Update! New URL:
A list capturing all background knowledge you might ever need for LW.
- F = Free
- E = Easy (adequate for a low educational background)
This list has two purposes. One is to enable people that lack a basic formal education to read and understand the LessWrong Sequences. Secondly, it is meant as a list of useful resources for all people to help to better understand what is being discussed on LessWrong and to enable you to actively participate.
Do not flinch, most of LessWrong can be read and understood by people with a previous level of education less than secondary school. And even if you lack the most basic education, if you start with Khan Academy followed by BetterExplained then with the help of Google and Wikipedia you should be able to reach a level of education that allows you to start reading the LessWrong Sequences.
Nevertheless, before you start off you might read the Twelve Virtues of Rationality FE. Not only is scholarship just one virtue but you'll also be given a list of important fields of knowledge that anyone who takes LessWrong seriously should study:
It is especially important to eat math and science which impinges upon rationality: Evolutionary psychology, heuristics and biases, social psychology, probability theory, decision theory.
Math is fundamental, not just for LessWrong. But especially Bayes’ Theorem is essential to understand the reasoning underlying most of the writings on LW.
It is precisely the notion that Nature does not care about our algorithm, which frees us up to pursue the winning Way - without attachment to any particular ritual of cognition, apart from our belief that it wins. Every rule is up for grabs, except the rule of winning. — Eliezer Yudkowsky
Remember that any heuristic is bound to certain circumstances. If you want X from agent Y and the rule is that Y only gives you X if you are a devoted irrationalist then ¬irrational. Under certain circumstances what is irrational may be rational and what is rational may be irrational. Paul K. Feyerabend said: "All methodologies have their limitations and the only ‘rule’ that survives is ‘anything goes’."
Programming knowledge is not mandatory for LessWrong but you should however be able to interpret the most basic pseudo code as you will come across various snippets of code in discussions and top-level posts outside of the main sequences.
Computer sciences (General Introduction):
One of the fundamental premises on LessWrong is that a universal computing device can simulate every physical process and that we therefore should be able to reverse engineer the human brain as it is fundamentally computable. That is, intelligence and consciousness are substrate independent.
Not essential but an valuable addition for anyone who's more than superficially interested in AI and machine learning.
There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination. — Daniel Dennett
, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, 1995.
Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language. — Wittgenstein
Not essential but a good preliminary to reading LessWrong and in some cases mandatory to be able to make valuable contributions in the comments. Many of the concepts in the following works are often mentioned on LessWrong or the subject of frequent discussions.
Below a roundup of concepts and other fields of knowledge you should at least have a rough grasp of to be able to follow some subsequent discussions in the comments on LessWrong.
Key Resources (News and otherwise) F:
This list is a work in progress. I will try to constantly update and refine it.
Also thanks to cousin_it for the idea. I had to turn the original comment on his post into my own top-level post because I got the error that my comment was too long.
If you've anything to add or correct, please comment below and I'll update the list accordingly.