence, represented by the power set function, any state of the cycle can be defined in relation to other states and prior cycles, and the amount of possible states is infinite. The power set function will generate a staggering amount of information in just a few cycles, though. Set R is supposed to contain sensory input and thus solve the symbol grounding problem.

Hmm, that doesn't sound right. I don't want to make celibate people uncomfortable, I just want to have more casual sex myself. Also I have a weaker altruistic wish that people who aren't "getting any" could "get some" without having to tweak their looks (the beauty industry) or their personality (the pickup scene). There could be many ways to make lots of unhappy people happier about sex and romance without tweaking your libido. Tweaking libido sounds a little pointless to me anyway, because PUA dogma (which I mostly agree with) predicts that people will just spend the surplus libido on attractive partners and leave unattractive ones in the dust, like they do today.

It's not exactly rigorous, but you could try leaving bagels at Christian and Wiccan gatherings of approximately the same size and see how many dollars you get back.

That's an idea, but you'd need to know how they started out. If generally nice people joined one religion and stayed the same, and generally horrible people joined the other and became better people, they might look the same on the bagel test.
True. You could control for that by seeing if established communities are more or less prone to stealing bagels than younger ones, but that would take a lot more data points.