Rationality: From AI to Zombies online reading group

by [anonymous]2 min read21st Mar 201515 comments

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Update: When I posted this announcement I remarkably failed to make the connection that the April 15th is tax day here in the US, and as a prime example of the planning fallacy (a topic of the first sequence!), I failed to anticipate just how complicated my taxes would be this year. The first post of the reading group is basically done but a little rushed, and I want to take an extra day to get it right. Expect it to post on the next day, the 16th

 

On Thursday, 16 April 2015, just under a month out from this posting, I will hold the first session of an online reading group for the ebook Rationality: From AI to Zombies, a compilation of the LessWrong sequences by our own Eliezer Yudkowsky. I would like to model this on the very successful Superintelligence reading group led by KatjaGrace. This is an advanced warning, so that you can have a chance to get the ebook, make a donation to MIRI, and read the first sequence.

The point of this online reading group is to join with others to ask questions, discuss ideas, and probe the arguments more deeply. It is intended to add to the experience of reading the sequences in their new format or for the first time. It is intended to supplement discussion that has already occurred the original postings and the sequence reruns.

The reading group will 'meet' on a semi-monthly post on the LessWrong discussion forum. For each 'meeting' we will read one sequence from the the Rationality book, which contains a total of 26 lettered sequences. A few of the sequences are unusually long, and these might be split into two sessions. If so, advance warning will be given.

In each posting I will briefly summarize the salient points of the essays comprising the sequence, link to the original articles and discussion when possible, attempt to find, link to, and quote one or more related materials or opposing viewpoints from outside the text, and present a half-dozen or so question prompts to get the conversation rolling. Discussion will take place in the comments. Others are encouraged to provide their own question prompts or unprompted commentary as well.

We welcome both newcomers and veterans on the topic. If you've never read the sequences, this is a great opportunity to do so. If you are an old timer from the Overcoming Bias days then this is a chance to share your wisdom and perhaps revisit the material with fresh eyes. All levels of time commitment are welcome.

If this sounds like something you want to participate in, then please grab a copy of the book and get started reading the preface, introduction, and the 10 essays / 42 pages which comprise Part A: Predictably Wrong. The first virtual meeting (forum post) covering this material will go live before 6pm Thursday PDT (1am Friday UTC), 16 April 2015. Successive meetings will start no later than 6pm PDT on the first and third Wednesdays of a month.

Following this schedule it is expected that it will take just over a year to complete the entire book. If you prefer flexibility, come by any time! And if you are coming upon this post from the future, please feel free leave your opinions as well. The discussion period never closes.

Topic for the first week is the preface by Eliezer Yudkowsky, the introduction by Rob Bensinger, and Part A: Predictably Wrong, a sequence covering rationality, the search for truth, and a handful of biases.

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If you put work into laying out the structure of the arguments and information involved, as much as in the Superintelligence reading group, then this will be a highly valuable group indeed. Having read the entire blog pots of EY, I would reread the book if this were of or near that quality.

Added: I will be recommending this reading group to my first-time reader friends.

[-][anonymous]6y 9

It depends on what time allows, as this is a volunteer effort (unlike the Superintelligence group, where Kajita's time is being paid for by MIRI, I believe). So although the goal is the same, it may require a little bit of crowd sourcing to end up at the same level of quality. I plan to have at the very least one short paragraph providing an unbiased summary of each essay at the time of posting. If time allows I'll try to distill and organize the entire sequence down to an argument outline structure as well. If not, I'll be accepting contributions to update into the main post.

Just bought the book for 5 dollars via paypal!

I have already read most of the sequences but not in a structured way.

[-][anonymous]6y 5

This sounds great, I'm really excited, thanks for doing this :)

I just bought the book too, I love it so far, and I've been taking a lot of notes. I'll probably finish most if not all of it before the first discussion section, but will happily go back, re-read, and discuss.

I recently deconverted from Christianity, and have gotten into a lot of discussions with my friends and family about the value of human reason. I think I'm going to try to find a way to bribe a few of them to read the book, invite them to this conversation, and hope for the best!

[-][anonymous]6y 3

I am looking for someone to take over the Rationality reading group as I am no longer in good conscious able or willing to host it. The reasons are explained in a post I am writing, probably the last post I will make to this site. In short: I feel that the critique Eliezer Yudkowsky made of his own work lacking a practical focus does not go far enough, and that not just the examples but in many cases the material itself and argued conclusions are actively harmful. I will go so far as to say that the sequences as presented are a possible memetic hazard, and the LessWrong focus of applying these techniques to beliefs about singularity technology and sources of existential risk is creating real damage, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of real death for each day delayed. I cannot in good conscious continue to run this group, or participate in this site, even from my typically contrarian point of view.

Nevertheless, I am enough of a libertarian that I feel it is not my role to put up roadblocks to others who wish to delve into the material as it is presented. So if someone wants to take over the role of organizing these reading groups, I would be happy to hand over the reigns to that person. Please reply to this comment if you think you are that person, and be sure to mention what you would do differently in structure or format, if anything.

I want to take over the role of organizing these reading groups. I think you've done a great job with structure and format, and I don't think I'll make major changes. I will include the conclusion at the end which encourages people to engage the most important part of the reading group, which is discussion with others (in the comments). I'll also include the date at which the next post is scheduled to go up. Like yourself, if I could think of countervailing views to a sequence which is controversial, I'll include it, but I might do so in the comments section rather than in the main post itself. In my summaries of Mr. Yudkowsky's various essays, I may include thought-provoking or discussion questions in the main part of the post itself. I'll continue the schedule of posting every two weeks, but it may delay to catch up and generate the third summary, which is something I can do by next Wednesday, if not earlier. From there, I'll continue to post a new one every two weeks, as you have been doing.

Let's do it next Wednesday and continue once in 2 weeks. Sticking to plan is better than trying to over-optimize.

Also, just in case: beware of planning fallacy.

Yeah, Mark seems like he's gone now, so I guess we can just take it over...

All posts for this reading session can be found by clicking on the Tag rationalityreadinggroup below each post.

ADDED: Except the first few where there is a "-" in the tag which causes the tag-seach to fail.

Hi, thank you for organizing this group! I think it'd be helpful if you will create a list with existing discussions of the group at the end of this post.

Is the next reading summary on schedule to be posted on Wednesday?

[-][anonymous]6y 0

That is still the plan. Let's see if we can make it happen!

I had read SEQUENCE last October.Count me in(I will finish reading RAZ in one month)

[-][anonymous]6y 0

Thanks! And for you and those reading this on the discussion feed, I've updated the post to inform that the first sequence reading group it changed to tomorrow, April 16th, on account of today being tax day and my taxes being way, way harder than even I pessimistically anticipated them to be... stupid bitcoin, and stupid planning fallacy.

[-][anonymous]6y 0

In this comment I will maintain a collection of links to the 'meetings' for bookmarking purposes:

  1. (15 April 2015) Map and Territory.
    A lively introduction to the Bayesian conception of rational belief in cognitive science, and how it differs from other kinds of belief.
  2. (TBA) How to Actually Change Your Mind.
    A guide to overcoming confirmation bias and motivated cognition.
  3. (TBA) The Machine in the Ghost.
    A collection of essays on the general topic of minds, goals, and concepts.
  4. (TBA) Mere Reality.
    Essays on science and the physical world, as they relate to rational inference.
  5. (TBA) Mere Goodness.
    A wide-ranging discussion of human values and ethics.
  6. (TBA) Becoming Stronger.
    An autobiographical account of Yudkowsky’s philosophical mistakes, followed by a discussion of self-improvement and group rationality.
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