by casebash 1 min read16th Mar 201424 comments


While LessWrong contains a large amount of high-quality material, most of the rationality advice isn't actually targeted at our core audience. The focus seems to be more on irrational things that people do, rather than irrational things that smart people do. (Sidenote: If we wanted to create a site focused on spreading general rationality, then we'd need to simplify the discussion, remove a lot of the maths/controversial ideas and add in some friendly images. Does such a site exist?).

This has led to a number of comments questioning the real world value of having read the sequences. If your average person had the patience to read through the core sequences and understand them, they'd find them extremely valuable. It'd provide them with a glimpse into a new way of thinking and even though they would likely hardly appear to be very logical to most Less Wrongers, they'd be much better than they were at the start.

On the other hand, most Less Wrongers already know the basics of logic. That's not to say that we don't act extremely irrational much of the time, but just that going over the basics of logic again probably provides minimal benefit. What is needed is something specifically targeted at the kind of irrational mistakes and beliefs that intelligent people make. I would argue that if this were a sequence, it would be the most important sequence in the entire site. But, since I lack that level of writing ability, I'm not even going to attempt such a project. So I just created a post where we can list articles or ideas that should be part of such a sequence in the hope that someone else might pick it up

Here are some examples of mistakes that intelligent people make:

Taking a fixed instead of a growth mindset - shying away from challenges, convincing oneself that we are just naturally bad at non-intellectual things and that we shouldn't focus on them

Directly pointing out people's flaws

Overthinking issues that are really very simple

Counter-signalling by ignoring the value of fashion, money, being liked

Valuing intelligence above all other qualities

Rigidly adhering to rules

Expecting other people to always be rational

Not considering popularity as a signal that is worthwhile understanding

Overvaluing being right

I'm sure there are plenty more. Any other suggestions or relevant articles?