Please use real names, especially for Alignment Forum?

by Wei_Dai1 min read29th Mar 201914 comments


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As the number of AI alignment researchers increases over time, it's getting hard for me to keep track of everyone's names. (I'm probably worse than average in this regard.) It seems the fact that some people don't use their real names as their LW/AF usernames makes it harder than it needs to be. So I wonder if we could officially encourage people to use their real firstname and lastname as their username, especially if they regularly participate on AF, unless they're deliberately trying to keep their physical identities secret? (Alternatively, at least put their real firstname and lastname in their user profile/description?)

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Relatedly: If you want people to know who you are, it helps to put a few words in the bio field of your profile. When users mouse over your name on Less Wrong, they'll see it.

I got too annoyed with not remembering the mapping between people's usernames and full names, and wrote a userscript to always show full names of authors on when available (with username in parentheses). (Unfortunately a similar userscript for doesn't seem possible.) To use it, please install the Tampermonkey add-on for your browser (I know Firefox and Chrome on desktop and Firefox on Android support it at least), then click here.

Why doesn't it work for Just replacing the classname seems to have worked fine for me. Here is the same script for

On, the HTML element for author names lacks an attribute that has the full name. In the script I put in a hard-coded lookup table for a few frequent authors who didn't input a full name into their LW account setting, so that part will continue to work, but on the script doesn't show people's full names from their account.

ETA: Also the script on LW doesn't work on comments because those are loaded via AJAX so you'd have to add some code to wait for that to complete before replacing the author names.

If you to go you will see that a lot more users have their full-name displayed than on LW. We have a special full-name field that we specified for everyone who was active on the Agent Foundations Forum and checked the relevant checkbox in a survey we sent out, but are currently only making it the default for display on the alignment forum.

We could make it so that you can see it on hover for all users. I am a bit hesitant to make everyone who has set that field show up with that name by default because I think most LessWrong users are more familiar with people's LW usernames than their real names and people didn't explicitly opt into displaying their full-names on LW, only on the alignment forum.

If you to go you will see that a lot more users have their full-name displayed than on LW.

Oh, I didn't know that was a feature, but it would be pretty hard to take advantage of it for me. I tend to use GW and it takes two clicks to go from a post on GW to the same post on AF (via LW), and there doesn't seem to be a way to directly navigate from a comment on LW to the same comment on AF.

Making real names available to see on hover would help a lot, but might not work on mobile. Maybe you could put the real names in parenthesis after the user name, or make that an option that people can enable? And expose it to GW via your API (if it isn't already) so they can implement this too?

OK, I added real names in a hover popup. I might try out some other options later.

GW should have that data available by querying the fullName field on users, so that should be easy to implement for them.

I think at the least we should allow users to set a setting to display their full-name by default and show them on hover. I am a bit hesitant to do the parenthesis thing, just because it would make usernames quite big, which I think will cause some problems with some upcoming redesigns we have for the frontpage.

I am a bit hesitant to do the parenthesis thing, just because it would make usernames quite big, which I think will cause some problems with some upcoming redesigns we have for the frontpage.

Given this, maybe it would still be a good idea to officially encourage people to use their real names as their user names (or something that's very easy to associate with their real name like a shortened form of it)? Because unless the real name is displayed everywhere, I still have to keep a mapping in my brain between their username and their real name, which seems like a pointless cognitive burden to impose on someone.

Is there's some important benefit to letting people (who don't want to keep their real names completely private) choose a different display name, that I'm missing?

If you do implement hovering like that I would be happy about a gravatar image as well as remembering faces is often easier then remembering names.

People do assign a fair amount of status based on attractiveness of faces, and I think it's good on the margin to not introduce that class of bias to the discussion. My current guess is that the costs aren't commensurate with the benefits of faster recognition.

I think that faster recognition matters a great deal. If I go to a big event like the LessWrong Community Weekend or EA Global and I know the faces of people I can actually talk to them in person and build in person relationships with them.

In general I'm also doubtful of the philosophy that you get people to be more rational by withholding information from them.

The natural act of relating to other people does influence cognition but it's not something that should be simply seen as a bias to be eliminated.

This seems like an interesting request for a site that explores agent continuity of beliefs and identity. Why is my government name more "real" than my online name? Both are just convenient handles to different (but somewhat overlapping, granted) clusters of behaviors and interactions you might have with aspects of us.

[edit: to clarify, this comment is mostly pointing out an amusing (to me) self-referential topic. I don't intend to use my "real" name here, but I have no objection to others asking for or providing theirs. ]

It's just so that if I read a LW/AF post/comment from someone, I can more easily recall oh, this is the same person I met at event X, or this is the same person who wrote paper Y (and vice versa). If someone consistently uses their online name for physical meetings and authoring papers, that would be fine with me. And if someone wants to keep their online and physical identities completely apart, that would be understandable to me too. But I'm not sure if people have good reasons to give themselves an online name that's different from their "real" name, and make others keep a mapping between the two.