The final straw was noticing a comment referring to "the most recent survey I know of" and realizing it was from May 2009. I think it is well past time for another survey, so here is one now.

Click here to take the survey

I've tried to keep the structure of the last survey intact so it will be easy to compare results and see changes over time, but there were a few problems with the last survey that required changes, and a few questions from the last survey that just didn't apply as much anymore (how many people have strong feelings on Three Worlds Collide these days?)

Please try to give serious answers that are easy to process by computer (see the introduction). And please let me know as soon as possible if there are any security problems (people other than me who can access the data) or any absolutely awful questions.

I will probably run the survey for about a month unless new people stop responding well before that. Like the last survey, I'll try to calculate some results myself and release the raw data (minus the people who want to keep theirs private) for anyone else who wants to examine it.

Like the last survey, if you take it and post that you took it here, I will upvote you, and I hope other people will upvote you too.

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Shouldn't you ask when the respondent thinks the Singularity will occur before mentioning the year 2100, to avoid anchoring?

I hate cognitive biases. I read your comment right before I went to take the test. "Ha!" I thought to myself, "clearly members of Less Wrong wouldn't be as effected. Why even bother mentioning it?" And then I clicked on the link while I thought about the singularity. "Hmm, 2100 is a decent year maybe it'll be 20 years before that though..." And I filled in my race/education/sex. "Hmm maybe it would be after that though, due to...oh god, it's the anchoring effect! Quick think of other numbers! 2090! 2110! Damnit. 1776! Wait that won't work..."

And as I slowly worked my way down, by brain tried in vain to come up with alternate years. Until I finally reached the problem. "Is this really what I think, or am I just putting this answer because of that comment in the thread?" But it didn't matter. The numbers were in the box, and I couldn't convince myself to change them.

There it stood: 2100.

PS. Yvain, any chance you could look at the mean/median/mode/standard deviation of that problem before and after you changed the questions around? I'd be very interested in seeing how people were effected by anchoring.

Also possibly better to ask if before when for the same reason. And differentiate between blank = 'it will not occur' and 'no opinion.'
If the survey is still going on, might want to remove your mention of the year 2100 as well, also to avoid anchoring.
It's not.

After reading the feedback I've made the following changes (after the first 104 entries so that anyone who has access to the data can check if there are significant differences before and after these changes):

  • Added an "other" option in gender
  • Moved "date of singularity" above question mentioning 2100 to avoid anchoring. Really I should also move the Newton question for the same reason, but I'm not going to.
  • changed wording of anti-agathics question to "at least one person"
  • added a "don't know / no preference" to relationship style
  • clarified to answer probability as percent and not decimal; I'll go back and fix anyone who got this wrong, though. If you seriously mean a very low percent, like ".05%", please end with a percent mark so I know not to change it. Otherwise, leave the percent mark out.
  • Added a "government work" option.
  • Deleted "divorced". Divorced people can just put "single"
  • Added "economic/political collapse" to xrisk
  • Added "other" to xrisk
  • Added a question "Have you ever been to a Less Wrong meetup?" Please do NOT retake the survey to answer this question. I'l
... (read more)

Should anyone retake the survey? I'd be willing to if you can cancel the my first version-- I'll give the same answers on the Newton question.

Not as good as if someone can find a satisfactory IQ test, but could you add an SAT option for intelligence measurement?

I used percents for all my probabilities, including the one which was .5.

Could you also add an ATAR/UAI, A-levels, Abitur and IB option? (It might be better to add a box asking for marks/certificate received upon leaving high school and the name of the program; with sufficient respondents there may be enough data to say meaningful things)

Some of us are still in high school.

I'd also be willing (I'd probably rather) retake the quiz. But there is a problem with calibration at that point, with the question about Newton.
Also, do I understand you correctly that the beings (conceivably) running the universe as a simulation do not count as supernatural/gods for purposes of the supernatural/gods questions?
Yeah, I thought the theism question was the worst of all. Have you ever met a theist that answered "ontologically basic mind-stuff" when asked what God is? Me neither. Other than that, thanks Yvain!
I assumed when taking the survey that those running the simulation are outside our universe and so ontologically basic.
Those people outside the simulation could exist with or without ontologically basic mental features. The questions are totally orthogonal.
Is there even theoretical way of distinguishing these two cases? I'd assume the only possible answer is "they" do.
I think the percentage of LW meetup attendees is positively correlated with how quickly people take the poll, unfortunately.
I feel like several of the single-punch questions should be multi-punch. Both "profession" and "Work status" gave me pause. Also, I had to figure out what the right thing to fill in for "family religion" was, since we had several. And there are several extremely common moral views not represented in your list of moral theories. One of the more popular is "All moral theories have some grain of truth, and we should use a combination along with our intuition". For questions like this, you might use as your model the Philpapers survey, though I also worry that this question might not make a lot of sense to most people without at least rough definitions alongside the answer choices.
About the politics question: What if you come from a place/subculture where none of those even exist and have barely even heard of them?
About the government work issue, if I work for an aerospace company that gets all of its business from the government, does that count as "for profit" or "government work" for purposes of the question?
I believe that would usually be considered "for profit".
I changed my estimated probabilities to reflect percentages, but didn't mark them with a percent sign because the version of the survey I took explicitly said not to. It's mostly irrelevant anyway, these probabilities weren't even accurate to two orders of magnitude.

Took the survey.

I think I failed it.

I missed newton by over 150 years. Pray for a curve.

On the "Political" question: I identify with none of those. I understand the question is about which I identify with most, but all of the options have views on both social permissivity and economic redistribution. I am socially permissive, but have no belief one way or the other on redistribution/taxes. I simply have insufficient knowledge of that area to make a judgment. Perhaps it would be better to have two different questions - one for each of social views and economic views?

For "Religious views": I am an atheist but would not self-identify as either "spiritual" or "not spiritual". If a person asked me which I was, I would ask them what they meant by spiritual. I answered "Atheist but not spiritual", on the very weak grounds that I suspect I do not satisfy most other people's conceptions of spirituality; but really, the word is very ill-defined.

I second rntz remarks, I had very similar issues with both questions. As a side note I would have been also interested in knowing how many people here are from non-english speaking countries (or at least outside the US). Anyways, this is a very interesting project, I'll be looking forward for the results!
I chose not to answer the politics question for the simple reason that I didn't want to do something that could hijack my thinking.
If there is a political self-description category in future surveys, another option possibly worth adding is "anarchist". Yeah, it's rare, but the closest option available was "socialist", which is still very dissimilar. Incidentally, for those who are interested in political categorizations that might translate better across countries (and who have an OkCupid account), check out the Political Objectives test. A caveat is that, as the test itself notes, it is still specific to the countries and centuries that constitute the modern world, as "The assumption behind this test is that the three most important objectives of all-issues political movements in the modern era have been Equality and Liberty and Stability."
Interesting. I wonder if this might be framing too much - it seems like if someone accepted this, then a political movement that valued only two of those might a priori be classified as not "all-issues".

Thanks, Yvain! For the next survey, please consider country of residence and first language as questions.

I've been lurking on here for a long time, and just now registered to get a free karma point for taking the survey.


I did take the survey, however I found something I was unsure of what to put down and had to type in an explanation/question about:

It was for the question: "By what year do you think the Singularity will occur? Answer such that you think there is an even chance of the Singularity falling before or after that year. If you don't think a Singularity will ever happen, leave blank."

If I think the singularity is slightly less than 50% likely overall, what should I have put? It seemed off to leave it blank and imply I believed "I don't think a Singularity will ever happen" because that statement seemed to convey a great deal more certainty than 50+epsilon%. However, if I actually believed there was a less than 50% chance of it happening, I'm not going to reach an even chance of happening or not happening on any particular year.

As a side note, after taking that test, I realized that I don't feel very confident on a substantial number of things.

I think that there need to be two separate questions here. Probability of Singularity, and year it happens if it does. For instance, I'd guess about 70% chance of a singularity at all, but if it happens, 2040 would be about my expected date. You can't describe these two statements in just one number.
Same here. But I voted 2150 because I think it's 50% that it happens before 2150, 20% that it happens later, and 30% that it never happens.
Oooh, good answer. I hadn't thought of that method.
I interpreted this as “there is an even chance of the Singularity falling before or after, [assuming it does]”. That is, if you think the probability that the Singularity will happen is something low like 1%, you should answer a year such that the probability it happens by that year is 0.5%. The only way you can’t answer it is if you’re sure it won’t ever happen. (For example, if I thought a Singularity is very [...] very hard to achieve, I might answer 5000 AD or 500000 AD, depending on how many “very” there are, even though I might put a very low probability on our civilization actually surving that long.)
Given the expected date would be skewed to infinity by a non-zero estimate of the Singularity not occurring, you can probably put your estimate of the year X so that P( S <= X | C ) = 0.5, where S is the statistic "Year singularity will occur" and C is the event "Singularity will occur".

For the gender question it may make sense to have a generic "other" option. The monogamous/polygamous question should also maybe have a no preference option also.

Edit: And finished.

I think it is generally good to avoid "other" options as much as possible.

There are a few biases related to filling questionnaires. For example, many psychological tests ask you the same question twice, in opposite direction. (Question #13 "Do you think Singularity will happen?" Question #74: "Do you think Singularity will never happen?") This is because some people use heuristics "when unsure, say yes" and some other people use heuristics "when unsure, say no". So when you get two "yes" answers or two "no" answers to opposite forms of the question, you know that the person did not really answer the question.

Another bias is that when given three choices "yes", "no" and "maybe", some people will mostly choose "yes" or "no" answers, while others will prefer "maybe" answers. It does not necesarily mean that they have different opinions on the subject. It may possibly mean that they both think "yes, with 80% certainty", but for one of them this means "yes", and for the other one this means "maybe". So instead of measuring their ... (read more)

There are a number of types of snowflakes.

If you decide in advance that you aren't going to listen to anyone who doesn't fit your categories, you might be missing something.

You can have:

a) a survey, where everyone's individual differences are rounded into a few given categories;

b) a collection of blog articles, where everyone describes themselves exactly as they desire; or

c) a kind of survey, where some participants send a blog article instead of data.

Both (a) and (b) are valid options, each of them serves a different purpose. I would prefer to avoid (c), because it tries to do both things at the same time, and accomplishes neither. An answer "other" sometimes means "no answer is even approximately correct", but sometimes is just means "I prefer to send you a blog article instead of survey data". The first objection is valid, and is IMHO equivalent to simply not answering that question. The second objection seems more like refusing the idea of statistics. Statistics does not mean that people who gave the same answer are all perfectly alike, but ignoring the minor differences allows us to see the forest instead of the trees.

I guess the "special snowflake bias" is officially called "narcissism of small differences". The psychological foundation is that we have a need of identity, which is threatened by similar things, not different ones. So when something is similar to us, but not the same, we exaggerate the difference and downplay the similarity. From outside view we are probably less different than from inside view.

That last varies-- sometimes people are exaggerating differences which are pretty meaningless. Sometimes the people setting up the classifications actually have an incomplete picture of the existing categories.
There's an established way of correcting for this in market research (and other fields): coding. Let's say you have the following list: 1. utilitarian 2. deontologist 3. virtue ethics 4. other (please specify) Then you have someone go through all the typed-in responses, and when someone types in "special snowflake utilitarian" you code that as a 1 rather than a 4. This is also done for completely open-end responses. Sometimes something like "additional comments" will on the back end look like: 1. positive 2. negative 3. neutral
Problem is that survey results will be treated as if everyone had exact answers, as opposed to picking the least terrible approximation. (I do have a known preference, dammit! It's just the subject of Big Debate whether it counts as mono or as poly.)
So how you do decide which options merit inclusion? Which snowflakes are special enough--or, I suppose, mundane enough? And what's the harm in counting how many snowflakes aren't, even if you don't ask them exactly what type they are?
Agree, especially with regard to mono/poly question. Nearly forgot; I did complete it. Thanks for your work, Yvain!

Would it not be useful for the “Degree” question to distinguish between the two no-degree cases of current undergraduate students and not-trying?

I feel it would be.

Thanks for doing this, I just took it. With the gender question, in addition to the transgender questions, it's maximally inclusive to include a non-binary "genderqueer" option.

Took the survey and finally created an account on here.

Looking at the comments, it seems like I am not the only one who used the survey as an impetus to create an account or a first post. I would be interested to see if there was a significant increase in the number of new accounts while the survey is running (as opposed to the average number of new accounts when there is no current survey).

...Also I took the IQ test posted in the comments.. Yeah, it has me as a good 15 points lower than what I was tested as in school also.

Then I'm certainly not going to do it! Thanks for the warning. ;)
I approve of your screenname!
Thanks! :)
Mind me asking which one exactly?
This one posted by Dustin. I was in the 140s in school, but only got like 126 on this one. Maybe because it focuses so much on the one type of problem?

Survey now completed.


if you take it and post that you took it here, I will upvote you, and I hope other people will upvote you too

Let the record reflect that this comment currently has a negative score! :-(

EDIT2: No longer the case, obviously! :-)

I took it.

I think some of the "pick one" options were too broadly grouped, though any multiple-choice is going to be. I'd have preferred a "no preference" for "relationship style", for example, and more political options. Also I'm not sure what counts as "participates actively" in other groups--I've been a member of transhumanism-related groups for over a decade, for example, but am mostly a lurker; I did not check the box.

I would have been interested in seeing a question about involvement in offline activities like local meetups, or participation in IRC/other LW venues.

Thanks for running the survey!

I thought there was a 'no preference' option on relationship style, and I took it before your post.

Done. Definitely went through the whole "check the publication date"--whoop of victory--worry I was underconfident routine. Except silently because there's a sleeping person less than a foot away.

I'm amazed at the range of possibilities I considered for some of those probabilities. I definitely do not have a solid grasp of reality.

I took the survey and this is my first comment on lesswrong :)

Welcome on Less Wrong ! Don't hesitate to read Welcome to Less Wrong and introduce yourself there.
Apologies for the nonproductive comment, but something weird happened to your formatting. I'm seeing ~1cm of space between each word.
URLs break wordwrap; it treats it as one word. May I suggest Markdown's hyperlink syntax, where [LessWrong]( = LessWrong?
You're right, fixed, and thanks for suggesting it.

Filled out the survey. The cryonics-question could use an option "I would be signed up if it was possible where I live."

or I will be signing up as soon as I have a steady paycheck.

Does lurking time count for "how long in the community"?

Err. I didn't count it. It might be interesting to break up the question into "how long have you actively participated in the community" and "how long have you been reading the site".
I counted it.
I half-counted it. I counted from the time when I finally created an account at
I counted it, coz I'm mostly just a lurker here anyway. Far too busy!
I counted it.
I don't remember that far back, so I used my earliest comment (imported from Overcoming Bias) as the date.

Yvain, one very important question that I think you missed: Do you currently have an account on Lesswrong?

I personally don't, and glancing through the number of 'first post' comments here, I believe that the ratio of lurkers to active users may be significant. (This is a throwaway account, and I am making an exception this once because there would be no other way to get information from the lurkers.)

7Scott Alexander12y
Good point. I hope that the "karma" question will take care of some of the problem, but I should have distinguished more finely.

Issues with the survey:

  1. As mentioned elsewhere, politics is Americentric.
  2. Race race seems to be missing some categorizations.
  3. If you are going to include transgender, you probably should call the others cis. Otherwise you run the risk of implying transgendered people are not "really" their target gender, which is a mess.
  4. The question of academic field was poorly phrased. I'm not an academic, so I assumed you meant what academic field was most relevant to my work. But you really should ask this question without referring to academia.
  5. The academic question and the question about field of work need more options.
  6. Expertise question needs CS as an answer :-)

EDIT: Overall, it's pretty good.

Took it.

My family is of mixed religious background, so I just arbitrarily used my mother's religious background for those questions. You might want to make the answer choices a little more flexible.

Here too. Why not check boxes rather than radio buttons?

I know "male, female, FTM, MTF, other" is a standard gender/sex question, but I don't know why. A problem is that it implies that "FTM" is a distinct category from, rather than a subset of, "male" (ditto for female). This would be better if other questions had answers that were subsets of other answers, but you seem to try hard not to do that. This could be fixed by phrasing it as "cis male", but then you'd get people complaining about "cis" and "trans" not being a perfect dichotomy and complaining about the confusing word and so on. This could also be fixed by splitting the question into "gender (male/female/other)" and "Are you trans? (yes/no)", but then you'd get other complaints.

I wouldn't have been too far off on the Newton question if I had been able to remember the mapping between century numbering and year numbering. I ended up two centuries off. Fortunately I took that into account when calibrating.

Also, for the record: I'm not "considering cryonics". I'm cryocrastinating. Cryonics is obviously the best choice, and I should be signing up for it in the next five seconds. I will probably die while not signed up for cryonics, and that will be death by stupidity, and you will all get to point and laugh at my corpse.

I don't think that implication creates confusion in the mind of anybody answering the survey, i.e. most people know what to answer. It's somewhat debatable whether it makes "more sense" to classify a FTM transsexual as male because of the gender role to which they identify, or as female because of the chromosomes they have, so sidestepping the whole question by using four categories seems like a reasonable solution for a survey (or at least, if I was doing a survey, that's why I'd use those four categories). Using things like "cis male" might make the questions more technically accurate, but it won't make anybody less confused about how to answer, and will probably make some more confused.
FTM transsexuals usually consider it offensive not to be classified as men (either by being classified as non-men or by avoiding the question), though arguably we could take the stick out of our asses.
Unless you actually do a karyotype test on an individual you don't know what chromosomes they have, and that can't be inferred with certainty from assigned gender at birth, primary or secondary sexual characteristics, or similar macroscale traits. A non-negligable portion of the population have chromosomes that don't correspond to XX/XY, and said anomalies do not reliable correlate to a transgender identity.
I don't want to point and laugh at your corpse. Please implement what you consider to be the obvious best choice. If you don't know how to get started, contact Rudi Hoffman. He will walk you through the process. Get started today.
What a weird assortment of questions apparently only tangentially related to cryonics.
I am not sure which questions you are referring to. Some questions on the form are related to getting a life insurance policy to pay for cryonics.
Hence "apparently".
I was going to raise exactly that issue and suggest that solution. What complaints would you expect, though? I don't know if I'd really expect any non-trans LWers to be insulted at the mere suggestion that the question is worth asking. I'd have liked having that option too.
Me too. Also, I would have liked to see monogamous and non-monogamous instead of monogamous and polyamorous.
Is that a standard gender/sex question? As someone who's been programming market research surveys for several years, I've never seen anything like it. Yes, as someone with no skin in the game, so to speak, I was nonetheless uncomfortable disclosing not just the gender "male" but also the initial state of my genitalia. What kind of person asks about a baby's junk?

What kind of person asks about a baby's junk?

Most of them, by implication if nothing else. The minute they can't do so subtly, things get nasty.

Yeah, that confused me too. What's the point of asking that question in the first place ? Just to collect more features for some clustering model, or what ? Then why not ask people's age or weight or hair color, as well ?
More people on LW care about the gender of LW participants than care about the weight or hair color of LW participants. As I recall, the survey did ask for age.

As for me, I was surprised it asked about my racial background and my family's religion but not what country I grew up in or live in.

Yes, the 'race' question was particularly weird since it did not have reference to the country of origin. Normally, surveys conducted in different countries have very different breakdowns of what 'race' is supposed to mean. At least it had both the British and American versions of "Asian".
Yeah, I don't think many people outside North America would break up White into Hispanic and non-Hispanic. (At least, it didn't say “Latino” -- I didn't find out what it's supposed to mean until recently, and as a result, being Italian, I had classed myself as a Latino a few times.)
The survey says a lot about how Americans categorize the world. It might be more informational than the results.
The US Census Bureau uses this odd system for historical/political reasons. I don't think it reflects very much how Americans categorize the world. I don't know why Yvain used it, I don't think he's even American.

I completed the survey. Thanks, Yvain, for doing it!

The option "Atheist but spiritual" gave me a pause. What does it actually mean?

"Atheist" refers to the lack of a belief in gods. "Spiritual" includes all sorts of other supernatural notions, like ghosts, non-physical minds, souls, magic, animistic spirits, mystical energies, etc. Also, "spiritual" can refer to a way of looking at the world exemplified by religions that some atheists consider a vital part of the human experience.

I've noticed some people using "spiritual" to describe notions they consider aesthetically sublime and morally uplifting but not well understood, when they are not particularly motivated to understand them, without any commitment to their being supernatural. This may be what you refer to in your second meaning, I'm not sure. There is, of course, a lot of potential overlap here with supernatural notions.
Yes, that's roughly what I was referring to.
So, a person who doesn't believe in god, but still thinks that he has an "immortal soul" or something? Thanks for explaining!
I can't speak for anyone else, but in my case it'd refer to someone who is an atheist and materialist ontologically, but who finds aesthetic reward and mental stability in certain forms of ritual and narrative applied to relatively specific domains of life (like holidays, rites of passage and other culturally and cognitively-significant stuff, as long as it's been vetted to strip out the more obvious kinds of crazymaking and irrationality such things can induce).
I guess, this is similar to the second part of thomblake's comment. Thank you for explaining this! But, if it really can mean such different things, then that particular in the survey question wasn't formulated very carefully.
My impression was that something like that was intended. However, this seems to be a conflation of different categories. The normal category that occurs in this sort of context is "not religious but spiritual" which seems to generally mean people sort of like what you describe but also who ascribe to various supernatural entities (e.g. god, ghosts, spirits, maybe faeries). When given the choice between "atheist" and something like "no religion" or "none" such people will generally not put down atheist. And such people look demographically very different from atheists and agnostics. See e.g. this Pew study. My impression is that the religion questions were not phrased in a way that showed much familiarity with the underlying demographics or how such questions are generally phrased. In this particular context that's ok because I suspect that there are a fair number of people here who are atheist-but-spiritual under your definition but very few people here who would fall into the "not religious but spiritual" notion that is a subset of the nones in the general population.
Certain forms of Buddhism are religous but not theistic, so possibly they'd count? Gave me pause also, a clarification/more options would be useful.

This is great! I hope there's a big response.

It seems likely you're going to get skewed answers for the IQ question. Mostly it's the really intelligent and the below average who get (professional) IQ tests - average people seem less likely to get them.

I predict high average IQ, but low response rate on the IQ question, which will give bad results. Can you tell us how many people respond to that question this time? (no. of responses isn't registered on the previous survey)

I think it would be more informative to ask people to take one specific online test, now, and report their score. With everyone taking the same test, even if it's miscalibrated, people could at least see how they compare to other LWers. Asking people to remember a score they were given years ago is just going to produce a ridiculous amount of bias.

I think it would be more informative to ask people to take one specific online test, now, and report their score.

Are there any free, non-spam-causlng, online IQ tests that produce reasonable results (i.e. correlate strongly to standard IQ tests)?

Mensa organizes cheap standardized IQ testing worldwide with many available dates. I don't care for everything else they're doing, but at least that is a very valuable service to the world.
No chance. To calibrate a serious IQ test, you need to test (1) many (2) randomly selected people in (3) controlled environment; and when the test is ready, you must test your subjects in the same environment. Online calibration or even online testing fail the condition 3. Conditions 1 and 2 make creating of a test very expensive. This is why only a few serious IQ tests exist. And even those would not be considered valid when administered online. And there is also huge prior probability that an online IQ test is a scam. So even if they would provide some explanation of how they fulfilled the conditions 1, 2, 3, I still would not trust them.
If you have a test thus calibrated, you can use it to evaluate tests that can't be calibrated in the same way.
Will this evaluation include giving both tests to many randomly selected people and comparing the results?
8Scott Alexander12y
It's a bit late now, but if you recommend a particular test that's valid, short, and online, I can try that on the next survey.

Here's one that closely imitates Raven's Progressive Matrices and claims to have been calibrated with a sample of 250,000 people:

Here's another one: . I can't find any mention of where the questions came from or how it's calibrated, but it's shorter and doesn't require Flash.

Neither one asks for an e-mail address or any identifying information. They might be too easy for some on LW, but harder ones tend to cost money. As Viliam_Bur pointed out, any free online test's validity is questionable, but the first one is basically a direct copy of a "real" test, and neither one has any apparent ulterior motive. Anecdotally, they were both within 10 points of each other and my "real" score.

Incidentally, I keep a list for DNB purposes in focused on matrix-style tests. Doesn't include that one, though.
Wow. Wish I would've thought to google 'iq'.
Wouldn't necessarily have helped - Google's excerpt for the DNB FAQ doesn't mention the list of tests. Kind of have to know it's already there.
The first test gave me a score a few points below that on the Mensa site I did a few years ago, but I gave up early on a few questions (I had about 10 minutes left when I finished). One weird thing about it is that there were so many questions based essentially on the same idea, which makes me think it would be possible to have a test with not-too-much-worse accuracy but half as many questions (unless they intended to test ‘stamina’ as well -- but I'd guess that that varies more for a same person depending on how much they've slept recently than across people).
Some data points: IQ (age 7, 14, 20) = ~145-150 S-B SAT (age 16) - 1590 = ~150 S-B (age 29) = 133 S-B (age 29) = 139 S-B (159 euro scale) I don't use my spacial skills in my daily work they way I used to use them in my daily school work, and both online tests seem to measure only that. I found the second test much more difficult - there wasn't enough information to derive the exact missing item, so you had to choose things that could be explained with the simplest/least rules. There were some where I disagreed that the correct answer had a simpler rule-set. The problem style is also highly learnable, and I question the diagnostic value of "figuring out" that you're looking at a 3x3 matrix where operations occur as you move around it, but various cells have been obscured to make the problem harder. Not including instructions makes it feel like there's a secret handshake to get in.
I got 130 on the first one and 156/137 on the second. Going with the lower result for the purpose of Yvain's survey. I found the second result a little suspect because a lot of questions on the second test made little sense to me. I would often see 2-3 possible answers that made more or less equal (small) sense to me, and had to take a gut feeling guess on which the author might have possibly meant. Maybe I just got lucky. Or my gut is a better thinker than I suspected.
Got 135 on the first test. Got 139 on the Stanford-Binet/USA scale (stdev 16) in the second. This seems about right. But since the second one was polite enough to tell me which answers I got wrong, I have to call bullshit on it: some of the "correct" answers it claimed made no sense, and seemed more wrong and illogical than the ones I had placed.
I got 107 on the first test (which seems implausibly low), and 138 on the second (which seems reasonable).
I tried the second one after reading this and had similar results: 118 on the first one (implausibly low); 137 (stdev16) on the second one (sounds about right). Though if I was taking this more seriously I'd probably have to weigh the facts that my kids were being more distracting when I took the first one, and I ate flaxseed shortly before taking the second one.
I took the first one under reasonably good conditions, and the second under about the same conditions a little while afterwards. The first one seemed like a test of endurance as much as anything-- it was as though my ability to focus was running out on the last ten questions or so, and possibly as though it would have been somewhat easier if I'd been in better physical condition. General question about that sort of puzzle-- how much can effort help with them? Can they be solved reliably given more time (and probably a chance to write down theories and guesses), or does inspiration have to strike fairly quickly?
Interesting question. On the first test, I went through many of them quickly - some of them obviously pattern-matched to the same kind of a puzzle - but also solved a number by staring at them for a few minutes, refusing to give in to my brain's "I don't see any patterns, this doesn't make any frakking sense, can we do something else now?". I'm certain given 10 or 20 more minutes I'd have done better. And come out with a headache, probably.
My eyes were hurting after the first test, and this continued (less intensely, I think) into the second, even though reading on the monitor isn't generally a problem for me. There may also be sensory issues involved in scores-- I was running into trouble anyway, but having to distinguish between very dark gray squares and black squares in one of the later puzzles didn't help. If I had more of a different sort of intelligence, I would have thought of fiddling with my monitor settings. I'm inclined to think that practice/information could help a lot with the puzzles-- having a repertoire of possible patterns is going to make solutions easier than trying to find patterns cold. Possibly as a result of not being entirely pleased at that 107 score, I'm doubting the whole premise of IQ testing-- that it's important to find out what can't be improved about people's minds. Part of this is the arrogance problem-- how complete is your knowledge of the possibility of improvement, anyway?-- and the other part is wondering whether all those resources could be better put into learning how to improve what can be improved. The other thing is that I've had some recent evidence that the ways the parts of the mind are interconnected aren't completely obvious. I've been doing some psychological work on fading out self-hatred, and the results have been being less frightened about what I post (I decided before taking the IQ tests to post my scores, but there was still a bit of a pang), easier and faster typing-- not tested, but I do seem somewhat apt to write at greater length (this seems to be the result of feeling less need to over-monitor so that typing can be a low-level habit), less akrasia (still pretty bad, but the desire to do things is happening more often), and the ability to walk downstairs more easily (I have some old knee injuries which can be ameliorated by better coordination-- but I haven't been working on coordination).
In this type of test, I can solve generally about all except about 4 of them almost immediately with some seconds of thought. I skip those few, then return to them at the end, and in the minutes that remain manage to make an educated guess for say two of them, while having to leave two more to complete chance.
Interesting. Did you find the questions in the first test more difficult than the second? I did notice that the first test relies a lot on mental rotation.
I found the last third or so of the questions in the first test much more difficult than almost anything in the second.
There are two ways an IQ test can fail: a) it can be miscalibrated; b) it can measure something else than IQ. If you only want to know your percentile in LW population, (a) is not a problem, but (b) remains. What if the test does not measure the "general intelligence factor", but something else? It can partly correlate to IQ, and partly to something else, e.g. mathematical or verbal skills. Also you have a preselection bias -- some LWers will fill the survey, others won't.
Don't forget those of us who aren't native English speakers. Didn't try it again recently, but I used to have a 5-10 points difference between an IQ test in French (my native language) and English. Word-related questions are of course harder, but even for the rest, I'm not sure if it's because it took me longer to process the English (while the IQ is time-limited), or just that decoding a non-native language use more brain power (leaving less for solving the problem). But anyway, I score better in my native language than in English, and I answered with my score in native.
2Paul Crowley12y
Yes - I'm quoting an IQ test I did as a kid which had a suspiciously high score, I'm pretty confident I'd get a much less spectacular score if I did one today.

Yes - I'm quoting an IQ test I did as a kid which had a suspiciously high score, I'm pretty confident I'd get a much less spectacular score if I did one today.

Awesome. Definitely don't do another one then. (Unless you need to diagnose something of course!)

Are we encouraged to estimate IQ from SAT tests and the like? That's what I did. That could reduce the excluded-middle bias that Gedusa mentions.
I underwent a real IQ test when I was young, and so I can say that this estimation significantly overshoots my actual score. But that's because it factors in test-taking as a skill (one that I'm good at). Then again, I'm also a little shocked that the table on that site puts an SAT score of 1420 at the 99.9th percentile. At my high school there were, to my knowledge, at least 10 people with that high of a score (and that's only those I knew of), not to mention one perfect score. This is out of ~700 people. Does that mean my school was, on average, at the 90th percentile of intelligence? Or just at the 90th percentile of studying hard (much more likely I think).
If you're in the median age band for Less Wrong, you misread the estimator. The "SAT to IQ" table is for the pre-1995 SAT, which had much more rarefied heights. The "SAT I to IQ" table is for the 1995-2005 SAT. (I did the same thing.)
You are quite right. My scores correlate much better now; I retract my confusion.
And of course, there are also SAT prep services which offer guarantees of raising your score by such and such an amount (my mother thought I ought to try working for one, given my own SAT scores and the high pay, but I don't want to join the Dark Side and work in favor of more inequality of education by income,) and these services are almost certainly not raising their recipients' IQs.
I didn't think of that - given that a huge chuck here have probably taken such tests, if Yvain allowed such an estimation, it would be very helpful. Yes! That's what I was thinking of :)
I've never taken an IQ test, so when I was responded to the survey I considered estimating my IQ based on my SAT and GRE scores. The result, according to the site torekp linked to, is surprisingly high (150+). I think I'm smart, but not that smart. Anyone have any idea if these estimators should be trusted at all?
What is your evidence? I am not trying to convince you either way, but in my experience people aren't very good at estimating their own IQ.
My IQ according to the estimator would put me in the 99.995th percentile, but it seems to me that at least 5% of my friends and acquaintances are at least as smart as me. Part of this is probably selection bias, but I doubt that could account for it completely. I don't move in particularly exalted circles. EDIT: If you had asked me to estimate my IQ before I consulted the website, I would have said 135. I'd probably still say that, actually. I'm guessing the GRE-to-IQ conversion is useless above some ceiling.
FYI, if you're in the median age band for Less Wrong, you misread the estimator -- I know, because I made the same mistake. Clicking "SAT to IQ" on the left shows a table for the test prior to a re-centering in 1995, whereas "SAT I to IQ" shows the table for tests given between 1995 and 2005. The latter's top end is much less exceptional.
GRE quantitative scores are not useful for high-IQ estimates because 6% of people get perfect scores. A perfect GRE verbal score is roughly the 99.8th percentile, as can be inferred from the charts in this pdf: It shows that the percent of people with a perfect scores varies between less than 0.1% and 1.5%, depending on field, but it is usually 0.1% or 0.2%. (The 1.5% field was philosophy.) Because many non-native English speakers take the test, it's likely that one ought to adjust that percentile a bit lower. That's among people applying to grad school, which is a higher-IQ group than the general population, but not by so much that 99.8th percentile among grad school applicants correlates to the 99.996th percentile among the general population, as that site ( claims. That would be impossible assuming more than one in fifty people in the applies to grad school. If we attribute a perfect GRE score to the 99.8th percentile, then looking up that percentile on the chart on the same page, we get an IQ score >142 for 1600 on the GRE.
That link should probably point to this (without the dot at the end).
I've only got the one data point, but my tested IQ is within a couple points of what that site predicts from my SAT score. I took the tests almost a decade apart, though, so this could be coincidental; scores for both tests aren't that stable over that kind of timeframe, I don't think.
My (limited) background knowledge is that SATs, GREs, etc. are designed for people near the average, and give imprecise results for the highest IQs. You're probably in that range the tests aren't very good for.
I wouldn't trust it. My GRE estimated IQ by that is wildly higher than my professionally measured IQ. Also check out:
The scores are highly correlated. One must assume those charts are from a reliable source. So... yes?
Does the correlation remain if you conditionalize on, say, having an IQ higher than 130?
Well, not with that attitude.
I was wondering if the IQ-calibration question was referring to reported or actual IQ. It seems to be the latter, but the former would be much more fun to think about. Also, are so many LWers comfortable estimating with high confidence that they are in the 99.9th percentile? Or even higher? Is this community really that smart? I mean, I know I'm smarter than the majority of people I meet, but 999 out of every 1000? Or am I just being overly enthusiastic in correcting for cognitive bias?
I'd estimate with high confidence that I'm higher than that. Subjectively, I've only met a couple of people in my life who seem definitely smarter than me. And I've barely met anyone who was malnourished or lacking in education. That said, there is the "everyone else is stupid" bias. ETA: In case it wasn't clear from the outset, on the outside view, most people with this notion are wrong, and there's a recursive problem in justifying that I'm special. But intelligence tests, though imperfect, are a good hint.
I'm not contradicting you at all, but I'm just curious: how do you know that you are smarter than virtually everyone you meet? If there is anything more to it than an intuition, I'd love to know about it. I've always wondered if there was some secret smart-person handshake that I wasn't privy to. Personally, I'd say the lower 80 or 90% immediately identify themselves as such, but beyond that I try to give others the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they aren't interested in the conversation, don't want to seem intelligent, or or just plain out of my leauge. I don't value humility very highly at all; but there aren't many things that would convince me I or someone else was demonstrably in the top fraction of the top percentile. Also, I've been intuitively aware of the optimism bias for as long as I can remember, and estimates like ".1% and 99.9%" trigger my skepticism module hard.
I was mostly going by the handshake.
I'd agree with that statement, revising it up to at least 95%. Once you've got it down to more than 19 in 20 people you meet being obviously-dumb, it's worth the effort to inspect the others more carefully, since it's always good having really smart people around. I'm much more familiar with people thinking 95% is an orders-of-magnitude higher estimate than 80%, and so I tend to adjust others' carefully-thought-out estimates outward rather than inward, unless they are 0 or 1. ETA: It's worth noting that one of the huge signals smart people give off is the "OMG you're talking about something that requires intelligence I'm so happy to have met a smart person because that happens to me less than 5% of the time" reaction, which if rarer than I think would significantly throw off my estimates.
Seeming "obviously" dumb and actually not being in the top 5% are very, very different. A person might just be tired, or stressed, or distracted and so not exude intelligence. Or, they might be acting a little less intelligent than they actually are, maybe for social reasons.
I predict with 70% certainty that we will get an IQ in the range of 140-145 again, though I think it will be a bit lower than last time. I'm very surprised if it's outside 130-150. (Also took the survey. Would like more "other" options so I can ramble about my totally different opinions on many issues, but whatever.)
Awesome. I said my IQ was 140 and 50% probability that I was higher than average, because I figured I'd be almost exactly average.
(I hope you didn't actually put "140ish", right?) I'm actually surprised the lower bound on the previous survey was 120. I would have figured more of a U-shaped curve.
I put 140. Fixed.
Oh wow, is that what the IQ average was last time? Can I update my probability that mine will be higher?
Last survey in 2009:
For myself I took my result to the Mensa online pre-test, that I did for the purpose of calibrating myself a few years ago. It's not a fully professional test (and not done in test situation), but I consider it valid enough to be more than pure noise.
Same here. (I rounded the result to the nearest ten, also because I don't remember the last digit for sure.)

(how many people have strong feelings on Three Worlds Collide these days?)

Many, according to some.

(Of course to actually get the answer, you would presumably have to...take a survey. :-) )

I still find myself thinking about Three Worlds Collide from time to time. The alienness of the aliens and the alienness of the humans (legalized rape?) made an impression.

Thanks for putting this together, Yvain! Recommendation to the Powers That Be: promote this to the main page so that more people notice it.

For non-lurking time, there's no need to ask, is there? Just pull the signup dates from the user database for everyone who has posted recently.
Unless you changed accounts at some point.

I'm not sure what it is about a survey that gets me to stop lurking at a community and actually create an account, but there you have it. Maybe it's just the chance to tell my 'story' anonymously.

Welcome to LW!

I took it a few hours ago, and only just then realized that I apparently can get karma from saying so.

Posted. It wasn't clear whether the IQ calibration question was whether your IQ would be higher than the reported IQ of respondents or the actual IQ of respondents, and also whether that included respondents that didn't answer the IQ question.

I assume the former. How the hell would Yvain be supposed to find out who's right, if the latter was meant?

Everyone should take the survey before reading any more comments, in case they contain anchors etc.

I took the survey. My estimates will be very poorly calibrated (I haven't done much in the way of calibration/estimation exercises) but I'm hoping they'll at least be good enough for wisdom-of-the-crowds purposes and more useful than just leaving blank.

Minor quibble: shouldn't "p(xrisk)" be "p(NOT xrisk)"? Just worried about people in a hurry not reading the question properly.

I took the survey, I found the "Moral Views" question very hard to answer to, folding "moral views" in one of 4 broad categories is surhuman effort for me ;) but I did my best.

Also, not wanting to enter a political debate here and now, but your definition of "communism" seems a strawman to me.

The definition of communism is certainly a straw man. It's not surprising that LWers don't know the difference between Stalinism, Social Democracy, and don't know about Anarchism at all, but I was still disappointed.

I've encountered people online who would want an "Other" option for the Gender question.

Also, my only possible answer to "Relationship Style" is "I don't know."

Edit: Survey filled, though. Left Relationship Style blank.

Survey taken. :)

Just took it.

About the probability questions: I thought you were supposed to answer them instantly for your intuitive stance at the moment, without additional research, though I see some of responders apparently did research. Perhaps it should be better specified what is meant.

I just took it. My issue, which I haven't seen mentioned yet, is with the use of "agnostic" as a midpoint on the scale between theism and atheism. I realize that's a common colloquial use now but I don't get how it's a meaningful category -- unless it's meant to refer to negative atheism, and the "atheism" answers refer to positive atheism? And in the historical use of "agnostic" I think it's a separate category altogether that could overlap with both atheism and theism.

Overall I found the questions very interesting though, and I'm curious to see the results.

It makes sense if one means by "agnostic" not "cannot be known" but "I don't know" or "I'm unsure." This makes sense in a general context and even more so in a a Bayesian context. In that context, one would have something like theists mean people that P(God exists) is high, atheists estimate that P(God exists) is low, and agnostics are in the midrange.
OK, that makes sense. But then isn't this just a less-accurate version of the P(God exists) question?
To some extent, but not everyone may have a specific probability. And different people may outline the specific probabilities differently. Asking it as theist/agnostic/atheist also is implicitly asking about sociological, psychological, and epistemological norms at the same time due to the connotations of each of those terms.
I agree that it could be asking about which label people identify with and how that reflects those various norms, and that would also be an interesting question -- but in that case it should have been worded differently, or there should have at least been an "other" category. The way it was presented suggests an exhaustive scale.
I don't like that practice. "I am an atheist" is not a good proxy for "I am a Communist."

Filled out the survey. Neat!

I didn't know those versions of morality. There wasn't an option for "don't know" but I guess leaving it blank is the same thing.

  • Consequentialism: anything is good which has the preferred results.
  • Deontology: behavior is good when it comports with the given moral code.
  • Virtue ethics: people are good when they are possessed of the proper character traits.

To modify an example from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: a Good Samaritan is widely agreed to be a good person, but the reasons vary:

  • A consequentialist calls them good because they improved the life of the victim they stopped to help;
  • A deontologist calls them good because they acted in accordance with moral edicts such as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".
  • A virtue ethicist calls them good because they have a charitable and benevolent nature.
Hm... maybe I am a consequentialist, after all. But I try hard not to think of people as good or bad. What the Good Samaritan did was a good thing, because it helped the victim. And of course people with a charitable and benevolent nature will tend to do good things more often, as will those who follow good moral edicts.
Sure - that attitude would be entirely compatible with consequentialism.
Thanks, I guess I'm a deontologist until proven otherwise.
Until proven otherwise? Can you unpack that a little? What would such a proof look like?
Haha, I don't know. Given that I was just introduced to it, I don't know even really know the arguments for/against. I've so far only come up with arguments in my head, and they point me toward deontologist.

The cryonics question is broken! I couldn't answer it without suspecting it would be misleading. My p would be incredibly low but only because my p for the human species surviving is low. This is a technically correct way to answer the question but I am not at all confident that everyone else would answer literally, including the obvious consideration "if everyone else is dead, yeah, you die too". Or, even if everyone did, I am not confident that the appropriate math would be done on a per-participant level in the results for the p(cryo) to be meaningful.

I answered that question interpreting it literally, even though “I'd assign probability 1% that a randomly-chosen person cryopreserved as of 1 Nov 2011 will be eventually revived” doesn't imply “I think that approximately 1% of the people cryopreserved as of 1 Nov 2011 will be eventually revived”, since the probabilities for different people are nowhere near being uncorrelated.
FWIW, I factored the chances of cataclysm into my estimate.
This criticism also seems to apply to the existence of God, supernatural things, and etc.
I gave a low probability, not because I don't think that reviving people is possible, or discoverable soon, but because I see some political trends today that I think are very likely to result in mobs destroying the facilities before we can be revived. (And even if that doesn't happen, sooner or later some country is going to use nanotech in military ways, which -- if the human race survives -- may well result in the entire field being either banned or classified and staying that way.) But I'm signed up, because it's a bet I can't lose.
How does that follow? Don't you lose if you aren't revived, be it because of social collapse, mobs unplugging you, or even just because you die in an informationally irrecoverable way?

I took the survey. I'd really have liked an "other/no affiliation" option on the politics question, though, or a finer-grained scale. I suppose I could just have left it blank, but that seems not to transmit the right information.

I took the survey :3

Took it.

(Regarding the phrase "ontologically basic mental entity"; in my head, I always hear it in the voice of Raz from Psychonauts.)


Took the survey.

Thought you might have included an option for "reactionary" on the political orientation question. The distinction between reactionary, and libertarian or conservative is substantial even given the fact that the match isn't supposed to be perfect.

The global warming question might be more discriminating if the question were whether someone thinks that the mainstream view on AGW is scientifically valid within reason. The question as it stands is vague, hinging on the interpretation of "significant".

Otherwise a good survey!

But who self-identifies as a reactionary? That said, there are a number of large holes in the political question. A Left Anarchist is going to feel severely pissed off with having to choose between state socialism and anarcho capitalism.
Lots of people. I've seen a number of reactionary blogs discussed here, so there probably are several self identified reactionaries.

Took it. First post as well.

Welcome to Less Wrong! Now that you're officially out of lurkdom, I hope you stay.

Just took the survey. It was odd how only the word "Other" was translated into the Norwegian "Andre"... and everything else was in English.

Liberal, for example the US Democratic Party or the UK Labour Party: socially permissive, more taxes, more redistribution of wealth

Socialist, for example Scandinavian countries: socially permissive, high taxes, major redistribution of wealth

Only an American could have written something like that... Political "ideologies" apparently do not translate between countries in any way. It's like asking Muslims if they feel closer to Catholics or Lutherans.

The test has also a problem with extremely low "probability" events like "God existing". There's really no meaningful number between a vague "theoretically possibly just extremely unlikely" (and number of 0s you put there doesn't really mean anything) and "literally impossible 0%" here.

Also, US Republicans and UK Tories aren't that great a natural category; the UK Conservative Party is currently moving to legalise gay marriage, for instance.
Politics is simply incomparable between countries. Usually various parties are clustered around some country-specific consensus, and distance between mainstream parties within a country is much smaller than distance between consensus centers between countries or even across time. Neither positions nor even issues are similar. You may as well ask in survey if someone is pro-EU or anti-EU. Most people in Europe have some opinion about it, and in many countries it's a major area of contention, but asking non-Europeans about it is quite ridiculous.
Yes, but I don't think a broader, more abstract classification would be infeasible or completely useless. For example, I like the one of The Political Compass.
Asking for political compass scores on the survey could be nice, indeed. Plotting Less Wrongers on the 2d charter, one dot for one person could revel interesting clusters.
I always thought it was a typically a 3D charter. Socially Authoritarian/Libertarian, Fiscally Liberal/Conservative, and Foreign Policy Interventionist/Isolationist.
I don't think the foreign policy is anywhere near as important as the other two: for example, most people are seldom directly affected by it. And in small, neutral countries such as Switzerland such an axis would be nearly meaningless.
I don't know about this considering the massive amounts of globalization we have now. Foreign Policy is a pretty big, complicated topic. Outsourcing, wars, foreign aid, military alliances, sanctions, etc.? What? Switzerland has had a pretty big history of isolationism. If anything they have a very strong view. How is that meaningless?
Because an individual's score on such a scale would tell something about their country but very little about the individual.
That's the exact same argument as the other people saying the political ideas of Socialist/Liberal/Libertarian is completely dependent on country. That doesn't have anything to do with Foreign Policy.
It doesn't contain the foreign policy axis (and the "fiscally liberal/conservative" is named "economic left/right", which is less ambiguous than "liberal/conservative"). Some people also include a different "politically authoritarian/libertarian" axis, different from the "socially authoritarian/libertarian" (which does make sense, for example Cuba nowadays is very liberal socially speaking, but not so much politically speaking), but the Compass doesn't, it keeps it simple down to two axis.
FWIW, I've just taken the test for the umpteenth time, and I score Economic Left/Right: -5.38, Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.13. (Through the years I've always been in the southwestern quadrant, but when I was younger I used to be a little bit northwest of where I'm now.)
Political Compass is just more vagueness and American bias. Plotting that would have some entertainment value, little more.
What? It's British, actually...
Scandinavia == Socialist was hard for my Eastern European brain to process. Also Moldbuggians (there are bound to be a few considering so many LWers read Unqualified Reservations) will be saddened one can't put Jacobite / neocamerialist / restorationist / reactionary in there.
Scandinavian countries (+ UK and Netherlands, which seem to cluster closer with them than with the rest of EU) top most indexes of "economic freedom" / "ease of doing business" etc. And they still have monarchies over there, with state-church separation happening only recently, or not yet. And Sweden has large private school system etc. Or they have huge taxes, very comprehensive welfare state system, allow gay marriage or some other type, have a lot of out of wedlock marriage, extremely high rate of women participation in workforce etc. Depending on which features you focus on, you can make them appear "extremely liberal", or "extremely conservative" by US metric. It will be stupid categorization either way.
"Out of wedlock marriage" would be a neat trick. :-)
That, or typical, depending on just how you cut things...
Scandinavian countries top the indexes on metrics other than taxation, government spending and "labour freedom" while the monarchs (and arguably, the churches) are mainly if not solely symbolic. If labels are ignored I think "socially permissive, high taxes, major redistribution of wealth" describes these countries very well.
Sounds to me like you're talking about a probability of 0+epsilon, which is mentioned in the survey as what "0" will be interpreted as. Did you find that unsatisfactory for some reason?

I took the survey. Sorry I asked you to keep my data private, but I precommitted to doing so in order to improve the quality of my responses.

Like all the cool kids, I took the survey. You should too!

Scientia potentia est!

Out of curiosity, when will the results be published ? And what will the analysis tell us ?

Good idea, and a good set of questions. However, while I might say I'm fairly knowledgeable about a few topics anywhere else, the feeling of going far out of my depth is one I associate strongly with LW. As an example, I would expect the list of those who could hold a heavy AI discussion with LW's resident experts to be about 5 people.

Also, "exists" when referring to the entire observable universe, makes me a bit tense. In our past light cone? In our future light cone? In a spacelike interval? It makes a big difference.


I think the phrasing there will probably cause weird effects. For example, it seems most LWers have only vague ideas of biology and medicine, and I can talk confidently with a biology researcher or physician of average ability, so I felt happy checking that box. If everyone reasons like me, we’ll see lots of checks in that box, not because people here are expert in biology and medicine, but because we aren’t.

Good point. It's sort of like the "guess 2/3 of the average guess" game, confounded by whatever dunning-kruger effect we enjoy. Also, heavy discussions online are less cognitively stressful than heavy discussions at, say, a LW meetup (which we should still do sometime).
Composed entirely of LW's resident experts?
Nah. It's not that hard to understand what's said and thus not be out of one's depth; much much easier than saying something original and correct, which I think they are capable of at times.
That ambiguity didn't even occur to me!

The "Anti-Agathics" question is ambiguous:

What is the probability that any person living at this moment will reach an age of one thousand years?

Two possible meanings (which, at least for me, would result in very different numbers):

  1. Given a randomly selected person living at this moment, what is the probability that they will reach an age of one thousand years?

  2. What is the probability that at least one person living at this moment will reach an age of one thousand years?

I believe the 2nd one is intended, though I agree with you that switching to something like "at least one" would make it unambiguous.
I'm ready to hit the "submit" button as soon as Yvain confirms (or denies) this...
Oh, dear. I assumed he meant the first one.
Another ambiguity: Does the anti-agathics mean 1000 consecutive years, or does it include successful cryonics as a special case?
Assume 1000 animated years. :)
That's what I figured out. I'd be interested to know what proportion gave an estimate for 1000 year lifespans which is at least as high as their estimate for revival from cryonics. I suppose it's possible that suspended animation is incompatible with great longevity for those alive now, but it's hard to think of a mechanism. Perhaps genetic modification is required for longevity, and the tech for revival can't simulate that.
Hm. This was my position before, and apparently I forgot about it when assigning my probability for the anti-aging question. Oops.
Hypothetical: if that were the case, would it be better not to thaw out cryonics patients as soon as it becomes possible to, in the hopes that the longevity problem would be solved in the future?
I suppose it depends on how likely rejuvenation is to be solved. If it's looking unsolvable, then reviving the person asap makes sense-- there's probably less culture shock in dealing with a less distant future.
This question also heavily depends on the irrelevant fact of whether FAI should keep variants of original individuals, or there is something better that it should therefore do instead. In 1000 years, it's FAI or bust, so this directly controls the answer. But presumably motivation for this question is "Will the future be good in this here sense?", while the estimate is lower if the future can be even better...

I took the survey. If it is not too late to receive Karma for taking the survey, I would not mind.

I took the survey.

Like several other people, I was a bit bothered by the P(God) type questions. For some of those, my belief depends on an argument for the impossibility of, say, God, rather than on any particular evidence. In that case, am I supposed to take into account my uncertainty as to the validity of my argument? Or just put 0?

How do you distinguish between 1) a universe wherein a genuinely omnipotent agent is impossible, and 2) a universe with a genuinely omnipotent agent who makes it seem like a genuinely omnipotent agent is impossible?
It's not so much the "genuinely omnipotent" bit that I have philosophical problems with as the idea of "ontologically basic mental entities". I don't think this is the place to go into it fully, but suffice it to say that nowadays I'm not sure if that even makes sense. If I don't think a situation makes sense, how can I assign it a probability? Of course, I could weigh that against the probability that I'm mistaken, but I'm not sure whether we're meant to take that kind of thing into account.
My understanding is that we're absolutely supposed to take that sort of thing into account.
Yeah I think you're right; I hereby retract my worries!
The only way I've found is to attack the idea of omnipotence on the basis of logic. If the questioner is allowed to insist I "consider the possibility of a universe where logic isn't valid," I can only dismiss his question as nonsense.
Yeah, I wasn't sure how to interpret the God question either. If asked, I admit the possibility of a "creator being" that is not supernatural (in Carrier's sense). But that option wasn't in the survey as far as I could tell.
Me too: if we're in a simulation, then whoever's running the simulation would count.

I took the survey and really enjoyed it. Thanks! It was mostly clear but I'm not gonna lie -- had to look up the morality definitions (except consequentialism). Perhaps a very brief definition would help.

Took it!

For the probability questions, I think it might have been useful for people to be able to specify confidence in their estimate. An estimate of X% from someone who is familiar with almost all of the relevant arguments and evidence is different from an estimate of X% by someone with only a cursory understanding of the issue. Then we can target the subjects people are most uncertain about to produce the most informative discussions.

A good bayesian way to make that question quantitative would be, "If we ask you again in 10 years, how much do you expect your number to change? Express your answer as a factor of the percentage or the inverse percentage, whichever is smaller. So 1 would mean you expect no change, and 3 would mean you expect, with about 50% confidence, that your estimate and its inverse will both be more than a third and less than triple of what they are today." I know that it should really be a matter of p(1-p) but that's close enough. Oh, and taken, so one of the karma here is for that.
If I expect that my estimate will change in the future, why not change it now? I grant that it is highly likely that my estimates will change, but I don't know whether any particular estimate will change upward or downward, so for now they stay put. I suppose what anticipation of change in a probability estimate practically means is that you expect new pieces of evidence to come in and that you have a fairly good idea what the magnitude of evidence will be, just not the sign.
I don't know which direction it will change, but for things I'm unsure of I expect more movement than for things I know more about. In bayesian terms, a weak prior.
It would also be very interesting to compare the variance in those with a low certainty with the variance of those with a high certainty.

One problem with the political question: Socialism is not what they have in Scandinavia. That would be social democracy (technically a form of government that's supposed to evolve towards full socialism, but they don't seem to have done that). It's unclear what option one is supposed to choose to mean "What they have in Scandinavia" rather than actual socialism.

political words like "socialism" mean very different things in different places, so a description like "what they have in Scandinavia" is supposed to pin down the extension enough for you to work out the intension.

I don't know anyone in Denmark or the US who calls Scandinavian governments "socialist". Is that a common way to describe Scandinavian governments in some other country?
Usually the primary word I hear used to describe governments in Scandinavia is "socialist". See (from the front page of Google hits for the words Scandinavia and socialism): In the US, I mostly hear the word "socialism" used as an umbrella term for any governmental economic redistribution.
Point taken. I will point out, though, that most of those links point out that socialism per se does not exist in Scandinavia, but rather democratic socialism/social democracy.
Here they are called "social democrats". To me socialism is supposed to mean collective ownership of means of production (through cooperatives, government or any other mean), not "just" wealth distribution within a globally capitalist economy. Put then, the "parti socialiste" in France is social-democrat, not wanting socialism... Even when there is no will to make things actually fuzzy, words are sometimes treachery. When in a field like politics, they are abused from in various ways... and when you add cultural differences and lossy process like translation on top of all that... welcome to the joy of not understanding each other at all. I guess that's what he put the details about what he meant for each word. We may not agree on the labels, but we understand from the description in which category we fit the best.

Filled out. For the probability questions that I thought were very close to 0 (or 100) I thought about how many times in a row I would have to see a fair coin land heads to have a similar level of credence, and then translated that into percentages. A fun exercise.

Also, my calibration was a little off on the last question.

Filled out.

I have a feeling that some people might answer some of the "what is P(...)?" with a probability rather than a percentage (i.e. 0.5 when they actually mean 50%). (I almost did it myself)

(EDIT: However, some people (such as myself) also used 0.5 to mean 0.5%, so an automatic conversion is probably impossible.)

Oh whoops. I did this. Worst of all, I noticed that he wanted percentages, and forgot to go back and change it... Hopefully this is obvious to see and for him to fix...
Argh, I did it too. Fix mine too please?
I also almost did this. Repeatedly.

This survey is now closed. I'll have data eventually.

The answer to my question from November 12 was 970 people.

Eagerly anticipating your analysis and the subsequent discussion. Thanks again!

Huh, I'm surprised that I'm not at all the first lurker to make an account just for this.

Took it. Thanks for the effort you are putting into this.

Alright, I finally made an account. Thanks for the push, though this had little to do with why I've joined. I liked the probability parts of the survey, though I know I need to improve my estimates. Political section might be better done with a full-fledged Question section just devoted to it. Perhaps a later survey? I can't wait to see the results.


Took it. Though I had a hard time answering what religion my family would abide to, my dad is an agnostic I think, but I'm not even sure what my mother believes in . . . No one I know very well practice religion (not just believing) either so it has never been a big part of my life, might be because I'm from Sweden.

I took it as well. One comment: my mother and father adhere(d) to different flavours of Christianity in different degrees. This made it somewhat hard to answer that question fully (I went with my father because he cares most, but my mother's views probably had more influence on me.)

Moral views should probably be two questions-- one about the existence of moral facts and one about favorite normative theory (with "None" "Other" or "Particularist" as a fourth option).

Took the survey.

Took it. It's been awhile since my last IQ test so I did not answer that one, and I don't think I'm gonna be in the top 50% at all.

Taken. Moral views question gave me a bit of trouble, I didn't agree with any of them. Another option like 'There is morality, but I don't define it in any of the ways above' would be nice.

In general I thought the categories covered things pretty well.

I agree! I too, think that there is such a thing as morality, but I'm not sure how to define it, and I don't agree with any of the options.
That's how I felt. There is such thing as a personal moral code or system, and we can examine what happens to groups of people who are running various types and mixtures. We can try to determine which moral memes have the best outcomes, and are most likely to spread and be executed closely, and we can try to follow those codes. Maybe that's pragmatic ethics, but the way morality is used in the survey implies that I'd believe in a single correct way of executing morality at the individual, day-to-day level. It's like asking whether I believe in being a carnivore, an herbivore, or a plant. The option "other" option is "morality doesn't exist," which is a bit like are you a) christian, b) jewish, c) muslim, or d) religion doesn't exist.

Thanks Yvain. Just took the survey, can't wait for the results!


Survey taken. :)

I took the survey :)

I filled out the survey, but I left a number of questions blank, on the basis that I don't feel qualified to answer them. I would have left the year of singularity question blank too, but it said that doing that meant I thought it definitely wouldn't happen.

I took the survey too. I would strongly recommend changing the Singularity question to read: "If you don't think a Singularity will ever happen, write N for Never" Or something like that. The fraction of people who think Never with high probability is really interesting! You don't want to lump them in with the people who don't have an opinion.
I would probably be an N, but I'd need a better definition of "singularity". In fact, I think the question would be generally more interesting if it were split into three: superhuman AI, AI which self improves with moore's law or faster, and AI domination of the physical world at a level that would make the difference between chimpanzee technology and human technology small. All three of these could be expressed as probability of it happening before 2100, because such a probability should still have enough information to let you mostly distinguish between a "not for a long time" and a "never".
I would probably be an N, but I'd need a better definition of "singularity". In fact, I think the question would be generally more interesting if it were split into three: superhuman AI, AI which self improves with moore's law or faster, and AI domination of the physical world at a level that would make the difference between chimpanzee technology and human technology small. All three of these could be expressed as probability of it happening before 2100, because such a probability should still have enough information to let you mostly distinguish between a "not for a long time" and a "never". Oops... this was meant to be a

Filled out.


I took the survey. I would trust my probabilities for aliens, espers, and time travelers as far as I can throw them. I don't really think any number I could give would be reasonable except in the weak sense of not committing the conjunction fallacy.

I second the anchoring effect in the Singularity question. Based on previous comments I had written before, I would have expected a far more distant year than the one I gave in the survey. Oops.

Also, I missed the Principia question by ten years, and gave myself 80% confidence. I don't know if that was good or bad. How would I go about estimating what my confidence should have been?

I was disappointed that mathematics fell under the "hard sciences", but I suppose we can't all have our own category.

The confidence question was "how confident are you that you are within 15 years of the right answer?" which you were. You assigned 80% probability to the true outcome. That's pretty good.

For the Existential Risk question, I would have liked to see an option for societal collapse. It wouldn't have been my number one option, but I think the prospect of multiple stressors in conjunction, such as international economic and food crises, leading to a breakdown of modern civilization is more likely than a number of other options already on the list.

Okay, but... including the deaths of 90% of humanity? That's the sticking point, for me - I could see maybe 50% of humanity, but 90 seems like too much. (90 seems like too much for nuclear war, too, for that matter.)
If society collapses, we would lose the ability to support most of humanity. I wouldn't expect it to result in the loss of 90+% of the population within the space of a decade, but I could definitely see it dropping by that much. I don't think it's all that likely, but I would definitely rate it above a natural pandemic wiping out 90% or more of the population.
Agreed. (Not to mention 'asteroid strike'. Did anyone even pick that?) I put 'man-made pandemic', myself.

Took the survey; I mostly lurk but have posted occasionally.

Perhaps future surveys should have exhaust valves channeling people's need to express themselves:

1) In any number of words, what is your theory of gender? (essay section)

2) On unsophisticated government forms that only have the options "male" and "female", which do you select? (multiple choice, two options)

3) Sex with people who gave the same answer to 2), yay or boo? (multiple choice, two options)

4) Sex with people who gave a different answer to 2), yay or boo? (multiple choice, two options)

5) In any number of words, what are your political views? (essay section)

6) Which nine of the following ten political terms most poorly describe that position (multiple choice, ten options).


Another proof that survey design is hard: should I answer "yay male/male sex, I strongly support same-sex " or "boo male/male sex, I am not interested?" Or, taking a page from Alicorn's book, what about those who say "yay male/male sex, I'd like to be interested in men?" (I'd expect this to be a statistically detectable portion of test-takers.) Also, making people write essays just to throw them away is not a terribly productive use of anyone's time.
In the meantime, I suppose individuals can approximate the same behavior by writing such things in a file on their hard drive. It won't affect processing of the survey, of course, but then it wouldn't really do so anyway. Longer-term, presumably the goals we want to achieve with a question should drive the options we provide for answers. If we want to correlate demographic category with other answers, then we really don't care about demographic categories that cover fewer than 5% or so of the population, since such correlations would be even less useful than baseline, but we do care about standardizing answers. If we want to know how LessWrong readers identify themselves because we're curious, we don't really care about standardizing answers, but we do want to let respondents use their own terms to describe themselves. Etc.

Another lurker who took the survey. I suppose I should go find the newbie thread and introduce myself.

I was extra wrong on Principia. Almost disturbing to think how recent it was...

Semi-rare poster. I was almost two-hundred years off. I think it might be the latin title that throws people.
I was over 100 years off, but in the opposite direction.

I took the survey.

I took your survey. There may be small errors in a couple of my answers. I can hardly wait to see your explanation of what you are doing with those "calibration questions" like "what is your estimate of the probability that your answer to Newton's Principia publication date is within 15 years of the correct answer"?

Also if there is some sort of sampling theory surveying practice FAQ that explains the use of such questions I would be interested in reading it.

I've taken the survey, and have the uncomfortable feeling that the odds I gave for several interrelated propositions were mutually inconsistent.

Yes, I had the same feeling when I finished.

I took the survey and could feel my affective heuristics generating random near-the-ballpark numbers.

Given I am a mathematician and have no idea how to actually compute any of those probabilities (or what that would even formally mean, say in a probability measure space), I let those numbers stand without further scrutiny.


After lurking on LessWrong for several months, I just made an account today and took the survey. :) I'm curious to see the results.


I took the survey.

The political section is begging for a one line write in, seriously. Please consider adding on in addition to the pick one option poll. I'm not having warm fuzzies for any of the groups and had to bite my tongue and pick one I really really dislike, just because the alternatives are so much worse and one of the alternatives, while probably quite popular a choice, will be misinterpreted if I chose it.

From your perspective, that makes sense. From my perspective - I don't intend to ever look at this data. I'm going to import it into SPSS, have it crunch numbers for me, and come out with some result like "Less Wrong users are 65% libertarian" or like "Men are more likely to be socialist than women."

If you put "other" - and this applies to any of the questions, not just this one - you're pretty much wasting your vote unless someone else is going to sift through the data and be interested that this particular anonymous line of the spreadsheet believes in strong environmental protection but an otherwise free market.

Looking at the answers, I really shouldn't have allowed write-ins for any questions - I was kind of surprised how many people can't settle on a specific gender, even though the aim of the question was more to figure out how many men versus women are on here than to judge how people feel about society (I considered saying "sex" instead, but that has its own pitfalls and wouldn't have let me get the transgender info as easily. I'll do it that way next time.)

I was particularly harsh on the politics question because I know how strong the temptation is. I think next survey I'll give every question an "other" check box, but it will literally just be a check box and there will be no room to write anything in.

I was kind of surprised how many people can't settle on a specific gender

You could cut the gordian knot by borrowing Randall Munroe and Relsqui's solution for the xkcd color survey, which was to ask about chromosomal sex:

Do you have a Y chromosome?

[Don't Know] [Yes] [No]

If unsure, select "Yes" if you are physically male and "No" if you are physically female. If you have had SRS, please respond for your sex at birth. This question is relevant to the genetics of colorblindness.


Technically, isn't it the number of X chromosomes that matters to colorblindness? It's just that people with Y chromosomes almost always have one X chromosome, and people without them almost always have two.

You're correct; we asked for Y chromosomes rather than X chromosomes because it's way easier to have an extra X and not know it than to have a Y and not know it. So if we ask about Y, we can rough-sort into "probably XY" and "probably XX" groups and then look at the statistics for chromosomal deviations within those groups.
... especially if they're responding to xkcd polls.

You have some reason to believe that Klinefelte's syndrome (XXY) is less common among xkcd readers than among the general population?

I thought I did. Now that I've followed your link, I realize that even if it were less common, it would probably only be marginally so, so I withdraw my comment above.
Most people don't actually know their karyotype, and are often surprised to learn that it's not always what you assume. You can't necessarily infer chromosomes from external appearance and self-identification reliably; you have to look at the actual chromosomes to be sure.
If I'm not mistaken, you don't need a DNA test for this. A cell sample under a strong microscope will show the barr bodies for XX (this won't distinguish XXY, but that's pretty rare).
Looking at the barr bodies is not a karyotype test. A test that can't detect whether or not someone is not XX/XY sufficient to actually tell you the information you need to know your chromosome type. Yes, in terms of strict probability most people will be one of those. The test of the method is how well it handles edge cases (not at all); this is of considerably greater importance when you're talking about those edge cases.
Also, rereading that explanation, I'm annoyed at how I worded it. It's okay, but my trans*-inclusive vocabulary has improved since then and I could do better. Hell, just "if unsure, select 'yes' if you were born with a penis" would have been sufficient.
I'm not sure how any of these wordings of questions handle people with ambiguous genitalia.
Fair point. I'm not sure either; I think I'm relying on a given individual who is e.g. intersex either a) knowing that, and being able to make a better-educated guess about their chromosomes than any heuristic I offer, or b) not knowing that, which I'm willing to assume correlates well to having genitals that either do look like a penis or don't.
Perhaps the politics question would be better phrased negatively: All you have to care about is the lowest number, and anyone who wants to do more with the numbers is able to. People would be less inclined to complain about cultural focus or balance issues.
I second that idea, but even then the cultural focus/balance issues will remain when a word and a "definition" are given in a way that appears to be a strawman or a very US-centric view of things. Maybe remove the words ("libertarian", "socialist", ...) and just give the one-sentence definition ?
What people primarily seem to want is a more diverse list. Increasing the word count per entry makes that less feasible. As one source of complaint is, as you imply, the linking of a term with a description, what if descriptions were eliminated all together? I could begin a political survey discussion post asking people to PM me a one to three word description of a view they endorse or almost endorse, as well as another view they think important. I would update the main page to reflect submissions so more of the same wouldn't be submitted. Then the political ideology list could be trimmed down a bit somehow, and people could do a despise-style survey in which they express their disapproval of each. As the previous LW survey had about 150 takers, I would expect about that many people going through the trouble of sending me submissions, and many would be redundant, and perhaps by consensus or fiat a representative list of 35 or so could be set for the survey. Would that be a reasonable number of one or three word phrases to scan? It would be an order of magnitude more effort to read that many political sentences. The despise survey might reveal interesting things that the approval one did not - for example, we might find we have many transhumanists that dislike libertarianism and monarchism, and hate everything else. Or meta-contrarian people who approve of currently popular movements and no fringe ones. I don't know.
I fear eliminating the descriptions would lead to even more problems, since words like "libertarian", "socialist" or "communist" don't mean the same depending of your cultural background. I would have answered the question differently if the descriptions were not given, and I don't think I'm the only one. Or maybe, could we just ask for Political Compass score ? Would be a straight-forward question and easy to exploit later on, even if a bit caricatural. And if people don't want to take the full Political Compass test, they can still say roughly where they stand on the two axis.
LCPW, so one should describe something like how much one despises the best relatively sizable minority position of each.
Having read it, I realise this post may seem or be overly critical. Oh well. But what the results will actually show, if 65% of people pick libertarian, is that 65% of people Identify with libertarianism more than the other options. This is obviously possible wthout being a libertarian. One could even just hate libertarianism slightly less than the other options and identify most with it. As well as people who's political views aren't well deliniated by any option, there are a few people who are apolitical and would have to just pick at random. or one could be forced to hammer a square peg into a round hole. Multiple choice and no choice for "none of the above" for something like this means hammering square pegs into round holes or abstaining if you don't strongly lean one way or another. if you think you'll put a box for other in next survey why not put it in this survey? even an uncounted other option allows people who'd rather have their choice not count than be identified with one of the options given not to add a tally to one and gives you the number of people with that preference which is interresting in itself. The rest of this post is ideas for minor modifications to wording. Can't you just change it to "sex" now? "With what race or ethnic group do you most closely identify?" Some people might identify most closely with a race other than their own. I don't think the intent is to allow for this but until I read the post this is a reply to, if I did identify with another race more strongly than my own i'd answer that way were i to fill out the survey. Maybe just ask what option best describes or approximates your race. maths might be the field of a non-trivial percentage of less wrong readers. I think martial arts would go along nicely with self help, pickup artistry and meditation as an option for the communities question. All are relatively common self-improvement things, as is less wrong. Also I think members of competive gameing (card games, board ga
Virtue Ethics got in the current poll because it was a common enough write in by posters. I consider the write in option to be useful in some spots because that way one can figure out if one is missing certain common clusters. I am quite willing to bet that some political categories that are rare or fringe elsewhere may be prominent on Lesswrong, simply because high IQ people are more likley to try and consistently conform to a particular ideology than low IQ people. I mean Libertarian and Communist are (depending on the country) basically such exotic positions, imagine someone making a poll not expecting to find significant numbers of either on Lesswrong. How exactly could he figure this out and add those two? Oh sure on a different forum, people might just say, well I'm X-terian and a lot of other people are or something to that effect, but that seems a pretty rude thing to a LWer with our politics taboo. I for one don't want to know what any particular poster's ideological leanings are! Information is always good but our brain is literally built to be hijacked by such information.
Kibbitzing off acts as a good filter here.
I wasn't and still am not sure what "Virtue Ethics" is supposed to mean. My personal ethics are based on the libertarian "non-aggression principle," in other words, don't violate the rights of other persons, and beyond that, do whatever you want. (Which does not mean I don't see a point to charity -- I just see charity as one of many things you might do with your money or time because it makes you happy. In my experience, enough people feel that way that it's rare for anyone to starve or freeze unless he behaves so badly that he doesn't deserve to be helped.) Apologies if this violates a politics ban, but I can't really answer an ethics question without going there. As far as the objective "existence" of morals: it's a meaningless idea. Even if there is just one God, his opinion doesn't automatically become The Truth any more than yours or mine does. Ultimately, morals/ethics are a matter of taste and nothing more. But they're a unique exception to the old saw "there's no accounting for taste" because your moral code determines whether you can be trusted (to do any particular thing someone else expects of you, a question that of course depends on who and what it is).
This would be deontological: you are ethical if you are following the rules. Per my understanding of it, virtue ethics looks to the traits of the individual moral agents. It is good to be a compassionate person. A compassionate person is more likely to give to charity, and so giving to charity may be indicative of virtue, but a person is ethical for being compassionate, not for the act itself.
If only...
You're describing a deontological branch of ethics, I think. As for virtue ethics, I believe virtue ethicists evaluate the morality of a deed based on whether it ennobles or debases the doer. In short, "charity is good" because it instills to you habits of charity that makes you a better person. But perhaps a virtue ethicist would be better fit to explain it (and my apologies to them if I got it wrong).
You've taken a sufficiently coherent political philosophy and pressed it into service as a moral philosophy, where it doesn't fit. The principle "do not harm" doesn't imply that you should (may?) give to charity because it makes you feel good. It only implies the converse, that you should give to charity if it makes you feel good. But [Edit: one] purpose of a moral theory is to tell you when (if ever) to give to charity (and what charity to give to, etc.)
I tend to like moral theories to also tell me whether or not to eat babies. Or is wanting the purpose to be a tad more general than charity donation just me?
There is a nice critique of this libertarian view of ethics here.
Okay, first things first: my initial reaction to a certain line in your comment was a reflexive downvote, but after a minute I reconsidered; applying the principle of charity, it's more likely that I've misinterpreted you than that you actually meant what I found ridiculous. So, to clarify: Surely, surely you are not blaming the victims of starvation? Also, secondly: WP has an okay summary, but the short version is: an act is moral or not based on the character and intentions of the actor. It sounds like your ethics are rather more deontological (i.e. rule-based).
Only ask one question at a time. If you wanted info about "transgender" then ask a "transgender" question. Example: Are you transgender? * No * Yes, F->M * Yes, M->F * Yes, but I prefer not to specify * Prefer not to answer Of course, this logically excludes those who would prefer to answer but are Yes - other, but your earlier point about 'other' applies if you don't want to code open-ends.
Seriously, dude, coding. Surely someone would be willing to volunteer to code a couple hundred open-ends. It should take like 5 minutes if you're willing to use broad brushstrokes. And if most of the raw data is made public, the later sifting for interesting tidbits is crowdsourced.
2Scott Alexander12y
Well, sure, you could do that. But if I decided to hand-code all of the political write-ins into standard political terms like "liberal", "conservative", "etc", then all I'd end up with is a list of people's political preferences in a few bins of standard political terms. Which is exactly what I have now when I don't allow write-ins. This way is easier for me and allows people to choose their bin themselves rather than have me try to guess whether some complicated philosophy is more conservative than libertarian or vice versa.
But does not allow for the creation of new bins, if we spot different clusters.
What dlthomas said. If 20% of your respondents wrote in "anarchist", then you have a new punch.
I disagree; it might be important to identify oneself as something which is not one of the presented options, even if no one cares what other thing you are. For example ... ... I'm genderqueer, and when I take demographic surveys it's important to me that I'm not counted in either the "men" or the "women" group. Firstly, it would be lying, and secondly, it would be lying in a way which perpetuates the invisibility of my actual identity. That may not be a big deal to the survey writer, but it's always a big deal to me.
I think next survey I'll give every question an "other" check box, but it will literally just be a check box and there will be no room to write anything in. I love that! The urge to signal is almost irresistable when there is a place to write something in. I took the survey but you don't have to rec me as I've lost like 35 karma points in the last month and I'd like to see how low I can go. Mike
Ultimately, the question becomes how you will interpret the difference between no-answer and checking a particular box. If no answer by convention means "I don't know the answer to this question," then it makes sense to have a "I know the answer, but it's none of the choices you give" box (aka "other"). It may also make sense to have a "I know the answer, but it's more than one of the choices you give" box. Or a "I know the answer but don't want to tell you" box. Etc. Or, not. Much as people get annoyed by being asked to categorize themselves, that is basically the point of this sort of survey, and nobody is obligated to take it. There's no particular reason you should change your strategy to alleviate our annoyance.
There's also a validation issue. A blank could mean "I accidentally scrolled past this question without noticing it". The standard for online surveys is to (where appropriate) include choices for "Other", "None", and "Prefer not to answer", and then force a response for every question so that you know nothing was accidentally skipped.
That said, online surveys often fail at this, for instance having "gender" questions with just the 2 options (they should at least have an "other") or only accepting as "valid" answers that do not fit the entire population (For example, a survey for doctors with no explicit age cutoff limited ages to <99; at the time, there was one practicing doctor older than that - he would just have been given an error message that his age was "invalid".)
Would it be possible for you to write down the ideas/suggestions you've had about the next survey(s) somewhere (possibly the LW wiki)? We might be able to use your expertise from these first two surveys to try to establish a good and (more) standardised survey that can be run easily every year or so.
Would it be possible in the future, rather than having a write-in or group identification, to do something like political compass coordinates? This would have the benefit of allowing people to express views that don't fit into camps without having the opportunity to write lots of words no one will read.
Right now for the politics question, you have three(!) different strains of neoliberalism, social democracy, and Stalinism. That's hardly representative of the global political spectrum, and I'm honestly surprised that anyone designing that question on a survey would make that mistake.
Alternative complaints: ... or: Yes, anarchists, monarchists, theocrats, etc. might object that their view isn't represented, but I think that limiting the possibilities was still the right choice (see also the objections to the gender question). Keeping the focus on LessWrong away from politics seems best.
If only "nitpickers" was a political position, then all of this trouble could have been avoided.
The current limitation of possibilities doesn't keep the focus on LessWrong away from politics. It focuses on certain types of politics. Further, if you're calling Labor or the Democrats leftist, or the Libertarian party anti-state, you're just wrong by almost any metric worth caring about. It wouldn't have been hard to have one option for each of capitalist/pro-state, leftist/pro-state, capitalist/anti-state, and leftist/anti-state. That would have captured all modern political alignments, and anything more specific could be another option. As it stands, that question is totally useless to me, and probably to most other leftists. So any conclusion like "women are more likely to be socialists" will be equally meaningless. Most socialists don't even consider European social democracies to be socialist.

I just took the survey but am still concerned about the ambiguities.

Re the politics question, I'm not a communist but I don't think any sane modern communists would use the soviet union as an example of communist government. They officially claimed the government was a transitional stage towards self governing collective utopia.

In Soviet parlance, the Soviet Union was a socialist society but could be fairly described as having a communist government. Of course if you're an anti-revisionist or Trotskyist or Judean Popular Front or the like things get more complicated, but my guess is that anybody who self-describes as "communist" will have picked that option regardless of the description, which is, to be sure, weird on a couple of levels. Like most fringe-but-widely-known groups they're used to being described in ways that are slightly off.

I'm very happy that this survey is being retaken! Looking forward to seeing the results.

Taken. My two cents as everyone's:

Under academic field, there were specific fields for statistics and "other hard sciences" but not a specific field for abstract mathematics, which I was surprised by.

agree with others that the political categories were too linear and a libertarian socialist option would have been nice.

My estimate for Newton's Principia was off by 27 years... so my confidence was a bit high but not too much.

None for physics either.
But physics is clearly a hard science?

Took it. I liked the calibration questions a lot.

I took this survey.

I took the survey and was annoyed to realize that I didn't have a strong enough background to have informed answers to several questions.

That's about how I felt when I took it. Still fun whipping out those uninformed estimates to show what silly things I think.

Taken. Thanks Yvain, I appreciate this effort!

Nitpick: why no "Other" categories for Participation and Expertise?

Edited to add: I posted my own ideas concerning SI and social business in the comments. What are yours? Also, addressing some valid points made in the comments, what are some other innovative ways to fund SI?
What's the point? Surely everyone is a member of some community and has expertise in something! Everyone would check "Other."
True. It might be interesting to see if any hidden commonalities among Less Wrongians exist, however, if the "Other" option comes along with a "fill-in-the-blank" field. It might also be a good idea to include this "Other" option in addition to the other options to avoid everyone checking "Other".

I took the survey, but unfortunately, when I saw "If you don't know enough about the proposition to have an opinion, please leave the box blank", I left all of the probability boxes blank afterwards because I just didn't feel like I could give an answer I would be happy with, even for some of the questions that could be described as clear-cut. Maybe next survey I'll be able to provide more useful details.

I took the survey. Thanks Yvain!

I don't really understand why divorced would be separate from single and looking (or single and not looking, if the marriage was especially traumatizing). Also, one could be married and looking if one is polyamorous.

It carries, or rather did carry quite a bit of information, though I doubt anyone on LW would have bothered to use it so it was superfluous. But honestly I'm not sure why "married" is a separate option according to these criteria.

From what I have observed, a more informative question if one wanted to meaningfully sort participants here would be:

Do you have children?

a) No, and I do not expect to in future.
b) No, but I might like to in future.
c) Yes.

Excellent suggestion.

There's no option for public sector (government) for Work Status. Non-profit may be misleading if it contains that as well.

Took they survey. Interested in the results. Interestingly enough, I have had an account for a month or two now, but have not posted anything until now. Thanks for putting this together Yvain.

Took the survey, but this post will make the reported karma score inaccurate


Like many others, I made an account for this survey.

I took the survey.

I took the survey.

I've taken the survey, and realised that I really need to practise making probability estimates.

We all need to. :)

Survey taken.

I had fun doing the background research to be able to give a number to the P(Aliens) questions. :) The topic has, of course, come up many times, but never before for me in association with a community where the social norms favored a careful, quantitative answer.

When answering the Newton question, I was surprised at the shape of my probability distribution for the answer. It definitely wasn't a gaussian, a uniform distribution, or other form that I've worked with. This was simply due to the knowledge I started with, which was vague proposit... (read more)

I enjoyed this too. Tried to calibrate Aliens 1 with Aliens 2, and found that what seemed like a modest estimate for Aliens 2 (still a shot in the dark due to too many Drake unknowns, but what the hell) created an enormous probability estimate for Aliens 1. More convinced than ever that we are not alone.

Took it a while ago, but forgot to comment till now.

Took the survey

I took it, but I would never post a content-free comment just for the sake of a few karma!

The results should be fun to see, so thanks for taking the time to do this.

I didn't like the ethics question, because it could be interpreted as asking about one's theoretical position on metaethics, or about one's actual values, and the two can diverge. Specifically: I bet there are quite a lot of people on LW for whom something like the following is true: "I don't believe that moral judgements have actual truth values separate from the values of the people or institutions that make them. But I do have values, and I do make moral judgements, and the way I do so is: [...]".

In the singularity year question, I interpreted that to mean “50% that a singularity occurs before YYYY, 50% that either it occurs later or it never occurs at all; leave blank if you think it's less than 50% that it ever occurs”, even though, taken literally, the first part of the question suggests “50% that the singularity occurs before YYYY, given that it ever occurs”. Given that my probability that no singularity will ever occur is non-negligible, these interpretations would result in very different answers.

Yes. My estimate was based on "Keep adding years until the cumulative probability is 50%", which did eventually terminate, but at a much higher year than if I were to assume it is to occur.
Given what the presence of just one person who believes the probability that a singularity will ever occur is about 50.01% and who applies this heuristic I hope the results of the survey aren't limited to giving us the mean!
If you look at the results of the last survey, that's exactly what happened, and the mean was far higher than the median (which was reported along with the standard deviation). I agree, it would have been a big improvement to specify which sense was meant. Also, answering year such that P( | ) would be the best way to get a distribution of answers on when it is expected. So that's what I did. If you interpret the question the other way, then anyone with a 30-49.9999% chance of no singularity, has to put a date that is quite far from where most of their probability mass for when it occurs lies. Suppose I believe that there is a .03% probability of a singularity for each of the next 1000 years, and then decaying by 1/2 every thousand years after that. That puts my total singularlty probability in the 52% range, with about half of my probability mass concentrated in the next 1000 years. But to answer this question literally, the date I'd have to give would be around 7000AD, even though I would think it was about as likely to happen by 3011AD as after 3011AD.
This giving of numbers that that fall short of a full probability distribution really can be misleading at times, can't it?!

I took it. Thanks for this, I'm excited about the results.

I praise Yvain for this.

I took the survey.

Thanks for putting together the survey. It prompted me to do a couple things, including start posting here.

I was about 100 years off with Newton. Dang it!


I took the survey.

I didn't like it because some of the questions offered too narrow a range of answers for my taste. Example: I consider the "many worlds" hypothesis to be objectively meaningless (because there's no possible experiment that can test it). The same goes for "this universe is a simulation."

As for the "singularity", I see it as nearly meaningless too. Every definition of it I've seen amounts to a horizon, beyond which the future (or some aspects of it) will be unimaginable -- but from how far past? Like a physical horizon, if such a "limit of vision" exists it must recede as you approach it. Even a cliff can be looked over.

Is this an explicit premise of MWI, or is it a logical consequence of the premises, or is it based on current technology and understanding? Even if it is one of the first two, suppose all other interpretations made testable predictions. Would the question asking one to estimate the chances MWI is correct be useful?
It's a logical consequence of the premises. The instant there's a split, all branches except the one you're in become totally and permanently unreachable by any means whatever. If they did not, the conservation laws would be violated. If all other interpretations made testable predictions, it wouldn't be enough unless you could somehow eliminate any possibility that didn't make the list because nobody's thought of it yet. It's like the fallacy in Pascal's Wager: all possible religions belong in the hat.
So if for thousands of years science can't think of anything better than hidden variables of the gaps, collapse at a level we can't detect because of its scale, and MWI, MWI is "objectively meaningless"? If somehow the room for hidden variables is eliminated, and the collapse is falsified, it's still "objectively meaningless"? It's scientifically meaningless, maybe, but that's like saying evidence is inadmissible in court because it results from a search conducted without a warrant. It doesn't imply the crime wasn't committed by the culprit.
I can't make sense of your reply. The first "sentence" isn't a sentence or even coherent. But perhaps I myself could have been clearer by saying: The instant there's a split, all branches except the one you're in effectively cease to exist, forever. Does that help?
Yes it is. Maybe this rephrasing would help:
I don't know what you mean by "science can't think of anything better". I'm simply using the standard that a statement is objectively meaningful if it states some alleged objective fact. I reject the notion of hidden variables (except possibly the core of oneself, the existence of the ego) as un-Bayesian. With that one potential exception, all objective facts are testable, at least in principle (though some may be impractical to test). I fail to see how one can be rational and not believe that. I'm not saying this to insult, but to get an explanation of what you think I've overlooked.
You should re-write this as a reply to the person who made those claims.

Took the survey. Why are posts stating that being voted up?

Oooh, I took it! Vote me up too.
Does karma hunger ever go away? I've often wondered how EY feels about being up voted or down voted.
I think it's the derivative of one's karma that really matters. (Even more specifically in my case, it appears to be something like the logarithmic derivative of individual comments that I really care about...)

The comparative karma of my comments to the surrounding comments also seems to matter to me. Specifically if am arguing with someone who is saying something transparently logically absurd and their comments are higher than mine it invokes both disgust and contempt.

Yes, that too. In fact, since the default tendency is for descendant comments to score lower than their parents, I find it particularly insulting whenever a direct reply to one of my comments has a higher score (if there is any challenge or disagreement involved).
You know saying that is just begging people to find clever self-referential ways of making that happen.
Nice try.
BTW, I wonder if the “karma for the last 30 days” meter counts the karma for stuff which I wrote in the last 30 days, or for whatever was up/downvoted in the same period, no matter how long ago I wrote it.
It was the former for a short while and is now the latter.
I took the survey too. Thanks for creating it.
Sorry, the grandparent wasn't clear, but I'm not the one who made it. You'll have to thank Yvain.

Took it. It might be worth differentiating between people who identify with a particular political group and people who just happen to skew a little more in one direction than another.

Some of my probabilities might be a bit off, too, as I'm not entirely sure about factoring x-risks into the lifespan questions. A better way of specifying various very small probabilities would also be appreciated.

Took the survey, hoping for valuable data soon.

I took the survey. Thanks for putting this together.

I thought it was nanoweapons, not gray goo, that was the risk of nanotechnology.

Nanoweapons that aren't used to kill everyone aren't an existential threat, they're just a threat to the enemies of the people with the nanoweapons. I guess you could argue that nano-proliferation could set up a scenario like we have now with the nuclear standoff, but we already have a situation like that, with the nuclear standoff. Not easy to see why that should be more worrisome.
Increasing the number of possible weapons that can contribute to total war increases the chances that such a war will occur especially if the number of actors who have them goes up. Worse, if nanoweapons turn out to be easier to make than nukes once one has the basic knowledge, then a Saddam Hussein or a Ghaddafi type could easily ruin everyone's day.

I'm fairly sure there is no cryonics available in my area - perhaps this could be added as an option in future surveys?

I felt I didn't have a strong basis to answer many of the P(x) questions, but I answered some as best I could, and left others blank. I also wasn't sure whether being a regular poster on an atheism forum would count as being an active member of a community - I selected "no".

Thanks for the survey, and I look forward to the results!

Also, just realized I misunderstood the 0+epsilon/100-epsilon for those questions. Apologies in advance - there are some extra zeroes in there!

Just took it. Quite fun! I wish I had an hour for each of those probability questions.

Took survey. Boy was I wrong about Newton!

"P(many worlds)" is the same as for any other interpretation that makes the same predictions. Depending on how you understand "more or less correct" I'd approach 100%.

Since it's unclear what's meant by the survey question, I didn't answer.

I didn't really understand how I was supposed to give a probability for this.
Yes, I answered the same way. "More or less correct" to me includes all interpretations that make the same predictions, so close to 100%.
I think this confuses model with interpretation. It's clear that the model makes good predictions, and is in some sense correct. Interpretations are a question of what else is behind the model - if it is making substantially different predictions, it is an interpretation of a different model. That is my understanding, anyway...
Why do you assign identical priors to all empirically equivalent interpretations? You really think there is basically no chance of a collapse or hidden variable interpretation being true? Why?
Why shouldn't I? I only prefer the simpler of two stories that make everywhere and always identical predictions, because it's more pleasant -- but I can't find it any more likely. I thought the notion of a universal prior was to normalize to the shortest equivalent description. If collapse vs. many worlds are equivalent in their predictions, then my universal prior gives the same answer for them both. You slightly misunderstood me. As far as I understand them, they're all equivalent with respect to any measurements I can perform. So I give them all near 100% chance of being "more or less correct".
The "equivalent" in your characterization of the universal prior does not mean "empirically equivalent". If you read it that way, then you're not doing Solomonoff induction. This is false. There are possible experiments that distinguish many worlds from its collapse and hidden variable competitors.
I wasn't claiming to do Solomonoff induction, or claiming to use a universal prior. I think you know the definitions of those better than I do, but I'm not sure you understood that I stipulated that the competing theories be empirically equivalent everywhere and always - not just in my experience so far. I don't know of any stronger notion of equivalence, so if you'd like to specify what equivalence you think I should be using, I'm all ears (I do know that there are syntactically verifiable equivalences, but I don't consider those to be any stronger). Maybe. Although I don't completely understand QM, I've heard that MWI is experimentally indistinguishable from at least one other interpretation. I'd appreciate a reference to any experiment that should separate MWI from its competitors.
Consider a conspiratorial interpretation of quantum mechanics according to which the universe is genuinely local and deterministic, but the initial conditions of the universe are jerry-rigged so that all measurements made by sentient creatures fit quantum statistics (even though events in general do not). This theory is empirically equivalent to many worlds. It seems clear that there are several senses in which it is not equivalent to many worlds. And I think there is good reason to assign it substantially lower prior probability than many worlds, since one would need to specify the entire initial condition of the universe in order to predict correlations that many worlds predicts based simply on Schrodinger's equation.
That's a useful demonstration of the intuition behind "simpler is more plausible". Still, if it were possible to know that your jury-rigged-setup story were everywhere and always (not just up-til-now) empirically equivalent to MWI or whatever, then I'd really bite the bullet and call it absolutely equivalent.
Fair enough. Incidentally, if you're looking for a rigorous justification of Occam's razor, the best one I know of is Kevin Kelly's.
David Deutsch has a paper called "Three experimental implications of the Everett interpretation". I can't find it online, unfortunately. The experiments are infeasible with current technology, but the fact remains that many worlds makes different predictions than orthodox QM. The basic idea is easy to grasp. Copenhagen says there are certain sorts of systems (observers, or measuring devices) that can collapse superpositions but do not themselves enter into superposed states. Many worlds says that these systems do enter into superpositions. There are possible measurements (very difficult to conduct, admittedly, given the size of these systems) that can tell us whether or not such a system is in a superposed state.
Thanks. I'll take your recollected word for it.

I disliked the moral philosophy question. I felt comfortable putting down "consequentialist," but I can see how someone might feel none of the answers suited them well. I would have made the fourth option simply "other," and maybe added a moral realism vs. anti-realism question.

See the Phil Papers survey. On the normative ethics question, "other" beat out the three "standard" moral philosophies, and there's no indication that everyone in that category is a moral anti-realist.

Also, for the Newton question:

My answer:... (read more)

I would recommend writing out both your guess and the correct answer in words and in rot13, to avoid acting as a spoiler for others. Edit: That is: "friragrra bu svir" for your guess and "fvkgrra rvtugl frira" for the answer.

Filled out the survey; the calibration questions really forced me to explore my reasoning behind some of my immediate intuitions.

Oh and by the way, second post ever!

(back to lurking)

I took the survey. You should too!

Hmm. For the anti-agathics question I'm wondering if I should be taking into account the probability of x-risk between now and 3011. The question looks like it's about our technical ability to solve aging, which means I should answer with P(someone lives to 1000 | no XK-class end-of-the-world scenario between then and now)? (Though of course that conditional is not what was written.)

ETA: in other words, see wedrifid's comment just above.

I believe in quantum MW (among others) and so I am 100% sure that in some universe there will be a 100-year survivor. But I answered for the average branch. Probably worth clarifying.
100% is a rather big number. To the extent that if you are wrong your entire model of the world is unable to recover!
Actually, in the survey I said 99.9%. Which I rounded to 100% here because it wasn't my main point.
Similarly here- I answered the cryonics/anti-aging/x-risk questions for the typical Everett branch, since I presume that makes them comparable to the responses of people who find MWI less likely.

Came out of activity hibernation to take this. Thanks for seeing a thing that needed doing and choosing to do it!

Problems with the gender field have already been discussed; the sexuality question has some of the same issues. "Gay" and "straight" don't really make sense for people with nonbinary gender, and many people interpret "bisexual" as referring to "both" genders (male and female), as opposed to a more inclusive "queer" or "pansexual." I do honestly appreciate how much effort you've put into making the survey as inclusive as it already is, though.

One more long time lurker (over RSS) who just created an account to take the survey and comment. Probably my favorite survey I've ever taken, I'll direct a few friends to it as well and try to get them to start reading the site.

I just noticed this:

Like the last survey, if you take it and post that you took it here, I will upvote you, and I hope other people will upvote you too.

I suppose that means you'd like to know that I took it about two weeks ago. Sorry for not mentioning that earlier!

Took the survey; lurk lots and should probably get more involved. First steps can be going to the London meetup. +-10 on publishing yeah, but overestimated my uncertainty to be safe.

Just finished the survey. I'm very much an LW lurker, who apparently succumbs to some type of self-confidence bias. Though I know nothing of probability theory (thus why a lot of the questions were left blank), I gave myself a 10% chance for the publishing-question. (Was that a randomized question?) After a bit of consideration, I said [YEAR]—it was first published in [YEAR + 37]. I wasn't too far off.

Maybe that same bias is what deters me from ever actually posting anything.

You should think about deleting the year, it screws with the calibration question. This question was put in to test the quality of your guesses, or more specifically the quality of the probabilities you assigned. I read your comment before taking the survey and was unable to give an honest guess.
Ah! Sorry, I hadn't though of that. All corrections done.

I took the survey! I also assumed the probabilities were meant to be first-glance intuitive. I wish I'd known people were actually doing research, for I would have done the calculations!

I took the survey, but didn't read anything after "Click Here to take the survey" in this post until afterwards.

So my apologies for being extremely program-hostile in my answers (explicitly saying "epsilon" instead of 0, for instance, and giving a range for IQ since I had multiple tests). Perhaps I should retake it and ask you to throw out the original.

I did have one other large problem. I wasn't really clear on the religion question. When you say "more or less right" are you talking about cosmology, moral philosophy, histo... (read more)

Same here about the religion question. I deliberately entered a completely useless answer to it for that very reason.
Perhaps I should have entered "mu".

Took the survey. My probabilities sometimes contradict each other because I tried to take the outside view into account, and found no consistent way to do so before giving up.

I did get Newton almost exactly right.

I just finished the survey. I had given myself a 15% probability of being correct on the Newton question, and was off by significantly over 15 years. However, I should have calibrated that as 30%, as I knew the century but had no idea when in the century he published the book.

Yes! I made the same mistake. If you know the century, there are only about (10/3) mutually-exclusive 30-year periods. Thus, the lowest your maximum probability out of all 30-year periods should be about 30%, and the one that you actually guessed should be at least a little higher than that. (of course, if your guess is within 15 years of the century boundaries, some of that probability mass is going to get splinched).

Survey taken, looking forward to the results.

I just took the survey. I was pretty sure I remembered the decade of Newton's book, but I was gambling on the century and I lost.

I think quibbles over definitions and wording of most of the probability questions would change my answers by up to a couple of orders of magnitude.

Lastly, I really wanted some way to specify that I thought several xrisks were much more likely than the rest (for example, [nuclear weapons, engineered pandemic] >> others).

I nailed the 2nd edition date without meaning to.

Done. Seemed like a pretty good survey overall. Like others, I was confused by some questions though. Didn't know how to answer family religion, especially since I wasn't sure how far back I was supposed to look. Also, how exactly would it be determined when the singularity occurs? The moment human-level ai is reached? Seems to me that it would be more of a gradual (though still relatively sudden, all things considered) process.

The probability questions were interesting. I guess the questions about Newton and IQ relative to the average were there to accou... (read more)

Took it. Sort of embarrassed that I don't know my IQ.

Why does that embarrass you?
Don't be. It's not like knowing that score will actually open any doors for you or constrain your anticipations in any meaningful way; in all likelihood you already know what problems you're smart enough to tackle to a much greater precision than an integer in the range 0-~160 can possibly give you. I only know it because I was tested at my parents' or school's behest in childhood. I certainly wouldn't pay for it as an adult.
I used my score from when I was 7. I'm pretty sure I am smarter than that based on SAT & GRE but I never learned how to translate those to IQ.
If anything I feel like it's embarrassing to know it.
Remember, it's never cool to not know something.
I don't feel like it's embarrassing to know it--why embarrassed? (I remember first learning mine by overhearing my parents talking about it.) It might be embarrassing if you put too much weight on it over practical ability, or if you waved it around as a substitute for convincing argument. But I don't see too much cause for embarrassment in simply knowing it.
Are we as a community setting up social norms against knowledge now?
One (currently slightly downvoted) comment doesn't seem like much of an indicator of a growing community social norm. Does anything else give you that impression?
The comment indicating embarrassment seems to suggest a norm.

I assumed that was more based on cultural norms than LW norms. Generally people don't discuss their IQs in polite company (or potentially-high-variance-IQ company, maybe), especially high IQs, because of the risk of being seen as bragging about something that other people may not view as high-status. In discussions outside LW I've heard people be somewhat condescending toward people who even admit to having gotten their IQs tested, as it's often associated with intellectual pretension. (And, in turn, being seen as claiming high status in a way that actually marks one as low-status is associated with social unawareness.)

Your supposition was correct; I also meant it to be a little more light-hearted than it seems to have been interpreted. (Full disclosure: I don't know, but I did rush over to consult the SAT/GRE conversion chart when it was posted, which is probably worse.)
It would also be very easy to lie about your IQ if talking about your own IQ was socially acceptable.

Filled out the survey yesterday.

Survey taken. Made me put hard numbers on fuzzy feelings, which is good.

I wonder how my answers compare to those I gave last time... is there any way to check?

Median date of singularity: if I think there's a >50% chance of (total) human extinction before this event, I can't provide an answer.

(If, for whatever reason, i have <50% chance of Singularity, I can't answer).

Surely "median date" just means the date at which it's equally likely to occur before as after. That is, if the singularity has a 30% chance of ever happening, it's the date before which it's 15% likely to happen.
That assumes you interpret not happening as being a separate third category, but for these purposes it seems more reasonable to consider it as always happening after (i.e. happening at time infinity), since we want lower probability of it happening soon to cause the median date to increase.
Yes, that was my thinking.

Og take survey. Og deny validity of single-factor, linearly ranked intelligence measurement, though. Og increasingly fond of Dr. Gould.

You do know Jay Gould is rather unpopular here right? Edit: Yes on second thought this is clearly a joke.

I just finished the survey. My estimate for the Calibration Year was 200 years wrong. How embarrassing, I need to learn the basics.

That's only embarrassing if you gave a probability of 75% of being +- 15 years. If you put 10 or 20%, you're fine.
I was 95% sure of the century, and was right about that much - but my 20% probability of +- 15 years didn't make any sense in hindsight, given the information that I had. Embarrassing since lately I've been talking a lot about both probability and the history of philosophy after Newton.

I think there is a difference between "I have looked over all the evidence intensely and find the evidence and counter-evidence to weigh precisely in balance such that my estimate of the probability of event X is 50%" and "I don't know anything about X, so I will default to 50% even if it isn't reasonable".

It's the difference between "I know fair coins produce heads 50% of the time" and "what's a fair coin?". I wanted the second option when talking about many worlds -- I just haven't read the sequence on quantum mechanics yet, and I haven't read anything outside the sequences on quantum mechanics either. I just have an educated layman's understanding.

First thing I did upon completing the survey: looked up Principia Mathematica and gave a little whoop of self-congratulation.

First thing I did was look up Principia Mathematica and pat myself on the back for providing a sufficiently low confidence estimate. At least I was in the right century.
My answer was 17 years off, and I gave 60% confidence. (Assuming a Gaussian distribution, 60% confidence for +/- 15 years means a standard deviation of 17.8 years, so I still was within 1 sigma.)
Does a Gaussian distribution really make sense here?
As an approximation that makes calculations easier, I think it does (though it gives too high a probability to Newton publishing his book next week).
Also, “too high”? Seriously? The log-odds against (x − μ)/σ being more than 19 are about 800 dB; I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with assigning such a great confidence about a non-tautological proposition about the real world. (Except “Emile will torture 3^^^3 people unless I give him/her $5” and similar, of course.) :-)
I'll bet 100 bitcoins against .00000001 bitcoins that Sir Isaac Newton will not publish the historical Principia Mathematica next week. Edit: After considering the additional coinflips required to bring even that large a difference in money up to the relevant level, I think I'm going to withdraw my offer. Before I earned back my stake laying bets like that, I'd run into a situation where time travel had been commonplace for centuries but there was a huge conspiracy to keep it secret from me, or something like that.
100 against .00000001, that is, 10^2 against 10^-7 has a log-odd of 90 dB, very far from 800 dB. Didn't check the 800 dB of army1987, but if he's right on that, your bet is way below his odd. Edit : wrote 9 dB instead of 90 dB at first, sorry, hope noone saw the broken version ;)
Yup. Unfortunately, bitcoins are not currently subdividable any further than that, and I'm not rich enough to bet more. However, I'd be willing to throw in "and you don't have to pay up the .00000001 bitcoin unless a coin comes up heads 220ish times in a row." Is this a general method for adjusting bets on long odds that make money impractical? I just thought of it.
I would take that bet, except that I am insufficiently sure in my understandings of the rest of reality if I happen to win to be confident that I'd want 100 bitcoins in that eventuality. ETA: I should note that I didn't run the numbers, 0.00000001 bit-coins is something I'd be willing to risk on a 1:2^220 chance for the amusement involved. It should not be taken to reflect a general policy of accepting wagers at what my estimate of these odds would be if I did decide to work them out more rigorously...
Well, I think most real-world applications of Gaussian distributions aren't that satisfactory more than about 5 sigma away from the mean, anyway.
Not if for some reason you are nearly sure that it was before/after a certain date (which I wasn't); I felt that to a first approximation a normal distribution described my beliefs (as of the time I was answering) decently enough, but YMMV.
Certainly you're sure that Newton didn't live before 1000 AD and didn't survive to 1800 AD. Immediately a Gaussian prior can be improved, substantially. See Emile's comment above as well.
Meh. On a Gaussian prior of mean fvkgrra friragl, s.d. 18, knowing that it's between 1000 and 1800 (or even between fvkgrra uhaqerq and friragrra svsgl) doesn't change that much, does it. (Edited to rot-13 the years... sorry for anyone who read them before taking the test.)
I was entirely sure (20 decibels, at least) it was before gur Nzrevpna Eribyhgvba. That plus "some padding but not too much" got me within the margin of error, but I only gave 2 decibels of confidence that it would be.
For myself I confused Newton's birth date and the date of the Principia Mathematica :/ So I was off more than 15 years, but still not too bad. I gave a 50% confidence to it, 15 years is too short on that time frame, my memory of dates isn't good enough.
I made a similar mistake.
Huh. Apparently I was underconfident in that I was only 7 years off from the correct date and for the calibration estimated I was 65% sure I was within +/- 15. My logic to get my year estimate: Tnyvyrb qvrq gur fnzr lrne Arjgba jnf obea, naq ur fgnegrq qbvat fhofgnagvny jbex nebhaq fvkgrra uhaqerq. Vg gura gbbx gur Vadhvfvgvba n juvyr gb qb nalguvat naq ur fcrag znal lrnef haqre ubhfr neerfg. Fb Tnyvyrb pbhyq abg unir qvrq zhpu orsber fvkgrra guvegl. Fb Arjgba unq gb unir obea nebhaq fvkgrra guvegl gb fvkgrra sbegl. Arjgba jebgr Cevapvcvn jura ur jnf nyernql fbzrjung byq. Fb +sbegl lrnef tvirf nebhaq fvkgrra rvtugl. V jnf nyfb cerggl fher gung Cevapvcvn jnf choyvfurq fbzrgvzr va gur frpbaq unys bs gur friragrrgu praghel, fb gung jnf n (zvyq) pbafvfgrapl purpx. Ubjrire, V rkcrpgrq zl qngr gb or zber yvxryl bire engure guna haqre naq va guvf ertneq V jnf jebat.
So, rot13 doesn't do much to obscure numbers.
Good point. I've replaced the numbers with numbers that have been spelled out so the rot13 does now obscure them.
That doesn't mean you were underconfident; with a confidence of 65% you are correct 65% of the time.
Yeah, but the fact that my estimate was pretty close to the correct date suggests that some underconfidence may have been at work. If someone had stated the exactly correct year, and had estimated only a 51% chance that they were in the correct zone, we'd probably look at them funny.
Maybe, but getting very close with low confidence is entirely possible with these estimation-calibration tasks: a uniformly chosen year between 1600-1800 could be the exact year but the confidence of such a guess is always 15%.
That's a good point. So a single data point like this doesn't really say much useful for my own calibration.
Yup. You might already know about it, but PredictionBook seems to get touted around here as a good method to calibrate oneself (although I haven't used it myself).
Yes, I've used it quite a bit. So far the main thing I've been convinced of from it is that my calibration is all over the place.
I wasn't...
How far off were you?
One century. I said svsgrra svsgl I think. Or maybe svsgrra friragl svir. I don't remember.
Could you spell out those numbers in rot13? (It kinda gives it away.) Actually, here: first is 'svsgrra svsgl' and second is 'svsgrra friragl svir'.
Good idea, thanks!
Same thing. It's a calibration test, not a history trivia quiz.
My brain remembered the cover of Principia Mathematica including the date, more or less right. The problem was it was the wrong edition.
V tbg vg zvkrq hc jvgu Qrfpnegr'f Bcgvpf, juvpu V fhfcrpgrq V zvtug. Zl 40% be 45% (pna'g erzrzore juvpu V jrag jvgu) pnyvoengvba jnf onfrq ynetryl ba gur cbffvovyvgl V unq qbar gung.

Surveys always need more respondents. When Wikipedia or Reddit want to publicize things, we/they use a bar at the top of the page. Can we do that? (It doesn't have to be as obnoxious as the donation fundraiser ones WP uses!)


I'm doing it wrong right?

Those staring eyes - my god, I can see into his soul and he has no qualia!

I think it needs to be a little more of a disapproving scowl. Does Eliezer do that?
How about some of these expressions?

Yay free karma. Can I exchange the karma for a lunch?

Survey taken. I look forward to the results.

Grargh argh grr! The first thing I did afterwards was go to Wikipedia and see when [the thing identified] was actually [verbed], and I was off by a hundred or so years. Blech.

Anyways, survey taken.

I took the survey. I left most of the probability estimation questions blank because I feel very uncertain about any number I imagine entering.

me too

I took the survey and I agree with some other comments about the difficulty of assigning probabilities to distant events. I decided to just round to either 0 or 1% for a few things. I hope "0" won't be interpreted as literally zero.

Something bugs me about the IQ question. It's easy to call sour grapes on those complaining about that metric but it seems like such a poor proxy for what matters, namely, making awesome stuff happen. Not denying a correlation, just that I think we can do much better. Even income in dollars might be a better proxy despite the obvious problems with that.

Rest easy - it was stated that it meant epsilon.
I think income in dollars is a much worse proxy for most things that matter than IQ, because it depends so much on age and career choice and where you live and so forth. And how do you know that what Yvain was after was a measure of "making awesome stuff happen"?
I think “age and career choice and where you live and so forth” also correlate with “making awesome stuff happen”, and in very similar ways. OTOH, I think IQ is probably a decent predictor of “making awesome stuff happen” among people with same “age and career choice and where you live and so forth”.
Age is correlated in two different ways with making awesome stuff happen. (1) There's presumably some peak period of life in which you're more likely to do awesome things. (2) The likelihood of having made something awesome happen is monotonically increasing with age. If Yvain were wanting to measure awesomeness -- and let me repeat that I see no particular reason to assume that was his goal -- then #1 would be of some interest. But what you get by looking at income is more like #2. Career choice is certainly correlated both with making awesome things happen and with income. But, again, in different ways. For instance, if you're a very clever technically-inclined new graduate wanting to get rich, then finance and law are pretty good choices of career. Both offer, especially if you're both good and lucky, the opportunity to get hold of very large amounts of money. But if those are careers that tend to produce a lot of awesomeness, I seem to have failed to notice. (Handwavy explanation: To get a lot of money, you need to do things that others find very valuable. You can do that by creating new value, which is hard; or by steering value towards the people who pay you, which is often easier. When someone working in finance makes his clients rich, it's usually mostly at other people's expense: to buy low and sell high, you require others to sell low and buy high. Law is somewhat similar, though I think it tends to be more about steering anti-value away from your clients.)
There are people in law who are making awesome things happen, but they are not getting paid anywhere close to as much for it as the ones who are doing standard things for deep-pocketed clients.
For that matter, there are people in finance who are making awesome things happen - if we want a particularly PC example, Grameen Bank
True, I was just thinking that something that correlates (loosely) with "having made awesome stuff happen" might be better than something that correlates with "has one of multiple skills that contribute to the hypothetical ability to make awesome stuff happen". As for whether "making awesome stuff happen" is the right underlying metric... what else?
Well, for instance, given that Less Wrong is all about thinking better, there might be some interest in knowing something about (so to speak) the raw thinking power of the participants.

I took the survey. Got Newton wrong by over 50 years. At least my confidence was appropriately low.

I would suggest requesting probabilities in a simple, exception-less way. Why not just ask for a number from 0 to 1? "Use percentages, but don't put down the percentage sign, unless you're going below 1%, then put the percentage sign so I know it's not a mistake" looks to me like asking for trouble.

I took it too. Disturbs me how much my alien probability changed when framed as 'in universe' vs 'in galaxy'.

I'm not sure why it should disturb you. If the probability of intelligent life evolving in galaxy x is the same for all x, and there are about 100 billion galaxies in our observable universe, then the chance of intelligent life in the observable universe is about 1-(1-x)^100 billion. This assumes that whether life evolves in any one galaxy is independent of whether it evolved in another. I wish I had remembered to use this formula when I took the survey.

Took the survey and was quite unsure how to answer the god questions... If we took it, for example, that there's 30% chance of universe being simulated then the same probability should be assigned to P(God) too and to P(one of the religions is correct) as well.

I can understand saying that "the universe is a simulation" implies "there is a g