You Are A Brain - Intro to LW/Rationality Concepts [Video & Slides]

Here's a 32-minute presentation I made to provide an introduction to some of the core LessWrong concepts for a general audience:

You Are A Brain [YouTube]

You Are a Brain [Google Slides] - public domain

I already posted this here in 2009 and some commenters asked for a video, so I immediately recorded one six years later. This time the audience isn't teens from my former youth group, it's employees who work at my software company where we have a seminar series on Thursday afternoons.

8 comments, sorted by
magical algorithm
Highlighting new comments since Today at 2:11 PM
Select new highlight date

This is really good. I think that a summary of what the presentation covers would be useful as well. I wrote a draft one below:

'You Are A Brain' is a presentation by Liron Shapira that is tailored for a general audience and provides an introduction to some of the the core LessWrong concepts including:

  • Map and territory- the map is your brains internal representation of reality. The territory is reality. This presentation covers the importance of accuracy in your map, the idea that the map is inside of you, i.e. that it is beliefs encoded as neuron structures in the brain and that maps are inherently imperfect because:
    • You can’t see the whole territory
    • You’re computationally bounded
    • You’re biased
  • Heuristics and biases - the presentation covers the idea that due to computational limitations the brain must make use of heuristics. Heuristics are mental shortcuts which require less time and energy to use, but sometimes go awry, producing bias. This presentation explains that colour vision is an example of a heuristic. The presentation also explains that illusions reveal your heuristics.
  • You're biased - this presentation defines biases as deviations from good map-drawing procedures. The following example biases are covered:
    • Stereotyping - You draw a map that is skewed toward what you expected to see
    • Defensiveness - You don’t fix a mistake in your map because you don’t want to admit being wrong
    • Wishful thinking - You draw whatever makes you feel good on your map
  • The map is not the territory –this presentation covers the idea that the map is not the territory. If your brother was to die, you don’t react when he dies. You only react after you understand that your brother is dead. Reality (the territory) exists outside of our mind but we construct models of the 'territory' based on what we glimpse through our senses.
  • Adaptation executors - this presentation covers the idea that individual organisms are best thought of as adaptation-executers rather than as fitness-maximizers. This is done tangentially through discussing super stimulus (stimulus that misleads your desire heuristics)
  • Mind projection fallacy - this presentation talks about how ‘sexiness’ is not a property of a woman, but is instead a characteristic that you attribute to the woman. That is, sexiness is not in the territory, but is in the map.
  • Wrong Questions - A question about your map that wouldn’t make sense if you had a more accurate map.
  • Quotes:

    ignorance exists in the map, not in the territory. If I am ignorant about a phenomenon, that is a fact about my own state of mind, not a fact about the phenomenon itself.

This is excellent!

And it also reminds me of this, reminding that "you" are not even your whole brain, just the tiny sliver of it that runs the introspection/self-awareness logic.

Your original post caused me to make this PowerPoint presentation which I've used in my game theory class.

Oh sweet. Great slides, lots of other valuable material there.

Just so you know, Rationality: From AI to Zombies is available for free at if you set the price to $0.00.

Good content, however I'd have preferred "You Are A Mind" or similar. You are an emergent system centered on the brain and influences upon it, or somesuch. It's just that "brain" has come to refer to 2 distinct entities -- the anatomical brain, and then the physical system generating your self. The two are not identical.