Building rationalist communities: a series overview

by calcsam1 min read9th May 20119 comments


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Related to: How to build rationalist communities

"Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em," as it is written:

-       Holy Books Don’t Implement Themselves

o      Marx needed a Lenin. Fermi, Hahn and Meitner needed a Manhattan Project. The Bible needs a Rick Warren.

o      EY and the Sequences need:

§       a Distiller that generates Rationality Projects.

§       some Organizers to help people embark on these Projects.

-       Getting People To Do Stuff

o      It doesn’t matter what ideas were conveyed in group meeting, the subset that matters is what group members resolved to do

o      It doesn’t matter what group members resolved to do, the subset that matters is what you, the Organizer, followed up with.

-       Bhagwat’s Law of Commitment

o      The degree to which people identify with the group is directly proportional to the amount of stuff you tell them to do that works.

-       Head in the Clouds < Making It Rain

o      If someone is unable to articulate how they are going to implement a principle into their day-to-day lives, they are unlikely to implement it.

-       Herding Cats

o      If you don’t let people do something meaningful, they will never be any help.

o      Feeling needed as a part of a community is a powerful motive to keep coming to meetings.

o      Know the name and face of every newcomer. Have a good conversation with each. Afterwards, send them an e-mail showing them you are glad they came.

-       "The Four People Who Do Everything" organization problem

o      When you focus on doing stuff, some fandom members become core members.

o      Others leave or detach themselves.

o      But if you don’t have competent core members who organize, the group falls apart or stagnates.

o      Attrition is the organization-killer. Spending tons of time training new people, only to have your old people leave, is a recipe for frustration and stagnation.

-       Living Organisms Grow Naturally

o      The idea isn’t, ‘how can Less Wrong meetups expand’

o      It’s, ‘how can we remove the barriers stopping them?’

What are you all most interested in?


9 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 6:11 PM
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[-][anonymous]11y 6

What are you all most interested in?

I'm currently working on converting the lessons from the Sequences into a PowerPoint/lecture series, much like Liron did with You Are A Brain. This could be potentially useful for rationality outreach, since it's geared toward teaching rationality to people who haven't thought much about it before. I will post links once I've made a little more progress (right now there isn't much to speak of).

This strikes me as a really good idea. In my next post, I complain about the lack of distillation. I happily find myself somewhat wrong.

What are you all most interested in?

Your solution to the "Four People Who Do Everything" organization problem. This will be immediately relevant to my responsibilities within the next couple months.

Would you consider a topic related to the "herding cats" category?

Mentoring, that is.

Lack of engagement with the established members is definitely a big barrier encountered by newcomers. You wouldn't expect to gain converts as a missionary just by uploading the Holy Bible to the internet page by page and giving each page a comments section, or by posting your personal insights about your religion onto this site. And yet, this is essentially what newcomers experience on LW.

I like your idea to get veterans of this community to have a conversation with newcomers, but I don't think just one conversation is enough. If this was taken one step further, then we could have a system similar to the university research system. One "professor" takes on a group of "undergrads" and guides them on their way to overcoming their biases. Another benefit would be that each student now has an immediate group of people at about the same rationality level with whom they can discuss what they are currently learning, and the leader can recognize if the group is covering new ground or if they are beginning to miss the point.

This is essentially how the Bayesian Conspiracy system works in the beisutsukai series, anyway. It would be incredibly cool, especially to "students" like me, if you "sensei"s actually went ahead and implemented this system.

Edit: the actual implementation depends on the geographic distribution of people willing to become teachers. If most of the teachers are just concentrated in the Silicon Valley area, then maybe an online system could work, where each "group" of learners communicates with each other through a mailing list. When the community gets big enough, some of the regional meet-ups could turn into sessions for the Bayesian Conspiracy.

Lack of engagement with the established members is definitely a big barrier encountered by newcomers..

If you ask this newcomer, the problem is the arrogant obnoxiousness of the engagment.

I was informed that I needed to "learn rationality" (after 30 years of studying science, logic, philosophy etc) and that this provided a "solution to free will" (which turned out to be a mediocre piece of speculation).

If you want to promote yourselves as an Ayn Rand style cult, you are going just the right way.

I'm most interested in the last one -- see this for why.

I can't find any reference to "Bhagwat’s Law of Commitment" online. What's the source for that? Thanks!

Getting people to do stuff!

I've always been one who "does" stuff but seem to be pretty terrible at the organizational part of things. For instant i tried starting a skeptic group but couldn't manage any of the logistics of the group. When i was in the atheist group at my university i was probably one of the "four people who do everything" and an still see that some of what i helped established but none of the organzation things I did. So basically i need someone who can do that type of thing and i can just "do".