The road to wisdom?
-- Well, it's plain
and simple to express:
and err again
- Piet Hein
That is why this site is called 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.
To that end, LessWrong is a place to 1) develop and train rationality, and 2) apply one’s rationality to real-world problems.
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:
- What is rationality and why care about it? Try Your intuitions are not magic and The Cognitive Science of Rationality.
- Curious about the mind? You might enjoy How An Algorithm Feels From The Inside and The Apologist and the Revolutionary.
- Keen on self-improvement? Remember that Humans are not automatically strategic.
- Care about argument and evidence? Consider Policy Debates Should Not Appear One-Sided and How To Convince Me that 2 + 2 = 3.
- Interested in how to use language well? Be aware of 37 Ways That Words Can Be Wrong.
- Want to teach yourself something? We compiled a list of The Best Textbooks on Every Subject.
- Like probability and statistics? Around here we're fans of Bayesianism, you might like this interactive guide to Bayes' theorem (hosted on Arbital.com).
- Of an altruistic mindset? We recommend On Caring.
Check out this footnote 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:
- Rationality: From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky (or Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by the same author, which covers similar ground in narrative form)
- The Codex by Scott Alexander
Find more details about these texts in this footnote
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!
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.
More sample posts from LessWrong:
- Into Artificial Intelligence? Peruse The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Deep Learning and Disentangling arguments for the importance of AI Safety
- A history buff? Ask Why everything might have taken so long
- Scientifically-minded? Absorb Hindsight Devalues Science and Coordination Problems in Evolution: Eigen’s Paradox.
- Philosophically-inclined? Ponder Less Wrong Rationality and Mainstream Philosophy and Philosophy: A Diseased Discipline.
- Concerned with communication and culture? Let everyone know Yes Requires the Possibility of No and about Conversational Cultures: Combat vs Nurture.
- Attention and addiction in the modern age? Focus on Noticing the Taste of the Lotus and Is Clickbait Destroying Our General Intelligence?
- Value self-care? Relax with Rest Days vs Recovery Days and Slack.
- Like to see a rational treatment of stereotypically non-rational topics? Attend to My attempt to explain Looking, insight meditation, and enlightenment in non-mysterious terms.
More details about our core readings:
Rationality: A-Z is a deep exploration of how human minds can come to under the world they exist in - and all the reasons they so commonly fail to do. The comprehensive work:
- Lays foundational conceptions of belief, evidence, and understanding.
- Reviews the systematic biases and common excuses which cause us to believe false things.
- Offers guidance on how to change our minds and how to use language effectively
- Depicts the nature of human psychology with reference evolution.
- Clarifies the kind of morality we can have in a reducible, physical world.
- Repeatedly reminds us that confusion and mystery exist only in our minds.
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:
- Beware Isolated Demands for Rigor
- The noncentral fallacy - the worst argument in the world?
- I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup
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. ↩︎