The LessWrong Team

by Ruby2 min read1st Jun 20198 comments

34

Site Meta
Personal Blog

Core Team

Oliver Habryka / Habryka

Oliver Habryka is the current project lead for LessWrong.com, where he tries to build infrastructure for making intellectual progress on global catastrophic risks, cause prioritization and the art of rationality. He used to work at the Centre for Effective Altruism US as strategic director, ran the EA Global conferences for 2015 and 2016 and is an instructor for the Center for Applied Rationality. He has generally been involved with community organizing for the Effective Altruism and Rationality communities in a large variety of ways. He studied Computer Science and Mathematics at UC Berkeley, and his primary interests are centered around understanding how to develop communities and systems that can make scalable progress on difficult philosophical and scientific problems.

Ben Pace / Benito

I've read LessWrong since I was about 13 (2010, after the sequences were written) and I skipped prom/graduation to fly across the world to go to a CFAR workshop when I was 18. Writing this now, I’m 23. My first real project was running an EA Global conference for 500 people during my first/second year of university (with Jacob Lagerros). Derek Parfit and Demis Hassabis were the main speakers. I have a degree from Oxford in CS, but I learned more from running that project.
I spend my time trying to figure out how to build an adequate civilization. Many of our basic institutions aren’t trustworthy, including academia/science, and I’d like to trust my civilization more to make competent and principled decisions. I think LessWrong is one of the best places to start building that future civilization.
I’m fairly proud of some of my writing on LessWrong. Specifically, I’d point to my post with diagrams of good communication, and my extended explanation of the colloquial use of the term ‘common knowledge’, which seems key to me in understanding how large groups of people collaborate and do things together on purpose.
I also really liked running a big Petrov Day experiment on LessWrong where, to practise the art of not destroying things you have the power to destroy, I gave 125 LW users access to a big red button with the power to shut down the LessWrong Homepage for 24 hours (spoiler: nobody did). I try to help the broader and related discourse be healthy, such as editing together write-ups of this Facebook debate between Yann LeCun, Stuart Russell and other top AI researchers, and this podcast between Peter Thiel and Eric Weinstein, a conversation I think about a lot.
And of course, the AI alignment problem must be solved.

Raymond Arnold / Raemon

I've been a LessWrong organizer since 2011, with roughly equal focus on the cultural, practical and intellectual aspects of the community. My first project was creating the Secular Solstice and helping groups across the world run their own version of it. More recently I've been interested in improving my own epistemic standards and helping others to do so as well.
I guess also I code? I worked at Spotify. Now I don’t.

James Babcock / jimrandomh

Jim Babcock is LessWrong's CTO. He's been programming since at least before he was 12 years old and has been a member of the LessWrong/Overcoming Bias community for at least 12 years. Jim works tirelessly to keep LessWrong's backend in good order. He likes type-checking and disdains Vulcan, the underlying framework LW2.0 was built upon.

Ruben Bloom / Ruby

At LessWrong, I analyze data, design and test features, talk to users, and write many lengthy documents. I care a lot that the team executes an algorithm that actually has a chance at succeeding at our ambitious goals; I talk a lot about "feedback loops" and "reviews of decision-making." Before I moved to the Bay, I was an organizer for the LessWrong and EA communities in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia. My broader background is that I studied philosophy, psychology, and electrical engineering before working as a Data Scientist and Product Manager.

Moderators

Kaj Sotala / Kaj_Sotala

Elizabeth V / Elizabeth

Admin (BDFL)

Matthew Graves / Vaniver

Vaniver describing Vaniver:

I’ve had forum-posting as a hobby since I was young, first on a D&D forum, then on the xkcd forums, and then finally on LW, which I found through a link to HPMOR on the xkcd forums. I studied physics, economics, and operations research (which I sometimes describe as ‘industrial rationality’), and worked as a data scientist before moving to the Bay to work for MIRI.

Raemon describing Vaniver:

Once upon a time, LessWrong almost died. There were numerous half-hearted attempts to revitalize the community. Eventually someone noticed that part of the problem was there was no particular person who actually had the mandate to make sweeping changes. Someone said “I vote for Vaniver” and then a bunch of people said “me too!” and in a highly unsuspect, democratic process, Vaniver became king.
Nowadays Vaniver is the meta-king, and his gentle authority flows through us.

The LessWrong team operates legally as part of the Center for Applied Rationality while retaining full autonomy over both internal decision-making and decisions concerning the LessWrong website. The lesswrong.com domain is owned by the Machine Intelligence Research Institute.

Site Meta3
Personal Blog

34

8 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 5:16 PM
New Comment

The look and feel of LW is awesome. I tried to figure out what software you use for it but couldn't. I'd be grateful for any information. Thanks and please keep up the great work.

Thanks! I'm not quite sure which thing you mean by 'software', but the LessWrong 2.0 codebase is opensource, available here. There's also a sequence which explains an overview of how the codebase fits together here.

To add some detail, LessWrong doesn't use "off the shelf" forum software like WordPress or phpBB. It's a custom codebase originally built on a forum framework called Vulcan, but since then extensively developed and customized by the dev team.

What about Eliezer? He founded Less Wrong- why isn't he part of the team anymore?

This page lists the team of people actively working on LessWrong. Though Eliezer founded LessWrong and will occasionally advise, he no longer actively helps run the site. As for why, I don't have any privileged information. I would guess that Eliezer judges that it's best for him to focus on his research at MIRI. We do have the hypothesis that we should form a board for LessWrong, and if we did, Eliezer would be on it if he wanted to be.

It occurred to me yesterday that maybe LessWrong should be 'formalized' a bit. I'm happy to have found this page (and others) that are strong evidence that some parts of civilization are pretty adequate!

Thank you all for your hard work. I love this site. I think you've done an excellent job keeping it going!

I'm glad you like the site! You're welcome.

I'm curious though, what do you mean by "formalized"?

The original context in which I started thinking about this was a discussion of a new site feature. I knew there was a small team of developers, I was pretty sure they weren't being paid full-time developer salaries, and was thinking about rules or systems to decide on things like that.

(I'm a big fan of a loose 'whatever the developers are willing to implement and maintain' as the sole filter on what gets done for non-commercial projects.)

Thinking bigger picture, I realized I didn't know how the LW team was being funded, if (or how much) it's being funded, how it's organized 'formally' (e.g. as a non-profit), etc..

I also realized I didn't know how or whether the site data was being backed-up, whether those backups were publicly available, etc.. (I'd still like to know about this, if only so I can archive my own copy of the site's contents.)