Welcome to LessWrong!

by Ruby, habryka, Ben Pace, Raemon5 min read14th Jun 201937 comments

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The road to wisdom?
-- Well, it's plain
and simple to express:
Err
and err
and err again
but less
and less
and less.

- Piet Hein

Hence the name LessWrong. We might never attain perfect understanding of the world, but we can at least strive to become less and less wrong each day.


We are a community dedicated to improving our reasoning and decision-making. We seek to hold true beliefs and to be effective at accomplishing our goals. More generally, we work to develop and practice the art of human rationality.[1]

To that end, LessWrong is a place to 1) develop and train rationality, and 2) apply one’s rationality to real-world problems.

LessWrong serves these purposes with its library of rationality writings, community discussion forum, open questions research platform, and community page for in-person events.

To get a feel for what LessWrong is about, check out our Concepts page, or view this selection of LessWrong posts which might appeal to you:

Check out this footnote[2] below the fold for samples of posts about AI, science, philosophy, history, communication, culture, self-care, and more.

If LessWrong seems like a place for you, we encourage you to become familiar with LessWrong’s philosophical foundations. Our core readings can be be found on the Library page.

We especially recommend:

Find more details about these texts in this footnote[3]

For further getting started info, we direct you to LessWrong’s FAQ. Lastly, we suggest you create an account so you can vote, comment, save your reading progress, get tailored recommendations, and subscribe to our latest and best posts. Once you've done so, please say hello on our latest welcome thread!

 

LessWrong FAQ

A Brief History of LessWrong

Team

LessWrong Concepts


  1. Rationality is a term which can have different meanings to different people. On LessWrong, we mean something like the following:  

    • Rationality is thinking in ways which systematically arrive at truth.
    • Rationality is thinking in ways which cause you to systematically achieve your goals.
    • Rationality is trying to do better on purpose.
    • Rationality is reasoning well even in the face of massive uncertainty.
    • Rationality is making good decisions even when it’s hard.
    • Rationality is being self-aware, understanding how your own mind works, and applying this knowledge to thinking better.

    See also: What Do We Mean By "Rationality"?, Why Spock is Not Rational, What are the open problems in Human Rationality? ↩︎

  2. More sample posts from LessWrong:  

    ↩︎
  3. More details about our core readings:

    Rationality: A-Z is a deep exploration of how human minds can come to understand the world they exist in - and all the reasons they so commonly fail to do. The comprehensive work:

    The Codex collects Scott Alexander's writings on good reasoning, what we can learn from the institution of science, and the different ways society could be and has been organized. Exemplary essays include:

    Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality started as a side project of Eliezer’s and grew to be one of the most highly rated Harry Potter fanfictions of all time and an an excellent primer on rationality. Eliezer imagined an alternate-universe Harry Potter who grew up with loving adopted parents, one of them an Oxford scientist. He enters the wizarding world with a scientific and rationalist mindset. Click here to read HPMOR through LessWrong or try the audiobook. ↩︎

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33 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 12:49 AM
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I just stumbled upon lesswrong.com while searching for information on Zettelkasten and I must say this site is STUNNING! This is some of the most beautiful typography I've seen, anywhere! The attention to detail is exquisite! I haven't even gotten to your content yet! This will probably remain a permanently open tab in my browser... it's a work of art!

If you're interested in LW2's typography, you should take a look at GreaterWrong, which offers a different and much more old-school non-JS take on LW2, with a number of features like customizable CSS themes. There is a second project, Read The Sequences.com, which focuses on a pure non-interactive typography-heavy presentation of a set of highly-influential LW1 posts. Finally, there's been cross-pollination between LW2/GW/RTS and my own website (description of design).

Thanks to gwern for the mention of GW/RTS!

In the interests of giving equal screen time to the (friendly!) ‘competition’, here’s yet another viewer site for Less Wrong—one which takes an even more low-key and minimalist approach:

https://lw2.issarice.com/

W-o-W!!! Thanks so much for these links!

Could you expand on what makes the typography noteworthy? I'm completely unaware of this topic, but curious.

Thank you so much. This website is amazing.

Hi all! I found my way here through hpmor, and am intrigued and a little overwhelmed by the amount of content. Where do I begin? The sequences? Latest featured posts? Is anything considered out of date at this point?

The sequences are still the place I would start. if you bounce off of that for any reason, I would start reading the content in the Codex, and then maybe give all the historical curated posts a shot. You might also want to try reading the essays that were voted as the best of 2018.

I will do just that. Thank you.

I came across this site by chance thanks to a friend of mine. I'm a bit confused as to where to start? Maybe I will ask my friend again.

Check out the starting guide in the FAQ!

[-][anonymous]5mo 3

Howdy. I notice there is an old welcome page where new members of the community would introduce themselves. But that page appears to have last been posted to a year ago, and the last one before that was three years ago. Also, the comments page appears to be dominated by a discussion over whether a particular member is a troll, or not.  Also, that page is not linked to here. So I gather that page is no longer the place for introductions -- is this right? Is there somewhere else that now serves that function? I'd like to get a sense of the other human beings out there.

People now introduce themselves in the monthly Open and Welcome threads :)

What mingyuan said!

The last paragraph, small omission, says 'under' should be 'understand'. Sorry.

Fixed! Thank you!

I came to a dead stop on these words, "We seek to hold true beliefs".  Beliefs are beliefs. If they were true, they would be facts. 

Also, "and to be effective at accomplishing our goals". What rational person doesn't? 

Facts are independent of beliefs, which is sort of their defining characteristic. But beliefs can be in alignment with the facts, or not; the goal is the former.

What rational person doesn't? 

None. But there are no such people in the strong sense, yet. This is the ambition of the project.

After all facts are just ,,true" beliefs. 

First question is about the "Verification code" that was just sent to my already validated (6 years ago) email address. It might even be urgent? Is there some penalty if I ignore the code now that I'm apparently already logged in? (No mention of "verification" in the FAQ. I know that I did not manually enter the verification code anywhere, but the website somehow decided I was logged in anyway.)

I visited this website at least one time (6 years ago) and left a message. Then I forgot about LW until the book The AI Does Not Hate You reminded me.

My next question is about a better website, but perhaps the premises of my question are false. If so, then I hope someone will enlighten me. I think I know what I am looking for, and this does not seem to be it (even though I do like "the feel" of the website. I think this website has a one-dimensional rating system for karma (along the lines of Slashdot?), but I think reality is more complicated and I am looking for a thoughtful discussion website with a deeper representation of reality and more dimensions.

I could describe what I am seeking in much more detail, but for my first comment in a long time, and basically a practice post, I think I should just Submit now (and look around some more). This welcome-to-lesswrong seems to be a "Hello, World" starting place. So "Hello, world". See ya around?

Welcome back! I'm not sure what happened with the verification email, but if you're here, you're here.

Regards to dimensions, we've though about this but it's tricky and competes with all the other things we do, but is an entirely fair question. If you find somewhere you think is better, please let us know!

Thank you for your reply. I'm pretty sure you meant "thought" rather than something like "been through this [before]". [And later I got detoured into the Chat help and had some trouble recovering to this draft...]

As regards your closing, I believe the trite reply is "No fair! I asked you first." ;-) [I recently read The Semiotics of Emoji and would insert a humorous one if it were available.[But in chat it appeared to convert the one I just used. Here?]] 

I am considering submitting a new question, either for this question or for your other reply (which might relate to a long comment I wrote on karma (but I can't see the full context from here) or about LW's financial model (in the context of how it influences discussions on LW).

With regards to this question, I can already say that LW seems to be solidly implemented and matches the features of any discussion website that I know of. Not the same, but at the high end of matches. I also confirmed the Unicode support. [A test here: 僕の二つの言語は日本語ですよ。]

But I have already consumed my morning writing time, so I'll wrap for now and hopefully will be able to figure out the context of your other reply later today. Time allowing (as always).

This is just a test reply mostly to see what replies look like. The time-critical question about the Verification code may already be moot?

Please start using non-serif fonts for your online articles. They are impossible to read.

note: TAG's solution works for https://www.greaterwrong.com/, an alternate viewing portal for LessWrong, but not for LessWrong.com.

That said, I'm curious what devices you're reading it on. (some particular browsers have rendered the font particularly badly for reasons that are hard to anticipate in advance). In any case, sorry you've had a frustrating reading experience – different people prefer different fonts and it's a difficult balancing act.

Try the "grey" or "zero" themes, in the top left corner.

The 'latest welcome thread' link should be updated to target the tag, since somehow that bit of automation didn't get pushed back here.

Good suggestion! Done.

Was looking for some websites similar to academyofideas, turns out there are websites that are pure gems.

I actually prefer audio/video content to listen to while doing other physical things but this is great guys keep ut the good work there is a lot of content here, probably it will take a lifetime to finish this

I  think we need an actual style guide, and it needs to be prominent, properly maintained, and right here.

If it's not obvious why, and I weakly presume it isn't, it's because linguistic standardization seems like the obvious group-context form of linguistic precision, which seems like an obvious rationality virtue.

Thoughts?

There's something of a style guide for wiki-tagging (see the FAQ).

For the site more broadly, I fear that any explicit style guide it would be possible to write would be too prescriptive and narrow. There's a wide variety of styles that suitable for the site, albeit that there's an even wider variety that isn't.

In the practice, the best style guide are the great posts already on LessWrong. That's why we encourage new users to read quite a bit before posting. By reading, you get a sense of the LW discourse style.

Welcome to LessWrong!

We find ourselves in a perpetual tug-of-war between a desire for more reliable, higher quality posts and the ability of people to engage and contribute at all. The trade-off is this:

  • The higher the standard, whether style or rigor, the fewer people will write posts. To our dismay, this includes people who would actually meet the standards but fear that they would not beforehand. Naturally the potential contributions from people below the requirements are lost.
  • While this makes each post more productive to read, it also means that each post is higher-effort to read, which to our dismay often means posts stop being engaged with; we run the risk of churning out a small amount of posts which are very high quality but very poorly read.

So striking that balance prevents us from setting much in the way of style standards; we usually prefer to let the community speak which rewards multiple styles. I myself am on the write early, write often side of the fence.

The mods may have a more nuanced and up-to-date opinion with respect to meta information like writing guides.