The first draft of the 2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey is complete (see 2011 here). I will link it below if you promise not to try to take the survey because it's not done yet and this is just an example!

2012 Less Wrong Census/Survey Draft

I want three things from you.

First, please critique this draft. Tell me if any questions are unclear, misleading, offensive, confusing, or stupid. Tell me if the survey is so unbearably long that you would never possibly take it. Tell me if anything needs to be rephrased.

Second, I am willing to include any question you want in the Super Extra Bonus Questions section, as long as it is not offensive, super-long-and-involved, or really dumb. Please post any questions you want there. Please be specific - not "Ask something about abortion" but give the exact question you want me to ask as well as all answer choices.

Try not to add more than five or so questions per person, unless you're sure yours are really interesting. Please also don't add any questions that aren't very easily sort-able by a computer program like SPSS unless you can commit to sorting the answers yourself.

Third, please suggest a decent, quick, and at least somewhat accurate Internet IQ test I can stick in a new section, Unreasonably Long Bonus Questions.

I will probably post the survey to Main and officially open it for responses sometime early next week.

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Bonus questions:

  • Do you approve or disapprove of Eliezer's moderation of Roko's basilisk?
  • How many times have you read or edited the wiki in the last month?
  • Drug use: caffeine, the amphetamine family (eg. Adderall or Ritalin), modafinil, nicotine (could be phrased to be either binary or weekly or monthly)
  • Perhaps a question about whether one reads Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality?
  • Big Five personality test? Shortest, short, long.

Third, please suggest a decent, quick, and at least somewhat accurate Internet IQ test I can stick in a new section, Unreasonably Long Bonus Questions.

GJP had a quick IQ test as part of their surveys, but it's not public. takes about 20-30 minutes but is normed very hard, so you certainly don't have to worry about IQ inflation...

Blur the "modafinil" question to "modafinil, armodafinil, or adrafinil", since the modafinil question is theoretically incriminating, so people are more likely to lie (or use the survey results to say bad things about us), but the blurred one isn't because adrafinil is unscheduled.

Yes, that's not a bad idea. Would using the coinflipping technique be overkill?
Overkill for modafinil, maybe not overkill for the amphetamine family.
What's that?

Respondents are instructed to flip a coin; if heads answer yes, if tails answer truthfully. The overall difference from 50% is the real overall percentage while giving every yes answer deniability. I forget what this is called but it's common on touchy topics.

It's called randomized response. I remember hearing about it first a year or two ago on LW.
Maybe alcohol and marijuana too?

And what about LSD? I would love to know how many folks here tried it.

Yeah, that too (maybe “Psychedelic drugs (e.g. mescaline, psilocybin, LSD)”).
2David Althaus11y
That's the spirit!
Those are more recreational, I was leaning toward enhancement.
Yeah, but I still think it would be an interesting question.
There should probably be a general question like "how often do you take any of the following nootropics." Tyrosine, melatonin, tryptophan, 5htp, come to mind.
It is? Heh, +2 self-esteem right there!
I seem to recall gwern mentioning his score on that test somewhere on PredictionBook, and me being very surprised as it was way lower than I had expected.
I vaguely remember (but can't now find) previous discussion that taking more than once would skew scores upward from training effect. Any idea how large that effect might be?
Not really, it varies per test. (Such norms and info is what professional psychologists & psychometricians are paying for when they pay through the nose for IQ tests.) My general impression from looking at before-afters for the RAPM/BOMAT-using dual n-back studies was that the controls would improve on average something like half a question, which would translate to maybe 2 or 3 points?
Hmm. I got 138 yesterday, and I'm pretty sure the 120 I remember entering in last year's survey was from that same online test. Wondering what' s up with that.
Also, P(the above comment will be deleted by the mods).
The mention of the basilisk was the main reason I didn't upvote gwern's comment.
Too high. It's the use / mention distinction. Mention of (existence of) basilisks is permitted, use (detailed description) is prohibited. Or such appears to be the rule to me.
I get the impression that mentioning it in prominent places also gets deleted.
Quite a few of the recently observed mass deletions have started from what was a mention.
I missed those (as in 'didn't notice', not as in 'was nostalgic about').
Nitpick: Ritalin is not an amphetamine (no alpha methyl group), though it is a phenethylamine.
Ah, my bad. I thought Ritalin was another mix of salts like Adderall.
Nope. FWIW, I think they should be in the same category for purposes of the survey, I'm just not sure what to call said category. I'd also put methcathinone in said category (though I hope nobody around here is using it for productivity purposes). Cocaine might deserve its own category.
This would be better asked over the course of a year for me. It might be 4 edits over the past year. I would be unsure what to say for month.
I don't think people would remember how often they visit the wiki over a year.
Unless they are really new, they could guess by multiplying by 12 or the appropriate number. If they are really new, they can also be pretty sure it isn't much over this month. EDIT: Spelling, not strictly endorsing this strategy, someone would have to weigh the pro/con but I wanted to add more information.

You use the term "X-risk" when talking about anything that kills over 90% of the human population, regardless of whether civilization recovers or continues. "Global Catastrophic Risk" (GCR) would be a better term for the actual questions.

I continue to be surprised (I believe I commented on this last year) that under "Academic fields" pure mathematics is not listed on its own; it is also not clear to me that pure mathematics is a hard science; relatedly, are non-computer science engineering folk expected to write in answers?

There is no option for Associate's under degree earned, or even high school diploma. If we're not interested in the dropout rate that might be forgivable but at the least an Associate's or Trade degree is certainly not "none."

I'm fairly sure my family background qualifies as "nonreligious," this may be worth having as an option. (I don't even have weird religious uncles or anything like that.)

TYPO: Under "liberal," "moire redistribution."

I second this: please include pure mathematics. I imagine there are a fair few of us, and there's no agreed upon way to categorize it. I remember being annoyed about this last year. (I'm pretty sure I marked "hard sciences".)
  • Last time some commenters went nuts when a noticeable portion of repliers picked the "Socialist" political choice. The description "for example Scandinavian countries" is kinda priming here, since some responders actually are from Scandinavian (or other Nordic) countries. So the question reads for me as "do you like the not that good but sorta working politics at where you live or the stuff the horrible American (and former Soviet Union and present North Korean for Communism) politicians are doing that you only hear about when it goes more or less horribly wrong in some way?"

The distinction between "liberal" and "socialist" is a bit confusing in any case. Without the "like this stuff in this country", I'd describe the Finnish political mainstream as "liberal" with sizable socialist contingent on the left and religious, populist and Swedish-speaking (don't ask) minority parties on the right. If seen as the Evil Political Enemies, the populist group kinda matches up with the conservative one in the query, but low taxes are the mainstream Coalition party's thing, while the religious party is mostly just tradition... (read more)

You'd want to define 'real life name' for the anonymity bit. I don't post under my legal name and don't think it's possible to find it given my chosen one, but I go by my chosen one rather than my legal one in most cases, and it's actually possible to find my address given my chosen name and a bit of googling, which feels more like 1 or 2 than 3 to me.
A milder version of this option seems to be in order. I don't think it's the end of the world if someone discovers my real identity, but I would much rather avoid it.
I post under the real first name plus the first two letter of my last name. I wouldn't say I'm using a pseudonym. On the other hand you can't make the connection between the identities easily via googling.
Depends on what you mean by "easily". I guess it'd take about half an hour for a motivated LWer to find out my full name.
Your profile page having a link to your home page that has your real name on the About page type of "easily". If internet detectiving is required, I'd think of that as the third option.
  • "Political" should include an option for reactionaries OR socialist and liberal should be lumped together.
  • "Religious Views" and "Family Religion" are poorly named: theism vs. atheism is more philosophical than religious.
  • "Moral Views" will have people going argh because "Other" isn't an option. You do say "most identify with" but that still won't keep people from arghing.
  • "SAT scores": you might want to ask for age when the test was taken. Some people take it in middle school and never take it again.
  • If you have multiple LW accounts should you add up karma or just report your account with highest karma?
I really agree with adding the reactionary label since conservative or libertarian answers are misleading for the position of many posters from that cluster. There is a reason to think we have those, especially since they are noticed and Moldbug's blog is widely read and even cited as an example of insight porn. I think the difference in Europe between "US-style liberal" and "socialist" is basically non-existent, we should however add a communist option, this will also keep backwards compatibility with the previous census. Edit: I'm not sure if I missed it or if it was added since this comment was made, Communist is now an option. Still no Reactionary option. I assume you should pick the one that is your main public face since information given on alter egos may be misleading.
Using "the old Soviet Union" as a model communist state looks almost like trolling. I think that people who consider themselves communists in A.D. 2012 generally don't see the failed state of USSR as a prime example of realisation of their ideology. People who do, I guess, won't be interested in this site. I would remove that Soviet Union example.
Really? People call themselves "reactionaries"? That always seemed to me a label that people applied to others.

Really? People call themselves "reactionaries"? That always seemed to me a label that people applied to others.

That's so queer.

Peculiar? Homosexual? I have no idea what you're getting at here.

People do re-purpose words that are used to refer to them disparagingly.

Indeed they do. But my point was that I don't see people doing that with "reactionary". Perhaps there is a "Reactionary Party" in your neck of the woods, but here in the US, I've never found anyone calling their political views reactionary as a way to describe them, as opposed to merely indicating that "leftists are offended by my views". While there may be such people, they are a vanishingly small part of the population. Reactionary is not seen as a coherent set of views that anyone professes, but only a boo word from leftists which has generally been superseded by "racist, sexist, homophobe".

Reactionary is not seen as a coherent set of views that anyone professes, but only a boo word from leftists which has generally been superseded by "racist, sexist, homophobe".

The same critique could be made of conservatism. If we accept that term, reactionary seems to be acceptable as well:

A reactionary is an individual that holds political viewpoints which cause them to seek to return to a previous state (the status quo ante) in a society. Reactionaries are considered to be one end of a political spectrum whose opposite pole is perceived radicalism, though reactionary ideologies may be themselves radical. While it has not been generally considered positive to be regarded as a reactionary it has been adopted as a self-description by some such as H. L. Mencken,[1] Gerald Warner of Craigenmaddie[2] and John Lukacs.[3]

In other words reactionary is the right wing person who looks around the society he inhabits and does not see much worth preserving but seeks to revive older institutions. Julian the Apostate seems a good example.

A member of the Constantinian dynasty, he was made Caesar over the western provinces, by Constantius II in 355, where he campaigned successfu

... (read more)
I think I see what's going on with the US side, at least. I remember back almost 20 years ago, discussing politics on the internet, and it was much the same thing with the anarcho capitalists. Smart bunch of fellows making some decent points, who I basically agreed with, who also had fundamentally incoherent political theory, IMO. I put it to David Friedman in a brief exchange, if we just call the US government a defense agency, what do you have to complain about? There have been competing defense agencies, and US government won. Get over it. Seems that some anarcho capitalists have admitted that governments are competing defense agencies, and now back Neocameralism which will, they say, produce desirable outcomes as the competing governments maximize long term shareholder value. 20 years later, this seems like an advance for their theory. I'm still not convinced they've rounded the bend toward coherency, but I'll leave the politics for another day. I read Moldbug first, and I was already having anarcho capitalist argument flashbacks, which reading Nick Land turned into a full blown trip down memory lane. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, and getting me up to date on some of the fringe internet politics. I like to see how stories turn out. For my original objection to your comment, I was thinking about the US as a whole, which wasn't the appropriate population for categories on a poll here anyway. I will criticize Moldbug's analysis of leftism, though. He presumes that the left is motivated by a fearful reaction to the Jesus people, and that through passivism, you remove the target of their fear, and the wind goes out of their sails. I think that's the same mistake some people make about Islamists - thinking that the problem is their reaction to what you're doing, and that if you'd only stop doing it, everything would be ok. No. Leftists and Islamists have their own agendas that aren't just reactions to you. It's not all about you. Other people have their o
Yes, they do. Time to update your model of the world. :-)
Who? Where? What do they believe in?
Mencius Moldbug is probably the self-proclaimed reactionary who is most well-known around these parts -- This collection of his writings is probably good for an intro on him. Among other things, that democracy is bad, and that feudal monarchies were way better in managing things. You can probably get a fair approximation of their views if you see them as opposing most of the modern applause lights out there (e.g. democracy, equality, diversity, human rights, etc), because they believe they all lead to bad governance.
By copying and pasting the Blogspot URL, you leak information about where you are! (Not a big deal as you also say that in your user page, but still...)
Huh, I hadn't noticed that. Thanks for telling me, but yeah, it's not as if I keep it secret that I live in Greece.
BTW, apparently redirects to blogspot.[whatever country you're in], but blogspot.[some other country] works just fine.
Out of curiosity, I took the SAT as an adult and scored ~120 points higher than at age 17, on a supposedly-harder test. I suspect not being sleep-deprived had something to do with it.
You should delete your sockpuppets, and stop trolling us with them.
Lots of people have sock puppets that aren't used for trolling, for example I think Quirrell is one.
Also OpenThreadGuy. (If I had such an extra account, I'd still only count the karma for my “main” account for the survey.)
Dude, don't feed the troll!
Don't feed the troll.

Current status of these suggestions:

  • I will probably not be implementing any suggestion that requests a multi-checkbox style question, like:

"What activities do you enjoy? Check all that apply"

[] Fishing

[] Boating

[] Hiking

[] Climbing

The reason is that I haven't been able to figure out how to computer process these effectively; I end out with rows of boxes like "hiking,fishing" or "fishing,boating,climbing" and it's apparently beyond my limited skills to get SPSS to separate these out into separate chunks of information. I could do it like this:

Do you enjoy fishing?

[] Y

[] N

Do you enjoy boating?

[] Y

[] N

And so on, but the more options you want, the less happy I am doing this. Or, teach me a good way to solve this problem using Google Forms and SPSS.

  • I am reluctant to change questions that have been on the survey since previous years. For example, Will's suggestion to change the Politics question is good, except that if we did it we would no longer be able to confidently say something like "Less Wrong has gotten more liberal since the last survey". I would rather just include a political compass in the Bonus Questions, plus maybe maybe a more

... (read more)

Kind of want to avoid beating a dead basilisk.

If you don't beat it, someone else will, as XiXi, RationalWiki, and that newspaper demonstrate; and by omitting a question on it, we lose the ability to be able to point out that the overwhelming majority (or whatever it turns out to be) disagreed with that moderation decision. This would be one of the few questions which is genuinely useful, as opposed to interesting.

Good call here, btw. I've been going through random reddit comments to posts that link to LessWrong (, discarding threads on /r/hpmor /r/lesswrong and other affiliated subs. The basilisk is brought up far more than I expected – and widely mocked. This also seems to occur in Hacker News, too – on which LessWrong was once quite popular. I wasn’t around when the incident occurred, but I’m surprised by how effective it’s been at making LessWrong low status – and its odd persistence years after its creation. Unless high IQ people are less likely to dismiss LessWrong after learning of the basilisk, it’s likely significantly reduced the effectiveness of LessWrong as a farm league for MIRI. It really is amazingly well-optimized for discrediting MIRI and its goals, especially when amplified by censorship – which is so obviously negatively useful. I wonder if EY actually thinks the basilisk idea is both correct and unavoidable. That would explain things.
It works much better than the previous go-to slur, cryonics and freezing heads, ever did. I'm not sure why - is it the censorship aspect? Or is it the apparent resemblance to Pascal's wager?
That and believing in hell is more low status than believing in heaven. Cryonics pattern matches to the a belief in a better life after death, the basilisk to hell.
Do you expect RationalWiki or journalists to check the survey results and report them if it turns out that people disagreed?

Not at all. I expect it to be linkable in comments or rebuttals, or simply edited in, as I have in fact already done twice: and

Do you think that an overwhelming majority of people taking the survey know enough about the case to make an informed judgment?

Given how people have been describing the basilisk to me in IRC and private messages as being a' fascinating secret' and 'attracting people with mystique' and 'laugh at how they circumvented the censorship', I think more people know about it than one would expect (and that by now, it is more well known than it ever would've been otherwise).

But even if all that was wrong, that is easily addressed with the usual options like 'Other' or 'No opinion' or 'Don't care'.

In the case that SI is in favor of the meme, doesn't believing in the meme means that you are bound to spread the meme? The meme had the danger of making LessWrong a lot more cultish. Handling a dangerous meme in a way where people who come into contact with the meme don't focus their attention on the meme but laugh about the context of the meme is quite an accomplishment. It primes people for not taking it too seriously. You wouldn't want the meme to become like Scientology's Xenu, which people actually start to buy into when they meet the meme after years in Scientology.
Er... what? So making a bit of amusement is a satisfactory compensation for handing critics a club and also exposing countless more people, perhaps orders more, to it?
The meme has some self referential properties if you take it seriously. Not every exposure is created equally. Exposing people to the idea in a way where they don't take it seriously doesn't do much harm.

Not every exposure is created equally. Exposing people to the idea in a way where they don't take it seriously doesn't do much harm.

Not every exposure is equal, but you've done nothing to show that censorship - in the hopes that it will result in mockery - will cut the risk by so many orders that it will more than counterbalance the orders more exposure and also pay for all the reputational damage.

In hindsight, clouds may have silver linings - but only an idiot tries to set up a mine in the sky.

I certainly never would have heard of the idea if it hadn't become so infamous.
I probably never would have heard of the idea if someone hadn't pointed out its conspicuous omission on the census. I read completely through the original test census and it didn't even register as something so noteworthy on first pass... just another thing that I would probably understand better if I actually read more LessWrong, but since I hadn't, I'd leave my answer blank. Now I know a lot more about it and could probably (p=70%) actually put an answer down with some confidence. Since it appears the final version of the census has been backedited onto the draft version, can anyone mention (rot13, probably, if it's that controversial) what the question was which was removed?
The "Don't care" option would be nice. I would like to have one option that cannot be interpreted that it is a 'fascinating secret', whether it means 'fascinating secret which was successfully hidden from me', 'fascinating secret which should remain hidden forever', or 'fascinating secret which should be exposed'.
[comment deleted]
I assume you can put the spreadsheet in excel, yes? Excel is much more powerful than Google docs, and I don't know SPSS. If so, what you need is to add columns for each option, and put in the relevant version of the line below: This will search the text in box A1 (assume column A is the one with answers like "hiking, swimming, sailing" or whatever), and if it contains the text "hiking" will write "hikes", and if not will write nothing (or "doesn't hike") If I didn't explain well enough, let me know! ETA: And if you don't mind just having "TRUE" and "FALSE" as your output (instead of "hikes" and " ") then you can also just use
2Scott Alexander11y
Thank you. I'm going to try this, and I might ask you for more help if I can't get it to work on my own.
For those issues like these stats.stackexchange is perfect. I put up the issue as a question:
But it's an important step in basilisk preparation, especially for creatures without hands or proper surgical equipment. Remember that basilisks are also poisonous, so should be emptied of poison before cooking. See also this method for preparing cuttlefish.
Wow, the way Google Docs presents that data is really annoying for analysis. Normally, each option would be given its own column in the data (as though it were a 'Yes/No' like you suggested). A bit of code from here for splitting a csv field in SPSS: DEFINE !parse (var=!TOKENS(1) /nbval=!TOKENS(1)) COMPUTE !var=CONCAT(RTRIM(!var),';'). STRING #str(A8). VECTOR !var (!nbval F8.0). COMPUTE #beg=1. LOOP #cnt=1 TO !nbval. +COMPUTE #str=SUBSTR(!var,#beg). +COMPUTE #end=INDEX(#str,';')-1. +DO IF #end=-1. + BREAK. +END IF. +COMPUTE !var(#cnt)=NUMBER(SUBSTR(#str,1,#end),F8.0). +COMPUTE #beg=#beg+#end+1. END LOOP IF #end=-1. EXECUTE. !ENDDEFINE. * Call the macro. !parse var=c254 nbval=5. !parse var=c256 nbval=5. Replace the semicolons above with commas, and it should work. Note that nbval is the number of possible options, and this code will give warnings if fewer are selected.
Actually, what I'd recommend doing for real, is moving the data to a better spreadsheet program like Open Office, doing the split programmatically there (as suggested elsewhere), and then importing the data into SPSS.
SPSS is a software build for doing statistics. There should be a way in SPSS to do this that's better than switching to a different software.
It's software built for doing statistics a long time ago. And it makes certain assumptions about the sorts of data you're going to be giving it. This is a solution for dealing with Google's silly nonstandard way of representing multi-punch lists, not a solution to a statistical problem. It's totally reasonable to process the raw data using some other program or script before sending it to SPSS - it's what the pros do anyway.
R is a free - and imo better - alternative.
I'm personally using R myself. That's why I can't imagine it to be hard is SPSS because. If Yvain has however spent time learning SPSS it might be costly to relearn things in R.
Political question solution: Add an "other" option, then make a copy of the political question for THIS survey only, minus the "other" option, and ask "What would you have selected if "other" was not present?" You can compare the results of the second question to past surveys and the first question to future surveys and therefore have a sense of whether LessWrong has moved in a particular direction. Or, alternately, add a question below the political question saying: "If you'd had an "other" option on the politics question, would you have used it?"
Or “is there any political label with which you identify more than with any of the five above”?
Hmm I like this one better. (:
OTOH, I've changed my mind and now like yours better -- but I'd replace "other" with "none of the above".
Really? Why?
Maybe there are people who don't identify with any political label at all, so not even "other" would be an accurate answer for them.
Hmmm. But if we were to reword your question to something like: "How would you describe your political views if different from the above?" (three words) then that would make everyone happy. Except Yvain who would have to figure out how to display those results. That might annoy him. If Yvain won't want to display all the results, then I think you're right with a "none of the above" question. Otherwise I'd rather see a box where you can fill it in how you want.
Yep. Let's not be the last straw that makes Yvain freak out and never open the survey! ;-)
Then will we be forever saddled with a significantly suboptimal question? Here's a compromise solution: This year have both the old question, unchanged, and also have a new one with the five groupings as suggested: "Reactionary", "Conservative", "Progressive", "Libertarian", "Communist" Then in following years we can keep just this new question, while having a basis for comparison between the old and the new one.
I don't think that adding "reactionary" would have much information-benefit; it seems like reactionaries would just be splintering off from the "conservative" category, which was already very small (just 3% of respondents last year). The vast majority (97%) of people who gave a response chose liberal, libertarian, or socialist, which suggests that the way to add information-value would be to clarify or refine those categories. (Communists were under 1%.) There was an attempt at a more detailed political survey after last year's LW census. Its breakdown (by percent) into 12 categories came out: 31 Left libertarian, moderate non-US liberal, or "liberaltarian." 28 US liberal, progressive, or social democrat. 11 Nothing like any of those. 9 Anarcho-capitalist or minarchist, but not paleo-libertarian. 5 Libertarian socialist, anarcho-socialist, or anarcho-communist. 4 Centrist or moderate. 4 I don't care about politics. 3 Paleoconservative, paleo-libertarian, alternative right, or nationalist. 1 Fusionist conservative. 1 Green, deep ecologist, or anarcho-primitivist. 1 Marxist-Leninist. 1 Neoconservative. 1 Religious conservative. Again, most people chose something related to liberal, socialist, or libertarian. I'm not thrilled with the particular category labels from that survey, but the results do suggest that the highest value-added would come from splitting up libertarianism into subcategories, probably left vs. right (and maybe also splitting off a category for anarchic/minarchic). But I don't know if that would be worth the trouble to do right now. For improving the annual survey, I think it would be better to take the approach of that politics survey and run smaller-scale surveys during the year to try out different ways of asking questions, rather than flooding Yvain with hard-to-implement suggestions right before census time.
I agree that splitting up libertarianism into subcategories would likely yield some benefit. As I understand the "left vs. right" aspect of this question, the difference would mostly come down to what the person thinks about the state's role in providing social insurance. Presumably all libertarians would support a high degree of economic and social liberty -- basically letting people make decisions for themselves so long as those decisions are voluntary and they don't hurt non-consenting parties. But where "left libertarians" would be more comfortable using taxes to provide some minimum level of welfare provisions, "right libertarians" would lean more toward minarchism and say that governments shouldn't go beyond things like courts, police, and the military. It's entirely possible that others won't share my intuition around these concepts, but I do think this framing helps explain some of the confusion that arises from pointing to particular countries as example. European countries like Denmark and Switzerland have higher taxation and more extensive welfare states than the U.S., but they score higher on pretty much every other measure of economic freedom. That would probably make them fairly amenable to left-libertarians, but not right-libertarians/minarchists. This post at Bleeding Heart Libertarians does a pretty good job of explaining the distinction. Relatedly, I'd say that minarchism fits more closely with something like right-libertarianism than with anarchism. There seems to be a much bigger gulf between "the state should do this small handful of important things" and "there shouldn't be a state" than between "the state should do this small handful of important things" and "the state should do this small handful of important things, and maybe a couple other ones too."
1Scott Alexander11y
I am doubtful that switching to your version will get any fewer complaints or be any better than the old version, but on the principle of cheap testing I will include the second question. Please tell me exactly what you want for this new question, eg do you want sentence-length descriptions of each position and if so what are they?
Here's one possible version, no description at all, just asks for what label you would assign: Which of the following labels would you consider to best represent your political positions? * Reactionary * Conservative * Progressive * Libertarian * Communist
That has the problem that different people will interpret "Libertarian" in different ways.

The race question doesn't make much sense for Europeans. I could answer White (non-Hispanic) even though the Hispanic category doesn't exist here. But what should Spaniards answer?

i think "White (non-Hispanic)". Not that i understand the category Hispanic, but putting Swedish and Greek people in one category while excluding Spaniards seems deeply weird to me.
Race is weird. Only people from Spanish-Speaking Central America should identify as Hispanic. A Mexican-Spaniard should identify as Hispanic, while a Spaniard-Mexican should not. HOWEVER, someone born in Mexico to White Hispanic parents but who was adopted by French parents in France and raised by them would probably identify as French.
I was under the impression it also applies to the Spanish-speaking American islands and North/South America. ETA: And it's controversial whether Brazil is counted.
The Spanish-Speaking American islands are in Central America, just like England and Sicily are in Europe. Chile and Argentina, IIRC, are not Hispanic countries. The term derives from Hispanic, meaning a resident of Hispanola, the island which now contains Haiti and The Dominican Republic.

Here are some suggestions:

  • "Relationship Style": needs a "No particular preference" option. It does have an "Uncertain" option, but that's not the same thing.
  • "Work Status": needs options for "Self-employed" and "Independently Wealthy"; if "For Profit" covers those options, it needs to say as much.
  • "Profession": the wording is weird. It says "In what academic field do you currently work or study?", but what if I have a run-of-the-mill, non-academic day job, like loading freight or writing software ?
  • "Political": needs a "Don't know, don't care" option
  • "Religion": it may be worthwhile to split this question into two: "How many gods do you believe in ?" and "How sure are you of your beliefs ?".
  • "Meetups": it may be worthwhile to include an option for "No, but I totally would, if there was one near where I live"
  • "P(Aliens)": I may be exposing my own ignorance here, but what does "observable universe" mean ? For example, if there are aliens on some planet that orbits a star 1000 light years away, and those a
... (read more)
What kind of attributes does an agent have to have in your opinion to be considered a god?
IMO being a world-creator is a sufficient condition for being a god (but not a necessary one).
It's a tough call, theologically speaking. In practical terms, however, people have been and continue to believe in plenty of gods who did not create our Universe. Some examples include the Greek pantheon, modern Wiccan deities, as well as some of the Hindu deities (though this gets tricky with multiple Universes, avatars, etc.). I think that most polytheistic deities are not Universe-creators, but I could be wrong. I guess if I was hard-pressed to answer your question, I'd say something like, "an agent counts as a god if it is supernatural, self-aware, and possessed of enormous power". But it doesn't really matter what I think; it matters what the believers think -- and not all of them believe that "creator of the Universe" is a necessary property of a god.
"Observable universe" means all the objects in the universe that we could, in principle, observe from Earth given that there has been enough time since the beginning of cosmic expansion for light to travel the distance between. So yes, those aliens who became sapient 10 years ago on a star 1000 ly away count, even though we couldn't detect them in practice. Anything within 13.7 billion years or so is part of the Observable Universe.

I find it way US-centric and pigeon-holing of people, but those things are probably unfixable for anything that could be called a survey. If possible, make a narrow AI to interview subjects and compute amplitude distributions in personspace or something, it's the only way something like this could ever satisfy everyone.

Agreed about the pigeon-holing, but why is the US-centrism unfixable?
Because I wrote the post quickly and didn't distinguish properly between being possible to fix in theory and the probability of actually being fixed in practice.
C'mon, I think it wouldn't be unfeasible to reduce the US-centrism to a negligible level, if one seriously tried.

What is the purpose of the survey? An explicit purpose would help with choosing questions.

However, I'm fine with "poking around to see what might be interesting", even if that would be unBayesian.

I think it might be interesting to measure altruism somehow.

Also, my political affiliation is "clueless pragmatist": I don't know how to run my country and haven't studied the question much, but I'm open to whatever works in practice. I assume this is too rare to get its own option in the politics section? Pretty sure I've met at least one other LWer who has a similar view.

I like the "clueless pragmatist" option.
I'm sort of like this, except my view is "I'm pragmatic and I might not be knowledgeable enough to know what to do but I'm knowledgeable enough to have noticed that the political machine is clueless". I requested "other" and explained my view a bit.
I can do one better! Clueless Overly Aggressive Pragmatist With A Grudge!
Do you have specific suggestions on how to rewrite my comment to make it come across as less obnoxious?
I am actually agreeing with you. You are not obnoxious. Or, perhaps I might say, I can tolerate you failing to be obnoxious enough. I am kind of strange, even for LW.

The hispanic ethnicity is not generally considered to be tied to a specific race. In various forms I have seen and completed recently, race and hispanic ethnicity are two separate questions. This is more accurate because it does not exclude/ignore, e.g., black hispanics who may live in or descend from Caribbean or Central American nations.

The question about children should have an option "0, and unsure about having some in the future".

It would help to provide lists of "hard sciences" and "soft sciences" so that people know what they are selecting.

There is a typo in the Liberal answer for the Political question: "moire redistribution of wealth".

Some people may come from families of mixed religious background. This question should have either a multiple-answer option (more accurate) or specify that responders should choose based on some criteria (vague, open to interpretation).

For the IQ tests, two which came up in the comments after the last survey were and My scores on both tests were consistent. In a reply to the previously-linked comment, gwern linked his list of online IQ tests.

ACT scores have already been ment... (read more)

Correct - to be standard, they should be separate questions. Sometimes they are analyzed together on the back end.

Bonus questions:

  • How many hours per week do you spend reading (anything at all, including for work and school, fiction and nonfiction, Less Wrong and other web sites).
  • How many hours per week do you spend composing text (writing or typing for work or school, blog comments, emails, diaries, stories, math papers, or anything else).
  • True Prisoner's Dilemma: Cooperator or defect?
  • Are you confused by the subject of free will? (yes/somewhat/no)
This is problematic, in that it depends a lot on what I know about the person I'm playing with. If it's a total stranger I'll probably defect, if it's a copy of me or someone that I think is committed to superrationality I'll probably cooperate. Also, just "True Prisoner's Dilemma" is pretty vague - the actual rewards and penalties matter. I'm a lot more inclined to cooperate if the cost of my opponent defecting is "lose this game of Diplomacy" rather than "be tortured for 50 years".
I had these same objections, but I assumed he was referencing this particular formalization.
Ah, I'd forgotten that one. That one's problematic as well, though, given that different people will value "2 billion lives saved" differently. Even ignoring issues of scope insensitivity when we're talking about numbers on this scale, for sufficiently selfish people the notion of saving lives would actually be less of a dilemma than if there was a personal cost to themselves. Or negative utilitarians might consider it a good thing if there were fewer humans on Earth, though you could possibly fix this by specifying that the disease kills slowly and painfully and causes more suffering than if the people lived normal lives, or something.
Make the 2 billion lives saved into 2000 lives saved plus two kicks in the groin.
Yes, it depends entirely on who you're playing against. If it's a rock you obviously defect, if it's a copy of yourself you obviously cooperate, and then at some point between those two it switches from one to the other. True Prisoner's Dilemma is underspecified.
Most people will not have measured how many hours per week they spend reading / writing, and people's guesses about where their time goes tend to be surprisingly inaccurate.
If Facebook, instant messaging, lyrics on karaoke screens, etc. count as reading, then I spend the vast majority of my waking hours reading.
What about subtitles on TV shows, because my laptop speakers suck? lol
Does being on facebook count as "reading"?
Yes, for the fraction of the time that you're reading text on it as opposed to writing or looking at pictures.
Do you think that people can estimate those things in a productive fashion?
I'm not even sure that'd be well-defined. In a randomly-chosen millisecond I'm on Facebook, I'm likely doing several of those things at once.
Upvoted for Prisoner's Dilemma. I think this would be a very interesting question.
I don't get why people expect others to answer truthfully on how they would behave in the True Prisoner's Dilemma- the Fake True Prisoner's Dilemma isn't the True Prisoner's Dilemma!
Well, we can't possibly know how they would play the TPD. By definition, after we play TPD we can never interact again.
That's part of the fun.
I don' t think you understand the True Prisoner's Dilemma, if you think that's a meaningful question.
Could you explain your statement? Why is the question "cooperate or defect?" not meaningful in the True Prisoner's Dilemma?
The True Prisoner's Dilemma is any situation where you absolutely prefer (D, C) over (C, C) over (D, D) over (C, D). The very point of the True Prisoner's Dilemma is that you are tempted to defect, and that you should defect if that doesn't mean that the other guy also defects. If the other guy is a cooperate-bot, you should defect, if the other guy is a defect-bot, you should defect, if the other guy is a random-decision-bot, you should defect, but you should cooperate if your defection means also the other guy's defection. So whether you cooperate or defect in it depends absolutely on how you believe cooperation or defection will raise the likely probability of each scenario; and the corresponding stakes at hand. These are all relevant details which can't be summarized in an abstraction like "True Prisoner's Dilemma, cooperate or defect". Well, it frigging depends on the exact details of situation, and in particular on the opponent you are facing. Now if it was specified "True Prisoner's Dilemma against an identical copy of yourself. Cooperate or Defect?" that would gives me enough information to decide "cooperate".

I don't remember my SAT score, but I remember my ACT score. I plan on simply using the equivalent SAT score, if I should not, for some reason, please say so.

Significantly upvoted things from this thread that are missing:

"We should ask if people participated in the previous surveys." - Jack

"I'd love a specific question on moral realism instead of leaving it as part of the normative ethics question. I'd also like to know about psychiatric diagnoses (autism spectrum, ADHD, depression, whatever else seems relevant)-- perhaps automatically remove those answers from a spreadsheet for privacy reasons." - Jack

"Suggestion: "Which of the following did you change your mind about after reading the sequences? (check all that apply)" [] Religion [] Cryonics [] Politics [] Nothing [] et cetera. Many other things could be listed here." - lavalamp

"Suggestion: add "cryocrastinating" as a cryonics option." - lavalamp

"When asking for race/ethnicity, you should really drop the standard American classification into White - Hispanic - Black - Indian - Asian - Other. From a non-American perspective this looks weird, especially the "Whit... (read more)

Agree that there needs to be a cryonics option amounting to something like "no, but planning to sign up." I'd refrain from calling it "cryocrastinating" in the survey, both because that phrase has a judgmental tinge that, even if warranted, probably doesn't belong in survey answers, and also because it's possible that you could be purposefully delaying without it being mere procrastination -- for example, maybe you anticipate starting a job in the near future that will make it significantly easier to fund a life insurance policy.
Upvoted for the question regarding autism spectrum/Aspergers, ADHD, and depression, which I am also curious about. I would like to add that it would be useful for the answers to have sub-category radio buttons for diagnosed and undiagnosed.

Do you use Spaced Repetition System learning (Anki, Supermemo etc)?



-I have never heard of Spaced Repetition System learning.

I use the basic idea, refreshing newly learned stuff often at first and less often as time goes by, or I feel the memories consolidate. How do you want me to answer the question? Are you asking about the use of a computer based tools to help implement spaced repetition? Are you asking about using the technique, perhaps rather informally?
Mnemosyne would be a better parenthetical example than Supermemo: few people actually use Supermemo these days.
g/Mnemosyne/Anki/s ?
Why not mention all three?
As far as I've been able to tell, Anki is substantially more popular than Mnemosyne:
* I've been meaning to start/resume using SRS programs. * I practice manual SRS. * I have a photographic memory and thus have no need to use SRS learning.
people with a photographic memory still could use SRS for learning sounds.
Do you know someone who would answer "Yes" to the question? From my understanding of the way the memory of those people works I'm not sure that SRS wouldn't help them.
I know one person for whom 'Yes' would hold true; such people are rare exceptions, though, indeed.

I strongly recommend having something about being bi/multi-racial.

You may want "other" included for political beliefs, possibly even including a text box. And I wouldn't mind "How sure are you about your political beliefs?"

I don't know how weird this is, but I'm not sure what my family actually believed. They sent me to Hebrew school, but they didn't talk about religion.

I'm interested in what LWers are doing or have done to improve their lives, and how it's working out for them, but perhaps this should be a separate post or a different survey.

For analysis? No, not at all. Forcing people to pick from five bad options is way better than letting them say whatever they want. I seem to recall previous versions having a text box where people could write whatever else they wanted about politics, which was then ignored, and I think that's a good solution. Something like "how many changes to your life have you attempted in the last year?" might be interesting, but the trouble there is one person might think a change smaller than "moving to another city" isn't worth mentioning, while another person might count that they switched brands of oatmeal. That could be somewhat informative, insofar as that number gives an idea of how fluid people see themselves as.
So non-answers are used to identify multiple-choice questions which lack adequate choice. How would you identify questions that were skipped for a reason other than "There was no right answer."?
Hm? In the politics question, I'm pretty sure you're forced to pick one of the five. Actually, that reminds me of a potentially better way to measure politics: score voting. Have people give each of the five options a score from 1 to 10 based on their identification- then you can release both unnormed scores (people gave libertarianism an average rating of 3) and normed scores (when people's scores were expanded so their score range was 1 to 10 regardless of the range they supplied, libertarianism had an average rating of 5). This will make it possible to identify people who really believe in one of them (by giving it a 10) and people who think that all are bad, but maybe one of them is the least bad.
I don't think there is a default option- one can simply not select any answer. But the point of the open text field for responses is that it provides input regarding what should be included on the next survey.
Can forms with radio buttons be submitted without selecting any? I hadn't noticed that. And anyway, if you select one by accident, in all browsers I remember using there's no easy way to unselect it without selecting another.
Reload the page; 'easy' might vary between people and how much of the survey has already been filled out.
(Yes, by “easy” I meant ‘without having to fill out the survey again’. Which is a helluva trivial inconvenience IMO -- I think I'd rather just pick the least bad answer rather than starting over.)

If you plan to release the individual answers as you did last time, please keep in mind that karma alone is sufficient to identify a lot of people, so removing other identifying information makes more sense if you also round the karma (e.g. to nearest power of 10 or 5 or some other number).

You could do this when generating the xls file, or you could give karma ranges as options in the survey. If you do the former, some (small number of) people will lie about their karma to prevent you from identifying them.

A third solution would be to ask everyone to round to the nearest 5, 10, 50 (etc.) when answering.
As long as you mean "round to the nearest in this list", sure. But if you mean "round 8838 to 8850", the number of people per 'option' gets too low in the high karmas. Look at the top ten disclosed karmas from the last survey: 7500, 7830, 8838, 9000, 12000, 14000, 14612, 18000, 26084, 48000. In fact, everyone over 10000 should probably be lumped together just to account for Eliezer (so that he isn't alone in his category). He didn't disclose his karma last time, but I'm strongly in favor of a system that works regardless of the users' carefulness. Edit: here used to be a paragraph about how a specific LW user of interest could easily be identified in last survey's data. I apologize for invading his or her privacy in my thoughtless irritation.

I'm just a bit touchy about privacy-related procedures.)

If you're touchy about privacy issues, the way to express that is NOT to out someone's anonymous survey answers. That is anti-social behavior, and implies that you are only interested in your OWN privacy while not at all valuing the privacy of others.

If you wanted to show how easy it was to find out someone's identity from the survey answers, the better course of action would have been to put in a comment something like "in fact, from last year's survey I was able to figure out the identity of at least one person using karma score as the main indicator", and then to PM Yvain personally with the information, since he could tighten security unilaterally. It is NOT acceptable to post publicly the identity of the person whose identity you discovered.

I suggest you retract your comment, and ask a mod to delete it-- especially if you are as touchy about privacy procedures as you claim to be.

Sure it is, if it is going to work and the expected benefits outweight the perceived costs. Demonstrating that information is ALREADY out there for those who care enough to look is sometimes going to be the only way to apply enough pressure to see things changed rather than swept under the rug. The aforementioned "costs" include costs to the speaker for rocking the boat. Sometimes it could be. That would depend on the circumstances and whether the person applying that judgement happened to value actual future privacy within said social group more than perception of past privacy in the same. Even when it is not actually anti-social it can still be judged 'uncouth' and disruptive and at best they can expect to be blamed for being the messenger. That doesn't follow. Someone who cared only about increasing the privacy of others while not caring at all about their own (and who was equally ruthless in their approach) would take the same action. In fact making that kind of statement outright implies altruistic interests rather than selfish ones. The selfish privacy concerned individual just wouldn't bother drawing attention to themselves as someone whose privacy is worth breaching and would simply not participate in the survey. Speaking up can only serve to help others who more naive about the privacy concerns. False (insinuated) accusation.
I've removed that paragraph and I apologize for it. If I may indulge in a bit of nitpicking, you misquoted me: "privacy-related procedures" is very different from "privacy issues", and I maintain that my touchiness is consistent. It is a valid position that the information leak already happened with the publication of the file (so Yvain cannot tighten security when it comes to that file), and that drawing attention to specific breaches of privacy is generally the best way to force people to think about privacy. But your position is valid too, and it was stupid of me to act as I did in a place full of people sharing your position. (Extra stupidity points for me since the place is heavily moderated.)
As of now, the tenth top contributor of all times is Vladimir_Nesov with 17245 karma.
Ranges would work. 1000+ should be high enough for the top category; on last year's survey only 9% of respondents (80 people) were in that range. On CFAR surveys we've used: I don't have a Less Wrong account zero or less 1-99 100-999 1000 or more
Finer categories might be useful and shouldn't compromise anonymity too much, especially at the low end. This breakdown looks OK to me: no karma score mentioned (341), 0 or less (144), 1-4 (39), 5-9 (27), 10-19 (38), 20-29 (29), 30-49 (40), 50-99 (52), 100-199 (45), 200-299 (27), 300-499 (30), 500-999 (38), 1000-1999 (37) and 2000+ (43). Numbers in brackets are the number of responses in each category on the 2011 survey. Note that another survey now would get even more responses in most categories. (Personally I'm OK with Yvain's laissez-faire approach of letting people round karma scores themselves to the degree they want. But I can see why using discrete categories to enforce privacy might be more robust.) [Edited after army1987 posted his comment to clarify the bracketed numbers.]
That looks great, but I'd split the top range into two (because I don't feel that comfortable in being lumped with EY et al.) and 50-99 and 100-199 (for consistency, so none gets >40 respondents in the last survey).
That's way too coarse IMO. I'd prefer having a write-in answer field but suggesting people to round it to one or two significant figures (depending on how concerned they are about their privacy), and maybe accepting the answer “> 5000”.
One possible solution is for Yvain to not publish the karma data of respondents.

P(Many Worlds) needs also to ask if the respondent actually knows and understands the equations for practical purposes (well enough to, e.g, solve Schrodinger's equation for a hydrogen atom), since Many Worlds consists of taking the equations seriously. I think it would be of interest to know how well the respondent understands the thing they are opining a probability of.

So should just asking "Have you ever solved Schrödinger's equation?" reliably point out responders who have done any quantum physics involving actual equations? Is this the same sort of basic thing as F = ma equations are in classical mechanics?
Actually, being able to solve the Schrodinger equation (which is perfectly deterministic and usually well-posed) adds very little to one's understanding of the issues leading to Everett-style models. Few QM courses take time to discuss the measurement problem seriously. A Quantum Information course would be more relevant.
What would be a test of whether a respondent knows enough to be giving an informed opinion?
I think you are asking a wrong question. Your bottom line is prewritten: "Many Worlds consists of taking the equations seriously". This is far from agreed upon by the experts in the field, though many do express this sentiment. My position is that any MW discussion is a distraction and EY's pet peeve, and should be kept out of this forum as much as possible, including any surveys.
It being EY's pet peeve is why it was a survey question last time as well. Assuming you couldn't keep it out, what would you suggest?
Well, I don't think it matters much for the survey purposes, actually, but, as I said, a Quantum Information course like this one would enable one to gain competency in the issues relevant to Many Worlds. A standard undergraduate or even graduate QM course spends hardly any time on the measurement problem.
That's why I'm asking if you've already done it, not whether you could do it. Only people who have done something at least sightly interesting with actually doing quantum math are likely to have bothered. If there is a sizable portion of QM math literate people likely to answer no, then it might be a bad question.
Last time about 50% of all respondents said they thought it was correct. I was interested in the degree to which this was an informed answer and not just echoing local opinion.
Talking about the proposed Scrödinger eq question that hasn't been surveyed yet, not the MWI one.
Does it? For me updating upwards on Many Worlds mainly consisted of getting rid of my preconception that there exist only a single world. It was a process of unlearning a false fundamental assumption, not a process of "taking the equations seriously". I don't know the equations that would be required to make possible a single world either. What's the default probability someone must have for a thing they don't understand its equations well enough?

In the Country question, you should clarify whether you mean citizenship, or residence.

Bonus question suggestion: Torture, specks, or undecided?

Edited: to make the question in the exact way it should be asked:

In the context of Eliezer's "Torture vs Dust Specks" dilemma, do you choose:

o Torture

o Specks

o Undecided

I like this question, but it should specify "What is your preferred option?" -- 'do you choose' is slightly ambiguous, as it's not clear what exactly it's asking. (it might be asking which choice do you consider the worst, depending on how someone first heard the dilemma)

Lord Anthony of the House Stark has developed a technology to create copies of people. He offers you to make 99999 copies of yourself, in exchange you and your copies will have to become his serfs and live the rest of your lives as medieval subsistence farmers. Assume that:

  • Living as a subsistence farmer is less desirable than your current lifestyle, but not as much undesirable that you would wish to kill yourself.

  • If you refuse his offer, your lifestyle is not going to be disrupted by extreme events such as catastrophes or technolgical singularities.

... (read more)
1) No. 2) Probably morally neutral, at least in the sense that all self-inflicted harm can be considered morally neutral.
There is a lot of room between the two. It might be worth specifying something more concrete along the EY's proposal of "lives barely worth celebrating".
Or maybe specify what is the number p such that I'd be indifferent between becoming a subsistence farmer with probability 1 and killing myself with probability p.
How many pebbles form a heap?
In Java, the default heap is 128 megabytes, or 1073741824 bits. If you assume that half the heap will have a 1 instead of a zero, ie. a pebble as opposed to no pebble, I would say that around 536870912 pebbles form a heap.
"Lives barely worth celebrating" doesn't sound very concrete to me. Do you have a better proposal?
I think the difference between "Lives worth living" and "Lives worth celebrating" is basically a difference between "I opt to not mercy-kill this person." and "I opt to bring this person into existence" -- the precise levels of happiness/utility required are of course subjective, but the latter is generally considered to be higher than the former...
The main reason I don't kill miserable people in the real world (other than ethical injunctions) is that it would sadden/have negative externalities on other people. ISTM that certain thoughts experiments yield preposterous results as a result of neglecting this.
The question asks if you opt to bring 99,999 people into existence. Adding the assmption that it is worth to bring those people into existence would beg the question.
Yeah, my formulation of this was a bit clumsy. Perhaps instead of a1) "I opt to not mercy-kill this person." and b1) "I opt to bring this person into existence" we could have a2) "I prefer it that this person continues living." and b2) "I prefer that this person existed in the first place from the counterfactual in which they never existed." This detaches slightly the decision (the verb "opt") from the statement-of-preferences. Also even with the earlier formulation, there are I guess, nitpicks which can be made: bringing the same person in existence 99,999 times may not be valued in the same way that bringing 99,999 different persons into existence would.
No, as you'd also be taking your current life as a person-better-off-than-a-subsistence-farmer out of existence.
Of course not. Why the hell would I?
If you were a total utilitarianist you would likely believe that accepting the offer is the only moral option.
You your specification doesn't make this necessarily true. You set the bounds on the utility of the subsistence farmers to "> 0", rather than "> current_you/100,000". Of course total utilitarians being what they are (crazy), it is actually only required that "bonus_utility_for_Stark + subsistence_utility * 100,000 > current_you_utility". ie. The total utilitarian would willingly submit 100,000 instances of himself to a negative utility fate worse than death if it made Stark (sufficiently) happy. (Note the usage "total utilitarian" rather than "total utilitarianist".)
Is "total utilitarianist" a thing (distinct from "total utilitarian)"?
The word "utilitarian" is already terrible (everything past the first four letters is a jumble of suffix); even if "utilitarianist" were a real word, it would be better not to use it. I wonder how hard it would be to convince everyone (or at least a substantial minority of everyone) to switch to "utilist" or something equally concise.
I'd prefer to switch everyone to abandoning "utilitarian" entirely as a ridiculous (and abhorrent) value system that doesn't deserve the privilege it seems to be granted by frequent reference.
Not that either I or google have heard of.
I'm not sure copies of the same person would count. Yes, they would diverge in a while, but one of them would still have very much less relative complexity given another than different people raised as different people would.
What's Lord Anthony of House Stark up to? I bet there's a utilitarian loss somewhere in his plans.
That's what I immediately thought about, too, but for the sake of the hypothetical I assumed he isn't doing anything extraordinarily good or extraordinarily evil.
Assume that the utility Lord Stark gains from the servitude of 100,000 instances of you approximately balances the costs he incurs in order to create the 99,999 copies, although he gets a small net gain. He would not break even if he offered to create 99,998 copies. The utility of people other than you, your copies and Lord Stark is not affected by the transaction (there are no externalities).
I don't care about total utility, so arbitrarily many copies of myself with a worse life is strictly worse than one with a better life to me. The subjective experience of each one will be that they exchanged a better life for a worse one, and each one will be identical. I do not accept the offer. I think the morality of accepting this offer depends from person to person. On the other hand, I think a lot of people would take this offer if they themselves were paid handsomely and did not have to become a serf, but their copies did.
It's not clear what this means, and for reasonable guesses about that there seems to be no way for you to know the truth or falsity of this statement with significant certainty. (Unless you mean that your emotional response or cached opinion is this way, which answers the original question to some extent, but in that case the specific phrase "I don't care about total utility" seems to be pretending to be an additional argument that justifies the emotion/opinion, which it doesn't seem to be doing.)
It's an emotional claim, but not unthought about. But what I mean is I do not see adding entities that slightly prefer being alive to dying as worth doing. I don't think the total count of utility that exists is important. I value utility for existing entities. I would prefer a world of 10 thousand very happy people to 10 billion slightly happy people.

Suggested question:

What fandoms or subcultures do you consider an important part of your identity? How important is each?

(example subcultures: Brony, goth, homestuck, juggalo, hippie, whovian(sp?), rationalist, harry potter, etc.) (identification: The HATE of the subulture is an important part of my identity ... kinda like the show I guess? ... spend a decent amount of time on related forums and provide some (fan) content ... It's my ENTIRE life!! ) ok I suck at coming up with good names for these levels or how to differentiate levels of obsession. Also t... (read more)

Do you intend for your definition of 'Supernatural' to exclude e.g. Matrix Lords, or Mormon-style Gods who were once men and will raise other men to Godhood? Maybe so, in which case fair enough, but it feels weird that there's a whole class of Christian theists who'd have to give 0 for P(God).

Given that no label can completely describe a person's political views, with which of these labels do you MOST identify?

Under Political you really have to add a label for "Reactionary". Given how much the word "socialist" fucks Americans' brains up I'd also prefer if you used the phrase "Social democratic" to describe what you assign to Scandinavia-type politics.

Or alternatively remove the distinction between what you call "Socialist" and "Liberal", which seems to be only a manner of degree, and place th... (read more)

Same with the sibling question. (I'd say it should depend on how old they where when they died.)

The 'Relationship Status' question would usually have more options, if only for sensitivity reasons. Here's a standard one:

What is your current marital status?

  • Single, never married
  • Living together, not married
  • Married
  • Divorced
  • Separated
  • Widowed
  • Prefer not to answer

Even though you're not forcing responses on these, having a 'Prefer not to answer' is useful for two main reasons. First, it distinguishes between skipping a question on purpose and accidentally. Second, you can't de-select a radio button, so it's useful to have if you accidentally click a... (read more)

If you're going with the "married, divorced..." etc. set of choices, I don't think "single" should be in there - rather it should be just "never married". Otherwise people who are in a relationship but not married or cohabiting will be unable to answer anything.

I agree. I erred on the side of industry standard, but I endorse your change. However, that now seems like it's asking too many questions in one, since the cohabitation question is irrelevant to whether one is divorced etc.

~All questions should have some kind of "other/not sure" answer.

And “Prefer not to answer” too.

In what academic field do you currently work or study? If more than one, please choose most important.

Is this going to be asked only of people who selected "academic" for career or should language change to "In what academic field did/do you specialize"

If the latter, should there be a question about what genre your work is in? Even if it goes under "other" for example, it should be clear where artists, dancers, service industry, etc. workers go. Maybe you were a physics major and now play baseball for a living. As written, the ball player example might be ambiguous on "What academic field..." between none=unemployed or none=not employed in an academic field.

How about a write-in “Do you have any comments on this survey?” question?

In the “Older Siblings” question, a twin counts as 0.5, right? ;-)

"Number of Partners" should probably either read "Number of current partners" or "Prefered number of partners" for clarity.

Standard complaints about politics: Can we not use the americanised version of "Liberal"? In most of the world "Liberal" means classical liberal. (You also made a small spelling mistake in this one). Equally, Communism is a type of Socialism, and socialists aren't all liberal. Why not just have separate axis for social and economic liberality? And what about prediction markets / reactio... (read more)

The year of singularity question is unclear, and it also tries to make blank a meaningful response (which doesn't work so well because there are lots of reasons why people leave a question blank). It would be clearer to say something like: "By what year do you think the Singularity will occur? Answer such that there is a 50% chance of the Singularity happening by the year that you give and a 50% chance of it happening later or not at all. If you think that there is less than a 50% chance that the Singularity will ever happen, write "never"... (read more)

I kind of want to answer 1876 to the Singularity question. ;)

I would be inclined to add in a "Anarchist" category for politics. And a surprising number of European parties are "Christian Democrat". They tend to be in favor of some level of wealth redistribution and of labor unions (unlike US conservatives), but socially conservative (unlike US liberals). Not sure if there's a general term for this; I've heard "religious left", but that seems open to alternate interpretations.

Should that be split into left-anarchist and right-anarchist/anarcho-capitalism? Aren't those basically their countries right of center parties?
In the Netherlands, the CDA is more center-right (with VVD and PVV being considered on the right). Even when Christan Democrats are considered right-wing, that means supporting a different set of policies than US Republicans or UK Tories. The leader of PVV is openly gay; no openly gay Republican has ever held national office. The cluster "traditional values, low taxes, low redistribution of wealth" just doesn't describe these parties very well. I'm not super-versed in European politics, so I could be totally wrong here.
Wouldn't the latter go into “Libertarian” as it currently exists in the poll?
If don't specify anarchism as left-anarchism, some of them might vote for it.
Yes. I meant it's not terribly useful to have right-anarchism and right-libertarianism separately. What I would do is renaming “Libertarianism” to “Free-market libertarianism or anarcho-capitalism” while keeping the description and the example intact, and add “Libertarian socialism or (left) anarchism, for example [something]: socially permissive, no private property of means of production”. But Yvain says he doesn't want to change the question so we can compare the answers to those in the previous surveys, so this is moot.

With which of these moral philosophies do you MOST identify?

  • There is no such thing as "morality"

Can you please rephrase this to "moral skepticism"? Or is there some benefit to saying it in the way you have?

Note that moral skepticism does not necessarily equate to nihilism -- error theories, fictionist accounts and moral revisionism all talk about doing what others would call "the right thing", even though they are all moral skeptic theories.

Also, don't you think this section is a bit coarsely defined? I'd love to see a b... (read more)

I'd just rename the fourth answer to "None of the above". And, while I'm at it, I'd replace “MOST identify” with “accept or most strongly lean towards”.
Lumping moral skepticism in "none of the above" seems very inappropriate to me. I know that technically, if the others cover all the moral realist bases (which I agree that it does), then "none of the above" is linguistically correct and has moral skepticism as its referent. But it seems dismissive to call it "none of the above". It feels to me like describing it that way has semantic content embedded in the phrasing of the question that I disagree with. I would prefer "moral skepticism" as an option for the same reason I'd prefer "atheism" as an option under the religious question. Calling it "none of the above" might be formally accurate, but it nevertheless feels inappropriate to phrase it that way, as it makes the question itself feel biased.
To tell the truth, the main reason why I wanted “None of the above” is that I wasn't terribly sure that the four answers in the last survey are a strictly valid tetrachotomy.


You have no option for "other". I think that if one wants to make a difference in the world, one should get involved in non-profit work, not spend a bunch of time researching candidates only to contribute an extraordinarily tiny fraction of the overall decision making power toward picking somebody that you can't be sure will do what they said they would and will most likely favor some totally unproven strategy for improving things anyway. What really clinches it for me is that I often have reasons to believe that the ideas being promo... (read more)

If we made unintended pregnancy unheard of, the abortion debate would be N/A.

This is not true, even ignoring the problems with making unintended pregnancy unheard of solely by improving contraceptive technology. There would still be cases of unwanted unpredictable fetal disability, conditions like preeclampsia, ectopic pregnancy, selective abortion in cases where there are many fetuses, and people changing their minds or experiencing a sudden change in pregnancy-relevant circumstances (spousal death, financial catastrophe, etc.).

Okay, but: Reference: U.S. Center for Disease Control: Unintended Pregnancy Prevention. About half of unintended pregnancies end in abortion: Reference: Assn. of Reproductive Health Professionals: The Potential of Long-acting Reversible Contraception to Decrease Unintended Pregnancy. For a person who believes abortion is murder, that looks like an epidemic of evil. For a person who believes in abortion rights, that looks like a huge need for abortion. If the amount of pregnancies where people were thinking about having abortions was very small and people usually had some sort of justification for them other than that they had caused a pregnancy before being ready for kids, I think the focus would shift to something common like child abuse. Then again, it's possible that the commonness of a particular problem isn't a big factor in some of those people's decisions to pursue abortion as an important cause. If it is, I think the drastic reduction in abortions that would happen if we made unintended pregnancy history would probably result in those people focusing on something else. Drastically reducing unintended pregnancy might actually be pretty easy. This is because a leading reason for unintended pregnancy may be that a lot of people do not understand contraceptive efficacy statistics. For instance, condom efficacy studies are done in one year periods, which means they're totally useless to help us determine whether they're enough protection for the duration that we want protection for (like 20 or 30 years before the females become infertile). For all we know, the failure rate adds up over the years. For a 2% failure rate, that would mean something like 50% over one's lifetime. (What statistic does that sound like?) I tried and tried to find a condom study longer than one year and could not. I did encounter this other study on the aftermath of condoms as a sole method of contraception: Reference: Journal of Family Practice: Lifetime Patterns of Contraception
It's interesting therefore that most anti-abortion folk are not too enthusiastic about contraception. It's almost as if they might be optimizing for something other than minimizing abortions, such as the promulgation of a particular moral order of society — one based on sin, guilt, and redemption — as against other ones such as harm minimization. If there is no harm, there need be no guilt and thus no redemption; harm reduction as a policy amounts to immanentization of the Eschaton.
Alright. I sometimes forget how irrational people can be. I have a question though: if unintended pregnancy were unheard of and people only considered abortions on rare occasions, do you think there would be as many people fighting about abortion? (The people who do care about harm reduction could do this despite them.)
If unintended pregnancy were unheard-of, human sexuality and sexual politics would be vastly different in a lot of ways ....
Hmm. I bet you're right. But what specifically do you think would be different?
Rape comes to mind. Men cannot get pregnant from rape, and rape of men is played for laughter on TV. Hence it is that men are raped more often than women in the USA, and no one cares.
Really? blink (I quit watching television over a decade ago with the resolve that I was going to make my own life more interesting.) I care. :/ I have met at least two men who have been raped. They were both raped by women, though, and not while in jail. This will probably immediately raise questions about how such a thing is possible. This page explains. (See the second and third points from the bottom.) I'd have a hard time feeling bad for a serial killer being raped, but there are a lot of people in jail for things like drug possession and the idea of those guys being raped really bothers me.
Yeah. It's especially bad in media targeted at youngsters - I think Family Guy has made prison rape jokes more than once. (I don't watch much TV anymore either; there's a long list of reasons, starting with apathy and torrenting, but somewhere on it appears 'finds male rape amusing'.)
Ohhhhh. That I can believe. Not to say laughing at prison rape is okay, it isn't, it's just that when you made that comment, I envisioned people finding all male rape funny. :/ I wouldn't be surprised if some people do. So that still bothers me. What have you gotten out of quitting TV? In addition to obvious things like more time for learning and self-improvement, it also helped my self-esteem to stop exposing myself to commercials designed to make me feel like I need a bunch of products to be "good enough".
That was never really a problem for me. I'd say the time thing is the problem. Watching anime or movies on my laptop isn't as enjoyable as on a TV, so I do less. (I waste a ton of time on IRC and websites, absolutely, so it's not as if I replaced "watching TV" with "making the world a better place" - but I'd say those're a better waste of time than TV.)
Some possibilities: Patriarchy — in the sense of male control of women's bodies — might not work, reproductively speaking; since forcing or obliging a woman to submit to sexual penetration would not convey reproductive success. There would be an evolutionary pressure driving down the pain and danger of childbirth, in that women of families where childbirth was less painful and dangerous would be more likely to choose to become pregnant. I don't know if there's a genetic, selected predilection to rape, but if there is, it would be diminished. On the other hand, one of the demands of first-wave feminism was the right of wives to refuse sex with their husbands, on the grounds of the dangers and pains of pregnancy. This motive would not exist — so if there had been male dominance in politics, it might have persisted more strongly for longer. On the gripping hand, patriarchy might demand pregnancy — for instance, shifting the focus of marriage from virginity to primiparity (first pregnancy): rather than considering a woman to belong to a man if she consents to sex with him, instead considering her his if she becomes pregnant by him. Thus much of the focus of courtship and romantic tropes would center around pregnancy; and likewise young male affirmations of another man's manly success would focus on "you got her knocked up" rather than "you got in her pants".

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How about some basic probability question, like the expected value of something, or something that requires you to use Bayes' theorem?

Do you have any example in mind?
An Intuitive Explaination of Bayes Theorem

My wishlist:

1.) I second the call for a Big Five Personality test battery.

2.) I'd like a question asking what percentage of income do you donate to charity, if any, and which charities, if any?

3.) I'd like a clarification of what "spiritual" means.

4.) I'd like to see "consequentialism" expanded into utilitarianism and non-utilitarian consequentialism.

5.) I'd like to see dietary preferences (like along the lines of vegetarian/vegan) and/or questions about concern for nonhuman animal welfare.

Charity is ambiguous. Donating to a favourite webcomic artist doesn't qualify as 'charity' I assume? Does donating to LessWrong? Perhaps just "what percentage of income do you donate". Not, I really wouldn't like that at all. I'm a consequentialist but have no idea whether I qualify for a "utilitarian" or not. Consequentialism, Deontology, Virtue Ethics are the big three categories, which are roughly well understood. If you have separate options for utilitarian and non-utilitarian, I wouldn't know how to respond.
Does buying someone a drink or a dinner count as donating? Even if they bought me one the last time?

Other questions:

What is your interest in joining a startup or being an entrepreneur?

What is your primary motive for your work: fame, money, recognition, helping the world, etc.?

How altruistic do you consider yourself (donate time, money, yearly, monthly, etc)?

How interested are you in meeting lesswrong readers or contributors?

This looks really fun! I can't wait to fill it out and see everyone's answers. I guess I am a person who likes internet quizzes after all.

Is there anything that seems unusual about LWers as seen at meetups and/or on the blog that hasn't been covered by existing questions?

Maybe ask if they own Vibrams. (But that runs the risk of implying that they should, which is something we probably don't want.)

Can you clarify what you mean by the "Number of Partner" question? I infer you mean number of current partners, but I'm not entirely sure.

For the "Profession" question, can you include a text-box for "other social science" and "other hard science"?

On the "Degree" question, include a High School/GED option.

What is the probability that supernatural events, defined as those involving ontologically basic mental entities, have occurred since the beginning of the universe?

What does "ontologically basic mental entities" mean?

I suppose: "mental things which are not composed of smaller non-mental things". If this is a correct explanation, please add it to the survey.
Taboo "composed of".
Uhh... it can be understood as a set (with size larger than one) of things and their interactions...?
Let me ask a specific question. Are particles "composed of" wave functions, or are wave functions composed of particles, both, neither?
Honestly, I don't know. Maybe they are just both partial descriptions of the same thing, which at this moment seems to be not composed, but these is a chance we will later discover that some particle is composed of smaller particles (this happened with atoms, later happened with protons). This kind of decomposition will probably not continue infinitely; there will be some particles (many of them we probably already know) that are not composed of other particles; they could be reduced yet to something else, but after a few steps we will get to the pure math. Well... maybe. But does a similar situation exist when speaking about "mental things"? Can mental things be indivisible, like waves or particles, in other ways than metaphorically? Is there a thinking without a mind made of atoms; is there a feeling without hormones; an idea or memory without a storage medium? (If yes, why should we use the same words for them that other people use for those psychological things made of atoms?) If someone believes so, then they should choose that they believe in "ontologically basic mental entities".

In addition to asking about the rather tricky to define singularity, I'd like to see predictions for when a human level artificial general intelligence will first be made, if ever.

Under family religious views: Could you either allow us to select all that apply, or add something to the instructions about whether you want some sort of strange average, pick the best you can, or write in other? (Example: one christian parent of some sort and one atheist parent, what should I choose?)

Are ranges acceptable on some questions to reflect uncertainty, such as IQ?

Bonus questions ( or even main questions to add): Has reading something on less wrong caused you to change your mind? (Add qualifications here if desired, e.g. you updated your probability estimate by x, decided to collect more evidence then updated by x, etc.)

Also, if we have a number for IQ, should there be a bit about what scale to use? I got a 20 point spread between European and US.

Additional question- more accurate location info than just country. (To keep anonymity, would it be possible to pull this column out of the rest of the resulting spreadsheet before it is distributed or looked at?)

Option 1- Iff you are from the USA, What state do you live in?

Option 2- Please enter either your 5 digit zip-code, or the nearest city (include state or country also)

I think this is a good question, because a previous questionnaire about people's specific location was how I saw that there were enough locals to start a meetup here.

Also, do the same thing for Canadian provinces, and for other countries large enough to warrant it.

Under "Part Five", you list SAT scoring, but not ACT scoring. I know far less people use the ACT, but if you're going to add in an option for SAT scores, I would also include a place for ACT scores.

Third, please suggest a decent, quick, and at least somewhat accurate Internet IQ test I can stick in a new section, Unreasonably Long Bonus Questions.

I think the primary free internet IQ test I've seen people use is this one, but as it's Raven's only it might introduce a skew. (I suspect many people here will do better on the related subtests of the WAIS-IV, for example.)


Ask about special diets or eating habits (e.g. paleo, atkins, vegan, vegetarian...etc)

The explanation "number of partners" question is problematic right now. It reads "0 for single, 1 for monogamous relationship, >1 for polyamorous relationship" which makes it sound like you must be monogamous if you happen to have 1 partner. I am polyamorous, have one partner and am looking for more.

In fact, I started wondering if it really meant "ideal number of partners", in which case I'd be tempted to put the name of a large cardinal.

I'd like to see finer-grained surveying of what fields people work in. Reading this post (esp. PZ Myers' take on WBE roadmap) made me update in the direction of cryonics and uploading not working, and also made me more worried about information cascades on LW in fields where users have little collective expertise.

(It might also be interesting to have another question along the lines of: how informed/accurate does the stuff you've read on LW regarding your field seem to be? What's something important going on in your field that LW should be discussing? E... (read more)

3Scott Alexander11y
I am much more likely to include this in a way that is to your liking (or at all) if you give me exact questions.
Hm, how about adding psychology, neuroscience, physics, math, "something biology-related", and "something engineering-related" to the list of academic fields? And then in the bonus questions section at the end: "Got anything to say on the intersection of what you read on LW and your academic field?"
So let me get this straight. You can read PZ Myer's link, where he states in all serious The comments call him out on it in the original post at and he stands by it. And you're worried about information cascades on LessWrong? (Incidentally, in a post on GRG, it was mentioned that the first mouse brain is being examined by the Brain Preservation Prize are showing preliminary signs of excellent fixation, specifically "perfectly preserved ultrastructure throughout the brain".)
I did find that objection less persuasive. I didn't say PZ's post was perfect. I don't think doing rationality better than PZ should be our goal; I think figuring out what's true should be our goal. I do think that semi-ridicule by a professional biologist should be taken as evidence that the authors of WBE roadmap know less than they think (edit: but see Carl Shulman's comment). Beyond that, I'm out of my depth and happy to be corrected on specifics.
Argument screens off authority. When an esteemed biology writer dismisses a claim about computer simulations of life-forms by using an argument based on a serious confusion regarding computation (not regarding biology), his reputation as a biologist counts for nothing. Any computer simulation can be run faster than real-time given adequate processing power; and this has nothing to do with whether the process being simulated can be accelerated.
Myers writes: I didn't feel comfortable dismissing his objection out of hand, because I wasn't exactly sure what point he was trying to make. Then I read Carl Shulman's comment, and now I'm thinking it probably just didn't occur to him to simulate the brain in a sped-up virtual environment. Probably he assumed the simulation was expected to interact with the real world as flesh-and-blood humans do, just while thinking faster. If this was the goal, it seems his objection would be valid.
Fair enough. His point that a mind works with sense organs is a good one, it's true. Running a double-speed brain with single-speed audio inputs w...o...u...l...d ... n...o...t ... w...o...r...k.

I'd replace “Number of Partners”, “Relationship Goals” and “Relationship Status” with one “Relationship Status” with answers Single (but not looking), Single (and looking), In a committed monogamous relationship, In one or more open/polyamorous relationships (but not looking for more partners), In one or more open/polyamorous relationships (and looking for more partners), Engaged, and Married.

The open/poly thing is compatible with engaged/married.
I'd still keep the relationship style one.

Relationship Style needs an option for Monogomish. I'm in a monogamous relationship, but we go to swinger events/clubs and sometimes play with others.

Religious Background; What is your family's religious background? What are people where the parents come from different religions supposed to answer? I don't see the advantage of forcing people to check exactly one box.

I find it also hard to say whether my family has a Christian background. Neither of my parents believe in god. They however do use the organisation. I think they married in an evangelic church. My father is now married to an another woman and that marriage is blessed by the catholic church. My father is also a member of the catholic church.... (read more)

I'd use the Family Religion question to say that.

As a last question - with people having worked through the other questions, and knowing the extent and details of their own answers - allow them to optionally provide their username.

How about a question about how people treat equations in articles? Is there anything between skip entirely and check carefully?

The political definitions are confusing and many would consider some of the distinctions wrong, clearly Americanized. American liberals are to the right of European conservatives, USSR was a socialism just a different kind, etc., etc.....

Find a non-political way of describing political preferences or, better yet, break it up into a political compass: (test on to chart your location.)

  1. Economic
  2. Social

Apatheism should also be added to the list of choices for religion.

Might have a Revolution vs Refom politics question.

Profession question is IMO too focused on professions stereotypical to LW and also needs an Other Engineering option.

Politics question might need an option for anarchists, and an option for I Deny The Framework.

First off I think that at less wrong you could get better results by including an option on some question that says something to the effect of: those options are such a poor match if I picked one it would make the results worse/add more noise than signal/you would actually lose information if you interpreted it at face value.

With what race do you most identify? Why is this question about racial identification rather than ontological membership? If I'm white but I totally think black people are awesome the instructions tell me to put black which you probabl... (read more)

I wouldn't normally interpret identify that way in that context -- more like ‘consider yourself a member of’. In the last survey I took that to mean ‘when did you post in the Welcome thread’, and I think I'm going to either do the same or divide my total karma by my last-30-days karma for this survey, but I agree that whatever it's meant to mean should be made more explicit.

How about a question about how much time/effort people put into politics? Into doing practical political work (volunteering, lobbying, holding office) as distinct from theory?

What is your position on the existence of an external reality independent from humans?

a) There is nothing outside me. I'm the only mind and the only entity in the universe.

b) It's not epistemically proper to assume a priori the existence of an external reality. We can hypothesize the existence of external entities as part of a model to explain our sensory experiences. It is not meaningful to discuss about the difference between entities that are part of the model (the "map") and entities that are part of an independent external reality (the "... (read more)

Options b) and c) seem to be conflating two things, realism vs. instrumentalism and a priori vs. a posteriori. I would say that the most reasonable realist position combines elements of your b) and c). We could say that, e.g., electrons are independently existing entities, and that one can distinguish meaningfully between our theory or model of electrons and electrons themselves, while also saying that it is not epistemically proper to assume a priori that electrons exist, but one should only hypothesize their existence if this is part of the best explanation of our sensory experiences. The same happens for all "external reality".

Mostly a curiosity question: Are you primarily interested in demographic information? Insofar as you are (legitimately) concerned that the survey is too long, I would expect you to put the questions you are most interested in up front in the survey. And I was therefore surprised to see the demographic questions first.

Also: The 'Roman Catholic' religion option should probably be 'Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox'.

As someone who is an atheist now but raised Greek Orthodox, this is a bad idea. The lack of a Pope alone makes for a large difference.
Why? There may not be many doctrinal differences between the two, but the cultural ones are pretty big.
Indeed, but they're closer to each other than either is to, say, United Methodists or Southern Baptists.
The Cultural differences between Slavic Catholics and Eastern Orthodox are probably greater than between United Methodists and Souther Baptists (in the US).
I think that's true, but would you say that the differences between Slavic Catholics and Eastern Orthodox are greater than the differences between Eastern Orthodox and Southern Baptists? That's the sort of question I was thinking about when I wrote my original comment.
That's probably better than including "Eastern Orthodox" among the "Other Christians" (the pre-Reformation / post-Reformation grouping is more natural) but it's not ideal. Perhaps three options: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Other Christian (the vast majority of 'other Christian' will be denominations descended from the Protestant Reformation)
How about letting people specify denomination.

I agree with other posters that non-US-centric races would be a good idea. But let me actually follow the instructions in the above post and try to give an alternative. The questions are close to industry standard; the 'race' answer choices are a combination of American and British race categories with some influence from other countries.

Are you of Hispanic (Latin) descent?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Prefer not to answer

Which of the following races / ethnic groups do you identify most closely with?

  • Asian (East Asian)
  • Asian (Indian subcontinent)
  • Asian (Middle Eastern)
  • As
... (read more)
Why bother having Asian (East Asian) instead of just East Asian etc? (Especially since the ethnic groups you list aren't globally considered "Asian", e.g. I don't think pacific islanders describe themselves as part of Asia.)
I agree. Folks in certain places are identified as "Asian" - but that is probably not relevant to us.
I'm primarily Portuguese; how should I answer this question?
I (an Italian) think I once answered “Latin” on a survey before finding out what that was supposed to mean. (I had guessed it meant “someone with Romance-speaking ancestry”.)
This is a confused list since Middle Easterners aren't just Asian, see North Africa and they are also also "Caucasians" as the word is used. And while Micronesia does fit into Asia, I don't quite see Polynesia making sense. Change it to this: * Asian (East Asian) * Asian (Indian subcontinent) * Middle Eastern * Pacific Islander * Black/Sub-Saharan African * Native American * White/European * Other or Prefer not to answer Arguably Pacific Islander and Native American are categories that are almost certain to have only a few people answer positively and are pretty small in global demographic terms. Folding them under "Other" makes sense. My list: * Asian (East Asia) * Asian (Indian subcontinent) * Middle Eastern * European (White) * Sub-Saharan African (Black) * Other or Prefer not to answer
I agree with either of those, though I prefer slashes over parens. "Sub-Saharan African (Black)" sounds like something that would not apply to folks from other places, like African Americans.
Asian Americans aren't "Asian" either, I was going for consistency. Sub-Saharan African is pretty unwieldy, making it African (Black) would match the Asian designations in how specific it is and be much more elegant. But the geographic meaning being primary does kind of cause problems. So slash is probably better.
I'd split “Other” and “Prefer not to answer” apart, and make the former a write-in answer (especially if you don't list native Americans and Pacific Islanders separately). Also, I'd add “descent” immediately before the parentheses (e.g. “European descent (White)”) to address thomblake's point. Apart from that, I think this is the best proposed version for this question I've seen so far.
Where exactly are you drawing the border between the Middle East and Europe? How does Turkey count? What about the Caucuses, and the Asian parts of the former USSR more generally?
There isn't a clear line. Indeed looking at it from a population perspective there really shouldn't be a line since genetically Europeans and Middle Easterners are the same cluster and anthropologically they are both Caucasoid. I mean sure there are distinct subtypes but if you focus on those you have to split up Europeans too if you want to be consistent. I don't expect people to be familiar with 20th century physical anthropology or recent genetic studies though. Due to various cultural and political issues I expect at least some Middle Easterners would object to picking white/caucasian and many Europeans or North Americans would be surprised to know they are in the same category. Generally I expect Turks and people from the Caucasus to pick white. The Asian parts of the former USSR really depends on who the person in question is, I'd expect them to pick White, East Asian or Other (as in mixed), not so much Middle Eastern. I'd expect at least a few Libyans or Yemenites picking "white" if there wasn't a Middle Eastern category, but quite a few would probably pick "other". We could make a category to include both European and Middle Eastern since the cultural differences between them are captured by the religious & national background.
Well, what about Siberia, for that matter? ;-)
Siberia is an Asian part of the former USSR.
Errr... Yeah.
I know of a number of Jewish people (especially of Ashkenazi descent) who refused to categorize themselves as "White/Caucasian" and griped about having to be lumped into "other".
I seriously doubt many ethnic Jews on LW would object to being described as white. But maybe I give too much weight to my model of Yvain and Eliezer. Genetically Askenazi Jews cluster in between the Euro and Near Eastern populations (which are basically the same cluster to being with) and culturally they are pretty clearly Central/Eastern European. Using the "ethnic studies" take on race where "whiteness is privilege", it seems quite laughable to put Jews in places like America as non-white since they are quite "privileged".
I mark white on surveys generally. Privileged and pale and non-practicing. If someone asks me in person I say I'm jewish enough for hitler.
For what it's worth, I know a Jewish person who describes herself as "provisionally white". Aside from any nervousness caused by the third reich, she looks white when she's around white people, but Hispanic to Hispanics. They ask her what country she's from. I also know an Italian-American (light skin, hair, and eyes) who ran into so much anti-Italian prejudice when she was young that she decided she wasn't white. She's since concluded that only the top 1% is white. If you look at how race plays out in people's minds, there's a lot more variation than you might expect.
Err, sorry, I meant Sephardi.
Well, according to legend Einstein answered "human"...
Not that I want to disparage the sentiment, but I'm unsure what this comment adds.
An example of a Jew refusing to classify himself as white. But I had missed "on LW" in the first sentence, so never mind.
In my experience, if we have 1000 respondents we should expect less than 20 'other'. I don't think it's worth another category to avoid griping. But on the other hand I seem to remember Jewish people are over-represented here. But on the other hand... No... There is no other hand!
I think I see what you did there.

What is the probability that significant global warming is occurring or will soon occur, and is primarily caused by human actions?

There's no reason to use a vague word like "significant". I think it would be best to use the formulations that the IPCC uses. There are two interesting issues:

1) Do people understand the current strength of evidence for climate change?

P(Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations)

Source: http://www.ipcc... (read more)

0) P(Most of the observed increase in GHG concentrations since the mid-20th century is anthropogenic)
Using the same sentence that the IPCC uses has the advantage that we can compare the estimates of people who take the survey with the estimates of the IPCC.
Yes, but including the question that the IPCC doesn't ask is also important. Question 1 fails to distinguish between "Increases in GHG are not antropogenic" and "Increases in GHG are not driving the increased temperatures" and "Average global temperatures have not risen since the mid 20th century." None of those claims lack evidence to support them, although some have less support than others.
C'mon. Let people specify their own criteria. If we were this nitpicky about every single question, the survey would be ginormous.
If different people use different criteria to answer the question, the result is useless.
Less useful than a more specific question's answer might be, but not literally useless. There is always going to be a tradeoff between length and specificity, you have to choose somewhere to stop nitpicking.

How long, in approximate number of months, have you been in the Overcoming Bias/Less Wrong community

It could help to mention when OB/LW were first founded, so us old-timers wouldn't need to look it up.

"Which disaster do you think is most likely to wipe out greater than 90% of humanity before the year 2100?"

Should probably have a "none" option.

I'm pretty sure that's meant to be "Conditioned on a disaster wiping out greater than 90% of humanity before the year 2100, which of these is most likely to be that disaster?"
I thought of this, but felt that it would be misleading to lump together people who thought there was a high chance for such an event occurring and people who thought there was basically no chance, but were forced to pick something anyway. But then I realized that there is actually a "what's the probability of such an event" question in the survey, so those don't need to be lumped together even with this formulation. So never mind.

Under education: Include an option for significant education and training that did not result in a degree by an accredited institution.

Gender should also have a 'how strongly do you identify with this gender?' axis.

There are several more axes of relationship status to be considered.

A full section on specific educational background- math, physics, &tc. e.g. "Have you ever calculated a definite infinite integral?" "Have you ever used a Mollier Diagram"?

For every multiple choice question, without any exception, offer an "other" or "Other (please specify)".

My personal opinion - it shouldn't be necessary to increase the survey length that much re: education. The probabilities of questions like that can probably be inferred with sufficient certainty for the purposes of this study purely from degree and field. Unaccredited training I agree might be interesting to know about.
I was considering the 'unaccredited training' to be a new option available along with the degrees, and the educational background details to be in one of the appendices. I was not clear about that.

Preferred relationship style currently lists

  • prefer monogamous
  • prefer polyamorous
  • uncertain
  • other

Is indifferent supposed to go under uncertain (as in "I'm uncertain if I have a preference") or other? I think it should just be added to the response list.

The instructions for Number of Partners is also a little ambiguous ("0 for single, 1 for monogamous relationship, >1 for polyamorous relationship"). Someone's going to wind up inputting ">1" I'm not sure any clarification beyond "0 for single" is needed.
And what about someone who's, umm... rapidly serially monogamous?
Seems like asexual should be on that list.
Maybe separate questions for sexuality and romanticism, since some people have one but not the other.
Maybe in the bonus questions. Part Two is already way too long IMO.

Typo: the first question of "Part Four: Views and Opinions" refers to the "US Labour Party".

The relationship goal question isn't specific enough. Considering that the male to female ratio is so off, we should also be asking how many people have given up on finding someone. "Not looking" doesn't indicate that at all as you can stop looking temporarily due to circumstance and there were so many on the last survey that I have to wonder if those guys have given up. There could be a lot of them.

Not sure how to phrase this, since people would react to this in multiple ways. Some will try to settle and have a relationship with people who... (read more)

Suggested addition:

There is a free online version of the Myers-Briggs personality test that does not require an email address and even gives percentages at Not saying this is scientific but I've used it to test predictions in the past and that has worked. That I've compared two different maps to a territory and gotten the same result with each seems like evidence they're detecting patterns of some kind and that's enough to make me think that the humanmetrics test was not completely botched.

I have posted a detailed prediction of LessWron... (read more)

BTW, what's the relationship between Myers-Briggs and the Big Five? Does the former map to a 4D subspace of the latter?
See this comment. (Correlation coefficients are tabulated in the paper.)

I'm not completely aware of the correct protocol here, but "with what gender do you primarily identify? ... M (transgender f -> m) ..." is not something I would expect a transgender person to say - if I'd made that much of an effort to be (fe)male, I'd want to be "(fe)male", not "(fe)male (transgender ...)".

Splitting out blog referrals from general referrals seems odd; is there a reason you cannot use "[ ] some blog, [ ]" and "[ ] other, [ ]".

I see no benefit to "revealed" in "Wh... (read more)

One more reason to support splitting the question.

Extortion can be defined as special kind of trade offer that one party (Alice) would prefer to avoid, but once the offer is made, it is in Alice interest to accept it. For instance, Bob asks Alice to pay him money in order to prevent him from damaging her property. If Alice values her property more than the amount of money Bob demands, then it is in her interest to pay him.

It can be speculated that a decision theory that allows acausal trade could in principle also allow acausal extortion: Alice could predict at time t0 that if she doesn't perform a costly... (read more)

Acausal extortion is pervasive. It's how most social pressure works. An overview which suggests that the person making the "payment" might have a point This also suggests that acausal trade is pervasive.
That might go in the “bonus questions”, and even then I guess a less wordy formulation could be found.

Alice an Bob are playing a variation of a one-shot Prisoner's dilemma. In this version of the game, instead of choosing their actions simultaneously, Alice moves first, and then Bob moves after he knows Alice move. However, Alice know Bob's thought processes well enough that she can predict his move ahead of time. Both Alice and Bob are rational utility maximizers.

There are two possible ways Alice and Bob can reason:

a) Alice predicts that Bob, being an utility maximizer, will always play Defect no matter what she plays. Hence she also playes Defect in orde... (read more)

Scenario (b) doesn't explain/analyse the situation the way I'd explain/analyse it. If Bob is able to precommit himself to play C if and only if Alice plays C, then Alice's mindreading reads Bob's precommitment, Alice plays C to ensure Bob will also play C (otherwise Alice would lose), then Bob's precommitment is followed through and the (C, C) reality becomes true. If someone can plausibly precommit themselves, via human concepts like honor or duty or obligation, or via computer concepts like rewriting one's software code -- and if they can signal this convincingly, then mutual cooperation becomes a possibility. It's scenario that is already a reality to some limited expect, though we use concepts like duty, honor, etc... It doesn't always work, mainly because we can't signal effectively the solidity of our precommitment, nor are we indeed always of such iron will that our precommitments are actually solid enough. EDIT TO ADD: And isn't this concept pretty much what the whole Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine was built on? Either way, this question is obviously bad for a survey -- as it has to be answered with a small essay, not with a multiple-choice.
Analysis (b) can't possibly be right, because Alice's actions ought to depend on the actions of Bob. No amount of logical perfection can force Bob to play Cooperate, so Alice is effectively reasoning herself into a hole. Analysis (a) is correct if, in fact, Bob is the sort of person that will always play Defect. In fact, it's pretty clear what the optimal algorithm for Alice is: she should cooperate iff she predicts that Bob will cooperate in response. (Well, she should also defect if she predicts that Bob will cooperate in response to a defection, but that's stupid.) Bob is the only one whose actions could be expressed as an acausal trade. He wants Alice to predict that he will cooperate, because otherwise Alice will defect and they both end up with the (D,D) payouts. He can obtain this by being the sort of person who cooperates in response to cooperation; but this comes at the cost of missing out on his (C,D) payout. This is still worthwhile if Bob tends to play lots of one-shot prisoner dilemmas with people that can see the future.
This might lead to a contradiction: since Bob's action depends on Alice's action, and Alice is not always capable of predicting her own action, especially while deciding what it should be, it might be impossible for Alice to predict Bob's action, even if the dependence of Bob's action on Alice's action is simple, i.e. if Alice understands Bob's algorithm very well.
Ok. Alice can predict Bob's move given Alice's move.
Ok, but if Alice can decide what to predict Bob's move will be given her own move, that means Alice can control Bob's move.
To some extent yes. But it depends on what function Bob implements. If Bob always playes Defect, Alice has no way of making him playing Cooperate (likewise, if he always playes Cooperate, Alice can't make him play Defect).
Yes, but didn't we already establish that Bob would always defect, because he had nothing to gain in either case, in which case he will defect no matter what Alice chooses? Or is Bob also a TDT-style agent?
Bob is 'rational'. Interpret this according to the decision theory of your choice.
The scenarios which result in a contradiction are not compatible with the verbal description of the problem. As such we must conclude that the scenario is one of the ones which contains instances of the pair "Alice and Bob" for which it is possible for Alice to predict the moves of Bob. If there was a problem that specified "Alice can predict Bob" and there are possible instances of those two where prediction is possible and an answer happened to conclude "it is impossible for Alice to predict Bob's action" then the person giving the answer would just be wrong because they are responding to a problem incompatible with the specified problem.
Did you mean to put this in the survey thread?
IMHO, it might be more interesting to assess the community opinion on topics such as this rather than ask things like how many people you shagged last month.
You can always write a discussion post and add a poll in the comments. I think that the survey should be limited to demographics and relatively simple questions.
Now that I think about it, I would like the survey to ask how many people you shagged last month.
I'm curious both about the numbers (are people here more like Feynman or more like Tesla?) and whether it correlates with answers to other questions.
We need information about what Bob believes about Alice's thought processes. I am going to answer as if you had appended "and Bob knows that Alice can do this." to the previous sentence so that I can give a useful answer. Without being given such information the problem would just be about allocating priors to Bob that represent his beliefs about Alice's thought process. Be more specific. People embed various assumptions about what is 'rational' behind that phrase. If you mean "Alice and Bob are both Causal Decision Theorists attempting to maximise utility" then then answer is (D, D). If Bob acts 'rationally' in as much as he operates according to a Reflexive Decision Theory of some sort (ie. TDT or UDT) then the outcome is (C, C) regardless of which of the plausible decision theories Alice is assumed to be implementing (CDT, TDT, UDT, EDT).
Yes. The underspecification was intentional, so that people may answer according to what their preferred decision theory.
Ahh, survey question. In that case may I suggest leaving the 'rational' there but removing the 'utility maxisers'. I think that would get you the most reliable information of the kind you are trying to elicit from the response. This is just because there are some whose "preferred decision theory" and specific use of terminology is such that they would say the 'rational' thing for Bob to do is to cooperate but that a "utility maximising" thing would be to defect. I expect you are more interested in the decision output than the ontology.
Neither. The game ends in either (C, C) or (C, D) at random, the relative likelihood of the outcomes depending on the payoff matrix. Bob wants Alice to cooperate. Alice's only potential reason to cooperate is if Bob's cooperation is contingent on hers. Bob can easily make his cooperation contingent on hers, by only cooperating if she cooperates. Bob will never cooperate when Alice defects, because he would gain nothing by doing so, either directly or by influencing her to cooperate. Bob will cooperate when Alice cooperates, but not always, only to the extent that it's marginally better for Alice to cooperate than to defect. Alice, knowing this, will thus always cooperate. This pattern of outcomes is unaffected by differences of scale between Alice's payoffs and Bob's. Even if Bob's move is to decide whether to give Alice twenty bucks, and Alice's move is to decide whether to give Bob a dollar or shoot him in the face, Alice always cooperates and Bob only cooperates (5+epsilon)% of the time. It should be noted that "Alice and Bob are rational utility maximizers" is often conflated with "Alice and Bob know each other's thought processes well enough that they can predict each other's moves ahead of time", which is wrong. If we flip the scenario around so that Bob goes first, it ends in (D, D). I'm inclined to believe acausal trade is possible, but not for human beings. The scenario as described, with an all-knowing Alice somehow in the past of a clueless Bob yet unable to interact with him save for a Vizzini-from-The-Princess-Bride-style game of wits, and apparently no other relevant agents in the entire universe, is indeed a theoretical curiosity that can never happen in real life, as are most problems in game theory. Where acausal trade becomes relevant to practical decision making is when the whole host of Alice-class superintelligences, none of which are in each other's light-cones at all due to distance or quantum branching, start acausally trading with EACH

When it comes to politics I don't think asking for labels is much help.

I would rather ask: Which country of the following list do you consider to be ruled best:

1) USA 2) Finland 3) Germany 4) France 5) Japan 6) Singapure 7) China 8) United Kingdom 9) Netherlands

Which do you consider to be ruled worst? If it's possible the survey taker could even order the countries into a list. The difference between US Republicans and US Democrats is very small. The difference between how different countries are governed is much stronger.

A few years ago I could have sa... (read more)

I would rather ask: Which country of the following list do you consider to be ruled best:

I have adequate knowledge about how well Finland is ruled, some minor knowledge about how the USA is ruled, and basically no useful knowledge about how well any of those other countries are ruled (besides the fact that none of them is a third world hellhole, so none of them is probably ruled terribly badly). So I couldn't answer this question, and I wouldn't be surprised if nobody on this site was familiar enough with the governance of all those nations to be able to give a meaningful answer.

Or just that ruling an already-developed country isn't terribly demanding. I mean, Belgium didn't become a third-world hellhole despite this.

Related to your example: The Art of Governing without Government

Belgium "had no government" for 535 days. Lots of people use the same words to describe the situation in Belgium.

The odd thing about this period of no government was that Belgium’s government was very busy. For example, the non-government nationalized one of the country’s largest banks. Less importantly, your humble blogger had numerous meetings that were attended by representatives of Belgium’s non-government.

How is this possible?

The answer, of course, is that Belgium’s government functions fine – fine enough to bail out a huge bank! – without significant input from elected officials. If elected officials are around to validate the decisions of the permanent government, that’s great. If not, the government gets on just fine.

Call it the art of governing without government.

Moldbuggian models of politics FTW.

-- Jack Nicholson, as President Dale in Mars Attacks
I agree, but I think that this exposes our ignorance on the matter; choosing a political label would suffer from the same lack of knowledge, but it wouldn't be as obvious.
I think it takes much more knowledge to confidently meaningfully answer the best-ruled-country question than the political-label question.
Downvoted for the last paragraph.
I like this question as something to ask in addition to political labels. Maybe add a parenthetical: "(if you aren't sure which is ruled best, pick one that stands out to you as being ruled unusually well compared to other countries)". I'm not sure how you chose your list of nine, since a lot of countries that are often considered to be especially well-governed are missing (e.g., Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Canada). Having lots of options isn't much of a problem for data analysis, since we could convert individual countries into categories or ratings for analysis purposes.
Sweden and Denmark are the same as Finland for these purposes. Switzerland would be a good addition.
I have no idea how e.g. Japan or Singapore are ruled.
  • What's the point of the Chromosomes question? Once you know someone is a cis male or a trans female, does knowing that they have a Y chromosome tell you that much more?
  • The “White (Hispanic)”--“White (non-Hispanic)” dichotomy is weird to non-Americans, and you may want to add an “Other” answer -- or what are (say) Arabs or Maori supposed to answer?
  • I'd split the Children question into “how many children you have” (write-in) and “do you hope to have more children in the future” (with answers “yes, soon”, “yes, later on in my life”, “no” and “not sure”).
  • If
... (read more)
Yes. That question is asking two different things, which a survey question should never do (in the extreme, that's called a "loaded question").
Well, if one interprets “asking two different things” broadly, any question with more than two answers is doing that, e.g. the one about sexual orientation is asking whether you're sexually attracted to males and whether you're sexually attracted to females. (Maybe I'd split that one, too, as Facebook does.)
It depends on whether you end up covering all of the possibilities. It's fine to ask something like this (though it's phrased badly and confusing): * Iron Man * The Hulk * Both * Neither But this would not be good: * Yes, and I liked it * No, I hate comic book movies The point is to not have any respondents who could not truthfully select one of the options in a single-punch list, or at least one option in a multi-punch list. The above question offers no response for folks who haven't seen Iron Man but don't hate comic book movies, or folks who have seen Iron Man but didn't like it.
Well, technically the question about children in the draft doesn't do that (except for ambiguities such as how to count dead children, or people who are exactly indifferent about having children in the future), but I still think it divides personspace in a weird way.
Yes, technically there's no excluded middle problem there. Instead, it's gathering information about future child-wanting only for those with no children, which is a different problem.
In “Religious Views”, I'd have “None of the above”, for apatheism (not giving a damn about whether any deity exists), ignosticism (not agreeing that the question even makes sense in the first place), etc. Also, what is meant by “spiritual”? Other questions I'd like to see: * native language; * height; * income
Why height?
Actually, I remember proposing to ask height in the next survey about half a year ago, but I no longer remember why for sure (something about height-IQ correlations?) nor whether I was entirely serious...
Off topic, but there's some evidence that shorter people live longer: * * It'll sure be obnoxious if we genetic engineer ourselves in to increasingly taller and shorter-lived bodies. Seems like a classic prisoner's dilemna type scenario, similar to steroid abuse.
Ohhh, yeah. Biological engineering will enable us to remake ourselves in the image of our dreams-- the problem is that we're kind of stupid. My impression is that if we're starting from something like current culture, the default will be to try to create children who are tall, lean, hypomanic, good at taking standardized tests, and probably blond.
Hm. I wonder if designer baby characteristics will go in and out of style the same way baby names do.
I assume they will. Even if invulnerability to fashion has a genetic basis, I doubt that very many people would select for it. I take that back-- if it's possible to select for stable imprinting on "tradition" (what you've grown up with), some parents will want that.
It would be interesting to see whether height correlates with other answers. It correlates with income and ability to become president of the US. It could correlate with some P() questions. If it does that would be interesting to know.
The correlation for presidents is weaker than I thought.
0Scott Alexander11y
Chromosomes makes that info easier to process and is useful in case a bunch of people put their gender as "other" or don't understand the gender question.
I don't know the answer to the chromosomes question. I could guess, and I would put over 95% on it, but it still seems weird.
Yep. Unless you have had your DNA sequenced or the like, you don't know your chromosomes; there are a number of unusual genotypes that are not obvious.
Besides which, hormones matter a whole lot more for human sexual differentiation than chromosomes. Birds are different, and a lot more like the naive idea of "chromosomes > sex characteristics" (which is why you sometimes get bilaterally gynandromorphic birds when a pair of zygotes -- one male, one female -- fuse in the egg).
Good point- without DNA sequencing, we're guessing about specific genes based only on their expression, when their expression can be muted by other factors.
that seems low.
Not that low. (Unless he has children, at least.) EDIT: I'm pretty sure I read a longer version of that article, also mentioning Olympic sex tests etc., but I can't find it anymore. In any event, that reminds me that having more than two X chromosomes, or more than one Y chromosome, doesn't matter much, so if the question is kept I'd specify that XY also includes XYY, XYYY etc. and XX also includes XXX, XXXX, etc.
What army1987 said. Naturally intersexed folks are about 1% of the population, though that number probably includes some non-chromosonal differences and excludes some chromosonal differences. And I said "over 95%" because I knew it would be at least 95% if I thought about it, but I hadn't yet.
IIRC, a suggestion I saw and I liked was to ask “What sex were you assigned at birth?” (Male/Female/Other) and “What gender do you currently identify as?” (Male/Female/Other).
I support this. No need to bring chromosomes into this.
It also creates potential time cost for people looking up what XX and XY chromosomes refer to. If you leave this question in the survey, can you at least include a heuristic for the uninformed, such as "heuristic: biologically female => XX; biologically male => XY)"?

Income or at least income range should be a question. Any intellectual cluster eventually and inevitably gets challenged with the question “yeah, well if you’re so smart why aren’t you rich?”

Being able to say, “actually we’re doing pretty well for our demography.” Is one possible answer. If LW is doing poorly for its demography, that’s also worth knowing. Maybe people are in early phase startups and don’t have income yet, maybe they are in the peace corp. Either way, it seems like something the community would want to know.

May increase concerns on anonymity though…


You have no option for 2 year degrees. I have one, so I need that option.

Work experience:

I'm an IT person but not a computer scientist. Maybe you don't see us other IT people as being "one of us" but if so, then the question needs an IT option.

I don't see a pattern behind the work experience question. This might be something that happened if the goal with this question changed between surveys but you wanted to keep the same options for the sake of being able to compare the two surveys. So, I won't suggest refocusing it to follow a clarified pattern but maybe a few other general categories (like "Other IT" for instance) can be added if there were enough responses from the last survey to justify it.

For the probability estimates, I think it would be valuable to also ask for a ballpark estimate of how much time the survey-taker has put into thinking about each probability. Some people might spend (or have already spent) significantly more time thinking about these probabilities than others; gathering this information could provide a useful dimension for analysis.


New questions: 'What is the likelihood that you will go into space?' 'What is the likelihood that someone you have physically touched will go into space?'

On the politics question about libertarianism, "distribution" should read "redistribution". Also, ideally the political questions would ask about regulation and/or spending rather than taxes.

P(What's the likelihood that regular condome use will prevent that you get HIV when you have regular sex with someone with HIV)

Studies that investigated the issue didn't found 100% protection. I think it's an interesting test for overconfidence.

What do you mean by “prevent”? P(contagion|no condom)/P(contagion|condom) << 1? If so, does 0.15 count as << 1?
I would expect 85% as answer if you believe "In penile-vaginal intercourse with an HIV-infected partner, a woman has an estimated 0.1% chance of being infected, and a man 0.05%. (1 in 2000) Condoms further reduce the risk by 85%" as your link indicates.
HIV transmission rates for any particular sex act are pretty low, even without protection: low enough that the difference from adding a condom usually wouldn't register at percentage granularity. You'd be better off asking for the transmission rate relative to the unprotected transmission rate, but that's fairly obscure information; I recall it being considerably higher than I'd anticipated, but I don't remember exact figures. In any case, I don't think this is down to systematic overconfidence so much as it's a consequence of bad information floating around in the culture. I'll bet if you asked a hundred people on the street what the chances of contracting HIV from unprotected sex with a carrier were, and then asked them what percentage of that risk they'd experience if they added a condom, they'd overestimate the former and underestimate the latter by very large margins: one or two orders of magnitude on the former wouldn't surprise me.

From my libertarian perspective, the primary political issue isn't taxes and spending, but control.

Less taxes are an instance of less control, but not the only one, and it's probably a tenth as important as the harm done by the aggregate of controls. Money is a means to fulfill wants. Taxing away some of my money still allows me to prioritize my wants, and spend my money on my greatest wants. Making something illegal entirely takes away the option, imposing a much greater cost than taking away some percentage of my income.

Even in purely financial terms, c... (read more)

To answer this question meaningfully, people had to agree what constitutes a (particular category of) right. Both Libertarians and Communists want to enforce property rights - they would just disagree about their extent. Also, you put it as if things Conservatives want to enforce is a proper subset of things Liberals want to enforce. This is not true, as "greater social good" would mean a different thing for each group.
I should have specified "private property rights". Actually, not. As you point out, Conservatives and Liberals have different versions of "social good", but both can recognize the other's version as "social good" according to someone, and that they both have a version they wish to enforce. That distinguishes them from libertarians, and it does so in a way that they can all agree on. I'm trying to get answers to my question quoted above that someone taking the poll would agree on from their own perspective - that they feel is an accurate characterization of their views. And if possible, have people agree with the characterization of other people's views as well. For which categories do you think I have failed in those respects, if any?
In all historical Communist states (barring Pol Pot's Cambodia where I'm not sure) people were allowed to have some (often quite significant) private property. Most extensive property restriction I have heard about was in Albania where citizens were prohibited from owning cars. Perhaps some theorists of Communism have suggested that private property should be further curtailed, but even they would hardly oppose people's right to own personal belongings such as clothes or a toothbrush. Ordinary Communists happily recognise your right to own a house, for example. Fair enough, if you don't expect the question understood equally by everybody, it is probably a good question. Still, I feel that your characterisations are too much based on the assumption that the proponents of all main political ideologies build their opinions around their preferences pertaining to government enforced rights. Granted, almost everybody wants some rights protected by the government, but it seems to me that a e.g. a typical European social democrat gives less attention to whether something is a right or whether it is the government who enforces it, than a typical American libertarian (not sure whether it's the continent of origin or the political ideology which makes the difference). Perhaps it's mainly a matter of vocabulary - the more to the left you stand the more you use "solidarity" and "justice" and the less you use "rights" and "enforce"; but saying "the government should enforce rights against encroachment by others, greater material equality, greater social good and greater individual good" sound somehow wrong as a self-described creed of a Communist. A Communist would talk about a harmonic society without exploitation and inequality as a natural state of affairs, not something the government should "enforce".

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