Welcome to Less Wrong! (July 2012)

by Paul Crowley4 min read18th Jul 2012851 comments


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If you've recently joined the Less Wrong community, please leave a comment here and introduce yourself. We'd love to know who you are, what you're doing, what you value, how you came to identify as a rationalist or how you found us. You can skip right to that if you like; the rest of this post consists of a few things you might find helpful. More can be found at the FAQ.

(This is the fourth incarnation of the welcome thread, the first three of which which now have too many comments. The text is by orthonormal from an original by MBlume.)

A few notes about the site mechanics

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It's definitely worth your time commenting on old posts; veteran users look through the recent comments thread quite often (there's a separate recent comments thread for the Discussion section, for whatever reason), and a conversation begun anywhere will pick up contributors that way.  There's also a succession of open comment threads for discussion of anything remotely related to rationality.
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There's actually more than meets the eye here: look near the top of the page for the "WIKI", "DISCUSSION" and "SEQUENCES" links.
LW WIKI: This is our attempt to make searching by topic feasible, as well as to store information like common abbreviations and idioms. It's a good place to look if someone's speaking Greek to you.
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SEQUENCES: A huge corpus of material mostly written by Eliezer Yudkowsky in his days of blogging at Overcoming Bias, before Less Wrong was started. Much of the discussion here will casually depend on or refer to ideas brought up in those posts, so reading them can really help with present discussions. Besides which, they're pretty engrossing in my opinion.

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If you've come to Less Wrong to discuss a particular topic, this thread would be a great place to start the conversation. By commenting here, and checking the responses, you'll probably get a good read on what, if anything, has already been said here on that topic, what's widely understood and what you might still need to take some time explaining.
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Barry Cotter

A note for theists: you will find the Less Wrong community to be predominantly atheist, though not completely so, and most of us are genuinely respectful of religious people who keep the usual community norms. It's worth saying that we might think religion is off-topic in some places where you think it's on-topic, so be thoughtful about where and how you start explicitly talking about it; some of us are happy to talk about religion, some of us aren't interested. Bear in mind that many of us really, truly have given full consideration to theistic claims and found them to be false, so starting with the most common arguments is pretty likely just to annoy people. Anyhow, it's absolutely OK to mention that you're religious in your welcome post and to invite a discussion there.

A list of some posts that are pretty awesome

I recommend the major sequences to everybody, but I realize how daunting they look at first. So for purposes of immediate gratification, the following posts are particularly interesting/illuminating/provocative and don't require any previous reading:

More suggestions are welcome! Or just check out the top-rated posts from the history of Less Wrong. Most posts at +50 or more are well worth your time.

Welcome to Less Wrong, and we look forward to hearing from you throughout the site.


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  • Age: Years since 1995
  • Gender: Female
  • Occupation: Student

I actually started an account two years ago, but after a few comments I decided I wasn't emotionally or intellectually ready for active membership. I was confused and hurt for various reasons that weren't Less Wrong's fault, and I backed away to avoid saying something I might regret. I didn't want to put undue pressure on myself to respond to topics I didn't fully understand. Now, after many thousands of hours reading and thinking about neurology, evolutionary psychology, and math, I'm more confident that I won't just be swept up in the half-understood arguments of people much smarter than I am. :)

Like almost everyone here, I started with atheism. I was raised Hindu, and my home has the sort of vague religiosity that is arguably the most common form in the modern world. For the most part, I figured out atheism on my own, when I was around 11 or 12. It was emotionally painful and socially costly, but I'm stronger for the experience. I started reading various mediocre atheist blogs, but I got bored after a couple of years and wanted to do something more than shoot blind fish in tiny barrels. I wanted to build something... (read more)

Welcome to Less Wrong, and I for one am glad to have you here (again)! You sound like someone who thinks very interesting thoughts.

I had to face the fact that mere biology may have systematically biased my half of the population against greatness. And it hurt. I had to fight the urge to redefine intelligence and/or greatness to assuage the pain.

I can't say that this is something that has ever really bothered me. Your IQ is what it is. Whether or not there's an overall gender-based trend in one direction or another isn't going to change anything for you, although it might change how people see you. (If anything, I found that I got more attention as a "girl who was good at/interested in science"...which, if anything, was irritating and made me want to rebel and go into a "traditionally female" field just because I could.

Basically, if you want to accomplish greatness, it's about you as an individual. Unless you care about the greatness of others, and feel more pride or solidarity with females than with males who accomplish greatness (which I don't), the statistical tendency doesn't matter.

I don't want to lose the hope/idealism/inner happiness that makes me

... (read more)

I know that it's not particularly rational to feel more affiliation with women than men, but I do. It's one of the things my monkey brain does that I decided to just acknowledge rather than constantly fight. It's helped me have a certain kind of peace about average IQ differentials. The pain I described in the parent has mellowed. Still, I have to face the fact that if I want to major in, say, applied math, chances are I might be lonely or below-average or both. I wish I had the inner confidence to care about self-improvement more than competition, but as yet I don't.

ETA: I characterize "idealism" as a hope for the future more than a belief about the present.

Still, I have to face the fact that if I want to major in, say, applied math, chances are I might be lonely or below-average or both.

As long as you know your own skills, there is no need to use your gender as a predictor. We use the worse information only in the absence of better information; because the worse information can be still better than nothing. We don't need to predict the information we already have.

When we already know that e.g. "this woman has IQ 150", or "this woman has won a mathematical olympiad" there is no need to mix general male and female IQ or math curves into the equation. (That's only what you do when you see a random woman and you have no other information.)

If there are hundred green balls in the basket and one red ball, it makes sense to predict that a randomly picked ball will be almost surely green. But once you have randomly picked a ball and it happened to be red... then it no longer makes sense to worry that this specific ball might still be green somehow. It's not; end of story.

If you had no experience with math yet, then I'd say that based on your gender, your chances to be a math genius are small. But that's not the situation; you already had some math experience. So make your guesses based on that experience. Your gender is already included in the probability of you having that specific experience. Don't count it twice!

7Bugmaster9yTo be perfectly accurate, any person's chances of being a math genius are going to be small anyway, regardless of that person's gender. There are very few geniuses in the world.
6ViEtArmis9yIt is particularly not rational to ignore the effect of your unconscious in your relationships. That fight is a losing battle (right now), so if having happy relationships is a goal, the pursuit of that requires you pay attention. There is almost no average IQ differential, since men pad out the bottom as well. Greater chromosomal genetic variations in men lead to stupidity as often as intelligence. Really, this gender disparity only matters at far extremes. Men may pad out the top and bottom 1% (or something like that) in IQ, but applied mathematicians aren't all top 1% (or even 10%, in my experience). It is easy to mistake finally being around people who think like you do (as in high IQ) with being less intelligent than them, but this is a trick!
7OnTheOtherHandle9ySorry, you're right, I did know that. (And it's exasperating to see highly intelligent men make the rookie mistake of saying "women are stupid" or "most women are stupid" because they happen to be high-IQ. There's an obvious selection bias - intelligent men probably have intelligent male friends but only average female acquaintances - because they seek out the women for sex, not conversation.) I was thinking about "IQ differentials" in the very broad sense, as in "it sucks that anyone is screwed over before they even start." I also suffer from selection bias, because I seek out people in general for intelligence, so I see the men to the right of the bell curve, while I just sort of abstractly "know" there are more men than women to the left, too.

And it's exasperating to see highly intelligent men make the rookie mistake of saying "women are stupid" or "most women are stupid" because they happen to be high-IQ. There's an obvious selection bias - intelligent men probably have intelligent male friends but only average female acquaintances - because they seek out the women for sex, not conversation.

Another possible explanation comes to mind: people with high IQs consider the "stupid" borderline to be significantly above 100 IQ. Then if they associate equally with men and women, the women will more often be stupid; and if they associate preferentially with clever people, there will be fewer women.

(This doesn't contradict selection bias. Both effects could be at play.)

8ViEtArmis9yYou'd have to raise the bar really far before any actual gender-based differences showed up. It seems far more likely that the cause is a cultural bias against intellectualism in women (women will under-report IQ by 5ish points and men over-report by a similar margin, women are poorly represented in "smart" jobs, etc.). That makes women present themselves as less intelligent and makes everyone perceive them as less intelligent.
5juliawise9yDoes anyone know of a good graph that shows this? I've seen several (none citing sources) that draw the crossover in quite different places. So I'm not sure what the gender ratio is at, say, IQ 130.
3Vaniver9yLa Griffe Du Lion has good [http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/math.htm] work [http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/math2.htm] on this, but it's limited to math ability, where the male mean is higher than the female mean as well as the male variance being higher than the female variance. The formulas from the first link work for whatever mean and variance you want to use, and so can be updated with more applicable IQ figures, and you can see how an additional 10 point 'reporting gap' affects things.
4OnTheOtherHandle9yUnfortunately, intelligence in areas other than math seem to be an "I know it when I see it" kind of thing. It's much harder to design a good test for some of the "softer" disciplines, like "interpersonal intelligence" or even language skills, and it's much easier to pick a fight with results you don't like. It could be that because intelligence tests are biased toward easy measurement, they focus too much on math, so they under-predict women's actual performance at most jobs not directly related to abstract math skills.
4OnTheOtherHandle9yYou're right; my explanation was drawn from many PUA-types who had said similar things, but this effect is perfectly possible in non-sexual contexts, too. There's actually little use in using words like "stupid", anyway. What's the context? How intelligent does this individual need to be do what they want to do? Calling people "stupid" says "reaching for an easy insult," not "making an objective/instrumentally useful observation." Sure, there will be some who say they'll use the words they want to use and rail against "censorship", but connotation and denotation are not so separate. That's why I didn't find the various "let's say controversial, unspeakable things because we're brave nonconformists!" threads on this site to be all that helpful. Some comments certainly were both brave and insightful, but I felt on the whole a little bit of insight was brought at the price of a whole lot of useless nastiness.
5Jayson_Virissimo9yArguably, if it was "broken" this way it would be a mistake (specifically, of generalizing from too small a sample size). I have a job where I am constantly confronted with suffering and death, but at the end of the day, I can still laugh just like everyone else, because I know my experience is a biased sample and that there is still lots of good going on in the world.
2Rubix9yI like this post more than I like most things; you've helped me, for one, with a significant amount of distress.

I had to face the fact that mere biology may have systematically biased my half of the population against greatness. And it hurt. I had to fight the urge to redefine intelligence and/or greatness to assuage the pain.

Consciously keeping your identity small and thus not identifying with everyone who happens to have the same internal plumbing might be helpful there.

9OnTheOtherHandle9yPG is awesome, but his ideas do basically fall into the category of "easier said than done." This doesn't mean "not worth doing," of course, but practical techniques would be way more helpful. It's easier to replace one group with another (arguably better?) group than to hold yourself above groupthink in general.
5shminux9yMy approach is to notice when I want to say/write "we", as opposed to "I", and examine why. That's why I don't personally identify as a "LWer" (only as a neutral and factual "forum regular"), despite the potential for warm fuzzies resulting from such an identification. There is an occasional worthy reason to identify with a specific group, but gender/country/language/race/occupation/sports team are probably not good criteria for such a group.
3ViEtArmis9yI always think of that in the context of conflict resolution, and refer to it as "telling someone that what they did was idiotic, not that they are an idiot." Self-identifying is powerful, and people are pretty bad at it because of a confluence of biases.
6GLaDOS9yGreat to see you here and great to hear you took the time to read up on the relevant material before jumping in. I'm confident that you will find many people who comment quite a bit don't have such prudence, so don't be surprised if you outmatch a long time commenter. (^_^) Yesss! This is exactly how I felt when I found this community.
5Xachariah9yI'm not sure about Disney, but the you should still be able to enjoy Avatar. Avatar (TLA and Korra) is in many ways a deconstruction of magical worlds. They take the basic premise of kung-fu magic and then let that propagate to it's logical conclusions [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1mh/that_magical_click/]. The TLA war was enabled by rapid industrialization when one nation realized they could harness their breaking the laws of thermodynamics for energy. The premise of S1 Korra is exploring social inequality in the presence of randomly distributed magical powers. In these ways, Avatar is less Harry Potter and more HPMoR [http://hpmor.com/].
2iceman9yHave you seen the new My Little Pony show? It's really good. It's sweet without being twee.
2hankx77879yI've been through this kind of thing before, and Less Wrong did nothing for me in this respect (although Less Wrong is awesome for many other reasons). Reading Ayn Rand on the other hand made all the difference in the world in this respect, and changed my life.
4OnTheOtherHandle9yI haven't read Ayn Rand, but those who do seem to talk almost exclusively about the politics, and I just can't work up the energy to get too excited about something I have such little chance of affecting. Would you mind telling me where/how Ayn Rand discussed evolutionary psychology or modular minds? I'm curious now. :)
5OrphanWilde9yShe doesn't, is the short answer. She does discuss, however, the integration of personal values into one's philosophical system. I was struggling with a possibly similar issue; I had previously regarded rationalism as an end in itself. Emotions were just baggage that had to be overcome in order to achieve a truly enlightened state. If this sounds familiar to you, her works may help. The short version: You're a human being. An ethical system that demands you be anything else is fatally flawed; there is no universal ethical system, what is ethical for a rabbit is not ethical for a wolf. It's necessary for you to live, not as a rabbit, not as a rock, not as a utility or paperclip maximizer, but as a human being. Pain, for example, isn't to be denied - for to do so is as sensible as denying a rock - but experienced as a part of your existence. (That you shouldn't deny pain is not the same as that you should seek it; it is simply a statement that it's a part of what you are.) Objectivism, the philosophy she founded, is named on the claim that ethics are objective; not subjective, which is to say, whatever you want it to be; not universal, which is to say, there's a single ethics system in the whole universe that applies equally to rocks, rabbits, mice, and people; but objective, which is to say, it exists as a definable property for a given subject, given certain preconditions (ethical axioms; she chose "Life" as her ethical axiom).
8OnTheOtherHandle9yI don't know that I would call that "objective." I mean, the laws of physics are objective because they're the same for rabbits and rocks and humans alike. I honestly don't trust myself to go much more meta than my own moral intuitions. I just try not to harm people without their permission or deceive/manipulate them. Yes, this can and will break down in extreme hypothetical scenarios, but I don't want to insist on an ironclad philosophical system that would cause me to jump to any conclusions on, say, Torture vs. Dust Specks [http://lesswrong.com/lw/kn/torture_vs_dust_specks/] just yet. I suspect that my abstract reasoning [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2yp/making_your_explicit_reasoning_trustworthy/] will just be nuts. My understanding of morality is basically that we're humans, and humans need each other, so we worked out ways to help one another out. Our minds were shaped by the same evolutionary processes, so we can agree for the most part. We've always seemed to treat those in our in-group the same way; it's just that those we included in the in-group changed. Slowly, women were added, and people of different races/religions, etc.
2hankx77879ySee this comment [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/dga/less_wrong_views_on_morality/70s7] regarding this common confusion about 'objective'...
2ViEtArmis9ySpecifically, her non-fiction work (if you find that sort of thing palatable) provides a lot more concrete discussion of her philosophy. Unfortunately, Ayn Rand is little too... abrasive... for many people who don't agree entirely with her. She has a lot of resonant points that get rejected because of all the other stuff she presents along with it.

I'm Aaron Swartz. I used to work in software (including as a cofounder of Reddit, whose software that powers this site) and now I work in politics. I'm interested in maximizing positive impact, so I follow GiveWell carefully. I've always enjoyed the rationality improvement stuff here, but I tend to find the lukeprog-style self-improvement stuff much more valuable. I've been following Eliezer's writing since before even the OvercomingBias days, I believe, but have recently started following LW much more carefully after a couple friends mentioned it to me in close succession.

I found myself wanting to post but don't have any karma, so I thought I'd start by introducing myself.

I've been thinking on-and-off about starting a LessWrong spinoff around the self-improvement stuff (current name proposal: LessWeak). Is anyone else interested in that sort of thing? It'd be a bit like the Akrasia Tactics Review, but applied to more topics.

8Jayson_Virissimo9yInstead of a spinoff, maybe Discussion should be split into more sections (one being primarily about instrumental rationality/self-help).
3kilobug9yTopic-related discussion seems a good idea to me. Some here may be interested in rationality/cognitive bias but not in IA or not in space exploration or not in cryonics, ... This would also allow to lift the "bans" like "no politics", if it says in a dedicated section not "polluting" those not interested in it.
5ata9yYay, it is you! (I've followed your blog and your various other deeds on-and-off since 2002-2003ish and have always been a fan; good to have you here.)
3Jonathan_Graehl9yLessWeak - good idea. On the name: cute but I imagine it getting old. But it's not as embarrassing as something unironically Courage Wolf, like 'LiveStrong'.
3Emile9yWelcome to LessWrong! Apparently I used to comment on your blog back in 2004 - my, how time flies!

'Twas about time that I decided to officially join. I discovered LessWrong in the autumn of 2010, and so far I felt reluctant to actually contribute -- most people here have far more illustrious backgrounds. But I figured that there are sufficiently few ways in which I could show myself as a total ignoramus in an intro post, right?

I don't consider my gender, age and nationality to be a relevant part of my identity, so instead I'd start by saying I'm INTP. Extreme I (to the point of schizoid personality disorder), extreme T. Usually I have this big internal conflict going on between the part of me that wishes to appear as a wholly rational genius and the other part, who has read enough psychology and LW (you guys definitely deserve credit for this) to know I'm bullshitting myself big time.

My educational background so far is modest, a fact for which procrastination is the main culprit. I'm currently working on catching up with high school level math... so far I've only reviewed trigonometry, so I'm afraid I won't be able to participate in more technical discussions around here. Aside from a few Khan Academy videos, I'm still ignorant about probability; I did try to solve that cancer ... (read more)

2Swimmer9639yWelcome! That's interesting... I don't think I've ever had someone respond to my pointing out flaws in this way. I've had people argue back plenty of times, but never tell me that we shouldn't be arguing about it. Can you give some examples of topics where this has happened? I would be curious what kind of topics engender this reaction in people.

I've seen this happen where one person enjoys debate/arguing and another does not. To one person it's an interesting discussion, and to the other it feels like a personal attack. Or, more commonly, I've seen onlookers get upset watching such a discussion, even if they don't personally feel targeted. Specifically, I'm remembering three men loudly debating about physics while several of their wives left the room in protest because it felt too argumentative to them.

Body language and voice dynamics can affect this a lot, I think - some people get loud and frowny when they're excited/thinking hard, and others may misread that as angry.

7Nornagest9yI ended up having to include a disclaimer in the FAQ for an older project of mine, saying that the senior staff tends to get very intense when discussing the project and that this doesn't indicate drama on our part but is actually friendly behavior. That was a text channel, though, so body dynamics and voice wouldn't have had anything to do with it. I think a lot of people just read any intense discussion as hostile, and quality of argument doesn't really enter into it -- probably because they're used to an arguments-as-soldiers perspective.

We used to say of two friends of mine that "They don't so much toss ideas back and forth as hurl sharp jagged ideas directly at one another's heads."

7gwern9y--Steven Erikson, House of Chains (2002)
7Dahlen9yOh, it's not a topic-specific behavior. Every time I go too far down a chain of reasoning ("too far" meaning as few as three causal relationships), sometimes people start complaining that I'm giving too much thought to it, and imply they are unable to follow the arguments. I'm just not surrounded by a lot of people that like long and intricate discussions. (Funnily, both my parents are the type that get tired listening to complex reasoning, and I turned out the complete opposite.)
8Swimmer9639yThat is...intensely frustrating. I've had people tell me that "well, I find all the points you're trying to make really complicated, and it's easier for me to just have faith in God" or that kind of thing, but I've never actually been rebuked for applying an analytical mindset to discussions. Props on having acquired those habits anyway, in spite of what sounds like an unfruitful starting environment!
3Davidmanheim9yThis happens frequently in places where reasoning is suspect, or not valued. Kids in poor areas with few scholastic or academic opportunities find more validation in pursuits that are non-academic, and they tend to deride logic. It's parodied well by Colbert, but it's not uncommon. I just avoid those people, now know few of them. Most of the crowd here, I suspect, is in a similar position.

I've commented infrequently, but never did one of these "Welcome!" posts.

Way back in the Overcoming Bias days, my roomate raved constantly about the blog and Eliezer Yudkowsky in particular. I pattern matched his behaviour to being in a cult, and moved on with my life. About two years later (?), a common friend of ours recommended Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which I then read, which brought me to Lesswrong, reading the Sequences, etc. About a year later, I signed up for cryonics with Alcor, and I now give more than my former roomate to the Singularity Institute. (He is very amused by this.)

I spend quite a bit of time working on my semi-rationalist fanfic, My Little Pony: Friendship is Optimal, which I'll hopefully release on a timeframe of a few months. (I previously targeted releasing this damn thing for April, but...planning fallacy. I've whittled my issue list down to three action items, though, and it's been through it's first bout of prereading.)

My Little Pony: Friendship is Optimal


2maia9yCould I convince you to perhaps post on the weekly rationality diaries about progress, or otherwise commit yourself, or otherwise increase the probability that you'll put this fic up soon? :D

Hi! I got here from reading Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which I think I found on TV Tropes. Once I ran out of story to catch up on, I figured I'd start investigating the source material.

I've read a couple of sequences, but I'll hold off on commenting much until I've gotten through more material. (Especially since the quality of discussions in the comment sections is so high.) Thanks for an awesome site!

Hi All,

I'm Will Crouch. Other than one other, this is my first comment on LW. However, I know and respect many people within the LW community.

I'm a DPhil student in moral philosophy at Oxford, though I'm currently visiting Princeton. I work on moral uncertainty: on whether one can apply expected utility theory in cases where one is uncertain about what is of value, or what one one ought to do. It's difficult to do so, but I argue that you can.

I got to know people in the LW community because I co-founded two organisations, Giving What We Can and 80,000 Hours, dedicated to the idea of effective altruism: that is, using one's marginal resources in whatever way the evidence supports as doing the most good. A lot of LW members support the aims of these organisations.

I woudn't call myself a 'rationalist' without knowing a lot more about what that means. I do think that Bayesian epistemology is the best we've got, and that rational preferences should conform to the von Neumann-Morgenstern axioms (though I'm uncertain - there are quite a lot of difficulties for that view). I think that total hedonistic utilitarianism is the most plausible moral theory, but I'm extremely uncertain in that conclusion, partly on the basis that most moral philosophers and other people in the world disagree with me. I think that the more important question is what credence distribution one ought to have across moral theories, and how one ought to act given that credence distribution, rather than what moral theory one 'adheres' to (whatever that means).

9MixedNuts9yPretense that this comment has a purpose other than squeeing at you like a 12-year-old fangirl: what arguments make you prefer total utilitarianism to average?
9wdmacaskill9yHaha! I don't think I'm worthy of squeeing, but thank you all the same. In terms of the philosophy, I think that average utilitarianism is hopeless as a theory of population ethics. Consider the following case: Population A: 1 person exists, with a life full of horrific suffering. Her utility is -100. Population B: 100 billion people exist, each with lives full of horrific suffering. Each of their utility levels is -99.9 Average utilitarianism says that Population B is better than Population A. That definitely seems wrong to me: bringing into existence people whose lives aren't worth living just can't be a good thing.
6Nisan9yI'm glad you're here! Do you have any comments on Nick Bostrom and Toby Ord's idea for a "parliamentary model" of moral uncertainty?
7wdmacaskill9yThanks! Yes, I'm good friends with Nick and Toby. My view on their model is as follows. Sometimes intertheoretic value comparisons are possible: that is, we can make sense of the idea that the difference in value (or wrongness) between two options A and B one one moral theory is greater, lesser, or equal to the difference in value (or wrongness) between two options C and D on another moral theory. So, for example, you might think that killing one person in order to save a slightly less happy person is much more wrong according to a rights-based moral view than it is according to utilitarianism (even though it's wrong according to both theories). If we can make such comparisons, then we don't need the parliamentary model: we can just use expected utility theory. Sometimes, though, it seems that such comparisons aren't possible. E.g. I add one person whose life isn't worth living to the population. Is that more wrong according to total utilitarianism or average utilitarianism? I have no idea. When such comparisons aren't possible, then I think that something like the parliamentary model is the right way to go. But, as it stands, the parliamentary model is more of a suggestion than a concrete proposal. In terms of the best specific formulation, I think that you should normalise incomparable theories at the variance of their respective utility functions, and then just maximise expected value. Owen Cotton-Barratt convinced me of that! Sorry if that was a bit of a complex response to a simple question!
3beoShaffer9yHi Will, I think most LWer's would agree that; "Anyone who tries to practice rationality as defined on Less Wrong [http://lesswrong.com/lw/31/what_do_we_mean_by_rationality/]." is a passible description of what we mean by 'rationalist'.
3wdmacaskill9yThanks for that. I guess that means I'm not a rationalist! I try my best to practice (1). But I only contingently practice (2). Even if I didn't care one jot about increasing happiness and decreasing suffering in the world, then I think I still ought to increase happiness and decrease suffering. I.e. I do what I do not because it's what I happen to value, but because I think it's objectively valuable (and if you value something else, like promoting suffering, then I think you're mistaken!) That is, I'm a moral realist. Whereas the definition given in Eliezer's post suggests that being a rationalist presupposes moral anti-realism. When I talk with other LW-ers, this often seems to be a point of disagreement, so I hope I'm not just being pedantic!
7thomblake9yNot at all. (Eliezer is a sort of moral realist). It would be weird if you said "I'm a moral realist, but I don't value things that I know are objectively valuable". It doesn't really matter whether you're a moral realist or not - instrumental rationality is about achieving your goals, whether they're good goals or not. Just like math lets you crunch numbers, whether they're real statistics or made up. But believing you shouldn't make up statistics doesn't therefore mean you don't do math.

Hello, everyone!

I'd been religious (Christian) my whole life, but was always plagued with the question, "How would I know this is the correct religion, if I'd grown up with a different cultural norm?" I concluded, after many years of passive reflection, that, no, I probably wouldn't have become Christian at all, given that there are so many good people who do not. From there, I discovered that I was severely biased toward Christianity, and in an attempt to overcome that bias, I became atheist before I realized it.

I know that last part is a common idiom that's usually hyperpole, but I really did become atheist well before I consciously knew I was. I remember reading HPMOR, looking up lesswrong.com, reading the post on "Belief in Belief", and realizing that I was doing exactly that: explaining an unsupported theory by patching the holes, instead of reevaluating and updating, given the evidence.

It's been more than religion, too, but that's the area where I really felt it first. Next projects are to apply the principles to my social and professional life.

Hello everyone,

Thought it was about time to do one of these since I've made a couple of comments!

My name's Carl. I've been interested in science and why people believe the strange things they believe for many years. I was raised Catholic but came to the conclusion around the age of ten that it was all a bit silly really, and as yet I have found no evidence that would cause me to update away from that.

I studied physics as an undergrad and switched to experimental psychology for my PhD, being more interested at that point in how people work than how the universe does. I started to study motor control and after my PhD and a couple of postdocs I know way more about how humans move their arms than any sane person probably should. I've worked in behavioural, clinical and computational realms, giving me a wide array of tools to use when analysing problems.

My current postdoc is coming to an end and a couple of months ago I was undergoing somewhat of a crisis. What was I doing, almost 31 and with no plan for my life? I realised that motor control had started to bore me but I had no real idea what to do about it. Stay in science, or abandon it and get a real job? That hurts after almost a de... (read more)

[-][anonymous]8y 26

Greetings LWers,

I'm an aspiring Friendliness theorist, currently based at the Australian National University -- home to Marcus Hutter, Rachael Briggs and David Chalmers, amongst others -- where I study formal epistemology through the Ph.B. (Hons) program.

I wasn't always in such a stimulating environment -- indeed I grew up in what can only be deemed intellectual deprivation, from which I narrowly escaped -- and, as a result of my disregard for authority and despise for traditional classroom learning, I am largely self-taught. Unlike most autodidacts, though, I never was a voracious reader, on the contrary I barely opened books at all, instead preferring to think things over in my head; this has left me an ignorant person -- something I'm constantly striving to improve on -- but has also protected me from many diseased ideas and even allowed me to better appreciate certain notions by having to rediscover them myself. (case in fact, throughout my adolescence I took great satisfaction in analysing my mental mechanisms and correcting for what I now know to be biases, yet I never came across the relevant literature, essentially missing out on a wealth of knowledge)

For a long time I've a... (read more)

Nice! What part of FAI interests you?

2[anonymous]8yToo soon to say, as I discovered FAI a mere two months ago -- this, incidentally, could mean that it's a fleeting passion -- but CEV has definitely caught my attention, while the concept of a reflective decision theory I find really fascinating. The latter is something I've been curious about for quite some time, as plenty of moral precepts seem to break down once an agent -- even a mere homo sapiens -- reaches certain levels of self-awareness and, thus, is able to alter their decision mechanisms.
2Kawoomba8yIsn't that a proper IQ test? At least it is where I live. Funny how we like to talk about things we're good at. The real test is "time from passing test to time you leave to save the yearly fee." That's awesome. Don't miss Marcus' lectures, such a sharp mind. Also, midi - Imperial March (used to be?) playing on his home page [http://www.hutter1.net/private/index.htm].
2[anonymous]8yYes and no; it's some version of the Cattell, but it's not administered individually, has a lowish ceiling and they don't reveal your exact result. For the record, you needn't join in order to take their heavily subsidised admission test.
[-][anonymous]9y 26

Hello everyone! I've been a lurker on here for awhile, but this is my first post. I've held out on posting anything because I've never felt like I knew enough to actually contribute to the conversation. Some things about me:

I'm currently 22, female, and a recent graduate of college with a degree in computer science. I'm currently employed as a software engineer at a health insurance company, though I am looking into getting into research some day. I mainly enjoy science, playing video games, and drawing.

I found this site through a link on the Skeptics Stack Exchange page. The post was about cryonics, which is how I got over here. I've been reading the site for about six months now and I have found it extremely helpful. It has also been depressing, though, because I've since realized many of the "problems" in the world were caused by the ineptitude of the species and aren't easily fixed. I've had some problems with existential nihilism since then and if anyone has any advice on the matter, I'd love to hear it.

My journey to rationality probably started with atheism and a real understanding of the scientific method and human psychology. I grew up Mormon, which has since give... (read more)

Hi! Long-time lurker, first-time... joiner?

I was inspired to finally register by this post being at the top of Main. Not sure yet how much I'll actually post, but the removal of the passive barrier of, you know, not actually being registered is gone, so we'll see.

Anyway. I'm a dude, live in the Bay Area, work in finance though I secretly think I'm actually a writer. I studied cog sci in college, and that angle is what I tend to find most interesting on Less Wrong.

I originally came across LW via HPMoR back in 2010. Since then, I've read the Sequences, been to a few meetups, and attended the June minicamp (which, P.S., was awesome).

I'm still struggling a bit with actually applying rationality tools in my life, but it's great to have that toolbox ready and waiting. Sometimes... I hear it calling out to me. "Sean! This is an obvious place to apply Bayes! Seaaaaaaan!"


Hi all,

Not quire recently joined, but when I first joined, I read some, then got busy and didn't participate after that.

Age: Not yet 30. Former Occupation: Catastrophe Risk Modeling New Occupation: Graduate Student, Public Policy, RAND Corporation.

Theist Status: Orthodox Jew, happy with the fact that there are those who correctly claim that I cannot prove that god exists, and very aware of the confirmation bias and lack of skepticism in most religious circles. It's one reason I'm here, actually. And I'll be glad to discuss it in the future, elsewhere.

I was initially guided here, about a year ago, by a link to The Best Textbooks on Every Subject . I was a bit busy working at the time, building biased mathematical models of reality. (Don't worry, they weren't MY biases, they were those of the senior people and those of the insurance industry. And they were normalized to historical experience, so as long as history is a good predictor of the future...) So I decided that I wanted to do something different, possibly something with more positive externalities, less short term thinking about how the world could be more profitable for my employer, and more long-term thinking about how it ... (read more)

Hello and goodbye.

I'm a 30 year old software engineer with a "traditional rationalist" science background, a lot of prior exposure to Singularitarian ideas like Kurzweil's, with a big network of other scientist friends since I'm a Caltech alum. It would be fair to describe me as a cryocrastinator. I was already an atheist and utilitarian. I found the Sequences through Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

I thought it would be polite, and perhaps helpful to Less Wrong, to explain why I, despite being pretty squarely in the target demographic, have decided to avoid joining the community and would recommend the same to any other of my friends or when I hear it discussed elsewhere on the net.

I read through the entire Sequences and was informed and entertained; I think there are definitely things I took from it that will be valuable ("taboo" this word; the concept of trying to update your probability estimates instead of waiting for absolute proof; etc.)

However, there were serious sexist attitudes that hit me like a bucket of cold water to the face - assertions that understanding anyone of the other gender is like trying to understand an alien, for example.

Com... (read more)

Thanks for writing this. It's true that LW has a record of being bad at talking about gender issues; this is a problem that has been recognized and commented on in the past. The standard response seems to have been to avoid gender issues whenever possible, which is unfortunate but maybe better than the alternative. But I would still like to comment on some of the specific things you brought up:

assertions that understanding anyone of the other gender is like trying to understand an alien, for example.

I think I know the post you're referring to, I didn't read this as sexist, and I don't think that indicates a male-techy failure mode on my part about sexism. Some men are just really, really bad at understanding women (and maybe commit the typical mind fallacy when they try to understand men, and maybe just don't know anyone who doesn't fall into one of those categories), and I don't think they should be penalized for being honest about this.

gender essentialist

I haven't seen too much of this. Edit: Found some more.

women-are-objects-not-people-like-us crap

Where? Edit: Found some of this too.

I think it has fallen very squarely into the "nothing more than sexism, th

... (read more)
4Eliezer Yudkowsky8yTry to keep in mind selection effects. The post was titled Failed Utopia - people who agreed with this may have posted less than those who disagreed. I confess to being somewhat surprised by this reaction. Posts and comments about gender probably constitute around 0.1% of all discussion on LessWrong.

Whenever I see a high quality comment made by a deleted account (see for example this thread where the two main participants are both deleted accounts), I'd want to look over their comment history to see if I can figure out what sequence of events alienated them and drove them away from LW, but unfortunately the site doesn't allow that. Here SamLL provided one data point, for which I think we should be thankful, but keep in mind that many more people have left and not left visible evidence of the reason.

Also, aside from the specific reasons for each person leaving, I think there is a more general problem: why do perfectly reasonable people see a need to not just leave LW, but to actively disidentify or disaffiliate with LW, either through an explicit statement (SamLL's "still less am I enthused about identifying myself as part of a community where that's so widespread"), or by deleting their account? Why are we causing them to think of LW in terms of identity in the first place, instead of, say, a place to learn about and discuss some interesting ideas?

Why are we causing them to think of LW in terms of identity in the first place, instead of, say, a place to learn about and discuss some interesting ideas?

Some possibilities:

  1. There have been deliberate efforts at community-building, as evidenced by all the meetup-threads and one whole sequence, which may suggest that one is supposed to identify with the locals. Even relatively innocuous things like introduction and census threads can contribute to this if one chooses to take a less than charitable view of them, since they focus on LW itself instead of any "interesting idea" external to LW.

  2. Labeling and occasionally hostile rhetoric: Google gives dozens of hits for terms like "lesswrongian" and "LWian", and there have been recurring dismissive attitudes regarding The Others and their intelligence and general ability. This includes all snide digs at "Frequentists", casual remarks to the effect of how people who don't follow certain precepts are "insane", etc.

  3. The demographic homogeneity probably doesn't help.

4Wei_Dai8yI agree with these, and I wonder how we can counteract these effects. For example I've often used "LWer" as shorthand for "LW participant". Would it be better to write out the latter in full? Should we more explicitly invite newcomers to think of LW in instrumental/consequentialist terms, and not in terms of identity and affiliation? For example, we could explain that "joining the LW community" ought to be interpreted as "making use of LW facilities and contributing to LW discussions and projects" rather than "adopting 'LW member' as part of one's social identity and endorsing some identifying set of ideas", and maybe link to some articles like Paul Graham's Keep Your Identity Small [http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html].
[-][anonymous]8y 30

"Here at LW, we like to keep our identity small."

4shminux8yNice one.
8prase8yIt may be because lot of LW regulars visibly think of it in terms of identity. LW is described by most participants as a community rather than a discussion forum, and there has been a lot of explicit effort to strengthen the communitarian aspect.
2Kawoomba8yAs a hypothesis, they may be ambivalent about discontinuing their hobby ("Two souls alas! are dwelling in my breast; (...)) and prefer to burn their bridges to avoid further ambivalence and decision pressures. Many prefer a course of action being locked in, as opposed to continually being tempted by the alternative.
1Eugine_Nier8ySome people come from a background where they're taught to think of everything in terms of identity.
8Kawoomba8yYour comment's first sentence answers your second paragraph.
2Risto_Saarelma8yI guess you get considered fully unclean even if you're only observed breaking a taboo a few times.
4[anonymous]8yDid you use a Rawlsian veil of ignorance when judging it? From a totally selfish point of view, I would very, very, very much rather be myself in this world than myself in that scenario (given that, among plenty of other things, I dislike most people of my gender), but think of, say, starving African children or people with disabilities. I don't know much about what it feels like to be in such dire straits so I'm not confident that I'd rather be a randomly chosen person in Failed Utopia 4-2 than a randomly chosen person in the actual world, but the idea doesn't sound obviously absurd to me.
4Kawoomba8ySince I cannot imagine anything but a few cherry picked examples that could have led to your impression, let me use some of my own (the number of cases is low): The extremely positive reception of Alicorns "Living Luminously" sequence (karma +50 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1xh/living_luminously/] for the main post alone, Anja's great and technical posts (karmas +13 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gex/save_the_princess_a_tale_of_aixi_and_utility/], +34 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fkx/a_definition_of_wireheading/], +29 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/feo/universal_agents_and_utility_functions/]) all indicate that good content is not filtered along gender lines, which it should be if there were some pervasive bias. Even asserting that understanding anyone of the other gender is "like trying to understand an alien" does not imply any sort of male superiority complex. If you object to sexism as just pointing out that there are differences both based on culture and genetics, well you got me there. Quite obviously there are, I assume you don't live in a hermaphrodite community. Why is it bad when/if that comes up? Forbidden knowledge? Are you sure that's the rationalist thing to do? Gender imbalance and a few misplaced or easily misinterpreted remarks need not be representative of a community, just as a predominantly male CS program at Caltech and frat jokes need not be representative of College culture.
6jooyous8yIt's possible that user is sensitive to gender issues precisely because it's comparatively difficult and not entirely rationalist to leave a community like Caltech. It's generally the stance of gender-sensitive humans that no one should have to listen to the occasional frat joke if they don't want to. I agree with everything else in your post; that final "can't you take a frat joke?" strikes me as defensive and unnecessary.
2Kawoomba8yYou're right, it was too carelessly formulated.
2jooyous8yWill you fix it? =) Is there an established protocol for fixing these sorts of things?
2Manfred8yThe edit button? :P
1Kawoomba8yIs that a protocol, strictly speaking? "Pressing the edit button" would be a protocol with only one action (not sufficient). Maybe there will be a policy post on this soon.
2Manfred8yYou're right, strictly speaking, the protocol would be TCPIP. :) (There is no mandatory or even authoritative social protocol for this situation. The typical behavior is editing and then putting an EDIT: brief explanation of edit, but just editing with no explanation is also fine, particularly if nobody's replied yet, or the edit is explained in child comments).
2Kawoomba8yWell earlier today I clarified (euphemism for edited) a comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gle/interesting_discussion_of_concentration_and/8fpp] shortly after it was made, then found a reply that cited the old, unclarified version. You know what that looks like, once the tribe finds out? OhgodImdone. In a hushed voice I just found out that EY can edit his comments without an asterisk appearing.
2earthwormchuck1638yWhy not stay around and try to help fix the problem?

Ordinarily I'd leave this for SamLL to respond to, but I'd say the chances of getting a response in this context are fairly low, so hopefully it won't be too presumptuous for me to speculate.

First of all, we as a community suck at handling gender issues without bias. The reasons for this could span several top-level posts and in any case I'm not sure of all the details; but I think a big one is the unusually blurry lines between research and activism in that field and consequent lack of a good outside view to fall back on. I don't think we're methodologically incapable of overcoming that, but I do think that any serious attempt at doing so would essentially convert this site into a gender blog.

To make matters worse, for one inclined to view issues through the lens of gender politics, Failed Utopia 4-2 is close to the worst starting point this site has to offer. Never mind the explicitly negative framing, or its place within the fun theory sequence: we have here a story that literally places men on Mars on gender-essentialist grounds, and doesn't even mention nonstandard genders or sexual preferences. No, that's not meant to be taken all that seriously or to inform people's real... (read more)

2[anonymous]8yAs far as I can tell, we as a species suck at handling gender issues without bias, the closest thing to an exception to that I recall seeing being some (not all) articles (but usually not the comments) on the Good Men Project [http://goodmenproject.com] and the discussions on Yvain's “The $Nth Meditation on $Thing” blog post series [http://squid314.livejournal.com/329751.html].
3Nornagest8yYeah, I was fairly impressed with Yvain's posts on the subject; if we did want to devote some serious effort to tackling this issue, I can think of far worse starting points.
2shminux8ys/gender// Though I think that this particular forum sucks less at handling at least some issues.
8wedrifid8yFixing the problem needs less people with a highly polarizing agenda, not more.

Hello! I'm David.

I'm 26 (at the time of writing), male, and an IT professional. I have three (soon to be four) children, three (but not four) of which have a different dad.

My immediate links here were through the Singularity Institute and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which drove me here when I realized the connection (I came to those things entirely separately!). When I came across this site, I had read through the Wikipedia list of biases several times over the course of years, come to many conscious conclusions about the fragility of my own cognition, and had innumerable arguments with friends and family that changed minds, but I never really considered that there would be a large community of people that got together on those grounds.

I'm going to do the short version of my origin story here, since writing it all out seems both daunting and pretentious. I was raised rich and lucky by an entrepreneur/university professor/doctor father and a mother who always had to be learning something or go crazy (she did some of both). I dropped out of a physics major in college and got my degree in gunsmithing instead, but only after I worked a few years. Along the way, I've p... (read more)

The problem that I find is that all ways to spontaneously generate joy have some degree of mysticism.

What? What about all the usual happiness inducing things? Listening to music that you like; playing games; watching your favourite TV show; being with friends? Maybe you've ruled these out as not being spontaneous? But going to church isn't less effort than a lot of things on that list.

Hi LWers,

I am Robert and I am going to change the world. Maybe just a little bit, but that’s ok, since it’s fun to do and there’s nothing else I need to do right now. (Yay for mini-retirements!)

I find some of the articles here on LW very useful, especially those on heuristics and biases, as well as material on self-improvement although I find it quite scattered among loads of way to theoretic stuff. Does it seem odd that I have learned much more useful tricks and gained more insight from reading HPMOR than from reading 30 to 50 high-rated and “foundational” articles on this site? I am sincerely sad that even the leading rationalists on LW seem to struggle getting actual benefits out of their special skills and special knowledge (Yvain: Rationality is not that great; Eliezer: Why aren't "rationalists" surrounded by a visible aura of formidability?) and I would like to help them change that.

My interest is mainly in contributing more structured, useful content and also to band together with fellow LWers to practice and apply our rationalist skills. As a stretch goal I think that we could pick someone really evil as our enemy and take them down, just to show our superiority.... (read more)

5John_Maxwell8yWelcome! Because they don't project high status with their body language? Re: Taking out someone evil. Let's be rational about this. Do we want to get press? Will taking them out even be worthwhile? What sort of benefits from testing ideas against reality can we expect? I think humans who study rationality might be better than other humans at avoiding certain basic mistakes. But that doesn't mean that the study of rationality (as it currently exists) amounts to a "success spray" that you can spray on any goal to make it more achievable. Also, if the recent survey [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fp5/2012_survey_results/] is to be believed, the average IQ at Less Wrong is very high. So if LW does accomplish something, it could very well be due to being smart rather than having read a bunch about rationality. (Sometimes I wonder if I like LW mainly because it seems to have so many smart people.)
3OrphanWilde8yI'm evil by some people's standards. You'll have to get a little bit more specific about what you think constitutes evil. From what I've seen, real evil tends to be petty. Most grand atrocities are committed by people who are simply incorrect about what the right thing to do is.
2shminux8yYou may follow HJPEV in calling world domination "world optimization", but running on some highly unreliable wetware means that grand projects tend to become evil despite best intentions, due to snowballing unforeseen ramifications. In other words, your approach seems to be lacking wisdom [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/gco/quantifying_wisdom/].
2jpaulson8yYou seem to be making a fully general argument against action.
1shminux8yAgainst any sweeping action without carefully considering and trying out incremental steps.

Greetings. I am Error.

I think I originally found the place through a comment link on ESR's blog. I'm a geek, a gamer, a sysadmin, and a hobbyist programmer. I hesitate to identify with the label "rationalist"; much like the traditional meaning of "hacker", it feels like something someone else should say of me, rather than something I should prematurely claim for myself.

I've been working through the Sequences for about a year, off and on. I'm now most of the way through Metaethics. It's been a slow but rewarding journey, and I think the best thing I've taken out of it is the ability to identify bogus thoughts as they happen. (Identifying is not always the same as correcting them, unfortunately) Another benefit, not specifically from the sequences but from link-chasing, is the realization that successful mental self-engineering is possible; I think the tipping point for me there was Alicorn's post about polyhacking. The realization inspired me to try and beat the tar out of my akrasia, and I've done fairly well so far.

My current interests center around "updating efficiently." I just turned 30; I burnt my 20s establishing a living instead of learning all... (read more)

2NancyLebovitz9yWelcome! It's acceptable and welcome to comment in the Sequences. The Recent Comments feature (link on the right sidebar, with distinct Recent Comments for the Main section and for the Discussion section) mean that there's a chance that new comments on old threads will get noticed.
2shokwave9yWelcome! Commenting on the Sequences isn't against any rules. You stand a chance of getting responses from who watch the Recent Comments. However, in Discussion [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/new/] you'll see [SEQ RERUN] posts (which are bringing up old posts in the Sequences in chronological order) that encourage comments on the rerun, not the original. If you happen to be reading a post that's been recently re-run, you might get a better response in the rerun thread.

Hey everyone,

As I continue to work through the sequences, I've decided to go ahead and join the forums here. A lot of the rationality material isn't conceptually new to me, although much of the language is very much so, and thus far I've found it to be exceptionally helpful to my thinking.

I'm a 24 year old video game developer, having worked on graphics on a particular big-name franchise for a couple years now. It's quite the interesting job, and is definitely one of the realms I find the heady, abstract rationality tools to be extremely helpful. Rationality is what it is, and that seems to be acknowledged here, a fact I'm quite grateful for.

When I'm not discussing the down-to-earth topics here, people may find I have a sometimes anxiety-ridden attachment to certain religious ideas. Religious discussion has been extremely normal for me throughout my life, so while the discussion doesn't make me uncomfortable, my inability to come to answers that I'm happy with does, and has caused me a bit of turmoil outside of discussion. Obviously there is much to say about this, and much people may like to say to me, but I'd like to first get through all the sequences, get all of my quest... (read more)

1Vaniver8yWelcome! Glad to see you here. :D

I've been commenting for a few months now, but never introduced myself in the prior Welcome threads. Here goes: Student, electrical engineering / physics (might switch to math this fall), female, DC area.

I encountered LW when I was first linked to Methods a couple years ago, but found the Sequences annoying and unilluminating (after having taken basic psych and stats courses). After meeting a couple of LWers in real life, including my now-boyfriend Roger (LessWrong is almost certainly a significant part of the reason we are dating, incidentally), I was motivated to go back and take a look, and found some things I'd missed: mostly, reductionism and the implications of having an Occam prior. This was surprising to me; after being brought up as an anti-religious nut, then becoming a meta-contrarian in order to rebel against my parents, I thought I had it all figured out, and was surprised to discover that I still had attachments to mysticism and agnosticism that didn't really make any sense.

My biggest instrumental rationality challenge these days seems to be figuring out what I really want out of life. Also, dealing with an out-of-control status obsession.

To cover some typical LW clus... (read more)

Hi, I'm Edward and have been reading the occasional article on here for a while. I've finally decided to officially join as this year I'm starting to do more work on my knowledge and education (especially maths & science) and I like the thoughtful community I see here. I'm a programmer, but also have a passion for history. Just as I was finishing university, my thinking led me to abandon the family religion (many of my friends are still theists). I was going to keep thinking and exploring ideas but I ended up just living - now I want to begin thinking again.

Regards, Edward

I'm Abd ul-Rahman Lomax, introducing myself. I have six grandchildren, from five biological children, and I have two adopted girls, age 11 from China, and age 9 from Ethiopia.

Born in 1944, Abd ul-Rahman is not my birth name, I accepted Islam in 1970. Not being willing to accept pale substitutes, I learned to read the Qur'an in Arabic by reading the Qur'an in Arabic.

Back to my teenage years, I was at Cal Tech for a couple of years, being in Richard P. Feynman's two years of undergraduate physics classes, the ones made into the textbook. I had Linus Pauling for freshman chemistry, as well. Both of them helped create how I think.

I left Cal Tech to pursue a realm other than "science," but was always interested in direct experience rather than becoming stuffed with tradition, though I later came to respect tradition (and memorization) far more than at the outset. I became a leader of a "spiritual community," and a successor to a well-known teacher, Samuel L. Lewis, but was led to pursue many other interests.

I delivered babies (starting with my own) and founded a school of midwifery that trained midwives for licensing in Arizona.

Self-taught, I started an electronics d... (read more)

9Nisan9yWelcome! That's a fascinating biography. I have been to one introductory Landmark seminar and wrote about the experience here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/5zh/the_landmark_forum_a_rationalists_first_impression/] .

Hello. I was brought here by HPMOR, which I finished reading today. Back in 1999 or something I found the site called sysopmind.com which had interesting reads on AI, Bayes theorem (that I didn't understand) and 12 virtues of rationality. I loved it for the beauty that reminded me of Asimov. I kept it in my bookmarks forever. (I knew him before he was famous? ;-))

I like SF (I have read many SF books but most were from before 1990 for some reason) and I'm a computer nerd, among other things. I want to learn everything, but I have a hard time putting in the work. I study to become a psychologist, scheduled to finish in 2013. My favorite area of psychology is social psychology, especially how humans make decisions, how humans are influenced by biases or norms or high status people. I'm married and have a daughter born in 2011.

I like to watch tv-shows, but I have high standards. It is SF if it is based in science and rationality, otherwise it's just space drama/space action and I have no patience for it. I also like psychological drama, but it has to be realistic and believable. Please give recommendations if you like. (edited:) Also, someone could explain in what way Star Trek, Babylon 5 or Battlestar Galactica is really SF or Buffy is feminist, so I know if they are worth my while.

1CCC9yOf those, the only one I've seen is Star Trek. They can be a bit handwavey about the science sometimes; I liked it, but if you're looking for hard science then you might not. As far as recommendations go, may I recommend the Chanur [http://www.tor.com/blogs/2009/10/treachery-to-species-cj-cherryhs-chanur-trilogy] series (books, not TV) by one C.J. Cherryh?
1Alejandro19yFor realistic psychological drama, I haven't seen any show that beats Mad Men.

I highly doubt that I'll be posting articles or even joining discussions anytime soon, since right now, I'm just getting started on reading the sequences and exploring other parts of the site, and don't feel prepared yet to get involved in discussions. However, I'll probably comment on things now and then, so because of that (and, honestly, just because I'm a very social person), I figured I might as well post an introduction here.

I appreciate the way that discussions are described as ending on here, because I've noticed in other debates that "tapping out" is seen as running away, and the main trait that gives me problems in my quest for rationality is that I'm inherently a competitive person, and get more caught up in the idea of "winning" than of improving my thinking. I'm working on this, but if I do get involved in discussions, the fact that they aren't seen as much as competitions here compared to other places should be helpful to me.

Anyway, I guess I'll introduce myself. I'm Alexandra, and I'm a seventeen year old high-school student in the United States (I applied to the camp in August, but I never received any news about it, so I assume that I wasn't acc... (read more)

2Bugmaster9yI'm not affiliated with SIAI or the summer camps in any way, but IMO this sounds like a breakdown somewhere in the organization's communication protocols. If I were you, I wouldn't just assume that I wasn't accepted, I would ask for an explanation.
1hannahelisabeth9yI like your description of yourself. You remind me a bit of myself, actually. I think I'd enjoy conversing with you. Though I have nothing on my mind at the moment that I feel like discussing. Hm, I kind of feel like my comment ought to have a bit more content than "you seem interesting" but that's really all I've got.

Hellow Lesswrong! (I posted this in the other July2012 welcome thread aswell. :P Though apparently it has too many comments at this point or something to that effect.)

My name is Ryan and I am a 22 year old technical artist in the Video Game industry. I recently graduated with honors from the Visual Effects program at Savannah College of Art and Design. For those who don't know much about the industry I am in, my skill set is somewhere between a software programmer, a 3D artist, and a video editor. I write code to create tools to speed up workflows for the 3D things I or others need to do to make a game, or cinematic.

Now I found lesswrong.com through the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality podcast. Up unto that point I had never heard of Rationalism as a current state of being... so far I greatly resonate with the goals and lessons that have come up in the podcast, and what I have seen about rationalism. I am excited to learn more.

I wouldn't go so far to claim the label for myself as of yet, as I don't know enough and I don't particularly like labels for the most part. I also know that I have several biases, I feel like I know the reasons and causes for most, but I have not ... (read more)

3Grognor9yI disagree with this claim. If you are capable of understanding concepts like the Generalized Anti-Zombie Principle [http://lesswrong.com/lw/p9/the_generalized_antizombie_principle/], you are more than capable of recognizing that there is no god and that that hypothesis wouldn't even be noticeable for a bounded intelligence unless a bunch of other people had already privileged [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Privileging_the_hypothesis] it thanks to anthropomorphism [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Anthropomorphism]. Also, please don't call what we do here, "rationalism". Call it "rationality". [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3rd/note_on_terminology_rationality_not_rationalism/]
2Emile9yWelcome to LessWrong! There are a few of us here in the Game Industry, and a few more that like making games in their free time. I also played around with Houdini, though never produced anything worth showing.


My name is Trent Fowler. I started leaning toward scientific and rational thinking while still a child, thanks in part to a variety of aphorisms my father was fond of saying. Things like "think for yourself" and "question your own beliefs" are too general to be very useful in particular circumstances, but were instrumental in fostering in me a skepticism and respect for good argument that has persisted all my life (I'm 23 as of this writing). These tools are what allowed me to abandon the religion I was brought up in as a child, and to eventually begin salvaging the bits of it that are worth salvaging. Like many atheists, when I first dropped religion I dropped every last thing associated with it. I've since grown to appreciate practices like meditation, ritual, and even outright mysticism as techniques which are valuable and pursuable in a secular context.

What I've just described is basically the rationality equivalent of lifting weights twice a week and going for a brisk walk in the mornings. It's great for a beginner, but anyone who sticks with it long enough will start to get a glimpse of what's achievable by systematizing training and ramping ... (read more)

I am Yan Zhang, a mathematics grad student specializing in combinatorics at MIT (and soon to work at UC Berkeley after graduation) and co-founder of Vivana.com. I was involved with building the first year of SPARC. There, I met many cool people at CFAR, for which I'm now a curicculum consultant.

I don't know much about LW but have liked some of the things I have read here; AnnaSalamon described me as a "street rationalist" because my own rationality principles are home-grown from a mix of other communities and hobbies. In that sense, I'm happy to step foot into this "mainstream dojo" and learn your language.

Recently Anna suggested I may want to cross-post something I wrote to LW and I've always wanted to get to know the community better, so this is the first step, I suppose. I look forward to learning from all of you.

2Qiaochu_Yuan8yWelcome! It's good to see you here.


My name is Hannah. I'm an American living in Oslo, Norway (my husband is Norwegian). I am 24 (soon to be 25) years old. I am currently unemployed, but I have a bachelor's degree in Psychology from Truman State University. My intention is to find a job working at a day care, at least until I have children of my own. When that happens, I intend to be a stay-at-home mother and homeschool my children. Anything beyond that is too far into the future to be worth trying to figure out at this point in my life.

I was referred to LessWrong by some German guy on OkCupid. I don't know his name or who he is or anything about him, really, and I don't know why he messaged me randomly. I suppose something in my profile seemed to indicate that I might like it here or might already be familiar with it, and that sparked his interest. I really can't say. I just got a message asking if I was familiar with LessWrong or Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (which I was not), and if so, what I thought of them. So I decided to check them out. I thought the HP fanfiction was excellent, and I've been reading through some of the major series here for the past week or so. At one point I had a comment ... (read more)

2Morendil9yWelcome here!
[-][anonymous]9y 15

Hello LW,

Last Thursday, I was asked by User:rocurley if, in his absence, I wanted to organize a hiking event (originally my idea) for this week's DC metro area meetup, during which I discovered I could not make posts, etc. here because I had zero karma. I chose to cancel the meetup on account of weather. I had registered my account previously, but realizing that I might have need to post here in the future, and that I had next to nothing to lose, I have decided to introduce myself finally.

I discovered LW through HPMOR, through Tvtropes, I believe. I've read some LW articles, but not others. Areas of interest include sciences (I have a BS in physics), psychology, personality disorders, some areas of philosophy, reading, and generally learning new things. One of my favorite books (if not /the/ favorite) is Godel, Escher, Bach, which I read for the first (and certainly not last) time while I was in college, 5+ years ago.

I'm extremely introverted, and I am aware that I have certain anxiety issues; while rationality has not helped with the actual feeling of anxiety, it has allowed me to push through it, in some cases.

2Vaniver9yWelcome! Specific! :P Which is the most interesting one you've read so far? We might have recommendations of similar ones that you would like. So, I found my introversion much easier to manage when I started scheduling time by myself to recharge, and scheduling infrequent social events to make sure I didn't get into too much of a cave. It had been easy to get overwhelmed with social events near each other if I didn't have something on my calendar reminding me "you'll want to read a book by yourself for a few hours before you go to another event." That sort of thing might be helpful to consider.
2[anonymous]9ySome of my favorite articles, off the top of my head (and a bit of browsing) : * A Fable of Science and Politics [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gt/a_fable_of_science_and_politics] * Explain, Worship, Ignore [http://lesswrong.com/lw/j2/explainworshipignore] - I am, as of now, something of a naturalistic pantheist [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_pantheism] / pandeist [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandeism]; if you've heard Carl Sagan or Neil Degrasse Tyson speak on the wonder that is the existence of the universe, it's something like that. Unlike what is written in the linked article, however, I'm not convinced that the initial singularity, or whatever cause the Big Bang might have, can be explained by science. (Is it even meaningful to ask questions about what is outside the universe?) * Belief in Belief [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i4/belief_in_belief] * Avoiding Your Belief's Real Weak Points [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jy/avoiding_your_beliefs_real_weak_points] * The 'Outside the Box' Box [http://lesswrong.com/lw/k6/the_outside_the_box_box] - How much of my belief system is actually a result of my own thinking, as opposed to a result of culture, society, etc? Granted, sometimes collective wisdom is better than what one might come up with by oneself, but not always... I have Meetup.com to organize and schedule social events, and of course there's the LW meetups. I get plenty of alone time, so that isn't really a problem for me. (Some minutes of thinking later) The particular issues aren't something I can accurately put into words, but they're something like 'active avoidance of (perceived) excessive attention or expectations, either positive or negative' and 'fear of exposing "personal" info I'd rather not share, and of any negative consequences that might result'. Perhaps not surprisingly, I greatly prefer internet or written "non-personal" communication over verbal communication.

I got into a community of intelligent, creative free-thinkers by reading fan fiction of all things.

You know the one.

Anyway, my knowledge of what is collectively referred to as Rationality is slim. I read the first 6 pages of The Sequences, felt like I was cheating on a test, and stopped. I'll try to make up for it with some of the most unnecessarily theatrical and hammy writing I can get away with.

I love word play, and over the course of a year I offered (as a way of apology) to owe my friend a quarter for every time I improvised a pun or awful joke mid-conversation, by the end of which I could have bought a dinner for him at Pizza Delight- I didn't. It's on my to-do list to compile all the wises that Carlos Ramon ever cracked on The Magic School Bus and put it on you tube, because no one else has and it needs to be done, damn it. As you can tell, I sometimes write for it's own sake, sort of a literary hedonist if you will. But all good things must come to an end...

My greatest principle is that a person's course in life is governed by their reaction to their circumstance, and that nothing at all is of certainty. The nature of the human mind is a process which our current metaphors... (read more)

Hello. I am from Istanbul, Turkey (A Turkish Citizen born and raised). I came across LessWrong on a popular Turkish website called EkşiSözlük. Since then, this is the place I checked to see what's new when there's nothing worth reading on Google Reader and I have time. (So long posts you have!)

I am 31 years old and I have a BSc in Computer Science and MSc in Computational Sciences (Research on Bioinformatics). But then, like most of the people in my country does, I've landed upon a job where I can't utilize any of these information. Information Security :)

Why did I complain about my job? Here is why:

I've been long since looking for "the best way to have lived a life". What I mean by this is, I have to say, at the moment of death "I lived my life the best way I could, and I can die blissfully". This may come off a bit cliché but bear in mind that I'm relatively new to this rationality thing.

While I was learning Computer Science for the first time, I saw there was great opportunity in relating computational sciences to social sciences so as to understand inner workings of human beings. This I realised when the Law&Ethics instructor asked us to write an essay o... (read more)

5NancyLebovitz9yHowever, you can estimate how long you will live with fairly good accuracy. If you know you're very likely to live for some decades more, then I think it makes sense to optimize around the estimate rather than for the very small possibility that you'll be dead in the next hour.
3NotInventedHere9yThis is an extremely belated reply, but with regards to The Fun Theory and Metaethics sequences helped me through my personal period of existential angst. The two most immediately helpful posts I would recommend for someone like you are Joy in The Merely Real [http://lesswrong.com/lw/or/joy_in_the_merely_real/] and Joy in the Merely Good [http://lesswrong.com/lw/sx/inseparably_right_or_joy_in_the_merely_good/].
[-][anonymous]8y 14

Hello. I've read sequence articles and discussion off this website for a while now. Been hesitant to join before because I like to keep my identity small but recently realized that being able to talk to others about topics on this site will make me more effective at reaching my goals.

Armchairs are very comfortable and I'm having some mental difficulty putting the effort into the practice of achieving set goals. It's very hard to actually do stuff and easy to just read about interesting topics without engaging.

I'm interested more in meta-ethics than in physics, more in decision theory than practical AI. My first comments will likely be in the sequences or in discussion comments of a few specific natures.

This should be fun, I look forward to talking with you. Ask me any questions that arouse your curiosity.

The browsing experience with Kibitzing off is strange but not unpleasant. How long did it take for you to get accustomed to it?

Hi, I'm Liz.

I'm a senior at a college in the US, soon to graduate with a double major in physics and economics, and then (hopefully) pursue a PhD in economics. I like computer science and math too. I'm hoping to do research in economic development, but more relevantly to LW, I'm pretty interested in behavioral economics and in econometrics (statistics). Out of the uncommon beliefs I hold, the one that most affects my life is that since I can greatly help others at a small cost to myself, I should; I donate whatever extra money I have to charity, although it's not much. (see givingwhatwecan.org)

I think I started behaving as a rationalist (without that word) when I became an atheist near the end of high school. But to rewind...

I was raised Christian, but Christianity was always more of a miserable duty than a comfort to me. I disliked the music and the long services and the awkward social interactions. I became an atheist for no good reason in the beginning of high school, but being an atheist was terrible. There was no one to forgive me when I screwed up, or pray to when the world was unbearably awful. My lack of faith made my father sad. Then, lying in bed and angsting about free ... (read more)

3John_Maxwell8yWelcome to LW. Also not an expert on Newcomb's Problem, but I'm a one-boxer because I choose to have part of my brain say that I'm a one-boxer, and have that part of my brain influence my behavior if I get in to a Newcomb-like situation. Does that make any sense? Basically, I'm choosing to modify my decision algorithm so I no longer maximize expected value because I think having this other algorithm will get me better results.

I'm Mike Johnson. I'd estimate I come across a reference to LW from trustworthy sources every couple of weeks, and after working my way through the sequences it feels like the good outweighs the bad and it's worth investing time into.

My background is in philosophy, evolution, and neural nets for market prediction; I presently write, consult, and am in an early-stage tech startup. Perhaps my highwater mark in community exposure has been a critique of the word Transhumanist at Accelerating Future. In the following years, my experience has been more mixed, but I appreciate the topics and tools being developed even if the community seems a tad insular. If I had to wear some established thinkers on my sleeve I'd choose Paul Graham, Lawrence Lessig, Steve Sailer, Gregory Cochran, Roy Baumeister, and Peter Thiel. (I originally had a comment here about having an irrational attraction toward humility, but on second thought, that might rule out Gregory "If I have seen farther than others, it's because I'm knee-deep in dwarves" Cochran… Hmm.)

Cards-on-the-table, it's my impression that

(1) Lesswrong and SIAI are doing cool things that aren't being done anywhere else (this is not faint... (read more)

5TheOtherDave9yFWIW, I find your unvarnished thoughts, and the cogency with which you articulate them, refreshing. (The thoughts aren't especially novel, but the cogency is.) In particular, I'm interested in your thoughts on what benefits a greater focus on biologically inspired AGI might provide that a distaste for it would limit LW from concluding/achieving.

Hello everyone, Like many people, I come to this site via an interest in transhumanism, although it seems unlikely to me that FAI implementing CEV can actually be designed before the singularity (I can explain why, and possibly even what could be done instead, but it suddenly occurred to me that it seems presumptuous of me to criticize a theory put forward by very smart people when I only have 1 karma...).

Oddly enough, I am not interested in improving epistemic rationality right now, partially because I am already quite good at it. But more than that, I am trying to switch it off when talking to other people, for the simple reason (and I'm sure this has already been pointed out before) that if you compare three people, one who estimates the probability of an event at 110%, one who estimates it at 90%, and one who compensates for overconfidence bias and estimates it at 65%, the first two will win friends and influence people, while the third will seem indecisive (unless they are talking to other rationalists). I think I am borderline asperger's (again, like many people here) and optimizing social skills probably takes precedence over most other things.

I am currently doing a PhD in ... (read more)

I am not interested in improving epistemic rationality right now, partially because I am already quite good at it.

But remember that it's not just your own rationality that benefits you.

it seems presumptuous of me to criticize a theory put forward by very smart people when I only have 1 karma

Presume away. Karma doesn't win arguments, arguments win karma.

2wedrifid9yMany here would agree with you. (And, for instance, consider a ~10% chance of success better than near certain extinction.)

Hi! Given how much time I've spent reading this site and its relatives, this post is overdue.

I'm 35, male, British and London-based, with a professional background in IT. I was raised Catholic, but when I was about 12, I had a de-conversion experience while in church. I remember leaving the pew during mass to go to the toilet, then walking back down the aisle during the eucharist, watching the priest moving stuff around the altar. It suddenly struck me as weird that so many people had gathered to watch a man in a funny dress pour stuff from one cup to another. So I identified as atheist or humanist for a long time. I can't remember any incident that made me start to identify as a rationalist, but I've been increasingly interested in evidence, biases and knowledge for over ten years now.

I've been lucky, I think, to have some breadth in my education: I studied Physics & Philosophy as an undergrad, Computer Science as a postgrad, and more recently rounded that off with an MBA. This gives me a handy toolset for approaching new problems, I think. I definitely want to learn more statistics though - it feels like there's a big gap in the arsenal.

There are a few stand-out things I have... (read more)

[-][anonymous]8y 13


21-year old transgender-neither. I spent 13 years enveloped by Mormon culture and ideology, growing up in a sheltered environment. Then, everything changed when the Fire nation attacked.

Woops. Off-track.

I want my actions to matter, not from others remembering them but from me being alive to remember them . In simpler terms, I want to live for a long time - maybe forever. Death should be a choice, not an unchanging eventuality.

But I don't know where to start; I feel overwhelmed by all the things I need to learn.

So I've come here. I'm reading the sequences and trying to get a better grasp on thinking rationally, etc., but was hoping to get pointers from the more experienced.

What is needed right now? I want to do what I can to help not only myself, but those whose paths I cross.


6Alicorn8yIs this the same thing as "agender"? <3!!
1[anonymous]8yYes, it's the same. Transgender-neither sounds better to me, though, so I used that term. But if I find that agender is more accessible I'll switch. And yep, I'm an Avatar the Last Airbender junkie. :)
4Nisan8yWelcome! Have you considered signing up for cryonics?
2[anonymous]8yAside from the occasional X-files episode and science fiction reading, I don't know much about cryonics. I considered it as a possibility but dislike that it means I'm 'in suspense' while the world is continuing on without me. I want to be an active participant! :D
3shminux8yCertainly, but when you no longer can be, it's nice to have an option of becoming one again some day.
4EHeller8yOption might be too strong a word. Its nice to have the vanishingly-small possibility. I think its important for transhumanists to remind ourselves that cryonics is unlikely to actually work, its just the only hail-mary available.
4Error8yI think it might be important to remind others of that too, when discussing the subject. Especially for people who are signed up but have a skeptical social circle, "this seems like the least-bad of a set of bad options" may be easier for them to swallow than "I believe I'm going to wake up one day."
2Eliezer Yudkowsky8yFar as I can tell, the basic tech in cryonics should basically work. Storage organizations are uncertain and so is the survival of the planet. But if we're told that the basic cryonics tech didn't work, we've learned some new fact of neuroscience unknown to present-day knowledge. Don't assign vanishingly small probabilities to things just because they sound weird, or it sounds less likely to get funny looks if you can say that it's just a tiny chance. That is not how 'probability' works. Probabilities of basic cryonics tech working are questions of neuroscience, full stop; if you know the basic tech has a tiny probability of working, you must know something about current vitrification solutions or the operation of long-term memory which I do not.
7Kawoomba8yI'd say full speed ahead, Cap'n. Basic cryonics tech working - while being a sine qua non - isn't the ultimate question for people signing up for cryonics. It's just a term in the probability calculation for the actual goal: "Will I be revived (in some form that would be recognizable to my current self as myself)?" (You've mentioned that in the parent comment, but it deserves more than a passing remark.) And that most decidedly requires a host of complex assumptions, such as "an agent / a group of agents will have an interest in expending resources into reviving a group of frozen old-version homo sapiens, without any enhancements, me among them", "the future agents' goals cannot be served merely by reading my memory engrams, then using them as a database, without granting personhood", "there won't be so many cryo-patients at a future point (once it catches on with better tech) that thawing all of them would be infeasible, or disallowed", not to mention my favorite "I won't be instantly integrated into some hivemind in which I lose all traces of my individuality". What we're all hoping for, of course, is for a benevolent super-current-human agent - e.g. an FAI - to care enough about us to solve all the technical issues and grant us back our agent-hood. By construction at least in your case the advent of such an FAI would be after your passing (you wouldn't be frozen otherwise). That means that you (of all people) would also need to qualify the most promising scenario "there will be a friendly AI to do it" with "and it will have been successfully implemented by someone other than me". Also, with current tech not only would true x-risks preclude you from ever being revived, even non x-risk catastrophic events (partial civilizatory collapse due to Malthusian dynamics etc.) could easily destroy the facility you're held in, or take away anyone's incentive to maintain it. (TW: That's not even taking into account Siam the Star Shredder.) I'm trying to avoid motivated co
6EHeller8yI actually am signed up for cryonics. My issue with the basic tech is that liquid nitrogen, while a cheap storage method, is too cold to avoid fracturing. Experience with imaging systems leads me to believe that fractures will interfere with reconstructions of the brain's geometry, and cryoprotectants obviously destroy chemical information. Now, it seems likely to me that at some point in the future the fracturing problem can be solved, or at least mitigated, by intermediate temperature storing and careful cooling processes, but that won't fix the bodies frozen today. So I don't doubt that (barring large neuroscience related, unquantifiable uncertainty) cryonics may improve to the point where the tech is likely to work (or be supplanted by plastination methods,etc), it is not there now, and what matters for people frozen today is the state of cryonics today. Saying there are no fundamental scientific barriers to the tech working is not the same thing as saying the hard work of engineering has been done and the tech currently works. Edit: I also have a weak prior that the chemical information in the brain is important, but it is weak.
9Eliezer Yudkowsky8ySince this is the key point of neuroscience, do you want to expand on it? What experience with imaging leads you to believe that fractures (of incompletely vitrified cells) will implement many-to-one mappings of molecular start states onto molecular end states in a way that overlaps between functionally relevant brain states? What chemical information is obviously destroyed and is it a type that could plausibly play a role in long-term memory?
3shminux8y"many-to-one mappings of molecular start states onto molecular end states in a way that overlaps between functionally relevant brain states" is probably too restrictive. I would use "possibly functionally different, but subjectively acceptably close brain states".
3EHeller8yThe cryoprotectants are toxic, they will damage proteins (misfolds, etc) and distort relative concentrations throughout the cell. This information is irretrievable once the damage is done. This is what I refereed to when I said obviously destroyed chemical information. It is our hope that such information is unimportant, but my (as I said above fairly uncertain) prior would be that the synaptic protein structures are probably important. My prior is so weak because I am not an expert on biochemistry or neuroscience. As to the physical fracture, very detailed imaging would have to be done on either side of the fracture in order to match the sides back up, and this is related to a problem I do have some experience with. I'm familiar with attempts to use synchrotron radiation to image protein structures, which has a percolation problem- you are damaging what you are trying to image while you image it. If you have lots of copies of what you want to image, this is a solvable problem, but with only one original you are going to lose information. Edit: in regards to the first point, kalla724 makes the same point with much more relevant expertise in this thread http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/8f4/neil_degrasse_tyson_on_cryogenics/ [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/8f4/neil_degrasse_tyson_on_cryogenics/] His experience working with synapses leads him to a much stronger estimate that cryoprotectants cause irreversible damage. I may strengthen my prior a bit.
7Eliezer Yudkowsky8yHow do you know? I'm not asking for some burden of infinite proof where you have to prove that the info can't be stored elsewhere. I am asking whether you know that widely functionally different start states are being mapped onto an overlapping spread of molecularly identical end states, and if so, how. E.g., "denaturing either conformation A or conformation B will both result in denatured conformation C and the A-vs.-B distinction is just a little twist of this spatially isolated thingy here so you wouldn't expect it to be echoed in any exact nearby positions of blah" or something.
6EHeller8ySo what I'm thinking about is something like this: imagine an enzyme,present at two sites on the membrane and regulated by an inhibitor. Now a toxin comes along and breaks the weak bonds to the inhibitor, stripping them off. Information about which site was inhibited is gone. If the inhibitor has some further chemical involvement with the toxin, or if the toxin pops the enzymes off the membrane all together you have more problems. You might not know how many enzymes were inhibited, which sites were occupied, or which were inhibited. I could also imagine more exotic cases where a toxin induces a folding change in one protein, which allows it to accept a regulator molecule meant for a different protein. Now to figure out our system we'd need to scan at significantly smaller scales to try to discern those regulator molecules. I don't have the expertise to estimate if this is likely. To reiterate, I am not by any means a neuroscientist (my training is physics and my work is statistics), so its possible this sort of information just isn't that important, but my suspicion is that it is. Edited to fix an embarrassing except/accept mistake.
7Eliezer Yudkowsky8y(Scanning at significantly smaller scales should always be assumed to be fine as long as end states are distinguishable up to thermal noise!) Okay, I agree that if this takes place at a temperature where molecules are still diffusing at a rapid pace and there's no molecular sign of the broken bond at the bonding site, then it sounds like info could be permanently destroyed in this way. Now why would you think this was likely with vitrification solutions currently used? Is there an intuition here about ranges of chemical interaction so wide that many interactions are likely to occur which break such bonds and at least one such interaction is likely to destroy functionally critical non-duplicated info? If so, should we toss out vitrification and go back to dropping the head in liquid nitrogen because shear damage from ice freezing will produce fewer many-to-one mappings than introducing a foreign chemical into the brain? I express some surprise because if destructive chemical interactions were that common with each new chemical introduced then the problem of having a whole cell not self-destruct should be computationally unsolvable for natural selection, unless the chemicals used in vitrification are unusually bad somehow.
3EHeller8yThis has some problems- fundamentally the length scale probed is inversely proportional to the energy required, which means increasing the resolution increases the damage done by scanning. You start getting into issues of 'how much of this can I scan before I've totally destroyed this?' which is a sort of percolation problem (how many amino acids can I randomly knock out of a protein before it collapses or rebonds into a different protein?), so scanning at resolutions with energy equivalent above peptide bonds is very problematic. Assuming peptide bond strength of a couple kj/mol, I get lower-limit length scales of a few microns (this is rough, and I'd appreciate if someone would double check). The vitrification solutions currently used are know to be toxic, and are used at very high concentrations, so some of this sort of damage will occur. I don't know enough biochemistry to say anything else with any kind of definitety, but on the previous thread kalla724 seemed to have some domain specific knowledge and thought the problem would be severe. No, not at all. The vitrification damage is orders of magnitude less. Destroying a few multi-unit proteins and removing some inhibitors seems much better than totally destroying the cell-membrane (which has many of the same "which sites were these guys attached to?" problems). Its my (limited) understanding that the cell membrane exist to largely solve this problem. Also, introducing tiny bits of toxins here and there causes small amounts of damage but the cell could probably survive. Putting the cell in a toxic environment will inevitably kill it. The concentration matters. But here I'm stepping way outside anything I know about.
6Eliezer Yudkowsky8yWe seem to have very different assumptions here. I am assuming you can get up to the molecule and gently wave a tiny molecular probe in its direction, if required. I am not assuming that you are trying to use high-energy photons to photograph it. You also still seem to be use a lot of functional-damage words like "destroying" which is why I don't trust your or kalla724's intuitions relative to the intuitions of other scientists with domain knowledge of neuroscience who use the language of information theory when assessing cryonic feasibility. If somebody is thinking in terms of functional damage (it doesn't restart when you reboot it, oh my gosh we changed the conformation look at that damage it can't play its functional role in the cell anymore!) then their intuitions don't bear very well on the real question of many-to-one mapping. What does the vitrification solution actually do that's supposed to irreversibly map things, does anyone actually know? The fact that a cell can survive with a membrane, at all, considering the many different molecules inside it, imply that most molecules don't functionally damage most other molecules most of the time, never mind performing irreversible mappings on them. But then this is reasoning over molecules that may be of a different type then vitrificants. At the opposite extreme, I'd expect introducing hydrochloric acid into the brain to be quite destructive.
3EHeller8yHow are you imaging this works? I'm aware of chemistry that would allow you to say there are X whatever proteins, and Y such-and-such enzymes,etc, but such chemical processes I don't think are good enough for the sort of geometric reconstruction needed. Its not obvious to me that a molecular probe of the type you imagine can exist. What exactly is it measuring and how is it sensitive to it? Is it some sort of enzyme? Do we thaw the brain and then introduce these probes in solution? Do we somehow pulp the cell and run the constituents through a nanopore type thing and try to measure charge? I would love to be convinced I am overly pessimistic, and pointing me in the direction of biochemists/neuroscientists/biophysicists who disagree with me would be welcome. I only know a few biophysicists and they are generally more pessimistic than I am. I know ethylene glycol is cytotoxic, and so interacts with membrane proteins, but I don't know the mechanism.

I'll quickly point you at Drexler's Nanosystems and Freitas's Nanomedicine though they're rather long and technical reads. But we are visualizing molecularly specified machines, and 'hell no' to thawing first or pulping the cell. Seriously, this kind of background assumption is why I have to ask a lot of questions instead of just taking this sort of skeptical intuition at face value.

But rather than having to read through either of those sources, I would ask you to just take on assumption that two molecularly distinct (up to thermal noise) configurations will somehow be distinguishable by sufficiently advanced technology, and describe what your intuitions (and reasons) would be taking that premise at face value. It's not your job to be a physicist or to try to describe the theoretical limits of future technology, except of course that two systems physically identical up to thermal noise can be assumed to be technologically indistinguishable, and since thermal noise is much larger than exact quark positions it will not be possible to read off any subtle neural info by looking at exact quark positions (now that might be permanently impossible), etc. Aside from that I would encoura... (read more)

4EHeller8yDo you have a page number in Nanosystems for a references to a sensing probe? Also, this is tangential to the main discussion, so I'll take pointers to any reference you have and let this drop. I was using cytotoxic in the very specific sense of "interacts and destabilizes the cell membrane," which is doing the sort of operations we agreed in principle can be irreversible. Estimates as to how important this sort of information actually is are impossible for me to make, as I lack the background. What I would love to see is someone with some domain specific knowledge explaining why this isn't an issue.
2orthonormal8yNanotechnology, not chemical analysis. Drexler's Engines of Creation [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engines_of_Creation] contains a section on the feasibility of repairing molecular damage in this way. Since (if our current understanding holds) nanobots can be functional on a smaller scale than proteins (which are massive chunks held together Lego-style by van der Walls forces), they can be introduced within a cell membrane to probe, report on, and repair damaged proteins.
6Nisan8yDo you think it's at all likely that the connectome can be recovered after fracturing by "matching up" the structure on either side of the fracture?
5shminux8yIs this your true objection? What potential discovery in neuroscience would cause you to abandon cryonics and actively look for other ways to preserve your identity beyond the natural human lifespan? (This is a standard question one asks a believer to determine whether the belief in question is rational -- what evidence would make you stop believing?)

Anders Sandberg who does get the concept of sufficiently advanced technology posts saying, "Shit, turns out LTM seems to depend really heavily on whether protein blah has conformation A and B and the vitrification solution denatures it to C and it's spatially isolated so there's no way we're getting the info back, it's possible something unknown embodies redundant information but this seems really ubiquitous and basic so the default assumption is that everyone vitrified is dead". Although, hm, in this case I'd just be like, "Okay, back to chopping off the head and dropping it in a bucket of liquid nitrogen, don't use that particular vitrification solution". I can't think offhand of a simple discovery which would imply literally giving up on cryonics in the sense of "Just give up you can't figure out how to freeze people ever." I can certainly think of bad news for particular techniques, though.

2shminux8yOK. More instrumentally, then. What evidence would make you stop paying the cryo insurance premiums with CI as the beneficiary and start looking for alternatives?
5Eliezer Yudkowsky8yAnders publishes that, CI announces they intend to go on vitrifying patients anyway, Alcor offers a chop-off-your-head-and-dunk-in-liquid-nitro solution. Not super plausible but it's off the top of my head.
6shminux8yNo pun intended?

Personally, I would be very impressed if anyone could demonstrate memory loss in a cryopreserved and then revived organism, like a bunch of C. elegans losing their maze-running memories. They're very simple, robust organisms, it's a large crude memory, the vitrification process ought to work far better on them than a human brain, and if their memories can't survive, that'd be huge evidence against anything sensible coming out of vitrified human brains no matter how much nanotech scanning is done (and needless to say, such scanning or emulation methods can and will be tested on a tiny worm with a small fixed set of neurons long before they can be used on anything approaching a human brain). It says a lot about how poorly funded cryonics research is that no one has done this or something similar as far as I know.

2shminux8yHmm, I wonder how much has been done on figuring out the memory storage in this organism. Like, if you knock out a few neurons or maybe synapses, how much does it forget?
2gwern8ySince it's C. elegans, I assume the answer is 'a ton of work has been done', but I'm too tired right now to go look or read more medical/biological papers.
4wedrifid8yHe's kind of been working on that for a while now. (I suppose that works either as "subvert the natural human lifespan entirely through creating FAI" or "preserve his identity for time immemorial in the form of 'Harry-Stu' fanfiction" depending on how cynical one is feeling.)
2orthonormal8yIn my case, to name one contingency: if the NEMALOAD Project [http://nemaload.davidad.org/] finds that analysis of relatively large cellular structures doesn't suffice to predict neuronal activity, and concludes that the activity of individual molecules is essential to the process, then I'd become significantly more worried about EHeller's objection and redo the cost-benefit calculation I did before signing up for cryonics. (It came out in favor, using my best-guess probability of success between 1 and 5 percent; but it wouldn't have trumped the cost at, say, 0.1%.) To name another: if the BPF [http://brainpreservation.org/content/technology-prize] shows that cryopreservation makes a hash of synaptic connections, I'd explicitly re-do the cost-benefit calculation as well.
3Dreaded_Anomaly8yHave you seen the comments by kalla724 [http://lesswrong.com/user/kalla724/overview/] in this thread [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/8f4/neil_degrasse_tyson_on_cryogenics/]? Edit: There's some further discussion here [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/d4a/brief_response_to_kalla724_on_preserving_personal/] .
2Error8yIt seems to me that they're also questions of engineering feasibility. A thing can be provably possible and yet unfeasibly difficult to implement in reality. Consider the difference between, say, adding salt to water and getting it out again. What if the difference in cost and engineering difficulty between vitrifying and successfully de-vitrifying is similar? What if it turns out to be ten orders of magnitude greater? I think the most likely failure condition for cryonics tech (as opposed to cyronics organizations) isn't going to be that revival turns out to be impossible, but that revival turns out to be so unbelievably hard or expensive that it's never feasible to actually do. If it's physically and information-theoretically allowed to revive a person, but technologically impractical (even with Sufficiently Advanced Science), then its theoretical possibility doesn't help the dead much. I have the same concern about unbounded life extension, actually; but I find success in that area more probable for some reason. (personal disclosure: I'm not signed up for cryonics, but I don't give funny looks to people who are. Their screws seem a bit loose but they're threaded in the right direction. That's more than one can say for most of the world.)

The Babyeaters' babies outnumber the adults; their situation is analogous, not to the city of Omelas, but to a utopian city built on top of another, even larger, dystopian city, on which it relies for its existence.

I would rather live in a society where people loved and cherished their children, but also valued their society, and were willing to shut up and multiply and take the hit themselves, or to their own loved ones, for the sake of a common good that really is that much greater, and I want to be the sort of person I'd want others in that society to be.

I've never had children, but I have been in love, in a reciprocated relationship of the sort where it feels like it's actually as big a deal as all the love songs have ever made it out to be, and I think that sacrificing someone I loved for the sake of a city like Omelas is something I'd be willing to do in practice, not just in theory (and she never would have expected me to do differently, nor would I of her.) It's definitely not the case that really loving someone, with true depth of feeling, precludes acknowledgment that there are some things worth sacrificing even that bond for.

My name is Itai Bar-Natan. I have been lurking here for a long time, more recently I start posting some things, but only now do I formally introduce myself.

I am in grade 11, and I began reading less wrong at grade 8 (introduced by Scott Aaronson's blog). I am a former math prodigy, and am currently taking one graduate-level course in it. This is the first time I am learning math under the school system (although I not the first time I attended math classes under the school system). Before that, I would learn from my parents, who are both mathematicians, or (later on) from books and internet articles.

Heedless of Feynman, I believe I understand quantum mechanics.

One weakness I am working to improve on is the inability to write in large quantities.

I have a blog here: http://itaibn.wordpress.com/

I consider less wrong as a fun time-waster and a community which is relatively sane.

5BerryPick68yAre you, by any chance, related to Dror?
7itaibn08yYes, I am his son.
4wedrifid8yGive her to Headless Feyn-man! [http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2103]

My interpretation is "evidence that was not obtained in the service of a particular bottom line."

I'm Robby Oliphant. I started a few months ago reading HP:MoR, which led me to the Sequences, which led me here about two weeks ago. So far I have read comments and discussions solely as a spectator. But finally, after developing my understanding and beginning on the path set forth by the sequences, I remain silent no more.

I am fresh out of high school, excited about life and plan to become a teacher, eventually. My short-term plans involve going out and doing missionary work for my church for the next two years. When I came head on against the problem of being a rationalist and a missionary for a theology, I took a step back and had a crisis of belief, not the first time, but this time I followed the prescribed method and came to a modified conclusion, though I still find it rational and advantageous to serve my 2 year mission.

I find some of this difficult, some of this intuitive and some of this neither difficult or intuitive, which is extremely frustrating, how something can appears simple but defy my efforts to intuitively work it. I will continue to work at it because rationality seems to be praiseworthy and useful. I hope to find the best evidence about theology here. I don't mean evidence for or against, just the evidence about the subject.

3olibain8yHahaha! I find it heartening that that is your response to me wanting to be a teacher. I am quite aware that the system is broken. My personal way of explaining it: The school system works for what it was made to work for; avoiding responsibility for a failed product. * The parents are not responsible; the school taught their kids. * The students are not socially responsible; everything was compulsory, they had no choice to make. * Teachers are not to blame; they teach what they are told to teach and have the autonomy of a pre-AI computer intelligence. * The administrators are not to blame; They are not the students' parents or teachers. * The faceless, nameless committees that set the curriculum are not responsible, they formed then separated after setting forth the unavoidably terrible standards for all students of an arbitrary age everywhere. So the product fails but everyone did they're best. No nails stick out, no one gets hammered. I have high dreams of being the educator that takes down public education. If a teacher comes up with a new way of teaching or an important thing to teach, he can go to class the next day and test it. I have a hope of professional teachers; either trusted with the autonomy of being professionals, or actual professionals in their subject, teaching only those that want to learn. Also the literature on Mormons fromDesrtopa [http://lesswrong.com/user/Desrtopa/overview/], Ford [http://lesswrong.com/user/Ford/overview/] and Nisan [http://lesswrong.com/user/Nisan/overview/] I am thankful for. I enjoyed the Mormonism organizational post because I have also noticed how well the church runs. It is one reason I stay a Latter-Day Saint in this time of Atheism mainstreaming. The church is winning, it is well organized, service and family-oriented, and supports me as I study rationality and education. I can give examples, but I will leave my deeper insights for my future posts;
2Bugmaster8yI would be quite interested to see a more detailed post regarding that last part. Of course, I am just some random guy on the Internet, but still :-)
2Desrtopa8yI don't think you'll find much discussion of theology here, since in these parts religion is generally treated as an open and shut case. The archives of Luke Muelhauser's blog, Common Sense Atheism, are probably a much more abundant resource for rational analysis of theology; it documents his (fairly extensive) research into theological matters stemming from his own crisis of faith, starting before he became an atheist. Obviously, the name of the site is rather a giveaway as to the ultimate conclusion that he drew (I would have named it differently in his place,) and the foregone conclusion might be a bit mindkilling, but I think the contents will probably be a fair approximation of the position of most of the community here on religious theological matters, made more explicit than they generally are on Less Wrong.
2shminux8yI would love to hear more details, both about the process and about the conclusion, if you are brave/foolish enough to share.
1Epiphany8yI appreciate your altruistic spirit and your goal of gathering objective evidence regarding your religion. I'm glad to see you beginning on the path of improving your rationality! If you haven't encountered the term "effective altruist" yet or have not yet investigated the effective altruist organizations, I very much encourage you to investigate them! As a fellow altruistic rationalist, I can say that they've been inspiring to me and hope they're inspiring to you as well. I feel it necessary to inform you of something important yet unfortunate about your goal of becoming a teacher. I'm not happy to have to tell you this, but I am quite glad that somebody told you about it at the beginning of your adulthood: The school system is broken in a serious way. The problem is with the fundamental system, so it's not something teachers can compensate for. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/eic/how_about_testing_our_ideas/7hq1] If you wish to investigate alternatives to becoming a standard school teacher, I would highly recommend considering becoming involved with effective altruists. An organization like THINK [http://www.thehighimpactnetwork.org/] or 80,000 hours [http://80000hours.org/] may be very helpful to you in determining what sorts of effective and altruistic things you might do with your skills. THINK does training for effective altruists and helps them figure out what to do with themselves. 80,000 hours helps people figure out how to make the most altruistic contribution with careers they already have. For information regarding religion, I recommend the blog of a former Christian (Luke Muehlhauser) as an addition to your reading list. That is here: Common Sense Atheism [http://commonsenseatheism.com/]. I recommend this in particular because he completed the process you've started - the process of reviewing Christian beliefs - so Luke's writing may be able to save you significant time and provide you with information you may not encounter in other sources. Also, due to t

I'm here to make one public prediction that I want to be as widely-read as possible. I'm here to predict publicly that the apparent increase in autism prevalence is over. It's important to predict it because it distinguishes between the position that autism is increasing unstoppably for no known reason (or because of vaccines) and the position that autism has not increased in prevalence, but diagnosis has increased in accuracy and a greater percentage of people with autism spectrum disorders are being diagnosed. It's important that this be as widely-read as possible as soon as possible because the next time prevalence estimates come out, I will be shown right or wrong. I want my theory and prediction out there now so that I can show that I predicted a surprising result before it happened. While many people are too irrational to be surprised when they see this result even though they have predicted the opposite, I hope that rationalists will come to believe my position when it is proven right. I hope that everyone disinterested will come to believe this. The reason why I hope this is because I want them to be more likely to listen to me when I make statements about human rights as they apply to people with autism spectrum disorders. It is important that society change its attitudes toward such individuals.

Please help me by upvoting me to two karma so I can post in the discussion section.

7AdeleneDawner9yI'm not sure you're right that we won't see any increase in autism prevalance - there are still some groups (girls, racial minorities, poor people) that are "underserved" when it comes to diagnosis, so we could see an increase if that changes, even if your underlying theory is correct. Still upvoted, tho.

I saw this site on evand's computer one day, so of course then had to look it up for myself. In my free time, I pester him with LW-y questions.

By way of background, I graduated from a trying-to-be-progressive-but-sort-of-hung-up-on-orthodoxy quasi-Protestant seminary in spring 2010. Primary discernible effects of this schooling (i.e., I would assign these a high probability of relevance on LW) include:

  • deeply suspicious of pretty much everything

  • a predisposition to enter a Hulk-smash rage at the faintest whiff of systematic injustice or oppression

  • high value on beauty, imagination*, and inclusivity

* Part of my motivation to involve myself in rationalism is a hope that I can learn ways to imagine better (more usefully, maybe.)

I like learning more about how brains work (/don't work). Also about communities. Also about things like why people say and do what they say and do, both in terms of conditioning/unconscious motivation and conscious decision. And and and. I will start keeping track on a wiki page perhaps.

I cherish ambitions of being able to contribute to a discussion one day! (If anyone has any ideas/relevant information about getting over not wanting to look stupid, please do share ...)


2[anonymous]9yWelcome! You sound like just our type. Glad to have you with us. Lurk, read the archives, brazenly post things you are quite sure of. Remember that downvotes don't mean we hate you. I dunno. I only get the fear after I post so it's not a problem for me.
1Epiphany9yDon't worry, you can't possibly look worse than I did. I wanted to be around people who can point out my flaws and argue with me effectively and tell me things I didn't know. I wanted to be held to higher standards, to actually have to work hard to earn respect. I'm not getting that in other areas of my life. Here, I get it. (: I am so grateful that I found this. People will challenge you and make you work, and find your flaws, but that's a blessing. Embrace it.

Personally, for their first female protagonist, I felt like Pixar could have done a lot better than a Rebellious Princess. It's cliche, and I would have liked to see them exercise more creativity, but besides that, I think the instructive value is dubious. Yes, it's awfully burdensome to have one's life direction dictated to an excessive degree by external circumstances and expectations. But on the other hand, Rebellious Princesses, including Merida, tend to rail against the unfairness of their circumstances without stopping to consider that they live in societies where practically everyone has their lives dictated by external circumstances, and there's no easy transition to a social model that allows differently.

Merida wants to live a life where she's free to pursue her love of archery and riding, and get married when and to whom she wants? Well she'd be screwed if she were a peasant, since all the necessary house and field work wouldn't leave her with the time, her family wouldn't own a horse, unless it was a ploughhorse she wouldn't be able to take out for pleasure riding, and she'd be married off at an early age out of economic rather than political necessity. And she'd be sim... (read more)

5Bugmaster9yI thought that Brave was actually a somewhat subversive movie -- perhaps inadvertently so. The movie is structured and presented in a way that makes it look like the standard Rebellious Princess story, with the standard feminist message. The protagonist appears to be a girl who overcomes the Patriarchy by transgressing gender norms, etc. etc. This is true to a certain extent, but it's not the main focus of the movie. Instead, the movie is, at its core, a very personal story of a child's relationship with her parent, the conflict between love and pride, and the difference between having good intentions and being able to implement them into practice. By the end of the movie, both Merida and her mother undergo a significant amount of character development. Their relationship changes not because the social order was reformed, or because gender norms were defeated -- but because they have both grown as individuals. Thus, Brave ends up being a more complex (and IMO more interesting) movie than the standard "Rebellious Princess" cliche would allow. In Brave, there are no clear villains; neither Merida nor her mother are wholly in the right, or wholly in the wrong. Contrast this with something like Disney's Rapunzel, where the mother is basically a glorified plot device, as opposed to a full-fledged character.
4Vaniver9yUpvoted. My thoughts on Brave are over here [http://echochamber.me/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=85840], but basically Merida is actually a really dark character, and it's sort of sickening that she gets away with everything she does. Interesting enough to repeat is my suggestion for a better setting: Of course, it's difficult to make a movie glorifying sweatshop labor, whereas princesses are distant enough to be a tame example [http://isteve.blogspot.com/2012/07/diversity-before-diversity-thomas.html].


I was raised by a rationalist economist. At some point I got the idea that I wanted to be a statistical outlier, and also that irrationality was the outlier. After starting to pay attention to current events and polls, I'm now pretty sure that the second premise is incorrect.

I still have many thought patterns from that period that I find difficult to overcome. I try to counter them in the more important decisions by assigning WAG numerical values and working through equations to find a weighted output. I read more non-fiction than fiction now, and I am working with a mental health professional to overcome some of those patterns. I suppose I consider myself to have a good rationalist grounding while being used to completely ignoring it in my everyday life.

I found Less Wrong through FreethoughtBlogs and "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationalism." I added it to my feed reader and have been forcing my economist to help me work though some of the more science-of-choice oriented posts.

2[anonymous]9y??? The only expansion of that I can find with Google (Wifes And Girlfriends [of footballers]) doesn't seem too relevant.

Wild Ass Guess.

4DaFranker9yWas that just meta, or did you already know it? In what fields would the saying be more common, out of curiosity?
7evand9yIt's reasonably common among engineers in my experience. Along with SWAG -- scientific wild-assed guessed, intended to denote something that has minimal support -- an estimation that is the output of combining WAGs and actual data, for example.
3Davidmanheim9yHe may not have known it, but it's used. I worked in Catastrophe Risk modeling, and it was a term that applied to what our clients and competitors did; not ourselves, we had rigorous methodologies that were not discussed because they were "trade secrets," or as I came to understand, what is referred to below as SWAG. I have heard engineers use it as well..

Hi. 18 years old. Typical demographics. 26.5-month lurker and well-read of the Sequences. Highly motivated/ambitious procrastinator/perfectionist with task-completion problems and analysis paralysis that has caused me to put off this comment for a long time. Quite non-optimal to do so, but... must fight that nasty sunk cost of time and stop being intimidated and fearing criticism. Brevity to assure it is completed - small steps on a longer journey. Hopefully writing this is enough of an anchor. Will write more in future time of course.

Finally. It is written. So many choices... so many thoughts, ideas, plans to express... No! It is done! Another time you silly brain! We must choose futures! We will improve, brain, I promise.

I look forward to at last becoming an active member of this community, and LEVELING UP! Tsuyoku naritai!

I’m Taylor Smith. I’ve been lurking since early 2011. I recently finished a bachelor’s in philosophy but got sort of fed up with it near the end. Discovering the article on belief in belief is what first hooked me on LessWrong, as I’d already had to independently invent this idea to explain a lot of the silly things people around me seemed to be espousing without it actually affecting their behavior. I then devoured the Sequences. Finding LessWrong was like finding all the students and teachers I had hoped to have in the course of a philosophy degree, all in one place. It was like a light switching on. And it made me realize how little I’d actually learned thus far. I’m so grateful for this place.

Now I’m an artist – a writer and a musician.

A frequently-confirmed observation of mine is that art – be it a great sci-fi novel, a protest song, an anti-war film – works as a hack to help to change people’s minds who are resistant or unaccustomed to pure rational argument. This is true especially of ethical issues; works which go for the emotional gut-punch somehow make people change their minds. (I think there are a lot of overlapping reasons for this phenomenon, but one certainly is that... (read more)

Hello all, My name is Benjamin Martens, a 19-year-old student from Newcastle, Australia. Michael Anissimov, director of Humanity+, added me to the Less Wrong Facebook group. I don’t know his reasons for adding me, but regardless I am glad that he did.

My interest in rational thinking, and in conscious thinking in general, stems, first, from the consequences of my apostasy from Christianity, which is my family’s faith; second, from my combative approach to my major depression, which I have (mostly) successfully beaten into submission through an analysis of some of the possible states of the mind and of the world— Less Wrong and the study of cognitive biases will, I hope, further aid me in revealing my depressive worldview as groundless; or, if not as groundless, then at least as something which is not by nature aberrant and which is, to some degree, justified; third, and in connection to my vegan lifestyle, I aim to understand the psychology which might lead a person to cause another being to suffer; and last, and in connection to all aforementioned, it is my hope that an understanding of cognitive biases will allow not merely myself to edge nearer to the true state of things, but al... (read more)

I'm Nancy Hua. I was MIT 2007 and worked in NYC and Chicago in automated trading for 5 years after graduating with BS's in Math with CS (18C) and in Writing (21W).

Currently I am working on a startup in the technology space. We have funding and I am considering hiring someone.

I started reading Eliezer's posts on Overcoming Bias. In 2011, I met Eliezer, Robin Hanson, and a bunch of the NYC Lesswrongers. After years of passive consumption, very recently I started posting on lesswrong after meeting some lesswrongers at the 2012 Singularity Summit and events leading up to it, and after reading HPMOR and wanting to talk about it. I tried getting my normal friends to read it but found that making new friends who have already read it is more efficient.

Many of the writings regarding overcoming our biases and asking more questions appeal to me because I see many places where we could make better decisions. It's amazing how far we've come without being all that intelligent or deliberate, but I wonder how much more slack we have before our bad decisions prevent us from reaching the stars. I want to make more optimal decisions in my own life because I need every edge I can get to achieve some of my goals! Plus I believe understanding and accepting reality is important to our success, as individuals and as a species.

The Millenium Prize would be a nice way to simultaneously fund my cryopreservation and increase my prestige. I clearly need a backup plan, though, and I don't have one. Will someone with a BS in mathematics and computer science be able to find a good job? Where should I look?

Sorry to put it bluntly, but this sounds incredibly naive. One cannot plan on winning the Millenium Prize any more than one can plan on winning a lottery. So, it's not an instrumentally useful approach to funding your cryo. The latter only requires a modest monthly income, something that you will in all likelihood have regardless of your job description.

As for the jobs for CS graduates, there are tons and tons of those in the industry. For example, the computer security job market is very hot and requires the best and the brightest (on both sides of the fence).

Poll: how old are you?

Newcomers only, please.

How polls work: the comments to this post are the possible answers. Upvote the one that describes your age. Then downvote the "Karma sink" comment (if you don't see it, it is the collapsed one), so that I don't get undeserved karma. Do not make comments to this post, as it would make the poll options hard to find; use the "Discussion" comment instead.

2AllanGering9y45 or older
[-][anonymous]8y 11

Hi. I discovered LessWrong recently, but not that recently. I enjoy Yudkowsky's writings and the discussions here. I hope to contribute something useful to LessWrong, someday, but as of right now my insights are a few levels below those of others in this community. I plan on regularly visiting the LessWrong Study Hall.

Also, is it "LessWrong" or "Less Wrong"?

7Kawoomba8yYou'll fit in great.
3TheOtherDave8yI endorse "Less Wrong" as a standalone phrase but "LessWrong" as an affixed phrase (e.g., "LessWrongian").
1[anonymous]8yGood question... :-)
1[anonymous]8yThe front page and the About page consistently use the one with the space... except in the logo. Therefore I'm going to conclude that the change in typeface colour in the logo counts as a space and the ‘official’ name is the spaced one.
2[anonymous]8yI went through the same reasoning pattern as you right before reading this comment. So I think I'll stick with "Less Wrong", for the time being.

I am Pinyaka. I've been lurking a bit around this site for several months. I don't remember how I found it (probably a linked comment from Reddit), but stuck around for the main sequences. I've worked my way through two of them thanks to the epub compilations and am currently struggling to figure out how to prioritize and better put into practice the things that I learn from the site and related readings.

I hope to have some positive social interactions with the people here. I find that I become fairly unhappy without some kind of regular socialization in a largish group, but it's difficult to find groups whose core values are similar to mine. In fact, after leaving a quasi-religious group last year it occurred to me that I've always just fallen in with whatever group was most convenient and not too immediately repellant. This marks the first time I've tried to think about what I value and then seek out a group of like minded individuals.

I also hope to find a consistent stream of ideas for improving myself that are backed by reason and science. I recognize that removing (or at least learning to account for) my own biases will help me build a more accurate picture of the universe that I live in and how I function within that framework. Along with that, I hope to develop the ability to formulate and pursue goals to maximize my enjoyment of life (I've been reading a bunch of lukeprogs anti-akrasia posts recently, so following through on goals is on my mind currently).

I am excited to be here.

3beoShaffer8yHi Pinyaka! Semi-seriously, have you considered moving?
2Nisan8yWelcome! You might enjoy it if you show up to a meetup [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Less_Wrong_meetup_groups] as well.

I'm Shai Horowitz. I'm currently a duel physics and mathematics major at Rutgers university. I first learned of the concept of "Bayesian" or "rationality" through HPMOR and from there i took it upon myself to read the Overcoming Bias post which has been an extremely long endeavor of which I have almost but not yet accomplished. Through conversation with others in my dorm at Rutgers I have realized simply how much this learning has done to my thought process and it allowed me to hone in on my own thoughts that i could see were still biased and go about fixing them. Through this same reasoning it became apparent to me that it would be largely beneficial to become an active part in the lesswrong community to sharpen my own skills as a rationalist while helping others along the way. I embrace rationality for the very specific reason that I wish to be a Physicists and realize that in trying to do so i could (as Eliezer puts hit) "shoot off my own foot" while doing things that conventional science allows. In the process of learning this I did stall out for months at a time and even became depressed for a while as I was stabbing my weakest points with the met... (read more)

6Qiaochu_Yuan8yWelcome! I am really curious what you mean by

Hi! I was wondering where to start on this website. I started reading the sequence "How to actually change your mind", but there's a lot of lingo and stuff I still don't understand. Is there a sequence here that's like, Rationality for Beginners, or something? Thanks.

3Kindly8yProbably the best thing you can do, for yourself and for others, is to post comments on the posts you've read, asking questions where you don't understand something. The sequences ought to be as easy to understand as possible, but the reality may not always approach the ideal. But if the jargon is the problem, the LW wiki has a dictionary [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Jargon]
2beoShaffer8yI found the order presented in the wiki's guide to the sequences to be quite helpful [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Sequences].

Hi, my name is Briony Keir, I'm from the UK. I stumbled on this site after getting into an argument with someone on the internet and wondering why they ended up failing to refute my arguments and instead resorted to insults. I've had a read-around before posting and it's great to see an environment where rational thought is promoted and valued; I have a form of autism called Asperger Syndrome which, among many things, allows me to rely on rationality and logic more than other people seem to be able to - I too often get told I'm 'too analytical' and I 'shouldn't poke holes in other peoples' beliefs' when, the way I see it, any belief is there to be challenged and, indeed, having one's beliefs challenged can only make them stronger (or serve as an indicator that one should find a more sensible viewpoint). I'm really looking forward to reading what people have to say; my environment (both educational and domestic) has so far served more to enforce a 'we know better than you do so stop talking back' rule rather than one which allows for disagreement and resolution on a logical basis, and so this has led to me feeling both frustrated and unchallenged intellectually for quite some time. I hope I prove worthy of debate over the coming weeks and months :)

1kodos968yThis is not at all unusual here at LessWrong... I can't seem to find a link, but I seem to recall that a fairly large portion of LessWrong-ers (at least relative to the general population) have Aspergers (or at least are somewhat Asperger-ish), myself included. I'm not entirely sure though that I agree with the statement that Aspergers is "a form of autism"... I realize that that has been the general consensus for a while now, but I've read some articles (again, can't find a link at the moment, sorry) suggesting that Aspergers is not actually related to Autism at all... personally, my feeling on the matter is that "Aspergers" isn't an actual "disease" per se, but rather just a cluster of personality traits that happen to be considered socially unacceptable by modern mainstream culture, and have therefore been arbitrarily designated as a "disease". In any case, welcome to LessWrong - I look forward to your contributions in the future!
2anansi1338yIf anything, I'd be tempted to say that autism is a more pronounced degree of asperger's. I certainly catch myself in the spectrum that includes ADD as well. The whole idea of neurodiversity is kind of exciting, actually. If there can be more than one way to appropriately interact with society, everyone gets richer.

Hello everyone,

I found Less Wrong through "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" like many others. I started reading more of Eliezer Yudkowsky's work a few months ago and was completely floored. I now recommend his writing to other people at the slightest provocation, which is new for me. Like others, I'm a bit scared by how thoroughly I agree with almost everything he says, and I make a conscious effort not to agree with things just because he's said them. I decided to go ahead and join in hopes that it would motivate me to start doing more active thinking of my own.

[-][anonymous]9y 11

Hello rationalists-in-training of the internet. My name is Joseph Gnehm, I am 15 and I live in Montreal. Discovering LessWrong had a profound effect on me, shedding light on the way I study thought processes and helping me with a more rational approach.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

I'm a 20-year-old physics student from Finland whose hobbies include tabletop roleplaying games and Natalie Reed-Zinnia Jones-style intersection of rationality and social justice.

I've been sporadically lurking on LessWrong for the last 2-3 years and have read most of the sequences. My primary goal is to contribute useful research to either SI or FHI or failing that, a significant part of my income. I've contacted the X-risks Reduction Career Network as well.

I consider this an achievable goal as my general intelligence is extremely high and I have won a national level mathematics competition 7 years ago despite receiving effectively no training in a small backwards town. With dedication and training I believe I could reach the level of the greats.

However, my biggest challenge currently is Getting Things Done; apart from fun distractions, committing any significant effort to something is nigh impossible. This could probably be caused by clinical depression (without the mood effects) and I'm currently on venlafaxine as an attempt to improve my capability to actually do something useful but so far (about 3 months) it hasn't had the desired effect. Assistance/advice would be appreciated.

Hi everyone! Another longtime lurker here. I found LW through Yvain's blog (Emily and Control FTW!). I'm not really into cryonics or FAI, but the sequences are awesome, and I enjoy the occasional instrumental rationality post. I decided to become slightly more active here, and this thread seemed like a good place to start, even if a bit old.


My name is Roberto and I'm a Brazilian physicist working in the UK. Even working in an academic environment, that obviously do not guarantee an environment where rational/unbiased/critical discussions can happen. Science production in universities not always are carried out by thinking critically about a subject as many papers can be purely technical in their nature. Also, free thinking is as regulated in academia as it is everywhere else in many aspects.

That said, I have been reading and browsing Less Wrong for some time and think that this can indeed be done here. In addition, given later developments all around the world in many aspects and how people react to them, I felt the urge to discuss them in a way which is not censored, specially by the other persons in the discussion. It promises to be relaxing anyway.

I'm sure I'm gonna have a nice time.

I suspect that a tendency towards mysticism just sort of spontaneously accretes onto anything sufficiently esoteric; you can see this happening over the last few decades with quantum mechanics, and to a lesser degree with results like Gödel's incompleteness theorems. Martial arts is another good place to see this in action: most of those legendary death touch techniques you hear about, for example, originated in strikes that damaged vulnerable nerve clusters or lymph nodes, leading to abscesses and eventually a good chance of death without antibiotics. All very explicable. But layer the field's native traditional-Chinese-medicine metaphor over that and run it through several generations of easily impressed students, partial information, and novelists without any particular incentive to be realistic, and suddenly you've got the Five-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique.

So I don't think the mumbo-jumbo is likely to be strictly necessary to most eudaemonic approaches, Eastern or Western. I expect it'd be difficult to extract from a lot of them, though.

2Oligopsony9yIt would be difficult to do it on your own, but it's not very hard to find e.g. guides to meditation that have been bowlderized of all the mysterious magical stuff.

Please add a few words about "Open Thread". Something like -- If you want to write just a simple question or one paragraph or text, don't create a new article, just add it as a comment to the latest discussion article called "Open Thread".

Hello everyone. My name is Vadim Kosoy, and you can find some LW-relevant stuff about me in my Google+ stream: http://plus.google.com/107405523347298524518/about

I am an all time geek, with knowledge / interest in math, physics, chemistry, molecular biology, computer science, software engineering, algorithm engineering and history. Some areas in which I'm comparatively more knowledgeable: quantum field theory, differential geometry, algebraic geometry, algorithm engineering (especially computer vision)

In my day job I'm a technical + product manager of a small software group in Mantis Vision (http://www.mantis-vision.com/) a company developing 3D video cameras. My previous job was in VisionMap (http://www.visionmap.com/) which develops airborne photography / mapping systems, where I led a team of software and algorithm engineers.

I knew about Eliezer Yudkowsky and his friendly AI thesis (which I don't fully accept) for some time, but discovered this community only relatively recently. For me this community is interesting because of several reasons. One reason is that many discussions are related to the topics of transhumanism / technological singularity / artificial intelligence which... (read more)

1lukeprog8yWelcome! You should probably join the MAGIC list [https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!forum/magic-list]. Orseau and others hang out there, and Orseau will probably comment on your two posts if you ask for feedback on that list. Also, if you ever visit California then you should visit MIRI and do some math with us.
1Kawoomba8yWelcome! We're all 29.9 years old, here. I look forward to your comments, hopefully you'll find the time for that post on your Orseau-Ring variant. Regarding your redefinition of god, allow me just a small comment: Calling an unknowable reason "god" - without believing in such a reason's personhood, or volition, or having a mind - invites a lot of unneeded baggage and historical connotations that muddle the discussion, and your self-identification, because what you apparently mean by that term is so different from the usual definitions of "god" that you could just as well call yourself a spiritual atheist (or related).

Welcome! We're all 29.9 years old, here.

Speak for yourself, youngster ! Why, back in my day, we didn't have these "internets" you whippersnappers are always going on about, what with the cats and the memes and the facetubes and the whatnot. We had to make our own networks, by hand, out of floppies and acoustic modems, and we liked it . Why, there's nothing like an invigorating morning hike with a box of 640K floppies (formatted to 800K) in your backpack, uphill in the snow both ways. Builds character, it does. Mumble mumble mumble get off my lawn !

I cannot fathom why a comment like that would be upvoted by anyone but an unfeeling robot.

Sounds like you need to update your model of people who don't have children. Also, how aggressively do you campaign against things like sweatshop labor in third-world countries, which as Desrtopa correctly points out are a substantially worse real-world analogue? Do children only matter if they're your children?


I'm Ben. I'm here mainly because I'm interested in effective altruism. I think that tracing through the consequences of one's actions is a complex task and I'm interested in setting out some ideas here in the hope that people can improve my reasoning. For example, I've a post on whether ethical investment is effective, which I'd like to put up once I've got a couple of points of karma.

I studied philosophy and theology, and worked for a while in finance. Now, I'm trying to work out how to increase the positive impact I have, which obviously demands answers about both what 'positive impact' means, and what the consequences are of the choices I make. I think these are far from simple to work out; I hope just to establish a few points with which I'm satisfied enough. I think that exposing ideas and arguments to thoughtful people who might want to criticise or expand them could help me a lot. And this seems a good place for doing that!

Hi, I'm Alex.

Every once in a while I come to LessWrong because I want to read more interesting things and have more interesting discussions on the Internet. I've found it a lot easier to spend time on Reddit (having removed all the drivel) and dredging through Quora to find actually insightful content (seriously, do they have any sort of actual organization system for me to find reading material?) in the past. LessWrong's discussions have seemed slightly inaccessible, so maybe posting an introduction like I'm supposed to will set in motion my figuring out how this community works.

I'm interested in a lot of things here, but especially physics and mathematics. I would use the word "metaphysics" but it's been appropriated for a lot of things that aren't actually meta-physics like I mean. Maybe I want "meta-mathematics"? Anyway, I'm really keen on the theory behind physical laws and on attempts at reformulating math and physics into more lucid and intuitive systems. Some of my reading material (I won't say research, but ... maybe I should say research) recently has been on geometric algebra, re-axiomizing set theory, foundations and interpretations of quantum mechan... (read more)

5[anonymous]8yBe very careful thinking you are done. I was in pretty much exactly the same position as you about a year ago. ("yep, I'm pretty rational. Lol @ god; I wonder what it's like to have delusional beliefs"). After a year and a half here, having read pretty much everything in the sequences and most of the other archives, running a meetup, etc, I now know that I suck at rationality. You will find that you are nowhere near the limits, or even the middle, of possible human rationality. Further, I now know what it's like to have delusional beliefs that are so ingrained you don't even recognize them as beliefs, because I had some big ones. I probably have more. There not easy to spot from the inside. On the subject of atheism... I used to be an atheist, too. The rabbit hole you've fallen into here is deep. The Seattle guys are pretty cool, from those I've met. Go hang out with them.
7Kawoomba8yDon't be mysterious, Morpheus, please elaborate.
2shev8yOkay, sure. Rather I mean: I feel like I'm passed the introductory material. Like I'm coming in as a sophomore, say. But - I could be totally wrong! We'll see. I've definitely got counter-rational behaviors ingrained; I'm constantly fighting my brain. And, if we're pedantic about things pretty similar to atheism, I might not be an atheist. I'm not up to speed on all the terms. What do you call: I was calling that atheism.
4shminux8yFrom your blog: This is amazing, yet seems so obvious in retrospect. So many of us have turned into blue-minimizing robots [http://lesswrong.com/lw/6ha/the_blueminimizing_robot/] without realizing it. Hopefully breaking the reward feedback loop with your extension would force people to try to examine their true reasons for clicking.
1shev8yI was pretty pleased with myself for discovering that. It - sorta works. I still find myself going to Reddit, but so far it's still "feeling" less addictive (which is really hard to quantify or describe). Now I'm finding myself just clicking to websites more looking for something, rather than specifically clicking links. I've been sleeping badly lately, though, and I find that my brain is a lot more vulnerable to my Internet addiction when I haven't slept well - so it's not a good comparison to my norm. Incidentally, if anyone wanted me to I could certainly make the extension work on other browsers. It's the simplest thing ever, it just injects 7 clauses of CSS into Reddit pages. I thought about making it mess with other websites I used (hackernews, mostly) but I decided they weren't as much of a problem and it was better to keep it single-purpose for now.
2itaibn08yNow I'm tempted to spread a meme. Have you heard Martin-Loef type theory? In my opinion, it's a much better foundation of mathematics than ZFC.

Hello, newbie here. I'm intrigued by the premise of this forum.

About me: I think a lot- mostly by myself. That's trained me in some really lazy habits that I am looking to change now.

In the last few weeks, I noticed what I think are some elemental breakdowns in human politics. When things go bad between people, I think it can be attributed to one of three causes: immaturity, addiction, or insanity. I would love to discuss this further, hoping someone's interested.

I wasn't going to mention theism, but it's here in the main post, and suddenly I'm interested: I trend toward the athiestic- I'm really unimpressed with my grandmother's deity, and "supernatural" doesn't seem a useful or interesting category of phenomena. But I like being agnostic more than atheist, just on a few tiny little wiggle-words that seem powerfully interesting to me, and I notice that other people seem to find survival value in it. So that's probably something I will want to talk about.

Many of my more intellectual friends and neighbors can seem like bullies a lot of the time. So I like the word "rationality" in the title of this place, much more than I like "science" or "logic&... (read more)

1simplicio8yYes, I know the feeling. Welcome out of the echo chamber! Do you mean that it's literally the words you find interesting? Which ones?

Hello, I'm Ben Kidwell. I'm a middle-aged classical pianist and lifelong student of science, philosophy, and rational thought. I've been reading posts here for years and I'm excited to join the discussion. I'm somewhat skeptical of some things that are part of the conventional wisdom around here, but even when I think the proposed answers are wrong - the questions are right. The topics that are discussed here are the topics that I find interesting and significant.

I am only formally and professionally trained in music, but I have tried to self-study physics, math, computer science, and philosophy in a focused way. I confess that I do have one serious weakness as a rationalist, which is that I can read and understand a lot of math symbology, but I can't actually DO math past the level of simple calculus with a few exceptions. (Some computer programming work with algorithms has helped with a few things.) It's frustrating because higher math is The Key that unlocks a lot of deep understanding of the universe.

I have a particular interest in entropy, information theory, cosmology, and their relation to the human experience of temporality. I think the discovery that information-theoretic... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 10

I'm Rev. PhD in mathematics, disabled shut-in crank. I spend a lot of time arguing with LW people on Twitter.

1drethelin9yNoooooo don't get sucked in

I am a 43 year old man who loves to read, and stumbling across HPMOR was an eye opener for me, and it resonated profoundly within. My wife is not only the Queen of Critical Thinking and logic, she is also the breadwinner. Me? I raise the children( three girls), take care of the house, and function as a housewife/gourmet chef/personal trainer/massage therapist for my wife on top of being my daughters personal servant. This is largely due to my wife's towering intellect, overwhelming competence, my struggles with ADHD, and the fact that she makes huge amounts of money. Me, I just age almost supernaturally slowly(at 43, I still pass for thirty, possibly due to an obsession with fitness ), am above average handsome, passingly charming, good singing voice, and incapable of winning a logical argument, as the more stress I grow, the faster my IQ shrinks. I am taken as seriously by my wife, as Harry probably was by his father as a four year old. I am looking to change that. I am hoping that if I learn enough about less wrong, I just might learn how to put all the books I compulsively read to good use, and maybe learn how to...change.

2MileyCyrus9yI'm actually incredibly interested in your story, if you don't mind. What is like dating a woman who is smarter than you are? What do you think attracted her to you? (I would love to pair-bond with a genius woman, but most of them only want to pair-bond with other geniuses.)

I am Alexander Baruta, High-school student currently in the 11th grade (grade 12 math and biology). I originally found the site through Eliezer's blog, I am (technically) part of the school's robotics team (someone has to stop them from creating unworkable plans), undergoing Microsoft It certification, and going through all of the psychology courses in as little time as possible (Currently enrolled in a self-directed learning school) so I can get to the stuff I don't already know. My mind is fact oriented, (I can remember the weirdest things with perfect clarity after only hearing them once) but I have trouble combining that recall with my English classes, and I have trouble remembering names. I am informally studying formal logic, programming, game theory, and probability theory (don't you hate it when the curriculum changes. (I also have a unusual fondness for brackets, if you couldn't tell by now)

I also feel that any discussion about me that fails to mention my love of Sf/Fantasy should be shot dead, I caught onto reading at a very, very early age and by the time I was in 5th grade I was reading at a 12th grade comprehension level, and I was tackling Asimov, Niven, Pohl, Piers Anthony, Stephen R. Donaldson, Roger Zelazny and most good authors.

8Kawoomba9yLisp ith a theriouth condition, once you go full Lisp, you'll never (((((((((((((... come back)?n).


I was introduced to LW by a friend of mine but I will admit I dismissed it fairly quickly as internet philosophy. I came out to a meetup on a recent trip to visit him and I really enjoyed the caliber of people I met there. It has given me reason to come back and be impressed by this community.

I studied Math and a little bit of Philosophy in undergrad. I'm here mostly to learn, and hopefully to meet some interesting people. I enjoy a good discussion and I especially enjoy having someone change my mind but I lose interest quickly when I realize that the other party has too much ego involved to even consider changing his or her mind.

I look forward to learning from you all!


Hello LW community. I'm a HS math teacher most interested in Geometry and Number Theory. I have long been attracted to mathematics and philosophy because they both embody the search for truth that has driven me all my life. I believe reason and logic are profoundly important both as useful tools in this search, and for their apparently unique development within our species.

Humans aren't particularly fast, or strong, or resistant to damage as compared with many other creatures on the planet, but we seem to be the only ones with a reasonably well develo... (read more)

Aaron's blog brought me here. Sad that he's no longer with us.

I have been thinking for a long time about overcoming biases, and to put them into action in life. I work as an orthopaedic surgeon in the daytime and all I see around me is an infinite amount of bias. I can't take it on unless I can understand them and apply them to my life processes!

[-][anonymous]8y 9

Hey everyone, I'm sean nolan. I found less wrong from tvtropes.org, but I made sure to lurk sufficiently long before joining. I've been finding a lot of interesting stuff on lesswrong (most of which was posted by eliezer), some of which I've applied to real life (such as how procrastination vs doing something is the equivalent of defect vs cooperate in a prisoners' dilemma against your future self). I'm 99.5% certain I'm a rationalist, the other 0.5% being doubt cast upon me by noticing I've somehow attained negative karma.

Hello, I'm a physics student from Croatia, though I've attended a combined physics and computer science program (study programs here are very specific) for couple of years at a previous university that I left, though my high school specialization is in economy. I am currently working towards my bachelor's degree in physics.

I have no idea how I learned of this site, though it was probably trough some transhumanist channels (there's a lot of half-forgotten bits and pieces of information floating in my mind, so I can't be sure). Lately I've started reading th... (read more)

Hi! I am Robert Pearson: Political professional of the éminence grise variety. Catholic rationalist of the Aquinas variety. Avid chess player, pistol shooter. Admirer of the writings of Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein. Liberal Arts BA from a small state university campus. I read Overcoming Bias occasionally some years ago, but heard of LessWrong from Leah Libresco.

My real avocation is learning how to be a smarter, better, more efficient, happier human being. Browsing the site for awhile convinced me it was a good means to those ends.

I write a column on Thursdays for Grandmaster Nigel Davies' The Chess Improver

Hey there! I'm a 19-year old Canadian girl with a love for science, science fiction, cartoons, RPGs, Wayne Rowley, learning, reading, music, humour, and a few thousand other things.

Like many I found this site via HPMOR. As a long-time fan of both science and Harry Potter, I was ultimately addicted from chapter one. It's hard to apply scientific analysis to a fictional universe while still keeping a sense of humour, and HPMOR executes this brilliantly. My only complaint ( all apologies to Mr. Yudkowsky, though I doubt he'll ever read this) are that Harry co... (read more)

Hi, I'm Jess. I've just graduated from Oxford with a masters degree in Mathematics and Philosophy. I'm trying to decide what to do next with my life, and graduate study in cognitive science is currently top of my list. What I'm really interested in is the application of research in human rationality, decision making and its limitations to wider issues in society, public policy etc.

I'm taking some time to challenge my intuition that I want to go into research, though, as I'm slightly concerned that I'm taking the most obvious option not knowing what else to... (read more)

1beoShaffer9yI don't have a full summary on-hand, but if you just want to jumpstart your own search you might want to read Lukeprogs article on efficient scholarship [http://lesswrong.com/lw/5me/scholarship_how_to_do_it_efficiently/] and look into the keyword "debiasing".

Hi everyone,

I'm currently caught up on HPMOR, and I've read many of the sequences, so I figured it was time to introduce myself here.

I'm a 24 year old Cognitive Psychology graduate student. I was raised as a fairly conservative Christian who attempted to avoid any arguments that would seriously challenge my belief structure. When I was in undergrad, I took an intro to philosophy course which helped me realize that I needed to fully examine all of my beliefs. This helped me to move toward becoming a theistic evolutionist and finally an atheist. Now I strive... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 9

Hi everyone,

I'm Leisha. I originally came across this site quite a while ago when I read the Explain/Worship/Ignore analogy here. I was looking for insight into my own cognitive processes; to skip the unimportant details, I ended up reading a whole lot about the concept of infinity once I realized that contemplating the idea gave me the same feeling of Worship that religion used to. It still does, to some extent, but at least I'm better-informed and can Explain the sheer scale of what I'm thinking of a little better.

I didn't return here until yesterday, wh... (read more)

Ok - although maybe I should stick it in its own thread?

I realize much of this has been said before.

Part 1 : AGI will come before FAI, because:

Complexity of algorithm design:

Intuitively, FAI seems orders of magnitude more complex than AGI. If I decided to start trying to program an AGI tomorrow, I would have ideas on how to start, and maybe even make a minuscule amount of progress. Ben Goertzel even has a (somewhat optimistic) roadmap for AGI in a decade. Meanwhile, afaik FAI is still stuck at the stage of lob’s theorem.
The fact that EY seems to be focusin... (read more)

Imagine that it is not you, but your child you must sacrifice. Would you shrug and say "sorry, my precious girl, you must suffer until you die so that your mommy/daddy can live a happy life"?

I hope I would have the strength to say "sorry, my precious girl, you must suffer until you die so that everyone in the city can live a happy life." Doing it just for myself and my own social circle wouldn't be a good tradeoff, but those aren't the terms of the scenario.

Considering how many of our basic commodities rely on sweatshop or otherwise extremely miserable labor, we're already living off the backs of quite a lot of tormented children.

I have, in fact, read the Speech before, quite some time ago. My point is that outstanding teachers can make a big positive difference in the students' lives (at least, that was the case for me), largely by deliberately avoiding some or all of the anti-patterns that Gatto lists in his Speech. We were also taught the basics of critical thinking in an English class (of all places), though this could've been a fluke (or, once again, a teacher's personal initiative).

I should also point out that these anti-patterns are not ubiquitous. I was lucky enough to atte... (read more)


I am Jay Swartz, no relation to Aaron. I have arrived here via the Singularity Institute and interactions with Louie Helm and Malo Bourgon. Look me up on Quora to read some of my posts and get some insight to my approach to the world. I live near Boulder, Colorado and have recently started a MeetUp; The Singularity Salon, so look me up if you're ever in the area.

I have an extensive background in high tech, roughly split between Software Development/IT and Marketing. In both disciplines I have spent innumerable hours researching human behavior and tho... (read more)

1gwern9yI don't see anything. I assume you mean you put it in the LW edit box and then saved it as a draft? Drafts are private.

Hi I’m Bojidar (also known as Bobby). I was introduced to LW by Luke Muehlhauser’s blog “Common Sense Atheism” and I've been reading LW ever since he first started writing about it. I am a 25 year old laboratory technician (and soon to be PhD student) at a major cancer research hospital in Buffalo, NY. I've been reading LW for a while and recently I've been really wishing that Buffalo had a LW group (I've been considering starting one, but I’m a bit concerned that I don’t have much experience in running groups nor have I been very active in the online comm... (read more)

Hi, I'm Rixie, and I read this fan fic called Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by lesswrong, so I decided to check out Lesswrong.com. It is totally different from what I thought it would be, but it's interesting and I like it. And right now I'm reading the post below mine, and wow, my comment sounds all shallow now . . .

1Strange79yWhat did you think it would be like?
1daenerys9yHi Rixie! Don't worry! Lots of people came to LessWrong after reading HPMoR (myself included). I know it can be intimidating here at first, but well worth the effort, I think. You might also be interested in Three Worlds Collide [http://robinhanson.typepad.com/files/three-worlds-collide.pdf]. It's another fiction by the same guy who wrote HPMoR, and a bunch of the Sequence posts here. If you have any questions about anything, feel free to PM me!

awful interface

It has been asked that we be gentle in word choice when critiquing the site. Tricycle works hard, and time spent working on LW is donated. You can submit bug reports or PM Matt if you think something has been overlooked or have a better idea.

I'm Rachel Haywire and I love to hate culture. I've been in "the community" for almost 2 years but just registered an account today. I need to read more of the required texts here before saying much but wanted to pop my head out from lurking. I've been having some great conversations on Twitter with a lot of the regulars here.

I organize the annual transhumanist/alt-culture event Extreme Futurist Festival (http://extremefuturistfest.info) and should have my new website up soon. I like to write, argue, and write about arguing. I've also done silly ... (read more)

Hi, my name is Wes(ley), and I'm a lurkaholic.

First, I'd like to thank this community. I think it is responsible in a large way for my transformation (perceived transformation of course) from a cynical high schooler who truly was only motivated enough to use his natural (not worked hard for) above average reasoning skills to troll his peers, to a college kid currently making large positive lifestyle changes, and dreaming of making significant positive changes in the world.

I think I have observed significant changes in my thinking patterns since reading th... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 8

I'm new on Less Wrong and I want to solve P vs. NP.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
8shminux9yConsider partitioning into smaller steps. For example, getting a PhD in math or theoretical comp sci is a must before you can hope to tackle something like that. Well, actually before you can even evaluate whether you really want to. While you seem to be on your way there, you clearly under-appreciate how deep this problem is. Maybe consider asking for a chat with someone like Scott Aaronson.
2[anonymous]9yYes, I do.
8shminux9yDo the math yourself to calculate your odds. Only one of the 7 Millennium Prize Problems have been solved so far, and that by a person widely considered a math genius since his high-school days at one of the best math-oriented schools in Russia and possibly the world at the time. And he was lucky that most of the scaffolding for the Poincaré conjecture happened to be in place already. So, your odds are pretty bad, and if you don't set a smaller sub-goal, you will likely end up burned out and disappointed. Or worse, come up with a broken proof and bitterly defend it against others "who don't understand the math as well as you do" till your dying days. It's been known to happen. Sorry to rain on your parade.
4TimS9yMy sense is that you are underestimating the number of extremely smart mathematicians who have been attacking N ? NP. And further, you are not yet in a position to accurately estimate your chances. For example, PhDs in math OR comp. sci. != PhDs in math AND comp. sci. The later is more impressive because it is much, much harder. If you find theoretical math interesting, by all means pursue it as far as you can - but I wouldn't advise a person to attend law school unless they wanted to be a lawyer. And I wouldn't advise you to enroll in a graduate mathematics program if you wouldn't be happy in that career unless you worked on P ? NP
1[anonymous]9yI was definitely engaging in motivated cognition.
4Mitchell_Porter9yMulmuley's geometric complexity theory is still where I would start. It's based on continuum mathematics, but extending it to boolean objects is the ultimate goal. A statement of P!=NP in GCT language can be seen as Conjecture 7.10 here [http://dx.doi.org/10.1137/S009753970038715X]. (Also downloadable from Mulmuley's homepage [http://ramakrishnadas.cs.uchicago.edu/], see "Geometric complexity theory I".)
1EvelynM9yWelcome! A fresh perspective on hard problems is always valuable. Getting the skills to be able to solve hard problems is even more valuable.

It's actually the first time I read it. I would be very happy to say that the situation improved over there, but that might not be true in general. Unfortunately, the way I see it is the completely opposite. The situation became worse everywhere else. Apparently, science education all around the world is becoming more distant of what Feynman would like. Someone once told me that "Science is not about knowledge anymore, it's about production". Feynman's description of his experience seems to be all about that. I refuse to believe in that, but as the world embraces this philosophy, science education becomes less and less related to really thinking about any subject.

2Risto_Saarelma9yAt least nowadays, unlike in 1950s Brazil, Feynman's stuff is a Google search away for just about any undergraduate student. Now they just need to somehow figure out they might want to search for him...

Hi everyone!

I'm 19 years old and a rising sophomore at an American university. I first came across Less Wrong five months ago, when one of my friends posted the "Twelve Virtues of Rationality" on facebook. I thought little of it, but soon afterward, when reading Leah Libresco's blog on atheism (she's since converted to catholicism), I saw a reference to Less Wrong, and figured I would check it out. I've been reading the Sequences sporadically for a few months, and just got up to date on HPMOR, so I thought I would join the community and perhaps b... (read more)

Hi, LessWrong,

I used to entertain myself by reading psychology, and philosophy articles on Wikipedia and following the subsequent links. When I was really interested in a topic though, I used google to further find websites would provide me more information on said topics. Around late 2010, I found that some of my search results led to this very website. Less Wrong proved to be a little too dense for me to enjoy; I needed to fully utilize my cognitive capabilities to even begin to comprehend some of the articles posted here.

Since I was looking for enterta... (read more)

So I recently found LessWrong after seeing a link to the Harry Patter fanfiction, and I have been enthralled with the concept of rationalism since. The concepts are not foreign to me as I am a chemist by training, but the systematization and focus on psychology keep me interested. I am working my way through the sequences now.

As for my biography, I am a 29 year old laboratory manager trained as a chemist. My lab develops and tests antimicrobial materials and drugs based on selenium's oxygen radical producing catalysis. It is rewarding work if you can g... (read more)


I'll start with how I made my way here. Unsurprisingly, it was HPMOR. Perhaps even less surprisingly, said fanfic was recommended on Tumblr. After reading that excellent story and a couple of follow up fanfics, I decided that rational fics are the thing for me, and also that, as someone who desperately wants to write a good story, the underlying rationality is something that I needed to get a handle on. (Also, for a large portion of my life I've been obsessed with logic.)

I've acquired Rationality: From AI to Zombies, and am slowly working my way ... (read more)

the real problem with omelas: It totally ignores the fact that there are children suffering literally as we speak in every city on the planet. Omelas somehow managed to get it down to one child. How many other children would you sacrifice for your own?

1shminux8yUnlike in the fictional Omelas, there is no direct dependence or direct sacrifice. Certainly it is possible to at least temporarily alleviate suffering of others in this non-hypothetical world by sacrificing some of your fortune, but that's the difference between active and passive approach [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem#The_fat_man], there is a large gap there.

I should also point out that, while Gatto makes some good points, his overall thesis is hopelessly lost in all the hyperbole, melodrama, and outright conspiracy theorizing. He does his own ideas a disservice by presenting them the way he does. For example, I highly doubt that mental illnesses, television broadcasts, and restaurants would all magically disappear (as Gatto claims on pg. 8) if only we could teach our children some critical thinking skills.

Interesting. The deeper reasons why I reject average utilitarianism is that it makes the value of lives non-seperable.

"Separability" of value just means being able to evaluate something without having to look at anything else. I think that, whether or not it's a good thing to bring a new person into existence depends only on facts about that person (assuming they don't have any causal effects on other people): the amount of their happiness or suffering. So, in deciding whether to bring a new person into existence, it shouldn't be relevant what h... (read more)

4TorqueDrifter9ySuppose your moral intuitions cause you to evaluate worlds based on your prospects as a potential human - as in, in pop A you will get utility -10, in pop B you get an expected (1/m)(-n) + (m-1/m)(-9.9). These intuitions could correspond to a straightforward "maximize expected util of 'being someone in this world'", or something like "suppose all consciousness is experienced by a single entity from multiple perspectives, completing all lives and then cycling back again from the beginning, maximize this being's utility". Such perspectives would give the "non-intuitive" result in these sorts of thought experiments.
2TorqueDrifter9yHm, a downvote. Is my reasoning faulty? Or is someone objecting to my second example of a metaphysical stance that would motivate this type of calculation?
1[anonymous]9yOnce you make such an unrealistic assumption, the conclusions won't necessarily be non-unrealistic. (If you assume water has no viscosity, you can conclude that it exerts no drag on stuff moving in it.) In particular, ISTM that as long as my basic physiological needs are met, my utility almost exclusively depends on interacting with other people, playing with toys invented by other people, reading stuff written by other people, listening to music by other people, etc.

Hi, Charlie here.

I'm a middle-aged high-school dropout, married with several kids. Also a self-taught computer programmer working in industry for many years.

I have been reading Eliezer's posts since before the split from Overcoming Bias, but until recently only lurked the internet -- I'm shy.

I broke cover recently by joining a barbell forum to solve some technical problems with my low-bar back squat, then stayed to argue about random stuff. Few on the barbell forum argue well -- it's unsatisfying. Setting my sights higher, I now join this forum.

I'll probably start by trying some of the self-improvement schemes and reporting results. Any recommendations re: where to start?

1CharlieDavies9yNever mind, I found the Group rationality diary [http://lesswrong.com/lw/eqv/group_rationality_diary_10112/] which is exactly the right aggregation point for self-improvement schemes.

Apologies in advance for the novella. And any spelling errors that I don't catch (I'm typing in notepad, among other excuses).
It's always very nice when I come across something that reminds me that there are not only people in the world who can actually think rationally, but that many of them are way better at it than me.
I don't like mentioning this so early in any introduction, but my vision is terrible to the point of uselessness; I mostly just avoid calling myself "blind" because it internally feels like that would be giving up on the tiny pow... (read more)

After having read all of the Sequences, I suppose its time I actually registered. I did the most recent (Nov 2012) survey. I'm doing my PhD in the genetics of epilepsy (so a neurogenetics background is implied). I'm really interested in branching out into the field of biases and heuristics, especially from a functional imaging and genetics perspective (my training includes EEG, MRI/fMRI, surgical tissue analysis, and all the usual molecular stuff/microarrays).

Experiences with grant writing makes me lean more toward starting my own biotech or research firm and going from there, but academics is an acceptable backup plan.

Hi, I’m Cinnia, the name I go by on the net these days. I found my way here by way of both HPMOR and Luminosity about 8 months ago, but never registered an account until the survey.

Like Alan, I’m also in my final year of secondary school, though I’m on the other side of the pond. I love science and math and plan to have a career in neuroscience and/or psychiatry after I graduate. This year I finally decided to branch out my interests a bit and joined the local robotics club (a part of FIRST, if anyone’s curious), and it’s possibly the best extracurricular... (read more)

Hi, I'm Alan, a student in my final year of secondary school in London, England. For some reason I'm finding it hard to remember how and when I stumbled upon Less Wrong. It was probably in March or April this year, and I think it was because Julia Galef mentioned it at some point, thought I may be misremembering.

Anyway, I've now read large chunks of the Sequences (though I can never remember which bits exactly) and HPMOR, and enjoy reading all the discussion that goes on here. I've never registered as a user before as I've never felt the burning need to c... (read more)

Hello everyone, I'm Luc, better known on the web as lucb1e. (I prefer not to advertise my last name for privacy reasons.) I'm currently a 19 year old student, doing application development in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

Like Aaron Swartz, I meant to post in discussion but don't have enough karma. I've been reading articles from time to time for years now, so I think I have an okay idea what fits on this site.

I think I ended up on LessWrong originally via Eliezer's NPC story. After reading that I looked around on the site, read about the AIBox experiment (wh... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 7

Well, I haven't really figured out what you all need to know about me, but I suppose there must be something relevant. Let's start with why I'm here.

I can remember being introduced to Less Wrong in two ways, though I don't know in what order. One was through HPMoR, and the other through a post about Newcomb's problem. Neither of those really brought me here in a direct way, though. I guess I am here based on the cumulative sum of recommendations and mentions of LW made by people in my social circle, combined with a desire for new reading material that i... (read more)

Hi everyone!

I'm a theoretical physicist from Germany. My work is mostly about the foundations of quantum theory, but also information theory and non-commutative geometry. Currently I'm working as head of research in a private company.

As a physicist I have been confronted with all sorts of (semi-) esoteric views about quantum theory and its interpretation, and my own lack of a better understanding got me started to explore the fundamental questions related to understanding quantum theory on a rational basis. I believe that all mainstream interpretations h... (read more)

2NancyLebovitz9yWelcome to Less Wrong! I'm interested in your idea that quantum theory doesn't have to be interpreted.

Howdy, I'm a math grad student.

I discovered Less Wrong late last night when a friend linked to a post about enjoying "mere" reality, which is a position I've held for quite some time. That post led me to a couple posts about polyamory and Bayesianism, which were both quite interesting, and I say this as someone familiar with each topic.

Although I've read bits & pieces of Harry Potter & the Methods of Rationality, it wasn't until I browsed through this thread that I realized it was assembled here.

I will freely admit that I tend to be a bit... (read more)

2MBlume9yRe: the SMBC strip, I remember tutoring physics in college, and being surprised that my students (all pre-med) had memorized constants I still routinely looked up.

My name is Chris Roberts. Professionally, my background is finance, but I have always been fascinated by science and have tried to apply a scientific approach to my thought and discussions. I find far too much thinking dominated by ideology and belief systems without any supporting evidence (let alone testable hypotheses). Most people seem to decide their positions first, then marshal arguments to justify their prejudigments. I have never considered myself a "rationalist", but rather an empiricist. I believe in democracy, the free market and... (read more)

I wonder why it is that so many people get here from TV Tropes.

Possibly: TV Tropes approaches fiction the way LessWrong approaches reality.

Hello, I'm a 21 year old undergraduate student studying Economics and a bit of math on the side. I found LessWrong through HPMOR, and recently started working on the sequences. I've always been torn between an interest in pure rational thinking, and an almost purely emotional / empathetic desire for altruism, and this conflict is becoming more and more significant as I weigh options moving forward out of Undergrad (Peace Corp? Developmental Economics?)... I'm fond of ellipses, Science Fiction novels and board games - I'll keep my interests to a minimum her... (read more)

7Kawoomba8yThose are not at all at odds. Read e.g. Why Spock is Not Rational [http://intelligenceexplosion.com/2011/why-spock-is-not-rational/], or Feeling Rational [http://lesswrong.com/lw/hp/feeling_rational/]. Relevant excerpts from both: and Your purely emotion / empathetic desire for altruism governs setting your goals, your pure rational thinking governs how you go about reaching your goals. You're allowed to be emotionally suckered, eh, influenced into doing your best (instrumental rationality) to do good in the world (for your values of 'good')!
4PhDre8yThank you for the reading suggestions! Perhaps my mind has already packaged Spock / lack of emotion into my understanding of the concept of 'Rationality.' To respond directly - Though if pure emotion / altruism sets my goals, the possibility of irrational / insignificant goals remains, no? If for example, I only follow pure emotion's path to... say... becoming an advocate for a community through politics, there is no 'check' on the rationality of pursuing a political career to achieve the most good (which again, is a goal that requires rational analysis)? In HPMoR, characters are accused of being 'ambitious with no ambition' - setting my goals with empathetic desire for altruism would seem to put me in this camp. Perhaps my goal, as I work my way through the sequences and the site, is to approach rationality as a tool / learning process of its own, and see how I can apply it to my life as I go. Halfway through typing this response, I found this quote from the Twelve Virtues of Rationality:
1Kawoomba8yThere is no "correct" way whatsoever in setting your terminal values, your "ultimate goals" (other agents may prefer you to pursue values similar to their own, whatever those may be). Your ultimate goals can include anything from "maximize the number of paperclips" to "paint everything blue" to "always keep in a state of being nourished (for the sake of itself!)" or "always keep in a state of emotional fulfillment through short-term altruistic deeds". Based on those ultimate goals, you define other, derivative goals, such as "I want to buy blue paint" as an intermediate goal towards "so I can paint everything blue". Those "stepping stones" can be irrational / insignificant (in relation to pursuing your terminal values), i.e. you can be "wrong" about them. Maybe you shouldn't buy blue paint, but rather produce it yourself. Or rather invest in nanotechnology to paint everything blue using nanomagic. Only you can (or can't, humans are notoriously bad at accurately providing their actual utility functions) try to elucidate what your ultimate goals are, but having decided on them, they are supra-rational / beyond rational / 'rational not applicable' by definition. There is no fault in choosing "I want to live a life that maximizes fuzzy feelings through charitable acts" over "I'm dedicating my life to decreasing the Gini index, whatever the personal cost to myself."

So I cracked open a biochem book to avoid wandering off a speculative pier,as we were moving beyond what I readily knew. A simple loss of information presented itself.

Some proteins can have two states, open and closed, which operate on a hydrophobic/hydrophilic balance. In dessicated cells or if the proteins denature for some other reason, the open/closed state will be lost.

Adding cryoprotectants will change osmotic pressure and the cell will dessicate, and the open/closed state will be lost.

3Eliezer Yudkowsky8yDo we know about any such proteins related to LTM? Can we make predictions about what it takes to erase C. elegans maze memory this way?

Would strongly predict that such changes erase only information about short term activity, not long term memory. Protein conformation in response to electrochemical/osmotic gradients operates on the timescale of individual firings, it's probably too flimsy to encode stable memories. These should be easy for Skynet to recover.

Higher level pattens of firings might conceivably store information, but experience with anaesthesia, hypothermia etc. says they do not. Or we've been killing people and replacing them all this time... a possibility which thanks to this site I'm prepared to consider..

Oh, and

Do you have a page number in Nanosystems for a references to a sensing probe?



2EHeller8yHere we have moved far past my ability to even speculate.
1lsparrish8yPresumably you can use google and wikipedia to fill in the gaps just like the rest of us. Wikipedia: Long-term memory [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-term_memory#Biological_underpinnings_at_the_cellular_level] What I worry about being confused on when reading the literature is the distinction between forming memories in the first place, and actually encoding for memory. Another critical distinction is that, proteins that are needed to prevent degradation of memories over time (which get lots of research and emphasis in the literature due to their role in preventing degenerative diseases) aren't necessarily the ones directly encoding for the memories.
5EHeller8ySo in subjects I know a lot about, I have dealt with many people who pick up strange notions by filling in the gaps from google and wikipedia with a weak foundation. The work required to effectively figure out what specific damage to the specific proteins you mentioned could be done by desiccation of a cell is beyond my knowledge base, so I leave it to someone more knowledgeable than myself(perhaps you?) to step in. What open/closed states does PKMζ have? What regulates those open/closed states? Are the open/closed states important to its roll (it looks like yes given the notion of the inhibitor?)?
3lsparrish8yNow you know why I'm so keen on the idea of figuring out a way to get something like trehalose into the cell. Neurons tend to lose water rather than import cryoprotectants because of their myelination. Trehalose protects against dessication by cushioning proteins from hitting each other. Other kinds of solute that can get past the membrane could balance out the osmotic pressure (that's kind of the point of penetrating cryoprotectants) just as well, but I like trehalose because of its low toxicity.

Not really, but yours is an uncharitable interpretation of my question, which is to evaluate the utility of spending some $100/mo on cryo vs spending it on something (anything) else, not "I have this dedicated $100/mo lying around which I can only spend toward my personal future revival".

Edit: To those finding this comment needlessly antagonistic, there's a danger in sugarcoating that this is the wrong place for people in immediate psychological distress. If a critically wounded patient turned up at a GP's office, it would be actively damaging to say "you've come to the right place, we'll treat you here". Without labelling the parent poster as such, would you as part of an internet community want to assume responsility for someone at risk of self-harm, or at risk of suffering further psychological trauma? If not, you've got to t

... (read more)

That seems rather unlikely, inasmuch as the first English translation was in 1896 - by which point Smith had preached, died, the Mormons evacuated to Utah, begun proselytizing overseas and baptism of the dead, set up a successful state, disavowed polygamy, etc.

Well, as I mentioned in another comment some time ago (not in this thread,) I support both not walking away from Omelas, and also creating Omelases unless an even more utility efficient method of creating happy and functional societies is forthcoming.

Our society rests on a lot more suffering than Omelas, not just in an incidental way (such as people within our cities who don't have housing or medical care,) but directly, through channels such as economic slavery where companies rely on workers, mainly abroad, who they keep locked in debt, who could not le... (read more)

I enjoy them and recognize the brilliance in the writing abilities, but I find myself doing things like reading lists of biases over and over in order to improve my familiarity and eventually memorize them. I still want to finish the sequences because they're so important to this culture, but what I have prioritized appears to be getting the most important information in as quickly as possible.

I wonder if the author would agree that that is the most important information. I suspect he would not. (So naturally if you learning goals are different to the ... (read more)

I mostly agree with the things you say, but these are not the things that Gatto says. Your position is a great deal milder than his.

In a single sentence, he claims that if only we could set up our schools the way he wants them to be set up, then social services would utterly disappear, the number of "psychic invalids" would drop to zero, "commercial entertainment of all sorts" would "vanish", and restaurants would be "drastically down-sized".

This is going beyound hyperbole; this borders on drastic ignorance.

For exam... (read more)

9wedrifid8yI'm afraid this account has swung to the opposite extreme---to the extent that it is quite possibly further from the truth and more misleading than Gatto's obvious hyperbole. Schizophrenia is one of the most genetically determined of the well known mental health problems but even it is heavily dependent on life experiences [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_schizophrenia#Life_experiences]. In particular, long term exposure to stressful environments or social adversity dramatically increases the risk that someone at risk for developing the condition will in fact do so. As for clinical depression, the implication that due to being 'genetic in nature' means that the environment in which an individual spends decades of growth and development in is somehow not important is utterly absurd. Genetics is again relevant in determining how vulnerable the individual is but the social environment is again critical for determining whether problems will arise.
2Bugmaster8yThat's a good point, I did not mean to imply that these mental illnesses are completely unaffected by environmental factors. In addition, in case of some illnesses such as depression, there are in fact many different causes that can lead to similar symptoms, so the true picture is a lot more complex (and is still not entirely well understood). However, this is very different from saying something like "schizophrenia is completely environmental", or even "if only people had some basic critical thinking skills, they'd never become depressed", which is how I interpreted Gatto's claims. For example even with a relatively low heritability rate [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schizophrenia#Causes], millions of people would still contract schizophrenia every year worldwide -- especially since many of the adverse life experiences that can trigger it are unavoidable. No amount of critical thinking will reduce the number of victims to zero. And that's just one specific disease among many, and we're not even getting into more severe cases such as Down's Syndrome. If Gatto thinks otherwise, then he's being hopelessly naive.
1Epiphany8yI agree that saying "all these problems will disappear" is not the same as saying that "these problems will reduce". I felt the need to explain why the problems would reduce because I wasn't sure you saw the connections. I have to wonder if having a really well-developed intellect might offer some amount of protection against this. Whether Gatto's intellect is sufficiently well-developed for this is another topic. I don't know. I love not cooking. Actually, yes. When I am fully motivated, I can spend all my evenings doing altruistic work for years, reading absolutely no fiction and watching absolutely no TV shows. That level of motivation is where I'm happiest, so I prefer to live that way. I do occasionally watch movies during those periods, perhaps once a month, because rest is important (and because movies take less time to watch than a book takes to read, but are higher quality than television, assuming you choose them well).
4Bugmaster8yI see the connections, but I do not believe that some of the problems Gatto wants to fix -- f.ex. the existence of television and restaurants -- are even problems at all. Sure, TV has a lot of terrible content, and some restaurants have terrible food, but that's not the same thing as saying that the very concept of these services is hopelessly broken. It probably would [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posttraumatic_stress_disorder#Neuroendocrinology], but not to any great extent. I'm not a psychiatrist or a neurobiologist though, so I could be widely off the mark. In general, however, I think that Gatto is falling prey to the Dunning–Kruger effect [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect] when he talks about mental illness, economics, and many other things for that matter. For example, the biggest tool in his school-fixing toolbox is the free market; he believes that if only schools could compete against each other with little to no government regulation, their quality would soar. In practice, such scenarios tend to work out... poorly. That's fair, and your preferences are consistent. However, many other people see a great deal of value in fiction; some even choose to use it as a vehicle for transmitting their ideas (f.ex. HPMOR). I do admit that, in terms of raw productivity, I cannot justify spending one's time on reading fiction; if a person wanted to live a maximally efficient life, he would probably avoid any kind of entertainment altogether, fiction literature included. That said, many people find the act of reading fiction literature immensely useful (scientists and engineers included), and the same is true for other forms of entertainment such as music. I am fairly convinced that any person who says "entertainment is a waste of time" is committing a fallacy of false generalization.


I found this site via HPMOR, which was the most awesome book I have read for several years. Besides being awesome as a book there were a lot of moments during reading I thought wow, there is someone who really thinks quite like myself. (Which is unfortunately something I do not experience too often.) Thus I was interested in who the author of HPMOR is, so I googled “less wrong”.

This site really held what HPMOR promised, so I spend quite some time reading through many articles absorbing a lot of new and interesting concepts.

Regarding my own person, ... (read more)

Long-time lurker, first-time poster. I'm 21, male, and a college student majoring in economics and minoring in CS. I first heard of Eliezer Yudkowsky when a couple of my friends discovered Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality two years ago. I started reading it and enjoyed it immensely at first, but as the plot eclipsed what I'd call the "cool tricks", I became less interested and dropped it. More recently, a different friend linked me to Intellectual Hipsters. After reading it, I read several sequences and was hooked.

My journey to rationa... (read more)

I wandered onto this site, read an article, read some interesting discussion on it, and decided to take the survey. The survey had some interesting discussion and I enjoyed the extra credit, which I did the majority of, with an exception of the IQ test I couldn't get to work right and will do later. I enjoyed the discussion I read, though, and decided this would be an interesting site to read more on. I don't know yet how much discussion I'll contribute, but when I see an interesting discussion I'm sure I'll join in.

I don't have too much to say about myse... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 6

Hume's point remained an open problem until it was later considered solved by Einstein's theory of special relativity.


Hi Guys,

I found out about this place from Methods of Rationality and have been reading the sequences for a few months now. I don't have a background in science or mathematics (just finished reading law at university) so I've yet to get to the details of Bayes but I've been very intrigued by all the sequences on cognitive bias, and this site was the trigger for me becoming interested in the mind-blowing realities of evolution and prompted me finally pulling my finger out and shifting from non-thinking agnosticm to atheism.

I'm still adjusting but I feel this site has already helped start to clean up my thinking, so thanks to everyone for making coming here such a life-changing experience.


Folks, a reminder that downvotes against introduction posts on the "Welcome" thread are frowned upon. There's nothing in the parent comment that should be sufficient to override that norm.

Yes there is---the rest of the comments that also advertise the book while attempting to shame Vladimir out of downvoting him for allegedly sinister emotional reasons. Making that sort of status challenge can be a useful way to establish oneself (or so the prison myth goes) but also often backfires and also waives the 'be gentle with the new guy' privileges.

P... (read more)

I used to have a different account here, but I wanted a new one with my real name so I made this one.

I study computer and electrical engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, though I'm not finding it very gratifying (rationalists are rare creatures around here for some reason), and I'm trying as hard as I can to find some other way to get paid to code/think so I can drop out. Here's my occasionally-updated reading list, and my favorite programming language is Clojure.

Peter here,

I stumbled onto LW from a link on TvTropes about the AI Box experiment. Followed it to an explanation of Bayes' Theorem on Yudowsky.net 'cause I love statistics (the rage I felt knowing that not one of my three statistics teachers ever mentioned Bayes was an unusual experience).

I worked my way through the sequences and was finally inspired to comment on Epistemic Viciousness and some of the insanity in the martial arts world. If your goal is to protect yourself from violence, martial arts is more likely to get you hurt or thrown in jail.

It seems... (read more)

Hellooo! I de-lurked during the survey and gradually started rambling at everyone but I never did one of these welcome posts!

My exposure to rationality started with idea that your brain can have bugs, which I had to confront when I was youngish because (as I randomly mentioned) I have a phobia that started pretty early. By then I had fairly accurate mental models of my parents to know that they wouldn't be very helpful/accommodating, so I just developed a bunch of workarounds and didn't start telling people about it until way later. The experience helped ... (read more)

I think the "LWer" appellation is just plain accurate (but then I've used the term myself). Any blog with a regular group of posters & commenters constitutes a community, so LW is a community. Posting here regularly makes us members of this community by default, and being coy about that fact would make me feel odd, given that we've strewn evidence of it all over the site. But I suspect I'm coming at this issue from a bit of an odd angle.

Hello everyone!

My personal and professional development keep leading me back to the LessWrong sequences, so I've gathered up enough humility to join in the discussions. I hope to meet your high standards.

I'm 27 and my background is in business and the life sciences; I see rationality as a critically important tool in these areas, but ultimately a relatively minor tool for life as a successful human animal. As such I see this community as being similar to a bodybuilding/powerlifting community, where the interest is in training the rational faculty instead of physical strength.

Edit: Wow, all my comments downvoted? That's a pretty strongly negative response. Care to explain?

5CoffeeStain8yFrom what I can see, people probably thought you were belaboring a point which was not a part of the discussion at hand. You said you were answering the moral value of "there exists 3^^^3 people AND..." versus the situation without that prefix, but people discussing it did not take that interpretation of the problem, nor did Eliezer when he asked it. You might say that to determine the value of 3^^^3 people getting specks in their eye you would have to presuppose it included the value of them existing, but nobody was discussing that as if it were part of the problem. It sucks, yeah, but the way that people prefer to have discussions wins out, and you can but prefer it or not, or persuade in the right channels. A good lesson to learn, and don't be discouraged.
1khriys8yThank you.

Greetings! I am Viktor Brown (please do not spell Viktor with a c), and I tend to go by deathpigeon (please do not capitalize it or spell pigeon with a d) on the internet. (I cannot actually think of a place I don't go by deathpigeon...) I'm currently 19 years old. I'm unemployed and currently out of school since my parents cut off me off for paying for school. I consider myself to be a rationalist, a mindset that comes from how I was raised rather than any particular moment in my life. When I was still in university, I was studying computer science, a sub... (read more)

3ialdabaoth8youch... who the hell downvotes a greeting post?

Hi everyone!

Well, I'm new-ish here, and this site is really big, so I was wondering where I should start, like, which articles or sequences I should read first?


Howdy. My name is Alexander. I've read a lot of LW, but only recently finally registered. I learned about LW from RationalWiki, where I am a mod. I have read most of the sequences, and many of them are insightful, although I am skeptical about the utility of such posts as the Twelve Virtues, which seeks to clothe a bit of good advice in the voluminous trappings of myth. HPMOR is also good. I don't anticipate engaging in much serious criticism of these things, however, because I have little experience in the sciences or mathematics, and often struggle... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 5

The notion of Cause and Effect was captured mathematically, statistically and succinctly by Judea Pearl, empiricism is defined by Bayes Theorem.

Excellent points, and of course it is situation dependent - if one makes erroneous predictions on archived forms of communication, e.g. these posts, then yes these predictions can come back to haunt you, but often, especially in non-archived communications, people will remember the correct predictions and forget the false ones. It should go without saying that I do not intend to be overconfident on LW - if I was going to be, then the last thing I would do is announce this intention! In a strange way, I seem to want to hold three different beliefs: 1) An ac... (read more)

4Strange79yIf you're going to go that route, at least research it first. For example: http://healthymultiplicity.com/ [http://healthymultiplicity.com/]


So, call -C1 the social cost of reporting a .9 confidence of something that turns out false, and -C2 the social cost of reporting a .65 confidence of something that turns out false. Call C3 the benefit of reporting .9 confidence of something true, and C4 the benefit of .65 confidence.

How confident are you that that (.65C3 -.35C1) < (.65C4-.35C2)?

I have suspicions that this introduction was downvoted because, on first reading, it feels like an advertising post filled with Applause Lights and other gimmicks (the feeling is particularly strong for me as I just finished reading the Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions sequence, though I had already read the majority of the individual posts in jumbled order).

A second reading sufficed to dismiss the feeling for me, and upon randomly selecting five sentences that felt like gimmicks and estimating their intended meaning, it turns out that it wasn't... (read more)

I edited my comment to rot13 the ending spoilers; I left in the stuff that's more or less advertised as the premise of the movie. You might want to edit your reply so that it doesn't quote the uncyphered text.

Meridia learned to value her relationship with her mother, which I think a lot of kids need to hear going into adolescence. When you put it this way it doesn't seem nearly as trite as your phrasing makes it sound.

I think that's a valuable lesson, but I felt like Brave's presentation of it suffered for the fact that Merida and her mother really on... (read more)

2OnTheOtherHandle9yNow that I think about it, very few movies or TV shows actually teach that lesson. There are plenty of works of fiction that portray the whiney teenager in a negative light, and there are plenty that portray the unreasonable parent in a negative light, but nothing seems to change. It all plays out with the boring inevitability of a Greek tragedy.
[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

First of all, I encourage you to take advantage of the counseling and psychological services available to you on campus, if you have not already done so. They're very familiar with psychological pain.

Second, I encourage you to go to a Less Wrong meetup when you get the chance. There's a good chance you'll find people there who are as smart as you and who care about some of the same things you care about. There are listings for meetups in Toronto, Albany, and New York City. I can personally attest that the NYC meetup is great and exists and has good people.

Finally, I wish I could point you to resources that are especially appropriate for trans people, but I don't know what they are.

I really hope that you will be okay.

7khafra8yI know there's at least 3 MtF semi-regulars on this board, and one more who turned down Aubrey de Grey for a date once; so it's not like you're alone here. But I agree with Kawoomba that there are resources focused more closely on your problems than a forum on rationality, and these will help better and quicker. If you cannot intellectually respect anyone there enough that talking would help, Shannon Friedman [http://lesswrong.com/user/ShannonFriedman] does life coaching (and Yvain is on the last leg of his journey to becoming a psychiatrist). If there's a sequence that would directly help you, it's probably Luminosity [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1xh/living_luminously/].
5gwern8yRIT can be a pretty miserable place in the winter, I know from personal experience. Maybe you have some seasonal affective disorder in addition to your other issues? Vitamin D in the morning and melatonin in the evening might help, and of course exercise is good for all sorts of mood related issues - so joining one of the clubs might be a good idea, or take a class like fencing (well, I enjoyed the fencing class anyway...) or start rockclimbing at the barn. Clubs might be a good idea in general, actually - the people in the go club were not stupid when I was there and it was nice hanging out in Java Wally's.
4JohnWittle8yIt sounds like you have some extremely strong Ugh Fields [http://lesswrong.com/lw/21b/ugh_fields/]. It works like this: A long, long time ago, you had an essay due on Monday and it was Friday. You had the thought, "Man, I gotta get that essay done", and it caused you a small amount of discomfort when you had the thought. That discomfort counted as negative feedback, as a punishment, to your brain, and so the neural circuitry which led to having the thought got a little weaker, and the next time you started to have the thought, your brain remembered the discomfort and flinched away from thinking about the essay instead. As this condition reinforced itself, you thought less and less about the paper, and then eventually the deadline came and you didn't have it done. After it was already a day late, thinking about it really caused you discomfort, and the flinch got even stronger; without knowing it, you started psychologically conditioning yourself to avoid thinking about it. This effect has probably been building in you for years. Luckily, there are some immediately useful things you can do to fight back. Do you like a certain kind of candy? Do you enjoy tobacco snuff? You can use positive conditioning on your brain the same way you did before, except in the opposite direction. Put a bag of candy on your desk, or in your backpack. Every time you think about an assignment you need to do, or how you have some job applications to fill out, eat a piece of candy. As long as you get as much pleasure out of the candy as you get pain out of the thought of having to do work, the neural circuitry leading to the thought of doing work will get stronger, as your brain begins to think it is being rewarded for having the thought. It doesn't take long at all before the nausea of actually doing work is entirely gone, and you're back to being just "lazy". But at this point, the thought of doing work will be much less painful, and the candy (or whatever) reward will be much strong
3MixedNuts8yOh hey, you're girl!me. Maybe what helped me will help you? Getting on bupropion stopped me being miserable and hurting all the time, and allowed me to do (some) stuff and be happy. That let me address my executive function issues and laziness; I'm not there yet, but I'm setting up a network of triggers that prompt me to do what I need. This will hurt like a bitch. When you get to a semi-comfortable point you just want to stop and rest, but if you do that you slide back, so you have to push through pain and keep going. But once the worst is over and you start to alieve that happiness is possible and doing things causes it, it gets easier. So I'd advise you to drag yourself to a psychiatrist (or perhaps a therapist who can refer you) and see what they can do. If you want friends and/or support, you could drop by on #lesswrong on Freenode, it's full of cool smart people. If I can help, you know where to find me.
3TheOtherDave8yWhat would help?
2Strange78yWhat worked for me in a related situaton was leveraging comparative advantage by: 1) Finding somebody who isn't broken in the same specific way, 2) Providing them with something they considered valuable, so they'd have reason to continue engaging, 3) Conveying information to them sufficient to deduce my own needs, 4) Giving them permission to tell me what to do in some limited context related to the problem, 5) Evaluating ongoing results vs. costs (not past results or sunk costs!) and deepening or terminating the relationship accordingly. None of these steps is trivial; this is a serious project which will require both deep attention and extended effort. The process must be iterated many times before fully satisfactory results can reasonably be expected. It's a very generalized algorithm which could encompass professional counseling, romance, or any number of other things.
1David Althaus8yYou could start or attend a lesswrong meetup, maybe you'll find some like-minded people. Or talk to some of your professors, some of them should be pretty smart. Maybe also try meeting new folks, maybe older students? Go to okcupid, search for lesswrong, yudkowsky or rationality and meet some like-minded people. You don't have to date them. I know, it's pretty hard, I myself don't click with 99,9% of all people and I'm definitely under +3 sigma.
1Endovior8yI think I understand. There is something of what you describe here that resonates with my own past experience. I myself was always much smarter than my peers; this isolated me, as I grew contemptuous of the weakness I found in others, an emotion I often found difficult to hide. At the same time, though, I was not perfect; the ease at which I was able to do many things led me to insufficient conscientiousness, and the usual failures arising from such. These failures would lead to bitter cycles of guilt and self-loathing, as I found the weakness I so hated in others exposed within myself. Like you, I've found myself becoming more functional over time, as my time in university gives me a chance to repair my own flaws. Even so, it's hard, and not entirely something I've been able to do on my own... I wouldn't have been able to come this far without having sought, and received, help. If you're anything like me, you don't want to seek help directly; that would be admitting weakness, and at the times when you hurt the worst, you'd rather do anything, rather hurt yourself, rather die than admit to your weakness, to allow others to see how flawed you are. But ignoring your problems doesn't make them go away. You need to do something about them. There are people out there who are willing to help you, but they can't do so unless you make the first move. You need to take the initiative in seeking help; and though it will seem like the hardest thing you could do... it's worth it.

You confuse me further with every post.

Do you think being a utilitarian makes someone less effective, healthy, sane, rational etc.?
Or do you think H2 has these various traits independent of them being a utilitarian?

2whowhowho8yThere's a lot of different kinds of utilitarian.

Well... so, if we both expect H1 to do more good than H2, it seems that if we were to look at them through the eyes of utilitarianism, we would endorse being H1 over being H2.
But you seem to be saying that H2, looking through the eyes of utilitarianism, endorses being H2 over being H1.
I am therefore deeply confused by your model of what's going on here.

Not the commenter, but I think it's just "it makes you do crazy things, like scientologists". It's not a standard LW thing.

That was addressed here:

I imagine that if asked whether they would have preferred to watch x number of shows, or spent all of that free time on getting out there and living, most people would probably choose the latter - and that's sad.

It's not that I want to tell them whether they're "really living", it's that I think they don't think spending so much of their free time on TV is "really living".

Now, if you want to disagree with me on whether they think they are "really living", that might be really interesting. I acknowledge that mind projection fallacy might be causing me to think they want what I want.

4taelor8yI suspect that many people who enjoy television, if asked, would claim that socializing with freinds or other things are somehow better or more pure, but only because TV is a low status medium, and so saying that watching TV isn't "real living" has become somewhat of a cached thought [http://lesswrong.com/lw/k5/cached_thoughts/] within our culture; I'd suspect you'd have a much harder time finding people who will claim that spending time enjoying art or reading classic literature or other higher status fictional media doesn't count as "real living".
2Nornagest8yI think I might actually expect people to endorse different activities in this context at different levels of abstraction. That is, if you asked J. Random TV Consumer to rank (say) TV and socialization, or study, or some other venue for self-improvement, I wouldn't be too surprised if they consistently picked the latter. But if you broke down these categories into specific tasks, I'd expect individual shows to rate more highly -- in some cases much more highly -- than implied by the category rating. I'm not sure what this implies about true preferences.

I'd interpret it as "evidence which bears on the question X" as opposed to "Evidence which supports answer Y to question X."

For instance, if you wanted to know whether anthropogenic climate change was occurring, you would want to search for "evidence about anthropogenic climate change" rather than "evidence for anthropogenic climate change."

I think I'm going to back out of this discussion until I understand decision theory a bit better.

Feel free. You can revisit this conversation any time you feel like it. Discussion threads never really die here, there's no community norm against replying to comments long after they're posted.

As an aside, I'll note that a lot of the solutions bandied around here to decision theory problems remind me of something from Magic: The Gathering which I took notice of back when I still followed it.

When I watched my friends play, one would frequently respond to another's play with "Before you do that, I-" and use some card or ability to counter their opponent's move. The rules of MTG let you do that sort of thing, but I always thought it was pretty silly, because they did not, in fact, have any idea that it would make sense to make that play u... (read more)

It really feels good to be here. The name along sounds comforting..... 'less wrong'. I've always loved to be around people who write and provide of intuitive solutions to everyday challenges. Guess am gonna read a few posts and get acquainted to the customs here then make meaningful contributions too.

Thanks Guys for this great opportunity.

Hi! I'm shard. I have been looking for a community just like this for quite awhile. Someone on the Brain Workshop group recommended this site too me. It looks great, I am very excited to sponge as much knowledge off as I can, and hopefully to add a grain someday.

I love the look of the site. What forum or bb do you use? or is it a custom one? I've never seen one like it, it's very clean, and I'd like to use it for a forum I wanted to start.

1Alicorn9yThe software behind the site is a clone of Reddit, plus some custom development.

Greetings. My name is Albert Perrien. I was initially drawn to this site by my personal search on metacognition; and only really connected after having stumbled across “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality”, which I found an interesting read. My professional background is in computer engineering, database administration, and data mining, with personal studies of Machine Learning, AI and mathematics. I find the methods given here to promote rational thought and bias reduction fascinating, and the math behind everything enlightening.

Recently I’ve b... (read more)

It took me a few hours to find this thread like a kid rummaging through a closet not knowing what he is looking for.

As my handle indicates, I am Lloyd. Not much I think is worth saying about myself but I would like to ask a few questions to see what interests readers here, if anyone reads this, and present a sample of where my thinking may come from.

Considering the psychological model of five senses we are taught since grade school is there a categorical difference in our ability to logically perceive that 2+2=4 vs perceiving the temperature is decreasi... (read more)

4Mitchell_Porter9yThis was the hardest of your questions to get a grip on. :-) You mention disaster fiction, Star Trek, 1984, and Brave New World, and you categorize the first two as post-industrial and the second two as bad-industrial perpetuated. If I look for the intent behind your question... the idea seems to be that visions of the future are limited to destruction, salvation from outside, and dystopia. Missing from your list of future scenarios is the anodyne dystopia of boredom, which doesn't show up in literature about the future because it's what people are already living in the present, and that's not what they look for in futurology, unless they are perverse enough to want true realism even in their escapism, and experienced enough to know that real life is mostly about boredom and disappointment. The TV series "The Office" comes to mind as a representation of what I'm talking about, though I've never seen it; I just know it's a sitcom about people doing very mundane things every day (like every other sitcom) - and that is reality. If you're worried that reality might somehow just not contain elements that transcend human routine, don't worry, they are there, they pervade even the everyday world, and human routine is something that must end one day. Human society is an anthill, and anthills are finite entities, they are built, they last, they are eventually destroyed. But an anthill can outlive an individual ant, and in that sense the ant's reality can be nothing but the routine of the anthill. Humans are more complex than ants and their relation to routine is more complex. The human anthill requires division of labor, and humans prepared to devote themselves to the diverse functional roles implied, in order to exist at all. So the experience of young humans is typically that they first encounter the boredom of human routine as this thing that they never wanted, that existed before them, and which it will be demanded that they accept. They may have their own ideas a
3Mitchell_Porter9ySince life is considered a solved problem by science, any remaining problem of "aliveness" is treated as just a perspective on or metaphor for the problem of consciousness. But talking about aliveness has one virtue; it militates against the tendency among intellectuals to identify consciousness with intellectualizing, as if all that is to be explained in consciousness is "thinking" and passive "experiencing". The usual corrective to this is to talk about "embodiment". And it's certainly a good corrective; being reminded of the body reintroduces the holism of experience, as well as activity, the will, and the nonverbal as elements of experience. Still, I wouldn't want to say that talking about bodies as well as about consciousness is enough to make up for the move from aliveness to consciousness as the discursively central concept. There's an inner "life" which is also obscured by the easily available ways of talking about "states of mind"; and at the other extreme, being alive is also suggestive of the world that you're alive in, the greater reality which is the context to all the acting and willing and living. This "world" is also a part of cognition and phenomenology that is easily overlooked if one sticks to the conventional tropes of consciousness. So when we talk about a living universe, we might want to keep all of that in mind, as well as more strictly biological or psychological ideas, such as whether it's like something to be a star, or whether the states and actions of stars are expressive of a stellar intentionality, or whether the stars are intelligences that plan, process information, make choices, and control their physical environment. People do exist who have explored these ways of thought, but they tend to be found in marginal places like science fiction [http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/stapledon/olaf/star/chapter11.html], crackpot science [http://www.google.com/search?q=ohiogyre], and weird speculation [http://www.starlarvae.org]. Then, beyo

Hi all! I'm Leonidas and I was also a lurker for quite some time. I forget how I exactly found Less Wrong but most likely is via Nick Bostrom's website, when I was reading about anthropics about a year ago. I'm an astronomer working on observational large-scale structure and I have a big interest in all aspects of cosmology. I also enjoy statistics, analyzing data and making inferences and associated computational techniques.

It was only during the final year of my undergraduate studies in physics that I consciously started to consider myself a rationalist... (read more)

I am Erik Erikson. By day I currently write patents and proofs of concept in the field of enterprise software. My chosen studies included neuro and computer sciences in pursuit of the understanding that can produce generally intelligent entities of equal to or greater than human intelligence less our human limitations. I most distinctly began my "rationalist" development around the age of ten when I came to doubt all truth, including my own existence. I am forever in debt to the "I think, therefore I am" idiom as my first piece of k... (read more)

Hello everyone. I've been lurking around this site for a while now. I found this site from HPMOR, as I'm sure a lot of people have. The fanfic was suggested to me by one of my friends who read it.

Random cliffnotes about myself. I'm a highschool senior. I'm a programmer, been programming since I was 10, it's one of my favorite things to do and it's what I plan on doing for my career. I love reading, which I would imagine is a given to most people here. I've always been interested in how the universe and people work, and I want to know the why of everything I can.

I wasn't specifying who was being rapey. Just that the entire setup was rapey.

That was clear and my reply applies.

(The person to whom the applies is the person who forces the marriage. Rape(y/ist) would also apply if that person was also a participant in the marriage.)

I prefer the practice-based approach too, but from my position theoretical approaches are cheaper and much more available, if slower and rather tedious. In school they taught us that the only way to get better in an area is to do extra homework, and frankly my methods haven't improved much since. My usual way is to take an exercise book and solve everything in it, if that counts for practice; other than that, I only have the internet and a very limited budget.

You're interested in a lot of things, and trying to catch up with what you feel you should know,

... (read more)
2Davidmanheim9yWhere you go to college and the amount of any scholarships you get are a bigger deal for your long term personal growth than any of the specific subjects you will learn right now. In the spirit of long term decision making, figure out where you want to go to college, or what your options are, and spend the summer maximizing the odds of getting in to your first choice schools. I cannot imagine that it won't be a better investment of your time than any one subject you are studying (unless you are preparing for SAT or some such test.) So I guess you should spend the summer on Khan, and learning and practicing vocabulary to get better at taking the tests that will get you into a great college, where your opportunities to learn are greatly expanded.
4Dahlen9yI'm afraid all of this is not really applicable to me... My country isn't Western enough for such a wide range of opportunities. Here, institutes for higher education range from almost acceptable (state universities) to degree factories (basically all private colleges). Studying abroad in a Western country costs, per semester, somewhere between half and thrice my parents' yearly income. On top of everything, my grades would have to be impeccable and my performances worthy of national recognition for a foreign college to want me as a student so much as to step over the money issue and cover my whole tuition. (They're not, not by a long shot.) Thanks for the support, in any case...

To presume that states non-identical up to thermal noise are indistinguishable seems to presume either lower technology than the sort of thing I have in mind, or that you know something I don't about how two physical states can be non-identical up to thermal noise and yet indistinguishable.

It would be justification for clearly referring to more appropriate venues for help, however.

Definitely agree. Pardon me if I misinterpreted the intended point of your edit.

4Kawoomba8yNo, I tried to have my cake, and eat it too, you were entirely justified in calling me out on it.

This seems like a rather simplistic view, see counter-examples below.

My conviction is

"conviction" might not be a great term, maybe what you mean is a careful conclusion based on something.

that the essential relationship between the two is that the "you of today" shares the memories of "you of yesterday"

except that we forget most of them, and that our memories of the same event change in time, and often are completely fictional.

and fully understands them.

Not sure what you mean by understanding here, feel free to d... (read more)

Imagine that it is not you, but your child you must sacrifice.

The situation is not analogous, since sacrificing one's child would presumably make most parents miserable for the rest of their days. In Omelas, however, the sacrifice makes people happy, instead.

Step 1 is to spend too much time posting comments. I'm not sure I recommend this to someone whose time is valuable. I would like to see you share your "street rationalist" skills here, though!

Perhaps! Though I certainly didn't intend to imply that this was a selfish calculation - one could totally believe that the best altruistic strategy is to maximize the expected utility of being a person.

As you would know, the arxiv sees several papers every month claiming to have finally explained quantum theory. I would have seen yours in the daily listings and not even read it, expecting that it is based on some sort of fallacy, or on a "smuggled premise" - I mean that the usual interpretation of QM will be implicitly reintroduced (smuggled into the argument) in how the author talks about the mathematical objects, even while claiming to be doing without the Born rule. For example, it is very easy for this to happen when talking about density m... (read more)

1aotell9yI see it exactly like you. I too see the overwhelming number of theories that usually make more or less well hidden mistakes. I too know the usual confusions regarding the meaning of density matrices, the fallacies of circular arguments and all the back doors for the Born rule. And it is exactly what drives me to deliver something that is better and does not have to rely on almost esoteric concepts to explain the results of quantum measurements. So I guarantee you that this is very well thought out. I have worked on this very publication for 4 years. I flipped the methods and results over and over again, looked for loopholes or logical flaws, tried to improve the argumentation. And now I am finally confident enough to discuss it with other physicists. Unfortunately, you are not the only physicist that has developed an understandable skepticism regarding claims like I make. This makes it very hard for me to find someone who does exactly what you describe as being hard work, thinking the whole thing through. I'm in desperate need of someone to really look into the details and follow my argument carefully, because that is required to understand what I am saying. All answers that I can give you will be entirely out of context and probably start to look silly at some point, but I will still try. I do promise that if you take the time to read the blog (leave the paper for later) carefully, you will find that I'm not a smuggler and that I am very careful with deduction and logic. To answer your questions, first of all it is important that the observer's real state and the state that he assumes to be in are two different things. The objective observer state is the usual state according to unitary quantum theory, described by a density operator, or as I prefer to call them, state operator. There is no statistical interpretation associated with that operator, it's just the best possible description of a subsystem state. The observer does not know this state however, if h

Hello, I found LessWrong through a couple of Tumblr posts. I don't really identify as a rationalist but it seems like a sane enough idea. I look forward to figuring out how to use this site and maybe make some contributions. I found reading some of the sequences interesting, but I think I might just stick to the promoted articles. As of now I have no plans on figuring out the Bayes thing, although I did give it a try. My name is Andrew.

Hello everyone

I've been lurking here for a while now but I thought it was about time I said "Hi".

I found Less Wrong through HPMOR, which I read even though I never read Rowling's books.

I'm currently working my way through the Sequences at a few a day. I'm about 30% through the 2006-2010 collection, and I can heartily recommend reading them in time order and on something like Kindle on your iPhone. ciphergoth's version suited me quite well. I've been making notes as I go along and sooner or later there'll be a huge set of comments and queries ar... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 3

I wonder why it is that so many people get here from TV Tropes.

Because it uses as many examples from HP:MoR as it possibly could?

The antagonist is the rapey cultural artifact of forced marriage.

There should be a word for forcing other people to have sex (with each other, not yourself). The connotations of calling a forced arranged marriage 'rapey' should be offensive to the victims. It is grossly unfair to imply that the wife is a 'rapist' just because her husband's father forced his son to marry her for his family's political gain. (Or vice-versa.)

Here is a typical LW comment that raises the "excessive group identification" red flag for me.

Given that you're abnormally intelligent, you probably need less information to deduce any given thing than most people would. The flip side of that is, other people need more information than you think they will, especially on subjects you've studied extensively (such as the inside of your own mind).

Given that you haven't figured out the problem yourself yet, they probably also need more information than you currently have. You might be able to save yourself some trouble (not all of it, but every little bit counts) on research and communication in step #... (read more)

Freitas' Nanomedicine, neither of which I've read, but I'd be surprised if the latter didn't address this issue.

Not that I have seen, but I'm only partially through it.

For the convenience of later readers: someone elsewhere in the thread linked an actual physical experimental example.

And its an awesome example from just a few months ago! Pushing NMR from mm resolutions down to nm resolutions is a truly incredibly feat!

Oh, sure. Or if the sort of information that gets destroyed relates to what-I-am-currently-thinking, or something similar. If I wake up and don't remember the last X minutes,or hours, big deal. But when we have to postulate certain types of storage for something to work, it should lower our probability estimates.

In an infinite universe, the speed-of-light limit is not a problem. Surely it limits the speed of computing but any computation can be performed eventually.

wedrifid already replied better than I could; but I'd still like to add that "eventually" is a long time. For example, if the algorithm that you are computing is NP-complete, then you won't be able to grow your hardware quickly enough to make any practical difference. In addition, if our universe is not eternal (which it most likely is not), then it makes no sense to talk about an "in

... (read more)

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(shrug) OK.
I certainly agree with you that some utilitarians suffer from the existential panic and inability to relinquish their death-grips on unhealthy ideas, while others don't.
I'm tapping out here.

One could reason that one is better placed to do good effectively when focussing on oneself, ones family, one's community, etc, simply because one understands them better.

Done. Sorry this took so long, I've been taken mostly offline by a biohazard for the last week.

I strongly doubt the existence of any truly unbounded entity. Even a self-modifying transhuman AI would eventually run out of atoms to convert into computronium, and out of energy to power itself. Even if our Universe was infinite, the AI would be limited by the speed of light.

In an infinite universe, the speed-of-light limit is not a problem. Surely it limits the speed of computing but any computation can be performed eventually. Of course you might argue that our universe it asymptotically de Sitter. This is true, but it also probably metastable and c... (read more)

2wedrifid8yDoes this hold in a universe that is also expanding (like ours)? Such a scenario makes the 'infinite' property largely moot given that any point within has an 'observable universe' that is not infinite. That would seem to rule out computations of anything more complicated than what can be represented within the Hubble volume.

That is kind of up to you. That's the problem with terminal goals...

Well, for example, I wouldn't be too surprised to find the same person saying both "I'd rather socialize than watch TV" and "I'd rather watch Game of Thrones [or other popular TV show] than call my friend for dinner tonight".

Of course that's just one specialization, and the plausibility of a particular scenario depends on personality and relative appeal.

What does "living" mean, exactly ?

"Living" the way I used it means "living to the fullest" or, a little more specifically "feeling really engaged in life" or "feeling fulfilled".

I understand that you find your personal creative projects highly enjoyable, and that's great. But you aren't merely saying, "I enjoy X", you're saying, "enjoying Y instead of X is objectively wrong" (if I understand you correctly).

I used "living" to refer to a subjective state. There's nothi... (read more)