For the first time, you can now buy the best new ideas on LessWrong in a physical book set, titled:
A Map that Reflects the Territory: Essays by the LessWrong Community
It is available for pre-order here.
The standard advice for creating things is "show, don't tell", so first some images of the books, followed by a short FAQ by me (Ben).
What exactly is in the book set?
LessWrong has an annual Review process (the second of which is beginning today!) to determine the best content on the site. We reviewed all the posts on LessWrong from 2018, and users voted to rank the best of them, the outcome of which can be seen here.
Of the over 2000 LessWrong posts reviewed, this book contains 41 of the top voted essays, along with some comment sections, some reviews, a few extra essays to give context, and some preface/meta writing.
What are the books in the set?
The essays have been clustered around five topics relating to rationality: Epistemology, Agency, Coordination, Curiosity, and Alignment.
Are all the essays in this book from 2018?
Yes, all the essays in this book were originally published in 2018, and were reviewed and voted on during the 2018 LessWrong Review (which happened at the end of 2019).
How small are the books?
Each book is 4x6 inches, small enough to fit in your pocket. This was the book size that, empirically, most beta-testers found that they actually read.
Can I order a copy of the book?
Pre-order the book here for $29. We currently sell to North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Israel. (If you bought it by end-of-day Wednesday December 9th and ordered within North America, you'll get it before Christmas.) You'll be able to buy the book on Amazon in a couple of weeks.
How much is shipping?
The price above includes shipping to any location that we accept shipping addresses for. We are still figuring out some details about shipping internationally, so if you are somewhere that is not North America, there is a small chance (~10%) that we will reach out to you to ask you for more shipping details, and an even smaller chance (~6%) that we offer you the option to either pay for some additional shipping fees or get a refund.
Can I order more than one copy at a time?
Yes. Just open the form multiple times. We will make sure to combine your shipments.
Does this book assume I have read other LessWrong content, like The Sequences?
No. It's largely standalone, and does not require reading other content on the site, although it will be enhanced by having engaged with those ideas.
Can I see an extract from the book?
Sure. Here is the preface and first chapter of Curiosity, specifically the essay Is Science Slowing Down? by Scott Alexander.
I'm new — what is this all about? What is 'rationality'?
A scientist is not simply someone who tries to understand how biological life works, or how chemicals combine, or how physical objects move, but is someone who uses the general scientific method in all areas, that allows them to empirically test their beliefs and discover what's true in general.
Similarly, a rationalist is not simply someone who tries to think clearly about their personal life, or who tries to understand how civilization works, or who tries to figure out what's true in a single domain like nutrition or machine learning; a rationalist is someone who is curious about the general thinking patterns that allows them to think clearly in all such areas, and understand the laws and tools that help them make good decisions in general.
Just as someone seeking to understand science and the scientific method might look into a great number of different fields (electromagnetism, astronomy, medicine, and so on), someone seeking to understand generally accurate and useful cognitive algorithms would explore a lot of fields and areas. The essays in this set explore questions about arguments, aesthetics, artificial intelligence, introspection, markets, game theory, and more, which all shed light on the core subject of rationality.
Who is this book for?
This book is for people who want to read the best of what LessWrong has to offer. It's for the people who read best away from screens, away from distractions. It's for people who do not check the site regularly, but would still like to get the top content. For many people this is the best way to read LessWrong.
I think there's a lot of people who find the discussion on LessWrong interesting, or are interested in the ideas, or found LessWrong's early discussion of the coronavirus personally valuable, or who know Scott Alexander got started on LessWrong, and would like to see we're about. This book is one of the best ways to do that.
Show me the table of contents?
Sure thing. Here's each book in order.
|A Sketch of Good Communication||Ben Pace|
|Local Validity as a Key to Sanity and Civilization||Eliezer Yudkowsky|
|The Loudest Alarm is Probably False||Patrick LaVictoire|
|Varieties of Argumentative Experience||Scott Alexander|
|Naming the Nameless||Sarah Constantin|
|Toolbox-thinking and Law-thinking||Eliezer Yudkowsky|
|Toward a New Technical Explanation of Technical Explanation||Abram Demski|
|Noticing the Taste of Lotus||Michael 'Valentine' Smith|
|The Tails Coming Apart As Metaphor For Life||Scott Alexander|
|Meta-Honesty: Firming up Honesty Around its Edge-Cases||Eliezer Yudkowsky|
|Explaining Insight Meditation and Enlightenment in Non-Mysterious Terms||Kaj Sotala|
|Being a Robust Agent||Raymond Arnold|
|Anti-social Punishment||Martin Sustrik|
|The Costly Coordination Mechanism of Common Knowledge||Ben Pace|
|Unrolling Social Metacognition: Three Levels of Meta are not Enough||Andrew Critch|
|The Intelligent Social Web||Michael 'Valentine' Smith|
|Prediction Markets: When Do They Work?||Zvi Mowshowitz|
|Spaghetti Towers||Georgia Ray|
|On the Loss and Preservation of Knowledge||Samo Burja|
|A Voting Theory Primer||Jameson Quinn|
|The Pavlov Strategy||Sarah Constantin|
|Inadequate Equilibria vs Governance of the Commons||Martin Sustrik|
|Is Science Slowing Down?||Scott Alexander|
|What Motivated Rescuers during the Holocaust?||Martin Sustrik|
|Is There an Untrollable Mathematician?||Abram Demski|
|Why Did Everything Take So Long?||Katja Grace|
|Is Clickbait Destroying Our General Intelligence?||Eliezer Yudkowsky|
|What Makes People Intellectually Active?||Abram Demski|
|Are Minimal Circuits Daemon-Free?||Paul Christiano|
|Is There Something Beyond Astronomical Waste?||Wei Dai|
|Do Birth Order Effects Exist?||Eli Tyre, Bucky, Raymond Arnold|
|Hyperbolic Growth||Paul Christiano|
|Specification Gaming Examples in AI||Victoria Krakovna|
|Takeoff Speeds||Paul Christiano|
|The Rocket Alignment Problem||Eliezer Yudkowsky|
|Embedded Agents||Abram Demski |
& Scott Garrabrant
|FAQ about Iterated Amplification||Alex Zhu|
|Challenges to Christiano's Iterated Amplification Proposal||Eliezer Yudkowsky|
|Response to FAQ on Iterated Amplification||Eliezer Yudkowsky|
|Robustness to Scale||Scott Garrabrant|
|Coherence Arguments Do Not Imply Goal-Directed Behavior||Rohin Shah|
Who made this book set?
I (Ben Pace) and Jacob Lagerros (of the Future of Humanity Institute) made these books, alongside my colleagues on the LessWrong Team: Oliver Habryka, Raymond Arnold, Ruby Bloom, and Jim Babcock.
Can I give this book as a gift?
Yes. This is a well-designed, beautiful set of books, designed to be relatively self-contained and not require having read LessWrong before, and that look attractive on coffee-tables and bookshelves, suitable for friends, partners, and family members who read non-fiction.
What about the book called 'Alignment'? Isn't that going to be very technical and have lots of assumptions about AI?
For those who have no knowledge of the subject of AI alignment, the book is structured to help motivate the topic, starting with questions about AI progress and risks, before moving into the meat of open questions about the subject.
The Alignment book will be tough reading for those not acquainted with the ongoing discourse around the topic, but I think it will still be rewarding for those who read it.
I have a blog, and might want to review the book. Can I get a review copy?
Yes! I'm offering free copies of the book for review. I'd love to get reviews from critics of the rationality community, members of the rationality community, people who don't really know what the community is about but know that SlateStarCodex is awesome, and more.
If you'd like to review the book and would like a free copy, fill out this form and I'll get back to you. (Or you can just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if that works better for you.) If you're not sure if your blog is cool enough, your blog is probably cool enough.
Also, you should know that if you write a public review of the essay collection I'll put a link to your review on the official landing page for the book, no matter if it's positive, negative, or not-even-on-that-spectrum.
(No, tweets don't count, though I guess tweet threads can, but I prefer blog posts. I reserve the right to not include things I read as primarily trolling.)
I have a podcast and might be interested in talking with you about LessWrong. Are you interested in coming on?
Yes. I'm interested in appearing on a few podcasts to let people know about the book. Concretely, I'd propose a joint-appearance with myself and Oliver Habryka, where we can talk about LessWrong, our vision for its future as an institution, how we think it fits into the broader landscape of intellectual progress, the challenges of managing internet forums, and more. No podcast too small (or too big, I guess). If you like LessWrong and you'd like us to come on, we're happy to do it. Email me at email@example.com.
I'd like something from you that's not a podcast or a book. Can I reach out?
Yeah, reach out. If you run a newsletter, a mailing list, a google group, or something, and think some of your users would like to know about the book, I'd appreciate you sharing it there with a sentence or two about why you think LessWrong is interest or worth reading. And if you'd like my input on something, happy to give it via email.
I have a question not answered here?
There's a comment box right below.
Remind me again, how can I pre-order it?
I don't want to pre-order it, I want to be notified when I can buy it on Amazon
You can sign up for notifications on when this (and other books) will go live on Amazon and other marketplaces here:
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We've sold 1000 copies. Jeeze louise.
My partner asks if there's an ebook version. I'm pretty sure he's not trying to troll you.
Yes! An ebook version should go live on amazon at the same time as the physical book (our sense was that fewer people would be interested in preordering an ebook compared to the physical book, and also fewer care about it as a Christmas gift, hence the lower emphasis).
For Europeans, 4×6 inches is approximately 10×15 cm, which is approximately the A6 format.
Big thanks to everyone who participated in creation of these books, this was an awesome team effort! (And I think team results deserve extra praise, because... you know why.)
I wonder if it would make sense to also have a "before 2018 review" for things written before 2018 (and not included in the Sequences). The years before 2018 were not as productive individually, but maybe all of them taken together would be a decent amount of good content.
Where does the money go? Is it being sold at cost, or is there surplus?
If money is being made, will it support: 1. The authors? 2. LW hosting costs? 3. LW-adjacent charities like MIRI? 4. The editors/compilers/LW moderators?
EDIT: Was answered over on /r/slatestarcodex. tldr: one print run has been paid for at a loss, any (unlikely) profits go to supporting the Lesswrong nonprofit organization.
My copy has arrived. One thing that I've noticed is that, to my surprise, I wish there were a page telling me what fonts were used. Any chance you could tell us in the comments?
The primary serif font we are using is ET Bembo, inspired by Edward Tufte's use of the font in his books. For sans-serif we used the same font we use for LW comments, I think, which is Gill Sans.
The books look very pretty, nice work.
Is this content from 2018 specifically, or is it taken from all of historic LessWrong? My impression was that this was from the 2018 review, but I don't see anything about that in the description above.
If it is from the 2018 review, do you have ideas on how you will differentiate the 2019/2020/etc versions?
If the main thing that separates this book from the 2019 and 2020 books is that it's the collection of posts from 2018, it's counterintutive to me that that's not the prominent feature of the title here. Other "journals of the year" often make the year really prominent.
I feel like 5 years from now I'm going to have trouble remembering that "A Map That Reflects the Territory" refers to the 2018 edition, and some other equally elegant but abstract name refers to the 2019 edition.
If you do go with really premium books especially, I'd recommend considering making the date the prominent bit. Honestly I expect to memorize the "lesswrong"ness from the branding (which is distinct), so the year seems like the most important part to me.
That said, I feel like I'm not exactly in the target audience (generally don't prefer physical books), so it would come down to the preferences of others.
I realize you've probably thought about this a lot and have reasons, just giving my 2 cents.
But, who cares in 5 years whether the essays came out in 2018 or in 2017? For people who want to just read the best that LessWrong has to offer, the year isn't that crucial. Indeed, if someone is considering buying one of our review books in 5 years, I really don't want them to think that they first have to buy the 2018 book before the 2019 book, or that the year is somehow super significant, or that the content was driven by some current events happening in that year. I want them to look at the title, the content, and the structure, and see which one they like best, judging the content and not the date.
Our original title was "The LessWrong Review 2018" but then everyone we ran the name by thought that the book was released in 2018, and that was really confusing (If you call it the 2019 review, everything gets even worse, so that's also not an option). They also thought that the fact that the year is so pronounced means that the content is probably very time-sensitive, and so given that it is now two years later, the content is probably out of date. They also thought that they had to understand what the "LessWrong Review" is before they feel comfortable buying the book, becau... (read more)
Thanks for the reasoning here. I also don't want to detract people from purchasing these books, I imagine if people really wanted they could write the dates on them manually.
That said -
To better explain my intuitions here:
In 5 years from now, I care about whether the essays came out in 2018 or in 2017 if I am trying to find a particular one in a book, or recommend one to another person. Ordering is really simple to remember compared to other kinds of naming one could use. When going between different books the date is particularly relevant because names and concepts will change over time. I'd hope that 10 years from now much of the 2018 content will look antiquated and old.
If you're just aiming for "timeless and good quality posts" (this sounds like the value proposition for the readers you are referring to), then I don't understand the need to only choose ones from 2018. Many good ones came out before 2018 that I imagine would be interesting to readers. That said, if you plan on releasing them on yearly intervals later I'd imagine some restriction might be necessary. Or, it could be that whenever a few topics seem to have come full circle or be in a good place fo... (read more)
First of all, I think the books are beautiful. This seems like a great project to me and I'm really glad you all put it together.
I didn't think of this on my own but now that Ozzie raised it, I do think it's misleading not to mention (or at least suggest) that this is selecting the best posts from a particular year in a salient way on the cover. This isn't really because anybody cares whether it's from 2018 or 2019. It's because I think most reasonable readers looking at a curated collection of LessWrong posts titled "Epistemology," "Agency," or "Alignment" would assume that this was a collection of the best ever LW posts on that topic as of ~date of publication. That's a higher bar than 'one of the best posts on epistemology on LW in 2018' and many (most?) readers might prefer it.
Counterargument: maybe all of your customers already know about the project and are sufficiently informed about what this is that putting it on the cover isn't necessary.
Apologies if the ship's already sailed on this and feedback is counterproductive at this point. Overall, I don't think this is a huge deal.
 Though not intentionally so.
 Maybe people think of LW 2.0 as a sufficient break that they wouldn't be surprised if it was restricted to that.
I understand Howie to be saying that he would expect posts from e.g. 2014 to be included, I.e. the emphasis is on older essays, not newer essays. It does seem really hard to have the best essays since the date of publication included, though I agree that we will reduce the gap of publication to essay collection in the future.
For the record I totally agree with you, but I lost that argument. :)
I really really love this initiative. Reading LW in book form is just better for me. Online I get distracted and I read stuff as procrastination instead of deliberate effort. I've read the first two books of the sequences and HPMOR on Kindle and the experience is not even comparable with reading with a browser.
Oops, turns out I didn't have the Stripe checkbox for "send confirmation emails for payments" activated. I activated it now and am going through and sending you all the receipts you should have received in the first place. In case any of you accidentally ordered twice because you didn't know whether your first payment went through, please ping me on Intercom and I will give you a refund immediately! :)
Apologies if this is the wrong place to mention this. I don't know if the cover image exactly reflects the printed copy, but it seems that the cover of Epistemology has a typo: "A Map that Reflects thet Territory."
Regardless, I'm heavily considering buying these. They're beautiful -- you've done an excellent job!
I was once stupefied when I saw that the (official, Microsoft Press) Russian translation of “Introducing Microsoft .NET” called itself “Itroducing [...]” in huge type literally on the page facing the title page (it’s kind of traditional for Russian translations of nonfiction books to place a copy of the original title page there). A very informal and unauthoritative discussion at the time revealed that this is not actually uncommon: as the text (not the overall design) of the cover, title page, and to a lesser extent internal sectioning demand much less effort to prepare, they tend to get proportionally less attention from everybody in the pipeline who is concerned with text, including proofreaders, whereas the embarrassment of printing these parts wrong is of course much higher than for the bulk of the book.
So it might be a good idea in general to subject these (editing-wise, almost comically simple) parts to (what feels like) more checking than the rest of the copy.
My copy just arrived in the mail and it's exactly as good as I expected!
If the book isn't available for pre-order in your location, or you want to be notified when the book goes live on Amazon and other marketplaces, use this form to sign up for an email list that we will only use to send you notifications about when and where this book and other books we sell will become available.
Update: The books are now also live on ProductHunt!
Ordered! Reading the table of contents made me want to look at some posts now, but I'll be a good boy and wait for the physical books.
I just want to say that this looks beautiful, and the ad you have on the homepage is fabulous. I also expect to enjoy reading it.
I'd recommend seeing if you can get on some podcasts in the Sensemaking space. Jim Rutt show would be worth a try, however Both/And and Emerge aren't running any more, but there's probably more I'm not aware of.
I think the pre-order link is broken? It takes me to a LW page saying "No comment found"
Here are the links to the articles from the books. Let me know if there are any mistakes.
I do the SSC Podcast; one of my patreon supporters said he'd be really keen to have this as an audiobook. I'd certainly be keen to get an idea of the demand for that and could potentially make it happen if it seemed like it would be useful. If you wanted to chat about it you can get me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
These look amazing! I'm really blown away by the designs. I know it's early days, but do you think there will likely be stock left after preorders are filled? I generally don't like preordering things, but I will likely buy a copy once it's on sale unless there's an unforeseen quality issue, so if there won't be stock left then I'd like to just preorder.
Also, I took a look at the sample chapter and noticed a possible typographical error: on the 8th line of text on the back cover, it looks like there's two spaces between "blog" and "devoted". Same on line 12 between "essays" and "of". I might just be seeing things though.
Given really surprising demand (more than 700 sales so far!), we have now increased our print run from 1000 books to 2000 books. I would be quite surprised if we ran out of all of those in the preorder phase.
This made me want to buy the hardcopy of RAZ. But I only see the first two books on amazon; is that right? Is there any status update on printing the other books of RAZ?
Hello it me. Status update is that we really had the best of intentions re: getting the last four volumes out in time for Christmas, but we hardcore failed, but progress is really happening! I swear! Christmas 2021!
This FAQ says that only 41 of the top 44 essays were included, but the back cover in the sample says that:
Also, what were the other three, and why were they omitted?
This looks awesome! Can't wait to get mine.
Is there something similar for The Codex? On Amazon I see a physical collection of slatestarcodex essays, but it has poor reviews, saying it's just a scrape of the website without images. Is it even official?
Have been waiting for months, but I still can't find a copy of this anywhere!
Is there gonna be a restock at some time?
Sounds quite cool!
There are quite a lot of interesting things, but it's hard to read less wrong as there are just so many links, and finding what to read next is computationally very costly. A book solve the problem! I may imagine buying the ebook version just for having this order simplifying the reading decision.
One question: do you have any plan to make an audiobook of it? I listen more than I read, and would really love to listen to it, assuming that some texts can be understood without the drawings. I assume that some textes from Scott Alexander may already exists in audio thanks to SSC podcast. A LW Best-Of podcast, similar to SSC podcast and to the RAIFTZ audiobook would be extremly wonderful.
Is the price $30 per volume, or for all five volumes?
Great news! However, it seems like there is no shipping to Israel. Is that something that can be fixed?
Is the content any different from the essays on Lesswrong?
Will this book be available to purchase in India when it's out on Amazon? Will I be required to order on the international site? (amazon.com) Thank you :)
Was hoping to see Singapore on the list of countries. Guess I'll have to wait for it to come out on Amazon.
The design looks great. Some questions
Elaborating on Habryka's comment, the full tech stack is:
This seems great! Really hope it's going to be purchasable in South America soon
Is there a way to order more than copy of the set? Seems likely some people might want one to keep and one to gift.
The link under Can I order a copy of the book? doesn't work for me.
I assume the books will arrive sooner if pre-ordered than if later ordered via amazon?
Also – trying to figure out where I'll be when receiving them – would you guess that the books will arrive before or after 6th january to European addresses?
Hello, Ben & Jacob
Trust you're keeping well!
I'm looking to buy the book-set but I suppose you don't ship to India.
Could you please make this happen? Appreciate it ✌️
A couple of nits regarding the illustrations in the sample:
(They are very small nits that I wouldn’t normally bother people with, but you obviously put a lot of effort and taste into making this beautiful and mostly succeeded—I especially love how the line on the GDP graph goes into the space of the ordinate ticks. And while small annoyances might not be that important from an economic viewpoint—though see 2010s Apple—they just provoke an intense feeling of sadness from a craftsman’s viewpoint.)
The dismal state of plotting software (and the laziness / g
Both the FAQ in this post and the email you sent out recently seem inconsistent in referring to the product as “the books / book set / book collection” vs “the [singular] book”, and the result is somewhat jarring.
(Sadly, I’m rather unlikely to buy this, both because you don’t ship to Russia—and I don’t blame you, our postal service sucks—and because it costs a US equivalent of $85 for me—the factors are 3.0 from the 2020 Big Mac index and 2.9 from the 2019 OECD PPP and today’s official exchange rate. I hope this comment can still be helpful.)
Books are amazing! Will it be possible to ship pre-orders to Russia? It is not in the list currently
Hello! Is there any alternative to ordering the book via Amazon to Europe? Thanks :)
I am from India..and I found that it is not being released here (the hardcopy). But I have friend in Canada who can help me get it from there...But she is there only for another month.
Could you please tell me an almost date by which I can order the book so that she can collect it from there?!
You could make it even more accessible if Credit card was not the only payment option. In some places (like here in Germany) having a credit card is somewhat less common. Adding Paypal would be nice.
if it is possible to have a copy though I am living in china?
Very much looking forward to receiving the books! I saw that the books are now available on Amazon.com (and I assume that they are shipping in the US). When will shipping in Europe start? Thanks for the great work :)
How do I get to order a copy to India? I don’t see an option at the moment. Thanks
Hope I can find this in India.
My mom preordered a copy, but unfortunately it didn’t arrive before Christmas. I’m trying to help her check the status on the order but she can’t seem to find any confirmation/ payment received/ order shipped emails. How can I check the status of it? Or see when it should arrive? Thanks
Is there any way to buy a select number of books from the set, or only 1?
You mention its being sold to Australia, but that isn’t an option in the checkout :(