Welcome to Less Wrong! (2010-2011)

by orthonormal1 min read12th Aug 2010805 comments


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I'm a 32 year old physics PhD, working (so far) on the oh-so-fashionable subfield of graphene and carbon nanotubes. I took Quantum field theory, which is a little unusual for an experimentalist (though not positively rare). I have a background in programming, and a moderate degree of interest in AI.

I came here by way of the Methods of Rationality. After reading that, and upon seeing that there was a sequence on quantum mechanics, I had a suspicion that it wouldn't be terrible. This suspicion was vastly exceeded. I never encountered the slightest technical flaw, which is better than many physicists can produce on the subject, let alone philosophers and amateur physicists.

I began wandering and seeing what else there was, and it is good. The atmosphere also seems quite good around here, so I thought I'd join the community rather than treating it as a collection of essays and comments.

So here I am.

~~ Edited to add: ~

I am not sure how this got so many upvotes. Was it the praise? The brevity? That I'm a physicist? The score just stands out on the page a bit, and I'm not at all sure why.

7realitygrill9yupvoted, because I've been wondering how the QM sequence is looked upon by physicists :)
9Luke_A_Somers9yI'd be interested to know that myself. I've only spoken with a few because it's a potentially awkward subject. I recall one other strongly and one other regular-strength in favor of MW+decoherence (both in my rough age-group); one classmate said "decoherence, as I understand it, is a little more reasonable sounding than most", for ontology, but uses the Copenhagen interpretation when thinking about epistemology; one professor was against MW just on uneasiness grounds, but didn't have a firm opinion; one professor with the philosophy "If it's just quantum mechanics, I'm not interested. If it's not quantum mechanics, I'm not interested", which is formally equivalent to MW + decoherence but without the explicit acknowledgement that it is; one who was against everything, especially the part with everything in it; and too many "Let's stop talking about this/I'm not qualified to have an opinion/Aargh" to count. ~~ In this tiny sample of mostly experimentalists: People with a preference for the Bohm guide wave interpretation: 0 People with a preference for more sophisticated just-QM interpretations such as transactional or consistent histories: 0 People who accept wavefunction collapse as real: 1 on the fence. A survey on the subject could be interesting.
4Normal_Anomaly9yIt's because you're a physicist who commented about the QM sequence. I, and apparently a lot of other people who've read it, really wanted to know if we've absorbed any mistakes. Thanks for giving a more informed opinion than most of us can bring. :)
3christina9yI can't answer for anyone else, but I think graphene work sounds pretty cool, so here's an upvote from me!

Hello Less Wrong!

I was on facebook and I saw a wall post about the fanfiction Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. I haven't read fanfiction much since I was a kid, but the title was intriguing, so I clicked on it and started reading. The ideas were interesting enough that I went to the author's page and it brought me here.

Anyways, I'm a 22 year old female person. I'm graduating from college in 2 weeks with a chemistry major and I have no real plans, so it makes posting about my life situation a little awkward right now. I'll probably be heading back to the Chicagoland area and trying to find a job, I guess.

I can already tell that this site is going to wreak havoc on my ability to finish up all my projects, study for finals, and hang out with my friends. I just spent a couple hours reading randomly around and I can tell I've barely scratched the surface on the content. But after I almost died laughing at the post about the sheep and the pebbles I was hooked. Really, I just want to be a freshman again so I can spend my time staying up all night thinking and talking and puzzling things out with EZmode classes and no real responsibilities.

Anyways. I'm pretty excited about gett... (read more)

9Alicorn10yWelcome! I love your story about the Monty Hall problem. Consider putting it as a toplevel anecdote in the Discussion Section.
5Swimmer96310yI'm very interesting in reading your future posts! It sounds like you have a lot of potential and a lot of learning to do, which is always the most exciting combination. I wish I could be your roommate and get to hear all of this!
4NancyLebovitz10yDefinitely an interesting intro, and it's good to see someone care so much about whether they understand the world. Approximate quote from Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error [http://www.amazon.com/Being-Wrong-Adventures-Margin-Error/dp/0061176052/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1303834440&sr=1-2] : "How does being wrong feel? Exactly like being right."
2JStewart10yThat was an awesome introduction post. I like the way you think.

Hey everbody,

I'm a PhD Student in Physics. I came across Lesswrong when I read Eliezer's interview with John Baez. I was very intrigued by his answers: especially with his idea that the world needs to understand rationality. I identify with rationalism and especially with Lesswrong, because it just clicked. There were so many things in the world which people accepted and which I knew were just plain wrong. And before I found Lesswrong, I was a frustrated mess. And when I found Lesswrong it was a breath of fresh air.

For example: I was a pretty good debater in college. So in order to be a better debater, I started reading more about logical fallacies, which are common in argument and debate, such as ad hominem, slippery slope, appeal to authority etc . And the more I learnt about these, the more I saw that these were exactly the techniques common in debate. I was forced to conclude that debating was not about reaching the truth, but about proving the other person wrong. The people in debating circles were very intelligent; but very intelligent in a useless (and maybe harmful) way. They were scarcely interested in the truth. They could take any argument, twist it, contort it, appeal ... (read more)

7Swimmer9639yWelcome, Stabilizer! Interesting that you say this...I haven't had the same experience at all. I was raised basically agnostic/atheist, by parents who weren't so much disapproving of religion as indifferent. I started going to church basically because I made friends with a girl who I had incredibly fun times hanging out with and who was also a passionate born-again Christian. I knew that most of the concepts expressed in her evangelical Christian sect were fallacious, but I met a lot of people whose belief had allowed them to overcome difficult situations and live much happier lives. Even if true belief wasn't an option for me, I could see the positive effect that my friend's church had, in general, in the community it served. And I was a happier, more positive, and more generous person while I attended the group. There was a price to pay: either I would profess my belief to the others and feel like I was lying to a part of myself, or I wouldn't, and feel like ever-so-slightly an outsider. But maybe because of my particular brain architecture, the pain of cognitive dissonance was far outweighed by the pleasure of having a ready-made community of kind, generous (if not scientific-minded) people eager to show me how welcoming and generous they could be. I have yet to find something that is as good for my mental health and emotional stability as attending church. That being said, a year of not attending church and reading LessWrong regularly has honed my thinking to the point that I don't think I could sit back and enjoy those church services anymore. So that avenue is closed to me now, too.
4TheOtherDave9yFor what it's worth, it depends a lot on the church service: I know quite a few very sharp thinkers whose church membership is an important and valuable part of their lives in the way you describe. But they are uniformly members of churches that don't demand that members profess beliefs. One gentleman in particular gave a lay sermon to his church on Darwin's birthday one year about how much more worthy of admiration a God who arranges the fundamental rules of the universe in such a way that intelligent life can emerge naturally out of their interaction, than is a God who instead must clumsily go in and manually construct intelligent life, and consequently how much more truly worshipful a view of life is the evolutionary biologist's than the creationist's, which was received reasonably positively. So you might find that you can get what you want by just adding constraints to the kind of church service you're looking for.
6Swimmer9639ySounds like the Unitarian church that my parents took us to for a few years...I'm not sure why they took us, but I think it might have had more to do with "not depriving the children of a still-pretty-typical childhood experience like going to Sunday school" than with a wish to have church an important part of their lives. I would probably enjoy the Unitarian community if I joined for long enough to really get to know them... I'm sure the adults were all very kind, welcoming people. Still, the two churches that I've attended the most are High Anglican and Pentecostal. The Anglican cathedral is where I sang in the choir for more than five years, and the music is what really drew me; although the Anglican church is very involved in community projects and volunteering, almost the whole congregation is above the age of fifty, and the young people who do attend are often cautious, conservative, and not especially curious about the world, which reduces the amount of fun I can have with them. Surprisingly enough, in the Pentecostal church where the actual beliefs professed are much more extreme, most of the congregation are young and passionate about life and even intellectually curious. They are fun to hang out with...in fact, I frequently had more fun spending a Friday night at a Pentecostal event than at a party. They took their beliefs seriously and really lived according to how they saw the Bible, even though I have no doubt their actions would have been considered weird in a lot of contexts and by many of their friends. I think a lot of the apparent mental health benefit of this church came from the community's decision to stop caring about social stigmas and just live. This is, I think, what I most respected about them...but for a lot of the same reasons, I now find their ideas and beliefs a lot more jarring than those of the Anglican church. I have no doubt that there are churches on all sides of the continuum: "traditional" communities, like the Anglican ch
5thomblake9yPlease do not sign your posts. That information is conveyed by the username listed at the top of the post.
2Peacewise9yWelcome to lesswrong, I'm quite new here too. I read your intro and think you would probably thoroughly devour Edward De Bono's "I am right, you are wrong". I agree with you regarding debating (and criticism) and so does De Bono, he writes about it quite elegantly. Cheers, peacewise.

Hello Less Wrong!

I'm 16, female, and a senior in high school. Before I started reading here, I was not particularly interested in math, science, or rationality (which I had never really heard of). I stumbled on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality in October, and fell in love immediately. I read through the whole story in one night, and finally made the leap to Less Wrong during Eliezer's hiatus.

I started on Less Wrong by reading Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions and within three posts I realized that, for the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people significantly smarter than me. Some people would probably have been excited about that; I was terrified. I promised myself that I wouldn't post - wouldn't even create an account, to avoid the temptation of posting - until I had read all the sequences and understood everything everyone said.

In retrospect, that may have been setting the bar a little too high for myself, especially since seven more sequences were added while I was reading. I eventually revised my standard to "I will not comment until I'm sure I actually have something to add to a discussion, and until I understand the things I have read we... (read more)

2Hul-Gil10yWelcome. Just remember: don't take the posts on LessWrong as gospel, so to speak, just because of their source. Eliezer has posted about this several times, though, so you most probably need no reminding.
4KPier10yThanks! I worried for a while about changing my mind too much on the basis of one blog, and I still don't agree with the Less Wrong consensus on everything, but overall I've found them very helpful. Anything specifically you would view with a skeptical eye?

My name is Scott Starin. I toyed with the idea of using a pseudonym, but I decided that this site is related enough to my real world persona that I should be safe in claiming my LW persona.

I am a spacecraft dynamics and control expert working for NASA. I am a 35-year old man married to another man, and we have a year-old daughter. I am an atheist, and in the past held animist and Christian beliefs. I would describe my ethics as rationally guided with one instinctive impulse to the basic Christian idea of valuing and respecting one's neighbor, and another instinctive impulse to mistrust everyone and growl at anyone who looks like they might take my food. Understanding my own humanity and human biases seems a good path toward suppressing the instinctive impulses when they are inappropriate.

I came to this site from an unrelated blog that briefly said something like "Eliezer Yudkowsky is frighteningly intelligent" and linked to this site. So, I came to see for myself. I've read through a lot of the sequences. I really enjoyed the Three Worlds Collide story and forced my husband to read it. EY does seems to be intelligent, but I'm signing up because he and the rest of the comm... (read more)

4jsalvatier10yWelcome then! Your first idea does sound interesting, and I look forward to heard about it. Don't worry too much about Karma.
2TheOtherDave10yWelcome! Understanding and overcoming human cognitive biases is, of course, a recurring theme here. So is management of catastrophic (including existential) risks. Discussions of charity come up from time to time, usually framed as optimization problems. This post [http://lesswrong.com/lw/6z/purchase_fuzzies_and_utilons_separately/] gets cited often. We actually had a recent essay contest [http://lesswrong.com/lw/38v/100_for_the_best_article_on_efficient_charity_the/] on efficient charity that might interest you. The value of religion (as distinct from the value of charity, of community, and so forth) comes up from time to time but rarely goes anywhere useful. Don't sweat the karma. If you don't mind a personal question: where did you and your husband get married?
3SRStarin10yWe got married in a small town near St. Catharine's, Ontario, a few weeks after it became legal there. Thanks for the charity links. I find practical and aesthetic value in the challenging aspect of "shut up and multiply,"( http://lesswrong.com/lw/n3/circular_altruism/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/n3/circular_altruism/]), particularly in the example you linked about purchasing charity efficiently. However, it seems to me that oversimplification can occur when we talk about human suffering. (Please forgive me if the following is rehashing something written earlier.) For example, multiplying a billion people's suffering for 1 second to make it equal to a billion seconds of consecutive suffering to make it seem way more bad than a million consecutive seconds--almost 12 straight days--of suffering done by one person is just plainly, rationally wrong. One proof of that is that distributing those million seconds as one-second bursts at regular intervals over a person's life is better than the million consecutive seconds because the person is not otherwise unduly hampered by the occasional one-second annoyances, but would probably become unable to function well in the consecutive case, and might be permanently injured (a la PTSD). My point is there's something missing from the equation, and that potential lies at the heart of the human impulse to be irrational when presented with the same choice as comparative gain vs. comparative loss.
2TheOtherDave10yAs you say, a million isolated seconds of suffering isn't as bad as a million consecutive seconds of suffering, because (among other things) of the knock-on effects of consecutivity (e.g. PTSD). Maybe it's only 10% as bad, or 1%, or .1%, or .0001%, or whatever. Sure, agreed, of course. But the moral intuition being challenged by "shut up and multiply" isn't about that. If everyone agreed that sure, N dust-specks was worse than 50 years of torture for some N, and we were merely haggling over the price, the thought experiment would not be interesting. That's why the thought experiment involves ridiculous numbers like 3^^^3 in the first place, so we can skip over all that. When we're trying to make practical decisions about what suffering to alleviate, we care about N, and precision matters. At that point we have to do some serious real-world thinking and measuring and, y'know, work. But what's challenging about "shut up and multiply" isn't the value of N, it's the existence of N. if we're starting out with a moral intuition that dust-specks and torture simply aren't commensurable, and therefore there is no value of N... well, then the work of calculating it is doomed before we start.

Hi, I'm Alison - I used to be a professional tarot reader and astrologer in spite of having a (fairly average) science degree. I recovered from that over 15 years ago and feel it would be valuable for more people to understand how I came to do it and how I changed my mind. I am also a 45 year old woman, which makes me feel in a tiny minority on LW.

I've been reading large chunks of the sequences for the last year, as well as books like Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear and a bunch of rationalist blogs (and been thoroughly sucked into HPMOR).

Topics I'm particularly interested in include day to day rationality, tackling global warming, rationality from the perspective of people with mental health issues and tackling irrationality while maintaining polite and less arrogant discourse.

8[anonymous]9yHi Alison! Welcome to LessWrong! I'm always happy to see people who are interested in maintaining politeness on here. I have a friend who is a professional psychic/ magician/ tarot reader, and he is extremely rational (uses cold reading and builds technology stuff for tricks.). I don't think you necessarily have to give the profession up if it's something you enjoy. So long as you don't fall prey to the trap of believing your own schtick. I would love to hear your story of how you came to change your mind! Glad to have you here!
4juliawise9yI'm with you! There's quite a culture divide between "win the argument" and "get along", and since I spend more time in the latter camp, Less Wrong was unpalatable for me at first.
3Vladimir_Nesov9yThere's also "point out errors", which is different from "win the argument".
4rlp109yMay I ask, at that time did you thoroughly believe that you were actually able to predict the future? Also, with the benefit of hindsight, do you consider yourself to have used the dark arts [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Dark_arts]?

Hullo Less Wrongers,

I am a philosopher working mostly on methodology and causal inference, though I also dabble in (new wave) experimental philosophy -- not to be confused with the straight-up physics that went by that name from the days of Newton and Boyle until some time in the mid-nineteenth century. ;)

I just finished my PhD (in history and philosophy of science) and started as an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign on August 16th.

From time to time over the last two or three years, I've glanced at Less Wrong and found it engaging. I am a bit depressed at the pessimism often displayed with respect to contemporary philosophy, but part of that depression is the recognition that the critiques are pretty reasonable. Anyway, I thought I should officially sign on so that I can throw in my two cents and expose my thinking to severe -- but, hopefully, courteous -- testing.


I am a bit depressed at the pessimism often displayed with respect to contemporary philosophy, but part of that depression is the recognition that the critiques are pretty reasonable.

Don't worry, 99% of philosophy is crud, but only because 99% of everything is crud. (That doesn't sound as reassuring as it did in my head. :-) )

2JonathanLivengood9yOnly 99%? That sounds low. ;)

I thank the Ravenclaw Harry Potter for bringing me here. I've been lurking for a couple of weeks. My first clue that I'd feel at home here was learning that Eliezer taught himself physics by reading the Feynman lectures.

I'm an evolutionary ecologist by training, and a self-taught Python programmer and GIS analyst. I currently work at a community college, where I do a lot of one-on-one biology-teaching. I spend a lot of time thinking about where students go wrong when they're thinking about science, and how to help them think more about their own thinking. (In my department we call it metacognition.) I'm also the father of a four-year-old, and so I also spend a good part of my home-life confronting and responding to some pretty fascinating cognitive and philosophical puzzles. (Her latest interest: the origins and arbitrariness of names.)

I've been developing as a rationalist (without the label) since who-knows-when during childhood, but I trace my more careful, articulated thinking about my own thinking to my early grad-school days, when I spent a lot of time fretting over how scientists should think about nature and problem-solving.

I'm looking forward to learning some new cognitive habits (my current thing is to think of -- and teach -- many cognitive skills as habits) and reinforcing some that I already have.

I'm bad at this.

Oh well here goes.

Hi there! I'm Erik. I'm 20 years old.

I am a pure math major at the University of Waterloo. I am half way through my third year here.

That being said, I am largely an autodidact, which I gather is pretty common around these parts. Up until age 13 or so I was primarily interested in physics. In the course of trying to learn physics, I inevitably had to learn some math. So I did, and I never looked back. I can actually pinpoint the exact moment, all those years ago, when I became sure that I would spend the rest of my life doing math. But I won't bore you with such an excessively personal story.

My mathematical interests are fairly broad. My single greatest fear is that I will probably have to specialize at some point, to learn truly focus on one subject area; To think that I could ever actively decide not to want to learn all the things. I plan to delay this for as long as possible.

I tend to lean towards what I consider to be a pragmatic form of ultrafinitism. Other mathematicians tend to punch me when I talk about that though. A favourite pet problem of mine is to try to work how to recover things like eg real analysis without having to talk about inf... (read more)

An easy example: How do you know how far away the sun is?

Terry Tao has a really cool presentation on that topic: The Cosmic Distance Ladder.

4Nornagest9yParallax effects are a surprisingly good reason to reject heliocentrism. Wrong, of course, but it does seem to fail the sniff test -- and about all the Greeks had to work with were sniff tests of varying sophistication. Although now I kind of wonder how Aristarchus' critics explained his observations.
2gwern9yThat was long, but very good. People underestimate the ancient Greeks - it's awesome to see the whole set of calculations laid out. (This reminds me guiltily of a post I keep meaning to write doing something similar for Atomism.)
1wedrifid9yFirst thing you can do to become better at this: Don't start by telling people you are bad at it. If it was really important that we know that you are bad at it we could probably figure it out for ourselves!

Hi everyone, my name is Jesse. I was introduced to LessWrong by my sister, Julia, a couple years ago and I've found the posts here fantastic.

Since college, I've been a professional atheist. I've done communications/PR work for three secular nonprofit organizations, helping to put a friendly face on nontheistic people and promoting a secular worldview/philosophy. It doesn't exactly pay well, but I like knowing that I'm part of making the world a more rational place.

I'm fascinated by a lot of the same things you are - psychology, rationality, language. But as a communications director, I have a particular passion for effective communication and persuasion. The "A Human's Guide to Words" sequence was invaluable in shaping my understanding and practice.

The question currently on my mind (among others) is: "Does it make sense to call a particular persuasion technique unethical? Or does it entirely depend on how it's used?"

Let me know what you think, and I look forward to being a part of this community!

  • Jesse

Some questions to ask:

  • Am I making people stronger, or weaker?
  • What would they think if they knew exactly what I was doing?
  • If lots of people used this technique, would the world be better off or worse off? Is that already happening and am I just keeping pace? Am I being substantially less evil than average?
  • Is this the sort of Dark Art that corrupts anything it touches (like telling people to have faith) or is it more neutral toward the content conveyed (like using colorful illustrations or having a handsome presenter speak a talk)?

(I've recently joked that SIAI should change its motto from "Don't be jerks" to "Be less evil than Google".)

7kilobug9y"Am I making people stronger, or weaker?" That's a very important question, and sometimes hard to get right. Consider a theist for whom the belief in god is a fundamental aspect of his life, whose faith makes him strong because it gives him something to protect [http://lesswrong.com/lw/nb/something_to_protect/]. Breaking (or weakening) his belief in god before he built himself a line of retreat [http://lesswrong.com/lw/o4/leave_a_line_of_retreat/] can do much more harm than good. What should be done is first building the line of retreat, showing him that even without a god, his life does not become pointless, his ethics won't crumble to dust, and the thing he wants to protect is still worth protecting. And then, but only then, showing to him that his belief in god is not only unnecessary, but also making him weaker.
5JesseGalef9yGreat questions! Regarding the second one, "What would [people] think if they knew exactly what I was doing?" - I absolutely agree that it's important as a pragmatic issue. If someone will get upset by a technique - justified or not - we need to factor that into the decision to use it. But do you think their discomfort is a sign that the technique is unethical in any meaningful sense, or merely socially frowned upon? Society tends to form its conventions for a reason, but those reasons aren't necessarily tied to a consistent conception of morality. That said, I agree that if people get upset by a practice, it's a good warning sign that the practice could be unethical and merits careful thought. ...Which could be exactly what you meant by asking the question. By the way, I'm looking forward to meeting you at Skepticon next month - I'll be moderating a panel you'll be on!
3lessdazed9yIf people get upset by a technique, that is a harm, but if their suffering that harm has good consequences, upsetting them was, all else equal, a good thing to do. So upsetting people is always related to ethics as more than just a sign. Unethical things are frowned upon to the extent people feel (at some level) frowning impacts that sort of action; regarding blame [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2as/diseased_thinking_dissolving_questions_about/]: Society often has good reasons behind [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2ls/morality_as_parfitianfiltered_decision_theory/] its moral classifications. Use [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Valley_of_bad_rationality] your gut [http://lesswrong.com/lw/sg/when_not_to_use_probabilities/].
3arundelo9yI just checked out the Skepticon list of speakers [http://skepticon.org/speakers.php]. Laughter was induced by the picture of David Silverman.
6Paul Crowley9yDidn't know the story behind that one, so thank you Know Your Meme [http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/are-you-serious-face-seriously]. That's the face he made when Bill O'Reilly said "You can’t explain why the tide goes in."
4shminux9yFirst I thought "Oh great, another believer in n gods for n=0", but after looking through your site I realized that it is much more about rationality and a secular approach to life, not just telling people that faith is a bad thing. As for the morality of a particular persuasion technique, "do unto others..." is still a golden rule, despite its inherent biases and religious connotations.
2pedanterrific9yBienvenidos, Jesse! You may or may not be aware, but this has been discussed at some length around these parts; Dark Arts [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Dark_arts] is an okay summary. (Edit: A particularly good post on the subject is NTLing [http://lesswrong.com/lw/11y/not_technically_lying/].) If you've already read it and think the topic could stand more elaboration, though, I'm with you. Oh, and "professional atheist"? Totally awesome.
1kilobug9yI would say that any persuasion technique that requires plain lies is unethical. Lies are contagious [http://lesswrong.com/lw/uw/entangled_truths_contagious_lies/] and break trust, while trust is required for any constructive communication. Now, it may be a lesser evil in some situations. But a lesser evil is still evil, and should be avoided every time it can be. So yes, to me, you can call a technique itself unethical. Some exceptional situations may force you to do something unethical, because the alternatives are much worse, but that can be said to anything (you can always construct an hypothetical situation in which a given ethical rule will have to be broken), so if we want to keep that "ethical" word, we can apply it to something like openly lying.


I am a 22-year-old middle-class male from the Boston area. I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at a young age, and have lived most of my life on medication, primarily Concerta. I found this site after reading all of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality in one sleepless night and wanting to read more about rationality. I consider myself to be a rationalist-in-training; while I am capable of actually changing my mind (I believe), I am a procrastinator and let my emotions get the better of me at times. I am pleased to find a community of rationalists, as I can learn from them and better my own skills as a rationalist. I will likely not post very much, but the posts I do write will hopefully be of high quality. (I find that negative incentives, e.g. karma downvotes, have a powerful effect on me; also, I am a perfectionist and want anything I do to be done right the first time according to objective criteria, such as using proper grammar and such.) I can type approximately 50 words per minute (hunt-and-peck) and am obsessed with roller coasters. I hope that I will be accepted into the Less Wrong community.



Hello all,

I've been following discussions on LW for about 6 months now and have been urged by another member of the community to join in commenting. I've been hesitant to join, but now that I've moved to a state in which I don't know a soul, I'm finding myself reading discussions here more than usual.

I think participation in LW can help me do things better at my job (and in life generally). Discussion here seems a good resource for testing out and working through ideas in a non-combative, but rigorous setting.

My field is evolutionary biology and I recently have spent a lot of time thinking about:

1) Whether people "trained" in the sciences believe they are inherently more objective and clear thinking than those in other fields, and as a consequence do not work hard to make sure their thinking and communication IS clear and objective. I'm not sure that all people receiving a science education are actually well trained to think empirically (I include my own education here), but a degree in science gives them the impression that they are.

2) What are the obstacles to understanding evolutionary biology? I find that students, after having taken an evolutionary biology course,... (read more)

Hi all, call me Flay.

I'm a 20-year old graphic design student and traditional artist (figure drawing, mainly) with an array of other odd interests on the side, from costume makeup to programming. Although I do enjoy what I do, and it can certainly be very challenging, I sometimes feel there are parts of my analytical mind being neglected. Reading a few of the sequences here and being thrown all of a sudden back in to the deep end of reason made me realise how much I miss the sensation, and so I decided to register. One of my driving motivations is to try to optimize myself as much as possible, and achieve all I can. As you could guess I’m more than a little perfectionistic, although I'm slowly learning to be less uptight about the whole deal.

I came across Less Wrong while I was researching the singularity movement. I don't consider myself a rationalist yet (or a follower of the singularity movement for that matter), only because I have a great deal more reading to do first. In particular, I haven't finished reading through the core sequences yet, but I intend to do so soon.

Looking forward to meeting everyone!

4Paul Crowley9yThere is an optimal amount of uptightness :-) Welcome!

Hi there everyone, I'm a programmer by trade and a video game maker by inclination. I first ran across Less Wrong while random-walking through tvtropes. I read a little of it, found it daunting but fascinating, and it... sat in my bookmarks for about a year after that.

Later, I random-walked upon Harry Potter atMoR, and it rekindled my interest. I'd read a chapter, get on lesswrong, and try and find all the tricks that harry (or other characters) used for that chapter. It was still slow going, because I wanted not just to read the material, but to absorb it and become stronger (Tsuyoku Naritai!)

I... pretty desperately needed it. I grew up in a rural community with an absolutely abhorrent school system, even by the standards of the american school system. I had a middle-school understanding of math and logic going into college, and am still recovering from the effects of a bad start (Bayesian theory and the QM sequence are on the very edge of what's possible for me, but stronger, stronger, I will learn)

I 'came out' as an atheist two years ago to my parents, and began rearranging my life insurance to go to an Alcor membership two weeks ago. All in all, I'm not terribly new to 'critical' thinking in terms of not taking a claim at face value, but still learning how to truly deeply analyze claims as a rationalist.

So um.. hi

Hello all. I've been meaning to introduce myself in the old welcome thread for a while now.

I found this site shortly after Overcoming Bias while doing research for an open source project I'm planning to make public within the next few months. The project is peer-based and derived from what I learned about decision making in anthropology classes. (Don't worry, the methods have been Bayesian since before I knew the term.)

In addition to teaching myself Java and a variety of other languages to put that project together, I also do some 3D design and printing. Trying to build a strong skillset for a post scarcity world brought about by personalized manufacturing. Any time now....

I had a lot of early childhood exposure to both the occult and organized religion. I feel that by early 20s I pretty well exhausted everything mysticism and esoteric knowledge has to offer. I have a tendency to get defensive when entire traditions are dismissed by those who have only cursory familiarity. When a group of people pursue a discipline they believe to be useful for centuries, some of their methods and conclusions may be useful.

Studied Materials Engineering and Anthropology (no degree - long story). Vol... (read more)

3Douglas_Knight10yCould you write about what you got out of mysticism? (I suppose that the third sentence could be interpreted as a reason why not.)

Hello Less Wrongians! I'm a 17 year old American student who found Less Wrong through Common Sense Atheism, and has lurked here for several months. Only today did I decide that this was a community I wanted to take the next step with; actually join.

I've always had a rationalist "pull." Though for most of my life it manifested itself in a Traditional Rationalist way, I have a profound drive to find out what is the case. I was raised as a Roman Catholic, though not a particularly strict one, but abandoned this very quickly (fifth grade), helped along by a love of science and a penchant for philosophical questioning which had begun in childhood. My education has been tumultuous. I've always been a bright kid, but for much of my school career felt that I was being held back, so I did most of my learning from books and the internet on my own time; after I'd finished a test early, or at lunch, or after school. This wasn't helped by a massive bout of anxiety I encountered in middle school surrounding rather vicious bullying I suffered for my perceived sexuality (though those harassing me were technically correct - I'm gay). Still, I managed to maintain my As so that I cou... (read more)

5Wei_Dai9yWhy do you intend to study physics or economics in college?
2Vaniver9yWelcome! I got a physics / econ double degree, and I recommend against studying econ in college, unless there are some really good professors at the college you go to. What you suspect about philosophy is true, and even more true for econ. I learned ~2 things in the econ classes I took that I hadn't learned in my personal reading on the subject (whereas I learned quite a bit of physics in classes), and so feel like those classes were wasted opportunities. I strongly recommend a field like computer science instead, if you have the least bit of aptitude for programming. If not, psychology seems like it could be super useful, but the cognitive science is few and far between, or electrical engineering fits with physics pretty well. (I do recommend reading Adam Smith's On The Wealth of Nations at some point if you haven't already. It's easy enough to get through, and it's a remarkably good foundation for the field.) ((Also, *brohoof* :3))

Hello. I found LW from two directions: first, I'm serious about philanthropy, and saw references to LW on GiveWell. Second, my husband and I are reading aloud from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality each night.

I'm a grad student in social work. I find that social work has a lot in common with some of LW's goals (mainly self-improvement). Given that LW is aimed at very high-functioning people, which most social work is not, it uses some different methods. But I suspect LW could benefit from some ideas from social work.

2KPier10yWelcome! If you haven't already, you may want to check out some of [http://lesswrong.com/lw/hw/scope_insensitivity/] LessWrong's posts on [http://lesswrong.com/lw/6z/purchase_fuzzies_and_utilons_separately/] efficient philanthropy [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3gj/efficient_charity_do_unto_others/] and Luke's sequence on the scientific knowledge behind self-improvement. [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/The_Science_of_Winning_at_Life]. People's brains work (mostly) the same way, whether aspiring rationalists or the beneficiaries of social work, so I'd be very interested in reading your perspective on self-improvement in your field.
[-][anonymous]9y 16

I am a (shy) NEET who has been stalking the blog for some months now but only recently made an account.

Unfortunately, I cannot really remember how I came across Less Wrong but it quickly started affecting me in the same way TV Tropes does (I have about 10 LW tabs open at the moment).

I find the site really interesting and helpful, yet don't expect to comment that often. I feel as if my English and general knowledge are still not on the average level here so I'll read and read until that improves.

I enjoy anime, computer games, looking at images of cute things, Lolita Fashion and reading, among other things.

I dislike sports, don't -usually- find television or movies interesting and mostly dislike social interaction in person (its fine if I do it through the internet).

I tried studying psychology at a local university but all of the classes were full of nonsense (picture a statistics teacher who said his class was not about math but about arithmetic...) and the hall just outside was full of smokers at all times. I have sensitive lungs and can't tolerate smoke.

I hope to learn a lot here~


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Hello Less Wrong,

I am a 22 year old, caucasian lower class community college student interested in becoming more rational in order to achieve the goal of being useful to the human species. I am a student whose education is taking far too long for financial reasons but I am pursuing a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Cognitive Science because I want to understand human rationality at a deeper level. From there I will decide from my performance in classes if I am smart enough to tackle grad school. I often feel outclassed when reading the discussions here but I plan to learn enough to be useful in conversation just as quick as I can. I intend to become as rational as I am able with my meat brain. I became an atheist in High School, likely about at age 16, but have always deeply suspected there was no god since some brain worm burrowed into my head when I was 6 and said "If something is moral, then it is moral for its own reasons, not because God said so." Though the exact thought that I mulled over in my Sunday School class was "God has to play by the rules." That lead me to always be the devil's advocate in theological discussions (I was raised in a private... (read more)

2kilobug9yWelcome to Less Wrong !

Hello, I'm a government and economics double major in an all-women's liberal arts college in Massachusetts. I discovered Less Wrong through an economics professor who gave a lecture on why it is important to be a rationalist. As an ex-lit. major, the sequence on "A Human's Guide to Words" caught my eye, and I'm currently working my way through it. I look forward to learning more.

Hi! I want to use the Rationality Methods to improve my understanding of myself and how to improve. I guess you could say I had a strange way of "waking up" to Rationality. Many say they looked to rationality after realizing their religion was .... yeah. Well... That was a bit strange for me. when my parents married, "I was born about a year later", they were both from christian families and just went with it. When they realized that Christianity didn't match with the way things actually worked, the explained it all out to me. I was 5. Naturally that got my 5 year old mind thinking, "Wait.... Daddy was WRONG???". It took him about 2 hours to explain this strange new concept to me. That was step 1, on my path to rationality. I... am a 13 year old, confident, curious young male who decided that he wanted to skip the 30 years of bad habits and jump to the rational part. For my security, call me "Ambition".

4MatthewBaker9yWelcome :) We need more awesome young people around here, beware of too much rationality overload though the sequences have been known to cause very large amounts of meta-cognition and symptoms similar to brain freeze.

Hi Less Wrong!

Decided to register after seeing this comment and wanting to post give a free $10 to a cause I value highly.

I got pulled into less wrong by being interested in transhumanist stuff for a few years, finally decided to read here after realizing that this was the best place to discuss this sort of stuff and actually end up being right as opposed to just making wild predictions with absolutely no merit. I'm an 18 year old male living in the UK. I don't have a background in maths or computer sci as a lot of people here do (though I'm thinking of learning them). I'm just finishing up at school and then going on to do a philosophy degree (hopefully - though I'm scared of it making me believe crap things)

I've found the most useful LW stuff to be along the lines of instrumental rationality (the more recent stuff). Lukeprog's sequence on winning at life is great! My favorite LW-related posts have been:

... (read more)

I suppose I should introduce myself.

I've been reading Overcoming Bias and Less Wrong intermittently for more than a year. I only recently became active, posting a few comments and attending a meetup in Irvine, CA.

I'm a 25-year-old computer systems administrator for businesses in L.A. county, but my real passion is philosophy, and I hope to return to school and become a philosophy professor one day.

Though I was raised an evangelical Christian and pastor's kid, I now write the popular atheism blog Common Sense Atheism and also host three podcasts: one on philosophy, one on meta-ethics, and one on Christianity. On that site I've also posted many Less Wrong-related posts.

P.S. Thanks to orthonormal for this post and for a fun list of 'instant gratification' posts on Less Wrong.

4orthonormal10yI've been impressed with CSA, and the "digest of LW sequences" posts are really well done. Keep up the good work! The first hit is always free...

I think that's the most inviting community post I have ever read. I've been a lurker for awhile with almost no participation. Lately I've started catching up on old articles. My background is raised in a Jesus people hippie cult and thus took a long road to atheism and attempted rationality.

In other forums I tend to participate more (I'm a software developer, so that's plenty of online community). However I'm at LessWrong to learn, and so I don't have much to contribute at present. Which reminds me, I love this place for not being ivory tower. I find too much of this type of community in other forums to be biased towards academia (and somehow proud of it). It's a nice contrast here.

6Paul Crowley10yWow, thanks! It's been said with some justice that LessWrong is ridiculously forbidding, so it's nice that it doesn't always come across that way.
5MartinB10yThe first few times I got down voted it hurt a bit, but it is a signal (in many cases) that something with my commenting was wrong, and as long as that is the case I prefer to have it pointed out. Note that there are also people being helpful when you commit errors, or write articles. I think the less inviting feeling can come from the higher regard for content. In some atheism forums where I post we have super nice theists posting, and getting respected just for being honest and decent people. Which is fine, but they do not get any flack for the content they write. On LW you don't get additional karma points for being a nice person. PS: welcome
4Spurlock10yI think it's pretty intimidating at first glance, but a good bit of effort seems to go towards helping newcomers get to where they ought to start (this post is an example). This seems like the key thing to me, and I think it's done reasonably well. Every time anyone makes a sincere, well-intended, and not condescending "Welcome to Less Wrong" reply comment, I think the community gets a little more inviting.

Hello all, I'm a 17 year old High School senior. I discovered Less Wrong through the author page at HP:MoR. I had considered myself a rational person for some time, but the Sequences here have really opened my eyes to the glaring errors I was making as a Traditional Rationalist. Consequently, this site has already changed my life for the better and I really just want to thank all the main contributors here. Thank You!

Also, I am looking to Major in Cognitive Science in college and any suggestions as to good schools to apply would be appreciated, along with any advice as to reading or preparation I should do before entering this field.

Hi. I've been lurking here for awhile, because my son is a major contributor. I recently confessed that I was reading his posts and he urged me to register and contribute. I made my first comment a few minutes ago, in response to "What hardcore singularity believers should consider doing."

I think I'm probably atypical for this site. I'm a 58 year old, female, clinical social worker. I've worked in mental institutions, foster care for the disabled and, for the past 21 years as a play therapist with children. I'm also a part-time artist and a volunteer executive director of a non-profit organization. I'm not sure that I am a "rationalist".

"Believing" just in that is IMO a rational belief (until proven otherwise, of course).

Bad epistemology.

If a completely trustworthy person rolled a normal six-sided die, and told you the result is an even number - is it "rational" to believe that the result was 6 ? After all, it hasn't been proven otherwise. No, the ONLY rational belief in that situation is assigning an equal probability to 2, 4 and 6.

If you go around asking "am I allowed to believe this?" for things you want to believe, and "am I forced to believe this?" for things you don't, you're shooting yourself in the foot.

Hello, all. I'm Joe. I'm 43, currently a graduate student in computational biology (in which I am discovering that a lot of inference techniques in biology are based on Bayes's Theorem). I'm also a professional software developer, and have been writing software for most of my life (since about age 10). In the early 1990's I was a graduate student at the AI lab at the University of Georgia, and though I didn't finish that degree, I learned a lot of stuff that was of great utility in my career in software development -- among other things, I learned about a number of different heuristics and their failure modes.

I remember a moment early in my professional career when I was trying to convince someone that some bug wasn't my fault, but was a bug in a third-party library. I very suddenly realized that, in fact, the problem was overwhelmingly more likely to be in my code than in the libraries and other tools we used, tools which were exercised daily by hundreds of thousands of developers. In that instant, I become much more skeptical of my own ability to do things Right. I think that moment was the start of my journey as a rationalist. I haven't thought about that process in a sy... (read more)

Hello all!

I was pointed to LW by a friend who makes a lot of sense a lot of the time. He suggested the LW community would take some interest in an education project I've been working on for over two years, The Sphere College Project. Before introducing myself I spent a few weeks perusing LW sequences. This could go on for quite some time, so I'll go ahead and jump in.

I'm 50 years old, born and raised in the US in a series of towns throughout South Carolina. I had aptitude for mathematics and music. I pursued music and became a formidable trombonist living in NYC and playing classical and jazz music. I could sight-read anything. In 1982 my girlfriend's father worked for IBM, so I got to play around with his IBM PC. I was hooked (particularly loved "Adventure", but could only fit math/computers into my scant spare time. I did read "Godel, Escher, Bach" while studying trombone at the Eastman School of Music. Later, while doing my DMA in music I observed that most of the musicians I encountered in their 50s, 60s and 70s didn't appear to be loving the life anymore, so I decided I would leave music entirely, and began taking courses in math/physics/computer science at... (read more)

5Morendil9yWelcome to Less Wrong! That's kind of impressive, an application of the "outside view" in just the way recommended by Daniel Gilbert's "Stumbling on Happiness".
7NancyLebovitz9yI know someone who compared lifespans of poets vs. prose writers, and went into prose as a result.

Hi to everyone!

I first arrived to this site several months ago, and I've been a voracious reader since then. So, after this period of "mad and desperate studying" ("studio matto e disperatissmo" as Leopardi would say) I think I am probably ready to stop lurking and start to actively participate. Despite having a scientific background (I have a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, even though I'm doing a completely different job at the moment) I never encountered before the concept of rationality as it's explicitely stated here. In fact, I used to think I was a very "rational" person, in the more generic use of the word, before reading the Sequences and discovering that... well, I wasn't. It's still a long way before I reach the level of many notable members of this community, but I would say that LW helped me make a big step in the right direction. I want to emphasize this concept: there are a lot of good places where you can obtain knowledge, very few that can teach you how you should handle it. It's though to do it on your own, so thanks LW!

Finally, I'm from Italy, and would love to know if there are other fellow LWers that would like to start an italian chapter of the conspiracy. Also, I think it would be great if we could manage to translate some of the Sequences: I managed to raise interest in some of the topics among my friends, but many of them can't read English well enough (or at all). Let me know what you think about it

6komponisto9yItalian translation project [http://xrazionalita.wordpress.com]. See here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/5xr/sequence_translations_seeking/]. Also, welcome!

Hello, I found Less Wrong after a friend recommended Methods of Rationality, which I devoured in short order. That was almost a year ago and I've been lurking LW off and on ever since. In June I attended a meetup and had some of the best conversation I've had in a long time. Since then, I've been attacking the sequences more systematically and making solid progress.

I'm in my late 20's, live in Los Angeles, and work in the entertainment industry (after failing miserably as an engineering student). It's my ambition to produce stories and science fiction that raise the sanity waterline of our society. Film and television science fiction has never come close to approaching the depth and breadth of imagination and thoughtfulness of literary science fiction and I'd like to be a part of the effort to close that gap, however slightly.

I have a hypothesis that the sociological function of stories is to communicate lessons about desirable or undesirable human behavior and translate them from an intellectual idea that can't be grasped by us on an intuitive level to an emotional idea that can, in the process making it more likely we'll remember them and apply the lesson to our own behavior. Alm... (read more)

I accidentally posted the following comment earlier today in the May 2009 Introduction page. Hal suggested I re-post it here, where it belongs:

Those of you who were at the 2010 SIngularity Summit in San Francisco last weekend might have seen me. I was hovering around "the guy in the motorized wheelchair." I am Hal Finney's spouse and life partner. Although I am new to Less Wrong, and very ignorant when it come to HTML and computers, I have been a Rationalist ever since I was a child, to the dismay of my mother, teachers, and legions of other people I interacted with. I met Hal while an undergraduate at Caltech. And as they say, the rest is history.

This past year, Hal and I have had to completely alter projections of our future together. Hal was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known in the US as "Lou Gehrigs Disease"). Since his diagnosis in August of 2009, Hal has physically changed in very obvious ways. His speech has become slow, quiet, and labored. His typing has gone from rapid-fire 120 WPM to a sluggish finger peck. His weekly running (50-60 miles per week in February 2009) stopped being possible in November of 2009, and now Hal g... (read more)

Well, I never did get around to introducing myself in the original thread, so I might as well post something here.

I spent six years as an infantry soldier, did most of a History degree before dropping out in disgust, have a Post Apocalyptic scifi novel currently in negotiations with a publisher, I used to be a math prodigy but now I can barely remember Calculus, taught myself auto mechanics over the period of one month after buying a car for a pack of cigarettes, I ride a motorcycle, I have some sort of mutant ability to talk cops down when they start feeling violent, and am drastically over skilled and under employed.

I'm hoping to contribute to the community more substantially than just leaving comments; I have a couple of posts I'm working out in my head. The first is a summary of TVTropes - what it is and why it's important - the other being a guide to using the Dark Arts.

I really regret my math not being up to par for this community; I tend to understand things on a gut/instinctual level (ie: I can catch a ball, but have trouble calculating the trajectory) but my math's too rusty to 'prove' most of my ideas.

Despite a deep-seated desire for it to be otherwise, I dwell in the banker-run metropolis of Calgary, Alberta.

Also, I have a blog where I write about how Vile and Unconscionable it is, living in this dystopia: www.staresattheworld.com

2gwern10yIs this along the lines of Robin Hanson's endorsement [http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/05/tropes-are-treasures.html]?
3Aurini10yI somehow missed that post of his; the short answer is yes. The world that tropes describe is - I believe - Magic. When you start seeing the dynamics of how that world works, you can pinpoint the roots of many of our biases.

So you would prefer a world where everyone is maximally happy all the time but otherwise nothing is different?

I think this has way too many consequences to frame meaningfully as "but nothing otherwise is different." Kind of like "everything is exactly the same except the polarity of gravity is reversed." I can't judge how much utility to assign to a world where everyone is maximally happy all the time but the world is otherwise just like ours, because I can't even make sense of the notion.

If you assign constant marginal utility to increases in ice cream and assume that ice cream can be increased indefinitely while keeping everything else constant, then of course you can increase utility by continuing to add more ice cream, simply as a matter of basic math. But I would say that not only is it not a meaningful proposition, it's not really illustrative of anything in particular save for how not to use mathematical models.

Hello everyone,

I am a 31-year-old physicist and have been following LW since before it split from OB. It is one of the sites I spend most time reading, even though I never delurked before - I suspected, probably correctly, that it would induce me to spend even more time in it ("Less Wrong Will Ruin Your Life", as TVTropes might put it). However, I have recently moved into an area where regular meetups are going on, so I thought it would be worthwhile to get involved in the community and try to meet some of its members.

Hi everyone,

So well...

I'm a 30-yo french man, working as a Free Software developer (mostly in Python and C) and system administrator, deeply interested in "science" (maths, physics, biology, computer science, ...) since as far as I can remember. I define myself as a rationalist and a humanist.

What I value is not easy to explain in a few lines, but to say in three words I would say : humanity (human beings, or any sentient being able to show the quality of humanity like altruism and curiosity), truth (making the map closer to the territory, to use LW terminology) and progress (the idea that we can make the future a better place than the past).

I discovered Less Wrong through... "Harry Potter and the methods of rationality" which a fellow free software developer pointed me to, and I started reading the sequences since then. I find them deeply interesting. I'm not yet fully convinced about the Singularity (or least, it being in a mater of decades and not of centuries or more) nor about trans-humanism, but I do view them with a positive, if yet doubtful, glance.

As for how I went into rationality... well, I was more or less born into it, my parents being maths teache... (read more)

I'm just a regular woman, with regular intellectual capabilities who is struggling to complete a degree in physics, math and CS while working part time, taking care of my seven-month old full-time, spending quality time with my husband, satisfying my parents' and inlaws' wishes to keep in touch and see their granddaughter, and trying to pursue the truth and grow in wisdom during the wee hours of the night. I am an orthodox Jew who is currently undergoing a crisis of faith - reading things like LW persuade my intellect, reading things on Judaism persuade some other part of my being. I became an orthodox Jew after doing some independent reading and studying from the age of 14 (before that I thought religion was just an obsolete and irrational barrier to the enlightenment and advancement promised by science). I don't care if I get voted down to hell for saying that (I don't believe in hell anyways). That is just how I'm feeling personally at this point in life. I'm not here to get high karma - just here to read as much as possible learn, perhaps change my mind and act to the best of my knowledge. I have been fascinated by science for as long as I can remember, became intrigued with ... (read more)

7simplicio10yDoes that mean you're a convert? I hear that's not a trivial matter... I hear you! =) I've found a useful way to organize my knowledge is to think about the epistemic bases for the various types of knowledge, i.e., "how do I know?" Scientific, common sense, philosophical, mathematical, something I heard at the pub... etc. Well, first of all, I doubt you'll get voted down severely for merely identifying as a theist, but you will if you make arguments for theism that display some obvious mistakes the community recognizes. Don't worry too much about karma anyway. It's mostly for keeping comments relevant to the subject at hand, so we can have a discussion of, say, "ethics from a materialist perspective" that actually gets off the ground, without constantly having to reinvent the wheel and argue materialist vs. theistic ethics from the ground up. That said, however, pay attention when you're downvoted a lot, as it probably means that several members of the community think you made a mistake in reasoning. Welcome! =)
2orthonormal10yThis is generally relevant and well said. I'm stealing it for the post, if you don't mind.
2simplicio10yBy all means!

Hello, I am a British psychology student (studying out of country, presently). I stumbled upon this website after doing a little research following Eliezer's recent Skepticon talk on Youtube. I have greatly enjoyed learning about rationality within psychology; heuristics, biases, and Bayes rule are central to the course.

I am at that stage where I am beginning to narrow down which areas of research I would like to enter into, and this area is becoming increasingly interesting to me and may one day guide my decision; but while I personally define as a skeptic and have done for some time now, I feel I am new to many areas of rationality, i.e. the "higher level" topics. There is always something more to learn. I apologise if I am I shy contributor at first, I can find such environments of discussion a little daunting when I myself feel inexperienced. I am going to spend some time in the near future exploring here a little more, and familiarizing myself with the articles/sequences on LW; I look forward to achieving a little more knowledge, and hopefully contributing to the community here.

About me personally; I enjoy archery, chocolate, debating and reading. Rebecca

[-][anonymous]9y 12

Hello, LessWrong.

I am an 18 year old senior in high school interested in evolutionary psychology and cognitive science. I've actually been lurking around this site for over four months before I finally got brave enough to introduce myself. I always considered myself to be rational, but after looking through the core sequences, it slowly dawned on me how horribly wrong I was, and what a ways I have to go to "upgrade" my rationality and hopefully maintain a meaningful conversation with anyone here.

I was raised in a non-religious home where I was encouraged to seek out many different belief systems and see which one fit me the most. I ended up rejecting every mainstream religion I came across, which I suspect is what my parents were hoping for. I officially became an atheist at around age twelve, and I suffered somewhat of an existential breakdown shortly after that as I was desperately searching for a meaning or purpose to the universe and not being able to find one. I didn't like the idea of living in a meaningless universe and I suffered from extreme depression for many years, which worried my friends and family. I was sent to a therapist because my schoolwork and social... (read more)

2kilobug9yWelcome !

Hi, LessWrong.

There isn't too much to say about me. I'm a Kiwi 16 year old high school student who's been interested in a lot of the topics discussed here for a long time. I stumbled across HPMoR a few months ago. After reading through that, I came here and now I've read through pretty much all of the sequences. I'm definitely getting better at decision making and evaluating information, but I don't think I'm at the same level as most of you just yet.

I'm going to be busy for the next couple of months with exams, and then a trip to Ecuador, but hopefully when I get back I'll be able to take part in the community properly. I have a bad habit of being unnecessarily shy, even online, with people I have respect for. I'm going to try to change that this time. It should be easier than it has been in the past, because I have a lot of questions to ask, and sometimes even ideas to add to the conversation.


I got a PhD in engineering, but I am interested in many fields, and I will post about my definition of super liberal arts education and ultra liberal arts education. I have an energy, environmental and global poverty background, but I am continuously searching for the most important areas to do research on and to give charity to. I now think this is existential risks, so I am developing a framework for quantifying this. I am an atheist, but I appreciate the community and intellectual discussion of the religion Unitarian Universalism, where many people are atheists. I'm not sure when I identified myself as a rationalist, but I have had many discussions and given many presentations that have provoked much disagreement from the emotional theists and environmentalists. I have been interested in trans-humanism since reading The Age of Spiritual Machines. I came to felicifia and this site through Alan Dawrst when I was researching cost-effectiveness of reducing animal suffering.


My name is Ali and I'm 24 year-old. I graduated in software engineering and currently, I'm in second year of Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence. Machine learning is my primary interest; however, I am extremely enthusiastic about other subfields of AI, cognitive science, psychology, physics and biology. I love to learn the assembly code fragments underlying high level processes in the universe and to see how complexities are decomposed into simple components by science.

Being born in a religious country, my first steps in the way of rationalism began by questioning the religious beliefs in my adolescence. Since then, I learned to live with probabilities, evidences and explanations.

I found Less Wrong by searching about singularity. I'm sure there is a lot here for me to learn, but I hope someday I'll be able to contribute.

(English is not my first language, so I apologize for any error in my writing. :D)

5lessdazed9yYour English is great. If you don't mind could you talk about the use of the article "the" in your native languages? (Standard Arabic, a dialect and perhaps others?) I personally feel strongly (although I am maybe the only one) that people should refrain from talking about "the singularity" since the word "singularity" covers several very different and incompatible ideas. I think it often causes confusion the way people sometimes talk about "evidence for the singularity" or "the likelihood of the singularity". To talk about the idea of "a singularity" is better, much as you said, or sometimes "a technological singularity".
7a_mshri9yMy native language is Persian (Farsi). There is no definite article in Persian and the specific object/ person/ idea which a noun refers to is determined from the context. I agree with you about the ambiguity of the word "singularity". Not only there are different definitions for "singularity" in AI, the term is also applied in other contexts (e.g. economic singularity, gravitational singularity). I think, as you said, talking about "a singularity" is more appropriate.

Hello, I've been reading articles on LW for some time, but even if I've slowly began to grasp what you're teaching, the community in general seemed so far above me in terms of however you want to measure intellectual capacity, I didn't even feel entitled to post. Might as well start here.

We'd love to know who you are, what you're doing

I'm a 21.7 years old university student from Slovenia, Europe. My interests are primarily maths, physics and computer science. Biological sciences interest me somewhat, but my knowledge in that area is on a layman's level. For philosophy, politics or social sciences I've never cared much. My passing interest in arts has been described as true random in taste by those with an affiliation to a particular genre, and I have little artistic talent myself. Professionally, I study electrical engineering and instruct high-school mathematics to pay for my living costs. My hobbies include Free software activism (helping in local communities, mostly), programming, backyard astronomy and mountain biking. I've been reading a lot of science and science fiction material since I was a child.

what you value

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how you came

... (read more)
9lessdazed9yAdvocates of this would have much better results if they never said anything. The next time i sneeze, there's a good chance that I think of descendants, much higher than if I hadn't read this.
[-][anonymous]9y 12

Hello everyone, I'm a 24-year-old graduate student from Italy. I found this site after reading someone quoting Yudkowsky: "Quantum physics is not "weird". You are weird." I've been reading this blog the whole past few days. :-)

Hello, everyone.

Apparently I was supposed to introduce myself here when I joined the site. Looks like I'm about two (?) months late. I'm not really sure when I registered my account, but I just started actually commenting recently.

Anyway, I'm a 21 year old Biomolecular Engineering/Pre-medicine student living in the backward state that just put Intelligent Design in the state curriculum (And also recently proposed outlawing teachers mentioning homosexuality in the classroom before the 9th grade, among other remarkably boneheaded things). I know a marginal amount of programming - most of what I do is visual basic to go along with my Excel spreadsheets or MATLAB work for class, but I really enjoy it. I also know marginal amounts of C++ and PHP, but I'm not entirely sure why I'm telling you this.

I was introduced to Eliezer's work sometime this spring (April?) by a friend who (without having read it herself) posted HP:MOR on my Facebook wall, and said it was right up my alley. I read it in two weeks, and was hungry for more. Since he wrote it under the pen name "LessWrong", it actually took a bit of digging to find out who actually wrote it, but I gradually uncovered it. (I ke... (read more)

3MixedNuts10yOn cryonics: For: Alcor's FAQ [http://www.alcor.org/FAQs/index.html] Against: Sadly, not much. Paul "ciphergoth [http://lesswrong.com/user/ciphergoth]" Crowley collects anti-cryonics writing [http://blog.ciphergoth.org/blog/2010/02/07/survey-anti-cryonics-writing/], and it sucks. You can almost certainly afford it. Eliezer said he paid less than $200/year [http://lesswrong.com/lw/wq/you_only_live_twice/]. I know how expensive a photography hobby is; you're not dirt poor. For a potentially life-saving treatment, that's pretty cheap - people routinely pay more for treatments with worse odds that'll buy them less than ten years.
2christina9yHey, I think I've seen you around the forum. I feel similarly about psychoactive drugs. I do consume small amounts of caffeine (via chocolate and the occasional caffeinated tea), but I try to avoid it since even those amounts can make me jittery and thus I don't drink coffee at all. I don't feel any desire to take recreational drugs, legal or otherwise. I suspect this qualifies as an unusual tendency, so it's always interesting to meet people who feel similarly. Nevertheless, I have a tendency not to mention this fact spontaneously for fear that people will feel I'm judging them.
1Normal_Anomaly9yHi, welcome to Less Wrong! There is respectable science backing up various parts of cryonics. This page [http://www.imminst.org/cryonics_letter/] has some titles of relevant papers. For more specific information, about which of the following are you most skeptical? * the mind is in the brain * the mind's information is preserved by vitrification * it will someday be possible to recover this information and run the mind, either in a brain or elsewhere As for finances, you can get a life insurance policy that's about as expensive as medical insurance, that will pay out to the cryonics org in the event of your death. This is the way most people sign up, and it's apparently feasible on a limited budget. I can't say for myself, because I don't have the control over my own finances I'd need to sign up. Please look into cryonics more carefully. It could save your life, and even if you decide it's not for you, the choice is important enough to make it an informed one.

Hello, My name is Dave Coleman. I was raised Atheist Jewish, and have identified as a rationalist my whole life. Browsing through the sequences, I realized I had failed to recognize some deeply ingrained biases.

I value making myself and others happy. Which others, and how happy, is something I've always struggled with. I used to have a framework with Jewish ethics, but I'm realizing that those are only clear in comparison to Christian ethics. Much of what I learned and considered was about how to make the Torah and Talmud relevant to modern, atheistic life.

I'm realizing the strong bias we had against saying "maybe it's not relevant, since it was written by immature goatherders 3500 years ago who had no knowledge of science or empathy for those outside their tribe." Admitting that wouldn't sound wise, so we twist and turn with answers, cluttering what could be a solid system of ethics.

For a while I've considered myself a reconstructionist Jew, with the underlying ethos of "do all Jewish traditions by default, but don't do anything that has a good reason not to be done." I've realized that not polluting my mind with incorrect and biased thought patterns is a goo... (read more)

6Eliezer Yudkowsky10ye^-x is its own second derivative. sin(x) is its own fourth derivative (note relation to e^ix). And welcome to LW! (he said)
4Eugine_Nier10yCausality doesn't have much meaning when applied to mathematics.

No, it's a good heuristic. It's good enough reason for the lay to accept anthropogenic global warming, the Holocaust, and the fact that HIV causes AIDS, to gesture at obvious examples.

Obviously not everyone can use that heuristic. Like any other, it will be wrong sometimes. But it's good enough for Bayesian updating.

5wedrifid10y(So perhaps "Arrgh!! Sometimes overrated!")

Hey! Great site - I look forward to reading the archives and new articles.

How did I come to rationalism?

I didn't realize it for a long time, but my first rational response was at a very young age. Some bully girl at school cornered me with her friends as said "You're stupid!". My response: "Nuh-UH!" (pause) "Hey, I get better grades than you! You're stupid, not me!"

I couldn't pick out the fallacies (hers and mine, lol) back then, but even then I knew that she was wrong, that I wasn't stupid just because she said so. I remember being very excited with I found out that my undergrad Philosophy 101 was called "Critical Thinking" and that's where I was formally introduced to logical fallacies. Logical fallacies have always been to me a way of speaking and thinking truthfully, a way to keep myself honest and to make sure others are being honest with me.

I am new to the online critical thinking movement, which I discovered through Pharyngula, the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, and Brian Dunning's Skeptoid podcast and Here Be Dragons film.

4wedrifid10yI like the anecdote. Was your response effective?
5biodork10yNah. I got pushed into the wall and heckled by the same gang for most of the rest of elementary school. :P

Hi, all. My name is Tyler Curtain. I am a theorist with the Department of English and Comparative Literature at UNC Chapel Hill. My training is in computer science (undergrad and grad) and English (grad). I teach graduate and undergraduate courses in theory, as well as courses in science fiction and fantasy. My research interests include philosophy of biology, evolutionary theories of language, linguistics, philosophy of language, and theoretical computer science.

It ain't your professor's humanities any more. The world has shifted.

Hi, everyone! I'm Filipe, 21, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I've dropped out of Chemical Engineering in the 4th semester, and restarted College after one year off with Mathematics, from scratch. I thought redoing the basic subjects, if I worked hard through them, would be a good idea. It probably would, but so far I've studied those subjects with the same sloppiness of before, heheh. Now I'm one semester off College, due to depression, obsessive thoughts and some suicidal tendecies. Some of this is related to a deconversion from Christianity at age of 18: I was really devout and lived for the religion. My father is a pastor and my whole family continues to be serious about Christianity and it's pretty obvious that I'm the greatest source of suffering in my parents' lives, as they believe I'm going to end up suffering eternally if I don't return to my former beliefs. It also relates to having been a sort of a child prodigy (many family members, even those who don't like me a lot, testify that I could read at age of 2) and now not being able to excel academically, because of those problems and because of akrasia. Speaking of which, I have never read the sequences even though I've being reading this site for some months. I guess this may change when I convince my parents to buy me an e-reader. Sorry for the babbling and the sloppy English.

5shokwave9yIn this post, your command of English is indistinguishable from a native speaker's. If you have an estimate of how fluent in typing English you are, I suggest you strengthen it :)
2lessdazed9yHow can an effect like that have only one cause?

P.S. Since the focus of this discussion board is rationality, I will throw out a couple extra questions, with my own answers.

  1. Law school entails an investment of 3 years of your life and perhaps $150k in tuition. How much time and energy should you spend studying and researching the pros and cons of law school and lawyering before you make the decision to attend?

  2. If you attend a law school where only X% of the class finds suitable employment and career prospects, what is the probability that you will end up in that group?

As to the first question, law school cost about $60k to attend when I went. To my credit, I worked for many months with an attorney family member and satisfied myself that I wanted to be an attorney before attending law school. However, I spent just 5 minutes or so researching my subsequent job and career prospects before attending. In hindsight, this was pretty boneheaded.

As to the second question, that probability is probably a lot lower than your gut is telling you. See, law school is much more competitive than college; which in turn is much more competitive than high school. It's natural to forget this fact and assume that you will be one of the... (read more)

1Suryc119yThank you for a well thought-out reply. I have had misgivings about the law path for essentially the reasons you mention, and especially after much research. I know that being an attorney is not as glamorous as television shows make it out to be and I realize that the high income figures often reported for lawyers are skewed (as in the top law firms pay the most to the top law school grads, and the rest are stuck with little to nothing). I also understand that with the American economy the way it is and the large surplus of aspiring lawyers, the field is even more competitive today. I appreciate you confirming this first-hand. The only problem is that at this point in my life, I feel like I have no other choice. I am currently a sophomore in college at a relatively good private liberal arts college. I have little aptitude (at least, little in terms of a comparative advantage) in the traditional hard sciences - biology, chemistry, physics - so medical school or grad school in those fields is not an option. I also am not especially talented at math and have never taken a computer science class, so computer programming (I mention it because it is frequently lauded here on LW as a lucrative career choice) is not an option either. Grad school in the fields I am interested in - political science, economics, and philosophy - is not particularly appealing due to the glut of grad school graduates in the social sciences and the large time investment. My comparative advantages lie in being able to read quickly with high comprehension, write analytically, and think logically. I want to make enough money to live well and to be able to donate to the cause(s) I am/will be interested in. What do I have left besides law school? (not purely a rhetorical question, by the way) One other question: In your personal, but informed, opinion, would graduating from a top-14 or top-20 law school in the top 25-50% of my class 'guarantee' me a job? In this economic climate and in the near
5brazil849yI think this is a good question and unfortunately I don't have an answer. For like 50 or 60 years, law school was a good way for a reasonably smart person to have a reasonably prestigious well-paying career. Most importantly, if it didn't work out you would not be facing financial ruin. But now it seems the law school train has left the station. Actually, it seems like higher education in general is not the good deal it once was. Quite possibly there are more opportunities now than ever before but they require more creativity to find. I am not really informed on this question since I graduated law school 15 years ago. It's also really hard to get good information on this sort of question since so many people have an agenda or an axe to grind. You might try asking on a few of the law school discussion boards. I do think it's worth considering if you get a bona fide scholarship. In that case, your main risk is 3 years of your life. Just beware of the "section stacking scam." That's where the law school gives you a scholarship contingent on maintaining a certain grade point average and then puts all the scholarship students in the same section. Guaranteeing that a very large percentage will lose their scholarship. Going to a top-rated law school is still a bit dangerous. You may land a high-paying job only to get laid off or discover that you hate your high paying job.
2TimS9yIf you are accepted into the top three schools (Yale >>> Harvard, Standford), you are very likely to be employed as a lawyer. Especially since the economy will have improved a bit during the passage of time at law school. If you in admitted into the top 4-8, you can feel somewhat comfortable. The rest of the top tier is unclear. If you are not admitted into a first-tier school (the definition is a bit amorphous), then it is unclear whether law school makes economic sense. Everything I've heard says that third or fourth-tier schools are a terrible economic decision. I'm not sure if brazil's reference to section stacking actually occurs, but he is right that most find law school much harder than college. Much, much harder. If you want gossip on Bigfirm life, you could search this blog [http://abovethelaw.com/] but be aware that their target audience is associates at those types of firms (and most lawyers do not work at those types of firms).
[-][anonymous]9y 11

Hi All!

Generic Stats: 28 year-old Ohioan; Found LW through HPMoR, and lurked for a while, but finally created a profile after filling out the survey; BA in History. Was halfway through an MS in Human Factors Engineering when I got divorced and couldn't afford it any more. Don't plan on going back in the near future, but I did manage to get published during my time in grad school, which was pretty nifty.

I grew up with Easter-and-Christmas Roman Catholicism, though I also got a bit of Judaism from my dad (a Soviet emigrant). Got more heavily into Christianity in my teens, which lead to becoming an atheist when I was around 17.

I am sensitive to feminist concerns about what our culture teaches young girls, as I fell victim to it myself: I had a complete disregard for science and math, despite a very high aptitude for them. It wasn't until I self-studied my way back through math for my engineering requirements that I actually internalized the belief that I was good at this. The general "Not-Getting-It-ness" of many commenters in regards to gender issues tended to turn me away from LW at first, but there is a lot of good stuff here, besides.

About me personally: I enjoy Joss Whe... (read more)

8J_Taylor9yIf it would not be inconvenient to you, could you unpack what you mean by "Not-Getting-It-ness"? That is, specific examples that you find problematic? If you would prefer not do this, could you recommend a source that would assist in understanding the method you used to arrive at this result? That is, a source that would allow one to understand the cognitive-algorithm that produces the result "Not-Getting-It"?

This seems rather unnecessary, but I'm posting here so that other people have a reference to my intro to rationality, if they're so inclined to read about it.

At the time of this posting I'm a 19 year-old male college student of middle class origins living in Vancouver, Canada, if that makes a difference. I was raised in a nonreligious home by politically centrist and humanist parents.

Having friends who were a bit nerdy and considered themselves rational in an irrational world, sane in an insane world, etc. they were very interested in a film called "Zeitgeist: Addendum" which confirmed their worldview at the time. I too watched the film and we were in awe of the Venus Project. http://www.thevenusproject.com http://zeitgeistmovie.com/

The Venus Project sees a bulk of humanity's problems as the result of faulty human psychology being propogated by social stratification in a money economy. The creators of the Venus Project believe that by creating material abundance through the application of technology that the Law of Supply and Demand can be superceded and hence money no longer needs to exist. In a global society with no social stratification, a culture based upon values d... (read more)

5lessdazed9yWelcome! Of all the people other than you that there are, this reference will be most important to eggman_2013.
[-][anonymous]9y 11

Hey, I'm a 20 year old medical student, I've always had almost compulsive need to know the "truth". In retrospective I have been moving towards LW for a long time, first off I came in contact with Aubrey De Grey's campaign against aging, and decided as a 17-year-old that I wanted to dedicate my life to that cause (hopefully the problem gets solved before I die so I don't have to spend whole my life battling aging). Then from that I moved on to other transhuman ideas but got a bit skeptical about Ray Kurzweil's senario, began thinking about brain-uploading meant + morality + meaning of life + free will --> got depressed, read Dennett -> got a lot better, saw a few videos of Eliezer Yudkowsky and "thought he seems like a super-sane person, wonder if he stands on solid ground" found Less Wrong, prioritized becoming a more rational person.

Still a bit skeptical about plausibility the singularity happening any time soon(<50 years), so I right now I'm doing stem cell (hES, IPS) research, when my studies allow. But really enjoying LW (as well as finding it really useful).

Cheers! (And sorry about the "my life story")

3Normal_Anomaly9yWelcome to Less Wrong, Wix! Kudos to you for working in anti-aging research.
[-][anonymous]9y 11


[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
2Oscar_Cunningham9yYou seem really good, you haven't made any errors that I've noticed. Welcome!

I'm Tuvia Dulin, and I ended up on these forums after reading Harry Potter fanfiction. I suspect that this is a common story among the membership.

I've tried to be rational ever since I learned what rationality was, but it wasn't until I suffered a psychotic episode that I learned what the true consequences of irrationality were. That was many years ago, and I have since completely recovered, but in some ways I'm glad for the experience; it taught me that without rationality, you have nothing dependable or sane.

Five quick questions, five fast answers. Fast and perhaps somewhat rambling.

I'm an Australian, a few years shy of thirty, who has generally done things for his own reasons rather than simply going along with everyone else. After secondary school I got a job or two, became heavily involved in a fringe political group for a few years and only then decided to go onto to university. Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) - hopefully the last BS from the education system I'll put up with. I've just very recently dropped out of Honours and moved the 1000km home to Melbourne, which was the most difficult decision I think I've ever faced. Not being easy, it stretched my relevant skills to their limit, and in the end it was quite nice to learn that I can make choices as a rational adult human. Or at least as some approximation thereof.

Every now and then I attempt to express my personal values in a system like those used in the Ultima games. Most recently, my three principles of virtue were Curiosity, Truthfulness, and Playfulness. Curiosity I have valued for as long as I can remember - my primary school motto included "live to learn" which I took to heart. Honesty has been an absolute fo... (read more)

3Alicorn9yEee, what was it? :D
2shokwave9yWelcome to LessWrong, and I look forward to seeing you this Friday!

Hello, LW-ers.

I'm not exactly new - I've been lurking for a long time, soaking up all the glorious sanity from a few sequences and a lot of individual essays. And I've made a few comments. Still, I'd like to introduce myself properly. : ) (The main reason for this is that I think I need to lighten up and stop thinking of this site as a Sacred Order of Pedestaled Supergeniuses where my humble intellect doesn't belong, in order to grow.)

Insofar as anyone wants to know, I'm a 24 year old fellow, I have a Master's degree in linguistics since last year and now I spend my days as a humble translator. Somehow I fare better with intellectual pursuits if they're a hobby rather than how I make a living.

I think I'm a rationalist for one okay reason and one rather unflattering one.

The okay reason is that I've lived with a psychological diagnosis since I was... maybe 8 or so, so from very early on I've been quite aware of the fact that my brain is broken and needs fixing. I think I made more thinking errors than other people, but also importantly I made unusual thinking errors that stood out. My gut instincts clearly leading me in the wrong direction a lot, my feelings often being noticeably... (read more)

Hello all!

I'm a twenty year old college student studying physics. My introduction to LessWrong has most likely been lost to the ravages of time (although there's this nagging feeling I was linked here by a random forum post on GameFAQs). That was about a year, year and a half ago. I've read about halfway through the sequences via the haphazard method of "Wow that's interesting I guess I'll drop the next hour or so reading it." While I realize that finishing the sequences is highly recommended, I haven't seen a significant amount of large-inferential-distance-statements-oh-geez-what-is-going-on here type posts so I think I'll be fine despite my incompleteness.

As to the more pertinent question of my road to rationality, well, I was raised in China where religion was nearly nonexistent and my first exposure to the Bible was a picture book which I treated more or less like Greek or Egyptian myths (~8 years old). This lead to a natural interest in the New Atheism movement which articulated my unspoken problems with religion and exposing me to the skeptics community as well (15-17 years old). However, a small nag at the back of my mind floated that there was something I was do... (read more)


I drafted what is apparently too long an introduction to fit into a comment. Rather than try to work out how to rewrite the whole thing to fit into some unknown maximum length, I'll break it up into parts.



I've been lurking since early 2010. I'll finally take the plunge and actually engage with the community here.

I'm a Ph.D. student in math education. It's a terribly named field, it would seem; everyone seems to think at first that this means I'm training to either (a) teach math or (b) prepare future math teachers. It's actually better thought of as a subfield of psychology that focuses on mathematical cognition as well as on teaching and learning.

I grew up in a transhumanist household. My father signed us all up for cryonics when I was about five years old, I think it was. At the time I was just starting to realize that if death is inevitable for others, then that might mean that death is inevitable for me. I remember going up to my mother and father in the kitchen and asking, "Am I going to die someday?" They looked at me and said, "No, we're signing all of us up for cryonics. That means if we die, they'll just bring us back.&quo... (read more)

PART 2 (part 1 here):

I had the pleasure of meeting Eliezer in January 2010 at a conference for young cryonicists. At the time I thought he was just a really sharp Enneagram type Five who had a lot of clever arguments for a materialist worldview. Well, I guess I still think that's true in a way! But at the time I didn't put much stock in materialism for a few different reasons:

  • I've had a number of experiences that most self-proclaimed skeptics insist are a priori impossible and that therefore I must be either lying or deluded. I could pinpoint some phenomena I was probably deluded about, and I suspect there are still some, but I've had some experiences that usually get classified as "paranormal" that are just way too specific, unusual, and verified to be chance best as I can tell. And I'm under the impression that these effects are pretty well-known and scientifically well-verified, even if I have no clue how to reconcile them with the laws of physics. But I've found that arguing with most die-hard materialists about these things is about as fruitful as trying to converse with creationists about biology. They know they're right, and as far as they're concerned, o
... (read more)

First a suggestion: I think it would make sense to change the topic to "Welcome to Less Wrong! (2010&2011)". I was confused whether I should post here or on the original "Welcome to Less Wrong!"

Then to the actual topic of my comment:


I've been lurking a couple of months now, the rationality mini camp finally activated me to do something instead of just passively soaking up information. I wasn't selected, but I definitely do not regret applying for the camp.

Some info about myself, I grew up on the south coast of Finland and went to a Swedish-language school. Consequently I'm bilingual (Fin&Swe) and also acquired a strong interest in languages - besides the aforementioned I speak English, German, Russian and French. My other hobbies are skiing (both downhill and cross-country), travelling and car repairing.

LW was the biggest reason why I bought myself a Kindle - namely I wanted to read the sequences during commuting but carrying the laptop arround was too tiresome. Thanks to jb55 for making eBook-versions of them! I've made my way through around 80% of the sequences, although I'll have to reread at least the quantum mechanics one with pen and paper a... (read more)

I'm not new here, but I never introduced myself and have recently started participating more; it makes sense to say a few words.

Hi. My username is my full name. I'm 34 years old, male, and live in Tel-Aviv, Israel with my wife and two year old daughter. I've lived the first half of my life so far in the USSR, the second half in Israel; consequently my native language is Russian, and I also speak Hebrew. I'm a secular Jew.

I work as a software engineer in a large corporation, doing interesting things. I try to maintain and extend some knowledge of math and physics (I've studied math in graduate school in the past, but didn't finish the degree). I read books, mainly fiction in English and Russian. I have insatiable curiosity about countless academic fields and disciplines, in hard sciences, social sciences and humanities, and have acquired much shallow knowledge in many of them, very little deep knowledge in any. I have some online presence in English, mostly due to open-source work I did in the past (not much recently), but my primary online presence is through my blog, which is written in Russian.

I've been reading OB/LW since late 2007, mainly lurking, with a few comments. Stopped ... (read more)

Hey everybody, I know I came across this late, but lately I've been becoming a more avid reader of the site, and thought I'd follow with the post's suggestion and give my introduction.

I came here from Overcoming Bias(via various econoblogs), although that doesn't really mark the beginning of my push into becoming a rationalist. The big turning point for me was coming across a NIH article that was linked to by econlog or marginalrevolution. Both of the two introduced me to Baye's Theorem, and how it could explain how so many publications in the medical literature could be statistically significant, yet incorrect(I think the paper estimated nearly half).

I had been struggling with social anxiety and had really screwed things up with a girl I really liked because of a few fundamental misunderstandings. In a clearer state of mind I was able to realize that I had an entirely wrong perception of what people thought of me and this girl in particular. But I couldn't explain why I would have such a skewed view of my world until I learned how to apply Baye's in how we evaluate our decisions.

Starting from the simple introduction into Baye's where one is asked to evaluate the problem of estim... (read more)

Also bought a Ubuntu disk and book, intending to go dual-boot on the Mac, but haven't installed it yet. Yeah, the Mac cost too much, but I bought it because I had never owned an Apple and I have worked with a variety of Unix systems. Currently, I am trying for nerdish breadth rather than depth. And having built an Altair, my computer build-it-yourself hunger is already satiated.

I recently published my FOOM-denialist rant as a comment on the "Why trust SIAI" thread. But that was two days ago. I don't much agree with what I wrote there. The singularity seems to me to be much closer now.

I recently published my FOOM-denialist rant as a comment on the "Why trust SIAI" thread. But that was two days ago. I don't much agree with what I wrote there. The singularity seems to me to be much closer now.

An LW semi-tradition I try to encourage: When one changes one's mind after a discussion, go back and add a note to the original post stating your new position and what led you to change it. Hopefully this will help us build a map of what arguments are correct and convincing.

I try to always upvote such things. Changing your mind should be a party.

3Perplexed10yI edited the rant [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2l8/existential_risk_and_public_relations/2g3w?c=1] adding my second thoughts. Thx for reminding me to do so.

Hi, my name is Tyler and I've been lurking LW for the last few months. I'm a full-time university student in California. Like others, I've refrained from posting because I feel I'm not yet quite up-to-date on many of the issues discussed here, though i'd considered many of them before ever finding LW.

I found LW through Yudkowski.net which I found through one of Eli's more technical articles that popped up on a google search when I was first becoming interested in Artificial Intelligence. Since then, i've developed an interest in the big R.

As I read the sequences (I'm nearly through and I've been at it a while now) I am often pleasantly surprised when Eli brings up a topic that i'd previously considered, and even more so when he explains it. Overall, the zeitgeist of the LW community really appeals to me. I'm often frustrated at listening to people i know say things that would get torn apart here on LW. I guess i'm just glad to know that there's a community here to which i can both learn tremendously, and hopefully contribute.

I'm working on filling in the holes right now, and the old adage "the more you know, the more you know you don't know" is really having its way with me right now.

I stumbled over here from Scott Aaronson's blog, which was recommended by a friend. Actually, LessWrong was also recommended, but unfortunately it took a while for me to make it over here.

As far as my descent in to rationality goes, I suppose I've always been curious and skeptical, but I never really gave much direction to my curiosity or my skepticism until the age of 17.

I always had intellectual interests. In 3rd and 4th grade I tought myself algebra. I ceased to pursue mathematics not too long after that due to the disappointment I felt towards the public school system's treatment of mathematics.

After my foray into mathematics, I took a very strong interest in cosmology and astronomy. I still remember being 11 or 12 and first coming to realize that we are composed of highly organized cosmic dust. That was a powerful image to me at that time.

At this point in time I distinctly remember my father returning to the church after his mother and sister had passed away. The first church we went to was supposedly moderate. I was made to attend Sunday school there. I did not fare so well in sunday school. During the second session I attended the subject of evolution was brought up. Now, ... (read more)

Yep, looks like rubbish. Sorry.

In general, looking to justify your existing beliefs doesn't work. Say this to yourself: "If God exists, I want to believe that God exists. If God doesn't exist, I want to believe that God doesn't exist."

Hi! I posted on the other thread that I was around, but I guess I should introduce myself.

I guess the weirdest thing about me (relative to the community) is my age -- I'm still in high school and have been lurking LW since its creation and OB before that... I'm in the Montgomery Blair Magnet program, which has pretty thoroughly taught me that I'm by no means especially smart.

I got interested in the whole rationality thing after reading some of the articles that were tangentially related to the more philosophical articles that I was interested in* and found on Hacker News. The metaethics sequence seemed much less forced than a lot of the other considerations of morality that I had heard (mostly from a Christian background), which only piqued my interest further.

Short note: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is pretty much the best introduction to rationalist topics for people my age that I've ever seen, I recommended it to a few friends, one of whom started reading it, lurking LW, and convincing others to read as well.

The article most tangibly helpful in my life was http://lesswrong.com/lw/i0/are_your_enemies_innately_evil , mainly in that it helped me realize that everyon... (read more)

I am new to this site. I am a former Mortgage and Derivatives Trader on Wall Street. I am one of the few ex Wall Streeter’s who has experienced a crisis of conscience. I am an empirical skeptic who is cynical by nature but I have only recently started to sit down and try to figure out why people act stupidly and irrationally. Naseem Taleb, author of the Black Swan & Fooled By Randomness is one of my favorite authors and I truly believe that after all of my years trading it all comes down to random luck not any type of skill.

Oh, hi. I'm an autodidact programmer in my early 20s working for a small company. A lot of programmers tend to be hacker sorts who like making things, but I mostly only care about achieving a deeper and more intuitive understanding of the world. I am interested in a lot of things, but I tend to concentrate alternately on math, CS, linguistics, philosophy, history, and literature.

I don't identify as a rationalist or make very rational decisions, but I share a lot of intellectual interests with the community, and there aren't really any other public spots on the web where smart people are discussing a variety of topics without a ton of noise and bullshit.

I don't have enough background in some of the jargon and shared historical discussion here to contribute to many of the more topical discussions, but hopefully as I catch up on the archives I'll be able to comment more often.

4John_Maxwell10yHacker News is pretty nice: http://news.ycombinator.com/ [http://news.ycombinator.com/] Does anyone have more recommendations?
8komponisto10yMy impression is that Hacker News is above average, but still a noticeable notch below LW. Same goes for sites like the Richard Dawkins and JREF forums (perhaps two notches in those cases), and the comments sections of blogs of various academics (such as Overcoming Bias).
8katydee10ySkeptical sites are good, but not great, because being a good skeptic is different from being a good rational thinker. You can probably get by as a skeptic knowing only "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" and the basics of the scientific method.
5cata10yI agree with this, and in particular, although there are generally smart people on Hacker News, there are a ton of people who are interested in talking about business and startups 24/7, a topic I find extremely boring. I'm a big fan of MetaFilter (http://www.metafilter.com/ [http://www.metafilter.com/]). The commenters there are charming and often pretty smart, but the spirit of discussion is usually somewhat less serious.
3Spurlock10yThe key thing here separating Hacker News from LW is the "variety of topics". While HN is officially centered around startup culture (which like cata, I have no particular interest in), the community is happy to link to and discuss just about anything of intellectual interest. Today there's a link about punctuation marks for indicating irony. The level of discourse might not be quite up to LW, but the subject matter is a lot more inclusive.
5rhollerith_dot_com10yI find it strange that you would say that. (And I've read a lot of Hacker News.) Given an arbitrary aspect of reality (e.g., an aspect of human life or of the world around us) I think you are just as likely to be able to start a discussion of it here as on Hacker News if you can meet LW's higher standard for rationality. In other words, I think Hacker News is simply more tolerant of worthless ways of discussing topics, not tolerant of more topics. (Of course, Hacker News is more worthwhile than most places on the web.)

Hello, good time of day.

My name is Victor, I'm 19. I'm a student of computer science from Russia (so my English is far from perfect, and probably there will be lack of articles; please excuse me).

There wasn't any bright line between rationalist!Victor and ordinary!Victor. If I remember correctly, five years ago I was interested in paranormal phenomena like UFO, parallel worlds or the Bermuda Triangle (I'm not sure I truly believed in it, probably I just had fun thinking about it: but I might have confessed the cached thought about scientists not knowing important things about the world) and liked reading the pop-science books at the same time. Then I realized that there is a beauty, honesty and courage in the scientific worldview and shortly thereafter, I became a person from the Light Side: not because science was true, but because it was fun.

But at least I rejected the Bermuda Triangle. I was too honest to leave inconsistencies in my pool of beliefs; so long, pseudoscience!

Maybe at the same time I discovered the concept of the utility function and blog of a psychologist arguing that there is nothing wrong with an egoism. Something clicked in my mind; the explanation of human beh... (read more)

1J_Taylor9yWelcome, Victor. Perhaps you'll find this funny: http://earthfireinstitute.org/2010/02/a-telepathic-cry-of-the-heart/ [http://earthfireinstitute.org/2010/02/a-telepathic-cry-of-the-heart/]
4BT_Uytya9yIt remembered me the elementary particles of monarchy (the "kingons" [http://www.discworldmonthly.co.uk/tpquote.php?find=kingons&mode=find] ) of Terry Pratchett. Since each kingdom can have one and only one king, in the case of death of king his heir becomes a new king instantly. So, if you carefully torture a king, you can use those particles to send a message faster than the speed of light.

I once thought that the Future was indestructible.

When I was growing up my childhood friends would sometimes say, "I wish I'd been born five hundred years ago" or "It would have been so interesting to live during medieval times". To me this was insanity. In fact it still sounds insane. Who in their right mind would exchange airplanes, democracy and antibiotics for illiteracy, agricultural drudgework and smallpox? I suppose my friends were doing the same thing people do when they imagine their pop culture "past lives": so everyone gets to be Cleopatra, and nobody is ever a peasant or slave. And the Connecticut Yankees who travel back in time to pre-invent industry are men, because a woman traveling alone in those days just invited trouble.

No, I never wanted to live in the past. I wanted to live in the future.

Mostly because I had a keen desire find out what happens next. I mean, just think of the amazing things in store -- space travel, AI, personal immortality. What a fool I was.

I no longer trust the future will be a glorious place. (It was a little painful to give up that belief.) I once studied history and the history of technology so I could writ... (read more)

Hello Less Wrong!

First things first: I beg your pardon for my crappy English, this is not my first language.

I'm from Barcelona (no LW community, here, I'm afraid) and I studied telecom engineery, but I work as a teacher and I draw cartoons (you can check http://listocomics.com but they are in Spanish). I'm also a rationalist wanabe. I mean I haven't even read the whole of your major sequences but I have always tried to move myself the rational way. I love Dawkins books and I was amazed the first time I read about logical fallacies at the Wikipedia. I have always been quite interested in phsicology, too, but most of the popular psychology books I've read set my bullshit alarm on, cause most of their content seemed to come from the mind of the author after thinking about it strong while sitting in the sofa, without further research. I'm glad of having found a site that talks aboute the human mind and human behavour in an easy to understand way and with references. It seems like a good place to learn stuff.

Actually, I'm curious about what you, as rationalists, may think about NLP. Is it the right place to ask? NLP: Bullshit or not?

And I would also love to hear some rationalist opinio... (read more)

1Curiouskid9yWelcome to LW! I love your comics. I'm going to use them so that I don't forget my spanish. I'm currently doing a little research (for myself) on NLP-type stuff. If you want a comprehensive source, then this is what I'm going to be purchasing shortly. http://www.amazon.com/Oxford-Handbook-Hypnosis-Handbooks/dp/0198570090/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320721250&sr=8-1 [http://www.amazon.com/Oxford-Handbook-Hypnosis-Handbooks/dp/0198570090/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320721250&sr=8-1] I'm not expert on yoga (but I've done a bit). I find that pure meditation is better for the mind than yoga (there is a lot of secular research that shows that meditation is good in a lot of ways for the mind). And I find that pure exercise is better for the body than yoga. some people like to mix the two. I don't. Most people have a misconception about meditation where they think you have to be sitting with really straight posture in order to meditate. This just isn't true. I run and meditate all the time. Running is very good for exercise and is very conducive for meditation (especially if you just go in a straight line or on a treadmill). I know that there is quite a bit of research on exercise and the mind. But most of it has to do with cardiovascular and not with weight training. I do both, I personally think running is better for the mind (and doesn't require a lot of technical detail on proper form). Dawkins's "Selfish Gene" was one of my first "rationalist" books.

Hi LessWrongians, I've actually been reading this for a few months since I discovered it through HPMOR, but I just found this thread. I've been a traditional rationalist for a long time, but it's great to find that there is a community devoted to uncovering and eliminating all the human biases that aren't obvious when you're inside them.

I'm 27 with a BS in Business Information Systems and working as an analyst, though I consider this career a stopgap until I figure out something more entrepreneurial to do. I've been slowly reading through the sequences, but my brain can only handle so much at a time.

Mostly I just want to say thanks to everyone who writes/reads/comments on LessWrong. This site is awesome. It's the only place I've found on the internet that consistently makes me stop and think instead of just rolling my eyes.

Hello everyone!

I am a unwitting victim of HP: MoR, and of course it led me here. I'm still reading up on the sequences, which have plenty of intriguing content. My background is in Mathematics (specifically cryptography, not much probability theory) and Music (specifically bassoon and composition). Right now I work for the US government. I grew up as a secular Jew, so I didn't really have that much of a crisis of faith or anything. I must say I found Eliezer's description of Modern Judaism ("you are expected to doubt but not successfully doubt") as surprisingly accurate and amusing.

Though, after reading through things, I don't really think I can call myself a rationalist quite yet. I need more practice, honestly. Maybe I just need to successfully update :D

Perhaps I just need to look around more, but hopefully I can contribute to the more artistic ideas of the site. Reading through what is on the site, it makes me wonder how to apply rationalist methodology to the arts.

1komponisto9yA most sincere welcome, from someone of a very similar background! (And you've walked right in to a discussion [http://lesswrong.com/lw/84b/things_you_are_supposed_to_like/52am] you're likely to find interesting...)

Hello everyone, it's so great to be here. I was introduced to LessWrong by a post left by C. Russo on Freedomainradio.com back in late July, which dumped me right into How to Actually Change Your Mind. Since then, I have found myself spending progressively more of my free time here, reading both old and new content.

Over the last several years, I've made a habit of spending my evenings online, blown by the winds of curiosity. While this has led me to the vague sense that I needed to make some adjustments to my map, I didn't have a good sense of the tools I needed to edit it.

I grew up in a religious (Mormon) family (was even a white-shirt-wearing, door-knocking, Book-of-Mormon thumping missionary for two years), but gave up my belief in my mid-twenties after searching for -- and failing to find -- a convincing argument for my belief. I had been taught to identify a specific and powerful feeling with "The Holy Ghost," but when I reflected on my experiences, I realized that I had felt that feeling on many occasions that seemed inconsistent with the idea that God was giving me information in those moments. I have, furthermore, felt that feeling many times since my apostasy, wh... (read more)

There's a welcome page? I hadn't noticed. I suppose I could give a few details about myself. I've been posting here for a little less than two months now.

On Me

I am a software engineer in my late twenties. I enjoy reading fantasy and science fiction novels, as well as books about physics, mathematics, biology, astronomy, and many other topics. I play no sports, but I bicycle nearly every day. I also enjoy programming, writing, photography, cooking, drawing, winning videogames, and working out mathematical equations for topics of interest.

On How I Found the Site

I occasionally like to peruse David Brin's blog, and wondered while reading a post how it was he came to recommend a Harry Potter fanfiction. So, David Brin's Blog-> HPMOR-> Less Wrong. I then proceeded to lurk and find out what was being discussed to get some context for the message board discussions. Eventually, I decided to see what would happen if I started posting comments.

So far, I've enjoyed the discussion on this site. I think there's a lot to think about here, which exercises my hobby of pondering the nature of society, life, and the universe in general.

I'm having trouble with formatting. Here is what I was trying to write, less my attempts to include links:

Greetings, LessWrong.

I'm a 21 y/o Physics undergrad at the University of Waterloo. I'm currently finishing a coop work-term at the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre. I'm also trying to build a satellite www.WatSat.ca.

My girlfriend recommended that I read HPMoR - which I find delightful - but I thought LessWrong a strange penname. I followed the links back here, and spent a month or so skimming the site. I'm happy to find a place on the internet where people are happy to provide constructive criticism in support of self-optimization. I'm also particularly intrigued by this Bayesian Conspiracy you guys have going.

I tend to lurk on sites like this, rather than actually joining the community. However, I discovered a call for a meetup in Waterloo http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/790/are_there_any_lesswrongers_in_the_waterloo/, and I couldn't help myself.

Hi. I just opened a new account with this user name. My user name was playtherapist. It was pointed out to me that it was still being misinterpreted as play the rapist. I am a child therapist and social worker. I help disturbed children work through their issues while using dolls, action figures, a sand tray, art materials and therapeutic games. This is called play therapy and is the most effective way to do therapy with young children. I would never dream of "playing the rapist." There didn't seem to be a way to just modify my user name, so I opened a new account.

I am the mother of a regular poster and meetup leader. I started reading posts out of curiosity about what he was talking about, etc. Recently I began reading the sequences and top 100 articles. Some of it is quite interesting.

I'm a 19-yo female student in the NYC area.

I was mildly ecstatic to find that not only does Less Wrong exist, but it's members have articulated absolute loads of things that my own mind had danced around but not gotten close to putting into words (reservations as to the value of that aside). I actually first became fascinated with Bayesian analysis when I learned about its use in cryptography, and in the pre-computer-age Bomba Machine that helped crack the German Enigma code at Bletchley Park. I saw that it could be used in a much less narrow way, insofar as plain old everyday rationality is concerned and I've been increasingly interested in it since. And along came Less Wrong to just blow open the idea into so, so many tangents and applications. :) Just great.

LW has also sort of managed to shock me by covering almost all of the specific areas into which my autodidactism has ranged, from philosophy and theosophy, to neurology and quantum physics. And seeing as I am (and as I suspect many people who become unhappy with the rate that the universe is 'giving' them information, and decide to SEEK it) 'educated' in a very deep but very patchy manner, LW's holistic approach to knowled... (read more)

My name's Dave.

I got here through the MoR fic a week or so ago, thence the Babykillers/HappyFunPeople fic, thence the Overcoming Bias archive, which I'm currently working my way through. Created an account to comment on a post there, then found this post.

I'm not sure I do identify as a rationalist, actually. It seems to me that a necessary condition to justify my making such a claim is valuing habits of thought and behavior that lead to accuracy over other kinds of habits -- for example, those that lead to peace or popularity or collaboration or productivity or etc. -- and I'm not sure I do.

(I don't mean to suggest that they are incompatible, or even mutually inhibitory. It might work out that someone primarily motivated by rationalism also ends up being maximally peaceful, popular, collaborative and/or productive, just as it might work out that someone primarily motivated by pacifism also ends up being maximally rational. But I don't see any good reason to believe it.)

That said, there are habits of thought and behavior I value and see well represented here. Precision in speech is one of them -- saying what you mean, requesting clarification for ambiguous statements, etc. Argument... (read more)

Hello. I found out about Harry Potter and the methods of rationality while browsing TV tropes, which eventually led me to this site. I have never thought much about how i make choices before, but after reading a couple sequences, it looks like many of the things i am most inquisitive about are discussed on this site, and for at least the last couple years i have been reinventing the wheel on some of the ideas listed here about rationality. It is convenient to be able to learn things by reading this site, that otherwise might have required me to live a long, interesting life to discover :p

I've been lurking on LW for a couple of months, trying to work through all of the major sequences. I don't remember how I discovered it; it might have been a link in the BadAstronomy blog. I studied astronomy in school and grad school and end up becoming a software engineer, which I've done for almost 30 years now. Most of the content here resonates powerfully with the intellectual searching I've been doing my whole life, and I'm finding it both stimulating and humbling. Spurred by what I've read here, I've just acquired Judea Pearl's "Causality" and Barbour's "The End of Time", and I'm working through the Jaynes book on bayesian probability (though the study group seems pretty inactive). There's a lot of synchronicity going on in my life; much of my software work over the last decade has involved causality graphs and Bayesian belief networks, but I hadn't taken the time to delve very deeply into understanding the underlying fundamentals. I recently read Lee Smolin's "The Trouble With Physics", and he mentioned Barbour's work as a possibly promising new direction, so reading Eliezer's comments on it struck a chord. Finally, I'm becoming increasingl... (read more)

I'm afraid I don't think you're ready for discussion on this website yet. Start by reading the Sequences, especially Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions.

Hiya, thanks to everybody here for making this such a welcoming and fun community.

I've identified as a skeptic and an atheist for a few years now, but I was intrigued by the way that the Less Wrong articles I saw seemed to kick it up a notch further. "Weapons-grade rationality" I think I saw one article put it.

I'm (as of the moment) somewhat skeptical of singularity theory, but as an activist I'm interested in helping to raise the rationality waterline. My education and professional experience are in computer programming. Currently I'm serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica.

Hi I found Less Wrong a few days ago when someone pointed me towards your recent list of recommended books. I followed the comment thread (particularly nodding my head at the mentions of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations which I want to read) and had a look around the rest of the blog. I liked what I saw.

I'm an American living in Cyprus, and into learning more about the Epicurean, Skeptic, Stoics and Platonic philosophies. I'm also a molecular biologist by training, and interested in ecology, ornithology, birdwatching, cooking, and philosophy of science.

For my rationality, I grew up always thinking that Christianity was a nice metaphor for issues relating to the human condition, but never thinking that anything in the Bible happened literally the way it was said. I suppose you could say that I believed in the value of belief. Watching Bill Moyers' interview with Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth changed that for me 15 or so years ago. It just clicked with my view of religion: it served as a mythic narrative, and you don't need a mythic narrative to be religious... Star Wars or any other epic myth will do nicely. So I severed the only reason I ever had to value religion and never looked back, being skeptical of dubious claims ever since by nature.

If there are any skeptics, stoics, Epicureans or other rational minds in Cyprus, please contact me!

5Oligopsony10yMy understanding is that Campbell was never well-regarded by the relevant academics and that time hasn't helped his reputation any. This reminds me, by the by, of my own "conversion" experience: a book by the name of the Lucifer Principle by a one Howard Bloom. I read it at a young age and was dazzled by the basic idea of evolution, which had been taught to me in school and was never disputed by my church, but never with such power: I finally Got It; that from random processes patterns always emerge and are implicit, humans are just a complex pattern operating on the basis of laws mostly beyond our comprehension, &c. Years later, I re-read it, expecting to re-unite with the wonder of my past and... was struck by how stupid it was. The arguments were moronic, the facts were wrong half the time, and so on. But I owe it a debt for making me a materialist, even if I would have dismissed it after perusing it at the library today.

Hi there,

I am a high school senior who is interested in science, particularly in natural sciences. One day I hope to further our understanding of...well, anything you can think of!

My lifestyle, which I adopted after carefully analyzing my goals, is pretty spartan: I eat a strict diet, I exercise often, I only read certain things and so forth.

I discovered the transhumanist movement a few months ago. I have decided to join lesswrong.com because I think that I stand to learn a lot from this community and, maybe, even bring something to the table.

1Bugmaster9yWhat kinds of things, out of curiosity, and why do you read them and not other things ?
4tomme9yNonfiction because: my faulty brain sometimes mistakes fiction for reality(e.g., I used to believe that Santa is real) and cognitive economy - there is a finite amount of knowledge I can store, so I would rather make sure it's accurate, truthful, useful knowledge.
1Bugmaster9yIn this case, how do you know what is fiction (and therefore you shouldn't read it) and what is not (and therefore you should read it) ? Can you elaborate ? I'm curious about the topic because I've heard this statement from several of my friends, but I can't quite wrap my head around it. In the interests of full disclosure, I personally do read fiction: primarily because I find it enjoyable, but also because it sometimes enables me to communicate (and receive) ideas much more effectively than nonfiction (f.ex., HPMoR).
3Incorrect9yhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interference_theory [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interference_theory] New memories can interfere with the recall of old ones if they are similar. That doesn't necessarily mean fiction is likely to cause problems.

Hi, I'm Richard. I'm a lawyer, practising in Norwich, England. I've been 'lurking' on lesswrong, and working my way through the sequences, for some time.

I have an interest in technology, and particularly open source projects. For example, I'm writing this right now in Emacs.

I hope I will be able to contribute positively to this community, which has certainly already helped me a great deal.

Hello All. I came across Less Wrong via Common Sense Atheism a few weeks ago. I have enjoyed it so far, but I have yet to put in the time to get up to speed on the sequences. Plan to, though.

I'm a Financial Accountant in Birmingham, AL. I'm not sure I would (yet) identify myself as a rationalist, but as for what I value, I value truth above all. And if I'm not mistaken, valuing truth seems a big step toward becoming a rationalist. I also value life, liberty, happiness, fun, music, pizza, and many other things.

Here's a little more about me:

Height: 6'0... (read more)

Hi Less Wrong, I’m Burr a retired commutations consultant and Entrepreneur. I’m just watching and listening. I’m taking the online AI course from Stanford.

Hello. My name is Gustavo Bicalho, I'm from Brazil, I'm 20 years old today. I intended to introduce myself here after I finished the sequences (I'm half way through the Fun Theory Sequence) but I thought I should give me this as a birthday gift. Heh.

I have some background in computer programming, having done a technical course of three years during high school. Although I don't know much of computer science (I know just a little about algorithm analysis and that was self-thaught from wikipedia), I think programming has helped me reshape my way of thinking,... (read more)

3MixedNuts9yHappy birthday!
2Morendil9yMost recent previous instance I could find: ten days ago. You could say it's not unusual. :)

Hello I am a philosophy student in north Jersey. I'm 20 years old, and am very familiar with LW and the sequences. I've been reading LW now for about a year, and it has completely changed my life. I am very grateful to Eliezer and all of you for letting me have my Bayesian enlightenment at 20. When I first read the twelve virtues my life changed forever. I am definitely one of those that considers the sequences to be one of the most important works i have read, at least as far as having a personal influence.

I want to work on the hard questions of philosop... (read more)

3wedrifid9yA kinda nifty blog.
2komponisto9yI would like to see it become this. And not just for AI ethics/decision theory either. I'd like to see an entire "LW science" movement, where we tackle things like quantum gravity [http://lesswrong.com/lw/qt/class_project/]. Yes, I know it's a dream. For now.
1[anonymous]9yThat would be fun.
2[anonymous]9yWelcome! That's a huge amount of philosophy to look at. Might I suggest narrowing your interests down a bit, at least at first? It's very easy to read a little bit of everything, but much harder to contribute something non-trivial to every field. It seems to be a little bit of all of those things. Some people here are rabidly anti-philosophy, and so if LW overtly called itself a philosophical movement, those people would probably end up evaporating off [http://lesswrong.com/lw/lr/evaporative_cooling_of_group_beliefs/]. On the other hand, some people would very much like to see the self-help aspects of LW become secondary to the more philosophical or technical aspects. Like everything else, it's a bit hard to pin down to a distinct category.
1Ron_Fern9yBeing anti-philosophy is something philosophy needs. Not in a boring, the field is dead Rorty sense. In a, these are scientific questions with definite right and wrong answers, kind of way. I don't think anyone is ever really anti-philosophy; perhaps my imagination is so daft that I can't imagine someone with different tastes. I think philosophy has really frustrated a lot of truth seekers because it was being done poorly. Even in analytic philosophy, only ever so rarely does a tool from analytic philosophy come about that could not be compared to using a stick to break apart and probe matter. Lesswrong needs to solve philosophical problems to do its job, whether to build AI, or systematically cause rationality. It needs to solve scientific problems too, but lesswrong's practice seems to consist primarily in long winded, immersive, and concentrated discussion, using previously established technical terminology and calculi, with the aim of settling the truth value of some claim. The method of argument is the method of philosophy. This mixed with the philosophical nature of much of the content here on LW, are enough for me to think of LW as a philosophical movement. But a philosophical movement separated from the long western tradition stretching back to plato. I like to think of LW as a philosophical movement, analogously to that famous internet meme about that statistician which goes something like this: Derp was late to his probability class, and quickly jotted down the HW for that week's class. He worked on it for quite a while. When he got there next week, he told his professor that he found the HW harder than usual. Derp's professor informed him that what he had jotted down was not the HW, it was three unsolved conjectures. Derp then presented those proofs with the help of his professor as his dissertation. LW solves some seemingly unsolvable philosophical dilemmas in a similar fashion; and if the average LW user is somehow helped in solving open and VE
2steven04619yIt would be badderass in a dead language. "Minorifalsianism" or something.

Hi, everyone.

I'm currently finishing a first degree in CS, and I've been reading LW for a few months now (since June). I've read through most of the Sequences and check the front page of the site for anything that looks interesting whenever I want to put off doing something, which is usually several times a day. I also need to get round to finishing Godel, Escher, Bach some time (I'm kinda slow).

I am, at the moment, a terrible rationalist - my goals aren't even clearly defined, let alone acted on, and I have a strong background in tournament debating, whic... (read more)

2cousin_it9yMaybe Kevin T. Kelly's work [http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/kk3n/ockham/Ockham.htm] will fit your bill? Also see the discussion on LW [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2l9/kevin_t_kellys_ockham_efficiency_theorem/].
2beoShaffer9yhttp://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Occam's_razor [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Occam's_razor]Not sure if thats in depth enough, but I think it does a pretty good job. -edit the apostrophe seems to break the link, but the url is right.

Hi all.

I'm a 21 year old junior at Bryant University, and I am currently majoring in marketing and minoring in legal studies. I discovered lesswrong through Lukeprog's CSA website; however I have been spending more time as of late reading lesswrong than CSA.

First and foremost, I am hoping that lesswrong helps me become a more instrumentally rational person. I currently struggle with a number of issues including akrasia, effectively controlling my emotions, and goal setting. I don't think lesswrong has had a noticeable positive or negative effect on my... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 9

I'm 22 years old, and currently a fourth-year college student, studying Philosophy and minoring in Computer Science at a very small, Christian school. I found a link to LW while searching for open, online scholarship combining analytic philosophy with algorithmic analysis. After glancing over the resources here, I am extremely excited about the prospect of participating. Philosophical logic, formal epistemology, and functional programming are my passions, and I am thrilled whenever I see interdisciplinary progress being made in cognitive science research. ... (read more)


I am 32 year old middle class male from the Kansas City area. I grew up on a farm in south-central Kansas, in an evangelical christian family. From an early age I was identified as having above average intelligence. I also have ADD, although it went undiagnosed though my elementary and middle-school years, as I was easily able to complete my work in a short enough time frame that I was not distracted. During this time, I was also heavily indoctrinated in the church. During my high school years, it became apparent to me that there was something wr... (read more)

5kilobug9yWelcome to Less Wrong, and good luck in your quest for bettering yourself ! Or hum... how do you wish "good luck" in a rational way ? ;)
9thomblake9yA: Don't worry about it too much and get on with something more important.
3Oscar_Cunningham9ySay something surportive but actually meaningful, like "I'm impressed by your achievement." or "Keep going awesome person!" or even just "I hope you do well."

Greetings, all. I've spent most of my life (being 24 now) longing for the sort of clarity provided by rationalist thought, but only discovered a few months ago that there was such a thing as empirically verifiable truth accessible to me, and that it was possible to build a belief system with solid foundations. I'm still going through the resulting lengthy process of reassessing my beliefs in light of actual evidence.

My partner recently introduced me to this site, and I dived right in - only to hit a concrete wall. My mathematical skills, unused since schoo... (read more)

9[anonymous]9yDon't worry, you're definitely not the only one who found the Intuitive Explanation difficult. Have you seen Visualizing Bayes' Theorem [http://oscarbonilla.com/2009/05/visualizing-bayes-theorem/]? If that doesn't help, there are some other explanations on this LessWrongWiki page [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Bayes%27_theorem#Other_posts]. As far as the sequences are concerned, you'll probably be fine as long as you have a basic understanding of what probability is and how to use Bayes' Theorem; fortunately, there isn't too much math in the Core Sequences.
2kilobug9yWelcome ! The "Intuitive Explanation" is very interesting, but not always the easiest to grasp. The most important thing to understand the Sequences is the beginning, understanding how to compute (even if you do it manually, by "counting" women of each possible cases) the chance of having cancer knowing you have a positive mammography. For the rest, I would advise you to start reading the Sequences, and stopping when you find something that you don't understand, and then trying to learn that part of maths. You're free to ask for pointers or hints when you find such a "blocker". What you'll need is base of probability theory, a tiny bit of vector algebra (or anything that can help you grasp the concept of n-dimensional space, with a huge n) for the quantum mechanics sequence, and the understanding of what a "function" is in maths. The rest should go easily.

Welcome to LessWrong!

If you don't want all your posts to be downvoted to oblivion, you may want to switch to a less self-centered, ornate and verbose writing style. As a rule of thumb, nobody on the internet cares about you (generic "you") until given a reason to.

[-][anonymous]9y 9

Greetings everyone; I recently found this website and immediately witnessed a great abundance of intellect and informed stream of thought-forms in a numerous of interesting topics, something- I might add, relatively rare in many forums 'out there' on my previous personal experience. In a brief response to the interest in: "know who you are, what you're doing, what you value, how you came to identify as a rationalist or how you found us."

My name is Steven. A senior undergraduate student majoring in psychology, with a fair concentration in cognitiv... (read more)

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Hello LessWrong.

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.

In order then,

I would consider myself to be on the line between an aspiring and burgeoning Artistic Polymath; a storycrafter not picky about means or medium, but very picky about what I would call Extrapolated Contextual Detail. For my part, I treat stories very much like thought-experiments, and as such I've invested a lot of effort in expunging from my mind the defaultness of the environment in which I was ra... (read more)

3Oscar_Cunningham9yWelcome! That's very cool.

Hello there,

I am a 16-year-old high school student in Vancouver, Canada. I discovered Less Wrong several months ago through HP:MoR, which deeply captured my interest. After finishing the then released chapters, I knew I wanted to learn more. Upon reading the sequences, I felt enlightened. I discovered a new way of thinking, of making decisions that would benefit myself and others more. I delved through articles and eventually started to use Anki, learning fallacies and cognitive biases. As a result, I am more mentally organized, I am doing better in school... (read more)

5Vladimir_Nesov9yJust make sure to focus your effort on setting up opinions to reflect facts, not on making opinions appear convincing or on your side. In particular, lots of things are confusing, uncertain and unstable under potential evidence; or offending, or supporting policies you believe wrong, or "improper" for your "identity". Reality doesn't care, so you shouldn't either.

Hello Less Wrong.

I am 19 years old and have been interested in philosophy since I was 13. Today, I am interested in anything that has to do with intelligence, such as psychology and AI and rationality.

I believe in the possibility of the technological singularity and want to help make it happen.

I hope that the complex and unusual ways of thinking that I have taught myself over the last years while philosophizing will allow me to tackle this problem from directions other people have not yet thought of, just like they enabled me to manipulate my own psyche in... (read more)

2NancyLebovitz10yI hope you'll be reading more of this site-- a lot of the point is that we don't just want a technological singularity, we want a singularity that's good for human beings. I hope you'll post more about the ways of thinking you've developed.

Hello. I'm Snowyowl, or Christopher if you're interested in my real name. (Some people are.) I first discovered this site on Friday 14th August, when a friend of mine (who calls herself Kron) pointed me in the direction of the story "Harry Potter and the Methods Of Rationality".

I don't consider myself a rationalist, because that seems like a sure-fire way of feeling superior to 90% of the world. Also, I have realised in the past week that a lot of my beliefs and opinions are contradictory - in LessWrong lingo, my Bayesian network isn't internall... (read more)

[-][anonymous]10y 9

Hi, I've been reading Less Wrong since about January this year, I got interested in the site because of the Baby eating aliens fiction which someone recommended, I had before coming here read a few posts at Overcoming Bias.

At the time I read most of the Yudkowsky coming of age sequence and was also especially interested in the Luminosity sequence. I've recently started thinking about Timeless Decision theory and reading with great interest this sites take on the blind idiot god.

The thing I think this site helped me most with was to impart on me how import... (read more)

5Morendil10yNow you have me wondering what the Female Physics classes are like. ;)
6Risto_Saarelma10yI hear the fluid mechanics course taught by Dr. Irigaray is really good.

I was going to go do some research on it and never got around to it because I'm lazy.

Most people in a crisis of faith find themselves especially lazy when it comes to seeking information that contradicts their (preferred) beliefs, and surprisingly diligent when it comes to seeking evidence that reaffirms them.

(This isn't just about religion, but it happens pretty clearly there. A religious friend of mine recently went through a crisis of faith, decided that he needed to study more to decide on the truth of Christianity, and only read books by traditiona... (read more)

I am an undergraduate mathematician currently headed towards a life of doing theoretical computer science research. Several unrelated friends mentioned LW to me at one point or another in my life, so I read an arbitrary well-liked post every so often for a while. Eventually I concluded that visiting the site somewhat regularly would make me happy (although I have thought enough about how I think, and am easily arrogant enough, to doubt that I will become a better person or learn too much about myself) and so here I am.

I am an (almost) Bayesian utility ma... (read more)

Hello rationalists (I'm tempted to shorten that word, but neither "rats" nor "rashes" is very complimentary),

I'm a sophomore in college, studying English. I've always been interested in getting smarter than the general population, and websites like this never fail to give me some productive reading/thinking material.

I'm very religious, which some would say is a serious fluke in an otherwise freethinking person. I disagree, but I won't waste your time with my irrational arguments in favor of my own methods of worship.

I love intelligent a... (read more)

3RobinZ10yGood site! I didn't know that it linked here - was it a comment on a post, link in a post...?
2orthonormal10yThere was a link in the illusion of transparency [http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/07/14/the-illusion-of-transparency/] post. I wonder if the You Are Not So Smart Guy is one of our veterans, though the writing style isn't one I recognize.
2simplicio10yI shan't press you any further on this because you don't appear to want to go there, but you may wish to consider why this one part of your life apparently has its own independent epistemology. People here tend to see rationality as globally applicable to all domains of knowledge, so a claim that one area of your life is off limits sounds to us like "numbers are good for counting apples, but not oranges."

I think I first came to this site via a link on another forum to the "Three Worlds Collide" story... or the "That Alien Message" one. And then I read more articles. I find rationality, cryonics and the singularity to be very interesting, and most of the articles I've seen so far are about those topics.

I'm in the UK, and I'll be in sixth form in september, will do maths, electronics, chemistry and physics.

I don't yet feel I can identify as a rationalist, but I don't think I'll be able to assess this until I catch myself thinking irrationally in response to something, either before or after the fact. I'm not sure how I can even define "me as a rationalist"...

Hi all.

I have lurked on Less Wrong since Day 0. I found Overcoming Bias from Economics blogs I used to follow closely (Marginal Revolution, &c.) I now have my toe in the water here, having been unable to resist joining the Jaynes Probabiity Language of Science study group.

I came to Rationalism firstly by way of Physics and Mathematics, secondly by way of Philosophy. In college I used to do my problem sets in the Philosophy section of the library and my break time was devoted to Plato and to Aristotle and to Hume and the rest of those dead white guys.

Af... (read more)


I think I may have posted on a welcome thread before, but I still consider myself pretty new so saying hi again.

I've long thought rational thought is underrated. I find LW very interesting but quite difficult to get into.

Things I'd like to see:

Better introductory content.

Things I find particularly interesting:

Discussion of akrasia and strategies for avoiding it.

Buddhism - is it compatible with rationality? Personally I think some aspects yes, some aspects no.

3mstevens10yFurther comments, which I'm making in the safe haven of this topic rather than the wilds of the rest of LW: I'm moderately sympathetic to all the cryonics / singularity stuff that's often talked about here, but also suspicious. I haven't come up with a properly argued response, (or even read all the very long posts about it!), but LW in general gives me a feeling of twisting things to fit already chosen conclusions on these topics. Cryonics: I view it as a long-shot option with a possible big payoff. The part I have my doubts about is the feeling I get that it's seen as a particularly good long-shot that's important to focus on. Singularity stuff: This has all very possibly been discussed at length in a long post I haven't read, and I'm quite happy to get references. Two areas of this make me uncomfortable: * For me a key problem seems to be the rate at which people can adapt to new technologies. I'm sure I've seen this raised either in Marooned in Realtime ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marooned_in_Realtime [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marooned_in_Realtime]) or in very standard commentary on it, so I'm sure this has been addressed somewhere. This seems likely to me to stop acceleration in technology once we reach the stage of significant change within a human lifetime. * Someone still has to do all the thinking. Assuming the singularity happens, and as yet undefined entities can solve major problems in short timespans, this will be because they are thinking very fast. They will be operating on a much faster time scale and to them, the apparent rate of progress won't be much greater. The singularity will only appear to solve all our problems by handwaving from the point of view of the un-accelerated. Which around here seems to be viewed as an unpleasant state of existence, to be escaped as soon as the technology is available.

I am a practicing attorney in the United States. I would suggest you think long and hard before going to law school. There have been big changes in the state of legal education over the last 10 years and the consequences of those changes are only recently coming to light.

Most importantly (1) in real dollars the cost of attending law school has pretty much doubled in the last 10 or 15 years; and (2) at the same time, the bankruptcy code has been amended to make it practically impossible to get student loans discharged in bankruptcy. The upshot is that i... (read more)

Hi all.

I'm 30, live in Sydney and work on image processing. I also have a wife and two beautiful daughters, currently nine months and two and a half years old.

I have a strong background in pure maths and an ongoing interest in philosophy. I've been a rationalist since before I even knew what one was. Discovering ET Jaynes' "Probability Theory" was the closest thing I'll probably ever have to a religious revelation.

I finally wrote down a large explanation of some quite fundamental philosophy I'd had in my head for quite a while and sent it to a co... (read more)


I'm 18 years old, American, and a sophomore in college.

I discovered this site through HPMoR in December of last year, but did not seriously start reading the Sequences and other posts until the past half year or so. This site played an instrumental role in de-converting me; I had grown up in the Midwest in a very fundamentalist Christian household. After becoming firm in my atheism (untheism + antitheism), I sadly stopped lurking on here, until I became interested in philosophy and the rationality as espoused on LW.

I have always been considered "... (read more)

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1kilobug9yWelcome here !

Hello everyone.

I live in Croatia, currently working as an IT consultant after working some years at the University. Along with software development I was always interested in psychology, particularly evolutionary psychology, social psychology and human rationality.

I guess I've been a rationalist for as long as I can remember. My interest in science and (oddly) my exposure to catechism at an early age - in a then socialist country - made me question people's approach to knowledge and reasoning.

I hope to find ways to effectively communicate facts and ideas a... (read more)

Hi, I'm a college student in Portland, and I'm planning to major in either Physics or Math and Physics. Although rationalism relates fairly obviously to those fields, that's not my where my interest stems from. I'm interested in rationalism because it can be used to explain things less obviously in its domain such as politics and literature. Additionally it provides a structure for interpreting knowledge about the physical world, which is not as self-evident as it sounds. I first heard about Less Wrong from HP:MoR and discovered it through a comment on Reddit.

I'm not sure if this is at all coherent, but I'm psyched to be here and be a part of this website.

I also found Less Wrong after reading the Harry Potter fanfiction. Becoming a more rational person is something that I like to think I have strived towards for most of my life, even if I wasn't aware of what it was called a lot of the time.

A lot of people who surround me in life aren't very rational, so I looked towards the internet for a place to discuss things where a rational viewpoint is considered the optimal viewpoint. This is because I am aware of my ignorance across many fields and of the world, and I am also aware of my tendency towards irrationa... (read more)

My name's Joshua Bennett, and I also came here after reading the Harry Potter fanfiction. I made a commitment to pursuing rationality after reading Richard Mitchell's book The Gift of Fire, and seeing even a fictional example of applied rational thinking got me excited. I know that, despite my best efforts, I am a terribly irrational person; I want to fix that.

In the past year or so I've thrown off (among other things) my fundamentalist Christian beliefs in pursuit of truth, and I now call myself an atheist and anti-theist. When people ask how I lost my fa... (read more)

I'm a 28-yo male in the SF area previously from NYC.

This site is intimidating and I think there are many more just like me who are intimidated to introduce themselves because they might not feel they are as articulate or smart as some of the people on this forum. There are some posts that are so well written that I couldn't write in a 100 years. There is so much information that it seems overwhelming. I want to stop lurking and invite others to join too. I'm not a scientist and I didn't study AI in college, I just want to meet good people and so do yo... (read more)

Hello. Please call me Paul Watcher. Watcher is not my real name, but I do know someone named Watcher, and it is what I've been doing. I'm a medical student.

I've recently finished all the sequences (except the luminosity one still), and my head still hurts. I'm really happy I found them, though. It was painful, but I call myself better now.

I'm now relearning as much as I can. I'm trying to use divia's Anki deck to memorize the sequences: basic things worth memorizing. I still have yet to actually understand lot of what I read here, so I hope that helps.

I re... (read more)

8LucasSloan10yIf you have a question, and don't particularly care if others after you see the answer, asking in the Open Thread probably will get more people looking at your question. On the other hand, people do look at the recent comment page, and try to answer questions, so I can't say that's a bad option. If it's not time critical, I'd ask in the article, then, if no one answers, link to your question from the open thread.

Hello! You have another victim via MoR.

I am already a bit conflicted about the site - I am finding the content inspiring, useful and helpful, given that I am going through a bit of a life 'directional re-evaluation' at the moment, but it is also sucking away a lot of time that I could be devoting to actual analysis and practical action...

Oh, well, when I finish reading every post, I can carry on from there!

3Document10yRelated: Self-Improvement or Shiny Distraction: Why Less Wrong is anti-Instrumental Rationality [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2po/selfimprovement_or_shiny_distraction_why_less/]. It's also one of the reasons I (and other people) wish it were easier to download the site or portions of the site (like the Sequences plus comments) for offline reading.

Hi! I first came here a couple of months ago through MoR (through TV Tropes), which seems to have been a gateway drug of sorts for many of us here. Right now I'm reading my way through the sequences and other posts. I find it surprising how much difference it's made in my thought processes in just the short time I've been reading to just have the Litany of Gendlin available and verbalized, or making my beliefs pay rent. I think I've always been very analytical, but the most helpful things I've read on Less Wrong so far have been ways to focus that analysis... (read more)

Lured in by ciphergoth, who successfully irritated me into looking. Finally irritated into creating a login to comment on a post that wasn't listing its sources.

I also write a lot on RationalWiki, with subjects of local interest being the cryonics and LessWrong articles. Please remember that we love you really, we're just annoying about it.

Having given it some thought, I don't label myself "rationalist". "Whatever-works-ist" is probably more accurate. LessWrong's ambit claim upon the word "rationalist" is very irritating.

LessW... (read more)

9Paul Crowley10yWe call "whatever-works-ism" instrumental rationality [http://lesswrong.com/lw/31/what_do_we_mean_by_rationality/].

My name is Elizabeth, and I made my way here through "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality," but quickly found myself fascinated. I've been reading intermittently for a few months, and would likely not be posting here today due to an unfortunate personal tendency towards lurking and the sheer daunting nature of the volume and intelligence of discussion, but when I was reading about narrowness I came across a comment I couldn't help responding to, and decided my newfound positive karma score was worth overcoming my trepidation about perman... (read more)

I would be far more careful using quantum physics in informal "philosophical" arguments. In most instances, people summon quantum effects to create a feeling of answered question, while in fact the answer is confused or, worse, not an asnwer at all. The general rule is: every philosophical argument using the word quantum is bogus. (Take with a grain of salt, of course.)

More concretely, closed quantum systems (i.e. when no measurement is done) evolve deterministically, and their evolution can be periodic.

In my experience, people who believe they know the way are even more passionate, evangelical, and just plain impolite than are the self-satisfied folk who think they have already arrived at the truth.

I would recommend totally eliminating your impressions of "the kind of people who think X" from your considerations about X, unless the X-ites are actually torturing babies.

By paying attention to their personal characteristics, you're essentially guaranteeing that your opinions will be hijacked by how socially comfortable you feel with their group... (read more)

2Perplexed10yOh, I agree. I am busy evaluating exactly that. But I will point out that a large fraction of the techniques taught here have to do with how to communicate clearly, rather than simply how to think clearly. One presumes that the reason we wish to communicate is that we wish to be understood. If certain "personal characteristics" (I mentioned passion and etiquette) either promote or interfere with successful communication, then I think that both sender and receiver have some responsibility to make adjustments. In fact, in a broadcast model, with one sender and many receivers, the onus of adjustment lies mainly on the sender. [Edit: spelling]

Hi, I’m Rory O’Kane. I’ve been reading Less Wrong for a few months. I first came across it a year or two ago, when a Hacker News comment linked to the AI-in-a-box experiment description. I followed some links from that and liked each Less Wrong post I read. A few more times in the next months, I stumbled across a random comment or article pointing to a Less Wrong post that I also enjoyed, until I finally decided to read the About page and see just what Less Wrong was all about anyway. Every so often, I came to the site, read posts, and followed links from ... (read more)

6orthonormal10yHmm, fair point. Quick poll below:

Vote for me if you would prefer the post stay as is. (Karma balance below.)

6komponisto10yVoting for original wording. In context, "we" clearly refers to the "core" of LW, which, just as clearly, is the collection of people whose atheism needs explanation to new readers. Changing to "most of us" implies there is a notable subset of participants who haven't given full consideration, and draws attention to that subset ("well, most of us have...[but there are a few people who haven't]"). There isn't any need to weasel-word around the atheism here; it's not anything we need to be apologetic about.
2orthonormal10yVote for me if you would prefer the post edited as suggested. (Karma balance below.)

Hi. I just joined the site yesterday to post a comment. I've been tracking the feed for about a week, having recently decided to re-engage with the Internet. I learned of the site about three months ago, by way of a blogger who was blogging about social issues. I disagreed with him very strongly on those issues, but I checked out his other posts and he mentioned a discussion over here (I think he's a participant).

I think that the post that originally attracted my attention was something relating to the singularity idea. Being a geek myself, I'm kinda inter... (read more)

3simplicio10yThis is precisely how I feel. Sometimes I daydream about starting a political party that has no ideology apart from vague consequentialism, commitment to rationality & empirical testing of policy proposals. Call us the "Whatever the Hell Works" party.
3NancyLebovitz10ySome niches might be opening up in US politics. Unfortunately, sensible people don't seem to be rushing to fill those niches.

Hello! I've been a reader of Less Wrong for several months, although I never bothered to actually create an account until now. I originally discovered LW from a link through some site called "The Mentat Wiki." I consider myself an atheist and a skeptic. I'm entering my senior year of high school, and I plan on majoring in Physics at the best college I can get into!

Actually, I had come across EY's writings a few months earlier while trying to find out who this "Bayes" was that I had seen mentioned a couple different blogs I read. That w... (read more)

6CronoDAS10yParticle Man, Particle Man, does whatever a particle can! What's he like? It's not important. Particle Man! [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PushLSCSWrA] Sorry, couldn't resist.

My search began when I realized that I was confused. I was confused by what people did and what they said. I was confused by my responses to other people, how interacting with other people affected me. And I was confused about how I worked. Why I did the things I did, why I felt the way I did, why sometimes things were easy for me, and sometimes they were hard.

I learned very early in my life that I needed to critically analyze what other people told me. Not simply to identify truth or falsehood, but to identify useful messages in lies and harmful messages ... (read more)

Hello, my name is Brett, and I am an undergraduate student at the University of North Texas, currently studying in the Department of Anthropology. In this semester, my classmates and I have been tasked with conducting an ethnographic study on an online community. After reading a few posts and the subsequent comments, LessWrong seemed like a great community on which to conduct an ethnography. The purpose of this study is to identify the composition of an online community, analyze communication channels and modes of interaction, and to glean any other inform... (read more)


I'm a 3rd year Economics Undergrad student at the University of Glasgow. I found LessWrong, by reading a Profile on Peter Thiel, my interest are: economics (obviously, used to be macro but now gearing towards more experimental area's.) philosophy, mostly stoic; not Seneca etc but Aurelius 'Meditations', history of maths and risk. Financial markets to an extent, but it's not something I'm pursuing religiously. I have always been interested in self-development but though that the literature would need to be seriously scrutinized, so I'm very happy that I... (read more)

4Mass_Driver9yWelcome to Less Wrong! Your interests sound interesting. What does it mean to look at the Singularity from an economic point of view?
3UngnsCobra9yI'm fairly new to singularity etc. but from what I have read so far. Looking at singularity as a if scenario through Brain Emulation's (uploading). How would this affect the economy regarding, emplyment, growth etc. So far I have found papers looking at economics of singularity from Robin Hanson. I'm struggling finding other source's so I would be very grateful if someone would like to contribute.
3gwern9yI don't really know of any myself. It's hard to do economics about such divergent and unclear scenarios, and economists typically do them as jokes (eg. Paul Krugman's paper on investing in a relativistic time travel framework). And there seem to be penalties - that Hanson paper from 2008 still has not been published 4 years later, for example.
7Will_Newsome9yFor those who are interested. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Theory_of_Interstellar_Trade]
1UngnsCobra9y(To gwern and Will_Newsome) Haha that's great, it's a somewhat juvenile undertone in Krugman's writing in this paper. that's exactly the kind of paper's i'm looking for - paper's that are something of a outlier in the field of economics, if any other paper's come's to mind in the same direction it would be appreciated.

Hello everyone, I'm a 27 year old graduate student pursuing a degree in optics from the University of Central Florida. I perform experimental research in optical sensing of biological and random materials. Though I enjoy my research, I'm more interested in the philosophy of science. By philosophy of science I mean the framework of logical structures that scientists use to identify problems and arrive at solutions. Most of my colleagues, myself included, received no formal education of this type; rather, our educations were limited to the theory and applic... (read more)

1[anonymous]9yDo you do any photoacoustic tomography, or is your work purely optical? I'm a math grad student in that area. I'm also from Ohio, the Cincinnati area. Hi!
2kmdouglass9yNo, I do not do any work in that area, though I am vaguely familiar with it, having attended a few talks on the subject. However, the mathematics of solving the associated inverse problem is extremely relevant to the type of work that I do. It's great to meet another Ohioan. I was just driving through Cincinnati a few days ago. Cheers, -kmd

Hi Less Wrong! My name is Jonathan, I'm 43, from Vancouver Canada, background in physics and philosophy (no longer professional), with interests in the Anthropic Principle, philoscience, Tegmarkian metaphysics, mutliverse theories, observer selection and assorted Bostromian subjects, and much else besides. I've been a proponent (shill) of the multiverse for many a year and am now gratified that it's reaching mainstream acceptance.

Hi everyone!

My name is Felipe, from Argentina. I've been studying philosophy for the last five years or so, especially logic and philosophy of science, but this last year I also started learning web programming, and before that I was a very active editor in the spanish Wikipedia.

I learned about Less Wrong because I had just finished an experimental website, and I posted it on the imageboard of science and mathematics /sci/ (which some of you probably know), and there someone mentioned that people on Less Wrong would probably like it. So I came here, and I ... (read more)

Imagine everything was exactly the same but one single person was a little bit happier. Wouldn't you prefer this future? If you prefer futures where people are happier as a rule then isn't the best future the one where people are most happy?

Choosing a world where everything is the same except that one person is a bit happier suggests a preference for more happiness than there currently is, all else being equal. It doesn't even remotely suggest a preference for happiness maximizing at any cost.

I would prefer to this one a world where everything is exactl... (read more)

I think the consensus around here is that too many high IQ people go into physics compared to what is socially optimal. Unfortunately my Google-fu is failing me and I can't find the posts/discussions I have in mind. (Anyone want to help me out?) The closest I could find is Paul Christiano's The Value of Theoretical Research.

2komponisto9yThere's also the comment of Peter Thiel at the 2009 Singularity Summit, referenced here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1f4/less_wrong_qa_with_eliezer_yudkowsky_ask_your/18vl] . But in any case note that studying physics in college does not necessarily commit one to "going into" physics. Indeed, Robin Hanson now studies economics professionally but started out studying physics!
4Wei_Dai9yThanks, I think between you and gwern you've probably covered what I had in mind. From your linked comment: It might be hard to argue that everyone currently working on string theory should shift their attention, but much easier to argue that at the margins, we need more highly capable people working on creating a positive Singularity, or reducing existential risk, or aging, and fewer doing theoretical research. It's unlikely we can make all string theorists shift their attention anyway, but I feel like we'd be doing some good if we could change a few people's minds (like Celestia's for example). Do you disagree? Sure, but if one doesn't intend to pursue a career in physics, why not study something more generally useful, like computer science?
2gwern9yWell, you might be thinking of http://lesswrong.com/lw/1hh/rationality_quotes_november_2009/1ac4 [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1hh/rationality_quotes_november_2009/1ac4] - either de Grey or the mathematician story would do.


I was introduced to Less Wrong by a friend about a year ago. My first impression was of thoughts and opinions that I already had, or had half-thought, but expressed much more clearly. How could I not love it? I eventually read all of the sequences, finding novel but brilliant ideas. I now recommend them to almost everyone I meet. Coincidentally, after I'd started reading the sequences, I found HP:MOR, and had my mind blown when I found out most of them were written by the same person. Currently, I'm trying to read E.T. Jaynes', "Probability The... (read more)

Hi everybody! More than half a year ago, I came across LessWrong via Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and have since read around half of the sequences. I'm so glad I found this site. I had a sense that more is possible, but I didn't even know the word "philantrophy" existed before I got here, although that might be because that word is less common in German (which is my first language). At the few meetups I've been to, I've met some very awesome folks – I can't remeber feeling so comparatively uninteresting ever before. I hope my experience with this site continues to be this eye-opening.

5Prismattic9yIt's "philanthropy", but "philantrophy" would be an awesome neologism for the chaos that results from well-intentioned but ill-conceived humanitarian aid.
6pedanterrific9yPhilentropy: (noun) measure of the decrease of the utility/dollar ratio as a function of distance to recipient. Edit: Here I thought I just made this up whole cloth, and what does google tell me but that it's the name of an album [http://www.discogs.com/John-Martyn-Philentropy/release/1675048] older than I am. Nothing new under the sun, etc and so on. Relevant [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1kWiqKBAig].

Hello all.
My name is Alerik. I'm a 29 year old Civil Engineering student and father of one (so far). I'm hoping to graduate within the next year. I've been in school forever, changing schools several times, and majors from naval architecture to physics to applied math and computer science to civil engineering. I've been a terrible student much of the time, and a poor organizer of my time much of the time. I was raised very religious, broke away from my church when my grandfather's death revealed the enormous corruption within the church, and broke wit... (read more)

Hi all, I've just started reading Less Wrong, having long seen links to it on utilitarian communities online and through philosopher friends in Oxford. If you want to know more about me you could read the 'about me' page on my http://www.philosofiles.com/ website, though I won't bore you with the details here! I'm always more than happy to discuss my beliefs though, so I look forward to eventually engaging with the discussions here :)

Hello! I'm here because a reference to Less Wrong that Nancy Lebovitz made on another forum intrigued me, and I love the last line of the FAQ: there's nothing in the laws of physics that prevents reality from sounding weird.

I disagree that perfectionism as described on the About page is always a good idea, but my imagination can easily come up with an ideal standard which no living person can actually meet. And stay alive. Usually because of slippery-slope arguments, but if an ideal cannot be taken to the extreme example, can it really be that ideal?

I do ... (read more)


I've been lurking on LW/OB for a while but thought I'd sign up. I'm currently doing a philosophy degree which you might expect would make me feel unwelcome on LW (which is often fairly anti-philosophy) but it's actually really great to come across a group with a similar view about how to do philosophy as me - I tend to come across more interesting philosophy ideas here than I do in classes.

Anyway, just thought I'd say hello.

1Normal_Anomaly9yWelcome to Less Wrong! Don't worry too much about our being anti-philosophy. We're more against the common views held and methodologies used by philosophers than against the field itself. That is, the areas philosophy investigates are worth investigating; the bashing is reserved for the way philosophers go about it.

Hello all !

I'm a twenty-seven years old student doing a PhD in vegetation dynamics. I've been interested in science since forever, in skepticism and rationality per se for the last few years, and I was linked to LessWrong only a few months ago and was blown away. I'm frankly disconcerted by how every single internet argument I've gotten into since has involved invoking rationality and using various bits of LessWrong vocabulary, I think the last time I absorbed a worldview that fast was from reading "How the Mind Works", lo these many years ago. S... (read more)

2naritai9yWelcome to LessWrong!

Hi. I've been a lurker since before Less Wrong existed, reading though the sequences as they existed on Overcoming Bias. I regularly read new posts on Less Wrong and have made it through a couple of the sequences, but have failed to internalize much.

I am very interested in the topics discussed here and have recently decided to take a more active role in the community as well as really learning the existing material.

A little about me personally. I'm a 23, male, computer programmer ('software engineer') that has essentially slacked off his entire life. I ha... (read more)

Hi all, I'm John Bustard. I was suggested this site by a friend and I've just started getting into it. I'm a PhD student in computer vision, with a basic need for intellectual discussions (nice food and good debates are pretty close to heaven for me). I'm also very keen on improving my knowledge of statistical learning, which I feel is the key to understanding truth (the formalisation of understanding). I'm a fan of the singularity with a preference for brain scanning and simulation as the triggering event. Above all, however, I'm attracted by the sense ... (read more)

Maybe especially so if they consist only of the interjection "WTF".

I'd hazard that a request for a downvote explanation has a better chance of being answered satisfactorily if it is framed nicely, and perhaps an even better chance if you first think about why the comment might have been downvoted in the first place and offer a hypothesis.

And I'd strongly recommend not downvoting anyone who answers a request for a downvote explanation. Think about how that comes across.

Hi. I've been reading and posting here for 3 weeks or so, and am working my way through the sequences, so it's time to introduce myself.

My full nym is Perplexed in Peoria (PiP for short.) I am a retired computer engineer (software simulation of hardware designs). My checkered undergrad career included majors in chemistry, physics, poly sci, and finally economics. My recent reading interests include molecular biology, evolutionary biology, formal logic, philosophy, game theory, and abiogenesis. Currently I am reading Pearl on Causality, Wimsatt on ph... (read more)

Hi, I'm Rahul. I've intermittently visited LW for more than a year, refraining from commenting as it seemed optimal to shut up and update my beliefs regarding ideas I wasn't very well informed about. I feel I'm better prepared to contribute now.

I studied engineering and physics at school, moving on to work at trading floors of investment banks where I got a real, ringside view of decision making under uncertainty. Today, I work as a social venture capitalist looking to help disadvantaged micro-entrepreneurs rise out of poverty.

Despite my life's digression... (read more)

Hello! My name's Adam. I've been reading LessWrong since April, but I think this might be my first comment. I usually feel like I don't have much to add :)

I think my awakening as a rationalist can be traced back to reading Plato's Republic when I was 15. While not the typical rationalist text, it did open my eyes to the world of philosophy and logic, and first gave me the hunger for truths.

I found Less Wrong when a rationalist friend of mine badgered me for ages to visit it. This was after a weekend I'd spent in a particularly foul mood because of the shor... (read more)

4simplicio10yJust how I felt. Like I had stumbled across the intellectual equivalent of Callahan's Crosstime Saloon.

I was here a month or two ago, left for a while, and now I'm back. I found this site on a google search for an old AI project I was trying to research out of curiosity. I have been interested in AI since I was 13 and found this old dusty book at a library book sale titled simply "artificial intelligence". I read it cover to cover several times, and that's really how I got into all of this. Anyways, after finding this site, it really hooked me in, although I guess I was kind of resistant to the general opinion of the community here at first, which is how I got voted down so much. Now I have to wait 10 minutes to post this >=/

8Clippy10yDon't be discouraged. When I first started to post on this internet website, I was frequently voted down, usually to the point that I had to wait before submitting comments. However, by persisting, and making informative, reasoned comments, I was able to raise my Karma well above that needed to submit an article. And this is despite significant disagreement with other Users!

Have been a long time reader of Overcoming Bias, but haven't gone over to LW after the split.

I've been a rationalist as far back as I can remember, but I really became serious when I was 12. I grew up in Israel, and I was being prepared for my Bar Mitzvah by a Hasidic Rabbi. As Hasidim are prone to do he was telling me some mystical story, wherein he mentioned that the Sun orbits the Earth. I correct him offhand that this must be wrong. He countered with what I now know to be a classic "Have you ever been to space yourself?" followed by the even ... (read more)

4cousin_it10yOuch. So this is how "but not that particular proof" [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1ph/youre_entitled_to_arguments_but_not_that/] feels from the other side.
3anateus10yVery much so. I spent the next 10 minutes twisting myself up in knots: "Astronauts went up in space", etc. Always getting "But you yourself never went in space!". In my 12 year old naivete I replied that the mystical story he was just telling me was not witnessed by him in person. At which point he grabbed some old book that was nearby and mentioned that since it was written there it was true. That's when I knew to give up.
3simplicio10yAh, the beloved 'appeal for humility.' It's the gift that keeps on giving... Welcome! I was in linguistics too, for a while.

No, it isn't.

Infinite time doesn't mean that everything physically possible happened. Maybe the same things kept happening over and over.

[-][anonymous]10y 7

Hi, I lurked on OB and, until recently LW. I've since poked my head out a bit and asked a few questions to try to figure some things out. Like a lot of people here, my areas of interest are varied.

My main hope with starting to post on the site is that I might be able to provide some more introductory material trying to introduce people to LW - partly because I'm learning it myself so I'd find writing such posts challenging whereas many of the people who have been posting here for longer are excited by more complex things.

2Randaly10yI've had the same experience- thanks for the introduction!
[-][anonymous]9y 6

My name is not Stuart David. I use a pseudonym online as a means to completely sidestep the issue being branded with a view I don't necessarily hold but have simply argued for or posted about. I am also an extremely private person and wish to remain so.

I am in my mid 20s and I am still working on my B.S. in Physics. On and Off university for the past few years. I have been involved in the promotion of reason, science and skepticism via CFI (Center for Inquiry) and I have personally pursued rationality for the past 10 years or so. Preferred activities in my... (read more)

3pedanterrific9yWow, that must be some kind of record.

Hi my name is Krish Sharma. I am a recording record producer and recording engineer, with several small music-related businesses. I have degrees in economics and computer science, but as far as music I am self-taught. I feel a strong connection to the idea of the pursuit of human rationality, but many times feel I lack the processing power to really make sense of our environment on my own. In my ad-hock voyage through the information biosphere I have felt at times very discouraged by the general "triumph of irrationality". For the most part ... (read more)

Hi everyone, I've been following this site for a long time and I really feel like it's had a huge impact on me, if not just because I've discovered a huge community of people who seem to have the answers to the questions I've always been asking myself (or at least the cognitive apparatus for reaching them!)


I'm a 20 year old male from the UK and have been working for two years in a private hospital with the aged, terminally ill and cancer sufferers. The job requires me to work 12-14 hours a day with little human contact other than with patients and nursi... (read more)

Greetings fellow user & producer of thoughts!

My parents named me Jonathan, I'm 20 and born in Copenhagen. I'm honored to find such a high quantity, high concentration of high quality minds. My dad (not very generous with compliments) told me recently that I've always been wierd, much more conscious about everything since very young. I'm also about the fastest learner I know of. Two major weaknesses would be that I'm mortal and my English is very unpracticed in terms of output. I value: Consciousness, Intelligence, Practicality, Good decision making, We... (read more)

5beoShaffer9yHi, Optimind. I'd suggest starting with either An Intuitive explanation of Bayes Theorem [http://yudkowsky.net/rational/bayes] or An Intuitive Explanation of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Intuitive Explanation of Bayes’ Theorem [http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=13156]. After that all of the sequences(except maybe the quantum mechanics one) are worth reading.
1Optimind9yThanks! Bayes theorem seems very useful, though I haven't gotten through it all yet. I'm not a good reader yet. Have you got any idea how far is my goal from everybody elses in here?
1Bugmaster9yFWIW, my own intuitive explanation of Bayes' Theorem -- which may be inaccurate and wrong -- usually begins somewhat like this: Let's say that, one morning, you walk outside your front door, and immediately slip in a puddle of water and twist your ankle. Did CIA agents put the puddle there just to hurt you ? Well, according to the theorem, a). That's the wrong question to ask; a better question is, "how likely is it that CIA agents made that puddle ?" b). To answer that question, you need to keep in mind that puddles can happen for all kinds of reasons (rain, sprinklers, etc.), not just due to the machinations of CIA agents. Of course, no intuitive explanation is a substitute for math...

Hey everyone. I found out about Less Wrong via Common Sense Atheism a couple of months ago and I've been reading up on the Sequences and trying to learn more about Bayes' Theorem so that I can think more like a Bayesian in everyday life. It was only recently that I decided to actually make an account and contribute a bit.

I'm a software engineer for the Army. I'm not uniformed military (I used to be, for the Air Force) but a government civilian. My hobbies include swing dancing, playing guitar (mostly metal), learning about religion and studying Koine Greek (I might try to get an MA and possibly even a PhD in religious studies eventually), working out, and of course studying rationalism.

4gwern9yInteresting combination. Coming via CSA, I'm guessing you're the 'understand the enemy to defeat it' or 'how could such a strange thing as religion work' kind of atheist?
1JQuinton9yYeah, I think it's probably a combination of both. Maybe somewhere down the road I'll be sneaking in rationalism while talking or teaching about religion? That's the goal, anyway.

Good afternoon, morning or night! I'm a graduate student in Epistemology. My research is about epistemic rationality, logic and AI. I'm actually investigating about the general pattern of epistemic norms and about their nature - if these norms must be actually accessed by the cognitive agent to do their job or not; if these norms in fact optimize the epistemic goal of having true beliefs and avoiding false ones, or rather if these norms just appear to do so; and still other questions. I was navigating through the web and looking for web-based softwares to ... (read more)

WARNING: long post. I detail my entire intellectual development and how I came to be interested in LW. More posts on LW should have short summaries like this one (IMO).

Hello! I'm a 17 year old high school student. I was raised a lukewarm christian (I went to church maybe 5 times a year). Around 3rd grade I deduced Santa Clause could not exist. Around 9th grade I first HEARD the word atheism (and shortly thereafter agreed). I've always wanted to have some big impact on the planet. When I was younger (5th-8th grade), I thought I would try to become a profes... (read more)

7lessdazed9yWhen I was younger (three years old), I thought I would try to become a helicopter.

I found this list after finding and loving EY's Harry Potter series.

I have a background in statistical pattern recognition, and quickly found that most of the writers I found real value in during graduate school were canon here - Jaynes, Pearl, Wolpert, Korzybski, to name a few. I'm hoping to pick up more, like Kahneman.,

Way back in early 90s, I was on the extropians list as well, and think I've seen a familiar name or two. Quality discussion groups are hard to find, and I'm very happy to have found this place.

G'day friends,

who you are - that's a question far too involved for a first post. My name is not who I am, nor my job, nor my place of birth, nor what I do for leisure, nor what I find interesting, if you could see me, you might consider that my body is who I am, and I'd agree with that... online I am Peacewise, and that's a name I'm proud and respectful of, so you can expect that I'll maintain the dignity of those who interact with me.

What you're doing - I'm operating a business and studying a teaching degree. Along the way I'm being consistent with my b... (read more)

Hello all,

I've put off coming here for as long as I have been able (not due to not wanting to join the community, but due to the fact that my obligations make it so that I often have to drop communities, which I feel regret about) but I think I finally have time to be a quasi-active participant in the community here, so we'll see what happens.

I first saw this site, following it from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality about a year or two ago, and followed that up with reading the sequences. (Which were instrumental in helping me push away a whole h... (read more)

Not to make you feel unwelcome, but paragraphs are your friends. A little thing to remember if you want people to read what you say.

Hi all. Nothing really fancy to say about myself. I like writing webcode and dabble in the basics: PHP, CSS, HTML/XHTML, maybe a little JavaScript here and there. Lately I've been teaching myself PERL on account of it's quick and dirty utility. I got pulled in to Less Wrong while reading Eliezer's sequence on Quantum Physics. I wanted to see what this community was all about, so I created an account, read the introductory articles, and left this comment.

Hi, as requested, here is my introduction: I ended up here thanks to HPMoR, I have a physics degree and frequent the relevant freenode channels. I have observed that scientists are not significantly more likely to behave rationally than anyone else, not even in their area of expertise and this site appears to explain some of that. Ironically, it appears that this community is less wrong not much more often than an average person,either, though this might be just my initial impression. In any case, I hope to improve my personal rationality quotient, despite the overwhelming odds against it.

Hi everyone, I'm a 25 year old Olfactory Psychology student, hopefully about to start my phd soon. I have a blog myself at http://freeze43.wordpress.com/ that's mostly about atheism and philosophy. I was here after a link by a friend pointed out some stuff by Eliezer Yudowsky and I was really excited about it.

I got into rationality fairly early by enjoying religion and philosophy classes and being concerned with a desire to find truth. As I progressed through my Psych undergrad I found myself changing my career preferences as scientific understanding bec... (read more)

[-][anonymous]10y 6

Hey, I'm Jon. I've been reading Overcoming Bias for probably about 3 years and only recently discovered Less Wrong. (IIRC, OB was getting more and more into AI, then it split into OB and LW. I stayed with OB but never looked at LW.) I have a bachelor's in Mathematics and Economics, and was getting a PhD in Economics before I dropped out after my second year. (I became severely disenchanted with the discipline and arrogant and hostile with my program.)

Some post (I don't remember which) from OB lead me here maybe two weeks ago, and I read "Generali... (read more)

Hi, Living in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and studying in the equivalent of college. Lazy is a word describing me well. Seeking consonnance and being lazy, most of the time I think and do not act. I seek to act free of pointless things, opinions, biases and ?

And it is difficult. LW is breeze of fresh air to my mind. I want it to help me change myself. I want to be more congruent and rational.

Discovering new possibilities makes me see my inadequacies and now I feel I have to do something about it.

This is a step.

Howdy. I've been reading this blog for several months, but I'm hoping that having an identity on this site will provide incentives to internalize its logic; I've found in the past that it's easy for knowledge to fly away when you don't have a short-term stake in understanding it. Of course, that introduces its own potential for bias, but you've got to start somewhere.

Demographically, I'm a software engineer in my mid-to-late twenties living in the SF Bay Area. I spent some time studying classical AI while I was working on my undergraduate degree, but I'... (read more)

Hello LW. I'm Phil, I've been reading Less Wrong for a little over a year now. One of my most prominent "ugh-fields" is that surrounding my (very low) content consumption/production ratio, and I, somewhat baselessly, hope that posting here will help me become a more thoughtful and disciplined writer.

Currently, I'm an undergraduate studying physics and computer science in Chicago. I am highly torn between pursuing a career in science or one in engineering. Several articles here have helped me understand the difference between the two better, but t... (read more)

I'm a student; I value education and intellectual freedom for all sentient entities. I was told I would enjoy the Sequences after asking someone "Do you think that any 'good' society is inherently hierarchical?" over drinks.

I've always identified as a rationalist since I remember being conscious; I became a stated atheist approximately age four when I literally rejected the notion of a loving God along with the idea of Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny.

2simplicio10yGood on you! I was raised what I call funeral-Christian. We would sort of half-assedly pray whenever anybody got sick or died, but my family was totally uninterested in religion otherwise. My sister asked if we were catholic at age 16 or so, to the amusement of all adults concerned. I sort of vaguely thought we were freemasons because I found my granddad's old masonic junk in a drawer. Not sure why I never thought to just ask... But I was a total moron about Santa. I actually managed to invent belief-in-belief in Santa ("maybe Santa doesn't actually exist, but does that really fundamentally matter?") at about age 7. So I'm working off a huge rationalist karmic debt.

Hi everyone,

I'm an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota majoring in Philosophy and Mathematics and minoring in Economic Theory. I'm most interested in logic-related subjects (mathematical logic, philosophy of logic, philosophy of math, etc.) and moral philosophy (including meta-ethics, ethical theory, and some issues in applied ethics), but I'm also interested in various issues in the philosophy of mind, decision theory, and epistemology. I've been participating in competitive debate since I started high school and I now coach my old team.

I found... (read more)

A note for theists: you will find LW overtly atheist. We are happy to have you participating, but please be aware that other commenters are likely to treat religion as an open-and-shut case. This isn't groupthink; we really, truly have given full consideration to theistic claims and found them to be false. If you'd like to know how we came to this conclusion you may find these related posts a good starting point.

An objective standard might be good here. I'd suggest something like 'if your theist arguments aren't roughly as sophisticated and carefully reasoned as those of Alvin Plantinga, you probably shouldn't bring them up'.

I remember stumbling across Plantinga's modal argument and going "what?" For convenience of onlookers, here it is in a more digestible form.

Premise 1: Besides our world, there are other "logically possible" worlds.

Premise 2: Some cheeseburgers are totally awesome.

Premise 3: To be totally awesome, a cheeseburger has to exist in all possible worlds, because being "logically necessary" sounds like a totally awesome quality to have.

Conclusion: Therefore, if a totally awesome cheeseburger is possible at all (exists in one possible world), then it exists in all possible worlds, including ours.

(facepalm happens here)

3dclayh10yA.k.a., ontology [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontological_argument] with some bells and whistles.
2RobinZ10yThis introductory philosophy class syllabus [http://mind.ucsd.edu/syllabi/02-03/01w/%21syllabus.html] links to a statement of the ontological argument by Platinga [http://mind.ucsd.edu/syllabi/02-03/01w/readings/plantinga.html], if anyone wants to read the argument in the words of the proponent.

Greetings, I'm Simon, 23, I study Bsc Computer Games Technologies, currently focusing on rendering pipelines and AI. My scientific interests include physics, computer science and, 3D rendering techniques(C++ is my weapon of choice).



[-][anonymous]9y 5

In ‘pure’ QM (without gravity), the Planck length has no special significance, and spacetime is assumed to be continuous. But we know that QM as we know it must be an approximation because it disagrees with GR (and/or vice versa), and the ‘correct’ theory of quantum gravity might predict weird things at the Planck scale. So far, most proposed theories of quantum gravity have little more predictive power than “The woman down the street is a witch; she did it”, though some do predict stuff such as the dispersion of gamma rays I've mentioned elsewhere.

If you go deep enough in physics, you don't have "wood". You just have a wavefunction. The wavefunction evolves with time in "classical" QM physics, and just exists statically in timeless physics.

And "the same thing" doesn't mean much, since there is nothing like "this electron" but only "one electron".

Saying that a piece of wood changed is an upper-level concept, which you can't directly define in fundamental physics, but only approximates (like "pressure", or "wood", or "liquid&q... (read more)

Well, the correct answer up to this point is that we don't know. We would need a theory of quantum gravity to understand what's happening at this scale, and who knows how many ither step further we need to move to have a grasp of the "real" answer. Up to now, we only know that "something" is going to happen, and can make (motivated) conjectures. It may indeed be that time is discretized in the end, and talking about fractions of planck time is meaningless: maybe the universe computes the next state based on the present one in discrete s... (read more)

Hi, I'm Alex. I study biochemistry at Rutgers University. I think I was linked to Three Worlds Collide through a TVTropes page. In the past few days I have been curious about

Kolmogorov complexity,

how to derive the formula “y = 1/x” by slicing a cone with a plane,

and when it's appropriate to generalize laboratory results in psychology to human interactions outside the laboratory. Like, the original result on Hold Off On Proposing Solutions was probably done with groups of strangers; is it still true of groups of friends or coworkers? I think so.

1[anonymous]9yHi Alex! Welcome to Less Wrong. I'm pretty new here also, so if you want someone to work through Sequences with, let me know. Three Worlds Collide is great! I also recommend Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which was also written by Yudkowsky.

I would prefer "status quo plus one person is more happy" to "status quo". I would not prefer "orgasmium" to "status quo", because I honestly think orgasmium is nearly as undesirable as paperclips.

If you prefer futures where people are happier as a rule then isn't the best future the one where people are most happy?

Doesn't follow. I generally prefer futures where people are happier; I also generally prefer futures where they have greater autonomy, novel experiences, meaningful challenge... When these trade off, ... (read more)

To live a life with even the faintest hint of displeasure is a horrific crime, the thought goes. I am under the impression that most people here operate with some sort of utilitarianist philosophy. This to me seems to imply that unless one declares that there is no objective state for which utilitarianism is to be directed towards, humanity in this example is wrong.

The general thrust of the Superhappy segments of Three Worlds Collide seems to be that simple utilitarian schemas based on subjective happiness or pleasure are insufficient to describe human ... (read more)

To the issue of akrasia, I don't see this as a case. My own judgement says that a life like theirs is vapid and devoid of meaning. Fighting to the death against one's own best judgement probably isn't rare either; I expect many, many soldiers have died fighting wars they despised, and who had options other than fighting them. In effect, I feel like this is multiplication by zero, and add infinity. You have more at the end; you're just no longer the unique complex individual you were, and I could not bear to submit to that.

And you think that not being ab... (read more)

Hello folks! I am a 18 year old italian Student who will start studying Mathematics in Germany this year. I was always interested in the way of the rational/scientific method, and since I remember tried to use it to reason about almost everything.

A month ago some friends showed me HPMoR, which I read in like 3 days and really enjoyed it. So finally I came here. I read some subsequences and various single topics, including a lot of the comments, which I found almost always very interesting.

This blog opened my eyes especially on cognitive biases thing. Often... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 5

Hello! tkocian is my name. Philosophy is my game. I am a former fudagelical minister who had a massive de-conversion ten years ago after balancing the house of cards that is faith for 6 years. I am 34. I am drawn to reasonable discourse because I want to be shown where I am wrong. I am on the side of the truth and follow the logic and evidence wherever it leads me. I have no dogmas and cross all paths in my pursuit of reality. I found lesswrong at the behest of a good friend, who, after I raved to him about the podcast Conversations From the Pale Blue Dot... (read more)

Hello! quinesie here. I discovered LessWrong after being linked to HP&MoR, enjoying it and then following the links back to the LessWrong site itself. I've been reading for a while, but, as a rule, I don't sign up with a site unless I have something worth contributing. After reading Eliezer's Hidden Complexity of Wishes post, I think I have that:

In the post, Eliezer describes a device called an Outcome Pump, which resets the universe repeatedly until the desired outcome occurs. He then goes on to describe why this is a bad idea, since it can't understa... (read more)

4dbaupp9yThis creates a universe where the Accept Outcome button gets pressed, not necessarily one that has a positive outcome. e.g. if the button was literally a button, something might fall on to it; or if it was a state in a computer, a cosmic ray might flip a bit [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hardening#Digital_damage:_SEE].
2quinsie9yTrue enough, but once we step outside of the thought experiment and take a look at the idea it is intended to represent, "button gets pressed" translates into "humanity gets convinced to accept the machine's proposal". Since the AI-analogue device has no motives or desires save to model the universe as perfectly as possible, P(A bit flips in the AI that leads to it convincing a human panel to do something bad) necessarily drops below P(A bit flips anywhere that leads to a human panel deciding to do something bad) and is discountable for the same reason why we ignore hypothesises like "Maybe a cosmic ray flipped a bit to make it do that?" when figuring out the source of computer errors in general.
2dbaupp9yP(A bit flips in the AI that leads to it convincing a human panel to do something bad) is always less than P(A bit flips anywhere that leads to a human panel deciding to do something bad), (the former is a subset of the latter). The point of the cosmic ray statement is not so much that that might actually happen, but is just demonstrating that the Outcome-Pump-2.0-universe doesn't necessarily result in a positive outcome, just that it is a universe that has had the "Outcome" accepted, and also that the Outcome being accepted doesn't imply that the universe is one we like.
1Normal_Anomaly9yIn this document [http://intelligence.org/upload/CEV.html] from 2004 Yudkowsky describes a safeguard to be added "on top of" programming Friendliness, a Last Judge. The idea is that the FAI's goal is initially only to compute what an FAI should do. Then the Last Judge looks at the FAI's report, and decides whether or not to switch the AI's goal system to implement the described world. The document should not be taken as representative of Yudkosky's current views, because it's been marked obsolete, but I favor the idea of having a Last Judge check to make sure before anybody hits the red button.

I'm a 19 year old college student (rising sophomore) who is studying political science and economics. Throughout my entire life that I can remember, I've been extensively interested in how people work, why they do the things they do, and how these things could be done better. This seems to make me a natural fit for the content of Less Wrong.

I'm personally involved in Political Science research, specifically dealing with the political psychology of how people acquire opinions, use them to make decisions, and update them with new information. Since encoun... (read more)

Greetings Lesswrong

My name is, well, my username. I'm sixteen, currently in my final year of high school, male, and living in Inverness, Scotland.

I first became interested in Lesswrong and it's philosophy after reading some very good fiction here, although many of the references took me time to understand. After sporadically reading the occasional article for a few months, and doing some serious thinking about where I want to be in a few years, I decided to register to better network a few weeks ago. I haven't made notable progress on the sequences yet, a... (read more)


I am 20 years old, male, and graduating college this fall with a BA in Philosophy. I am aiming to go to grad-school, specializing in something to help bring about a friendly singularity. I have been reading Lesswrong for about two years and it has been of enormous use in regulating my thought-patterns. Unfortunately, I am currently in a small Bible-Belt city, far away from any meetup groups. I am currently working on my studies in 20th century philosophy, while trying to incorporate useful subjects which many contemporary philosophers ignore. (My... (read more)

Greetings, Lessrs. Wrong.

I'm a 34yo male Nashvillian, Brunonian, vegetarian technologist (mostly web/internet) by academic training and professional experience. I'm an infovore and love movies and music. I tend to invest in the community around me, tending to focus on fundamental livability issues such as education and mobility.

I'm interested in both politics and public policy, as well as political science and philosophy. I'm fascinated by the intersections and tensions among what are commonly described as liberalism, classical liberalism, and libertariani... (read more)

You can imagine regarding the origin of Existance itself (Creatio Ex Nihilo, Primus Movens or Eternal Existence) only the latter is fully compatible with all the basic physical laws/mathematics/logic that we know

As far as I know, the big bang hypothesis is in accord with known physics.

Seconding ciphergoth's suggestion. It's very unlikely that you can make a positive contribution here until/unless you study more. We do have respected members who hold theistic beliefs, but their comments sound noticeably more rational than yours.

but I do believe in a past eternal universe

I cannot imagine what evidence you could have for such a belief.

I understand that when folks say "modal logic" in this context, they're generally referring to model logics that implicitly quantify over poorly-defined spaces. However, that's not what all modal logics are like, and so I hate to see them maligned with a broad brush.

Consider, say, dynamic logic), which I actually use as a tool in my research on program analysis. When my set of "actions" are statements in a well-defined programming language, I can mechanically translate any dynamic logic statement into a non-modal, first-order statement.... (read more)

[-][anonymous]9y 4

The claim about Planck times is that nothing can happen in less time.

No. The claim is that nothing is located in time with a precision smaller than the planck time.

Chrome lets you edit the size of its textboxes by dragging the lower right corner. Don't know if the same goes for any other browsers.

1[anonymous]9yOh, wow! That's super-helpful! Thanks!
1Desrtopa9yYou can do it in Firefox, but I didn't realize this until you pointed it out just now.

I think the confusion comes from what you mean by "utilitarian." The whole point of Three Worlds Collide (well, one of the points), is that human preferences are not for happiness alone; the things we value include a life that's not "vapid and devoid of meaning", even if it's happy! That's why (to the extent we have to pick labels) I am a preference utilitarian, which seems to be the most common ethical philosophy I've encountered here (we'll know more when Yvain's survey comes out). If you prefer not to be a Superhappy, then preference... (read more)

1TheOtherDave9yIf you're able to summarize what makes the superhappies' lives vapid and devoid of meaning, I'd be interested.

LessWrong community, I say hello to you at last!

I'm a first year chemical engineering student in Canada. At some point in time I was linked to The AI-Box Experiment by Yudkowsky, probably 3-1/2 years ago. I'm not sure. The earliest record I have, of an old firefox history file, is Wed Jun 25 20:19:56 ADT 2008. I guess that's when I first encountered rationality, though it may have been back when I used IE (shudders). I read a lot of his site, and occasionally visited it and againstbias. I though it was pretty complicated, and that I'd see more of that guy ... (read more)

5Nectanebo9yWelcome to LessWrong! I would say that if you're interested in rationality, you belong here. It doesn't matter if you're not that good at it yet, as long as you're interested and want to improve then I would say this is where you should be. Be careful of the priming effects of calling yourself bad at rationality, questioning your place here, saying you'll never escape a drug addiction, etc. etc. The article on cached selves [http://lesswrong.com/lw/4e/cached_selves/] might be somewhat relevant.
4thomblake9yThis suggests to me that you don't understand ethics. While I'm occasionally convinced of the existence of akrasia, it would be an odd thing to note that one fighting to the death was caused by it.
1thomblake9yI'd just like to point out that recently someone asked (doubtfully) whether anyone here still has strong feelings regarding three worlds collide. It seems indeed to have a prominent place in the popular consciousness.

I've been posting here for a couple of months and haven't introduced myself yet. Unconscionably rude. Anyway, I'm 29 years old and hoping to get my Ph. D. in a few months. I started out studying physics, then realized I was interested in more foundational questions than I'd be encouraged/allowed to work on as a young physicist, so I switched to philosophy. I guess I would characterize myself as a naturalistic metaphysician; I tackle traditional philosophical problems using modern physics (as opposed to the 17th-century physics still used to by all too many... (read more)


I have much to say about myself, but I don't consider it worth most people's time, so I'll spare most of it.

I am currently going through the sequences and had no intention of commenting on any post or writing anything until I had finished all of them. I have to admit, though, it's really quite difficult to "stay on" the sequences. I have a hundred-something tabs of lesswrong open right now, and it has come to a point where I am understanding them all pretty fully.

EDIT: Issue is under control. All is going well.

I would have preferred a better welcome for myself, but this is acceptable!

Hi everyone, my name is Wil, I live in the UK, I love Sci-Fi and how it inspires people to think differently or ahead of their time, and am a member of the working class but spend a lot of time on benefits, due to the effects of being rather strongly bipolar, having a very faulty short-term memory, and having intermittent extremes of varying states of mind that at times leads to sleeplessness and agoraphobia, which then gives me LOTS of time to think with very little else to do but read up online about the things that I've found myself thinking about, whic... (read more)

Greetings. I apologise for possible oversecretiveness, but for the moment I prefer to remain in relative anonymity; this is a moniker used online and mostly kept from overlapping with my legal identity.

Though in a sense there is consistency of identity, for fairness I should likely note that my use of first-person pronouns may not always be entirely appropriate.

Personal interest in the Singularity can probably be ultimately traced back to the fiction Deus Ex, though I hope it would have reached it eventually even without it as a starting point; my experie... (read more)

And who said I am coping well with TVTropes? ;)

hello lesswrong!

I'm a 20 y.o. student two years in studying EE & physics, though I self-identify more as a scientist than an engineer.

currently I'm juggling about 3 'big' goals - general education (in progress), lucid dreaming (more of a side project; might as well use those sleep-hours for something more fun than being unconscious), and rationality (which is why im here).

I found this site (and the concept and usefulness of rationality) via some of Eliezer's writing as i was scouring the Internet in my eternal quest for vanquishing boredom. that was s... (read more)

7Vladimir_Nesov9yCapital letters. Please use them.


2shokwave9yYes! This is the single most important reading [http://lesswrong.com/lw/721/judgment_under_uncertainty_summaries_part_1/], from which all others flow. You miss out on comments, but reading them like a book [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Sequences#Alternative_Formats] is the way to go for this. Many LWers found this much easier. Here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/72m/an_epub_of_eliezers_blog_posts/] is the latest epub collection. As for comments - I think they are around an order of magnitude less important than the posts themselves, and so trading away the comments in order to, y'know, actually read the sequences is well worth it. My recollection is that important comments were addressed in later top-level posts, so you'll get to read the most important ones anyway. Oh, and welcome to LessWrong!

Hi there!

I'm a 43 year old software Developer in New Zealand. I've found this site through the Quantum Physics sequence, which has given me an enormous improvement in my understanding of the subject, so a huge thank you to Eliezer. (I'd like to know the detailed maths, but I don't hold much hope of that happening). I've since managed to do the double-slit experiment using a laser pointer, Blu-tack and staples, which was great fun. I'm currently trying to think through the Schrödinger's cat experiment, which seems to me to be described slightly incorrectly.... (read more)

3Normal_Anomaly9yHi, welcome to LW! Neat! Details? The I.J. Good/Yudkowsky/Singularity Institute version, aka the "Intelligence Explosion," doesn't require Moore's law. It requires enough understanding of intelligence and decision theory to write up a self-modifying algorithm of human intelligence or higher. This algorithm can then write better ones, a process which can be repeated up to some high level of intelligence. The main things one needs to believe to believe the Intelligence Explosion hypothesis are: * Artificial General Intelligence (a piece of software as intelligent as a person) is possible and will be invented * An AGI able to rewrite its own code can improve its intelligence, including its ability to find ways to improve itself * This process can be repeated enough times to result in a superintelligent AI * A superintelligent AI will be able to make major changes to the world to satisfy its goals Obviously, this is a very brief summary. Try here [http://intelligence.org/overview/whatisthesingularity/] for a better and more detailed explanation.

I'm curious how you found this blog and what attracts you to it. I never would have, except for my son. It's definitely geared towards young nerds, and most of the posters are guys.

9juliawise10yMy intro is a few above yours. I found this blog through my husband, who is a much more typical LWer (male, atheist, computer programmer, sci-fi fan). I guess what attracts me to it is that most people I know write me off as unreasonable or cruel for trying to apply logic to situations where they go by convenience or custom. I would continue more or less doing this even if I never found a community of others, but it is comforting to see a community out there. The main turn-off for me is that most of what I've read here doesn't apply to my life in a useful way (as far as I can tell).

Salutations, Less Wrong,

My name is - surprisingly enough - Joey Goldman. Well, at least that is the name I ask people to call me...but I digress. I am 17 years old and - for the next two weeks - a junior in high school. Despite the fact that I was born and raised in London town, I attend an American school.

I was raised in a quasi-Jewish family. As far as I could tell during my younger childhood, neither of my parents had strong ties to the Jewish faith. Nevertheless, we observed the High Holidays and Shabbat and I was bar mitzvahed. Over time, however, I... (read more)

Hello all -

My name is Colin, and I am a long time lurker / RSS reader. Thanks for posting this welcome message, as it gave me motivation to finally get registered.

I stumbled onto LW from Eliezer Yudkowsky's "An Intuitive Explanation of Bayes' Theorem", which I found when trying to explain to my mother what I was up to in graduate school, and why I was so excited about it. I have been interested in science and epistemology for as long as I can remember, so finding that there are principled ways to reason about uncertainty was pretty amazing to m... (read more)