If you've recently joined the Less Wrong community, please leave a comment here and introduce yourself. We'd love to know who you are, what you're doing, what you value, how you came to identify as a rationalist or how you found us. You can skip right to that if you like; the rest of this post consists of a few things you might find helpful. More can be found at the FAQ.
(This is the third incarnation of the welcome thread, the first two of which which now have too many comments to show all at once.)

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It's definitely worth your time commenting on old posts; veteran users look through the recent comments thread quite often (there's a separate recent comments thread for the Discussion section, for whatever reason), and a conversation begun anywhere will pick up contributors that way.  There's also a succession of open comment threads for discussion of anything remotely related to rationality.
Discussions on Less Wrong tend to end differently than in most other forums; a surprising number end when one participant changes their mind, or when multiple people clarify their views enough and reach agreement. More commonly, though, people will just stop when they've better identified their deeper disagreements, or simply "tap out" of a discussion that's stopped being productive. (Seriously, you can just write "I'm tapping out of this thread.") This is absolutely OK, and it's one good way to avoid the flamewars that plague many sites.
There's actually more than meets the eye here: look near the top of the page for the "WIKI", "DISCUSSION" and "SEQUENCES" links.
LW WIKI: This is our attempt to make searching by topic feasible, as well as to store information like common abbreviations and idioms. It's a good place to look if someone's speaking Greek to you.
LW DISCUSSION: This is a forum just like the top-level one, with two key differences: in the top-level forum, posts require the author to have 20 karma in order to publish, and any upvotes or downvotes on the post are multiplied by 10. Thus there's a lot more informal dialogue in the Discussion section, including some of the more fun conversations here.
SEQUENCES: A huge corpus of material mostly written by Eliezer Yudkowsky in his days of blogging at Overcoming Bias, before Less Wrong was started. Much of the discussion here will casually depend on or refer to ideas brought up in those posts, so reading them can really help with present discussions. Besides which, they're pretty engrossing in my opinion.

A few notes about the community

If you've come to Less Wrong to  discuss a particular topic, this thread would be a great place to start the conversation. By commenting here, and checking the responses, you'll probably get a good read on what, if anything, has already been said here on that topic, what's widely understood and what you might still need to take some time explaining.
If your welcome comment starts a huge discussion, then please move to the next step and  create a LW Discussion post to continue the conversation; we can fit many more welcomes onto each thread if fewer of them sprout 400+ comments. (To do this: click "Create new areticle" in the upper right corner next to your username, then write the article, then at the bottom take the menu "Post to" and change it from "Drafts" to "Less Wrong Discussion". Then click "Submit". When you edit a published post, clicking "Save and continue" does correctly update the post.)
If you want to write a post about a LW-relevant topic, awesome!  I highly recommend you submit your first post to Less Wrong Discussion; don't worry, you can later promote it from there to the main page if it's well-received. (It's much better to get some feedback before every vote counts for 10 karma- honestly, you don't know what you don't know about the community norms here.)
If you'd like to connect with other LWers in real life, we have  meetups  in various parts of the world. Check the wiki page for places with regular meetups, or the upcoming (irregular) meetups page.
There's also a Facebook group.  If you've your own blog or other online presence, please feel free to link it.

If English is not your first language, don't let that make you afraid to post or comment. You can get English help on Discussion- or Main-level posts by sending a PM to one of the following users (use the "send message" link on the upper right of their user page). Either put the text of the post in the PM, or just say that you'd like English help and you'll get a response with an email address.
* Normal_Anomaly
* Randaly
* shokwave
* Barry Cotter

A note for theists: you will find the Less Wrong community to be predominantly atheist, though not completely so, and most of us are genuinely respectful of religious people who keep the usual community norms. It's worth saying that we might think religion is off-topic in some places where you think it's on-topic, so be thoughtful about where and how you start explicitly talking about it; some of us are happy to talk about religion, some of us aren't interested. Bear in mind that many of us really, truly have given full consideration to theistic claims and found them to be false, so starting with the most common arguments is pretty likely just to annoy people. Anyhow, it's absolutely OK to mention that you're religious in your welcome post and to invite a discussion there.

A list of some posts that are pretty awesome

I recommend the major sequences  to everybody, but I realize how daunting they look at first. So for purposes of immediate gratification, the following posts are particularly interesting/illuminating/provocative and don't require any previous reading:

More suggestions are welcome! Or just check out the top-rated posts from the history of Less Wrong. Most posts at +50 or more are well worth your time.

Welcome to Less Wrong, and we look forward to hearing from you throughout the site.

(Note from orthonormal: MBlume and other contributors wrote the original version of this welcome message, and I've stolen heavily from it.)


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Hello everyone!

Thank You for this site and for sharing your thoughts, for genuinely trying to find out what is true. What is less wrong. This has brightened my view of humanity. :)

My name is Lara, I’m from Eastern Europe, 18 years old, currently studying physics, reading a lot and painting in my free time. For about a year and a half now I’ve been atheist; before then- devout and sincere christian, religious nerd of the church. A lot of things in the doctrine bothered me as compltely illogical, unfair and just silly, and somehow I tried to reason it all out, I truly believed, that the real Truth will be with God and that he will help me understand it better. As it turned out, truth seeking and religiosity were incompatible.

Now I’m fairly ‘recovered’- getting used to the new way of thinking about the world, but still care about what is really true and important, worth devouting my life to(fundamentalist upbringing :)). As I still live with my family, it is hard to pretend all the time, knowing they will have no contact with me whatsoever, when I come out; it is really good to find places like this, where people are willing to dig as deep as possible, no matter what, to understand better.

So thanks and sorry for my english. I hope someday I’ll be able to add something useful here and learn much more.

Welcome! Your English is excellent, don't worry on that count.

...also, that's a really tough predicament (hiding your atheism from your fundamentalist family), and I don't have anything wise to say about it, except that it isn't the end of the world when they do find out, and that often people will break their religious commitments rather than really abandon their children (so long as they can think of a religiously acceptable excuse to do so). But I'm not really qualified to give that advice. Hang in there!

I sympathize with you as I'm an atheist with a fundamentalist family who would cut me out of their lives if they found out.

I also envy you, as you had your enlightenment happen at such an early age. I didn't have mine until I was pushing middle age and had created a family of my own...all whom were also fundamentalist. I still live "in the closet" so to speak...

Wow. Haven't heard of that type of situation before now and it sounds very frustrating. Don't have any relevant advice but I hope you find ways to deal with it.
I'm sorry to hear that your family try to control you like this. Do you expect to physically live near them for long? If not, you may not need to tell them. Surely they have behaviors that they don't tell you about too, and don't honestly expect you to actually act as if you believed (just as they probably don't act that way themselves and expected you to grow out of the confused phase in your life when you were doing all that weird stuff that you did as a result of being a sincere and devout christian who expects things to be logical fair and non-silly once understood)

Thank you all for support, it is incredibly important.

Unfortunately it is a church norm to cut off everyone who leaves, and the doctrine is such that there is no way to be ‘inbetween’. The community is quite closed and one’s whole life is determined- from the way we dress(girls especially), to the way we make carriers (or stay at home and raise children). So in the beginning I decided not to tell anyone at all, knowing how painful it would be for everyone, but after some time I realised that I could not live like that my whole life; though egoistically, after I earn enough money to leave, I will.

There are really a lot of possibilities for finding work if you need it, at least if you are a US citizen. I can help you with that if you want. If nothing else, http://lesswrong.com/lw/43m/optimal_employment/ is available. I bet that if a few LWers could get together to do this (possibly after absorbing some of our West Coast or NYC contingent culture first) and build an amazing community there. email me.
Would you mind me asking which denomination your family belongs to?
To expand on orthonormal's point, note impact bias. If you do end up having to be truthful with them, whatever consequences you're imagining now are probably far worse that what you will actually go through. People tend to carry on just fine. And remember that the virtue of honesty does not require telling all truths, but rather not communicating falsely. If telling your parents you are an atheist will mean to them that you are an amoral person, maybe you should not say so unless that is also true.
Hey Lara, being a Slovenian student of physics from a very devout Catholic family (which I actually occasionally still accompany to Sunday mass) I can definitely relate to your story. I coped by sharing my doubts with less religious family members, eventually sharing with my sister that I considered myself atheist. I mostly let my extended family think what they will, but I don't really work to hide my non-belief in any serious way any more. I don't however try to argue with them about it. Mostly because de-converting my family members in a mostly secular country didn't really feel like a top priority, but also because I saw it would be very hard to get them interested in rationality. And without that in my mostly secular country, it didn't really seem worth it since I've come to realize that non-religious delusion is as widespread as religious delusion. I was for a time somewhat conflicted on this, but my general attitude since then is that I love my my family because they are my family not because I think they are good at rational debate or hold true beliefs. I think most parents feel the same way about their children. I'd heartily recommend reading the sequences, since atheism is just the beginning. :) Best wishes, Konkvistador

Hi; I'm a lurker of about one year, and recently decided to stop lurking and create an account.

I'm an undergraduate in Portland-area Oregon. I study mathematics and computer science at Pacific University. I've been interested in rationality for a very long time, but Less Wrong has really provided the formalism necessary to defend certain tactics and strategies of thought over others, which has been very...helpful. :)

Speaking of Portland, it seems that there are many Portland Less-Wrongians and yet there is no meetup. I would like to start a meetup, so I need a bit of Karma to get one started.

Hi, I'm 15, so sadly cannot say much of my education yet, but at least I've read a fair deal. I find the ideas on this site somewhat unappreciated among my age group, but fascinating for me. I've lurked here for close to a year, but I'm irrationally shy of speaking over the internet. I hope to contribute if I find what I think interesting, regardless of my adverseness to commenting. Thank you for the welcome!

There's an email list and occasional online meetups for LessWrong teenagers; you can join here. Welcome aboard!
Seconded! Looking forward to meeting you, if you join the group.

Hi everyone! I'm Ozy.

I'm twenty years old, queer, poly, crazy, white, Floridian, an atheist, a utilitarian, and a giant geek. I'm double-majoring in sociology and psychology; my other interests range from classical languages (although I am far from fluent) to guitar (although I suck at it) to Neil Gaiman (I... can't think of a self-deprecating thing to say about my interest in Neil Gaiman). I use zie/zir pronouns, because I identify outside the gender binary; I realize they're clumsy, but English's lack of a good gender-neutral pronoun is not my fault. :)

One of my big interests is the intersection between rationality and social justice. I do think that a lot of the -isms (racism, sexism, ableism, etc.) are rooted in cognitive biases, and that we're not going to be able to eliminate them unless we understand what quirks in the human mind cause them. I blog about masculism (it is like feminism! Except for dudes!) at No Seriously What About Teh Menz; right now it's kind of full of people talking about Nice-Guy-ism, but normally we have a much more diverse front page. I believe that several of the people here read us (hi Nancy! hi Doug! hi Hugh, I like you, when you say I'm wrong you... (read more)

Hi Ozy, it's really good to see you here, I enjoy the blog a lot. I remember reading one of your first social justice 101 posts, finding it peppered with LW links, and thinking "holy crap, somebody's using LW as a resource to get important background information out of the way while talking about something-really-important-that-isn't-itself-rationality -- this is awesome and totally what LW should be for", so that made me happy =)
Thanks! LW actually helped me crystallize that a lot of the stuff social-justice-types talk about is not some special case of human evil, but the natural consequence of various cognitive biases (that, in this case, serves to disadvantage certain types of people).
Her blog is good. Instead of blindly cheering for a side in the feminism vs men's-rights football game, Ozymandias actually tries to understand the problem and recommend workable solutions.
Thank you very much, Miley! I tend to view feminism and men's rights as being inherently complementary: in general, if we make women more free of oppressive gender roles, we will tend to make men more free of oppressive gender roles, and vice versa. However, in the great football game of feminists and men's rights advocates, I'm pretty much on Team Feminism, which is why I get so upset when it's clearly doing things wrong. Also, my pronoun is zie, please. :)
What I meant is that you actually demand results from your team, instead of giving them a free pass just because they have a certain label.
Hi, Ozy! I've enjoyed your writing at No Seriously What About Teh Menz; so it's good to see you here.

Hi; I've been reading LessWrong for more than a year and a half, now, but I never quite got around to making an account until today.

So, introduction: I'm eighteen years old, female, transgender. I live in California, USA. I don't have a lot of formal education; I chose to be homeschooled as a little kid because my parents were awesome and school wasn't, and due to disability I've not yet entered college.

The road to rationalism was fairly smooth for me. I'm a weirdo in enough ways that I learned early on not to believe things just because everyone else believed them. It took a little bit longer for me to learn not to believe things just because I had always believed them.

I guess my major "Aha!" moment came when I was fourteen, after I finally admitted to myself that I was transgender. I had lied to myself, not to mention everyone else, for almost a decade and a half. I had shied away from the truth every time I'd had the opportunity to see it. And while I'd had pretty good reasons for doing so (Warning: Big-ass PDF), the truth felt better. Not only that, but knowing the truth was better, in measurable ways; it allowed me to begin to move my life in a direction I ac... (read more)

Welcome to the site Kallio! I don't think you are alone in your experience of this. People here are pretty contrarian, metacontrarian even. I hope that in the month since you've posted this you've continued to gain utility from the site. :) While I have long ago read most of them, there are still sequences that I haven't read in a systematic fashion and I don't think I'm that exceptional among long time readers in that regard, so once you feel you've gotten a good grasp on issues don't be afraid to post. Also if you have a question about the material, need a beta reader for a contribution or would just like to discuss stuff with someone, please feel free to PM me. All the best, Konkvistador


I'm a 20 year old student at Georgia Tech, double majoring in Industrial Engineering and Psychology, and am spending the current semester studying abroad at the University of Leeds in the UK.

I read HPMOR this weekend on a bus trip to London and as soon as I returned I found this site and have been enthralled by the Sequences, which I am slowly working my way through.

All of my life I have loved to read and learn new things and think through them, but last year I came to the realization that my curiosity had started to die in my late high school years. I found myself caring about getting a good grade and then abruptly forgetting the information. Much of what I was "learning" I never truly understood and yet I was still getting praise from teachers for my good grades, so I saw no reason to invest more effort. Early last year, I realized that this was happening and attempt to rededicate myself to finding things that again made me passionate about learning. This was a major contribution to adding Psychology as a second major.

This semester of new classes in a new educational system combined with the past few days of reading the Sequences have sparked my interest in man... (read more)

Welcome to the site! Since I suspect you may find it interesting, have you read anything on spaced repetition so far? Also since I'm linking there I just want to warmly recommend gwern's site in general, he has a great knack for finding relevant information and presenting it well (good enough to get him a job at the Singularity Institute!) I've come to know and grown to dislike this feeling in the past few years of university. It is why I spend more effort than needed to try and make knowledge I learn become truly a part of me. Of course sometimes you just need to jump through hoops ... Consider asking around for a chavruta. The sequences are loooong (which is good since they are mostly well written) and talking to people about what you read is always fun. Taking up daenerys on her offer also sounds like a good idea indeed. Cheers, Konkvistador
Hi, thank you for both the welcome and the wealth of helpful knowledge! I did find the info on spaced repetition, as well as everything else you linked me to, very interesting! I think my problem now is that my interest in so many different things has been sparked, and I'm having a hard time prioritizing what to read and research first!
Hi! I also loved finding a place where people were really excited about ideas. You might be interested in 80,000 Hours, a site on choosing careers that improve the world (and they're very much in favor of making money as a way to do this, though also in favor of education as a career!)
Welcome to LessWrong. If you're interested, there's a meetup every other week that meets near Emory.
1Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 12y
That's a dangerous idea! Books in the library that are more interesting than your textbooks tend to result in "waking up" four hours later to realize you've read an entire book on [interesting subject x] and are still no closer to researching [boring essay topic y]. Good luck though! Your classes do sound pretty interesting. Hopefully you can stay engaged. I think that's a brilliant idea, and it really needs to be done. The "but then you wouldn't make any money!" people are pretty annoying, but you can ignore them.
That's cool that your studying a combination of Psychology and Engineering. I'm doing something similar and it seems to be very rare to find someone who is working in both of those fields. I'm sure that in the UK people would be even less understanding of this. It seems like over there you just choose one subject and that's all you do for the next three years. Keep on looking at those library books. I think the most important thing as an undergrad is to follow your interests even if this means dialling back on the effort you put into class work.

Hi, I’m Brigid. I’ve been reading through the Sequences for a few weeks now, and am just about to start the Quantum Section (about which I am very excited). I found out about this site from an email the SIAI sent out. I’m an Signals Intelligence officer in the Marine Corps and am slated to get out of the military in a few months. I’m not too sure what I am going to do yet though; as gung-ho as I originally was about intel, I’m not sure I want to stay in that specific field. I was a physics and political science major in college, with a minor in women’s studies. I’ve been interested in rationality for a few years now and have thoroughly enjoyed everything I’ve read so far here (including HPMOR) . Also, if there is anyone who is interested in starting a Meetup group in Hawaii (Oahu) let me know!

7Eliezer Yudkowsky11y
Hi, Brigid! Pleased to have you here! Experience has shown that by far the best way to find out if anyone's interested in starting an LW group is to pick a meeting place, announce a meetup time, and see if anyone shows up - worst-case scenario, you're reading by yourself in a coffeeshop for an hour, and this is not actually all that bad.
Welcome! A warning: while the QM sequence in general is very readable and quite useful for the uninitiated, the many-worlds advocacy is best taken with a mountain of salt. Consider skipping the sequence on the first pass, and returning to it later, after you've covered everything else. It is fairly stand-alone and is not relevant to rationality in general.
Well, there are a couple of things going on in the QM sequence. One of them is MWI. The other is the general debunking of the commonly-held idea that QM is soooooooo weeeeeeeeird.
Yes, that's the good part.
7Eliezer Yudkowsky11y
A meta-warning: Take shminux's "mountain of salt" advice with an equally large mountain of salt plus one more grain - as will become starkly apparent, there's a reason why the current QM section is written the way it is, it's not meant to be skipped, and it's highly relevant to rationality in general.

How would the Sequences be different, other than in the QM parts, if we lived in a classical universe, or if we had not yet discovered QM?

Wild Mass Guessing: in a classical universe, particles are definable individuals. This breaks a whole mess of things; a perfect clone of you is no longer you, and etc.

a perfect clone of you is no longer you

The lack of identity of individual particles is knock down argument against our identities being based on the identities of individual particles. However, if there was identity of individual particals, this does not require that the identity of individual particles contribute to our identities, it would just remove a knock down argument against that idea.

(Almost) all the particles in our bodies are replaced anyway, on the scale of a few years. Replacement here means a period of time when you're without the molecule, and then another comes in to take its place; so it's real whether or not particles have identities. This applies to quite large things like molecules. Once we know that, personal identity rooted in specific particles is shaky anyway.
An important point. Heraclitus probably didn't believe in lack of identity of individual particles, but he did believe we are patterns of information, not particular stuff. EDIT: On second thought, he'd probably work out lack of identity of individual particles if pressed, following from that.
Not necessarily. "What/who is you" is a matter of definition to a large extent. If particles have identities (but are still identical to all possible measurements), that doesn't stop me from defining my personhood as rooted in the pattern, and identifying with other sufficiently similar instances of the pattern.
That minds are physical processes seems discoverable without knowing why matter is made of atoms and what atoms are made of. That elimination of mentalism seems sufficient to justify the ideas of uploading, destructive cryonics, artificial people, and so on. But I'm actually more interested in what implications there are, if any, for practical rationality here and now. (I will be unmoved by the answer "But FAI is the most practical thing to work on, we'll all die if it's done wrong!!!")

it's not meant to be skipped, and it's highly relevant to rationality in general.

A few people have asserted this, but how is it actually relevant? Is it just a case study, or is there something else there? As RichardKennaway asks, how does QM make a difference to rationality itself?

Speaking from a non-physicist perspective, much of what the QM sequence helped teach me is helping see the world from bottom-up; QM is regular, but it adds up to normality, and it's normality that's weird. Delving down into QM is going up the rabbit's hole away from weirdness and normality, and into mathematical regularity. By analogy, normal people are similarly weird because they're the normality that was produced as the sum of a million years of evolution. Which in turn helps you realize that a random mind plucked out of mindspace is unlikely to have the characteristics we attribute to humanlike normality. Because normality is weird. Once you go from bottom-to-top, you also help dissolve some questions like problems of identity and free will (though I had personally dissolved the supposed contradiction between free will and determinism many years before I encountered LessWrong) -- I still think that many knots people tie themselves over regarding issues like Quantum Suicide or Doomsday Dilemmas, are caused by insufficient application of the bottoms-up principle, or worse yet a half-hearted application thereof.
It's bad enough that we've got people talking about things not being weird, as if weirdness is an objective property rather than something in the mind of the observer. Your words which I quoted are even worse; they're a self-contradiction. If you're not willing to let the word "weird" have its dictionary definition, please, please just taboo it and let the subject die, rather than trying to redefine it as the opposite of the original meaning.
The commenter was saying "our intuitive understanding of reality" is weird, I think. That's why the commenter was able to noncontradictorily say that Quantum Mechanics fixed some problems and made things less weird.
Yeah, that's roughly the best I could come up with, but it doesn't seem sufficient. Noticing the extent of cognitive bias is enough to figure out that humans are weird.
I have dutifully gone through the entire sequence again, enjoying some cute stories along the way, and my best guess of what EY means is that it is relevant not in any direct sense ("QM is what rationality is built on"), but more as a teaching tool: it brings "traditional Science" in conflict with "Bayesian rationality". (The Bayesianism wins, of course!) The MWI also lends some support to the EY's preferred model, Barbour's timeless physics, and thus inspires the TDT.
That still doesn't seem like enough to justify the reversal from "not relevant" to "highly relevant".
What reversal? I still think that it detracts from the overall presentation of "modern rationality" by getting people sidetracked into learning open problems in physics at a pop-sci level. Whatever points EY was trying to make there can surely be made better without it.
I meant where you said "not relevant" and Eliezer responded with "highly relevant". It sounds to me as though he thinks it's fundamental to rationality or something. Very confusing.

Hey, I'm -name withheld-, going by Benedict, 18 years old in North Carolina. I was introduced to Less Wrong through HPMoR (which is fantastic) and have recently been reading through the Sequences (still wading through the hard science of the Quantum Physics sequence).

I'm here because I have a real problem- dealing with the consequences of coming out as atheist to a Christian family. For about a year leading up to recent events, I had been trying to reconcile Christian belief with the principles of rationalism, with little success. At one point I settled into an unstable equilibrium of "believing in believing in belief" and "betting" on the truth of religious doctrine to cover the perceived small-but-noteworthy probability of its veracity and the proposed consequences thereof. I'd kept this all secret from my family, putting on a long and convincing act.

This recently fell apart in my mind, and I confronted my dad with a shambling confession and expression of confusion and outrage against Christianity. I'm... kinda really friggin' bad at communicating clearly through spoken dialogue, and although I managed to comport myself well enough in the conversation, my dad... (read more)

my dad is unconvinced that the source of my frustrations is a conflicting belief system so much as a struggle with juvenile doubts.

That is roughly speaking what juvenile doubts are. The "juvenile" mind tackling with conflicts in the relevant socially provided belief system prior to when it 'clicks' that the cool thing to do is to believe that you have resolved your confusion about the 'deep' issue and label it as a juvenile question that you do not have to think about any more now that you are sophisticated.

Next week, from July 30 to August 3, he's going to take me to this big huge realignment thing,

You clearly do not want to go. His forcing you is a hostile act (albeit one he would consider justified) but you are going along with it. From this, and from your age, I infer that he has economic power over you. That is, you live with him or he is otherwise your primary source of economic resources. I will assume here that your Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) sucks and you have essentially no acceptable alternative to submission to whatever power plays your father uses against you. Regardless of how the religious thing turns out, developing your pot... (read more)

Hi Benedict!

Bad news first: You will not be able to defend yourself. This is not because you're 18, it's not because you can't present your arguments in a spectacular fashion.

It is because noone will care about your arguments, they will wait for the first chance to bring some generic counter-argument, probably centering on how they will be there for you in your time of implied juvenile struggle, further belittling you.

And - how aggravating - this is actually done in part to protect you, to protect the relationship with your dad. With the kind of social capital, pride and identity that's on the line for your father, there is no way he could acknowledge you being right - he'd have to admit to himself that he's a phony in his own eyes, and a failure as a parent and pastor in the eyes of his peers.

To him it may be like you telling him he wasted his life on an imaginary construct, while for you it's about him respecting your intellectual reasoning.

Maybe the rational thing to do is not strive for something that's practically unattainable - being respected as an atheist on the basis of your atheist arguments - but instead focus on keeping the relationship with your parent intact while y... (read more)

Go in panic mode. This conference is not just making a case that Christianity is correct and debating about it. It's bombarding you with arguments for six days, where you won't hear an argument against Christianity or if you do it'll be awkward rude dissent from people in inferior positions, where you won't be able to leave or have time alone to think, and where you're going against your will in the first place. This is time for not losing your mind, not time for changing it. Don't keep an open mind, don't listen to and discuss arguments, don't change your mind because they're right, don't let the atmosphere influence you. If it helps you can think of it as like being undercover among huge patriots and resisting the temptation to defect (and their ideology may be better than yours), or like being in a psychiatrist hospital and watching out for abuse when you know the nurses will try to convince you your reactions are psychiatrist symptoms (and they may well be). So don't see anything at the conference as a social interaction or exchange of ideas. Your goals are to get out of there, to block everything out, to avoid attention, and to watch sharply for anything fishy. Block out the speakers, just watch the audience. If there's a debate be quiet and don't draw attention. If you're asked to speak, voice weak agreement, be vague, or pick peripheral nits. If you're asked to participate in group activities go through the motions as unremarkably as you can. At the socials be a bit distant but mostly your usual self when making small talk, but when someone starts discussing one of the conference topics pretend to listen and agree, smile and nod and say "Yes" and "Go on" and "Oh yeah, I liked that part" a lot. Lie like a rug if you must. Watch the social dynamics and the attitudes of everyone and anything that looks like manipulative behavior. You'll be bored, but don't try to think about any kind of deep topic, even unrelated (doing math and physics problems in your head a
Hey! I've got a pastor father too, but thankfully my atheism doesn't seem to be a big deal for him. (It helps that I don't live nearby.) I think the "conflicting belief system" is, as I understand it, the right model. There's a Christian worldview, which has some basic assumptions (God exists, the Bible is a useful source for learning about God, etc.), and there's a reductionist worldview, which has some basic assumptions (everything can be reduced to smaller parts, experiments are a useful source for learning about reality, etc.), and the picture you can build out of the reductionist worldview matches the world better than the picture you can build out of the Christian worldview. (There are, of course, other possible worldviews.) I would not put much hope into being able to convince the people at this event that they should be atheists; I wouldn't even hope to convince them that you should be an atheist. And so the question becomes what your goals are. If you're concerned about recanting your atheism and meaning it, the main thing I can think of that might be helpful is the how to change your mind sequence. You can keep that model in mind and compare the experience you're undergoing to it- it's unlikely that they'll be using rational means of persuasion, and you can point out the difference. Starting a post in discussion is an alright idea; it'll work well if you mention specific arguments that you want to have responses to.
Welcome. I'm sorry that you are in such an awkward situation with you family. In terms of dealing with this conference, I can only echo what MixedNuts said (except for the panicking part). I've always found this quote interesting: We have every reason to think that children's beliefs have no momentum - the evidence is right in front of us, they change their minds so often for such terrible reasons. By contrast, the fact that I disagree with another adult is not particular strong evidence that the other person is wrong. In other words, try to free yourself from feeling obligated to defend anything or feeling guilty for not engaging with those who wish to change your beliefs. You might consider explicitly saying "Social pressure is not evidence that you are right (or wrong)." If the people talking with you assert that they aren't using social pressure, then ask them to stop continuing the debate. Their willingness to leave is a victory for your emotional state, and their refusal is strong evidence that arriving at true beliefs is not really their goal - but the proper reaction to that stance is to leaving the conversation yourself, not try to win the "you are being rude" debate. In short, maximizing your positive emotional state doesn't rely on winning debates. Your goal should be to avoid having them at all. (If you hadn't already read the book your father found, I would have suggested declining to do so).
I'm not sure how much specific atheist reading you've done, but I found this list to be very helpful at articulating and formalizing all those doubts, arguments and wordless convictions that "this makes no sense." This is also a handy look at what would be truly convincing evidence of the truth of a particular religion's claims. The rest of that author's website is also wonderful.
Hey, I agree with what wedrifid said. I fell in to the same trap of trying to beat religious nonsense out of people as a kid. It's a very sexy thing to think about but it doesn't really get you anywhere, in my experience. My only additional advice is that you consider trying to make your "recapitulation" to Christianity convincing. For example, don't give in right away, and make up a story for where you went wrong and why you're a Christian again, e.g. "I thought that x, but now I see that y and z, so x is wrong. I guess maybe God exists after all." Something to keep in mind when arguing with your dad (internally only): your dad is presenting you with evidence and arguments in favor of God's existence, but these amount to a biased sample. If you really want to know the truth, you should spend an equal amount of time hearing arguments from both Christians and atheists, or something like that. Also, you can check internally if any of his arguments hold up to this test: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=8854
Hey! It's Luke!
It does not sound to me like you need more training in specific Christian arguments to stay sane. You have already figured things out despite being brought up in a situation that massively tilted the scales in favor of christianity. I doubt there is any chance they could now convince you if they had to fight on a level field. After all, it's not like they've been holding back their best arguments this whole time. But you are going to be in a situation where they apply intense social pressure and reinforcement towards converting you. On top of that, I'm guessing maintaining your unbelief is very practically inconvenient right now, especially for your relationship with your dad. These conditions are hazardous to rationality, more than any argument they can give. You have to do what MixedNuts says. Just remember you will consider anything they say later, when you have room to think. I do not think they will convert you. I doubt they will be able to brainwash you in a week when you are determined to resist. Even if they could, you managed to think your way out of christian indoctrination once already, you can do it again. If you want to learn more about rationality specific to the question of Christianity, given that you've already read a good amount of material here about rationality in general, you might gain the most from reading atheist sites, which tend to spend a lot of effort specifically on refuting Christianity. Learn more about the Bible from skeptical sources, if you haven't before you'll be pretty amazed how much of what you've been told is blatantly false and how much about the bible you don't know (for instance, Genesis 1&2 have different creation stories that are quite contradictory, and the gospels' versions of the resurrection are impossible to reconcile. Also, the gospels of Matthew and Luke are largely copied from Mark, and the entire resurrection story is missing from the earliest versions of Mark.) I unfortunately don't know a source that gives a
Hello, friend, and welcome to Less Wrong. I do think you should start a discussion post, as this seems clearly important to you. My advice to you at the moment is to brush up on Less Wrong's own atheism sequence. If you find that insufficient, then I suggest reading some of Paul Almond's (and I quote): If you find that insufficient, then it is time for the big guy, Richard Dawkins: * The Blind Watchmaker * The God Delusion If you are somehow still unsatisfied after all this, lukeprog's new website should direct you to some other resources, of which the internet has plenty, I assure you. Edit: It seems I interpreted "defend myself" differently from all the other responders. I was thinking you would just say nothing and inwardly remember the well-reasoned arguments for atheism, but that's what I would do, not what a normal person would do. I hope this comment wasn't useless anyway.
While wading through all these responses for the very specific response you are looking for (which some charitable LW'er will probably provide if this thread is commented upon frequently enough), you might want to read "How to Win Every Argument - An Introduction to Critical thinking" by Nicholas Capaldi. It offers a brief overview of logic and rational argumentation, and touches upon fallacies and what this site calls the 'Dark Arts', which should help in arming you against common attacks. If you are mathematically minded, but don't want to go into too much depth, you might want to check out "Sherlock's Logic". Mind, the former text is more of a survey course, whereas the latter is more of an introductory course. I have read that Luke Muehlhauser has worked through a dilemma similar to yours, and his blog you may find valuable.
I'm sure some people will offer other counsel than preparing yourself and giving the most persuasive arguments you can, which may be worth taking seriously, but if you make such a discussion thread I'm confident that you will receive responses to your queries, and think it is highly probable that the post will receive positive karma.
The value of this particular sequence is a topic of open debate on LW, so don't get stuck on it, skip it on the first reading, you can revisit it later, after you cover more relevant stuff. While this would be one way to confront him, by pointing out that he is committing mortal sins of wrath and pride, your odds of success are not good. He is a trained professional heavy-weight who has control over you and is not interested in playing by the rules, except for his own. If you play by his rules, you lose. Think about how you can redefine the game, Kirk-like, to your advantage. As for the meetups, there is one in NC, not sure if this is close enough to you.

Several people have alreadt given good answers to your position on infanticide, but they haven't mentioned what is in my opinion the crucial concept involved here: Schelling points.

We are all agreed that is is wrong to kill people (meaning, fully conscious and intelligent beings). We agree that adult humans beings are people (perhaps excluding those in irreversible coma). The law needs to draw a bright line separating those beings which are people, and hence cannot be killed, from those who are not. Given the importance of the "non-killing" rule to a functioning society. this line needs to be clear and intuitive to all. Any line based on some level of brain development does not satisfy this criterion.

There are only two Schelling points, that is obvious, intuitive places to draw the line: conception and birth. Many people support the first one, and the strongest argument for the anti-abortion position is that conception is in fact in many ways a better Schelling point than birth, since being born does not affect the intrinsic nature of the infant. However, among people without a metaphysical commitment to fetus personhood, most agree that the burdens that prohibition of a... (read more)

But there is no universal agreement on the "age of informed consent", it varies from country to country! And yes, the fact that the limit is arbitrary does undermine its strength; there are often scenarios of "reasonable" sex (in that most people don't consider it as wrong) that would be consider statutory rape or whatnot if the law was taken at the letter. (Also, heck, 10 months is a pretty crappy limit, why not 8 months five days and 42 minutes? 12 months would be much cleaner)
People disagree about obviousness of such things. For some people, a fetus is obviously a person too. For others, even a mentally deficient adult might not qualify as being obviously a person. Unlike you, I don't expect these disagreements to disappear anytime soon, and they are the reason that the law works better with bright Schelling point lines, if such exist. Age is non-ambiguous, but not non-arbitrary. Re your final objection, I agree that there are cases such as sexual consent where there are no clear Schelling points, and we need arbitrary lines. This does not mean that it is not best to use Schelling points whenever they exist. In the case of sexual consent, the arbitrariness of the line does have some unfortunate effects: for example, since the lines are drawn differently in different jurisdictions, people who move accross jurisdictions and are not epecially well informed might commit a felony without being aware. There are also problems with people not being aware of their partner's age, etc. Such problems are not too big and in any case unavoidable, but consider the following counterfactual: if all teenagers underwent a significant and highly visible discrete biological event at exactly age 16, it would make sense (and be an improvement over current law) to have an universal law using this event as trigger for the age of consent, even if the event had no connection to sexual and mental development and these were continuous. The event would be a Schelling point, such as birth is for personhood.
This is a very good response, that allows us to make our disagreement more precise. I agree that choosing menstruation, or its hypothetical unisex counterpart, is unreasonable because it is too early. I disagree that birth is too early in the same way. Pretty much everyone in our society agrees that 12-year olds cannot meaningfully consent to sex (especially with adults), whereas many believe 6-month old children to be people -- in fact, many believe fetuses to be people! You might say that they are obviously wrong, but the "obviously" is suspicious when so many disagree with you, at the very least for Aumann reasons. To put it in another way: What makes you so certain that birth is so far off from what is reasonable as a line for personhood, when you are willing to draw your line at 10 months? That is much closer to birth than 17 is to 12 years old. Also, I think your analogy needs a bit of amending: the relevant question is, if there was a visible unisex menstruation happening at 17 years old, and an established tradition of taking that as the age of consent, why on earth would a society change the law to make it 16 years and 2 months instead?
One rough effort at such definition would be: "any post-birth member of a species whose adult members are intelligent and conscious", where "birth" can be replaced by an analogous Schelling point in the development in an alien species, or by an arbitrary chosen line at a similar stage of development, if no such Schelling point exists. You might say that this definition is an arbtrary kludge that does not "carve Nature at the joints". My reply would be that ethics is adapted for humans, and does not need to carve Nature at intrinsic joints but at the places that humans find relevant. Your point about different rates of development is well taken, however. I am also not an expert in this topic, so we'll have to let it rest for the moment.
For computers, hardware and software can be separated in a way that is not possible with humans (with current technology). When the separation is possible, I agree personhood should be attributed to the software rather than the hardware, so your machine should not be considered a person. If in the future it becomes routinely possible to scan, duplicate and emulate human minds, then killing a biological human will probably also be less of a crime than it is now, as long as his/her mind is preserved. (Maybe there would be a taboo instead about deleting minds with no backup, even when they are not "running" on hardware). It is also possible than in such a future where the concept of a person is commonly associated with a mind pattern, legalizing infanticide before brain development seats in would be acceptable. So perhaps we are not in disagreement after all, since on a different subthread you have said you do not really support legalization of infanticide in our current society. I still think there is a bit of a meta diagreement: you seem to think that the laws and morality of this hypothetical future society would be better than our current ones, while I see it as a change in what are the appropriate Schelling points for the law to rule, in response to technological changes, without the end point being more "correct" in any absolute sense than our current law.
As a data point for your statistics, I think that a 12-year old can meaningfully consent to sex. When it comes to issues of pregnancy and having children, the consequences are greater and I don't think such yound people can consent to this, but fortunately sex and children can be kept separate today with only weak side effects.

I do think there are some advantages to setting the cutoff point just slightly later than birth, even if by just a few hours:
*evaluations of whether a person should come into existence can rest on surer information when the infant is out of the womb

  • non-maternal reproductive autonomy - under the current legal personhood cutoff, I can count this as an acceptable loss, as I consider maternal bodily autonomy and the interests of the child to be more important, but with infanticide all three can be reconciled
  • psychologically, parents (especially fathers) might feel more buy-in to their status, even if almost none actually end up choosing otherwise, and if infant non-personhood catches on culturally infant deaths very close to births might cause less grief among parents

(All this assumes that late-term abortions are a morally acceptable choice to make in their own right, of course, rather than something which must be legally tolerated to preserve maternal bodily autonomy.)

Mild updating of my original position due to this conversation: I still don't have many moral qualms about allowing parents to kill children, but realize that actually legalizing it in our current society would lead to some unintended consequences, due to considerations such as the Schelling point, and killing infants as a gateway to further sociopathic behaviours. Part of my difficulty is that some humans, such as infants, have less blicket than animals. If its ok to kill animals, then there's no reason to say it's not ok to kill blicket-less humans. Then I realize that even though it's legal to kill animals, it's still something I can't do for anything except certain bugs. Even spiders I let be, or take outside. So maybe a wiser way to reconcile these would be to say that since infants have less blicket than animals, and we don't kill infants, that we also shouldn't kill animals. It's what I live by anyway, and seems to cause less disturbance than saying that since infants have less blicket than animals and we kill animals, that it's ok to kill infants.

Part of my difficulty is that some humans, such as infants, have less blicket than animals. If its ok to kill animals, then there's no reason to say it's not ok to kill blicket-less humans. Then I realize that even though it's legal to kill animals, it's still something I can't do for anything except certain bugs. Even spiders I let be, or take outside.

Don't worry, there would probably be a baby killing service if it were legal. Just like we have other people to kill animals for us.

I just want to point out this alternative position: Healthy (mentally and otherwise) babies can gain sufficient mental acuity/self-awareness to outstrip animals in their normal trajectory - i.e. babies become people after a while. Although I don't wholeheartedly agree with this position, it seems consistent. The stance that such a position would imply is that babies with severe medical conditions (debilitating birth defects, congenital diseases etc.) could be killed with parental consent, and fetuses likely to develop birth defects can be aborted, but healthy fetuses cannot be aborted, and healthy babies cannot be killed. I bring this up in particular because of your other post about the family with the severely disabled 6-year-old. I think it becomes a little more complicated when we're talking about situations in which we have the ability to impart self-awareness that was previously not there. On the practical level I certainly wouldn't want to force a family to either face endless debt from an expensive procedure or a lifetime of grief from a child that can't function in day to day tasks. It also brings up the question of whether to make animals self-aware, which is... kind of interesting but probably starting to drift off topic.
Are you aware that in many countries it's illegal to kill animals without good reason, and that wanting to get rid of a pet does not qualify?

Infanticide of one's own children should be legal (if done for some reason other than sadism) for up to ten months after birth. Reason: extremely young babies aren't yet people.

I would recommend against expressing this opinion in your OKCupid profile.

Infanticide of one's own children should be legal (if done for some reason other than sadism) for up to ten months after birth. Reason: extremely young babies aren't yet people.

Arbitrary limits like "ten months" don't make for good rules - especially when there's a natural limit that's much more prominent: childbirth.

What exactly counts as "people" is a matter of convention; it's best to settle on edges that are as crisp as possible, to minimize potential disagreement and conflict.

Also "any reason other than sadism", eh? Like "the dog was hungry" would be okay?

EDIT: in the ensuing discussion, we came to an agreement that the psychopathy argument is only true of our present society, and, while strengthening our reasons to keep infanticide illegal right now, wouldn't apply to someplace without a strong revulsion to infanticide in the first place. I've updated my stance and switched to other arguments against infanticide-in-general.
I'm sorry, I just can't parse your sentence, especially "anyone who seriously doesn't understand why punishing all parents able to kill their infant is an incredibly good idea". I suspect you chained too many clauses together and ended up saying the opposite of what you meant.

I broadly agree that babies aren't people, but I still think infanticide should be illegal, simply because killing begets insensitivity to killing. I know this has the sound of a slippery slope argument, but there is evidence that desire for sadism in most people is low, and increases as they commit sadistic acts, and that people feel similarly about murder.

From The Better Angels of Our Nature: "Serial killers too carry out their first murder with trepidation, distaste, and in its wake, disappointment: the experience had not been as arousing as it had been in their imaginations. But as time passes and their appetite is rewhetted, they find the next on easier and more gratifying, and then they escalate the cruelty to feed what turns into an addiction."

Similarly, cathartic violence against non-person objects (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catharsis#Therapeutic_uses) can lead to further aggression in personal interactions.

I don't think we want to encourage or allow killing of anything anywhere near as close to people as babies. The psychological effects on people who kill their own children and on a society that views the killing of babies as good are too potentially terrible. Without actual data, I can say I would never want to live in a society that valued people as little as Sparta did.

By what criterion do you consider babies sufficiently "close to people" that this is an issue, but not late term fetuses or adult animals? Specific example, an adult bonobo seems to share more of the morally relevant characteristics of adult humans than a newborn baby but are not afforded the same legal protection.
I don't think killing bonobos should be particularly legal. As far as fetuses, since my worry is psychological, I don't think there's a significant risk of desensitization to killing people since the action of going under surgery or taking plan b is so vastly removed from the act of murder.
What if only surgeons are licensed for infanticide on request, which must be done in privacy away from parent's eyes? That way desensitisation isn't worse than with surgeons or doctors who preform abortion, especially if aesthetics or poison is used. Before anyone raises the Hippocratic oath as an objection, let me give them a stern look and ask them to consider the context of the debate and figure out on their own why it isn't applicable.
Can't this same be said of last trimester abortions? In any case much like we find pictures or videos of abortion distasteful, I'm sure future baby-killing society would still find videos of baby killings distasteful. We could legislate infanticide needs to be done by professionals away from the eyes of parents and other onlookers to avoid psychological damage. Also forbid media depicting it except for educational purposes.
They're just p-zombies pretending to be people. They only get their soul at 10 months and thereafter are able to detect qualia. I would vote against this law. I'd vote with guns if necessary. Reason: I like babies. Tiny humans are cute and haven't even done anything to deserve death yet (or indicate that they aren't valuable instances of human). I'd prefer you went around murdering adults (adults being the group with the economic, physical and political power to organize defense.)
Most adults don't have traits I'd want a "person" to have. At least with babies there is a chance they'll turn out as worthwhile people.
Adults have a small chance of acquiring those traits too. Due to selection effects adults that don't have traits have a much lower probability than a fresh new baby of turning out this way. In a few decades genetic technology and better psychology and sociology may let us make decent probabilistic predictions about how they will turn out as adults. Are you ok with babies with very low probabilities of getting such traits being killed?
As well as, of course, as having far less malleable minds that have yet to crystallize the habits their upbringing gives them. Far less averse, particularly in an environment where negative externalities cannot be easily prevented. Mind you I would still oppose legalization of killing people (whether babies or adults) just because they are Jerks. Not because of the value of the Jerks themselves (which is offset by their effects on others) but because it isn't just Jerks that would be killed. I don't want other people to have the right to choose who lives and who dies and I'm willing to waive that right myself by way of cooperation in order to see it happen.
I'm not sure why this is getting down voted. "Person" is basically LW speak for "particular kind of machine that has value to me in of itself". I don't see any good reason why I personally should value all people equally. I can see some instrumental value in living in a society that makes rules that operate on this principle. But generally I do not love my enemies and neighbours like myself. I'm sorry, I guess that's not very Christian of me. ;)
Yes. The explanation given was significant. It takes a 110 years to make a 110 year old . In most cases I'd prefer to keep a 30 year old than either of them. More to the point I don't intrinsically value creating more humans. The replacement cost of a dead human isn't anything to do with the moral aversion I have to murder.
Do you really think it's wise to have a precedent that allows agents of Type X to go around killing off all of the !X group ? Doesn't bode well if people end up with a really sharp intelligence gradient.
I haven't downvoted, for what it is worth. Sure, you may be an evil baby killing advocate but it's not like l care!
I think you accidentally a word.
I haven't seen anyone respond to your request for feedback about votes, so let me do so, despite not being one of the downvoters. By my lights, at least, your posts have been fine. Obviously, I can't speak for the site as a whole... then again, neither can anyone else. Basically, it's complicated, because the site isn't homogenous. Expressing conventionally "bad" moral views will usually earn some downvotes from people who don't want such views expressed; expressing them clearly and coherently and engaging thoughtfully with the responses will usually net you upvotes.
I think you may have taken me to be talking about whether it was acceptable or moral in the sense that society will allow it, that was not my intent. Society allows many unwise, inefficient things and no doubt will do so for some time. My question was simply whether you thought it wise. If we do make an FAI, and encoded it with some idealised version of our own morality then do we want a rule that says 'Kill everything that looks unlike yourself'? If we end up on the downside of a vast power gradient with other humans do we want them thinking that everything that has little or no value to them should be for the chopping block? In a somewhat more pithy form, I guess what I’m asking you is: Given that you cannot be sure you will always be strong enough to have things entirely your way, how sure are you this isn’t going to come back and bite you in the arse? If it is unwise, then it would make sense to weaken that strand of thought in society - to destroy less out of hand, rather than more. That the strand is already quite strong in society would not alter that.
You did not answer me on the human question - how we’d like powerful humans to think . This sounds fine as long as you and everything you care about are and always will be included in the group of, ‘people.’ However, by your own admission, (earlier in the discussion to wedrifid,) you've defined people in terms of how closely they realise your ideology: You’ve made it something fluid; a matter of mood and convenience. If I make an AI and tell it to save only ‘people,’ it can go horribly wrong for you - maybe you’re not part of what I mean by ‘people.’ Maybe by people I mean those who believe in some religion or other. Maybe I mean those who are close to a certain processing capacity - and then what happens to those who exceed that capacity? And surely the AI itself would do so.... There are a lot of ways it can go wrong. You observe yourself to be a person. That’s not necessarily the same thing as being observably a person to someone else operating with different definitions. The opinion you state may influence what sort of AI you end up with. And at the very least it seems liable to influence the sort of people you end up with. -shrug- You’re trying to weaken the idea that newborns are people, and are arguing for something that, I suspect, would increase the occurrence of their demise. Call it what you will.
How did I misinterpret? I read that you don't include babies and I said that I do include babies. That's (preference) disagreement, not a problem with interpretation.
"Encouraged" is very clearly not absolute but relative here, "somewhat less discouraged than now" can just be written as "encouraged" for brevity's sake.
Yeah, I get it, you don't consider babies people and I do. So pretty much we just throw down (ie. trying to reason each other into having the same values as ourselves would be pointless). You vote for baby killing, I vote against it. If there is a war of annihilation and I'm forced to choose sides between the baby killers and the non-baby killers and they seem evenly matched then I choose the non-baby killers side and go kill all the baby killers. If I somehow have the option to exclude all consideration of your preferences from the optimisation function of an FAI then I take it. Just a plain ol' conflict of terminal values.
If babies were made of bacon then I'd have to rerun the moral calculus all over again! ;)
Well, they are made of eggs. Actual eggs and counterfactual bacon are an important part of this nutritious breakfast.
What do you think of abortion?
Once we get artificial uteri I think it should be illegal except in cases of rape, but it should be legal to renounce all responsibility for it and put it up for adoption or let the other biological parent finance the babies coming to term. This has the neat and desirable effect of equalizing the position of the biological father and the biological mother.
Not a native speaker. And uterus is a surprisingly sparingly used word. Uterus. Uterus. Uterus. Thanks for the correction! :)
Any time ;) Just remember that if it ends with -us, it probably pluralizes to -i. That's only for latin-based words. Greek-based words, like octopus, can either be pluralized to octopuses or octopodes (pronounced Ahk-top-o-dees). And sometimes you have a new or technical latin-based word like "virus" which just pluralizes to "viruses." It's perfectly fine to pluralize uterus to uteruses, too, since it's so uncommon. English is a bitch. [Edited to give a longer explanation]
I have to say, http://lesswrong.com/lw/47k/an_abortion_dialogue/ seems relevant to this entire comment tree.
Your link (in the Discussion post) is broken.
Better late than never? (From the looks of gwern's link I'm more interested in homophones.)
Why is sadism worse than indifference? Are we punishing people for their mental states?
Why does that seem like a reasonable thing to do? Isn't that just an incentive to lie about motives?
Its illegal to torture an animal. Why wouldn't it be illegal to torture a baby while killing him? If a sadist can get jollies out of killing with painless poison his children and keeps making them for that purpose, I can't really see how this harms wider society if he pays for the pills and children himself.
Please rethink this. E.g. are you at all confident that this sadist wouldn't slip and go on to adults after their 10th child? Wouldn't you, personally, force people who practice this to wear some mandatory identification in public, so you don't have to wonder about every creepy-looking stranger? Don't you just have an intuition about the myriad ways that giving sadists such rights could undermine society?
Fine make it illegal for this to be done except by experts. No, why? We already give sadists lots of rights to psychologically and physical abuse people when this is done with consent or when we don't feel like being morally consistent or when there is some societal benefit to be had.
I don't understand your reasoning for either of those dot points.
I'd think that that the bulk of the resource cost of a newborn is the physiological cost (and medical risks) the mother endured during pregnancy. The general societal cost seems small in comparison.
We already treat accidental pregnant women basically the same as those who planned their pregnancy. Clearly we should distinguish and discriminate between them rather than lump them into the "pregnant woman" category (I take a lighter tone in some of my other posts here to provoke thought, but I'm dead serious about this). Also many people are way to stuck in their 21st century Eurocentric frame of mind to comprehend the personhood argument for infanticide properly. Let me help:
On infanticide, is this a reasonable summary of your position:
Ok. I agree with you on the empirical assertions (I actually suspect that 10-month-olds also lack blicket). But my moral theory gives significant weight to blicket-potential (because blicket is that awesome), while your system does not appear to do so. Why not? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- You mentioned to someone that the current system of being forced to provide for a child or place the child in foster care is suboptimal. I assume a substantial part of that position is that foster care is terrible (i.e. unlikely to produce high-functioning adults). I agree that one solution to this problem is to end the parental obligation (i.e. allow infanticide). This solution has the benefit of being very inexpensive. But why do you think that solution is better than the alternative solution of fixing foster care (and low quality child-rearing practice generally) so that it is likely to produce high-quality adults?
I agree there is a scale about how much weight to give blicket-potential. But I support a meta-norm about constructing a morality that the morality should add up to normal, absent compelling justification. That is, if a proposed moral system says that some common practice is deeply wrong, or some common prohibition has relatively few negative consequences if permitted, that's a reason to doubt the moral construction unless a compelling case can be made. It's not impossible, but a moral theory that says we've all doing it wrong should not be expected either. The fact that my calibration of my blicket-potential sensitivity mostly adds up to normal is evidence to me that the model is a fairly accurate description of the morality people say they are applying.
This is a historical claim that requires a bit more evidence in support. I don't doubt that infanticide has a rich historical pedigree. But I don't think infanticide was ever justified on a "human autonomy" basis, which seems to be your justification. For example, the relatively recent dynamic of Chinese sex-selection infanticide has not been based on any concept of personal autonomy, as far as I can tell. In general, I suspect that most cultures that tolerated infanticide were much lower on the human-autonomy scale than our current civilization (i.e. valued individual human life less than we do).
I did some reading on the ancients and infanticide, and the picture is murky - the Christians were not responsible for making infanticide illegal, that seems to have preceded them, but they claimed the laws were honored mostly in the breach, so whether you give any credit to them depends on your theories of causality, large-scale trends, and whether the Christians made any meaningful difference to the actual infanticide rate.
Cultures are often fine with killing wives and children too, if they get too far out of line. They are yours after all.
Sigh. How did the post-modern moral nihilist become the defender of moral universalism? My argument is more that infanticide fits extremely poorly within the cluster of values that we've currently adopted. I am highly skeptical that this is true.
An uncle of mine who is a doctor said that SIDS is a codeword for infanticide and that many of his colleagues admit as much.
Either my model is false or this story is wrong. Specifically, I can't understand why a coroner would not take actions to facilitate the prosecution of a crime (infanticide is murder), because that is one of the jobs of a coroner. By contrast, I've heard that coroners are quite wiling to label a death as accidental when they believe it was suicide, because any legal violations are not punishable (suicide is generally illegal, but everyone agrees that prosecution is pointless).
Because he, like some who have posted here, is sympathetic to the baby-killing mothers under certain circumstances and doesn't mind helping them avoid prosecution? I wouldn't judge him, heavens forbid. I'd likely do the opposite in his place, but I respect his position.
Labelling a suicide as an accident isn't legally trivial. It is, at least in some cases, an action that favors the interests of the heirs of suicides and disfavors the interests of life insurance companies.
If it works that way with euthanasia...
It looks like I misread you. I thought you were referring to moral conventions generally, while you seem to have been referring to moral conventions on infanticide. I agree that many historical cultures did not oppose infanticide as strongly as the current culture.
Major objection. When talking about society at large and not the small cluster of "rationalist" utilitarians (who are ever tempted to be smarter than their ethics), the current standard is "don't kill what our instincts register as people". The distinction being that John Q. Public hardly reflects on the matter at all. I believe that it's a hugely useful standard because it strengthens the relevant ethical injunctions, regardless of any inconveniences that it brings from an act utilitarian standpoint.
NO! As you have yourself correctly pointed out, it is because most cultures, with ours being a notable exception, assign a low value to "useless" people or people who they feel are a needless drain on society. (mistake fixed)
Hm. So what seems to follow from this is that most people don't actually consider killing people to be a particularly big deal, what they're averse to is killing people who contribute something useful to society... or, more generally, that most people are primarily motivated by maximizing social value. Yes? (I don't mean to be pedantic here, I just want to make sure I'm not putting words in your mouth.)
Blast me! I meant to say that our culture is an exception, not an "inclusion". So this statement is largely true about non-western cultures, but western ones mostly view the relatively recent concept of "individuality and personhood are sacred" as their main reason against murder.
Ah, gotcha. That makes sense. So is your position that we inherited an aversion to murder from earlier non-western cultures, and then when we sanctified personhood we made that our main reason for our pre-existing aversion? Or that earlier cultures weren't averse to murder, and our sanctification caused us to develop such an aversion? Or something else?
If you say you don't want to kill an infant because of its potential for blicket, then you would also have to apply that logic to abortion and birth control, and come to the conclusion that these are just as wrong as killing infants, since they both destroy blicket-potential. Fetus- does not have blicket, has potential for blicket - killing it is legal abortion Infant- does not have blicket (you agreed with this), has potential for blicket - killing it is illegal murder Does not compute. One or the other outcomes needs to be changes, and I'm sure not going to support the illegalization of birth control. Note: I apologize if this is getting too close to politics, but it is a significant part of the killing babies debate, and not mentioning it just to avoid mentioning a political issue would not give accurate reasons.
At a certain level, all morality is about balancing the demands of conflicting blicket-supported desires. So the balance comes out different at different stages. Yes, the difference between stages is quite arbitrary (and worse: obviously historically contingent). In short, I wish I had a better answer for you than I am comfortable with arbitrary distinctions (why is the speed limit 55 mph rather than 56?). From an outsider perspective, I'm sure it looks like I've been mind-killed by some version of "The enemy of my enemy (politically active religious conservatives) is my friend."
One day in the future, if we somehow survive the existential threats that await us and a Still More Glorious Dawn does, in fact, dawn, one day we might have machines akin to 3D printers that allow us to construct, atom-by-atom, anything we desire so long has we know its composition and structure. Suppose I take one of these machines and program it to build me a human, then leave when it's half done. Does the construction chamber have blicket-potential?
Sure. Unborn babies have blicket-potential. Heck, the only reason I don't say that unconceived babies have blicket potential is that I'm not sure that the statement is coherent. Blicket and blicket-potential are markers that special moral considerations apply. They don't control the moral decision without any reference to context.
(Let's collect academic opinions here) The utilitarian bioethicist Peter Singer claims that it's pretty much OK to kill a disabled newborn, but states that killing normal infants who are impossible for their parents to raise doesn't follow from that, and, while not being as bad as murdering an adult, is hardly justifiable. Note that he doesn't quite consider any wider social repercussions. http://www.princeton.edu/~psinger/faq.html
Consider Heinlein:
More infanticide advocacy here : Recently, Francesca Minerva published in the Journal of Medical Ethics arguing the case that : "what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled." Random press coverage complete with indignant comments Actual paper, pdf, freely available
You're not the first one to argue this on LW. I'll find you the link in a second. Why can't sadists kill their babies? Why ten months, precisely? More importantly, why can't we kill babies? Why do you particularly bring up the "discrimination against youth" thing? But yeah, welcome to LW and all that.
If anything it would seem more appropriate to prevent sadists from torturing their babies (including before and during the murder).
Would you approve of a man killing a child which his wife recently gave birth to, without the mother's permission, on the grounds that he does not believe himself to be the child's father? That's certainly not sadism. Or, if genetic testing has been done and the child's biological father is known, would you say it should be legal for the father to kill the child... say, because he disagrees with the married couple's religious beliefs and wants to deny them an easy recruit?
We had a couple of fair-sized threads on infanticide before. I suggest that everyone who hasn't seen them yet skims through before posting further arguments. http://lesswrong.com/lw/2l/closet_survey_1/1ou http://lesswrong.com/lw/1ww/undiscriminating_skepticism/1rmf Also: http://lesswrong.com/lw/35h/why_abortion_looks_more_okay_to_us_than_killing/
What benefit, other than satisfaction of sadism, do you see in infanticide of one's own children that wouldn't be satisfied by merely giving them up for adoption?
Look at the youngest children in any adoption photolisting. The kids you usually see there are either part of a sibling group, or very disabled. (Example). There are children born with severe disabilities who are given up by their birth parents and are never adopted. (Example) The government pays foster parents to care for them. That's up to $2,000 per month for care, plus all medical expenses. Meanwhile, other kids are dying for lack of cheap mosquito nets. This use of money does not seem right to me.
At national level and above, the argument about "use of money" just plain fails. If you're looking for expenses to cut so that the money could be redirected for glaring needs like mosquito nets, foster care can't realistically appear on the cut list next to nuclear submarines and spaceflight.
True. I'd be happy to see those things cut as well. Though foster care is funded at a state level, I believe.
Why not permit the killing of babies not your own, for the same reason?
It causes me a certain level of distress when a baby is harmed or killed, even if it is of no relation to me. Many people (perhaps almost all people) experience a similar amount of distress. Is it your point of view that the aggregate amount of harm caused in this way is not large enough to justify the prohibition on killing babies? Perhaps what you mean to argue with the house analogy is not that the parent is harmed, but that his property rights have been violated.
Are those property rights transferable? Would you permit a market in infants?
Sure, adoption markets basically already exist, why not make them legal? Not only are wealthier people better candidates on average because they can provide for the material needs much better and will on average have a more suitable psychological profile (we can impose legal screening of adopters too, so they need to match other current criteria before they can legally buy on the adoption market if you feel uncomfortable with "anyone can buy"). It also provides incentives for people with desirable traits to breed, far more than just subsidising them having kids of their own.
One of the standard topics in economic approaches to the law is to discuss the massive market failures caused by not permitting markets in infants; see for example, Landes and Richard Posner's "The Economics of the Baby Shortage". I thought their analysis pretty convincing.
Don't worry, in the right culture and society this distress would be pretty minor.
The more interesting question is what to do when parents disagree about infanticide and the complications that come about from custody. Also adoption contracts would probably need to have a "don't kill my baby that I've given up clause" lest some people wouldn't want to give up children for adoption.
(edit) I have the feeling that I've got to state the following belief in plain text: Regardless of whether "babies are people" (and yeah, I guess I wouldn't call them that on most relevant criteria), any parent who proves able to kill their child while not faced with an unbearable alternative cost (a hundred strangers for an altruistic utilitarian, eternal and justified damnation for a deeply brainwashed believer) is damn near guaranteed to have their brain wired in a manner unacceptable to modern society. Such wiring so strongly correlates with harmful, unsympathetic psychopaths that, if faced with a binary choice to murder any would-be childkillers on sight or ignore them, we should not waver in exterminating them. Of course, a better solution is a blanket application of unbounded social stigma as a first line deterrent and individual treatment of every one case, whether with an attempt at readjustment, isolation or execution.

harmful, unsympathetic psychopaths

There is another, quite different, situation where it happens: Highly stressed mothers of newborns.

The answer to this couldn’t be more clear: humans are very different from macaques. We’re much worse. The anxiety caused by human inequality is unlike anything observed in the natural world. In order to emphasize this point, Robert Sapolsky put all kidding aside and was uncharacteristically grim when describing the affects of human poverty on the incidence of stress-related disease.

"When humans invented poverty," Sapolsky wrote, “they came up with a way of subjugating the low-ranking like nothing ever before seen in the primate world.”

This is clearly seen in studies looking at human inequality and the rates of maternal infanticide. The World Health Organization Report on Violence and Health reported a strong association between global inequality and child abuse, with the largest incidence in communities with “high levels of unemployment and concentrated poverty.” Another international study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry analyzed infanticide data from 17 countries and found an unmistakable “pattern of powerlessness, pov

... (read more)

Infanticide has been considered a normal practice in a lot of cultures. The Greeks and Romans, for example, don't seem to have been run down by psychopaths.

I don't think we have a good way to know about the later harmful actions of people who kill their infants. Either we find them out and lock them up, in which case their life is no longer really representative of the population, or we don't know about what they've done.

I've managed to overlook the most important (and fairly obvious) thing, though! If the idea of "childkilling=bad" is weakly or not at all ingrained in a culture, it's easy to override both one's innate and cultural barriers to kill your child, so most normally wired people would be capable of it => the majority of childkillers are normal people. If it's ingrained as strongly as in the West today, there would be few people capable of overriding such a strong cultural barrier, => the majority of childkillers left would be the ones who get no barriers in the first place, i.e. largely harmful, unsympathetic psychopaths. The other ones would have an abnormally strong will to override barriers and self-modify, which can easily make them just as dangerous.

Okay, got it. I agree that in a culture that condemns infanticide, people who do it anyway are likely to be quite different from the people who don't. But Bakkot's claim was that our culture should allow it, which should not be expected to increase the number of psychopaths.

I'm also not sure that unbounded social stigma is an effective way to deter people who essentially don't care about other people. We don't really know of good ways to change psychopathy.

(edited for clarity)

You are overlooking the extreme situations some people are forced into. Looking at the act as being primarily a function of a person's internal state state can be a poor approximation. As nearly as I can tell, if an arbitrarily selected person in the West were put in a situation as dire as these infanticidal mothers had been forced into, they would quite probably do the same thing. Note that the geographical variation in infanticide rates is more plausibly consistent with external factors driving the rates than internal factors. The populations of the USA and Canada are not hugely different, yet there is a 2X difference in the rates between them (as I quoted from the article that I cited before). I strongly doubt that the proportion of psychopaths and extreme self-modifiers differs so strongly between the two nations - but the US has been shredding its social safety nets for years.
This is easy enough to check. Do most poor, fairly desperate people whose situation is sufficiently alike that of our hypothetical normal childkiller, in fact, kill their children? (No, I can't quite define "sufficiently alike" right off the bat. Wouldn't mind working it out together.)
With genocide of any foreigners and mass torture for entertainment also having been considered perfectly acceptable, the Roman culture in the flesh would certainly feel alien enough to us that an utilitarian, altruistic time traveler could likely be predicted to attempt to sway it, with virtually any means justifying the end for them.* I know I would, and I know that I'm not an unusual decision maker for the LW community. *(cue obvious SF story idea with the time traveler ending up as Jesus)
But these seem to have been larger cultural phenomena, not the unchecked actions of a few psychopaths. Psychopathy affects around 1% of the population, and I doubt so few people could have swayed the entire culture if the rest of them had no interest in killing people.
One percent of the modern population. How much historical data is there?
I suspect a lot of the people who would agree with this sentiment would change their minds in the face of a sufficiently compelling argument that there exists some scenario under which they would be able to kill their child.

I've worked with parents of very disabled children, and it's not an easy life. For mothers especially, it becomes your career. I can imagine a lot of parents might consider infanticide if they knew that was going to be their life.

Ditto, as someone who works in disability care and child care (including infant care), I support the baby-killing scenario.

I worked for a family that had a severely mentally and physically disabled 6-year old. She was at infant-level cognition, practically blind, and had very little control over her body. There was almost nothing going on mentally, but she was very volatile about sounds/music/surroundings. You could tell if she was happy or sad by whether she was laughing or crying, and she cried a LOT.

Trying to get her to STOP crying was extremely difficult, because there was no communication, and she never wanted the SAME things. However it was also very important to get her calm QUICKLY because if she cried too long she would have a "meltdown", be near inconsolable, throw up, and then you'd have to vent her stomach.

Her parents were the best at reading her. They trained people by pretty much putting you in a room with her, until you developed an ineffable intuitive ability to keep her happy. When I moved to a different city, it took them about 3-4 months to find a replacement for me who wouldn't quit by the second day. I was driving back to my old city once a week to ... (read more)

So, my position is that the necessary standard to justify ending a 10 month old's life is only a bit lower than that of ending a 18 year old's life, and is only a bit higher than the necessary standard to justify ending a fetus's life. I'm patient. But what that statement often obscures is that I'm willing to let people meet that standard. I would support ending the individual you described at ages of 6 years, 60 years, 6 months, or 6 months after conception. But the acknowledgement that not every life should be continued is very different from a "return policy" sort of infanticide which Bakkot is justifying by saying "well, they're not people yet." Sometimes it's best to kill people, too, and so personhood isn't the true issue.
Ah, I was wondering how the welcome thread got to more than 500 comments so quickly!
In other posts in this thread I've discussed infanticide, and proposed ways to reduce parental grief in cultures that would adopt it (I didn't say it should be adopted btw). But only now did I remember that the practice of infanticide where others preform the killing (something I proposed down thread as an implementation that would reduce psychological stress) reminded me of the practice of killing "mingi" (cursed) children in Ethiopia. Many of the individuals exposed to outside culture would prefer to adopt it or at least find ways to not kill the children while still severing them from the parents. While obviously CNN as always has a progressive-Eurocentric-mind-projection-fallacy spin in its reporting and the tribes in question may be just adopting preferences of higher status tribes and groups rather than because not practising it seems so much better than practising it. I do think this is weak evidence that people prefer to live in societies that don't practice infanticide. Also reading some of the accounts has caused me (rightfully or not) to increase the estimated psychological suffering of parents. But consider that this wasn't a choice in most cases, it isn't that large either. I shouldn't be surprised, humans are built to live in a world where life is cheap after all. I have no doubt that the practice of mingi historically did indeed help the tribe, taken as a whole traditions do tend to be adaptive in the environment in which they where established, but now that their (social) envrionment has changed, the practice seems to be falling out of favour.
Please let me know if I've missed a discussion of this point; it seems important, but I haven't seen it answered. What is the particular and demonstrable quality of personhood that defines this okay to kill/not okay to kill threshold? In short, what is blicket?
I won't argue that newborns are people, because I have the same problem defining person that you seem to have. But until I can come up with a cogent reduction distilling person to some quality or combination of qualities that actually exist -- some state of a region of the universe -- then it seems prudent to err on the side of caution.
Well, one relatively simple question that might help clarify some things: do I remain a person when I'm asleep?
Cool. Would I still be a person while in a coma that I will naturally come out of in five years but not before? (I recognize that no observer could know that this was the case, I'm just asking whether in fact I would be, if it were. Put another way: after I woke up, would we conclude that I'd been a person all along?)

Hi everybody,

I’m male, 24, philosophy student and live in Amazon, Brazil. I came across to LessWrong on the zombies sequence, because in the beginning, one of my intelectual interests was analytic philosophy. I saw that reductionism and rationality have the power to respond various questions, righting them to something factually tractable. My goals here is to contribute to the community in a useful form, learn as much as possible, become stronger and save the world reducing the risks of human extintion. I'm looking for some advice in these topics: bayesian epistemology, moral uncertain and the complexity of the wishes. If some of the participants in the forum can help me, I will be very grateful.

Do you have specific questions? You could ask them here, or in the comments of the relevant posts (the age of the thread doesn't matter much, since more people read the Recent Comments sidebar than read any particular post's comments). Also, on the topic of morality, have you come across lukeprog's mini-sequence?
Yes, I read part of the sequence and a recent post of lukeprog on his blog. He think that much of the language of morality is failed, and we have to substitute with another language more precise. In normative terms, decision theory is the best candidate,I suppose, but in the site we have various versions.

Hi all,

I'm 25 from Israel. I worked in programming for 4 years, and have recently decided to move on to more interesting stuff (either math, biology, or neurology, don't know).

I'm new in LW, but have read OB from time to time over over the past 5 years. Several months ago I ran into LW, (re)read a lot of the site, and decided to stick around when I realized how awesome it is.

Nice to meet you all!


Israel seems like a natural place for LW. Any thoughts on why the memes haven't gotten more traction there yet?
Very naive guess: people in Israel live in constant high proximity to the two biggest mindkillers, religion and politics/nationalism, both of which have serious and immediate real-world consequences for them.
Now that you have some karma you should be able to post in the discussion section. Please make sure your post doesn't look like a spam ad, though.
To follow up on what FAWS said, "What are good apps for rationalists?" is a much better title than "Useful Android Apps for the Rational Mind", since the latter sounds like you're trying to sell something to us.

minimalist, 17, white, male, autodidact, atheist, libertarian, california, hacker, studying computer science, reading sequences, intellectual upbringing, 1 year bayesian rationalist, motivation deficient, focusing on skills, was creating something similar to bayesian rationality before conversion, have read hpmor (not intro to lw), interested in contributing to ai research in the future

The Identikit LessWrongian!

"Minimalist" is implied by the sparsity of the rest of the comment, and so is ironically redundant.

There are a few other reasons I could be formatting my introduction that way, such as being bad at English or writing in general. I used "minimalist" both as a heads up for the format and to draw away from the other possible explanations.

I'm sure you're aware at this point, but with that description you blend into the wallpaper.

Thank you for creating a comment to link "stereotypical Less Wrong reader". If only you were a couple of years older.

Since you're 17, have you looked into the week-long summer camp?

I have and I have submitted an application.

Consider restarting with a different account name. Trolling (that is, trying to provoke people) is not welcome here, and when your username is "troll", people will not (and should not) give you the benefit of doubt.

That handle bodes well.

On an elitist gaming forum I used to frequent (RPG Codex), we called such things "post-ironic" (meaning "post-modern as fuck online performance art").

Basically the joke is that everyone gets the joke, and that allows its author to act as if it was no joke, and self-consciously reference that fact - which is the joke.

Welcome to LessWrong! (For a cheap way to give a better impression, you may want to switch to another user name)
If you mean 'against people who are contrarian', no. If you mean 'for popular opinions', no.
You weren't kidding when you said "minimalist". Nicely done.
I guess a lot of people are interested enough in an account with the handle "troll" to check my first post, but not enough to not consider the name when reviewing posts.
Realistically, when someone replies to one of my posts on some long thread, I don't take the time to click through their handle and find their own intro post. I don't think that doing so is a good use of my time, and I believe that I am typical in this regard. However, I do take the time to read their handle, and if it seems to say "I am not arguing in good faith", I take notice. This gives me an idea for a new Less Wrong feature, though: allow users to enter a short descriptions of themselves, and display it when the mouse hovers over their handle for a certain amount of time. I know how I'd implement it with jQuery, but I'm not sure how easy it would be to plug into the LW general architecture.
I think it would be simpler to just allow people to add a short description of themselves to the user page. (And then maybe later the hovering thing can be added if people want that.)
Agreed; if we had that feature, then we could write the Greasemonkey (or whatever) extension as well, since it would just scrub their user page for the description.
Don't we have that as part of the linked wiki userpages?
...huh. OK, how on earth do you set up that "profile" thing you have? I can't find it anywhere in the preferences. I think we need to promote this a bit more.
As far as I know, you just register the exact same account name on the LW wiki, and create your userpage, and it's transcluded over automatically.
Hm. OK, I made myself a user page on the Wiki a few hours ago, and I still have no profile here. Do you know how long this is supposed to take?
Second, minute, hour, day are the usual Schelling points for things updating. In this case, when I click on your username I get So I'm guessing the syncing is done daily.
Greasemonkey or a browser extension that injects javascript?
How would it get the intro post, though ?

Less Wrong,

After lurking for about a week, I decided to register today. I have read some of the Sequences and a good many posts and comments. I am a life long agnostic who recently began to identify as atheist. I am interested in rationality for many reasons, however, my primary reason is that I'd like to learn more about rationality to help me get over my fear of death. A fear that I feel is very irrational, yet I am unable to shake it. I am 39, female and a mother, I have lots of college under my belt but no degree. I guess I never really cared about that. I am also a schizophrenic and that makes rationality quite challenging for me. (Not that it's not challenging for many people.)
I am looking forward to reading more of the Sequences and hope to be able to comment or post in the near future. I am glad I found this site. Thanks for your time.

Thank you, GabrielDuquette. I hope what I add is worthwhile.

I've been lurking here on and off since the beginnings at OB, IIRC, though more off than on. Expressed in the language of the recent survey: I'm an 43-year-old married white male with an advanced humanities degree working in the technical side of for-profit IT in the rural USA. I was raised in a non-theist environment and was interested in rationality tools from an early age. I had a spontaneous non-theistic mystical experience when I was 17 that led me to investigate (but ultimately reject) a variety of non-materialist claims. This led to a life-long interest in the workings of the brain, intuition, rationality, bias, and so on.

I enjoy LW primarily because of the interest in conscious self-improvement and brain hacking. I think that the biggest error I see in general among self-described rationalists is the tendency to undervalue experience. My thinking is probably informed most strongly by individual athletics, many of the popular writers in the rationalist tradition, and wide variety of literature. These days, I'm nursing obsessions with Python programming, remote backcountry cycling, and the writing of Rebecca Goldstein.

There are a couple of things you could mean by this. Can you give an example?

There are indeed a couple of different ways I do mean it, but my best specific examples come from athletics. About eight or nine years ago I started getting seriously interested in long distance trail running. Like most enthusiastic autodidacts I started reading lots of material about shoes, clothing, hydration, nutrition, electrolytes, training, and so on. As I'm sure you've seen, a lot of people on the Internet can get paralyzed by analysis in the face of vast easily available information. In particular, they have a lot of trouble sorting out conflicting information gained from other knowledgeable people.

Frequently, further research will help you arrive at less-wrong conclusions. However, in some endeavors there really is a great deal of individual variation, and you just have to engage in lengthy, often-frustrating self-experimentation to figure out what techniques or training methods work best for you. This base of experience can't really be replaced by secondary research. Where research skill comes in, though, is in figuring out where to focus that secondary research (and this in itself is a skill that is honed by experience). As a friend of mine likes to put it: the best prac... (read more)

I agree it's a common failure mode, and that the areas in which I've done cheap self-experimentation and kept notes showed remarkably quick improvement. There are some LW posts expounding the meme of actually trying things, but it's less prominent than it ought to be.

I'm a 22-year-old mathematics graduate student, moving to Boston next year.

I was recommended HPMoR by another Boston math grad student, followed the authors' notes to read most of the sequences, and then started following lesswrong, although I didn't create an account until recently.

I can't say how I came to actually be a rationalist, though---most of the sequences seemed true or even obvious in hindsight when I first read them, and I've always had a habit of remembering "x tells me y is true" instead of "y is true" when x tells me y is true.

I'm signed up for cryonics. (Current probability estimates 90% that it preserves enough information to be reversible, 95% that I'll die with enough notice to be preserved, 50% that humanity'll advance far enough to reverse it, and 70% that CI'll survive that long.)

I'm vegetarian for carbon efficiency and because the animals that produce most of our meat have negative utility from awful conditions. I don't think sentience is the right standard; is there a good past lesswrong discussion about that?

Impressive if true- the best way to test this might be playing a game like The Resistance... The last one I remember started off with a really confrontational post, and ended up being an angry discussion; I don't think I'll find and link it. I think you could write a better one, and I'd comment on it- I think your points are good reasons to cut back on meat and to strongly prefer small farms over industrial-scale meat (at least for pork, since pigs are the most sentient of our livestock), and I do both of these, but I don't find it worthwhile to go completely vegetarian.
I like your username!

I heard about LW from a startup co-founder. I'm 22, in Pittsburgh, graduating college in 4 months and on my 2nd startup. Raised hard-core Catholic, and still trying to pull together arguments from various sources as to the existence of God. The posts on LW have certainly helped, and I'd say I'm leaning towards atheism - though it's been a short journey of only 6 months or so since I've started to question my religion.

I'm very interested in the Singularity movement and how that will shape human philosophy and morality. I've also done some body hacking and started tracking my time, an interest which I think a lot of the LW community shares. Looking forward to becoming more active in the community!


The best unsolicited advice I have to give is this: your philosophical leanings are immensely sensitive to psychology, and in particular to the sort of self you want to project to the people around you. So if you want to decide one way or another on a philosophical question that's tormenting you, the biggest key is to surround yourself (socially, in real life) with people who will be pleased if you decide that way. If you want to do your best to figure out what's true, though, the best way is to surround yourself with people who will respect you whatever you decide on that matter, or else to get away from everyone you know for a week or two while you think about it.

Good luck!

Thanks ortho. I've definitely found that to be the case. I've also struggled to meet moral atheist girls, though a lot of that is also sampling bias (having only been looking for a few months). Interested to see how everything plays out!

Hello LW readers,

Long time lurker here. Just created this account so I can, probably, participated more in LW discussion.

I'm male, 27 years old, from Indonesia. I work as freelance software developer. I love music and watching movies. Any movies. Movie is the only way I can detached from reality and have a dream without a sleep.

I come from Muslim family, both of my parent is Muslim. Long story short, after finished my college, with computer science degree, I tried to learn extend my knowledge more in Islam. I read a lot of books about Islam history, Islam teaching, Quran commentary, book that explain hadith and Quran, etc. Every books that my parents have. Soon, with the help of Internet, I renounce my faith and become an atheist. I see rationalism, philosophy in general, as the way to see the world without giving any judgments. Because, in the end, there is no absolute truth, only facts and opinions.

I know LW from /r/truereddit, and has been reading some of the articles and discussions in here, very informative and thoughtful. The only thing I can help here probably by translating some of articles, especially the Sequences, into Bahasa Indonesia.

Because, in the end, there is no absolute truth, only facts and opinions.

Eliezer's essay The Simple Truth is a nice argument for the opposite. The technical name for his view is correspondence theory. A short summary is "truth is the correspondence between map and territory" or "the sentence 'snow is white' is true if and only if snow is white".

Actually, The Simple Truth is one of my favorite essay, and it's not the opposite of my statement. Autrey is the one who work with facts (reality) and Mark is the one who work with opinion (belief). Who jump at the cliff at the end ?
If you really want to be technical, I think it would be hard to say whether this view is supposed to be a correspondence or deflationary theory of truth, and some (including the linked article) would regard them as currently at odds. Personally, I think the distinction is not very important (which is also hinted at in the linked article) and it makes sense to use the language of both. The Simple Truth in particular casts it as deflationary; the shepherd doesn't even know what 'truth' is, and thinks questions about it are silly - he just knows that the pebbles work. ETA: To be slightly more helpful to readers, here's a relevant section of the SEP article that intends to illustrate the difference:
One can, of course, get arbitrarily wrapped around the axle of reference here. "The man with a quarter in his shoe is about to die," said by George, who has a quarter in his shoe, shortly before his own death, is true... but most intuitive notions of truth leave a bad taste in my mouth if it turns out that George, when he said it, had not known about the quarter in his shoe and was asserting his intention to kill Sam, whom George mistakenly believed to have a quarter in his shoe. Which is unsurprising, since many intuitive notions of truth are primarily about evaluating the credibility and reliability of the speaker; when I divorce the speaker's credibility from the actual properties of the environment, my intuitions start to break down.
There are several different things you could mean by this. Do you agree that, outside of human cognition, some things happen rather than others? And also, isn't it practically useful if our expectations are in line with the sorts of things that actually happen?

Hello! I'm male, 20-something, educator, living in Alberta, Canada. I came across LessWrong via some comments left on a Skepchick article.

My choice to become an educator is founded upon my passion for rational inquiry. I work in the younger grades, where teaching is less about presenting and organizing knowledge and more about the fundamental, formative development of the human brain. Because of this, I am interested in exploring the mental faculties that produce "curiosity behaviors" and the relationship between these behaviors and motivation.

I'm a constructivist at heart; I help guide my students to become masterful thinkers and doers by modifying environmental variables around them. Essentially, I trick them into achieving curriculum-mandated success by 'exploiting' their mental processes. In order to do this effectively, I need to understand as best I can the processes that guide human thoughts and behaviors. This is something I have been interested in since I was young - I am fortunate to have found a career that allows me to explore these interests and use my understanding to better my students'.

I've considered myself to be a rationalist since i was 16 or so, and ... (read more)

Welcome! I hope you'll post about some of the specific methods you're used with your students.
This interests me because my small experience with teaching kids suggests that curiosity is indeed the bottleneck resource. Please post about your experiments and conclusions.

Hello Less Wrong!

I am a twenty year old female currently pursuing a degree in programming in Washington State, after deciding that calculus and statistics was infinitely more interesting to me than accounting and economics. I found LW via HPMOR, and tore through the majority of the Sequences in a month. (Now I'm re-reading them much more slowly for better comprehension and hopefully retention.)

I wish to improve my rationality skills, because reading the Sequences showed me that there are a lot of time-wasting arguments out there, and I want to spend my time doing productive, interesting, and fun things instead. Also, I've always enjoyed philosophy, so finding a site that uses scholarship and actual logic to tackle critical issues was amazing.

Other defining things about me: I like cooking, folding origami, playing video games, and reading science fiction, fantasy, and history books. I struggle with procrastination and akrasia. I look forward to self-improvement!


tl;dr This seems like a place that I can use to shore up some of my cognitive shortcomings, eliminate some bias and expand my worldview. Maybe I can help someone else along the way.

I have been reading the material here for the last several days and have decided that this is a community that I would like to be a part of and hopefully contribute to. My greatest interests are improving my map of the territory(how great is that analogy?), using my constantly improving map to be a better husband and father, and exploring transhumanist ideas and conceits.

I came to be a rationalist when I started reading somewhat milquetoast skeptical literature. Having been raised religious and having served in the Marine Corps I have found that I have a tendency to allow arguments from authority too much credence. If I am not careful I can serve as quite the dutiful drone.

It became important over the last few months that I be able to do as much of my own philosophical and scientific legwork as possible. If an author or speaker that I enjoy espouses ideas I am inclined to agree with it is vital (in my estimation) that I either be able to verify the information presented myself or locate reliable... (read more)

Welcome to LessWrong. One of the most interesting parts of LessWrong for me is noticing the cognitive bias in our thought process. For example, noticing that one dislikes another solely because the other is a member of a different group. (Psychology calls this the in-group bias). Noticing those sorts of mistakes doesn't necessarily require all that much mathematical ability. In short, the hope in this community is that clear thinking helps you achieve your stated goals (rather than some inaccurate approximation created by unclear thinking from the imperfect brain). In short, don't sweat the math, there's lots of practical stuff that can be achieved without it. If you are particularly interested in improving your self-awareness, might I recommend Alicorn's Luminosity sequence?


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I know after reading this post, one of the first things I thought was that I wanted to read the article you mentioned. So I went and found the article and have linked it below in case any one else wanted to read it as well. http://betabeat.com/2012/07/singularity-institute-less-wrong-peter-thiel-eliezer-yudkowsky-ray-kurzweil-harry-potter-methods-of-rationality/ Thanks for referencing it!
That is an awesome article - thanks for finding the link!

Hello there!

I think I first saw LessWrong about three years ago, as it frequently came up in discussions on KW, the forum formerly linked to the Dresden Codak comic. This makes mine one of the longer lurking periods, but I've never really felt the urge to take discussion to the actual posts being discussed and talked about them elsewhere when I felt the need to comment. All this changed when Alicorn told me that when I was asked to make a post relevant to LessWrong that meant I actually had to post it on LessWrong (a revelation which I should have probably anticipated). So it has come to this.

The simplest place to start describing myself is by saying that I'm the type of person that skims through the 200 most recent comments to see which ones are well liked before writing anything.* In real life terms, I've finished up my bachelor's degree in December, after making various errors. Unfortunately, with it finished, I have discovered that I lack motivation to pursue a standard career, since just about the only things I find myself caring about are stories, knowing the future (in the general, not the personal, respect), and understanding things, particularly things related to people. (... (read more)

Hello all.

I've been lurking around here and devouring the sequences for about two years now. I haven't said much because I rarely feel like I have much that's useful, or I don't feel knowledgeable about the subject. But I thought I might start commenting a bit more.

I'm 19, in Florida and studying engineering. I really want to do something that will bring the world forward in some way, and right now that has me pointed at trying to put my personal effort towards nanotechnology. For now though I'm just trying to win classes and learn as much as I can.

Not too much more than 'hi', but there it is.

Welcome! Although I disagree that this is the best direction for marginal technological development (in particular, I don't know if we're smart enough to not do nanotech horribly wrong), I expect you'll learn some extremely important things in the process of studying...
It might not be. Of course I don't feel like I'm on track to help suddenly make atomically precise, self replicating nanomachines. But it would be nice to get closer to some mechanically precise manufacturing, or just certain better materials for some applications. Also I could make some money. I am an early engineering undergrad, so right now I'm mostly taking intro to anything at all classes and not doing any real work. I wouldn't be surprised if I changed directions at all.
Good to meet you. AFAIK, since molybdenumblue and one other whose name I can't recall left, _ozymandias, you, and me are the only people here willing to admit to being Floridians. I'm a bit south of you, in Tampa Bay. edit: Heh, due to my terrifyingly slow computer, I noticed and added _ozymandias in a spacelike interval to your reply. Internet special relativity.
Good to meet you too. There's also Ozy in Florida. That's a whole Three People!
So are we! Happy to have you along for the ride!


I'm a mathematician and working as a programmer in Berlin, Germany. I read HPMOR after following a recommendation in a talk on Cognitive Psychology For Hackers and proceeded to read most of the sequences.

Reading LW has had several practical consequences for me: Spaced repetition and effective altruism were new to me. Things have also improved around social skills, exercise and nutrition.

I'm also part of a small Berlin LW meetup: spuckblase and me have met twice - and now we got contacted by two other Berlin based lurkers which prompted the creation of a wiki entry and a mailing list. We're now planning the first meetup that will actually get a meetup post and be announced in advance.

Hi there. I'm Hermione (yes, really). I went to my first LW meetup recently and I'm now working on the Rationality Curriculum, so it feels like time to introduce myself and start getting involved in discussions.

There are a lot of things I'd be interested in talking about. I only found LW a couple of months ago so I'm trying to level up in rationality and work out how to teach others to do so at the same time. I'll probably be posting about this and asking for advice. Has anyone written about their experiences of reading the sequences for the first time? Should I try and absorb things really quickly, or is it better to take it slowly, and if so, what comes first? That kind of thing.

I've also been inspired by Alicorn's Luminosity sequence and have been piloting a beeper experiment, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi style. In order to understand myself and my moods better, I've been recording what I'm doing and how I feel at random times (3x/day). I'd like to improve the indicators I've been using. I struggle to get the right balance between quantitative (more analysable) and qualitative (more accurate). Any suggestions?

Finally, I'd really like to meet some more rationalists in person, so please PM me if you're in Brussels!

I am slowly setting up a self-experiment with lithium focusing on mood, so I'm interested in the same question. Seth Roberts suggested I rate my mood on just a 0-100 scale as opposed to the 1-5 I was using; I suggested using the Brief POMS as an apparently standard mood rating tool (and used in previous lithium studies) but I haven't heard back.
Hello there! With regards to better understanding your moods and indicators, I'd suggest a bit of noting meditation, or at least adding some of the different kinds of things to note to your vocabulary of moods and indicators. http://kennethfolkdharma.wetpaint.com/ Just see the lists from "First Gear".

Hi people :) I'm 16 from France and the Philippines, going to a Christian boarding school. Um, i met a guy on Omegle... he gave me a link to this website after a conversation about Christianity. Long story short, I'm confused. Maybe someone would like to help me get my head straight?

Sure~! Though for a starter, what in particular are you confused about? You might want to start by skimming Making Beliefs Pay Rent and Belief in Belief, which lacking evidence to the contrary I believe are most likely to be helpful.
The guy who sent you here... That would be me. Baughn's links are a nice place to start. For the 'Ever wonder why we're here?' question, you should probably see Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions. It doesn't answer that, but I think it's vital if you're ever to find a satisfying answer. And if you think, even a bit, that it'd all be pointless if God or Jesus had never existed... You should read Explaining vs Explaining Away and Joy in the Merely Real. Everything that's beautiful about the world is beautiful no matter what! Of course, you're not going to buy all this straightaway, and that's fine.... Just leave yourself a line of retreat for now. (And that's another article you should read, especially if all of this is beginning to feel overwhelming.) But don't just rationalise all of this away-- it's an easy trap to fall into (and some of your friends have already fallen into it, from what you were telling me), and it's kind of pointless if your doubts end up just 'confirming' everything you'd already believed

Hello LW community, my name is Karl, but please call me MHD for short; here's a lot of sentences beginning with "I..." :

I am a 19 year old, slightly gifted individual, male of gender and psyche, bi, hard to define my preferred relationship structure; honestly my gonads and sexual preference are mostly irrelevant here.

I came here by way of HPMoR and was pressed to do some serious reading by my good friend, known around here as Armok_GoB.

I have at time of writing read sequences MaT and MAtMQ along with some non-structured link-walking, looking to read Reductionism next. My attitude is so far positive, but I read it with a healthy dose of sceptic afterthought and note-taking to verify that it really does make sense. You see, my native language is not English, and I have read a study that one is more gullible when communicating in a non-native language.

My mind is built for logical thinking and I have a knack for mathematics, physics and language. I know approx. 12 turing complete programming languages (C likes, LISPs, ML family, SmallTalk-esque, Assembly) reasonably well. I am looking into Tensors, Bayesian probability, formal logic, type theory, quantum physics, relativity, ... (read more)

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I am not a fan of cryonics because I know that freezing, regardless of method, is a very good way to destroy tissue

Cryonics uses vitrification, which protects from the tissue-destroying crystal formation.

Oh oh. That argument was just removed. Now what are you going to do? You can make up a new one to support your existing conclusion or you could make up a new conclusion based on what you know. Welcome to lesswrong.
This seems needlessly confrontational, especially as a comment to a newcomer.
That would seem to be in the eye of the beholder. I saw it as an opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the most basic principle of lesswrong and instantly raise his standing in the tribe and reputation for sanity. I reject your accusation!
My apologies for the misinterpretation, then.
All right, I'll play ball. If my devoting my career to AI research fails to make FAI, sure, I'll buy into cryonics. Right now I am 19 years old, poor as dirt, lives with my parents, healthy lifestyle, careful to the point of paranoia; show me a cryonics establishment in Denmark and I will reserve a space when I have the funding. (the "show me" is a rethoric, I intend to find out myself) I am generally optimistic with regards to FAI, and I am no strong Bayesian at all. You have a point, yeah, plain as day. And thank you Kaj_Sotala, for taking up on this, frankly not at all "fun" or "inviting" and, yes, frankly quite "needlessly confrontational," yet still true counterargument. wedrifid; there is a time to be direct and insulting in a playful kind of way. You need to learn when that time is. ETA: After a brief lookup of the term "Vitrification" i find the term "Toxicity" to feature, along with "Optimistic of the future." I am not sure what to think here, compelling arguments can be made for each.
The toxicity isn't a problem if it's going to be a brain upload, but it is a valid concern for any attempt at resurrecting the wetware.
Welcome! Was the study in a non-native language? ;)
I actually don't remember; let me consult my sources for a spell.
That study sounds interesting, could you post a link if you happen to find it?
Kudos for that. Sceptic afterthought is always good if you have the time to devote to it.

Hi all, I'm a lurker of about two years and have been wanting to contribute here and there - so here I am. I specialize in ethics and have further interests in epistemology and the philosophy of mind.

Salutations and whatnot! My name is Joyce, I'm a high school sophomore. Probably on the younger side of the age spectrum here, but I don't mind starting young. The idea of rationality isn't new to me, I've always been more inclined to the "truth", even when it sometimes hurts. In my mind knowing more about the truth = better person, so that's my motivation for being here. I'm have better grades than the average, but for the past couple of years the thing I hated most about myself was the fact that I usually "coast" a class, get my A, and then promptly forget everything I've done in the class. My goal was "get an A", not "learn something new". I'd like to learn new things now, and actually retain it, instead of just coasting by. Knowledge is power. I want to be the best, like no one ever was.

Um. When I was younger, perhaps ten, while I was tinkering with Photoshop, my older cousin approached to me and tried to introduce to me the idea of fallacies. He's...nine years older than me, so he was a barely an adult. I forgot most of the conversation, but from what I DO remember, blaming a stomachache on the last thing you ate was falling prey to SOME... (read more)

This is actually one danger of learning about fallacies: you become more able at defeating arguments, and this holds irrespective of their truth, so if you have a standard tendency to privilege arguments for the positions you already hold, that makes it harder for you to change your mind. See the post Knowing About Biases Can Hurt People.
Probably post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Hello, Less Wrong.

Like some others, I eventually found this site after being directed by fellow nerds to HPMOR. I've been working haphazardly through the Sequences (getting neck-deep in cognitive science and philosophy before even getting past the preliminaries for quantum physics, and loving every bit of it).

I can't point to a clear "aha!" moment when I decided to pursue the LW definition of rationality. I always remember being highly intelligent and interested in Science, but it's hard for me to model how my brain actually processed information that long ago. Before high school (at the earliest), I was probably just as irrational as everyone else, only with bigger guns.

Sometime during college (B.S. in mechanical engineering), I can recall beginning an active effort to consider as many sides of an issue as possible. This was motivated less from a quest for scientific truth and more from a tendency to get into political discussions. Having been raised by parents who were fairly traditional American conservatives, I quickly found myself becoming some kind of libertarian. This seems to be a common occurrence, both in the welcome comments I've read here and elsewhere. I can'... (read more)

Welcome to LW! I like the "just with bigger guns" metaphor a lot; the trouble with intelligence is its ability to produce smart-seeming arguments for nearly any silly idea.
Exactly. I also suspect that logical overconfidence, i.e. knowing a little bit about bias and thinking it no longer affects you, is magnified with higher intelligence. I can't help but remember that saying about great power and great responsibility.

Hi, I'm Nick Bone ... Just joined the site.

I'm based in the UK and interested in a wide variety of topics in science and associated philosophy. In particular, the basics of rationality (deductive and inductive logic, Bayesian Theorem, decision theory), foundations of mathematics (logic and set theory). Plus some of the old staples (classical arguments for/against existence of God, first cause, design, evil and so on).

My background is in mathematics and computer science (PhD in maths) and I'm currently working in an area of applied game theory. Generally I found the site by Googling, and the quality of discussion seems rather higher than on other discussion boards. Hope I can contribute.

By the way, I started off by putting together some thoughts on the "Doomsday Argument" and Strong Self-Selection Assumption which I hadn't seen discussed before. Since I'm brand new, and have no karma points, I'm not sure where to post them. Any suggestions?

Sounds like perfect material for the discussion section. :-)

Common reasons I downvote with no comment: I think the mistake is obvious to most readers (or already mentioned) and there's little to be gained from teaching the author. I think there's little insight and much noise - length, unpleasant style, politically disagreeable implications that would be tedious to pick apart (especially in tone rather than content). I judge that jerkishness is impairing comprehension; cutting out the courtesies and using strong words may be defensible, but using insults where explanations would do isn't.

On the "just a-holes" note (yes, I thought "Is this about me?"): It might be that your threshold for acceptable niceness is unusually high. We have traditions of bluntness and flaw-hunting (mostly from hackers, who correctly consider niceness noise when discussing bugs in X), so we ended up rather mean on average, and very tolerant of meanness. People who want LW to be nicer usually do it by being especially nice, not by especially punishing meanness. I notice you're on my list of people I should be exceptionally nice to, but not on my list of exceptionally nice people, which is a bad thing if you love Postel's law. (Which, by Postel's law, nobody but me has to.) The only LessWronger I think is an asshole is wedrifid, and I think this is one of his good traits.

I think there is a difference between choosing bluntness where niceness would tend to obscure the truth, and choosing between two forms of expression which are equally illuminating but not equally nice. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm using "a-hole" here to mean "One who routinely chooses the less nice variant in the latter situation." (This is not a specific reference to you; your comment just happened to provide a good anchor for it.)
Of course, if that's the meaning, then before I judge someone to be an "a-hole" I need to know what they intended to illumine.
Would you mind discussing this with me, because I find it disturbing that I come off as having double-standards, and am interested to know more about where that impression comes from. I personally feel that I do not expect better behaviour from others than I practice, but would like to know (and update my behaviour) if I am wrong about this. I admit to lowering my level of "niceness" on LW, because I can't seem to function when I am nice and no one else is. However MY level of being "not nice" means that I don't spend a lot of time finding ways to word things in the most inoffensive manner. I don't feel like I am exceptionally rude, and am concerned if I give off that impression. I also feel like I keep my "punishing meanness" levels to a pretty high standard too: I only "punish" (by downvoting or calling out) what I consider to be extremely rude behavior (ie "I wish you were dead" or "X is crap.") that is nowhere near the level of "meanness" that I feel like my posts ever get near.
You come off as having single-standards. That is, I think the minimal level of niceness you accept from others is also the minimal level of niceness you practice - you don't allow wiggle room for others having different standards. I sincerely don't resent that! My model of nice people in general suggests y'all practice Postel's law ("Be liberal in what you accept and conservative in what you send"), but I don't think it's even consistent to demand that someone follow it. ...I'm never going to live that one down, am I? Let's just say that there's an enormous amount of behaviours that I'd describe as "slightly blunter than politeness would allow, for the sake of clarity" and you'd describe as "extremely rude". Also, while I've accepted the verdict that " is crap" is extremely rude and I shouldn't ever say it, I was taken aback at your assertion that it doesn't contribute anything. Surely "Don't use this thing for this purpose" is non-empty. By the same token, I'd actually be pretty okay with being told "I wish you were dead" in many contexts. For example, in a discussion of eugenics, I'd be quite fine with a position that implies I should be dead, and would much rather hear it than have others dance around the implication. Maybe the lesson for you is that many people suck really bad at phrasing things, so you should apply the principle of charity harder and be tolerant if they can't be both as nice and as clear as you'd have been and choose to sacrifice niceness? The lesson I've learned is that I should be more polite in general, more polite to you in particular, look harder for nice phrasings, and spell out implications rather than try to bake them in connotations.
I'm fine with positions that imply I should never have been born (although I have yet to hear one that includes me), but I'd feel very differently about one implying that I should be dead!
Many people don't endorse anything similar to the principle that "any argument for no more of something should explain why there is a perfect amount of that thing or be counted as an argument for less of that thing." E.g. thinking arguments that "life extension is bad" generally have no implications regarding killing people were it to become available. So those who say I shouldn't live to be 200 are not only basically arguing I should (eventually, sooner than I want) be dead, the implication I take is often that I should be killed (in the future).
Personally, I'd be far more insulted by the suggestion that I should never have been born, than by the suggestion that I should die now.
If someone tells me I should die now, I understand that to mean that my life from this point forward is of negative value to them. If they tell me I should never have been born, I understand that to mean not only that my life from this point forward is of negative value, but also that my life up to this point has been of negative value.
Interesting. I don't read it as necessarily a judgment of value at all to be told that I should never have been born (things that should not have happened may accidentally have good consequences). Additionally, someone who doesn't think that I should have been born, but also doesn't think I should die, will not try to kill me, though they may push policies that will prevent future additions to my salient reference class; someone who thinks I should die could try to make that happen!
Interesting. For my part, I don't treat saying things like "I think you should be dead" as particularly predictive of actually trying to kill me. Perhaps I ought to, but I don't.
Upvoted, and thank you for the explanation. If it helps, I didn't even remember that one of the times I've called someone out on "X is crap" was you. So consider it "lived down". You're right. How about an assertion that it doesn't contribute anything that couldn't be easily rephrased in a much better way? Your example of "Don't use this thing for this purpose", especially if followed by a brief explanation, is an order of magnitude better than "X is crap", and I doubt it took you more than 5 seconds to write.

So, am I a second-class citizen because I found this place via MoR?

Anyways, I've been Homeschooled for the majority of my education thus far, mostly due to my Creationist parents' concerns about government-run schools. Fortunately they didn't think to censor the internet, and here I am. My PSATs showed me in the 98th percentile, so I expect I'll be able to get into a decent university. Plan A has always been Engineering, but after going through a few of the more inspirational sequences I think I may readjust my plans and try to do some good for this planet. How does one get into the Singularity business?

I'm pretty sure that accounts for most of our new readership over the last year or so. ETA: To actually answer the question, no. I'm pretty sure the preferred method here currently is #1 below, but here are some options: 1. Make lots of money doing something else and then give it to SIAI. 2. The lukeprog method: Be insanely awesome at scholarship and get tens of thousands of Lw karma in a few months and be generally brilliant and become a visiting fellow and wow everyone at SIAI. 3. Go start your own Singularity. With blackjack. And hookers. Also, I'm generally of the opinion that having been suddenly inspired by something you read recently should be evidence against that thing being what you should do with your life (assuming your prior is based on your feelings about it). You should check out some of the material by Anna Salamon on how to take that kind of decision seriously (I don't have a useful link handy).
With great difficulty. And it's not clear whether there will be any repeat trade.
Engineering is actually not that bad a way. It's worth taking a look at computer science, but pretty much any technical field will be involved somewhere along the way.


I'm a 26 year old guy from the UK. I've finished writing my Ph.D. thesis in "Quantification of risk in large scale wind power integration" and I'm now working as a phone-app framework developer. I spent the last year on a round the world travel where I have spent a lot of my time writing practical philosophy. After coming back I found this site and read the core sequences. I loved them, they echoed a lot of my previous thoughts then took them much further. I felt like they would be easier to understand if they were one article so I have been re-writing bits of them for my own benefit. I am in two minds whether to post them here but I would appreciate the feedback to see if I have understood what was written.

I'd love to see them when they're somewhere approaching done.
Welcome! Lukeprog did a similar thing a while ago, which doubled for the rest of us as a good overview. I'd be interested in reading yours, too!

Thanks to Emile for suggesting I come here write something. I hope to get to the New York meetup on Sunday; I'm not ready for "rituals" and futuristic music just yet.

I just ran across LW by trying google terms along the lines of memetics "belief systems", etc., which led me to some books from late 90s like "Virus of the Mind", and in the last 2-3 years some just "OK" books on religions as virus-like meme systems. This kind of search to see what people may have said about some odd combination of thoughts that I suspect might be fruitful has brought me interesting results in the past. E.g. by googling ontological comedian, I discovered Ricky Gervais which has brightened my life (his movie "The Invention of Lying" out to be of interest to LW-ers). I'm interested in practical social epistemology -- trying to come up with creative responses to what looks like major chunks of the population (those pesky folks who elect presidents) being less and less moored in reality and going off into diverse fantasy lands -- or to put it another way, a massive breakdown in common sense about what sources are reliable.

I asked someone how she makes s... (read more)

The obvious evolutionary argument that comes to mind is that not believing in bullshit, particularly the bullshit believed by powerful people in your tribe, could get you killed in the ancestral environment. Domains of human knowledge in which bullshit is not tolerated are those where that knowledge is constantly being tested against reality - computer programming is a good example, since you can't bullshit a compiler - and in other domains terrible things can happen. Global warming in particular seems to me to be a case where most people hold beliefs one way or the other primarily to signal affiliation with either the pro- or anti-global warming tribes. That belief certainly doesn't get tested against reality in any meaningful way in many people's lives.
Please don't learn anything from the black arts threads. That's why they're called "black arts", because you're not supposed to learn them.
Although it might be good to be aware that you shouldn't remove a weapon from your mental arsenal just because it's labeled "dark arts". Sure, you should be one heck of a lot more reluctant to use them, but if you need to shut up and do the impossible really really badly, do so - just be aware that the consequences tend to be worse if you use them. After all, the label "dark art" is itself an application of a Dark Art to persuade, deceive, or otherwise manipulate you against using those techniques. But of course this was not done lightly.
Is that why? I wonder, sometimes. Given our merry band's contrarian bent, it occurs to me that calling something a "dark art" would be a pretty good way of encouraging its study while simultaneously discouraging its unreflective use. You'd then need to come up with some semi-convincing reasons why it is in fact too Dark for school, though, or you'd look silly. On the other hand it doesn't seem to be an Eliezer coinage, which would have made this line of thinking a bit more likely. "Dark Side epistemology" is, but has a narrow enough meaning that I'm not inclined to suspect shenanigans.
Well, one could certainly learn from the dark arts threads what not to do and what to be aware of to watch out for.
Well, yeah, my point exactly to reiterate from elsewhere [I'm interested in] spreading dark-art antibody memes, but you can't do that without taking a sample of the dark arts most prevalent at the moment, much as they must round up viruses every year to develop the yearly flu shot. So I wouldn't be looking for "the best" dark arts but rather the ones one is likely to encounter. E.g. a good source would be Newt Gingrich's "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control" memo (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4443.htm) EXCERPT: "In the video 'We are a Majority,' Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: 'I wish I could speak like Newt.' That takes years of practice ..." This introduces the famous word list: a list of smiley-face words to use when describing your own positions, and nasty-face words to use when putting words in the mouths of your opponents (or do I say 'enemies'?). Or there is the Paul Wyrich farewell letter which did much to propagate the meme "political correctness is cultural Marxism", or the Weyrich-inspired "The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement" (http://therealtruthproject.blogspot.com/2011/02/integration-of-theory-and-practice.html), a document Lenin might have been proud of. I'm all about blunting the effectiveness of certain tactics that reduce the possibility of our thinking clearly (and by "our", I mean not that of LW, or the Second Foundation, but of the whole mass of people whose votes determine who we get to have as President, etc.) ASIDE: One place where Thomas Jefferson was one of the least small-gov't-ish founding fathers was education, and he was also all about disempowering religion memes NOTE: I don't mean to get onto politics per se - just practices that tend to turn it in
You may be looking in the wrong place. I don't recall encountering any particularly impressive "Dark Arts" insights on this blog. You may be interested in, say, Robert Greene's The 48 Laws Of Power.
That sounds a bit like a "how to" book of black arts - if so, not what I had in mind, except for the purpose of developing and spreading dark-art antibody memes, but you can't do that without taking a sample of the dark arts most prevalent at the moment, much as they must round up viruses every year to develop the yearly flu shot. So I wouldn't be looking for "the best" dark arts but rather the ones one is likely to encounter. E.g. a good source would be Newt Gingrich's "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control" memo (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4443.htm) EXCERPT: "In the video 'We are a Majority,' Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: 'I wish I could speak like Newt.' That takes years of practice ..." This introduces the famous word list: a list of smiley-face words to use when describing your own positions, and nasty-face words to use when putting words in the mouths of your opponents (or do I say 'enemies'?). Or there is the Paul Wyrich farewell letter which did much to propagate the meme "political correctness is cultural Marxism", or the Weyrich-inspired "The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement" (http://therealtruthproject.blogspot.com/2011/02/integration-of-theory-and-practice.html), a document Lenin might have been proud of. I'm all about blunting the effectiveness of certain tactics that reduce the possibility of our thinking clearly (and by "our", I mean not that of LW, or the Second Foundation, but of the whole mass of people whose votes determine who we get to have as President, etc.) ASIDE: One place where Thomas Jefferson was one of the least small-gov't-ish founding fathers was education, and he was also all about disempowering religion memes

Hello, everyone. I'm Lykos, and it's a pleasure to finally be posting here. I'm a high school junior and I pretty much discovered the concept of rationality through HP:MoR. I'm not sure where I discovered THAT. I'm an aspiring author, and am always eager to learn more, and rationality, I've found, has helped me with my ideas, both for stories and in general. I've currently read the Map and Territory sequence, and am going through Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions. I doubt I'll be posting much- I'll probably be spending most of my time basking in the intelligence of the rest of you.

Either way, it is a pleasure to join the community. Thank you.


I've been occasionally reading for a while, and have decided to get a login. I suppose the reason I'm here is that it's become important in the last 2 years or so that my beliefs are as accurate as possible. I've slowly had to let go of some beliefs because the evidence didn't seem to support them, and while that's been painful it has been worthwhile.

I'm also a friend of ciphergoth's - we've discussed less wrong a lot! I don't feel like I know a great deal yet - I still need to read more of the sequences, so I'll stick to asking questions until I feel I know more :-).

I'm 28, female, and I live in Cambridge, UK. My academic background is in the philosophy/politics/economics area, and I work in accounts.


Welcome to LessWrong. If you like believing true things and don't think death is a necessary counterpart to life, you'll fit in great. If you have questions, might I suggest asking in the current open thread?
1Paul Crowley11y
Hurrah! welcome :)

I'm very excited to have found this community. In a way, it's like meeting a future, more evolved version of myself. So many things that I've read about here I've considered before, but often in a more shallow and immature way. A big thanks to all of you for that!

To the topic of me, I'm 24, male, and Swedish. After studying some of PJ Eby's work, I identify strongly as a naturally struggling person. I've been trying to figure out why for all my life, I think I read Wayne Dyer at about the same age as Eliezer read Feynman. Since then I've read a lot more, and at this point it seems like I have very credible explanations for why things turned out as they did.

Still, even though I might think I ought to have the tools now to stake out a better future path for myself, I'm plagued by learned helplessness and surrounded by ugh-fields. But as I see it there is only one best way forward - to learn more and then attempt to do things better.

I'm a great admirer of the stoic philosopher Lucius Seneca. Here's a short segment from one of his letters that resonates with me:

It is clear to you, I know, Lucilius, that no one can lead a happy life, or even one that is bearable, without the pursuit o

... (read more)
It's nice to have you here.
I'm offended! Just kidding.

19 male, currently in Florida.

Used to be a hardcore Christian. Then I started looking for alternate explanations and wound up believing in magic because I wanted it to be real. Then I read HP:MoR and it changed my life. My head is on a lot straighter now.

At first I thought this was just something cool. Then I was talking to someone about investing a fairly large amount of money. As we were talking, I was conscious of myself changing my plans to agree with him simply because he was nice. Despite this, he still changed my mind even though I recognized that he did it by being nice instead of a good argument. Had to go home before I could think clearly again.

It scared me that I could be so easily swayed by the Dark Arts, as I've heard them referred to. This might be something worth taking seriously after all.

So now I'm about to use what I learned to buy a car. A year ago, I would've just gone down with an informed friend and pick up something functional. Now I'm going down with a friend and a journal, identifying several possible vehicles and taking notes, then spend a week doing research on price, making sure I'm not being swayed by the salesman being nice, etc. before I actually spend any money.

I look forward to becoming less wrong.

If "hunting down" psychopaths is our goal, we'd do better to look for people who torture or kill animals. My understanding is that these behaviors are a common warning sign of antisocial personality disorder, and I'm sure it's more common than infanticide because it's less punished. Would you advocate punishing anyone diagnosed with antisocial personality right away, or would you want to wait until they actually committed a crime?

I'd put taboos in three categories. Some taboos (e.g. against women wearing trousers, profanity, homosexuality, or atheism) seem pointless and we were right to relax them. Some taboos, like those against theft and murder, I agree we should hold in place because they produce so little value for the harm they produce. Some, like extramarital sex and abortion, are more ambiguous. They probably allow some people to get away with unnecessary cruelty. But because the the personal freedom they create, I think they produce a net good.

I put legalized infanticide in the third category. I gather you put it in the second? In other words, do you believe the harm it would create from psychopaths killing babies and generally being harder to detect would be greater than the benefit to people who don't raise unwanted children?


Sorry, you pointed out a counterargument made by Vladimir_Nesov, in a confrontational manner.

Also, thank your for reminding me that I have to sharpen my posting abilities.

Vladimir Nesov made a very true counterargument, you endorsed it to test my ability to change my standpoint. Nothing wrong with that; and lo and behold, I actually have. Congratulations, you and Vladimir_Nesov both get an upvote from the new guy.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
Thankyou! Respond positively and thinking clearly despite (being primed to) consider an interaction to be a confrontation is potentially even more valuable trait to signal than ability to update freely. A valuable newcomer indeed!

Hello, I'm 16 years old and from the UK. I found this blog via MoR and I'vebeen lurking for a few months now (this is my first post I think), and I'm slowly but surely working my way through the sequences. I think I've gotten to the point where I can identify a lot of the biases and irrational thoughts as they form in my brain, but unfortunately I'm not well-versed enough in rationality to know how to tackle them properly yet.

Welcome to LessWrong! Some other teenagers occasionally do online meetups, and we have a facebook group here

Greetings, everyone. My name is Elizabeth, and I am a young adult female beginning to learn how to think for herself. I stumbled across this website right after reading Alicorn's fanfiction Luminosity in the summer of 2010. Due to some personal issues, life in general, and a dead hard drive, I stopped visiting Less Wrong up until a couple of weeks ago.

I found Less Wrong attractive because of its being a free resource on learning the art of rationality. Borderline Personality Disorder runs in my family, and so my hypothesis is that I personally am drawn to things like LW partly in order to "self-medicate" after years of chaos, unpredictability, and irrationality. Chances are likely that I will be very quiet on this website for several months at least: for one thing, that is my usual modis operandi when learning about and researching a topic; for another, it would seem that I need to thoroughly acquaint myself with the sequences and other such work in order to fully understand and be able to contribute to more recent posts/discussions.

Squee! How'd you find it?

Hi y'all. I'm a senior in high school in the Silicon Valley who's been lurking for a couple of months. I've been working my way through the Sequences since then. I don't know how much I have to contribute to the discussion, since I'm a bit of a newcomer to rationalism, but I enjoy reading everyone else's discussions.

I was introduced to this site through my philosophy class- a research project on transhumanism led me to Eliezer Yudkowsky's site, which led me to here. I came here for the Sequences, stayed here for the intelligent discussion (just like almost everyone else on this page). I'm really interested in computer science and economics and how they intersect with rationality.

Welcome! Cool! Was this an assigned topic or a self-chosen one? And since you're a HS senior, you might find it worthwhile to read the threads on where (or even whether) to go for college next year, or start your own thread if you want personalized advice.

I'm afraid you may have your bottom line written already. In the age of ultrasound and computer generated images or even better in the future age of transhuman sensory enhancement or fetuses being grown outside the human body the exact same argument can be used against abortion.

Especially once you remember the original context was a 10 month old baby, not say a 10 year old child.

Then I might well have to use it against abortion at some point, for the same reason: we should forbid people from overriding this part of their instincts.
Upvoted for bullet-biting.

Hi everyone,

A few of you have met me on Omegle. I finally signed up and made an account here like you guys suggested.

About me: I'm 26 years old, and my hobbies include creative writing and PC games. My favorite TV show is Rupaul's Drag Race.

I think I share almost all of the main positions that people tend to have in this community. But I actually find disagreements more interesting, so that's mainly what I'm here for. One of my passions in life is debating. I did debate team and that sort of thing when I was younger, but now I'm more interested in how to seriously persuade people, not just debating for show. I still have a lot of improving to do, though. If anyone wants to exchange notes or get some tips, then let me know.



I'm going to be the first person to point out that your objective should be to come to the correct conclusion, not to persuade people, because if you can out-argue anyone who disagrees with you you'll never change your mind, and "not every change is an improvement, but every improvement is a change". With that noted, persuasion is a useful skill, especially if you're more rational than the average bear. Cryonics, for example, is a good low-hanging fruit if you can just get people to sign up for it.
Modafinil is another good low-hanging fruit, as far as utilons/hedons per lifetime goes. Melatonin, too, and is less illegal.
Hi Flora! Re: debating and persuading, the reflexes you developed for convincing third parties to a debate can actually be counterproductive to persuading the person you're speaking with. For example, reciprocity) can really help: the person you're talking with is much more likely to really listen and consider your points if you've openly ceded them a point first. Practicing this has the nice side effect of making you pay more attention to their arguments and interpret them more charitably, increasing the chance that you learn something from your conversational partner in the process.
I totally agree with this. Really well said.
Welcome! Just wondering... How often (and about what) have you changed your mind about something big and important, as a result of a debate/discussion or just after some quiet contemplation?
Very, very often. Most of it is small steps, like minor adjustments, but a few debates/discussions have completely changed my thinking. I have definitely been wrong about a lot of things in the past. Some of my errors I have noticed through my own critical thinking. But I would say that most of my positions today have been shaped by how much I've let other people challenge them.
My objective is definitely to come to the correct conclusion. I know sometimes my positions win because other people can't argue their positions well, but without those debates, I have no way to really challenge my own ideas. I think as people go I tend to be self-critical, but even I can have blind spots. So I use debates to see if and where I have gone wrong. I've definitely gone wrong many times before. I don't believe in persuasion as "trickery" -- I see it as more getting past the emotional barriers for a real, productive discussion.
It's also sometimes useful to arrange things - e.g., by making falsifiable predictions and comparing them to observed events -- so that observations of the world tend to correct our incorrect ideas.
You're right, but I don't think I'm alone in sometimes missing events that I should be taking into account, or not always being objective in the conclusions I make with them.
Agreed. Can you clarify the relationship between those things, on the one hand, and your belief that you can't challenge your own ideas without debates, on the other? I'm not sure I follow your reasoning here.
Sorry, I didn't mean to say that I can't challenge myself at all. In practice I do try to challenge myself. I am saying that debates, where other people challenge me, help me fill in the gaps where I miss things, or am not being objective. Sometimes my inner dialogue says, "The way I'm thinking about this makes to me, and it seems logical and sound. I have tried but I can't think of anything wrong with it." And then I'll explain my reasoning to someone who disagrees, and they might say for example, "but you haven't considered this fact, or this possibility." And they're right, I haven't. That doesn't necessarily mean I'm wrong, or that they're right, but it does mean that I haven't been 100% effective at challenging myself to justify my own positions.
Ah, I see. Yes, agreed, other people can frequently help clarify our thinking, e.g. by offering potentially relevant facts/possibilities we haven't considered. Absolutely. That said, for my own part I would eliminate the modifier "who disagrees" from your sentence. It's equally true that people who agree with me can help clarify my thinking in that way, as can people who are neutral on the subject, or think the question is ill-formed in such a way that neither agreement nor disagreement is appropriate. The whole "I assert something and you disagree and we argue" dynamic that comes along with framing the interaction as a "debate" seems like it gets in the way of my getting the thought-clarifying benefits in those cases, and is usually a sign that I'm concentrating more on status management than I am on clarifying my thinking, let alone on converging on true beliefs.
People who agree definitely can offer that, but people who disagree are going to be better at it and more motivated. They push you harder to strengthen your own reasoning and articulate it well. If you try to compare the two in practice I think you'll notice a huge difference. I think it can be uncomfortable sometimes to challenge and be challenged, but it doesn't need to be about status or putting other people down. In fact, it can be friendly and supportive. I really recommend it to people who enjoy critical thinking and want to challenge themselves in unexpected ways.
My experience is that in general arguing with people pushes me to articulate my positions in compelling ways. If I want to clarify my thinking, which is something altogether different, other techniques work better for me. But, sure, I agree that arguing with articulate intelligent people who disagree with me pushes me harder to articulate my positions in compelling ways than arguing with people who lack those traits.
Ok, I'm interested. Describe what happened.
What do you mean? They were just friendly discussions, nothing super notable. I felt like all of them shared the same basic philosophy as me, so I felt like this was a community that I had a lot in common with.
Just in case you're not sure what Kawoomba's alluding to, Omegle has such a reputation for being used for sexual stuff that Kawoomba was surprised to learn people use it for nonsexual stuff.
lol that makes sense, I forget sometimes about Omegle's reputation
Didn't know you could have actual discourse on Omegle. I've only ever seen "happy" exchanges there, not friendly ones. I wonder if any of the LW pillars frequent Omegle ...


I'm 18, an undergraduate at University of Virginia, pre-law, and found you through HPMOR.

Rationality has been a part of me for almost as long as I can remember, but for various reasons, I'm only recently starting to refine and formalize my views of the world. It is heartening to find others who know the frustration of dealing with people who are unwilling to listen to logic. I've found that it is difficult to become any better at argument and persuasion when you have a reputation as an intelligent person and can convince anyone of anything by merely stating it with a sufficiently straight face.

More than anything else, I hope to become here a person who is a little less wrong than when I came.

This "intelligent reputation" discussion is interesting.

I had kind of an odd situation as a kid growing up. I went to a supposedly excellent Silicon Valley area elementary school and was generally one of the smartest 2-4 kids in my class. But I didn't think of myself as being very smart: I brushed off all the praise I got from teachers (because the villains and buffoons in the fiction I read were all arrogant, and I was afraid of becoming arrogant myself). Additionally, my younger brother is a good bit smarter than me, which was obvious even at that age. So I never strongly identified as being "smart".

When I was older I attended a supposedly elite university. At first I thought there was no way I would get in, but when I was accepted and got in I was astonished by how stupid and intellectually incurious everyone was. I only found one guy in my entire dorm building who actually seemed to like thinking about science/math/etc. for its own sake. At first I thought that the university admissions department was doing a terrible job, but I gradually came to realize that the world was just way stupider than I thought it was, and assuming that I was anything close to normal was not an accurate model. (Which sounds really arrogant; I'm almost afraid to type that.)

I wonder how else being raised among those who are smarter/stupider than you impacts someone's intellectual development?

This is interesting. Do you think your aversion to what you saw as arrogance, but which turned out to be (at least partially) accuracy, might have been overcome earlier if, for example, you'd been the clear leader, rather than having even a small group you could consider intellectual peers? Was that how you saw them?
It's possible. Although for me to have been the "clear leader" you probably would've had to remove a number of people who weren't in the top 2-4 as well. And even then I might have just thought of my family as unusually great, because there'd still be my terrifyingly smart younger brother. Silicon Valley could be an odd place. I actually grew up in a neighborhood where most of the kids were of Indian descent (we played cricket and a game from India that I just found on Wikipedia called Kabaddi (I can't believe this is played professionally) in addition to standard US games). I didn't think to ask then, but I guess they were mostly children of immigrant software engineers? I haven't really lived anywhere other than the SF bay area yet, so I don't have much to compare it to. Right now I'm thinking I should prepare myself for way more stupidity and racial homogeneity.
It took me a few seconds pondering the playing of cricket as 'odd' to realize that I need to identify with the Indians in this story.
Even as a native Aussie I sometimes find playing cricket to be odd.
Or even without a straight face. Sometimes I've made wild guesses (essentially thinking aloud) and, no matter how many “I think”, “may”, “possibly” etc. I throw in, someone who has heard that I'm a smart guy will take whatever I've said as word of God.
Yes. My personal favorite was in middle school, when I tried to dispel my assigned and fallacious moniker of "human calculator" by asking someone to pose an arithmetic question and then race me with a calculator. With a classroom full of students as witnesses, I lost by a significant margin, and not only saw no lessening of the usage of said nickname, but in fact heard no repeating of the story outside of that class, that day.
Beware indeed of giving others more bouncy walls on which evidence can re-bounce and double-, triple-, quatruple-, nay, Npple-count! I once naively thought to improve others' critical thinking by boosting their ability to appraise the quality of my own reasoning. Lo' and behold, for each example I gave of a bad reasoning I had made or was making, each of them was inevitably using this as further evidence that I was right, because not only had I been right much more than not (counting hits and arguments are soldiers and all that), but the very fact that I was aware of any mistakes I was making proved that I could not make mistakes, for I would otherwise notice mistakes and thus correct myself. TL;DR: This remains a profoundly important unsolved problem in large-scale distribution, teaching and implementation of cognitive enhancement and bias-overcoming techniques. It's even stated in Luke's "So you want to save the world" list of open problems as "raising the sanity waterline", a major strategic concern for ensuring maximal confidence of results in this incredibly absurd thing they're working on.
The term in common usage is "n-tuple".
Thanks. I paused for a second when I was about to write it, because I realized that I wasn't quite sure that that was how I should write it, but decided to skip over it as no information seemed lost either way and it had bonus illustrative and comical effect in the likely event that I was using the wrong term.

but decided to skip over it as no information seemed lost either way and it had bonus illustrative and comical effect in the likely event that I was using the wrong term.

Given all the evidence on 'bouncy' and 'npple-count' I must admit the comic illustration that sprung to mind may not have been the one you intended!

Well... I just started to refuse to make calculations in my mind on demand, and I think I even kind-of freaked out a couple times when people insisted. It worked.
I try to keep this sort of thing in mind when interpreting accounts of the implausible brilliance of third parties.
Yeah, pretty much. It is sometimes useful, at that point, to put aside the goal of becoming better at argument and persuasion, and instead pursue for a while the goal of becoming better at distinguishing true assertions from false ones.
Interestingly, the Authority Card seems subject to the Rule of Separate Magisteria. I'm sure you've also noticed this at some point. Basically, the reputedly-intelligent person will convince anyone of any "fact" by simply saying it convincingly and appearing to themselves be convinced, but only when it is a fact that is part of the Smart-person Stuff magisterium within the listener's model. As soon as you depart from this magisterium, your statements are mere opinion, and thus everything you say is absolutely worthless, since 1/6 000 000 000 = 0 and there are over six billion other people that have an opinion. In other words, I agree that it constitutes somewhat of a problem. I found myself struggling with it in the past. Now I'm not struggling with it anymore, even though it hasn't been "solved" yet. It becomes a constant challenge that resets over time and over each new person you meet.
Of course, as a young person, this obstacle is largely eliminated by the context. Interact with the same group of people for a long period of time, a group through which information spreads quickly, and then develop a reputation for knowing everything. Downside: people are very disappointed when you admit you don't know something. Upside: life is easier. More important downside: you get lazy in your knowledge acquisition.
This. Sometimes, when I tell people I don't know how to help them with something, they accuse me of being deliberately unhelpful with them because I'm selfish, angry with them, or something.
Hi Petra! Minor nitpick, its rationality not rationalism. Rationalism is something completely different.
Pardon me, that falls into the grey area between typo and mistake, where the word in the brain doesn't come out on the page. I will correct it.
Why the hell was that downvoted???
My most reasonable guess: Because every cause wants to be a cult, and some unwary cultists of LessWrong could very easily fool themselves into thinking that any nitpicking over the use of similar words is misinterpretation of the Holy Sequence Gospel, because the Chapter of Words Used Wrong clearly states that words are meant to communicate and clarify ideas and meanings, and thus follows that arguing over words instead of arguing over their substance is inherently bad.
Judging from the immediate downvote, I'll throw in a second guess that I might be doing some cultist preaching myself there.


My name is John Paton. I'm an Operations Research and Psychology major at Cornell University. I'm very interested in learning about how to improve the quality of my thinking.

Honestly, I think that a lot of my thoughts about how the world works are muddled at the moment. Perhaps this is normal and will never go away, but I want to at least try and decrease it.

At first glance, this community looks awesome! The thinking seems very high quality, and I certainly want to contribute to the discussion here.

I also write at my own blog, optimizethyself.com

See you in the discussion!


Hi Less Wrong, I'm a PhD researcher in Computational Neuroscience, with a background in AI and machine learning, and some past experience in the computing industry as software engineer. I live in Singapore, although I am French. Are there other members residing in Singapore?



I am a nearly seventeen year old female in the US who was linked by a friend to The Quantum Physics Series on LessWrong after trying to understand whether or not determinism is /actually/ refuted by Quantum Mechanics. I am an atheist, I suppose.

This all began as a fascination with science because I thought it would permit me to attain ultimate knowledge, or ultimate understanding and thus control of "matter". Later, I became fascinated with nihilism and philosophy, in search of defining "objectivity". It took off from there and now I am currently concerned with consciousness and usage of artificial intelligence to transfer our biological intelligence to a more effective physical manifestation.

I'm a little scared, naturally, because I think this would change a lot of what we currently understand as humans. As Mitchell Heisman describes, there exists a relationship between the scientist and the science. If the scientist is changed, I would think that the science, or knowledge, would in itself change. Some questions I have ATM: "Does objectivity exist? Can it be created? Can the notion or belief or idea of objectivity be destroyed? Will intelligence bec... (read more)

Hello. I think you are the first person I've ever seen cite Mitchell Heisman as if he was just another thinker, rather than a weird guy who forced his ideas upon the attention of the world by committing suicide. You're interested in the concept of "objectivity". It's certainly a crossroads concept where many issues meet. Maybe the major irony in the opposition between "objectivity" and "subjectivity" is that objectivity is a form of subjectivity! Here subjectivity is more or less a synonym for consciousness, and a subjectivity is a sensibility or a mindset: a state of mind in which the world is experienced and judged in a particular way. Consciousness is a relation between an experiencing subject and an experienced object, and objectivity is consciousness trying to banish from its perceptions (or cognitions) of the experienced object, any influences which arise from the experiencing subject. In a lot of modern scientific and philosophical thought, this has been taken to the extreme of even trying to escape the existence of an experiencing subject. Trying to catalogue and diagnose all the ways in which this happens would be a mammoth task, but one extreme form of the syndrome would be where the "scientific subject" achieves perfect unconsciousness of self, and exists in a subjective world that seems purely objective. That is, they would have a belief system that nothing exists but atoms (for example), and not only would they find a way to interpret everything they experience as "nothing but atoms", but they would also manage to avoid noticing their own mental processes in a way that would disturb this perception, by reminding them of their own existence. A more moderate state of mind would be one in which self-awareness is allowed, but isn't threatening because the thinker has some way of interpreting their thoughts, and their thoughts about their thoughts, as also being nothing but atoms. For example, the brain is a computer, and a thought is a computation, and

Hello people, 49 year old father of 4 sons, 17-27, eldest of 9,i come from a background of mormonism, my parents having been converted when i was 3.

So my reality was the dissonance of mormon dogma and theology vs what i was being 'taught' at school,vs what i experience for my self.

Now, having been through the divorce of my parents(gross hypocrisy if you're a mormon) the suicide of my brother and my own divorce,also finding myself saying i would die/kill for my beliefs,i began to realise what a mess i was and started asking questions,leaving the church (demonstrating with placards every sunday for 2 years) in 1996.

So i found myself wanting and needing a new philosophy! I'm particularly interested in learning how to 'be less wrong'! I'm still looking around and am currently interested in the non aggression principle.

I look forward to learning the tools i see here,so that i may make more considered choices.I recognise i'm a clumsy communicator and probably i'm somewhat retarded in comparison to a lot of you. Anyway i look forward to watching and learning,maybe even contributing one day! Tim.

Hello, Tim! Welcome to Less Wrong. Don't be too impressed, we're all primates here. If you're interested in learning about the cognitive tools people use here, I recommend reading the sequences. They're a little imposing due to sheer length, but they're full of interesting ideas, even if you don't fully agree. Best of luck, and I hope you find something of value here. -Dolores

Hi! I found LW by HPMoR like so many other people, and I have found a lot of interesting articles on here. I'm only 12, so there are tons of articles that I don't understand, but I am determined to figure them out. My name is Chloe and I hope that we can be friends!

Hello to all! I'm a 17-year-old girl from Bulgaria, interested in Mathematics and Literature. Since I decided to "get real" and stop living in my comfortable fictional world, I've had a really tough year destroying the foundations of my belief system. Sure, there are scattered remains of old beliefs and habits in my psyche that I can't overcome. I have some major issues with reductionism and a love for Albert Camus ("tell me, doctor, can you quantify the reason why?" ).

In the last year I've come to know that it is very easy to start believing without doubt in something (the scientific view of the world included), perhaps too easy. That is why I never reject an alternative theory without some consideration, no matter how crazy it sounds. Sometimes I fail to find a rational explanation. Sometimes it's all too confusing. I'm here because I want to learn to think rationally but also because I want to ask questions.

Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres brought me here. To be honest, I hate this character with passion, I hate his calculating, manipulative attitude, and this is not what I believe rationality is about. I wonder how many of you see things as I do and how many would think me naive. Anyway, I'm looking forward to talking to you. I'm sure it's going to be a great experience.

5David Althaus11y
Hi Rada, welcome to Lesswrong! I share your aversion for reductionism, at least from an emotional albeit not epistemical point of view. I'm afraid we have to deal with living in a reductionistic universe. But e.g. this post might persuade you that even a reductionistic universe can sometimes be quite charming, although by no means perfect. Oh, and yay for Camus!

I'm male, early 40s who grew up in the midwestern US but have lived in the UK for the past 10 years. I had a very strong evangelical/fundamentalist upbringing, but at the same time an obsessively "rational" attitude which developed in large part from my covert reading of period sf (the sort in which rebellious yet rational engineers outsmarted their rigid hierarchically-minded superiors and their extremely technologically advanced antagonists at the same time). No surprise therefore that my religious beliefs began to dissolve as soon as I went to university, finally coming out of the closet as a de-convert in 1999.

I'm a postdoctoral researcher in cognitive science - with secondary interests in philosophy of science, especially the manner of scientific inference and the different extents to which Bayesian inference has taken hold in different scientific domains at the present time. I've been lurking here for a few years after seeing posts or comments in various places elsewhere by people like ciphergoth and David Gerard (neither of whom I know in person).

I also tend to make way too many parenthetical statements when I write; even though I am completely aware I am overdoing it I just can't avoid it.

Hello. My name is Konrad and I stumbled upon LessWrong a few weeks ago from Reddit. I've browsed some of the main pages since then, but until now haven't committed to reading much. I hope that after registering I'll be able to participate in the community and learn more. I'm 16 years of age and would describe myself as an agnostic theist. I'd also say that I'm curious about knowledge and the world so hopefully I'll learn a lot from this website.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
Welcome to LessWrong. We are interested in how our brain seems to have defects that can prevent us from realizing what is true, and thinking about why that is and what can be done about it.

Hi all,

My name is Glenn Thomas Davis. I am a 48-year old male living in Warren, NJ with my wife and 5-year old daughter. I was born and raised in Ketchikan, Alaska. I am a creative director for a pharmaceutical marketing agency. I have been interested in science and skepticism since reading Godel, Escher, Bach in my 20's, but became a really serious skeptic and atheist after I started listening to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast in 2005ish. I beacame a fan of Eliezer and the Singularity Institute after seeing him speak on Bloggingheads 3 years ago, and I recently subscribed to the Overcoming Bias NYC listserve.

Most of my online friends are from the San Francisco Bay Area where I lived for many years. Not exactly the world's most rational bunch, and they don't often appreciate my atheist rants. I have been delaying introducing myself here because I am resistant to putting in the effort and time to become a known presence from the ground up, or even to write a proper introductory post. However, it recently occurred to me I could just share pieces of writing I've already done for other, less like-minded groups. Here's one:


(In response to an otherwise rational person who ... (read more)

Hello Less Wrong community, I am Kouran.

What follows may be a bit long, and maybe a little dramatic. I'm sorry if that is uncourteous, still I feel the following needs saying early on. Please bear with me.

I'm a recently be-bachelored sociologist from the Netherlands, am male and in my early twenties. I consider myself a jack of several trades – among them writing, drawing, cooking and some musical hobbies – but master of none. However, I do entertain the hope that the various interests and skills add up to something effective, to my becoming someone in a position to help people who need it, and I intend to take action to approach this end.

I found Less Wrong through the intriguing Harry Potter fanfiction story called 'the Methods of Rationality.' The story entertains me greatly, and the more abstract themes stimulate me and I find myself wishing to enter discussions regarding these matters. Instead of bothering the author of the story I decided to have a look here instead. Please note that I write this before having read any of the Sequences and only a few smaller articles. I intend to get on that soon, but as introductions go I feel it is better to present myself first. I hope you... (read more)

It sounds like the Straw Vulcan talk might be relevant to some of your thoughts on rationality and emotion...

That's just about right. Humans are massively irrational; but we tend to regard that as a bug and work to fix it in ourselves.
Bias Diamond in a box: --CEV You imply that there is a standard of rationality people are deviating from. Yes?
Hi Kouran, and welcome. Your critique of "rationalism" as you currently understand it is, I think, valid. The goal of LessWrong, as I understand it (though I'm no authority, I just read here sometimes), is to help people become more rational themselves. As thomblake has already pointed out, we tend to believe with you in the general irrationality of humans. We also believe that this is a sort of problem to be fixed. However, I also think you're being unfair to people who use the Rationality Assumption in economics, biology or elsewhere. You say that: That's not an assumption that the theory requires. The Rationality Assumption only requires us to interpret the actions of an agent in terms of how well it appears to help it fulfill its goals. It needn't be conscious of such "goals". This type of goal is usually referred to as a revealed preference. Robin Hanson at Overcoming Bias, a blog that's quite related to LessWrong, also loves pointing out and discussing the particular problem that you've raised. He usually refers to it as the "Homo hypocritus hypothesis". You might enjoy reading some related entries on his blog. The gist of the distinction I'm trying to point to is actually pretty well-summarized by Joe Biden: It's my own humble opinion that economists occasionally make the naive jump from talking about revealed preferences to talking about "actual" preferences (whatever those may be). In such cases, I agree with you that a disposition toward "rationalism" could be dangerous. But again, that's not the accepted meaning of the word here. I also think it might be just as naive to take peoples' stated preferences (whether stated to themselves or others) to be their "actual" preferences. There have been attempts on LW to model the apparent conflict between the stated preferences and revealed preferences of agents, my favourite of which was "Conflicts Between Mental Subagents: Expanding Wei Dai's Master-Slave Model". If I were to taboo the word "rationality" in

It's been a while, so I just wanted to express approval of these welcome threads. A glance over the comments we've gotten over the years should reveal that they really do make people feel welcome and help people get into discussion on the site.

Hi everyone. 23 year old south american software developer/musician here. I've been lurking around and reading for a couple of months now and I've found a lot of useful and interesting information here. It has actually triggered in me a lot of thinking about thinking, about reflexivity and the need for being aware of one's methods of thinking/learning/communicating etc.

I've been having some thoughts lately on the positive aspects of "rationality-motivated" socialization, mainly because of what I've learned of LW's weekly meetups and also because it has been, so far, pretty difficult to find someone who's interested about rationality. The first google searches took me nowhere, though I have still to look somewhere around philosophy/mathematics departments of local universities.

Anyway thanks for the information and the friendly welcome, and also for the big corpus of material you make available.

I'm 22, Male, an undergraduate at Singapore Management University studying information systems. Interest in AI.

I want to live a "good" life, but different people/culture uses different value systems to view life... some focus on the 'Ending', some focus on the 'Journey', some sees no value at all... Therefore, I'm looking for a way to objectively measure the value of a person's life. (not sure if that is even possible)

Found LW while reading up on Singularity. Would love to make some LW friends. feel free to add me on facebook~ http://fb.me/mengxiang

Try watching Daniel Kahneman's TED talk The riddle of experience vs memory, it's nice and seems relevant to your question.
Sam Harris also has a really good TED talk on "the Sience of Morality"


Long time lurker here.

I'm 26 years old, CS graduate living in Wrocław (Poland), professional compiler developer, cryptography research assistant and programmer. I'm an atheist (quite possibly thanks to LW). I consider the world to be overall interesting. I have many interests and I always have more things to do than I have time for. I'm motivated by curiosity. I'm less risk-averse than most people around me, but also less patient. I have a creative mind and love chellanges. While being fairly successful lone wolf until now, I seek to improve my people skills because I belive I can't get much further all by myself.

When I found LW for the first time, it absorbed me. It took me about 4 months at 4-6h a day to read all of the Sequences and comments. While I strongly disagree with some of the material, I consider LW to have accelerated my personal developement 2 to 3 times simply by virtue of critical mass and high singal to noise ratio. I don't know any better hub for thought (links welcome!). I joined becuse I finally have something to say.


5Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 11y
Welcome! If you're interested in making a post, I bet lots of us would be interesting in hearing that story. Join the club! It sounds like you've chosen a good career for someone who likes challenges, too. Agreed–same for me. If anything, the Sequences that I've disagreed with were better for me, in terms of making me think...even if I still disagreed after thinking about it, they were mostly things I had never thought about to that degree of depth before.

Hello; my name is Brian. It is with some trepidation that I post here because I am not entirely sure how or where I can contribute. On the other hand, if I knew how I could contribute then I probably wouldn't need to post here.

I seem to be a bit older than most people whose introductions I have read here. I am 58. I have spent most of my life as a software engineer, electrical engineer, technical writer, businessman, teacher, sailor, and pilot. (When I was young Robert A. Heinlein advised against specialization, an admonition I took to heart.)

My most recent endeavor was a 5-year stint in a private school as a teacher of science, math, history, government, engineering, and computer science/programming. The act of trying to teach these subjects in a manner that provides the necessary cross-connection caused me to discover that I needed to try to understand more about how I think and learn, as my ultimate goal was to help my students determine for themselves how they think and learn. Being able to absorb and regurgitate facts and algorithms is not enough. Real learning requires the ability to discover new understanding as well. (I am rather a fan of scientific method, as inefficient ... (read more)

Y'all! There's an added bonus in that it annoys linguistic purists.
Until Y'all degenerates into the singular and then you need a plural for the plural, i.e. "all y'all." Don't believe me? Go to Texas. ;-)
You guys. (Unlike the singular, ISTM that the plural guys doesn't always imply ‘males’.)

Greetings fellow Ration-istas!

First of all, I'd like to mention how glad I am that this site and community exist. For many years I wondered if there were others like me, who cared about improving themselves and their capacity for reason. And now I know - now I just need to figure out how to drag you all down to sunny San Diego to join me...

My name is Brett, and I'm a 28 year old Computational Biologist in San Diego, California. I've thought of myself as a materialist and an atheist since my freshman year in college, but it wasn't until after I graduated that I truly began to care about rationality. I realized that though I was unhappy with my life, as a scientist I had access to the best tools around for turning that around - science and reason.

I was born with a de novo genomic translocation on my 1st chromosome that left me with a whole raft of medical problems through-out my childhood - funnel chest, cleft palate, mis-fused skull, you name it. As a result I was picked on and isolated for most of my childhood, and generally responded to stress by retreating into video games and SF novels. So I went to school to study genetics and biology, and I graduated from college with a ... (read more)

A lot of people that I know seem to think that logic and reason are mostly just important in science, but they can improve so much in everyday life.


I'm a German student-to-be (I am going to start studying IT in October) and I am interested in almost anything connected with rationality, especially the self improvement, biases and "how to save the world" parts. I hope that lesswrong will be (and it already has been to a certain amount) one of the resources for (re-)shaping my thinking and acting towards a better me and a better world.

I came here, like so many others ;-), because I wanted to check out the foundations/concepts behind HPMOR and I could not just leave again. So over the last few months I visited again and again to read some of the sequences and posts.

As I am interested in science, especially physics, maths, technology and astronomy, I have a question that I would like to ask the lesswrong community: What is a fast and secure way of determining the trustworthiness of scientists and scientific papers? I ask this because there is a lot of pseudoscience and poorly done science out there which often isn't easy to distinguish from unconventional/disrupting science (at least not for me).

all the best Viper

Hi everyone! I am still a high school student but very interested in what I read here on LessWrong! I decided to register to contribute to discussions. Until now, I have been lurking but hopefully I will be able to join the conversation in a useful way.

Sorry to hear about that!
I find your jumping to conclusions somewhat offensive. In fact, I don't feel socially disadvantaged for my interests.
No! I refuse to believe that high school could be anything but a terrible prison! runs away screaming
Excellent! I also find this picture of high school sorta baffling.
Hiya LordSnow! If you want to get to know some of the other LW highschoolers, we have an (inactive) Google Group, and a Facebook Group.

Hi all! I have been lurking LW for a few months (years?). I believe I was first introduced to LW through some posts on Hacker News (http://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=olalonde). I've always considered myself pretty good at rationality (is there a difference with being a rationalist?) and I've always been an atheist/reductionist. I recently (4 years ago?) converted to libertarianism (blame Milton Friedman). I was raised by 2 atheist doctors (as in PhD). I'm a software engineer and I'm mostly interested in the technical aspect of achieving AGI. Since I was a kid, I've always dreamed of seeing an AGI within my lifetime. I'd be curious to know if there are some people here working on actually building an AGI. I was born in Canada, have lived in Switzerland and am now living in China. I'm 23 years old IIRC. I believe I'm quite far from the stereotypical LWer on the personality side but I guess diversity doesn't hurt.

Nice to meet you all!

Before I get more involved here, could someone explain me what is 1) x-rationality (extreme rationality) 2) a rationalist 3) a bayesian rationalist (I know what rationalism and Bayes theorem are but I'm not sure what the terms above refer to in the context of LW)
In the context of LW, all those terms are pretty closely related unless some more specific context makes it clear that they're not. X-rationality is a term coined to distinguish the LW methodology (which is too complicated to describe in a paragraph, but the tagline on the front page does a decent job) from rationality in the colloquial sense, which is a much fuzzier set of concepts; when someone talks about "rationality" here, though, they usually mean the former and not the latter. This is the post where the term originates, I believe. A "rationalist" as commonly used in LW is one who pursues (and ideally attempts to improve on) some approximation of LW methodology. "Aspiring rationalist" seems to be the preferred term among some segments of the userbase, but it hasn't achieved fixation yet. Personally, I try to avoid both. A "Bayesian rationalist" is simply a LW-style rationalist as defined above, but the qualification usually indicates that some contrast is intended. A contrast with rationalism in the philosophical sense is probably the most likely; that's quite different) and in some ways mutually exclusive with LW epistemology, which is generally closer to philosophical empiricism.
As far as I understand, a "Bayesian Rationalist" is someone who bases their beliefs (and thus decisions) on Bayesian probability, as opposed to ye olde frequentist probability. An X-rationalist is someone who embraces both epistemic and instrumental rationality (the Bayesian kind) in order to optimize every aspect of his life.

Hello everyone!

I am Jayesh Kumar Gupta. I am from Jodhpur, India. I have been interested in rationality for some years now. I came across this site via HPMOR. I had been reading posts on the site for some years now, while trying to wade my way through the gigantic Sequences, but was not confident enough to join this group, (people here seem to know so much). Right now I am an undergraduate student at IIT Kanpur. Hopefully I too will contribute something to the site in the future.


Welcome to Less Wrong! It's good to see that we're drawing an audience from all over the world. Don't worry about not knowing enough--a good fraction of regulars (myself included) weren't confident enough to join for a while. Now that you're out of lurkerdom, you'll gain confidence quickly. LW can be intimidating, but we're not as scary as we look. :)

Hello to the LessWrong universe.

I'm 23 years old. A lover of music (Last.fm): Ravel, Mozart, Radiohead, Sigur Rós, Animal Collective. And driven to learn.

My goal right now is to become a philosophy professor, and participate in radical, reason oriented movements to influence social change.

I value the intellect, the body, life, and the universe. I value learning - to improve the lives of others and myself, and to live most accordingly with 'nature.' I value those who direct themselves in a rational manner.

My rationality quest began when I was a child, always using legos to build new things and drawing. Eventually video games came into my life and problem solving drove me. However, due to immaturity and the social life of a middle/high schooler, I never really progress intellectually despite my love for science and 'deep' conversations with friends.
It wasn't until I was 20, and ended my relationship with a girl that philosophical thought dawned upon me. It was sparked by the breakup, because her family was religious and I molded myself to that lifestyle, but when it was over there was nothing there. I suppose, after losing who I thought was the love of my life, I began to se... (read more)

Welcome to Less Wrong! :) You sound like a pretty studious individual; you might enjoy some of the posts on inexpensive and efficient learning, if you haven't seen them already. Out of curiosity, what was the name of the blog that led you here?
Thank you! Wow, this post you linked to is quite amazing. Thanks a bunch. ("autodidact" - I finally have a word for what I do, ha ha) anotherpanacea - the exact post is here

Hi, my name is Alexey, and although I've been around the website for a while and have been an active LessWrongian in real life meetups, I haven't actually introduced myself on the website yet. So here it goes.

I am an undergraduate student at the University of Cambridge, specialising in synthetic biology and aiming to go on to do research in that field. I am interested in raising x-risk awareness within the SynBio community and advancing a safe approach to research in this area.

I was introduced to LW by a friend, and soon realised that there is actually a community of rational people interested in much the same things as I am. I have enjoyed reading the Sequences and have definitely learned a lot.

Since finding the LW website and community has been such a great experience for me, I introduced many of my friends to it, have participated in setting up the Cambridge meetup group; and more recently organised the first meetup in Budapest. I find it very rewarding to be able to talk to and make friends with fellow rationalists!

As for my interests within the scope of LW, I find that I am interested in self-improvement in terms of identifying and overcoming biases, building and expanding rationalist communities and working on x-risk reduction in synthetic biology. In fact, I find that biologists are underrepresented within the LW community and hope that my knowledge of the subject can translate into useful contributions to the discussions here on the LW website, and in real life LW meetups!

I'm reposting this here because there was a thread swap and I didn't get any takers in the former thread. Please let me interview you! It will be fun and wont take up too much time!

Hello, my name is Brett, and I am an undergraduate student at the University of North Texas, currently studying in the Department of Anthropology. In this semester, my classmates and I have been tasked with conducting an ethnographic study on an online community. After reading a few posts and the subsequent comments, LessWrong seemed like a great community on which to conduct an ethnography. The purpose of this study is to identify the composition of an online community, analyze communication channels and modes of interaction, and to glean any other information about unique aspects of the LessWrong community.

For this study I will be employing two information gathering techniques. The first of which will be Participant Observation, where I will document my participation within the community in attempts to accurately describe the ecosystem that comprises LessWrong. The second technique will be two interviews held with members of the community, where we will have a conversation about communication technique... (read more)

I recommend making a post to Discussion instead of a comment for this purpose.
This survey may interest you in your pursuits.

Hi, I am Raiden. For most of my life I have been an aspiring rationalist, even though I didn't call myself by that name. I was raised to think that I was some sort of super genius (it was a big shock in my later elementary school years to discover that I wasn't the smartest person in the world). This had the effect of causing me to associate some of my identity with intelligence. This led me to be a traditional rationalist; I had much admiration for the Spock stereotype, and I have been a atheist since childhood despite a fundamentalist religious family. In my freshmen year of high school, I was exposed to some self-help books that led me to seriously consider other virtues besides intelligence to be of value. This slowly revolutionized my view of the world.

Over the course of the next summer, I was exposed to the philosophy of Objectivism, and quickly became a strong adherent to it. I was from the beginning in agreement with the "Open Objectivist" group which said Objectivism is not a complete philosophy. I agree that objectivism descended into some sort of cult, and that Ayn Rand was one of history's greatest hypocrites. I also came to believe that this didn't disquali... (read more)

Hello! I came here researching free will for a school project. I'm currently 18, studying science at a fairly basic level in a small town in Sweden. I've so far read a few articles and the sheer amount of interesting thoughts in the articles made me want to stay. When I read what Lesswrong stands for, I knew I wanted to be a part of it, to try to become a better, hopefully wiser person.

I've liked philosophy for a long time, and don't usually like "because" as an answer for anything. I want to find out reasons behind everything. I'm so far not as good as I wish, due to limited time and wanting to read a lot of the articles, but not having enough time. However, I find it difficult to abandon half-read articles, even though they can be a bit of a long read compared to what I'm used to, excluding books.

Since I'm easily influenced by new ideas, too, as long as they make sense, I'm expecting myself to switch a lot. Lesswrong seems interesting, anyway, and I want to know more. I want more perspectives and thoughts. So far Lesswrong seems wonderful, and I think I'll like it. Hoping the community can oversee shortcomings when needed, but I'm expecting you all to be a nice bunch.

For science, and a greater understanding. Hopefully I'll be able to learn from you. But it's late now, and I'll be going now. Just thought I'd say hi.

Hello. I'm a 19-year-old student at Stanford University majoring in Computer Science. I'm especially interested in artificial intelligence. I've been reading lesswrong for a couple months and I love it! There are lots of great articles and discussions about a lot of the things I think about a lot and things that I hadn't thought about but proceeded to think about after reading them.

I've considered myself a rationalist for as long as I can remember. I've always loved thinking about philosophy, reading philosophy articles, and discussing philosophy with other people. When I started reading lesswrong I realized that it aligned well with my approach to philosophy, probably because of my interest in AI. In the course of searching for a universal epistemology I discovered Solomonoff induction, which is an idea that I've been obsessed with for a couple years. I even wrote a paper about it. I've been trying to apply this concept to epistemology and cognitive science.

My current project is to make a practical framework for resource-bounded Solomonoff induction (Solomonoff induction where the programs are penalized for taking up too much time). Since resource-bounded induction ... (read more)

I'm sorry about your turmoil, but I don't take responsibility for "creating" it.

First, any single relaxed taboo is a blow against the entire net of ethical inhibitions

This is not an uncontested statement.

Thanks for catching me, adjusted.

I've posted a few rationality quotes, so it sounds like time to introduce myself. I'm a 22 year old software project manager from Wisconsin, been reading LW since June or so when MOR was really going strong.

I've been a very rational thinker for my whole life, in terms of explicitly looking for evidence/feedback and updating behaviors and beliefs, but only began thinking about it formally recently. I was raised Christian, and I consider my current state the result of a slow process of resolving dissonance based on contradictions or insufficient/contrary evidence. I'm most interested in theory of government and achieving best results given the rather unreliable ability of voters to predict or understand outcomes of different policies.

I also think, though, that ethics is just as important as rationality- choosing the correct goals is just as necessary as succeeding towards those goals. I've seen appreciation of this within LW that, for me, really sets it apart, so I hope I can make a larger contribution. As someone once said, the choice between Good and Evil is not about saying one or the other, but about deciding which is which.

Welcome! If you're near Madison, there's a regular meetup there (on Mondays) which I highly recommend. Is that from The Sword of Good, or another source?

Hello, I'm a high school senior who discovered this site somewhere on reddit and deeply enjoyed this article (http://yudkowsky.net/rational/the-simple-truth) and decided to check out more posts. I'm planning on studying engineering in college but I try to have a well-rounded knowledge on a myriad of subjects apart from math and science. The content here is very enticing and intellectually stimulating, and I will probably frequent this site in the future.

Welcome to LessWrong! There's an email list and occasional online meetups for LessWrong teenagers; you can join here..

It happens to all of us sometimes, and it's perfectly acceptable to ask for an explanation.

I'd like to note that while acceptable to ask for an explanation, it is downright counterproductive to be petulant. Don't bother getting upset until you know why.

Hello lesswrong community!

"Who am I?" I am a Network Engineer, who once used to know a bit of math (sadly, not anymore). Male, around 30, works in IT, atheist - I think I'll blend right in.

"How did I discover lesswrong?" Like the vast majority, I discovered lesswrong after reading HPMOR many years ago. It remains my favourite book to this day. HPMOR and the Sequences taught me a lot of new ideas and, more importantly, put what I already knew into a proper perspective. By the time HPMOR was finally finished, I was no longer sure where my worldview happened

... (read more)
Welcome! Glad to have you join us!
Thank you! You have no idea how happy your reply makes me! In an irrationally large part, because I've seen your name in a book, but I just cannot help myself. You are alive! (Duh!) More importantly, the lesswrong community is alive! (Double Duh!, but going through the Sequences' comments can be a bit discouraging - like playing the first levels of a MMORPG, while the experienced player base has moved on to level 50.) Hopefully, we'll have many interesting discussions once I catch up. So much to look forward to! Will Alicorn be there? Will TheOtherDave explain what happened to the original Dave? You guys are legends. P.S. Sorry for the delayed response, I didn't notice the number next to the bell earlier. I'll make sure to check it frequently from now on.
Glad to hear that! :) Looking forward to many future conversations, and sorry for the bell icon not being as obvious.
No worries :) and no reason to be sorry- the bell is quite obvious on PC, but my android phone only shows it when scrolling. Probably an issue on my side.

Consider your second expectation falsified and update on it, as a "bayesian rationalist" would.

Yeah okay.

Hello to the LW Community. My name is Glenn, 49, from Boulder, Colorado. After completing my Master's degree in Economics, I began a career in investment management, with a diversion into elected politics (a city council, a regional council of governments, then the Colorado state legislature, along with corporate on non-profit boards). My academic work focused on decision theory and risk analysis and my vocation on their practical application. Presently, I manage several billion dollars' worth of fixed-income portfolios on behalf of local governments and ... (read more)

Welcome! We're glad to have you.

Hi! My name is Paul, and I've been an aspiring rationalist for years. A long time ago, I realized implicitly that reality exists, and that there is only one. I think "rationality" is the only reasonable next thing to do. I pretty much started "training" on TvTropes, reading fallacies and the like there, as well as seeing ways to analyze things in fiction. The rules there apply to real life fairly well.

From there, I discovered Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and from there, this site. Been reading quite a bit on and off over... (read more)

Hello, everyone! I'm 21, soon to graduate from IIT Bombay, India. I guess the first time I knowingly encountered rationality, was at 12, when I discovered the axiomatic development of Euclidean geometry, as opposed to the typical school-progression of teaching mathematics. This initial interest in problem-solving through logic was fueled further, through my later (and ongoing) association with the Mathematics Olympiads and related activities.

Of late, I find my thoughts turning ever more to understanding the working and inefficiencies of our macro-economy, ... (read more)

Well welcome, and hope you find yourself happy and interested here!

Hello folks! I'm a student of computer science, found Less Wrong a few years ago, read some articles, found myself nodding along, but didn't really change my mind about anything significant. That is, until recently I came across something that completely shattered my worldview and, having trouble coping with that, I found myself coming back here, seeking either something that would invalidate this new insight or help me accept it if it is indeed true. Over the past few days, I have probably been thinking harder than ever before in my life, and I hope to contribute to discussions here in the future.

What's the insight?

Hi everyone. I have been lurking since the site started, but did not have the courage to start posting until recently. I am a male college graduate in his mid-twenties, happily engaged and currently job-hunting, and have been fascinated by science and reason since I was a child. I was one of those people who actually identified with the "Hollywood Rational" robots and aliens in science fiction and wanted to be more like them. Science and science fiction socialized me and made me curious about the inner working of the universe.

I love the sequen... (read more)

Greetings, everyone.

My name is Francisco, and I am from Malaga, Spain. I am a dabbling rationalist, and a programmer/troubleshooter.

I started walking the path of rationality when I started keeping track of good luck/normal luck/bad luck events in order to check if Murphy's law was actually true, and then wondering why people actually believed in it. Later, I started reading about fallacies, and I finally arrived at LW via HMPOR, like many people.

I am currently reading my way through the Sequences, but my current project is to make Bayes' theorem more acce... (read more)

Hi all,

My name's Lars. I'm from Melbourne, Australia, and have a background in software/mathematics/languages. I've also tutored classes in logic and artificial intelligence. Like a lot of folks commenting here, I've been reading articles on LessWrong for a while, but now I'm keen to understand the community around it a bit more.

I've been interested in rationality for some years. One of my favourite posts so far is "Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-contrarianism". It helped me notice signalling in arguments, and reduce greatly the amount I do it my... (read more)

Hello everyone! I'm 19 years old BA student of Finance & Accounting from Poland. For some time I have been interested in rationalism, yet in my country internet community oriented with it is rather fledgling and mostly just non-theist in nature. I was brought here by HPMOR. I know Bayes' Theorem from my statistics classes, but it wasn't until recently that I began to understood how it could influence my way of thinking.

Please forgive me if I make small language errors in my posts, while I understand mostly everything written here (barring things that I... (read more)

Welcome! Don't let language anxiety keep you from participating here; your English seems more than adequate to the job.

Hello, all.

I'm an agnostic artist and general proponent of thinking (although I hope to become a more specific proponent of thinking now that I'm here) who enjoys working behind the scenes.

I'm the new executive assistant for the Center of Modern Rationality, and look forward to doing what I can to help get the Center running as smoothly as possible. If I'm doing my job right, you shouldn't even know I'm here.

Well, OK, let's examine it then.

We have some activity.
We see no particular reason to prevent people from doing that activity.
We see no good reason for people to do that activity.
We have a proposed law that makes that activity illegal.
Do I endorse that law?

The only case I can think of where I'd say yes is if the law also performs some other function, the benefit of which outweighs the inefficiencies associated with preventing this activity, and for some reason separating those two functions is more expensive than just preventing the activity. (This sort of... (read more)

I often "claim" my downvotes (aka I will post "downvoted" and then give reason.) However, I know that when I do this, I will be downvoted myself. So that is probably one big deterrent to others doing the same.

On the other hand if people agree with your reasons they often upvote it (especially back up towards zero if it dropped negative).

For one thing, the person you are downvoting will generally retaliate by downvoting you (or so it seems to me, since I tend to get an instant -1 on downvoting comments)

I certainly hope so. I would... (read more)

Do you think that's a good thing, or just a likely outcome? Downvoting explanations of downvotes seems like a really bad idea, regardless how you feel about the downvote. It strongly incentives people to not explain themselves, not open themselves up for debates, but just vote and then remove themselves from the discussion. I don't see how downvoting explanations and more explicit behavior is helpful for rational discourse in any way.
This is exactly the reaction I want to trolls, basic questions outside of dedicated posts, and stupid mistakes. Are downvotes of explanations in those cases also read as an incentive not to post explanations in general?
Speaking for myself, yes. I read it as "don't engage this topic on this site, period". I agree with downvoting (and ignoring) the types of comments you mentioned, but not explanations of such downvotes. The explanations don't add any noise, so they shouldn't be punished. (Maybe if they got really excessive, but currently I have the impression that too few downvotes are explained, rather than too many.)
Comments can serve as calls to action encouraging others to downvote or priming people with a negative or unintended interpretation of a comment - be it yours or that of someone else -that influence is something to be discouraged. This is not the case with all explanations of downvotes but it certainly describes the effect and often intent of the vast majority of "Downvoted because" declarations. Exceptions include explanations that are requested and occasionally reasons that are legitimately surprising or useful. Obviously also an exception is any time when you actually agree they have a point.
I might well consider an explanation of a downvote on a comment of mine to be a valuable contribution, even if I continue to disagree with the thinking behind it. Actually, that's not uncommon.

(Reposted from the wrong thread, per Kutta's suggestion)

If by "rationalist", the LW community means someone who believes it is possible and desirable to make at least the most important judgements solely by the use of reason operating on empirically demonstrable facts, then I am an ex-rationalist. My "intellectual stew" had simmered into it several forms of formal logic, applied math, and seasoned with a BS in Computer Science at age 23.

By age 28 or so, I concluded that most of the really important things in life were not amenable to th... (read more)

Welcome! You'll be relieved to know that's not quite the Less Wrong dogma; if you observe that your conscious deliberations make worse decisions in a certain sphere than your instincts, then (at least until you find a better conscious deliberation) you should rely on your instincts in that domain. LWers are generally optimistic about applying conscious deliberation/empirical evidence/mathematical models in most cases besides immediate social decisions, though.
Thanks for the introduction and welcome. Upvoted.


I'm Andrew, a 41 year old actuary, living in Chicago (and Sao Paulo in the summers). I came to rationality under the influence of Ayn Rand and the writing of Richard Dawkins but actually found the site after being sent a link by my sister. I am not a computer programmer at all, but read extensively on subjects like behavioral psychology, physics, genetics, evolution, and anything interesting related to real science. I am trying to apply the lessons from behavioral psychology and many other fields (including game theory, space design, use of incentives an... (read more)

Hi, I'm Laur, I'm in my mid-thirties (wow, when did that happen?), a software developer from Romania, currently living in the Netherlands. I found this site, as many others, via MoR, and I've been lurking for a while now - I'm subscribed to the RSS feed and slowly working my way through the sequences.

When young (and arguably foolish), I've made a few "follow your heart' kind of decisions that resulted in significant damage to my personal life, finances and career. For the past seven years I've been working my way out of that hole mainly by analysing ... (read more)

Welcome! Could you expand on this? Being more rational, in the sense that LWers use it, isn't about acting like Spock all the time; instrumental rationality for humans includes relaxing, being silly, and all of the other things that make us more effective and happier overall.

Hi everyone. I am an engineering graduate student in the SF Bay area, and will be working at a tech company in the south bay starting in the summer.

I have been lurking on this forum for about a year and a half, but this post convinced me to register for an account. I serendipitously found Less Wrong through an interesting post about the Amanda Knox murder trial. I have read a few of the sequences and all of MoR. I hope to get more involved in the future!

Retired Mechanical Engineer with the following interests/prejudices.

Longstanding interest in philosophy of science especially in the tradition of Karl Popper.

Atheist to a first approximation but I can accept that some forms of religious belief can be regarded as "translations" of beliefs I hold and therefore not that keen on the "New Atheist" approach. Belong to a Humanist group in London (where I heard of LW). This has led me to revive an old interest in moral philosophy, especially as applied to political questions.

Happy to be called ... (read more)

Hi, I am interested in the neurobiology of decision-making and rationality and happened to stumble upon this site and decided to join.



Hey everyone,

I'm Jost, 19 years old, and studying physics in Munich, Germany. I've come across HPMoR in mid-2010 and am currently translating it into German. That way, I found LW and dropped by from time to time to read some stuff – mostly from the Sequences, but rarely in sequence. I started reading more of LW this spring, while a friend and I were preparing a two day introductory course on cognitive biases entitled “How to Change Your Mind”. (Guess where that idea came from!)

I'm probably going to be most active in the HPMoR-related threads.

I was very int... (read more)

There are two remedies: Thinking about the ideas, and reading other people's thoughts about the ideas. I generally recommend the former first, followed by the second, followed by the first again - don't read too much without giving yourself time to think the ideas through for yourself. My general rule with new ideas is to get the summary first and think it through - my personal goal is to have (at least) one criticism, (at least) one supporting argument, and (at least) one derived idea before I read other people's thoughts on the matter.

Hi! So I've actually already made a few comments on this site, but had neglected to introduce myself so I thought I'd do so now. I'm a PhD candidate in computer science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. My research interests are in AI and Machine Learning. Specifically, my dissertation topic is on generalization in reinforcement learning (policy transfer and function approximation).

Given this, AI is obviously my biggest interest, but as a result, my study of AI has led me to applying the same concepts to human life and reasoning. Lately, I'v... (read more)

Hi, I'm a long-time reader of Eliezer's various scribblings and I'm interested in getting a meetup group going in Minneapolis after we've had a few false starts. This is the post I'm trying to gather the karma to enable:

Meetup: Twin Cities, MN (for real this time)

THE TIME: 15 April 2012 01:00:00PM (-0600) THE PLACE: Purple Onion Coffeeshop, 1301 University Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis, MN

Hi. Let's make this work.

Suggested discussion topics would be:

  • What do we want this group to do? Rationality practice? Skill sharing? Mastermind group?
  • Acquiring guin
... (read more)
You have spoken his name. If this summons him, it's on you!

Hello, I am a very likable, shy young person who lives in Austria and loves you guys.

Willkommen bei Lesswrong! Wie hast du die Seite gefunden? Was interessierst dich am meisten hier? Viel Glueck mit mitteilen. Am obersten links gibt es ein Briefumschlag, wenn es rot ist hast du eine oder mehrere neue Nachrichten. Sorry but I use any excuse to inflict my German upon others.

Hi, I'm Josh. I found this site by way of HPMOR more than half a year ago, but just now got around to making an account. I hadn't seen any reason to until I actually had something to add to a conversation. After registering and leaving a few comments here and there, i figured i may as well introduce myself.

Im 17 years old and trying to narrow down what to do with my life. My long term goal, much like most patrons to this site, is to do as much as i can to aid the development of FAI. Im smarter than the vast majority of people, but i doubt that im anywhere... (read more)

5Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 12y
Welcome, Josh! It sounds like you're in a similar place to my brother right now, with similar interests. He goes by zephyrianr on LW, maybe you could send him a message if you're interesting in talking about these issues. Especially when I read your phrase: "If i could sum up my life in any one purpose it would be ensuring that death is banished from the world never to touch mankind again," I think you two would get along well.

Hi all! I am a 23 year old Singaporean student studying Computer Science in the United States. I'm interested in Psychology, Statistics, Math, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Politics, and some other things. It is an exciting time to be young! I'm really looking forward to space elevators, and I'm still curious to see how quantum computers would change things. In the mean time, people's lives are being molded by the increasing amounts of available information that is presented in a way that is relevant to them. I am excited to see what the world would be like... (read more)

Hello Less Wrong.

I've been lurking for a while and just decided to register. I have occasionally wanted to comment, but felt i should have an intuitive understanding of the community and its values before doing so.

I consider myself to have been trained in rationality from a very young age. My father was a philosophy professor, and at many points in my life i have found myself referring back to conversations with him in which he attempted to demostrate how to think correctly. I also consider my mother to be a strong rationalist, and thus consider myself qui... (read more)

Hi, I've been lurking on LessWrong for quite a while now - around a year -, but saw this post and decided to comment. I hope this is useful as feedback to the admins.

I'm a 22 year old student at UT Austin. As of last Fall, I'm pursuing a PhD in Computer Science. My specialization is Machine Learning. And I'm committed to doing everything in my power to hasten the Singularity :P. I have a BTech in CS from IIT Bombay, India.

I've considered myself a rationalist for as long as I can remember. I found less wrong through Overcoming Bias and from Elizier's posts ... (read more)

Hello, I'd like to keep this short; hopefully that's ok. I am 22. I live in the SF bay area and have been living here for the last 5 years. I am a self-taught computer scientist, with a bachelor's degree in a more 'creative' field. Currently I am most interested in computer vision as well as various social aspects of technology. I've been making my way through the sequences in the past couple weeks, but I've been reading the LW discussions for about a year now.

Greetings from Southampton, UK.

Male, 46, Maths graduate, software developer, career in transitional state (moving into music composition - slowly!).

Until about the age of 30 I didn't really make an effort to identify my own biases and irrational beliefs, and I had a lot of unsupported beliefs in my mind. I've been gradually correcting this through online reading and thinking, but I feel that until recently I lacked one of the essential elements of wisdom: clarity of focus. I'm hoping to learn that now.

Since I was divorced in 2004, I've increasingly become ... (read more)

Hi, I'm 53 years old, from Gloucester, UK.

I work from home over the internet running IT systems.

I studied Maths for 2 years at Cambridge, then Computer Science in my 3rd year.

I came across this site after becoming interested in the trial of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito ( just subsequent to their acquittal in October 2011 ).

I made an analysis of the Massei report ( http://massei-report-analysis.wikispaces.com/ ) and concluded that the defence case was much more probable than the prosecution case.

I'm interested in a rational basis for assessing guilt ... (read more)

If I downvote with comment, it's usually for a fairly specific problem, and usually one that I expect can be addressed if it's pointed out; some very clear logical problem that I can throw a link at, for example, or an isolated offensive statement. I may also comment if the post is problematic for a complicated reason that the poster can't reasonably be expected to figure out, or if its problems are clearly due to ignorance.

Otherwise it's fairly rare for me to do so; I see downvotes as signaling that I don't want to read similar posts, and replying to s... (read more)


I've been reading LessWrong for a year or so, and made an account about two months ago to comment on the survey. Seeing as I have continued to comment, I suppose that I should introduce myself.

I am an 18 year old college student, majoring in neuroscience. I don't affiliate politically, though I do have opinions on specific policy issues. In particular, I think that we should allow more experimental policies if the potential risks are not too high, perhaps testing them locally.

I don't remember exactly how I came to start reading LessWrong, but I have... (read more)