A Suggested Reading Order for Less Wrong [2011]

by jimrandomh4 min read8th Jul 201110 comments


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Less Wrong contains over four thousand posts. This is awesome. For newcomers, however, it's quite intimidating. Rather than leave newcomers to figure out which posts are worth reading themselves, we provide some guidance, in the form of suggested reading orders. Previously, this has mainly meant the sequences, which are a list of posts that fit neatly into topics, sorted by topic. Unfortunately, reading in topic-sorted order is less than ideal, and many of Less Wrong's best posts weren't part of any sequence. Therefore, I have put together a suggested reading order: the hundred best posts on Less Wrong, in my purely subjective and unofficial judgment, arranged in a sensible order. Thanks to Student_UK for pointing out the need to reconsider how Less Wrong's archived content is presented, to XiXiDu for creating a reading list and to Academian for another reading list; my reading list draws on (but is not a strict superset of) both these lists.

This is only a draft. Since the set of posts newcomers read has a significant impact on the community, I am soliciting feedback. After feedback has been collected, I will move (or clone) this list into the wiki, with feedback incorporated. Note that after my first pass, I had more than four hundred candidates for the top hundred; there were many excellent posts that I had to cut, and doubtless many more that I simply overlooked. I used karma as one consideration when deciding what to include, but this list is not karma based. Additional notes about what I did and didn't include at the bottom.

And with all that out of the way, the top five Less Wrong posts that everyone should read:

Top 5
What Do We Mean By "Rationality" by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Scientific Self-Help: The State of Our Knowledge by lukeprog
Cached Selves by AnnaSalamon and Steve_Rayhawk
Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others... by Yvain
Making Beliefs Pay Rent (in Anticipated Experiences) by Eliezer_Yudkowsky

A good pace is one or two posts per day, so that you have time to digest and internalize them. If you enjoyed the top five, take a moment to bookmark this page before continuing to the rest of the top 25. If you have questions or thoughts on a post, leave a comment; readers who follow the recent comments page will see it and may reply.

Top 25
About Less Wrong by lukeprog
Hindsight Devalues Science by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Tsuyoku Naritai! (I Want To Become Stronger) by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Twelve Virtues of Rationality by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes's Theorem by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Diseased thinking: dissolving questions about disease by Yvain
Humans are not automatically strategic by AnnaSalamon
Ugh Fields by Roko
Probability is in the Mind by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
How An Algorithm Feels From Inside by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Knowing About Biases Can Hurt People by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
A Fable of Science and Politics by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Taboo Your Words by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
The Fallacy of Gray by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Mind Projection Fallacy by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Reductionism by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Privileging the Hypothesis by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Conservation of Expected Evidence by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
The Apologist and the Revolutionary by Yvain

Top 50
Your Strength as a Rationalist by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Practical Advice Backed By Deep Theories by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Scientific Evidence, Legal Evidence, Rational Evidence Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Guessing the Teacher's Password by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
The Sword of Good by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Fake Explanations by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
The Proper Use of Humility by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
"What Is Wrong With Our Thoughts" by David Stove, and its Discussion on Less Wrong
Doing your good deed for the day by Yvain
Beware Trivial Inconveniences by Yvain
The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant by Nick_Bostrom [external]
The Bias You Didn't Expect by Psychohistorian
Hold Off On Proposing Solutions by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Hindsight bias by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
The Trouble With "Good" by Yvain
How to Not Lose an Argument by Yvain
You're Entitled to Arguments, But Not (That Particular) Proof by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
...What's a Bias, again? by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Applause Lights by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Explaining vs. Explaining Away by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale by Yvain
Reversed Stupidity Is Not Intelligence by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Cognitive Biases Potentially Affecting Judgment of Global Risks by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Politics is the Mind-Killer by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Newcomb's Problem and Regret of Rationality by Eliezer_Yudkowsky

Top 75
Semantic Stopsigns by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Dissolving the Question by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Learned Blankness by AnnaSalamon
Reason as memetic immune disorder by PhilGoetz
Making your explicit reasoning trustworthy by AnnaSalamon
Confidence levels inside and outside an argument by Yvain
Truly Part Of You by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
The 5-Second Level by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Ureshiku Naritai by Alicorn
Guilt: Another Gift Nobody Wants by Yvain
How to Beat Procrastination by lukeprog
Evaporative Cooling of Group Beliefs by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Occam's Razor by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Anchoring and Adjustment by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
The Least Convenient Possible World by Yvain
Scarcity by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
The Neglected Virtue of Scholarship by lukeprog
Scholarship: How to Do It Efficiently by lukeprog
Excluding the Supernatural by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Joy in the Merely Real by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Affective Death Spirals by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
The Lens That Sees Its Flaws by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
The Virtue of Narrowness by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Generalizing From One Example by Yvain
Belief in Belief by Eliezer_Yudkowsky

Top 100
Beyond the Reach of God by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Experiential Pica by Alicorn
Money: The Unit of Caring by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
The Importance of Goodhart's Law by blogospheroid
Policy Debates Should Not Appear One-Sided by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
The mathematical universe: the map that is the territory by ata
Beware of Other-Optimizing by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
A Much Better Life? by Psychohistorian
Less Wrong Rationality and Mainstream Philosophy by lukeprog
Philosophy: A Diseased Discipline by lukeprog
Eight Short Studies On Excuses by Yvain
Fake Causality by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Chaotic Inversion by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Measuring aversion and habit strength by Academian
Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism by Yvain
Too busy to think about life by Academian
37 Ways That Words Can Be Wrong by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
How to Be Happy by lukeprog
Righting a Wrong Question by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Self-fulfilling correlations by PhilGoetz
Why truth? And... by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
You Only Live Twice by Eliezer_Yudkowsky (followup to We Agree: Get Froze by Robin Hanson on Overcoming Bias)
Less Wrong NYC: Case Study of a Successful Rationalist Chapter by Cosmos
Outside the Laboratory by Eliezer_Yudkowsky
Raising the Sanity Waterline by Eliezer_Yudkowsky

And that's it for the top 100! If you've read up to this point, now is a good time to pause, reflect, and start incorporating the better parts into your life and your thinking.


And now, some notes about this list. I've tried to include a balanced mix of epistemic rationality, instrumental rationality, and motivations to learn about rationality, spread out through the list, except that the motivations are front-loaded. I have omitted some topics entirely; now that I'm done with the top 100, I will be starting on an "overflow list", containing all the posts that deserved to be here but which didn't fit in the top 100. This will include the Quantum Physics, Luminosity, Zombies, and Metaethics sequences, plus skipped portions of the main sequences and probably at least a hundred other miscellaneous posts.

I am looking for three types of feedback. First: point out if any posts are using concepts without sufficient introduction, so I can change the order to put the introduction in the right place. Second: if there are any posts in this list aren't pulling their weight, that might be profitably replaced with the best of the overflow list, point them out. (Note that a post can meet this criterion and still be excellent.) And third: point out any posts that should be here but aren't, especially posts that introduce concepts or jargon that occur frequently in comments.

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