Welcome to Less Wrong! (5th thread, March 2013)

by orthonormal5 min read1st Apr 20131761 comments


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

(This is the fifth incarnation of the welcome thread; once a post gets over 500 comments, it stops showing them all by default, so we make a new one. Besides, a new post is a good perennial way to encourage newcomers and lurkers to introduce themselves.)

A few notes about the site mechanics

Less Wrong comments are threaded for easy following of multiple conversations. To respond to any comment, click the "Reply" link at the bottom of that comment's box. Within the comment box, links and formatting are achieved via Markdown syntax (you can click the "Help" link below the text box to bring up a primer).

You may have noticed that all the posts and comments on this site have buttons to vote them up or down, and all the users have "karma" scores which come from the sum of all their comments and posts. This immediate easy feedback mechanism helps keep arguments from turning into flamewars and helps make the best posts more visible; it's part of what makes discussions on Less Wrong look different from those anywhere else on the Internet.

However, it can feel really irritating to get downvoted, especially if one doesn't know why. It happens to all of us sometimes, and it's perfectly acceptable to ask for an explanation. (Sometimes it's the unwritten LW etiquette; we have different norms than other forums.) Take note when you're downvoted a lot on one topic, as it often means that several members of the community think you're missing an important point or making a mistake in reasoning— not just that they disagree with you! If you have any questions about karma or voting, please feel free to ask here.

Replies to your comments across the site, plus private messages from other users, will show up in your inbox. You can reach it via the little mail icon beneath your karma score on the upper right of most pages. When you have a new reply or message, it glows red. You can also click on any user's name to view all of their comments and posts.

It's definitely worth your time commenting on old posts; veteran users look through the recent comments thread quite often (there's a separate recent comments thread for the Discussion section, for whatever reason), and a conversation begun anywhere will pick up contributors that way.  There's also a succession of open comment threads for discussion of anything remotely related to rationality.

Discussions on Less Wrong tend to end differently than in most other forums; a surprising number end when one participant changes their mind, or when multiple people clarify their views enough and reach agreement. More commonly, though, people will just stop when they've better identified their deeper disagreements, or simply "tap out" of a discussion that's stopped being productive. (Seriously, you can just write "I'm tapping out of this thread.") This is absolutely OK, and it's one good way to avoid the flamewars that plague many sites.

There's actually more than meets the eye here: look near the top of the page for the "WIKI", "DISCUSSION" and "SEQUENCES" links.
LW WIKI: This is our attempt to make searching by topic feasible, as well as to store information like common abbreviations and idioms. It's a good place to look if someone's speaking Greek to you.
LW DISCUSSION: This is a forum just like the top-level one, with two key differences: in the top-level forum, posts require the author to have 20 karma in order to publish, and any upvotes or downvotes on the post are multiplied by 10. Thus there's a lot more informal dialogue in the Discussion section, including some of the more fun conversations here.
SEQUENCES: A huge corpus of material mostly written by Eliezer Yudkowsky in his days of blogging at Overcoming Bias, before Less Wrong was started. Much of the discussion here will casually depend on or refer to ideas brought up in those posts, so reading them can really help with present discussions. Besides which, they're pretty engrossing in my opinion.

A few notes about the community

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

If your welcome comment starts a huge discussion, then please move to the next step and create a LW Discussion post to continue the conversation; we can fit many more welcomes onto each thread if fewer of them sprout 400+ comments. (To do this: click "Create new article" in the upper right corner next to your username, then write the article, then at the bottom take the menu "Post to" and change it from "Drafts" to "Less Wrong Discussion". Then click "Submit". When you edit a published post, clicking "Save and continue" does correctly update the post.)

If you want to write a post about a LW-relevant topic, awesome! I highly recommend you submit your first post to Less Wrong Discussion; don't worry, you can later promote it from there to the main page if it's well-received. (It's much better to get some feedback before every vote counts for 10 karma- honestly, you don't know what you don't know about the community norms here.)

If you'd like to connect with other LWers in real life, we have  meetups  in various parts of the world. Check the wiki page for places with regular meetups, or the upcoming (irregular) meetups page. There's also a Facebook group. If you have your own blog or other online presence, please feel free to link it.

If English is not your first language, don't let that make you afraid to post or comment. You can get English help on Discussion- or Main-level posts by sending a PM to one of the following users (use the "send message" link on the upper right of their user page). Either put the text of the post in the PM, or just say that you'd like English help and you'll get a response with an email address.
* Normal_Anomaly
* Randaly
* shokwave
* Barry Cotter

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

A list of some posts that are pretty awesome

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

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

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

Note from orthonormal: MBlume and other contributors wrote the original version of this welcome post, and I've edited it a fair bit. If there's anything I should add or update on this post (especially broken links), please send me a private message—I may not notice a comment on the post. Finally, once this gets past 500 comments, anyone is welcome to copy and edit this intro to start the next welcome thread.


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Hello! I call myself Atomliner. I'm a 23 year old male Political Science major at Utah Valley University.

From 2009 to 2011, I was a missionary for the Mormon Church in northeastern Brazil. In the last month I was there, I was living with another missionary who I discovered to be a closet atheist. In trying to help him rediscover his faith, he had me read The God Delusion, which obliterated my own. I can't say that book was the only thing that enabled me to leave behind my irrational worldview, as I've always been very intellectually curious and resistant to authority. My mind had already been a powder keg long before Richard Dawkins arrived with the spark to light it.

Needless to say, I quickly embraced atheism and began to read everything I could about living without belief in God. I'm playing catch-up, trying to expand my mind as fast as I can to make up for the lost years I spent blinded by religious dogma. Just two years ago, for example, I believed homosexuality was an evil that threatened to destroy civilization, that humans came from another planet, and that the Lost Ten Tribes were living somewhere underground beneath the Arctic. Needless to say, my re-education process has ... (read more)

Welcome to LW! Don't worry about some of the replies you're getting, polls show we're overwhelmingly atheist around here.

3MugaSofer8yWelcome to LessWrong! Good for you! You might want to watch out for assuming that everyone had a similar experience with religion; many theists will fin this very annoying and this seems to be a common mistake among people with your background-type. Huh. I must say, I found the GD pretty terrible (despite reading it multiple times to be sure,) although I suppose that powder-keg aspect probably accounts for most of your conversion (deconversion?) I'm curious, could you expand on what you found so convincing in The God Delusion? I think we can all say that :)

Welcome to LessWrong!

Thank you! :)

Good for you! You might want to watch out for assuming that everyone had a similar experience with religion; many theists will fin this very annoying and this seems to be a common mistake among people with your background-type.

I apologize. I had no idea I was making this false assumption, but I was. I'm embarrassed.

I'm curious, could you expand on what you found so convincing in The God Delusion?

I replied to JohnH about this. I don't know if I could go into a lot of detail on why it was convincing, it was almost two years ago that I read it. But what really convinced me to start doubting my religion was when I prayed to God very passionately asking him whether or not The God Delusion was true and after I felt this tingly warm sensation telling me it was. I had done the same thing with The Book of Mormon multiple times and felt this same sensation, and I was told in church that this was the Holy Spirit telling me that it was true. I had been taught I could pray about anything and the Spirit would tell me whether or not it was true. After being told by the Spirit that The God Delusion was true, I decided that the only explanation is that what I thought of as the Spirit was just happening in my head and that it wasn't a sure way of finding knowledge. It was a very dramatic experience for me.


My name is Sandy and despite being a long time lurker, meetup organizer and CFAR minicamp alumnus, I've got a giant ugh field around getting involved in the online community. Frankly it's pretty intimidating and seems like a big barrier to entry - but this welcome thread is definitely a good start :)

IIRC, I was linked to Overcoming Bias through a programming pattern blog in the few months before LW came into existence, and subsequently spent the next three months of my life doing little else than reading the sequences. While it was highly fascinating and seemed good for my cognitive health, I never thought about applying it to /real life/.

Somehow I ended up at CFAR's January minicamp, and my life literally changed. After so many years, CFAR helped me finally internalize the idea that /rationalists should win/. I fully expect the workshop to be the most pivotal event in my entire life, and would wholeheartedly recommend it to absolutely anyone and everyone.

So here's to a new chapter. I'm going to get involved in this community or die trying.

PS: If anyone is in the Kitchener/Waterloo area, they should definitely come out to UW's SLC tonight at 8pm for our LW meetup. I can guarantee you won't be disappointed!

Hmm, the above got a lot of upvotes... I have no idea why.

Egalitarian instinct. Eliezer is using power against you, which drastically raises the standards of behavior expected from him while doing so---including less tolerance of him getting things wrong.

Your reply used the form 'graceful' in a context where you would have been given a lot of leeway even to be (overtly) rude. The corrections were portrayed as gentle and patient. Whether the corrections happen to be accurate or reasonable is usually almost irrelevant for the purpose of determining people's voting behavior this far down into a charged thread.

Note that even though I approve of Eliezer's decision to delete comments of yours disparaging the QM sequence to newcomers I still endorse your decision to force Eliezer to use his power instead of deferring to his judgement simply because he has the power. It was the right decision for you to make from your perspective and is also a much more desirable precedent.

I deliberately invoke this tactic on occasion in arguments on other people's turf, particularly where the rules are unevenly applied. I was once accused by an acquaintance who witnessed it of being unreasonably reasonable.

It's particularly useful when moderators routinely take sides in debates. It makes it dangerous for them to use their power to shut down dissent.

6VCavallo8yNailed it on the head. As my cursor began to instinctively over the "upvote" button on shminux's comment I caught myself and thought, why am I doing this?. And while I didn't come to your exact conclusion I realized my instinct had something to do with EY's "use of power" and shminux's gentle reply. Some sort of underdog quality that I didn't yet take the time to assess but that my mouse-using-hand wanted badly to blindly reward. I'm glad you pieced out the exact reasoning behind the scenes here. Stopping and taking a moment to understand behavior and then correct based on that understanding is why I am here. That said, I really should think for a long time about your explanation before voting you up, too!
5satt8yThis is the second time [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h3p/welcome_to_less_wrong_5th_thread_march_2013/8osv] you mention shminux having talked about QM for years. But I can't find any comments [http://lesswrong.com/user/shminux/overview/?after=t1_4ktb] or posts [http://lesswrong.com/user/shminux/submitted/?count=28&after=t3_8xn] he's made before July 2011. Does he have a dupe account or something else I don't know about?
4shminux8ySince you are asking... July 2011 is right for the join date and some time later is when I voiced any opinion related to the QM sequence and MWI (I did read through it once and browsed now and again since). No, I did not have another account before that, as a long-term freenode ##physics IRC channel moderator, I dislike being confused about user's previous identities, so I don't do it myself (hence the silly nick chosen a decade or so ago, which has lost all relevance by now). On the other hand, I don't mind people wanting a clean slate with a new nick, just not using socks to express a controversial or karma-draining opinion they are too chicken to have linked to their main account. I also encourage you to take whatever wedrifid writes about me with a grain of salt. While I read what he writes and often upvote when I find it warranted, I quite publicly announced here about a year ago that I will not be replying to any of his comments, given how counterproductive it had been for me. (There are currently about 4 or 5 people on my LW "do-not-reply" list.) I have also warned other users once or twice, after I noticed them in a similarly futile discussion with wedrifid. I would be really surprised if this did not color his perception and attitude. It certainly would for me, were the roles reversed.

Hello, Less Wrong; I'm Laplante. I found this site through a TV Tropes link to Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality about this time last year. After I'd read through that as far as it had been updated (chapter 77?), I followed Yudkowsky's advice to check out the real science behind the story and ended up here. I mucked about for a few days before finding a link to yudkowsky.net, where I spent about a week trying learn what exactly Bayes was all about. I'm currently working my way through the sequences, just getting into the quantum physics sequence now.

I'm currently in the dangerous position of having withdrawn from college, and my productive time is spent between a part-time job and this site. I have no real desire to return to school, but I realize that entry into any sort of psychology/neuroscience/cognitive science field without a Bachelor's degree - preferably more - is near impossible.

I'm aware that Yudkowsky is doing quite well without a formal education, but I'd rather not use that as a general excuse to leave my studies behind entirely.

My goals for the future are to make my way through MIRI's recommended course list, and the dream is to do my own research in a related field. We'll see how it all pans out.

my productive time is spent between a part-time job and this site.

Perhaps I'm reading a bit much into a throwaway phrase, but I suggest that time spent reading LessWrong (or any self-improvement blog, or any blog) is not, in fact, productive. Beware the superstimulus of insight porn! Unless you are actually using the insights gained here in a measureable way, I very strongly suggest you count LessWrong reading as faffing about, not as production. (And even if you do become more productive, observe that this is probably a one-time effect: Continued visits are unlikely to yield continual improvement, else gwern and Alicorn would long since have taken over the world.) By all means be inspired to do more work and smarter work, but do not allow the feeling of "I learned something today" to substitute for Actually Doing Things.

All that aside, welcome to LessWrong! We will make your faffing-about time much more interesting. BWAH-HAH-HAH!

6John_Maxwell8yLearning stuff can be pretty useful. Especially stuff extremely general in its application that isn't easy to just look up when you need it, like rationality. If the process of learning is enjoyable, so much the better.
7Dentin8yI think you may have misinterpreted a critical part of the sentence: 'do not allow the FEELING of "I learned something today" to substitute for Actually Doing Things.' Insight porn, so to speak, is that way because it makes you feel good, like you can Actually Do Things and like you have the tools to now Actually Do Things. But if you don't get up and Actually Do Things, you have only learned how to feel like you can Actually Do Things, which isn't nearly as useful as it sounds.

My standard advice to all newcomers is to skip the quantum sequence, at least on the first reading. Or at least stop where the many worlds musings start. The whole thing is way too verbose and controversial for the number of useful points it makes. Your time is much better spent reading about cognitive biases. If you want epistemology, try the new sequence.

7Eliezer Yudkowsky8yBad advice for technical readers. Mihaly Barasz (IMO gold medalist) got here via HPMOR but only became seriously interested in working for MIRI after reading the QM sequence. Given those particular circumstances, can I ask that you stop with that particular bit of helpful advice?

Bad advice for technical readers. Mihaly Barasz (IMO gold medalist) got here via HPMOR but only became seriously interested in working for MIRI after reading the QM sequence.

Do you have a solid idea of how many technical readers get here via HPMOR but become disinterested in working for MIRI after reading the QM sequence? If not, isn't this potentially just the selection effect?

7Kawoomba8yEY can rationally prefer the certain evidence of some Mihaly-Barasz-caliber researchers joining when exposed to the QM sequence over speculations whether the loss of Mihaly Barasz (had he not read the QM sequence) would be outweighed by even more / better technical readers becoming interested in joining MIRI, taking into account the selection effect. Personally, I'd go with what has been proven/demonstrated to work as a high-quality attractor.
7Eliezer Yudkowsky8yYep. I also tend to ignore nontechnical folks along the lines of RationalWiki getting offended by my thinking that I know something they don't about MWI. Carl often hears about, anonymizes, and warns me when technical folks outside the community are offended by something I do. I can't recall hearing any warnings from Carl about the QM sequence offending technical people. Bluntly, if shminux can't grasp the technical argument for MWI then I wouldn't expect him to understand what really high-class technical people might think of the QM sequence. Mihaly said the rest of the Sequences seemed interesting but lacked sufficient visible I-wouldn't-have-thought-of-that nature. This is very plausible to me - after all, the Sequences do indeed seem to me like the sort of thing somebody might just think up. I'm just kind of surprised the QM part worked, and it's possible that might be due to Mihaly having already taken standard QM so that he could clearly see the contrast between the explanation he got in college and the explanation on LW. It's a pity I'll probably never have time to write up TDT.

I have a phd in physics (so I have at least some technical skill in this area) and find the QM sequence's argument for many worlds unconvincing. You lead the reader toward a false dichotomy (Copenhagen or many worlds) in order to suggest that the low probability of copenhagen implies many worlds. This ignores a vast array of other interpretations.

Its also the sort of argument that seems very likely to sway someone with an intro class in college (one or two semesters of a Copenhagen based shut-up-and-calculate approach), precisely because having seen Copenhagen and nothing else they 'know just enough to be dangerous', as it were.

For me personally, the quantum sequence threw me into some doubt about the previous sequences I had read. If I have issues with the area I know the most about, how much should I trust the rest? Other's mileage may vary.

I have a phd in physics (so I have at least some technical skill in this area) and find the QM sequence's argument for many worlds unconvincing.

Actually, attempting to steelman the QM Sequence made me realize that the objective collapse models are almost certainly wrong, due to the way they deal with the EPR correlations. So the sequence has been quite useful to me.

On the other hand, it also made me realize that the naive MWI is also almost certainly wrong, as it requires uncountable worlds created in any finite instance of time (unless I totally misunderstand the MWI version of radioactive decay, or any emission process for that matter). It has other issues, as well. Hence my current leanings toward some version of RQM, which EY seems to dislike almost as much as his straw Copenhagen, though for different reasons.

For me personally, the quantum sequence threw me into some doubt about the previous sequences I had read.

Right, I've had a similar experience, and I heard it voiced by others.

As a result of re-examining EY's take on epistemology of truth, I ended up drifting from the realist position (map vs territory) to an instrumentalist position (models vs inputs&outputs... (read more)

9Plasmon8yHow is that any more problematic than doing physics with real or complex numbers in the first place?
6Vaniver8yI defected from physics during my Master's, but this is basically the impression I had of the QM sequence as well.

Carl often hears about, anonymizes, and warns me when technical folks outside the community are offended by something I do. I can't recall hearing any warnings from Carl about the QM sequence offending technical people.

That sounds like reasonable evidence against the selection effect.

Bluntly, if shminux can't grasp the technical argument for MWI then I wouldn't expect him to understand what really high-class technical people might think of it.

I strongly recommend against both the "advises newcomers to skip the QM sequence -> can't grasp technical argument for MWI" and "disagrees with MWI argument -> poor technical skill" inferences.

[-][anonymous]8y 10

I'm just kind of surprised the QM part worked, and it's possible that might be due to Mihaly having already taken standard QM so that he could clearly see the contrast between the explanation he got in college and the explanation on LW.

I'm no IMO gold medalist (which really just means I'm giving you explicit permission to ignore the rest of my comment) but it seems to me that a standard understanding of QM is necessary to get anything out of the QM sequence.

It's a pity I'll probably never have time to write up TDT.

Revealed preferences are rarely attractive.

Revealed preferences are rarely attractive.

Adds to "Things I won't actually get put on a T-shirt but sort of feel I ought to" list.

8Michelle_Z8yIf you want to learn things/explore what you want to do with your life, take a few varied courses at Coursera [https://www.coursera.org/].
3beoShaffer8yHi, Laplante. Why do you want to enter psychology/neuroscience/cognitive science? I ask this as someone who is about to graduate with a double major in psychology/computer science and is almost certain to go into computer science as my career.

It's a forum where taking atheism for granted is widespread, and the 10% of non-atheists have some idea of what the 90% are thinking. Being atheist isn't part of the official charter, but you can make a function call to atheism without being questioned by either the 10% or the 90% because everyone knows where you're coming from. If I was on a 90% Mormon forum which theoretically wasn't about Mormonism but occasionally contained posters making function calls to Mormon theology without further justification, I would not walk in and expect to be able to make atheist function calls without being questioned on it. If I did, I wouldn't be surprised to be downvoted to oblivion if that forum had a downvoting function. This isn't groupthink; it's standard logical courtesy. When you know perfectly well that a supermajority of the people around you believe X, it's not just silly but logically rude to ask them to take Y as a premise without defending it. I would owe this hypothetical 90%-Mormon forum more acknowledgement of their prior beliefs than that.

I regard all of this as common sense.

As part of said minority, I fully endorse this comment.

I like your use of "function calls" as an analogy here, but I don't think it's a good idea; you could just as easily say "use concepts from" without alienating non-programmer readers.

7[anonymous]8ySince I'm momentarily feeling remarkably empowered about my own life, I'm going to take this chance to officially bow out for a few weeks. We all knew it was coming—it's the typical reaction for an overwhelmed newbie like me, I know, and I'm always very determined not to give up, but I really think I had better take a break. My last week has hardly involved anything except LW and related sites, and we all know that having one's mind blown is a very strenuous task. I've learned a lot, and I will definitely be back after four weeks or so. I've decided I'm not going to let myself be pressured into expressly arguing in favor of religion. I've said several times I'm not interested in that, and that I don't have these supposed strong arguments in favor of religion. If you guys want a good theist, check out William Lane Craig [http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=392]. When I come back I will, however, explain my own beliefs and why I can't fully accept the LW way of thinking. Please don't get misunderstand what I'm saying: I think you guys are right, more so than any group of people I've ever met. But for now I'm going to shelve philosophy and take advantage of my situation. In the next four weeks I'm going to a) learn Lambda Calculus and b) study Arabic intensively. May the Force be with you 'til we meet again.

For the record, I once challenged Craig to a Bloggingheads but he refused.

I'm a male senior in high school. I found this site in November or so, and started reading the sequences voraciously.

I feel like I might be a somewhat atypical LessWrong reader. For one, I'm on the young side. Also, if you saw me and talked to me, you would probably not guess that I was a "rationalist" from the way I act/dress but, I don't know, perhaps you might. When I first found this website, I was pretty sure I wanted to be an art major, now I'm pretty sure I want to be an art/comp sci double major and go into indie game development (correlation may or may not imply causation). I also love rap music (and not the "good" kind like Talib Kweli) and I read most of the sequences while listening to Lil Wayne, Lil B, Gucci Mane, Future, Young Jeezy, etc. I occasionally record my own terrible rap songs with my friends in my friend's basement. Before finding this site, the word "rational" had powerful negative affect around it. Science was far and away my least favorite subject in school. I have absolutely no interest at the moment in learning any science or anything about science, except for maybe neuroscience, and maybe metaphysics. I've always found t... (read more)

8[anonymous]8ylulz. You have my attention. You sound like quite an intelligent and awesome person. (bad rap, art, rationality. only an interesting person could have such a nonstandard combination of interests. Boring people come prepackaged...) Glad to have you around. It's only a matter of time ;) I remember that feeling. I'm more skeptical now, but I can't help but notice more awesomeness in my life due to LW. It really is quite cool isn't it? This is the part that's been elusive to me. What kind of things are you doing? How do you knwo you are actually getting benefits and not just producing that "this is awesome" feeling which unfortunately often gets detached from realty? keep your identity small [http://paulgraham.com/identity.html]. Where do you live? Do you attend meetups?
5gothgirl4206668yThank you :) I guess essentially what I do is try to read self-help stuff. I try to spend half my "work time", so to speak, doing this, and half working on creative projects. I've read both books and assorted stuff on the internet. My goal for April is to read a predetermined list of six self-help books. I'm currently on track for this goal. So far I've read * Part of the massive tome that is Psychological Self Help by Clayton Tucker-Ladd * Success - How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Halverson * How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes * 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman * Thinking Things Done by PJ Eby * the first 300 pages of Feeling Good by David Burns, the last 200 seem to be mostly about the chemical nature of depression and have little practical value, so I'm saving them for later If meditation books count * Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana * most of Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha by Daniel Ingram I also have been keeping a diary, which is something I've wanted to get in the habit of all my life but have never been able to do. Every day, in addition to summarizing the day's events, I rate my happiness out of ten, my productivity out of ten, and speculate on how I can do better. I've only been keeping the diary a month, which is too small of a sample size. However, during this time, I had three weeks off for spring break, and I told myself that I would work as much as I could on self-improvement and personal projects. I ended up not really getting that much done, unfortunately. However, I managed to put in a median of... probably about five hours every day, and more importantly, I was in a fantastic mood the whole break. It might even have been the best mood I've been in for an extended time in the last few years. In the past, every time I have had a break from school, I ended up in a depressed, lonely, lethargic state, where I surfed the internet for hours on end, in which I paradoxically want to go back to
3someonewrongonthenet8yI have yet to see this. Which major LW contributor is advocating racism, and where can I read about it?
8gothgirl4206668yI'm sorry, I can't really remember any specific links to discussions, and I don't really know exactly who believes in what ideas, but I feel like there are a lot of people here, and especially people who show up in the comments, who believe that certain races are inherently more or less intelligent/violent/whatever on average than others. I specifically remember nyan_sandwich saying that he believes this, calling himself a "proto-racist" but that's the only example I can recall. The "reactionary" philosophy is discussed a lot here too, and I feel like most people who subscribe to this philosophy are racist. Mencius Moldbug is the biggest name in this, I believe. Also I've seen a lot of links to this site http://isteve.blogspot.com/ [http://isteve.blogspot.com/] which seems to basically be arguing in favor of racism. This blog post http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/03/03/reactionary-philosophy-in-an-enormous-planet-sized-nutshell/ [http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/03/03/reactionary-philosophy-in-an-enormous-planet-sized-nutshell/] contains a discussion of these issues.

The one basically follows from the other, I think. This isn't a reactionary site by any means; the last poll showed single-digit support for the philosophy here, if it's fair to consider it a political philosophy exclusive with liberalism, libertarianism, and/or conservatism. However, neoreaction/Moldbuggery gets a less hostile reception here than it does on most non-reactionary sites, probably because it's an intensely contrarian philosophy and LW seems to have a cultural fondness for clever contrarians, and we have do have several vocal reactionaries among our commentariat. Among them, perhaps unfortunately, are most of the people talking about race.

It's also pretty hard to dissociate neoreaction from... let's say "certain hypotheses concerning race", since "racism" is too slippery and value-laden a term and most of the alternatives are too euphemistic. The reasons for this seem somewhat complicated, but I think we can trace a good chunk of them to just how much of a taboo race is among what Moldbug calls the Cathedral; if your basic theory is that there's this vast formless cultural force shaping what everyone can and can't talk about without being brande... (read more)

5Kawoomba8yIf someone were to correctly point out genetic differences between groups (let's assume correctness as a hypothetical), would that be - in your opinion - 1) racist and reprehensible, 2) racist but not reprehensible, or (in the hypothetical) 3) not racist? Would your opinion differ if those genetic differences were relating to a) IQ, or b) lactose intolerance?
8gothgirl4206668yYes to the second question, in that I would give the answer of 2 for A and 3 for B. Racism has at least three definitions colloquially that I can think of * 1: A belief that there is a meaningful way to categorize human beings into races, and that certain races have more or less desirable characteristics than others. This is the definition that Wikipedia uses. Not that many educated people are racist according to this definition, I think. * 2: The tendency to jump to conclusions about people based on their skin color, which can manifest as a consequence of racism-1, or unconsciously believing in racism-1. Pretty much everyone is racist to some extent according to this definition. * 3: Contempt or dislike of people based on their skin color, i.e. "I hate Asians". You could further divide this into consciously and unconsciously harboring these beliefs if you wanted. In the sexism debate, these three definitions are sort of given separate names: "belief in differences between the sexes", "sexism", and "misogyny" respectively. Racism-3 seems to be pretty clearly evil, and racism-2 causes lots of suffering, but racism-1 basically by definition cannot be evil if it is a true belief and you abide by the Litany of Tarski or whatever. But because they have the same name, it gets confusing. Some people might object to calling racism-1 racism, and instead will decide to call it "human biodiversity" or "race realism". I think this is bullshit. Just fucking call it what it is. Own up to your beliefs. (I am not racist-1, for the record.)

Some people might object to calling racism-1 racism, and instead will decide to call it "human biodiversity" or "race realism". I think this is bullshit. Just fucking call it what it is.

"What it fucking is" is a straw man. ie. "and that certain races have more or less desirable characteristics than others" is not what the people you are disparaging are likely to say, for all that it is vaguely related.

Own up to your beliefs.

Seeing this exhortation used to try to shame people into accepting your caricature as their own position fills me with the same sort of disgust and contempt that you have for racism. Failure to "own up" and profess their actual beliefs is approximately the opposite of the failure mode they are engaging in (that of not keeping their mouth shut when socially expedient). In much the same way suicide bombers are not cowards.

7[anonymous]8yWhy not?
7CCC8yAs far as racism-1 goes, I am told that high levels of melanin in the skin lead to an immunity to sunburn. So black people can't get sunburnt - that's a desirable characteristic, to my mind. (There's still negative effects - such as a headache - from being in the sun too long. Just not sunburn).
5Zaine8yScience: [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2671032/]

Hello, I'm E. I'll be entering university in September planning to study some subset of {math, computer science, economics}. I found Less Wrong in April 2012 through HPMoR and started seriously reading here after attending SPARC. I haven't posted because I don't think I can add too much to discussions, but reading here is certainly illuminating.

I'm interested in self-improvement. Right now, I'm trying to develop better social skills, writing skills, and work ethic. I'm also collecting some simple data from my day-to-day activities with the belief that having data will help me later. Some concrete actions I am currently taking:

  • Conditioning myself (focusing on smiling and positive thoughts) to enjoy social interaction. I don't dislike social interaction, but I'm definitely averse to talking to strangers. This aversion seems like it will hurt me long-term, so I'm trying to get rid of it.
  • Writing in a journal every night. Usually this is 200-300 words of my thoughts and summaries of the more important events that happened. I started this after noticing that I repeatedly tried and failed to recall my thoughts from a few months or years ago.
  • Setting daily schedules for myself. When I
... (read more)
7ModusPonies8yWelcome! You sound remarkably driven. Math and CS are foundational fields which can be used for nearly anything, while economics past intro level is much more specialized. I'd suggest putting the least focus on economics unless/until you're sure you want to do something with it. (Warning: I am a programmer with an econ degree. I may be projecting, here.) Subjective happiness, maybe? The old "how good do you feel right now on a scale of 1-10" could be one way to quantify this. They are the worst thing.

Hi everyone. I have been lurking on this site for a long time, and somewhat recently have made an account, but I still feel pretty new here. I've read most of the sequences by now, and I feel that I've learned a lot from them. I have changed myself in some small ways as a result, most notably by donating small amounts to whatever charity I feel is most effective at doing good, with the intention that I will donate much more once I am capable of doing so.

I'm currently working on a Ph.D. in Mathematics right now, and I am also hoping that I can steer my research activities towards things that will do good. Still not sure exactly how to do this, though.

I also had the opportunity to attend my local Less Wrong meetup, and I have to say it was quite enjoyable! I am looking forward toward future interactions with my local community.

7Pablo8yHi Adele. Given what you write in your introduction, it's likely that you have already heard of this organization, but if this is not the case: you may want to check out 80,000 Hours [http://80000hours.org/]. They provide evidence-based career advice for people that want to make a difference.
3Nisan8yWelcome! I like your username. EDIT: I know several people in this community who dropped out of math grad school, and most of them were happy with the decision. I'm choosing to graduate with a PhD in a useless field because I find myself in a situation where I can get one in exchange for a few months of work. I know someone who switched to algebraic statistics, which is a surprisingly useful field that involves algebraic geometry.
3John_Maxwell8yI haven't looked at this issue in detail, but I seem to recall that not getting more education was one of the more common regrets among "Terman's geniuses", whoever those are. Link [http://www.psych.cornell.edu/sec/pubPeople/tdg1/Hattiangadi.pdf].


I'm Jennifer; I'm currently a graduate student in medieval literature and a working actor. Thanks to homeschooling, though, I do have a solid background and abiding interest in quantum physics/pure mathematics/statistics/etc., and 'aspiring rationalist' is probably the best description I can provide! I found the site through HPMoR.

Current personal projects: learning German and Mandarin, since I already have French/Latin/Spanish/Old English/Old Norse taken care of, and much as I personally enjoy studying historical linguistics and old dead languages, knowing Mandarin would be much more practical (in terms of being able to communicate with the greatest number of people when travelling, doing business, reading articles, etc.)

3Adele_L7yHey, another homeschooled person! There seem to be a lot of us here. How was your experience? Mine was the crazy religious type, but I still consider it to have been an overall good thing for my development relative to other feasible options.


I’ve been interested in how to think well since early childhood. When I was about ten, I read a book about cybernetics. (This was in the Oligocene, when “cybernetics” had only recently gone extinct.) It gave simple introductions to probability theory, game theory, information theory, boolean switching logic, control theory, and neural networks. This was definitely the coolest stuff ever.

I went on to MIT, and got an undergraduate degree in math, specializing in mathematical logic and the theory of computation—fields that grew out of philosophical investigations of rationality.

Then I did a PhD at the MIT AI Lab, continuing my interest in what thinking is. My work there seems to have been turned into a surrealistic novel by Ken Wilber, a woo-ish pop philosopher. Along the way, I studied a variety of other fields that give diverse insights into thinking, ranging from developmental psychology to ethnomethodology to existential phenomenology.

I became aware of LW gradually over the past few years, mainly through mentions by people I follow on Twitter. As a lurker, there’s a lot about the LW community I’ve loved. On the other hand, I think some fundamental, generally-accepted ideas her... (read more)

I think probably none of those hypotheses are correct. I think you mean well and I think your comments have been stylistically fine. I also obviously don't think people here are are opposed to substantive disagreement, close-minded or intolerant (or else I wouldn't have stuck around this long). What you've encountered is a galaxy sized chasm of inferential distance. I'm sure you've had a conversation before with someone who seemed to think you knew much less about the subject than you actually did. You disagree with him and try to demonstrate you familiarity with the issue but he is so behind he doesn't even realize that you know more than he does.

I realize it is impossible for this not to sound smug and arrogant to you: but that is how you come off to us. Really, your model of us, that we have not heard good, non-strawman arguments for the existence of God is very far off. There may be users who wouldn't be familiar with your best argument but the people here most familiar with the existence of God debate absolutely would. And they could almost certainly fix whatever argument you provided and rebut that (which is approximately what I did in my previous reply to you).

To the extent... (read more)

4shminux8yWell put. I agree with all of this, except maybe for the need for a new nick, as people who appear to learn from their experience ("update on evidence", in the awkward local parlance) are likely to be upvoted more generously.

Hey everyone!

I'm ll, my real name is Lukas. I am a student at a technical university in the US and a hobbyist FOSS programmer.

I discovered Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality accidentally one night, and since then I've been completely hooked on it. After I caught up, I decided to check out the Less Wrong community. I've been lurking since then, reading the essays, comments, hanging out in the IRC channel.

Hey, my name is Roman. You can read my detailed bio here, as well as some research papers I published on the topics of AI and security. I decided to attend a local LW meet up and it made sense to at least register on the site. My short term goal is to find some people in my geographic area (Louisville, KY, USA) to befriend.

4shminux8yNice to see more AI experts here.

Hi everyone, my name is Sara!

I am 21, live in Switzerland and study psychology. I am fascinated with the field of rationality and therefore wrote my Bachelor thesis on why and how critical thinking should be taught in schools. I started out with the plan to get my degree in clinical- and neuropsychology but will now change to developmental psychology for I was able to fascinate my supervising tutor and secure his full support. This will allow me to base my Master project on the development and enhancing of critical thinking and rationality, too. Do you have any recommendations?

After my Master's degree I still intend on getting an education as therapist (money reasons) or going into research (pushing the experimental research on rationality) and on giving a lot of money to the most effective charities around. I wonder if as therapist it would be smarter to concentrate on children or adults; both fields will be open for me after my university education (which will take me about 2.5-3 more years). I speak German, Swiss German, Italian, French and English (and understand some more languages), which will give me some freedom in the choice where to actually work in future.

...but I'm not ... (read more)

with 100% certainty, no less, Bayes be damned

Is this an April Fool's joke? He says nothing of the kind. The post which comes closest to this explicitly says that it could be wrong, but "the rational probability is pretty damned small." And counting the discovery of time-turners, he's named at least two conceivable pieces of evidence that could change that number.

What do you mean when you say you "just don't put nearly as much confidence in it as you do"?

If people have a problem with it, that's not my fault.

It might or it might not be. As a general rule, if two people think that a single issue of fact is a settled question, in different directions, then either they have access to different information, or one or both of them is incorrect.

If the former is the case, then they can share their information, after which either they will agree, or one or both will be incorrect.

If we're incorrect about religion being a settled question, we want to know that, so we can change our minds. If Mormonism is incorrect, do you want to know that?

I agree with Jack here, but I'm going to add the piece of advice that used to be very common for newcomers here, although it's dropped off over time as people called attention to the magnitude of the endeavor, and suggest that you finish reading the sequences before trying to engage in further religious debate here.

Eliezer wrote them in order to bring potential members of this community up to speed so that when we discuss matters, we could do it with a common background, so that everyone is on the same page and we can work out interesting disagreements without rehashing the same points over and over again. We don't all agree with all the contents of every article in the sequences, but they do contain a lot of core ideas that you have to understand to make sense of the things we think here. Reading them should help give you some idea, not just what we believe, but why we think that it makes more sense to believe those things than the alternatives.

The "rigidity" which you detect is not a product of particular closedmindedness, but rather a deliberate discarding of certain things we believe we have good reason not to put stock in, and reading the sequences should give you a... (read more)


I'm a final year Mathematics student at Cambridge coming from an IOI, IMO background. I've written software for a machine learning startup, a game dev startup and Google. I was recently interested in programming language theory esp. probabilistic and logic programming (some experiments here http://peteriserins.tumblr.com/archive).

I'm interested in many aspects of startups (including design) and hope to move into product management, management consulting or venture capital. I love trying to think rationally about business processes and have started to write about it at http://medium.com/@p_e .

I found out about LW from a friend and have since started reading the sequences. I hope to learn more about practical instrumental rationality, I am less interested in philosophy and the meta theory. So far I've learned more about practical application of mathematics from data science and consulting, but expect rationality to take it further and with more rigor.

Great meeting y'all

6Nisan8yWelcome! You may want to consider participating in a CFAR workshop [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h5t/new_applied_rationality_workshops_april_may_and/]. I think it's 1000% as effective for learning instrumental rationality as reading Less Wrong. They're optimized for teaching practical skills, and they tend to attract entrepreneurs. Also, I think you'd be a valuable addition to the community around CFAR, in addition to the online community around the Less Wrong website.

Lumifer, please update that at this moment you don't grok the difference between "A => B (p=0.05)" and "B => A (p = 0.05)", which is why you don't understand what p-value really means, which is why you don't understand the difference between selection bias and base rate neglect, which is probably why the emphasis on using Bayes theorem in scientific process does not make sense to you. You made a mistake, that happens to all of us. Just stop it already, please.

And don't feel bad about it. Until recently I didn't understand it too, and I had a gold medal from international mathematical olympiad. Somehow it is not explained correctly at most schools, perhaps because the teachers don't get it themselves, or maybe they just underestimate the difficulty of proper understanding and the high chance of getting it wrong. So please don't contibute to the confusion.

Imagine that there are 1000 possible hypotheses, among which 999 are wrong, and 1 is correct. (That's just a random example to illustrate the concept. The numbers in real life can be different.) You have an experiment that says "yes" to 5% of the wrong hypotheses (this is what p=0.05 means), and a... (read more)

Hi, I'm Andrew, a college undergrad in computer science. I found this site through HPMOR a few years ago.

Hi everyone, I'm Chris. I'm a physics PhD student from Melbourne, Australia. I came to rationalism slowly over the years by having excellent conversations with like minded friends. I was raised a catholic and fully bought into the faith, but became an atheist in early high school when I realised that scientific explanations made more sense.

About a year ago I had a huge problem with the collapse postulate of quantum mechanics. It just didn't make sense and neither did anything anyone was telling me about it. This led me to discover that many worlds wasn't as crazy as it had been made out to be, and led me to this very community. My growth as a rationalist has made me distrust the consensus opinions of more and more groups, and realising that physicists could get something so wrong was the final nail in the coffin for my trust of the scientific establishment. Of course science is still the best way to figure things out, but as soon as opinions become politicised or tied to job prospects, I don't trust scientists as far as I can throw them. Related to this is my skepticism that climate change is a big deal.

I am frustrated more by the extent of unreason in educated circles than I am in... (read more)

I'm pretty social and would love to meet more rationalist friends, but I have the perception that if I went to a meetup most people would be less extroverted than me, and it might not be much fun for me.

My experience at meetups has been pretty social. After all, meetups select for people outgoing enough to go out of the house in the first place. I'd encourage you to go once, if there's a convenient meetup around. The value of information is high; if the meetup sucks, that costs one afternoon, but if it's good, you gain a new group of friends.


I'm a long-time singularitarian and (intermediate) rationalist looking be a part of the conversation again. By day I am an English teacher in a suburban American high school. My students have been known to Google me. Rather than self-censor I am using a pseudonym so that I will feel free to share my (anonymized) experiences as a rationalist high school teacher.

I internet-know a number of you in this community from early years of the Singularity Institute. I fleetingly met at a few in person once, perhaps. I used to write on singularity-related issues, and was a proud "sniper" of the SL4 mailing list for a time. For the last 6-7 years I've mostly dropped off the radar by letting "life" issues consume me, though I have continued to follow the work of the key actors from afar with interest. I allow myself some pride for any small positive impact I might have once had during a time of great leverage for donors and activists, while recognizing that far too much remains undone. (If you would like to confirm your suspicions of my identity, I would love to hear from you with a PM. I just don't want Google searches of my real name pulling up my LW acti... (read more)

Hi Less Wrong. I found a link to this site a year or so ago and have been lurking off and on since. However, I've self identified as a rationalist since around junior high school. My parents weren't religious and I was good at math and science, so it was natural to me to look to science and logic to solve everything. Many years later I realize that this is harder than I hoped.

Anyway, I've read many of the sequences and posts, generally agreeing and finding many interesting thoughts. It's fun reading about zombies and Newcomb's problem and the like.

I guess this sounds heretical, but I don't understand why Bayes theorem is placed on such a pedestal here. I understand Bayesian statistics, intuitively and also technically. Bayesian statistics is great for a lot of problems, but I don't see it as always superior to thinking inspired by the traditional scientific method. More specifically, I would say that coming up with a prior distribution and updating can easily be harder than the problem at hand.

I assume the point is that there is more to what is considered Bayesian thinking than Bayes theorem and Bayesian statistics, and I've reread some of the articles with the idea of trying to pin that down, but I've found that difficult. The closest I've come is that examining what your priors are helps you to keep an open mind.

9Viliam_Bur8yBayesian theorem is just one of many mathematical equations, like for example Pythagorean theorem. There is inherently nothing magical about it. It just happens to explain one problem with the current scientific publishing process: neglecting base rates. Which sometimes seems like this: "I designed an experiment that would prove a false hypothesis only with probability p = 0.05. My experiment has succeeded. Please publish my paper in your journal!" (I guess I am exaggerating a bit here, but many people 'doing science' would not understand immediately what is wrong with this. And that would be those who even bother to calculate the p-value. Not everyone who is employed as a scientist is necessarily good at math. Many people get paid for doing bad science.) This kind of thinking has the following problem: Even if you invent hundred completely stupid hypotheses; if you design experiments that would prove a false hypothesis only with p = 0.05, that means five of them would be proved by the experiment. If you show someone else all hundred experiments together [http://xkcd.com/882/], they may understand what is wrong. But you are more likely to send only the successful five ones to the journal, aren't you? -- But how exactly is the journal supposed to react to this? Should they ask: "Did you do many other experiments, even ones completely irrelevant to this specific hypothesis? Because, you know, that somehow undermines the credibility of this one." The current scientific publishing process has a bias. Bayesian theorem explains it. We care about science, and we care about science being done correctly.
7Vaniver8yI know a few answers to this question, and I'm sure there are others. (As an aside, these foundational questions are, in my opinion, really important to ask and answer.) 1. What separates scientific thought and mysticism is that scientists are okay with mystery. If you can stand to not know what something is, to be confused, then after careful observation and thought you might have a better idea of what it is and have a bit more clarity. Bayes is the quantitative heart of the qualitative approach of tracking many hypotheses and checking how concordant they are with reality, and thus should feature heavily in a modern epistemic approach. The more precisely and accurately you can deal with uncertainty, the better off you are in an uncertain world. 2. What separates Bayes and the "traditional scientific method" (using scare quotes to signify that I'm highlighting a negative impression of it) is that the TSM is a method for avoiding bad beliefs but Bayes is a method for finding the best available beliefs. In many uncertain situations, you can use Bayes but you can't use the TSM (or it would be too costly to do so), but the TSM doesn't give any predictions in those cases! 3. Use of Bayes focuses attention on base rates, alternate hypotheses, and likelihood ratios, which people often ignore (replacing the first with maxent, the second with yes/no thinking, and the latter with likelihoods). 4. I honestly don't think the quantitative aspect of priors and updating is that important, compared to the search for a 'complete' hypothesis set and the search for cheap experiments that have high likelihood ratios (little bets). I think that the qualitative side of Bayes is super important but don't think we've found a good way to communicate it yet. That's an active area of research, though, and in particular I'd love to hear your thoughts on those four answers.
6jsteinhardt8yRegarding Bayes, you might like my essay [http://cs.stanford.edu/~jsteinhardt/stats-essay.pdf] on the topic, especially if you have statistical training.

Hi folks, I'm Peter. I read a lot of blogs and saw enough articles on Overcoming Bias a few years ago that I was aware of Yudkowsky and some of his writing. I think I wandered from there to his personal site because I liked the writing and from there to Less Wrong, but it's long enough ago I don't really remember. I've read Yudkowsky's Sequences and found lots of good ideas or interesting new ways to explain things (though I bounced off QM as it assumed a level of knowledge in physics I don't have). They're annoyingly disorganized - I realize they were originally written as an interwoven hypertext, but for long material I prefer reading linear silos, then I can feel confident I've read everything without getting annoyed at seeing some things over and over. Being confused by their organization when nobody else seems to be also contributes to the feeling in my last paragraph below.

I signed up because I had a silly solution to a puzzle, but I've otherwise hesitated to get involved. I feel I've skipped across the surface of LessWrong; I subscribe to a feed that only has a couple posts per week and haven't seen anything better. I'm aware there are pages with voting, but I'm wary of the ... (read more)

I'm also wary of a community so tightly focused around one guy. I have only good things to say about Yudkowsky or his writing, but a site where anyone is far and away the most active and influential writer sets off alarm bells. Despite the warning in the death spiral sequence, this community heavily revolves around him.

Yeah, it's a problem. I'd even go so far as to say that it's a cognitive hazard, not just a PR or recruitment difficulty: if you've got only one person at the clear top of a status hierarchy covering some domain, then halo effects can potentially lead to much worse consequences for that domain than if you have a number of people of relatively equal status who occasionally disagree. Of course there's also less potential for infighting, but that doesn't seem to outweigh the potential risks.

There was a long gap in substantive posts from EY before the epistemology sequence, and I'd hoped that a competitor might emerge from that vacuum. Instead the community seems to have branched; various people's personal blogs have grown in relative significance, but LW has stayed Eliezer's turf in practice. I haven't fully worked out the implications, but they don't seem entirely good, especially since most of the community's modes of social organization are outgrowths of LW.

6magfrump8yI think a part of the problem with other people filling the "vacuum" left by Eliezer is that when he was writing the sequences it was a large amount of informal material. Since then we've established a lot of very formal norms for main-level posts; the "blog" is now about discussions with a lot of shared background rather than about trying to use a bunch of words to get some ideas out. That is, most of the point of the sequences is laying out ground rules. There's no vacuum left over for anyone to fill, and LW isn't really a "blog" any more, so much as a community or discussion board. And for me, personally, at least, a lot of the attraction of LW and the sequences is not that Eliezer did a bunch of original creative work, but that he verbalized and worked out a bit more detail on a variety of ideas that were already familiar, and then created a community where people have to accept that and are therefore trustworthy. What this "feels like on the inside" is that the community is here because they share MY ideas about epistemology or whatever, rather than because they share HIS ideas, even if he was the one to write them down. Of course YMMV and none of this is a controlled experiment; I could be making up bad post hoc explanations.

On a conceptual level, is there more to QM than the Uncertainty Principle and Wave-Particle Duality?

Yes. Very yes. There are several different ways to get at that next conceptual level (matrix mechanics, the behavior of the Schrödinger equation, configuration spaces, Hamiltonian and Lagrangian mechanics, to name ones that I know at least a little about), but qualitative descriptions of the Uncertainty Principle, Schrödinger's Cat, Wave-Particle Duality, and the Measurement Problem do not get you to that level.

Rejoice—the reality of quantum mechanics is way more awesome than you think it is, and you can find out about it!

4TimS8yLet me rephrase: I'm sure there is more to cutting edge QM than that which I understand (or even have heard of). Is any of that necessary to engage with the philosophy-of-science questions raised by the end of the Sequence, such as Science Doesn't Trust Your Rationality [http://lesswrong.com/lw/qb/science_doesnt_trust_your_rationality/]? From a writing point of view, some scientific controversy needed to be introduced to motivate the later discussion - and Eliezer choose QM. As examples go, it has advantages: (1) QM is cutting edge - you can't just go to Wikipedia to figure out who won. EY could have written a Lamarckian / Darwinian evolution sequence with similar concluding essays, but indisputably knowing who was right would slant how the philosophy-of-science point would be interpreted. (2) A non-expert should recognize that their intuitions are hopelessly misleading when dealing with QM, opening them to serious consideration of the new-to-them philosophy-of-science position EY articulates. But let's not confuse the benefits of the motivating example with arguing that there is philosophy-of-science benefit in writing an understandable description of QM. In other words, if the essays in the sequence after and including The Failures of Eld Science [http://lesswrong.com/lw/q9/the_failures_of_eld_science/] were omitted from the Sequence, it wouldn't belong on LessWrong.

Hi, I'm Denise from Germany, I just turned 19 and study maths at university. Right now, I spend most of my time with that and caring for my 3-year-old daughter. I know LessWrong for almost two years now, but never got around to write. However, I'm more or less involved with parts of the LessWrong and the Effective Altruism community, most of them originally found me via Okcupid (I stated I was a LessWrongian), and from there, it expanded.

I grew up in a small village in the middle of nowhere in Germany, very isolated without any people to talk to. I skipped a grade and did extremely well at school, but was mostly very unhappy during my childhood/teen years. Though I had free internet access, I had almost no access to education until I was 15 years old (and pregnant, and no, that wasn't unplanned), because I had no idea what to look for. I dropped out of school then and prepared for the exams -when I had time (I was mostly busy with my child)- I needed to do to be allowed to attend university. In Germany that's extremely unusual and most people don't even know you can do it without going to school.

When I was 15, I discovered enviromentalism (during pregnancy, via people who share m... (read more)

5Kawoomba8yAs another LW'er with kids in Germany, welcome!

This is not an atheist forum, in much the same way that it is not an a-unicorn-ist forum. Not because we do not hold a consistent position on the existence of unicorns, but because the issue itself is not worth discussing. The data has spoken, and there is no reason to believe in them. Whatever. Let's move on to more important things like anthropics and the meta-ethics of Friendly AI.


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3Manfred8yWelcome! The really valuable times are when you get to say those things to yourself - you're the only person you can force to listen :D

So I'm going to write about a) my arguments in favor or religion, though I don't feel they are sufficient and I want to improve them, and b) why I don't fully accept the LW way of thinking.

I'm still thinking about it, and will be until I post to the Discussion...

I expect this is a bad idea. The post will probably get downvoted, and might additionally provoke another spurt of useless discussion. Lurk for a few more months instead, seeking occasional clarification without actively debating anything.

I regard atheism as a slam-dunk issue, but I wouldn't walk into a Mormon forum and call atheism a settled question. 'Twould be logically rude to them.


i have been lurking around here mostly for (rational) self help. Some info about me.

Married. Work at India office of a top tier tech company. 26 y/o

between +2 and +2.5 SD IQ . crystallized >> fluid . Extremely introspective and self critical. ADHD / Mildly depressed most of my life. Have hated 'work' most of my life.

Zero visual working memory (One - Two items with training). Therefore struggling with programming computers and not enjoying it. Can write short programs and solve standard interview type questions. Can't build big functional pieces of software

Tried to self medicate two years back .Overdosed on modafinil + piracetam. in ER. 130+ heart rate for 8 hours. induced panic disorder. As of today, Stimulant use out of question therefore.

Familiar with mindfulness meditation and spiritual philosophy.

Its quite clear that i can't build large pieces of software. Unsure as to what productive use i can be with these attributes.


6ModusPonies8yThat depends on what your goal is. Making enough money to fund a relaxed and happy life? Making tremendous amounts of money? Job satisfaction? Something else entirely?
3rationalnoob8yin terms of goals, i hadn't formalized things but my mental calculations generally revolve around. A) making a lot of money. B) not burning out (due to competitive stress e.g.) doing so. these seems highly improbable in my current environment as i don't have the natural characteristics for this to happen. so either a) i adapt (major , almost miraculous changes needed in conscientiousness/ working memory etc) to succeed at top tier software product development or any other similar high pay career track. b) settle for low quality / low challenge work and low pay (IT services ? teaching? government bureaucracy?) jobs in the b) category pay < 20K USD in india so it won't be a very relaxed existence financially. therefore had been trying to get a) to work somehow. minor successes overall. my working memory and conscientiousness are atleast bottom quartile/ if not bottom decile in my peer group. stuck big time in life therefore.
4private_messaging8yYou may be able to work as a programmer, given some management so that you only work on small pieces at a time. It seems to me that it is actually quite uncommon to be able to comprehend projects of significant size, in programming or elsewhere. Also, maybe you're not that different from other high-IQ individuals. I've always suspected that top scientists, programmers, etc. are at (just an illustrative example) 1 in 1000 on [metric most directly measured by IQ and similar tests] and 1 in 1000 on combination of things like integration of knowledge/memory, working space, etc. Whereas high IQ individuals in general aren't very far from average on the other factors and can't usefully access massive body of knowledge, for example.
4private_messaging8yThat's fairly interesting. It seem to be often under-appreciated that IQ (and similar tests) fail to evaluate important aspects of cognition.

Hello, Less Wrong; I'm so glad I found you.

A few years ago a particularly fruitful wikiwalk got me to a list of cognitive biases (also fallacies). I read it voraciously, then followed the sources, found out about Kahneman and Tversky and all the research that followed. The world has never quite been the same.

Last week Twitter got me to this sad knee-jerk post on Slate, which in a few message-board-quality paragraphs completely missed the point of this thought experiment by Steve Landsburg, dealing with the interesting question of crimes in which the only harm to the victims is the pain from knowing that they happened. The discussion there, however, was refreshingly above average, and I'll be forever grateful to LessWronger "Henry", who posted a link to the worst argument in the world - which turned out to be a practical approach to a problem I had been thinking about and trying to condense into something useful in a discussion (I was going toward something like "'X-is-horrible-and-is-called-racism' turning into 'We-call-Y-racism-therefore-it's-horrible'").

Since then I've been looking around and it feels... feels like I've finally found my species after a lifet

... (read more)

My biggest concern with the label 'Bayesianism' isn't that it's named after the Reverend, nor that it's too mainstream. It's that it's really ambiguous.

For example, when Yvain speaks of philosophical Bayesianism, he means something extremely modest -- the idea that we can successfully model the world without certainty. This view he contrasts, not with frequentism, but with Aristotelianism ('we need certainty to successfully model the world, but luckily we have certainty') and Anton-Wilsonism ('we need certainty to successfully model the world, but we lack certainty'). Frequentism isn't this view's foil, and this philosophical Bayesianism doesn't have any respectable rivals, though it certainly sees plenty of assaults from confused philosophers, anthropologists, and poets.

If frequentism and Bayesianism are just two ways of defining a word, then there's no substantive disagreement between them. Likewise, if they're just two different ways of doing statistics, then it's not clear that any philosophical disagreement is at work; I might not do Bayesian statistics because I lack skill with R, or because I've never heard about it, or because it's not the norm in my department.

There's a su... (read more)

7Randaly8yErr, actually, yes it is. The frequentist interpretation of probability [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probability_interpretations#Frequentism] makes the claim that probability theory can only be used in situations involving large numbers of repeatable trials, or selection from a large population. William Feller: Or to quote from the essay coined the term frequentist: Frequentism is only relevant to epistemological debates in a negative sense: unlike Aristotelianism and Anton-Wilsonism, which both present their own theories of epistemology, frequentism's relevance is almost only in claiming that Bayesianism is wrong. (Frequentism separately presents much more complicated and less obviously wrong claims within statistics and probability; these are not relevant, given that frequentism's sole relevance to epistemology is its claim that no theory of statistics and probability could be a suitable basis for an epistemology, since there are many events they simply don't apply to.) (I agree that it would be useful to separate out the three versions of Bayesianism, whose claims, while related, do not need to all be true or false at the same time. However, all three are substantively opposed to one or both of the views labelled frequentist.)
4Jayson_Virissimo8yYes, it is my understanding that epistemologists usually call the set of ideas Yvain is referring to "probabilism" and indeed, it is far more vague and modest than what they call Bayesianism (which is more vague and modest still than the subjectively-objective Bayesianism that is affirmed often around these parts.). BTW, I think this is precisely what Carnap was on about with his distinction between probability-1 and probability-2, neither of which did he think we should adopt to the exclusion of the other.

Suffering, now; suffering is a harder problem to deal with. Which leads around to the question - what is the purpose of the universe? If suffering exists, and God exists, then suffering must have been put into the universe on purpose. For what purpose? A difficult and tricky question.

What I suspect, is that suffering is there for

This is using your brain as an outcome pump. Start with a conclusion to be defended, observations that prima facie blow it out of the water, and generate ideas for holding onto the conclusion regardless. You can do it with anything, and it's an interesting exercise in creative thinking to come up with a defence of propositions such as that the earth is flat, that war is good for humanity, or that you're Jesus. (Also known as retconning.) But it is not a way of arriving at the truth of anything.

What your outcome pump has come up with is:

What I suspect, is that suffering is there for its long-term effects on the human psyche.

War really is good for humanity! But what then is the optimal amount of suffering? Just the amount we see? More? Less?

I expect that the answer is that the omniscience and omnibenevolence of God imply that what we see is indeed just... (read more)

I don't feel [my arguments in favor of religion] are sufficient and I want to improve them

I know you've heard this from several other people in this thread, but I feel it's important to reiterate: this seems to be a really obvious case of putting the cart before the horse. It just doesn't make sense to us that you are interested only in finding arguments that bolster a particular belief, rather than looking for the best arguments available in general, for all the beliefs you might choose among.

I'm not asking you to respond to this right now, but please keep it firmly in mind for your Discussion post, as it's probably going to be the #1 source of disagreement.

My generally impression has been—trying not to offend anyone—that the thinking here is sometimes pretty rigid.

Of course, that's to be expected for a community that defines itself as rationalist. There are ways of thinking that are more accurate than others, that, to put it inexactly, produce truth. It's not just a "Think however you like and it will produce truth," kind of game.

The obsession that some people have with being open minded and considering all ways of thinking and associated ideas equally is, I suspect, unsustainable for anyone who has even the barest sliver of intellectual honesty. I don't consider it laudable at all. That's not to say they have to be a total arse about it, but I think at best you can hope that they ignore you or lie to you.

I'm a college student studying music composition and computer science. You can hear some of my compositions on my SoundCloud page (it's only a small subset of my music, but I made sure to put a few that I consider my best at the top of the page). In the computer science realm, I'm into game development, so I'm participating in this thing called One Game A Month whose name should be fairly self-explanatory (my February submission is the one that's most worth checking out - the other 2 are kind of lame...).

For pretty much as long as I can remember, I've enjoyed pondering difficult/philosophical/confusing questions and not running away from them, which, along with having parents well-versed in math and science, led me to gradually hone my rationality skills over a long period of time without really having a particular moment of "Aha, now I'm a rationalist!". I suppose the closest thing to such a moment would be about a year ago when I discovered HPMoR (and, shortly thereafter, this site). I've found LW to be pretty much the only place where I am consistently less confused after reading articles about difficult/philosophical/confusing questions than I am before.

Hi, I am Olga, female, 40, programmer, mother of two. Got here from HPMoR. Can not as yet define myself as a rationalist, but I am working on it. Some rationality questions, used in real life conversations, have helped me to tackle some personal and even family issues. It felt great. In my "grown-up" role I am deeply concerned to bring up my kids with their thoughts process as undamaged as I possibly can and maybe even to balance some system-taught stupidity. I am at the start of my reading list on the matter, including LW sequences.

Hello, my name is Lisa. I found this site through HPMOR.

I'm a Georgia Tech student double majoring in Industrial Engineering and Psychology. I know I want to further my education after graduation, probably through a PhD. However, I'm not entirely sure what field I would want to focus on.

I've been lurking for awhile and am slowly making my way through the sequences, though I'm currently studying abroad so I'm not reading particularly quickly. I'm particularly interested in behavioral economics, statistics, evolutionary psychology, and in education policy, especially in higher education.

Hello everyone!

I've read occasional OB and LW articles and other Yudkowsky writings for many years, but never got into it in a big way until now.

My goal at the moment is to read the Quantum Physics sequence, since quantum physics has always seemed mysterious to me and I want to find out if its treatment here will dispel some of my confusion. I've spent the last few days absorbing the preliminaries and digressing into many, many prior articles. Now the tabs are finally dwindling and I am almost up to the start of the sequence!

Anyway, I have a question I didn't see in the FAQ. Given that I went on a long, long, long wiki walk and still haven't read very much of the core material, how big is Less Wrong? Has anyone done word counts on the sequences, or anything like that?

5sceaduwe8yThe sequences come close to a million words. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/555/96_bad_links_in_the_sequences/3ydl]

Hello there, everyone! I am Osiris, and I came here at the request of a friend of mine. I am familiar with Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and spent some time reading through the articles here. Everythin' here is so interesting! I studied to become a Russian Orthodox Priest in the early nineties, and moved to the USA from the Russian Federation at the beginning of the W. Bush Administration. The change of scenery inspired me, and within the first year, I had become an atheist and learned everything I could about biology, physics, and modern philosophy. Today, I am a philosophy/psychology major at a local college, and work to change the world one little bit at a time.

Though I tend to be a bit of a poet, I hope I can find a place here. In particular, I am interested in thinking of morality and the uses of mythology in daily life.

I value maintaining and increasing diversity, and plan on posting a few things which relate to this as soon as possible. I am curious to see how everyone will react to my style of presentation and beliefs.

Hi everyone,

I'm a humanities PhD who's been reading Eliezer for a few years, and who's been checking out LessWrong for a few months. I'm well-versed in the rhetorical dark arts, due to my current education, but I also have a BA in Economics (yet math is still my weakest suit). The point is, I like facts despite the deconstructivist tendency of humanities since the eighties. Now is a good time for hard-data approaches to the humanities. I want to join that party. My heart's desire is to workshop research methods with the LW community.

It may break protocol, but I'd like to offer a preview of my project in this introduction. I'm interested in associating the details of print production with an unnamed aesthetic object, which we'll presently call the Big Book, and which is the source of all of our evidence. The Big Book had multiple unknown sites of production, which we'll call Print Shop(s) [1-n]. I'm interested in pinning down which parts of the Big Book were made in which Print Shop. Print Shop 1 has Tools (1), and those Tools (1) leave unintended Marks in the Big Book. Likewise with Print Shop 2 and their Tools (2). Unfortunately, people in the present don't know which Print Shop... (read more)

I'm interested in associating the details of print production with an unnamed aesthetic object, which we'll presently call the Big Book, and which is the source of all of our evidence.

It's the Bible, isn't it.

Print Shop 1 has Tools (1), and those Tools (1) leave unintended Marks in the Big Book. Likewise with Print Shop 2 and their Tools (2). Unfortunately, people in the present don't know which Print Shop had which Tools. Even worse, multiple sets of Tools can leave similar Marks.

How can you possibly get off the ground if you have no information about any of the Print Shops, much less how many there are? GIGO.

I'm far from an expert in Bayesian methods, but it seems already that there's something missing here.

Have you considered googling for previous work? 'Bayesian inference in phylogeny' and 'Bayesian stylometry' both seem like reasonable starting points.

4Vaniver8yNot quite. You can get quite a bit of insight out of unsupervised clustering.
4HumanitiesResearcher8yInteresting feedback. Ha, I wish. No, it's more specific to literature. We have minimal information about Print Shops. I wouldn't say the existing data are garbage, just mostly unquantified. Yes, but thanks to you I know the shibboleth of "Bayesian stylometry." Makes sense, and I've already read some books in a similar vein, but there are some problems. Most fundamentally, I have trouble translating the methods to a different type of data: from textual data like word length to the aforementioned Marks. Otherwise, my understanding of most stylometric analysis was that it favors frequentist methods. Can you clear any of this up? EDIT: I have a follow-up question regarding GIGO: How can you tell what data are garbage? Are the degrees of certainty based on significant digits of measurement, or what?
9Vaniver8yThis is a problem that machine learning can tackle. Feel free to contact me by PM for technical help. To make sure I understand your problem: We have many copies of the Big Book. Each copy is a collection of many sheets. Each sheet was produced by a single tool, but each tool produces many sheets. Each shop contains many tools, but each tool is owned by only one shop. Each sheet has information in the form of marks. Sheets created by the same tool at similar times have similar marks. It may be the case that the marks monotonically increase until the tool is repaired. Right now, we have enough to take a database of marks on sheets and figure out how many tools we think there were, how likely it is each sheet came from each potential tool, and to cluster tools into likely shops. (Note that a 'tool' here is probably only one repair cycle of an actual tool, if they are able to repair it all the way to freshness.) We can either do this unsupervised, and then compare to whatever other information we can find (if we have a subcollection of sheets with known origins, we can see how well the estimated probabilities did), or we can try to include that information for supervised learning.

That's a hell of a summary, thanks!

I'm glad you mentioned the repair cycle of tools. There are some tools that are regularly repaired (let's just call them "Big Tools") and some that aren't ("Little Tools"). Both are expensive at first and to repair, but it seems the Print Shops chose to repair Big Tools because they were subject to breakage that significantly reduced performance.

I should add another twist since you mentioned sheets of known origins: Assume that we can only decisively assign origins to single sheets. There are two problems stemming from this assumption: first, not all relevant Marks are left on such sheets; second, very few single sheet publications survive. Collations greater than one sheet are subject to all of the problems of the Big Book.

I'm most interested in the distinction between unsupervised and supervised learning. And I will very likely PM you to learn more about machine learning. Again, thanks for your help!

EDIT: I just noticed a mistake in your summary. Each sheet is produced by a set of tools, not a single tool. Each mark is produced by a single tool.

4Vaniver8yOkay. Are the classes of marks distinct by tool type- that is, if I see a mark on a sheet, I know whether it came from tool type X or tool type Y- or do we need to try and discover what sort of marks the various tools can leave?
6HumanitiesResearcher8yFortunately, we know which tool types leave which marks. We also have a very strong understanding of the ways in which tools break and leave marks. Thanks again for entertaining this line of inquiry.
6DaFranker8yGood point! Also yay combining multiple fields of knowledge and expertise! applause Seriously though, the world does need more of it, and I felt the need to explicitly reward and encourage this.
4EHeller8yAny time you are doing statistical analysis, you always want a sample of data that you don't use to tune the model and where you know the right answer. (a 'holdout' sample) In this case, you should have several books related to the various print shops that you don't feed into your Bayesian algorithm. You can then assess the algorithm by seeing if it gets these books correct. To account for the decay of the books, you need books that you know not only came from print shop x,y or z, but also you'd need to know how old the tools wee that made those books. Either that, or you'd have to have some understanding of how the tools decay from a theoretical model.

because I haven't wrapped it up in condescending niceties?

Being nice is important.

If that's still too ambiguous to render an opinion, what isn't?

Kindergarten level insults like "Mormon sort-of-rhymes with Moron" aren't just an expression of opinion. Mormon would be sort-of-rhyming with Moron, even if Mormonism had been true. What you instead expressed is a cutesy and juvenile way of insulting someone: "The mormon is a moron, the mormon is a moron, hahahaha!"

[-][anonymous]8y 13

I found HPMOR nearly three years ago. Soon afterward, I finished the core sequences up through the QM sequence, read some of Eliezer's other posts, and other sequences and authors on LW. When I look back, I realize my thinking has been hugely influenced by what I have learned from this community. I cannot even begin to draw boundaries in my mind identifying what exactly came from LW; hopefully this means I have internalized the ideas and that I am actually using what I learned.

There is a story behind why I have now, after three years of lurking, finally created an account. I am currently a sophomore in high school. I have always been driven to learn by my curiosity and desire for truth and knowledge. But I am also a perfectionist and an overachiever. Somehow, in the last two years of high school, I began to latch onto academics as my “goal.” I started obsessing about ridiculous things - getting perfect scores on every assignment and test, guarding my perfect GPA, etc. It wasn't enough anymore that I understood the content without needing to study - I had to devote huge amounts of time and energy to achieve "perfection."

In March, over spring break, I returned to make some ... (read more)

4Alicorn8yOoh, good school, I went there, best of luck.

Hi everyone,

I'm a PhD student in artificial intelligence/robotics, though my work is related to computational neuroscience, and I have strong interests in philosophy of mind, meta-ethics and the "meaning of life". Though I feel that I should treat finishing my PhD as a personal priority, I like to think about these things. As such, I've been working on an explanation for consciousness and a blueprint for artificial general intelligence, and trying to conceive of a set of weighted values that can be applied to scientifically observable/measurable/calculable quantities, both of which have some implications for an explanation of the "meaning" of life.

At the center of the value system I'm working on is a broad notion of "information". Though still at preliminary stages, I'm considering a hierarchy of weights for the value of different types of information, and trying to determine how bad this is as a utility function. At the moment, I consider the preservation and creation of all information valuable; at an everyday level I try to translate this into learning and creating new knowledge and searching for unique, meaningful experiences.

I've been aware of Le... (read more)

Greetings, LessWrongers. I call myself Intrism; I'm a serial lurker, and I've been hiding under the cupboards for a few months already. As with many of my favorite online communities, I found this one multiple times, through Eliezer's website, TVTropes, and Methods of Rationality (twice), before it finally stuck. I am a student of computer science, and greatly enjoy the discipline. I've already read many of the sequences. While I can't say I've noticed an increase in rationality since I've started, I have made some significant progress on my akrasia, including recently starting on an interesting but unknown LW-inspired technique which I'll write up once I have a better idea of how well it's performing.

[-][anonymous]8y 12

How important are scholarly credentials vs just having that knowledge without a diploma?

I think in almost every field and occupation, having the scholarly credentials is extremely important. Knowledge without the credentials is pretty worthless (unless its worthwhile in itself, but even then you can't eat it): using that knowledge will generally require that people put trust in your having it, often when they're not in a position to evaluate how much you know (either because they're not experts, or they don't have the time). Credentials are generally therefore the basis of that trust. Since freelance work either requires more trust, or pays very badly and inconsistently, credentials are worth getting.

And that was the point of my previous post: some way or other, you have to earn people's trust that you can do a job worth paying you for. One way to earn that trust is to perform well despite lacking credentials. This will take an enormous amount of time and effort (during which you will not be paid, or at least not well) compared to doing whatever it takes to get as close to a 4.0 as you can. The faster you get people to trust you, the faster you can stop fighting to feed and she... (read more)

[-][anonymous]8y 12

I said from the start that I didn't have any, and hoped you would, but when you guys couldn't help meI said "but there must be some out there."

This is a very odd epistemic position to be in.

If you expect there to be strong evidence for something, that means you should already strongly believe it. Whether or not you will find such evidence or what it is, is not the interesting question. The interesting question is why do you have that strong belief now? What strong evidence do you already posses that leads you to believe this thing?

If you haven't got any reason to believe a thing, then it's just like all the other things you don't have reason to believe, of which there are very many, and most of them are false. Why is this one different?.

The correct response, when you notice that a belief is unsupported, is to say oops and move on. The incorrect response is to go looking specifically for confirming evidence. That is writing the bottom line in the wrong place, and is not a reliable truth-finding procedure.

Also, "debate style" arguments are generally frowned upon around here. Epistemology is between you and God, so to speak. Do your thing, collect your evidence, come to your conclusions. This community is here to help you learn to find the truth, not to debate your beliefs.

9Bugmaster8yThat's a very good point. From what I've seen, most Christians who debate atheists end up using all kinds of convoluted philosophical arguments to support their position -- whereas in reality, they don't care about these arguments one way or another, since these are not the arguments that convinced them that their version of Christianity is true. Listening to such arguments would be a waste of my time, IMO.
4Eugine_Nier8yThe same is the case for a lot of atheist arguments. See my comment here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h3p/welcome_to_less_wrong_5th_thread_march_2013/8zm1].

You are fixating on atheism for some reason. Assigning low probability to any particular religion, and only a marginally higher probability to some supernatural creator still actively shaping the universe results naturally from rationally considering the issue and evaluating the probabilities. So do many other conclusions. This reminds me of the creationists picking a fight against evolution, whereas they could have picked a fight against Copernicanism, the way flat earthers do.

Actually, the behavior Risto_Saarelma described fits the standard pattern. People who cannot be helped are ignored or rejected. Take any stable community, online or offline, and that's what you see.

For example, f someone comes to, say, the freenode ##physics IRC channel and starts questioning Relativity, they will be pointed out where their beliefs are mistaken, offered learning resources and have their basic questions answered. If they persist in their folly and keep pushing crackpot ideas, they will be asked to leave or take it to the satellite off-topic channel. If this doesn't help, they get banned.

Again, this pattern appears in every case where a community (or even a living organism) is viable enough to survive.

Saluton! I'm an ex-mormon athiest, a postgenderist, a conlanging dabbler, and a chronic three-day monk.

Looking at the above posts (and a bunch of other places on the net), I think ex-mormons seem to be more common than I thought they would be. Weird.

I'm a first-year college student studying only core/LCD classes so far because every major's terrible and choosing is scary. Also, the college system is madness. I've read lots of posts on the subject of higher education on LessWrong already, and my experience with college seems to be pretty common.

I discovered LessWrong a few months ago via a link on a self-help blog, and quickly fell in love with it. The sequences pretty much completely matched up with what I had come up with on my own, and before reading LW I had never encountered anyone other than myself who regularly tabooed words and rejected the "death gives meaning to life" argument et cetera. It was nice to find out that I'm not the only sane person in the world. Of course, the less happy side of the story is that now I'm not the sanest person in my universe anymore. I'm not sure what I think about that. (Yes, having access to people that are smarter than me ... (read more)

IIRC the standard experimental result is that atheists who were raised religious have substantially above-average knowledge of their former religions. I am also suspicious that any recounting whatsoever of what went wrong will be greeted by, "But that's not exactly what the most sophisticated theologians say, even if it's what you remember perfectly well being taught in school!"

This obviously won't be true in my own case since Orthodox Jews who stay Orthodox will put huge amounts of cumulative effort into learning their religion's game manual over time. But by the same logic, I'm pretty sure I'm talking about a very standard element of the religion when I talk about later religious authorities being presumed to have immensely less theological knowledge than earlier authorities and hence no ability to declare earlier authorities wrong. As ever, you do not need a doctorate in invisible sky wizard to conclude that there is no invisible sky wizard, and you also don't need to know all the sophisticated excuses for why the invisible sky wizard you were told about is not exactly what the most sophisticated dupes believe they believe in (even as they go on telling children abo... (read more)

5MugaSofer8yThe trouble with this heuristic is it fails when you aren't right to start with. See also: creationists. That said, you do, in fact, seem to understand the claims theologians make pretty well, so I'm not sure why you're defending this position in the first place. Arguments are soldiers? Well, I probably know even less about your former religion than you do, but I'm guessing - and some quick google-fu seems to confirm - that while you are of course correct about what you were thought, the majority of Jews would not subscribe to this claim. You hail from Orthodox Judaism, a sect that contains mostly those who didn't reject the more easily-disprove elements [http://lesswrong.com/lw/lr/evaporative_cooling_of_group_beliefs/] of Judaism (and indeed seems to have developed new beliefs guarding against such changes, such as concept of a "written and oral Talmud" that includes the teachings of earlier authorites.) Most Jews (very roughly 80%) belong to less extreme traditions, and thus, presumably, are less likely to discover flaws in them. Much like the OP belonging to a subset of Mormons who believe in secret polar Israelites. Again, imagine a creationist claiming that they were taught in school that a frog turned into a monkey, dammit, and you're just trying to disguise the lies you're feeding people by telling them they didn't understand properly! If a claim is true, it doesn't matter if a false version is being taught to schoolchildren (except insofar as we should probably stop that.) That said, disproving popular misconceptions is still bringing you closer to the truth - whatever it is - and you, personally, seem to have a fair idea of what the most sophisticated theologians are claiming in any case, and address their arguments too (although naturally I don't think you always succeed, I'm not stupid enough to try and prove that here.)

Alright. Hi. I'm a senior in high school and thinking about majoring in Computer Science. Unlike most other people my age, this is probably my first post on any chat forum/ wiki/ blog. I also don't normaly type things without a spell checker and would like to get better. Any coments about my spelling or anything else would be appriciated.

My brother showed me this site a while back and also HP:MoR. Spicificly, I saw the Sequences. And they were long. Some of them were some-what interesting but mostly they were just long. In addition to that, I had just been introduced to the Methods of Rationality which, dispite being long, was realy interisting (actualy my favorite story that I have ever read), and there was some other things, so yeah . . . I still haven't read them. But anyway, that was about a year ago and at this point I have read through MoR at least three times. I feel that I am starting to think sort of rationaly and would like to improve on that.

In addition to that, I have this friend that I talk to at lunch. Normaly we talk about things that we probably don't have any ideas about that actualy reflect reality, like the origins of the universe, time travel, artificial intel... (read more)

8Dahlen8ySince you asked... "comments", "appreciated". Welcome to LessWrong!
7PhilGoetz8yWelcome! I should probably write a post, "Why not to major in computer science." My advice is to be aware that there is almost no money in the world budgeted to computer science research, that most people can't even conceive of or believe in the concept of computer science research, and that a degree in computer science leads only to jobs as a computer programmer unless it is from a top-five school.

jobs as a computer programmer

You say that like it's a bad thing.

Hi everyone, I'm labachevskij. I'm a long time lurker on this site, attracted by (IIRC) Bayesian Decision Theory. I'm completing my PhD studies in Maths, but I have also been caught by HPMOR, which is proving a huge source of procrastination (I'm reading it again for the third time). I'm also on my way with the reading of the sequences.

carefully evaluating both sides of an issue

Are we ever allowed to say "okay, we have evaluated this issue thoroughly, and this is our conclusion; let's end this debate for now"? Are we allowed to do it even if some other people disagree with the conclusion? Or do we have to continue the debate forever (of course, unless we reach the one very specific predetermined answer)?

Sometimes we probably should doubt even whether 2+2=4. But not all the time! Not even once in a month. Once or twice in a (pre-Singularity) lifetime is probably more than necessary. -- Well, it's very similar for the religion.

There are thousands of issues worth thinking about. Why waste the limited resources on this specific topic? Why not something useful... such as curing the cancer, or even how to invent a better mousetrap?

Most of us have evaluated the both sides of this issue. Some of us did it for years. We did it. It's done. It's over. -- Of course, unless there is something really new and really unexpected and really convincing... but so far, there isn't anything. Why debate it forever? Just because some other people are obsessed?

8TheOtherDave8ySo, I basically agree with you, but I choose to point out the irony of this as a response to a thread gone quiet for months.

I think most everyone at MIRI and FHI thinks boxing is a good thing, even if many would say not enough on its own. I don't think you will find many who think that open internet connections are a matter of indifference for AI developers working with powerful AGI.

High-grade common sense (the sort you'd get by asking any specialist in computer security) says that you should design an AI which you would trust with an open Internet connection, then put it in the box you would use on an untrusted AI during development. (No, the AI will not be angered by this lack of trust and resent you. Thank you for asking.) I think it's safe to say that for basically everything in FAI strategy (I can't think of an exception right now) you can identify at least two things supporting any key point, such that either alone was designed to be sufficient independently of the other's failing, including things like "indirect normativity works" (you try to build in at least some human checks around this which would shut down any scary AI independently of your theory of indirect normativity being remotely correct, while also not trusting the humans to steer the AI because then the humans are your single point of failure).

Hello! I’m a 15 year old sophomore in high school, living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I was introduced to rationality and Less Wrong while interning at Leverage Research, which was about a month ago.

I was given a free copy of Chapters 1-17 of HPMOR during my stay. I was hooked. I finished the whole series in two weeks and made up my mind to try and learn what it would be like being Harry.

I decided to learn rationality by reading and implementing The Sequences in my daily life. The only problem was, I discovered the length of the Eliezer’s posts from 2006-2010 was around around 10 Harry Potter books. I was told it would take months to read, and some people got lost along the way due to all the dependencies.

Luckily I am very interested in self improvement, so I decided that I should learn speed reading to avoid spending months dedicated solely to reading The Sequences. After several hours of training, I increased my reading speed (with high comprehension) five times, from around 150 words per minute to 700 words per minute. At that speed, it will take me 33.3 hours to read The Sequences.

It seems like most people advise reading The Sequences in chronological order in ebook form. I... (read more)

If I could spend 5 seconds to a minute after each blog post doing anything, what should I do?

Figure out how you would explain the main idea of the post to a smart friend.

Hello, Less Wrong, I'm Anna Zhang, a high school student. I found this site about half a month ago, after reading Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. On Mr. Yudkowsky's Wikipedia page, I found a link to his site, where I found a link to this site. I've been reading the sequence How to Actually Change Your Mind, as Mr. Yudkowsky recommended, and I've learned a lot from it (though I still have a lot to learn...)

I'm going to unify a couple comment threads here.

Perhaps it's not fair of me to ask for your evidence without providing any of my own. However I really don't want to just become the irrational believer hopelessly trying to convince everyone else.

Honestly, I think you'd be coming across as much more reasonable if you were actually willing to discuss the evidence than you do by skirting around it. There are people here who wouldn't positively receive comments standing behind evidence that they think is weak, but at least some people would respect your willingness to engage in a potentially productive conversation. I don't think anyone here is going to react positively to "There's some really strong evidence, and I'm not going to talk about it, but you really ought to have come up with it already yourself."

Will Newsome gets like that sometimes, and when he does, his karma tends to plummet even faster than yours has, and he's built up a lot of it to begin with.

If you want to judge whether our inability to provide "good" arguments really is due to our lack of familiarity with the position we're rejecting, then there isn't really a better way than to expose us to ... (read more)

9DSimon8yI second this recommendation. Ibidem, it seems that you don't want to be put in the position of defending your beliefs among people who might consider them weird, or stupid, or even harmful. I empathize a lot with that; I've been in the same situation enough times to know how nasty and unfun it can get. But unfortunately, I don't think there's another way the conversation can continue. You've said a few times that you expected us to know of some good arguments for theism, and that you're disappointed that we don't have any. Well, what can anyone say in response to that but "Okay, please show us what we're missing"? I think you can at least trust the community here to take what you say seriously, and not just dismiss you out of hand or use it as an opportunity to score tribal points and virtual high-fives. We're at least self-aware enough to avoid those discussion traps most of the time.

Discovered while researching the global effects of a Pak-Indo nuclear exchange. Once here I began to dig further and found it appealing. I am a simple soldier pushing myself into a Masters in biology. Am I rationalist? I am not sure to be honest. If I am I know the exact date and time when I started to become one. Nov 2004 I was part of the battle of Fallujah, during an exchange of gunfire a child was injured. I will never know if it was one my rounds that caused her head injury but my lips worked to bring her life again. It was a futile attempt, she passed and while clouded with this damn experience I myself was wounded. At that very moment I lost my faith in any loving deity. My endless pursuit of knowledge, to include academics provided by a brick and mortar school has helped me recover from the loss of a limb. I still have the leg however it does not function well. I like to think and philosophy fascinates me, and this site fascinates me. :) Political ideology- Fiscally Conservative Religion-possibilian Rather progressive on issues like gay marriage and abortion. Abortion actually the act I despise but as a man I feel somehow that I haven't the organs to complain. To sum me up I suppose I am a crippled, tobacco chewing, gun toting member of the Sierra Club with a future as a freshwater biologist with memories I would like to replace with Bayes. LoL Well I just spilled that mess out, might as well hit post. Please feel free to ask anything you like, I am not sensitive. Open honesty to those that are curious is good medicine.

3TimS8yWelcome. Hope you find what you are looking for, and maybe find some of it here.

This is where you are confused. Almost certainly it is not the only confusion. But here is one:

Values are not claims. Goals are not propositions. Dynamics are not beliefs.

A machine that maximises paperclips can believe all true propositions in the world, and go on maximising paperclips. Nothing compels it to act any differently. You expect that rational agents will eventually derive the true theorems of morality. Yes, they will. Along with the true theorems of everything else. It won't change their behaviour, unless they are built so as to send those actions identified as moral to the action system.

If you don't believe me, I can only suggest you study AI (Thrun & Norvig) and/or the metaethics sequence until you do. (I mean really study. As if you were learning particle physics. It seems the usual metaethical confusions are quite resilient; in most peoples' cases I wouldn't expect them to vanish without actually thinking carefully about the data presented.) And, well, don't expect to learn too much from off-the-cuff comments here.

Designating PrawnOfFate a probable troll or sockpuppet. Suggest terminating discussion.

Hi. I'm a computer science student in Oulu University (Finland).

I don't remember exactly how I got here, but I guess some of the first posts I read were about counterarguments to religious delial of evolution.

I have been intrested in rationality (along with sciense and technology) for a long time before I found lesswrong, but back then my view of rationality was mostly that it was the opposite of emotion. I still dislike emotions - I guess that it's because they are so often "immune to reflection" (ie. persistently "out of sync" with what I know to be the right thing to do). However, I'm aware that emotions do have some information value (worse than optimal, but better than nothing) and simply removing emotions from human neuroarchitechture without other changes might result something functionally closer to a rock than a superhuman...

I'm an atheist and don't believe in non-physical entities like souls, but I still believe in eternal life. This unorthodox view is because 1) I'm a (sort of) "modal realist": I believe that every logically possible world actually physically exists (it's the simplest answer I've found to the question "Why does anything... (read more)

Hey Lesswrong.

This is a sockpuppet account I made for the purpose of making a post to Discussion and possibly Main, while obscuring my identity, which is important due to some NDAs I've signed with regards to the content of the post.

I am explicitly asking for +2 karma so that I can make the post.

Yo. I've been around a couple years, posted a few times as "ZoneSeek," re-registered this year under my real name as part of a Radical Honesty thing.

Nobody can recruit Grigori Perelman for IMO, either.

Perelman is an IMO gold medalist.

If you learned quantum mechanics from that book, you may have seriously mislearned it. It's actually pretty decent describing everything up to but excluding quantum physics. When it comes to QM, however, the author sacrifices useful understanding in favor of mysticism.

Hello LW. My pseudonym is DiscyD3rp, and this introduction is long overdo. I am 17, male, and currently enrolled in high school. I discovered this site over a year ago, via HPMoR, and have read a good percentage of the main sequences in a kinda correct order. However, i was experiencing significant angst from what I call Dungeon Crawl Anxiety (The same reason that when exploring RPG dungeons i double back and explore even AFTER discovering the correct path). I am now (re-)reading the entirety of Eliezer's posts in the ebook version of the sequences. I have found the re-read articles still useful after having gotten a basic handle on bayesian thought, and look forward to completing my enlightenment

As far as personality, I was (am) incredibly arrogant, and future goals involve MIRI and/or rationality teaching myself (one time involves an email to Eliezer claiming the ability to save the world, and subsequently learning that decision theory is HARD). I am not particularly talented in quickly absorbing technical fields of knowledge, but plan on on developing that skill. My existing talent seems to be manipulating idea and concepts easily and creatively once well understood. Im great at reading the map, but suffer difficulty in writing it. (In very mathy fields)

Im a born Christian, with a moderate upbringing, but likely saved from extremism by the internet just in time. Now a skeptic and an atheist.

6[anonymous]8yI hope you will forgive the impertinance of offering unsolicited advice: if you havn't already, you might consider teaching yourself several programming languages in your free time. It's a very marketable skill, important to MIRI's work, and in many ways suffices for a basic education in logic. The mathy stuff is probably not optional given your ambitions, and much of the same discipline and attention to detail necessary cor programming can be applied to learning serious math. Arrogance will be a terrible burden if unaccompanied by usefulness and skill.
4DiscyD3rp8yI am currently teaching myself Haskel and have a functional programming textbook on my device. While unsolicited, i apreciate ALL advice. Any other tips?
3[anonymous]8yNope, that's all I got. Wait, one more thing. I learned in a painful way that scholarly credentials are most cheaply won (time and effort wise) in high school, and then it gets exponentially more difficult as you age. Every hour you spend making sure you get perfect grades now is worth ten or a hundred hours in your early-mid twenties. Looking back, getting anything less than perfect grades, given how easy that is in high school, seems utterly foolish. Maybe you already know that. Good luck!

Everyone here is expecting me to provide good arguments. I said from the start that I didn't have any, and hoped you would, but when you guys couldn't help meI said "but there must be some out there."

Wait a minute.

You came here without any good reasons to believe in the truth of religion, and then were surprised when we, a group of (mostly) atheists, told you that we hadn't heard of any good reasons to believe in religion either?

I am honestly curious: what makes you think such good reasons exist? Why must there be some good arguments for religion out there? You, a religious person, have none, and you are (apparently?) still religious despite this.

P.S. For what it's worth, I hope you continue to participate in the discussion here, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and how your views have evolved.

Then you must believe the same with respect to homeopathic remedies, the flat earth society, and those who believe they can use their spiritual energy in the martial arts. Give us some good arguments for those.

There's a lot of stuff out there for which it seems to me there is no good argument. I mean really, let's try to maintain some sense of perspective here. The belief that everyone has a decent argument is, I think, pretty much demonstrably false. You presumably want us to believe that you're in the same category as people who ought to be taken seriously, but I don't really see how a belief in God is any more worthy of that than a belief in homeopathic remedies. At least, not based on your argument that all positions ought to be considered to have good arguments. If you're trying to make a general argument, you're going to get lumped in with them.

But you haven't showed much willingness so far to discuss your reasons for your belief in which way the evidence falls or ours.

I can understand not wanting to discuss a settled question with people who're too biased to analyze it reasonably, but if you're going to avoid discussing the matter here in the first place, it suggests to me that rather than concluding from your experience with us that we're rigid and closed-minded on the matter, you've taken it as a premise to begin with, otherwise where's the harm in discussing the evidence?

I consider the matter of religion to be a settled question because I've studied the matter well beyond the point of diminishing returns for interesting evidence or arguments. Are you familiar enough with the evidence that we're prepared to bring to the table that you think you could argue it yourself?

Just as I've been told repeatedly that your atheism is a foregone conclusion.

Can you point to where you've been told that?

What I think most of us would agree on, and what it seems to me that people here have told you, is that they consider atheism to be a settled question, which is not at all the same thing.

I never said that I considered people different than me to not be good. What I said in earlier comments is that I liked The God Delusion because it introduced me to the concept that you can be "a good, healthy, happy person without believing in God". I believed that those who did not have faith in God would be more likely to be immoral, would be more likely to be unhealthy, and would definitely be more unhappy than if they did believe in God. The book presented to me a case for how atheists can be just as moral, just as healthy, just as happy as theists, an argument I had never seen articulated before. I apologize that I had never conjured this idea up before reading The God Delusion, it just seemed obvious to me based on my study of the Gospel that they couldn't be.

What passages in the scriptures tell you that you can be moral, healthy, and happy without faith in God? It seems pretty consistent to me that in the scriptures they say you can only have those qualities in your life if you believe in God and follow his commandments.

I fail to see how blood atonement, Adam-God, racist theology, and polygamist theology gave you the slightest impression that the Journal of Disc

... (read more)

My $0.02: the most valuable piece of information I get from open-ended introductions is typically what people choose to talk about, which I interpret as a reflection of what they consider important. For example, I interpret the way you describe yourself here as reflecting a substantial interest in how other people judge you.

If it is as right as it is insightful (which it undeniably is), I would expect those who come across wedifid's explanation to go back and change their vote, resulting in %positive going sharply down.

A quirk (and often a bias) humans have is that we tend to assume that just because a social behavior or human instinct can be explained it must thereby be invalidated. Yet everything can (in principle) be explained and there are still things that are, in fact, noble. My parents' love for myself and my siblings is no less real because I am capable of reasoning about the inclusive fitness of those peers of my anscestors that happened to love their children less.

In this case the explanation given was, roughly speaking "egalitarian instinct + politeness". And personally I have to say that the egalitarian instinct is one of my favorite parts of humanity and one of the traits that I most value in those I prefer to surround myself with (Rah foragers!).

All else being equal the explanation in terms of egalitarian instinct and precedent setting regarding authority use describes (what I consider to be) a positive picture and in itself is no reason to downvote. (The comment deserves to... (read more)

Selectivity, in the relevant sense, is more than just a question of how many people are granted something.

How many people are not on that site, but could rank highly if they chose to try? I'm guessing it's far more than the number of people who have never taken part in the IMO, but who could get a gold medal if they did.

(The IMO is more prestigious among mathematicians than topcoder is among programmers. And countries actively recruit their best mathematicians for the IMO. Nobody in the Finnish government thought it would be a good idea to convince and train Linus Torvalds to take part in an internet programming competition, so I doubt Linus Torvalds is on topcoder.)

There certainly are things as selective or more than the IMO (for example, the Fields medal), but I don't think topcoder is one of them, and I'm not convinced about "plenty". (Plenty for what purpose?)

3private_messaging8yI've tried to compare it more accurately. It's very hard to evaluate selectivity. It's not just the raw number of people participating. It seems that large majority of serious ACM ICPC participants (both contestants and their coaches) are practising on Topcoder, and for the ICPC the best college CS students are recruited much the same as best highschool math students for IMO. I don't know if Linus Torvalds would necessarily do great on this sort of thing - his talents are primarily within software design, and his persistence as the unifying force behind Linux. (And are you sure you'd recruit a 22 years old Linus Torvalds who just started writing a Unix clone?). It's also the case that 'programming contest' is a bit of misnomer - the winning is primarily about applied mathematics - just as 'computer science' is a misnomer. In any case, its highly dubious that understanding of QM sequence is as selective as any contest. I get it fully that Copenhagen is clunky whereas MWI doesn't have the collapse, and that collapse fits in very badly. That's not at all the issue. However badly something fits, you can only throw it away when you figured out how to do without it. Also, commonly, the wavefunction, the collapse, and other internals, are seen as mechanisms of prediction which may, or may not, have anything to do with "how universe does it" (even if the question of "how universe does it" is meaningful, it may still be the case that internals of the theory have nothing to do with that, as the internals are massively based upon our convenience). And worse still, MWI is in many very important ways lacking.

I made an account seven months ago, but I wasn't aware of the last welcome thread, so I guess I'll post on this one.

I'm not sure when I exactly "joined". My first contact with this community was passing familiarity with "Overcoming bias" as one of the blogs which sometimes got linked in the blogosphere I frequented in high school. As typical of my surfing habits in those days, I spent one or two sessions reading it for hours and then promptly forgot about all it. Second contact was a recommendation from another user on reddit to Lesswrong. Third contact was a few months later when my roommate recommended I read hpmor. I lurked for a short time, and made an account, and went to my first few meetups about two months ago. Meetups are fun, you meet lots of smart people, and I highly recommend it.

First impressions? I think this is the (for lack of a better word) most intellectual internet community that I am familiar with. Almost every post or comment is worth reading, and the site has got an addictive reddit-ish feel about it (which hampers my productivity somewhat, but que sera, sera.)

I've noticed that most of the opinions here tend to align precisely with my own... (read more)

3[anonymous]8yI noticed this as well, while first reading the sequences. I flew through blog posts, absorbing it all in, since it all either matched my own thoughts, or were so similar that it hardly took effort to comprehend. But I struggled to find anything original to say, which was part of why I initially didn't bother making an account - I didn't want to simply express agreement every time. (And now I notice that my second comment is precisely that.) That's one of the things I've frequently benefited from in my thinking. I have found that the concepts behind keywords like dissolving the question, mysterious answers, map and territory, and the teacher's password can be applied in so many areas, and that having the arsenal to use them makes it much easier to think clearly about otherwise elusive concepts.

In agreement with Vaniver's comment, there is evidence that differences in IQ well above 120 are predictive of success, especially in science. For example:

  • IQs of a sample of eminent scientists were much higher than the average for science PhDs (~160 vs ~130)

  • Among those who take the SAT at age 13, scorers in the top .1% end up outperforming the top 1% in terms of patents and scientific publications produced as adults

I don't think I have good information on whether these returns are diminishing, but we can at least say that they are not vanishing. T... (read more)

Hello, my name is Cam :]

My goals in life are:

  1. To build a self sufficient farm I with renewable alternative energy and everything.
  2. Acquire financial assets to support the building of my farm and other hobbies and activities I pursue. 3 .To further my fitness and health and maintain it.
  3. Love and Romance.

That's pretty much it, hahaha, I want to learn the ways of a Rationalist to make the best decisions and solutions for problems I might encounter in pursuing these goals! I have a immature or childlike air around me, people tend to say, which is why I am ... (read more)

Hello Less Wrong community members,

My name is Zoe, I'm a philosophy student, and increasingly discombobulated by the inadequacy of my field of study to teach me how to Actually Do Things. I discovered Less Wrong 18 months ago, thanks to the story Harry Potter and the Method of Rationality. I've read a number of articles and discussions since then, mostly whenever I felt like reading something both intelligent and relevant, but I have not systematically read through any sequence or topic.

I have recently formed the goal to develop the skills necessary to 'ra... (read more)

Hello, my name is Watson. The username comes from my initials and a Left 4 Dead player attempting to pronounce them. I am a math student at UC Berkeley and a longtime lurker. I've got a post on rational investing, based on the conclusions of years of research by academic economists, but despite lurking I never realized there is a karma limit to post in discussion. I'm interested in just about everything, a dangerous phenomenon.

Hello to the Less Wrong community. My name is Leslie Cuthbert and I'm a lawyer based in the United Kingdom. I look forward to reading the various sequences and posts here.

There are many other intelligent and thoughtful people who disagree. Why -- epistemically, not historically -- do you place particular weight on your parents' beliefs? How did they come by those beliefs?

A sufficiently intelligent mind (and I think I can assume that if God exists, then He is sufficiently intelligent) can impose self-consistency and order on itself.

This begs Eliezer's question, I think. Intelligence itself is highly non-arbitrary and rule-governed, so by positing that God is sufficiently intelligent (and the bar for sufficiency here is pretty high), you're already sneaking in a bunch of unexplained orderliness. So in this particular case, no, I don't think you can assume that if God exists, then He is sufficiently intelligent, just like I can't respond to your original point by assuming that if the universe exists, then it is orderly.

I've now had an overwhelming request to hear my supposed strong arguments. It would be awfully lame of me to drop out now.

Just say "Oops" and move on. My point is that you almost certainly don't have good arguments, which is why your post won't be well-received. If it is so, it's better to notice that it is so in advance and act accordingly.

A rationalist ought to have heard arguments and evidence that challenged his (dis)beliefs, and have come out stronger because of it.

A rationalist

You keep using that word...

In Avoiding Your Belief's Real Weak Points, Eliezer says:

There is a tradition of inquiry. But you only attack targets for purposes of defending them. You only attack targets you know you can defend.

In Modern Orthodox Judaism I have not heard much emphasis of the virtues of blind faith. You're allowed to doubt. You're just not allowed to successfully doubt.

The point being t... (read more)

There are threads about theism, etc. in which theists have received positive net karma. It should be possible to learn which features of discourse tend to accrue upvotes on this site.

Hi! I'm a 24 year old woman starting grad school this fall studying mathematics. Specifically I'm interested in mathematically modelling organizational decision making.

My parents raised me on Carl Sagan and Michael Shermer, so there was never really a point that I didn't identify as a rationalist. I discovered less wrong long enough ago that I don't actually remember how I found it. I've been lurking here for several years. I finally registered after doing the last survey, though I didn't make another post until the last few days.

Oh, and I have a talking c... (read more)

I've been privately told of several such cases in high-energy physics. Below is an excerpt from the Politzer's Nobel lecture. He discovered Asymptotic freedom (that quarks are essentially connected by the miniature rubber bands which have no tension when the quarks are close to each other).

I slowly and carefully completed a calculation of the Yang-Mills beta function. I happen to be ambidextrous and mildly dyslexic. So I have trouble with left/right, in/out, forward/backward, etc. Hence, I derived each partial result from scratch, paying special attentio

... (read more)

What I am wondering about is why it seems that atheists have complete caricatures of their previous theist beliefs.

Suppose there is diversity within a religion, on how much the sensible and silly beliefs are emphasized. If the likelihood of a person rejecting a religion is positively correlated with the religion recommending silly beliefs, then we should expect that the population of atheist converts should have a larger representation of people raised in homes where silly beliefs dominated than the population of theists. That is, standard evaporative c... (read more)

If you hold a belief that is described with a name that has negative connotations, you have two options. You can either hide behind some sort of euphemism, or you can just come out and say "yes I do believe that, and I am proud of it".

There is also a third option: Keep your identity small and pick your battles. Just because the society happens to disagree with you in one specific topic, that is no reason to make that one topic central to your life, and to let all other people define you by that one topic regardless of what other traits or abil... (read more)

3gothgirl4206668yOkay, but all I'm saying is that if you do decide to talk about your beliefs, you should use a more honest term for your belief system. I definitely agree with you that racists should not go around talking publicly about their beliefs! You seem to have inferred something from my post that I didn't mean, sorry about that.

I've been browsing the site for at least a year. Found it through HP:MoR, which is absolutely amazing. I've been coming to the LessWrong study hall for a couple weeks now and have found it highly effective.

For the most part, I haven't really applied this at all. I ended up making a final break with Christianity, but the only significant difference is that I now say "Yay humanism!" instead of "Yay God!" I've used a few tricks here and there, like the Sunk Cost Fallacy, and the Planning Fallacy, but I still spent the majority of my time n... (read more)

Well, hello. I'm a first-year physics PhD student in India. Found this place through Yvain's blog, which I found when I was linked there from a feminist blog. It's great fun, and I'm happy I found a place where I can discuss stuff with people without anyone regularly playing with words (or, more accurately, where it's acceptable to stop and define your words properly). So, one of my favourite things about this place is the fact that it's based on the map to territory idea of truth and beliefs; I've been using it to insult people ever since I read it.

The po... (read more)


I'm a philosopher (postdoc) at the London School of Economics who recently discovered Less Wrong. I am now reading through lots of old posts, especially Yudkowsky's and lukeprog's philosophy-related material, which I find very interesting.

I think lukeprog is right when he points out that the general thrust of Yudkowsky's philosophy belongs to a naturalistic tradition often associated with Quine's name. In general, I think it would be useful to situate Yudkowsky's ideas visavi the philosophical tradition. I hope to be able to contributre something here ... (read more)

Hi. I've been a distant LW lurker for a while now; I first encountered the Sequences sometime around 2009, and have been an avid HP:MOR fan since mid-2011.

I work in computer security with a fair bit of software verification as flavoring, so the AI confinement problem is of interest to me, particularly in light of recent stunts like arbitrary computation in zero CPU instructions via creative abuse of the MMU trap handler. I'm also interested in applying instrumental rationality to improve the quality and utility of my research in general. I flirt with some ... (read more)

Hello, I am a 46 yr old software developer from Australia with a keen interest in Artificial Intelligence.

I don’t have any formal qualifications, which is a shame as my ideal life would be to do full time research in AI - without a PhD I realise this won’t happen, so I am learning as much as I can through books, practice and various online courses.

I came across this site today from a link via MIRI and feel like I have struck gold - the articles, sequences and discussions here are very well written, interesting and thoughtful.

My current goals are to build a... (read more)

I don't know about imagining how to explain something to others.

I would imagine that actually explaining it out loud to a rubber duck is better than imagining explaining it to a friend, for the same reasons that it is a common debugging practice. Actually putting something into words makes weak spots in understanding obvious in a way that imagination can glide over.

Hi, I'm Brayden, from Melbourne Australia. I attended the May 2013 CfAR workshop in Berkeley about 1 year after finding Less Wrong, and 2 years after finding HPMOR. My trip to The States was phenomenal, and I highly recommend the CfAR workshops.

My life is significantly better now than it was before, and I think I am on track with the planning process for eventually working on the highest impact causes that might help save the world.

Hello Less Wrong! I am Scott Garrabrant, a 23 year old math PhD student at UCLA, studying combinatorics. I discovered Less Wrong about 4 months ago. After reading MoR and a few sequences, I decided to go back and read every blog post. (I just finished all Eliezer's OB posts) I was going to wait and start posting after I got completely caught up, but then I started attending weekly meetups 2 months ago, and now I need to earn enough karma to make meetup announcements.

I have been interested in meta-thinking for a long time. I have spent a lot of time thinkin... (read more)

As a new member of this community, I am having a bit of difficulty with the numerous abbreviations that people use in their writing on this site. For example I have come across a number of these that are not listed on the Jargon page (eg: EY, PC, NPC, MWI...). I realize that as a new member, I will eventually understand many of these, however, it is very frustrating trying to read something and be continually distracted by having to look-up some of these obscure terms. This is especially a problem on the Welcome Thread, where a potential new member could ... (read more)

6John_Maxwell8yI added the acronyms you mentioned to the Jargon page [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Jargon]. Tell me if you come across any more. You can also edit the page to add them yourself as you learn them if you like.

Hi, my name is Danon. I just joined less wrong after reading a wonderful post by Swimmer963: http://lesswrong.com/lw/9j1/how_i_ended_up_nonambitious/ on her reasoning for why she ended up without ambition (actually, I felt she had a lot of ambition). I got to her post while trying to figure out why I am lazy, I was wondering if it was because I had no (or little, if any) ambition. Her post got me asking the right questions I have finally been able to save a private draft in LW stating a reasoning for my laziness. It really is refreshing to read the posts here at LW. Thank you for having me.

I want to know what everyone thinks of my [response] to EY

I think it's confused.

If I were part of a forum that self-identified as Modern Orthodox Jewish, and a Christian came along and said "you should identify yourselves as Jewish and anti-Jesus, not just Jewish, since you reject the divinity of Jesus", that would be confused. While some Orthodox Jews no doubt reject the divinity of Jesus a priori, others simply embrace a religious tradition that, on analysis, turns out to entail the belief that Jesus was not divine.

Similarly, we are a for... (read more)

An always open mind never closes on anything. There is a time to confess your ignorance and a time to relinquish your ignorance and all that...

Are you saying it's more rational not ever to consider some ways of thinking?

Yes. Rationality isn't necessarily about having accurate beliefs. It just tends that way because they seem to be useful. Rationality is about achieving your aims in the most efficient way possible.

Oh, someone may have to look into some ways of thinking, if people who use them start showing signs of being unusually effective at achieving relevant ends in some way. Those people would become super-dominant, it would be obvious that their way of thinking was superior. However, ther... (read more)

FWIW, I neither upvoted nor downvoted your posts; I think they are typical for a newcomer to the community. However, I must admit that your closing line comes across as being very poorly thought out:

Oh, and I'm a Mormon. And intend to remain that way in the near future.

This makes it sound like your Mormonism is a foregone conclusion, and that you're going to disregard whatever evidence or argumentation comes along, unless it is compatible with Mormonism. That is not a very rational way of thinking. Then again, that's just what your closing statement sounds like, IMO; you probably did not mean it that way.

I dunno, I find the complexity-hiding capitalized nouns things strangely attractive. Maybe there should be more capitalized nouns. Why isn't Sheets capitalized?

This is probably coming back to my fascination with graph theory, which has similar but even more exotic terminology. "A spider is a subdivision of a star, which is a kind of tree made up only of leaves and a root; a star with three arcs is called a claw."

[-][anonymous]8y 8

I tend to focus on the current authorized messengers from God and the Holy Spirit as I feel that is what I have been instructed to do.

Who authorizes messengers from God? It's not like He has a public key, after all...

I believe that I already knew I was acting on egalitarian instinct when I upvoted your comment.

Apparently I have just registered.

So, I have a question. What's an introduction do? What is it supposed to do? How would I be able to tell that I've introduced myself if I somehow accidentally willed myself to forget?

Well... I'm an engineering student who intends to graduate in electronics. I became interested in AI when I started learning programming at the age of 12. I became fascinated with what I could make the computer do. And rather naively I tried for months and months to program something that was "intelligent" (and failed horribly of course). I set that project aside temporarily but never stopped thinking about it. Years later I discovered HPMoR and through it LessWrong and suddenly found a whole community of people interested in AI and similar thing... (read more)

Please consider whether this exchange is worth your while. Certainly wasn't worth mine.

I know Mitchell Porter is likewise a physicist and he's not convinced at all either.

Mitchell Porter also advocates Quantum Monadology and various things about fundamental qualia. The difference in assumptions about how physics (and rational thought) works between Eliezer (and most of Eliezer's target audience) and Mitchell Porter is probably insurmountable.

Hello everyone, I'm Franz. I don't actually remember how I happened upon this site, but I do know it was rotting in my unsorted bookmark folder for over a year before I actually decided to read any post. This I do regret.

Because of circumstances I am currently in Brazil and due to a lack of internet infrastructure, I have to read the downloadable versions of the sequences and won't be able to comment often. I do enjoying reading your insightful thoughts!

I was wondering if anyone has directly applied EY methods to their own life? For what reason and what... (read more)

6[anonymous]8yWelcome! I have. Specifically, the How to Actually Change Your Mind [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/How_To_Actually_Change_Your_Mind] sequence was very helpful to me in real life. However, in spite of how some people feel about this site, for me, it is not about [only] EY. Lots of things from Less Wrong have affected my life outside of Less Wrong, specifically (quoting from an older draft of this comment, now, so that is why the flow may be weird here): One of the most helpful posts I came upon here was "The Power of Pomodoros" [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gp4/the_power_of_pomodoros/], which introduced me to the Pomodoro technique. See this PDF [http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/download/pdf/ThePomodoroTechnique_v1-3.pdf] from the official website for a more detailed guide. Another helpful thing I discovered via Less Wrong is the Less Wrong Study Hall. See "Co-Working Collaboration to Combat Akrasia" [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gwo/coworking_collaboration_to_combat_akrasia/] and "Programming the LW Study Hall" [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gzm/programming_the_lw_study_hall/]. This [http://tinychat.com/lesswrong] is the current study hall (on Tinychat), but I think it will eventually be moved to somewhere else. Less Wrong taught me about existential risk [http://lesswrong.com/lw/8f0/existential_risk/] and efficient charity [http://lesswrong.com/lw/37f/efficient_charity/]. This has produced a tangible change in what I do with my money. lukeprog's The Science of Winning at Life [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/The_Science_of_Winning_at_Life] sequence was also very helpful to me. I could write more, but I've already spent too much time on this comment. Enjoy Less Wrong!

Hi Everyone! I'm AABoyles (that's true most places on the internet besides LW).

I first found LW when a colleague mentioned That Alien Message over lunch. I said something to the effect of "That sounds like an Arthur C. Clarke short story. Who is the author?" "Eliezer Yudkowsky," He said, and sent me the link. I read it, and promptly forgot about it. Fast forward a year, and another friend posts the link to HPMOR on Facebook. The author's name sounded very familiar. I read it voraciously. I subscribed to the Main RSS feed and lurked for ... (read more)

From the book's website:

Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough.

Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences? Close enough.

Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even ballpark.

I guess there is some tension between "narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion" and "willing to believe in anything"...

Redundancy isn't a design failure or a 'patch'.

I'm a Swiss medical student. I've read HPMoR and a large part of the core sequences. I've attended LW meetups in several US cities and met quite a few of you in the Bay Area and/or at the Effective Altruism Summit. I've interned for Leverage Research. I co-founded giordano-bruno-stiftung.ch (outreach organisation with German translations of some LessWrong blog posts, and other posts about rationality). Looking forward to participating in the comment section more often.

So since I wrote this five minutes ago, I've gotten some insights (through looking at one of the links on the welcome page above) into why I'm so wary of being bombarded with arguments explaining how to be rational.

You might like a couple of pieces that take a similarly positive-but-tempered view of LW-style rationality (both written by the person — Yvain — who wrote the piece at your link, as it happens): "Extreme Rationality: It's Not That Great" and "Epistemic learned helplessness". You might also like Yvain's other LW posts, most... (read more)

Hi everyone,

I have been lurking LessWrong on and off for quite a while. I originally found this place through HPMoR; I thought the 'LessWrong' authorname was clever and it was nice to find out there was a whole community based around aiming to be less wrong! My tendency to overthink whatever I write has gotten in the way of actually taking part in the community so far though. Maybe now that I have gotten the introduction out of the way I'll be more likely to post.

A bit more about myself: I'm a student from the Netherlands, doing a masters in Artificial In... (read more)

Hello, Less Wrong! I'm Michael Odintsov from Ukraine, so sorry for my not-nearly-perfect :) English. Just like many here I found this site from Yudkowsky's link while reading his "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality". I am 27 years old programmer, fond of science in general and mostly math of all kinds.

I worked a bit in fields of AI and machine learning and looking forward for new opportunities. Well... that's almost all that I can tell about me right now - never been a great talker :) If anyone have questions or need some help with CS related topics - just ask, I always ready to help.

I don't believe that rationality in general is incompatible with religious belief, but if this community thinks that their particular brand of rationality is, people like me would love to know that.

Might we not, instead, disagree with you about rationality in general being compatible with religious belief, rather than asserting that we have some special incompatible brand of rationality?

I think it that most of your problems with theists would go away if you clarified LW's actual position.

Do we really have "problems with theists"...?

3Viliam_Bur8yI don't. I just consider the debates about theism boring if they don't bring any new information.

Yes, but what I expected was...um...atheists who were better than most, who had arrived at atheism through two-sided discourse.

Bob Altemeyer asked college students about this, some of whom had a strong allegiance to 'traditional' authority and some less so:

Interestingly, virtually everyone said she had questioned the existence of God at some time in her life. What did the authoritarian students do when this question arose? Most of all, they prayed for enlightenment. Secondly, they talked to their friends who believed in God. Or they talked with their

... (read more)

"Reason and Emotion are a tag team in decision making in ethical domains. They do their best work together."

That statement is too strong. I can think of several instances where certain emotions, especially negative ones, can impair decision making. It is reasonable to assume that impaired decision making can extend into making ethical decisions.

The first page of the paper linked below provides a good summary of when emotions, and what emotions, can be helpful or harmful in making decisions. I do acknowledge that some emotions can be helpful in... (read more)

Hi! I've been lurking here for maybe 6 months, and I wanted to finally step out and say hello, and thank you! This site has helped to shape huge parts of my worldview for the better and improved my life in general to boot. I just want to make a list of a few of the things I've learned since coming here which I never would have otherwise, as nearly as I can tell.

  • I've dropped the frankly silly beliefs I held as an evangelical Christian; I wasn't as bad as most in that category but in hindsight that was just due to luck and strong logical skills. (I knew be
... (read more)
4shminux8yAnything written by Yvain [http://raikoth.net/], including his old [http://squid314.livejournal.com/] and new [http://slatestarcodex.com/] blogs, though someone ought to compile a list of his greatest hits.

I disagree. Remember when we looked at the pebblesorters, and lamented how silly they were ? We could do this because we are not pebblesorters, and we could look at them from a fresh, external perspective. My point is that an agent with perfect introspection could look at itself from that perspective.

We're looking at Pebblesorters, not from the lens of total neutrality, but from the lens of human values. Under a totally neutral lens, which implements no values at all, no system of behavior should look any more or less silly than any other.

Clippy could t... (read more)


So, I imagine the following conversation between two people (A and B):
A: It's absurd to say 'atheism is a kind of religion,'
B: Why?
A: Well, 'religion' is a word with an agreed-upon meaning, and it denotes a particular category of structures in the world, specifically those with properties X, Y, Z, etc. Atheism lacks those properties, so atheism is not a religion.
B: I agree, but that merely shows the claim is mistaken. Why is it absurd?
A: (thinks) Well, what I mean is that any mind capable of seriously considering the question 'Is atheism a religion?'... (read more)

Even now ethics in different parts of the world, and even between political parties, are different. You should know that more than most, having lived in two systems.

There's a ridiculous amount of similarity on anything major, though. If we pick ethics of first man on the moon, or first man to orbit the earth, it's pretty same.

If it turns out that most space-faring civilizations have similar ethics, that would be good for us. But then also there would be a difference between "most widespread code of ethics" and "objectively correct code

... (read more)

Right, but this isn't a free lunch so much as "you can see a lot by looking."

8HumanitiesResearcher8ySorry to interrupt a perfectly lovely conversation. I just have a few things to add: * I may have overstated the case in my first post. We have some information about print shops. Specifically, we can assign very small books to print shops with a high degree of confidence. (The catch is that small books don't tend to survive very well. The remaining population is rare and intermittent in terms of production date.) * There are some hypotheses that could be treated as priors, but they're very rarely quantified (projects like this are rare in today's humanities).

I dispute its applicability, because I've known very smart Mormons. Humans are not logic engines. It's rare to find even a brilliant person who doesn't have some blind spot.

Even if it were clinically applicable, you presented it as an in-group vs. out-group joke, which is an invitation for people from one tribe to mock people from another tribe. Its message was not primarily informational.

Crocker's Rules are not an invitation to be rude.

Hello LW users, I use the alias Citizen 9-100 (nine one-hundred) but you may call me Nozz. This account will be shared between my sister and I, but we will sign it with the name of whoever is speaking. I would write more but I wrote a lot already but it didn't post due to a laptop error, so all I'll say for now is anything you'd like to know, feel free to ask, just make sure you clarify who your asking. BTW, for those interested, you may call my sister, any of the following, Sam, Sammy, Samantha, or any version of that :)

I don't recommend sharing an account. It will be confusing, and signatures are not customary here.

4MugaSofer8yRegardless of how good an idea sharing accounts is (not very, I'm guessing, for the record) who on earth downvotes an introduction? Upvoted back to neutral.


First, let me apologize pre-emptively if I'm retreading old ground, I haven't carefully read this whole discussion. Feel free to tell me to go reread the damned thread if I'm doing so. That said... my understanding of your account of existence is something like the following:

A model is a mental construct used (among other things) to map experiences to anticipated experiences. It may do other things along the way, such as represent propositions as beliefs, but it needn't. Similarly, a model may include various hypothesized entities that represent certa... (read more)

Hey! My name is Vinney, I'm 28 years old and live in New York City.

To be exceedingly brief: I've been working through the sequences (quite slowly and sporadically) for the past year and a half. I've loved everything I've seen on LW so far and I expect to continue. I hope to ramp up my study this year and finally get through the rest of the sequences.

I'd like to become more active in discussions but feel like I should finish the sequences first so I don't wind up making some silly error in reasoning and committing it to a comment. Perhaps that isn't an ideal approach to the community discussions, but I suspect it may be common..

3[anonymous]8yWelcome! Do finish the sequences, but you won't be done then; you'll still make stupid mistakes. Best to start making them now, I think.

I can't speak for them, but I expect it's something like this: One can make more money, do more good, have a more fun career, and have more freedom in where one lives by dropping out than by going into academia. And having a PhD when hunting for non-academic jobs is not worth spending several years as a grad student doing what one feels is non-valuable work for little pay.

You'd have to speak to someone who successfully dropped out to get more details; and of course even if all their judgments are correct, they may not be correct for you.

This account is used by a VA to post events for the Melbourne Meetup group. Comment is to accrue 2 karma to allow posting.


I'm Brian. I'm a full-time police dispatcher and part-time graduate student in the marriage and family therapy/counseling master's degree program at the University of Akron (in northeast Ohio). Before I began studies in my master's program, I earned a bachelor's degree in emergency management. I am an atheist and skeptic. I think I can trace my earliest interest in rationality back to my high school days, when I began critically examining theism (generally) and Catholicism (in particular) while taking an elective religion class called "Q... (read more)

[-][anonymous]7y 6

Hello LessWrong!

I found LessWrong, like so many others, through Methods of Rationality. I have lurked for at least two years now, since I discovered this website; I have read many of Eliezer's short stories and a few scattered posts of the Sequences. Eventually, I intend to get around to those and read them in a systematic fashion.... eventually.

I'm a computer science student, halfway through my life as an undergraduate at a certain institute of technology. I recently switched my main area of interest to theoretical computer science, after taking an excell... (read more)

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

Are there individuals here whose (main) point in life is to possess the right perspective of life?

There are individuals here whose main point in life is to ensure that the first superhuman artificial intelligence possesses the right perspective of life. Is that close enough? :-)

One thing that distinguishes LW rationalism from other historic rationalist movements is a strong interest in transhumanism and the singularity. Historically, wisdom has usually been about accepting the limited and disappointing nature of life, whether your attitude is stoic, epi... (read more)

Combination of methods based on what has worked for me in the past with other languages! I've used Rosetta Stone before, for French & Spanish, and while it's definitely got advantages, I (personally - I also know people who love it!) also found it very time-consuming for very little actual learning, and it's also expensive for what it is.


a) I have enough friends who are either native or fluent speakers of Mandarin that once I'm a little more confident with the basics, I will draft them to help me practice conversation skills :)

b) My univers... (read more)

the readers of scientific papers are expected to understand that results significant to p=0.05 will be wrong around 5% of the times, more or less

And this is the base rate neglect. It's not "results significant to p=0.05 will be wrong about 5% of time". It's "wrong results will be significant to p=0.05 about 5% of time". And most people will confuse these two things.

It's like when people confuse "A => B" with "B => A", only this time it is "A => B (p=0.05)" with "B => A (p=0.05)". It... (read more)

I would NOT have serious disagreements with e.g. Vaniver's list.

I think they would have significant practical disagreement with #3, given the widespread use of NHST, but clever frequentists are as quick as anyone else to point out that NHST doesn't actually do what its users want it to do.

Sure, I would quibble about accents, importances, and priorities, but there's nothing there that would be unacceptable from the mainstream point of view.

Hence the importance of the qualifier 'qualitative'; it seems to me that accents, importances, and priorities ar... (read more)

Hi everyone! I've been lurking around here for a few years, but now I want to be more active in the great discussions that often occur on this site. I discovered Less Wrong about 4 years ago, but the Methods of Rationality fanfic brought me here as a more attentive reader. I've read some of the sequences, and found them generally to use clear reasoning to make great points. If nothing else, reading them has definitely made me think very carefully about the way nature operates and how we perceive it.

In fact, this site was my first exposure to cognitive bias... (read more)

Hello, everyone. I stumbled upon LW after listening to Eliezer make some surprisingly lucid and dissonance-free comments on Skepticon's death panel that inspired me to look up more of his work.

I've been browsing this site for a few days now, and I don't think I've ever had so many "Hey, this has always irritated me, too!" moments in such short intervals, from the rant about "applause lights" to the discussions about efficient charity work. I like how this site provides some actual depth to the topics it discusses, rather than hand the r... (read more)

I don't see how this is any different with what Richard Dawkins is doing with his claim.

You mean, Dawkins has latched onto atheism for irrational reasons and is generating whatever argument will sustain it, without regard to the evidence?

For anyone who has taken on the mantle of professional atheist, as Dawkins has, there is a danger of falling into that mode of argument. Do you have any reason to think he has in fact fallen?

What makes suffering any harder a problem than death? Surely the same strategy works equally well in both cases.

More precisely... the "solution of the afterlife" is to posit an imperceptible condition that makes the apparent bad thing not so bad after all, despite the evidence we can observe. On that account, sure, it seems like we die, but really (we posit) only our bodies die and there's this other non-body thing, the soul, which is what really matters which isn't affected by that.

Applied to suffering, the same solution is something like "... (read more)

Greetings Less Wrong Community. I have been lurking on the site for a year reading the articles and sequences and now feel I've cut down the inferential differences enough to contribute meaningful comments.

My goal here is to have clear thought and effective communication in all aspects of my life, with special attention to application in the work environment.

Above most else I value the 12th virtue of rationality. Focus on the goal, value the goal, everything else is a tool to achieve the goal. Like chess, you only need two pieces to win, the only purpose ... (read more)

I'll tell you what made me think that: I asked the community if they had any good, non-strawman arguments for God, and the overwhelming response was "Nah, there aren't any."

I'm not sure if anyone's brought this up yet, but one of the site's best-known contributors once ran a site dedicated to these sorts of things, though it does of course have a very atheist POV. That said, even there the arguments aren't amazingly convincing (which you can guess by the fact that lukeprog hasn't reconverted yet) though it does acknowledge that the other side ... (read more)

The short answer generally accepted around here, sometimes referred to as the orthogonality thesis, is that there is no particular relationship between a system's level of intelligence and the values the system has. A sufficiently intelligent system chooses goals that optimize for those values.

There's no reason to believe that a "pure" intelligence would "outgrow" the values it had previously (though of course there's no guarantee its previous values will remain fixed, either).

Told by someone other than myself, hopefully. While I do not expect to become a theist of any kind in the near future, neither do I intend to remain an atheist. Instead, I intend to hold a set of beliefs that are most likely to be true. If I gain sufficient evidence that the answer is "Jesus" or "Trimurti", then this is what I will believe.

When your comments get downvoted, respond by refraining from making similar comments in the future and/or abandoning the topic (this is a simple heuristics whose implementation doesn't require figuring out the reasons for downvoting). Given the current trend, if that doesn't happen, in a while your future comments will start getting banned. (You are currently at minus 128, 17% positive. This reflects the judgment of many users.)

5[anonymous]8yExcuse me, but I watched my Karma drop a hundred points in three minutes. Look me in the eye and tell me that's the coincidental result of "the judgment of many users." Even if I were a brilliant, manipulative troll, I doubt I could get to -128 without someone deliberately and systematically doing so.
8Vladimir_Nesov8ySomeone has probably just discovered your work and found it systematically wanting. By "many users" I mean that many of the more recent comments are at minus 2-3 and there are only a few upvotes, so other people don't generally disagree.
5TimS8yYou essentially accused the community of being ashamed of being atheist when you said: We aren't ashamed. As Jack said to you [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h3p/welcome_to_less_wrong_5th_thread_march_2013/8z2r] in a parallel comment, we generally think the question is a solved problem. We aren't interested in having the same basic conversation over and over again. Accusing us of being ashamed of the position because we don't throw our atheism in your face makes it hard to interpret the rest of your comments as saying anything beyond repeating the basic apologetics. And we've heard the basic apologetics a million times. Once the lurkers think you aren't interesting, they'll downvote - and there are WAY more lurkers than commenters. Given that, your karma loss isn't all that surprising.
3JoshuaZ8yPossible, but given that all your comments are on only a small number of threads and arguing for the same basic points, it is also plausible that someone just went through those threads an downvoted most of your comments while upvoting others. I for example got about +20 karma from what as far as I can tell is primarily upvotes on my replies to you.
[-][anonymous]8y 6

So, if one is racist-1, how would one treat me?

Racist-1 reporting in. Believing that ethnicity is correlated with desirable or undesirable traits does not in itself warrant any particular kind of behavior. So how would I treat you? Like a person. If I had more evidence about you (your appearance, time spent with you, your interests, your abilities, etc), that would become more refined.

Am I white, for appearing white? Am I Asian, for the overwhelming number of my ancestors' coloration? In other words, what makes race? My genetics, or my skin? If it is

... (read more)

Hi Less Wrong,

My name is Sean Welsh. I am a graduate student at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch NZ. I was most recently a Solution Architect working on software development projects for telcos. I have decided to take a year off to do a Master's. My topic is Ethical Algorithms: Modelling Moral Decisions in Software. I am particularly interested in questions of machine ethics & robot ethics (obviously).

I would say at the outset that I think 'the hard problem of ethics' remains unsolved. Until it is solved, the prospects for any benign or fr... (read more)

Not programmed to, or programmed not to? If you can code up a solution to value drift, lets see it. Otherwise, note that Life programmes can update to implement glider generators without being "programmed to".

...with extremely low probability. It's far more likely that the Life field will stabilize around some relatively boring state, empty or with a few simple stable patterns. Similarly, a system subject to value drift seems likely to converge on boring attractors in value space (like wireheading, which indeed has turned out to be a problem... (read more)

[-][anonymous]8y 6

The general narrative sounds very similar to cases in my own field, but I'd rather not talk about it. I've been cautioned not to speak about my current projects with certain people, on account of this.

David Gross and his student had completed the same calculation, and they found it was plus.

A week after Politzer shared his calculation:

the Princeton team had found a mistake, corrected it, and already submitted a paper to Physical Review Letters.

Why would they decide to redo the calculation (not a very hard one, but rather laborious back then, though it's a standard one in any grad QFT course now) at exactly the same time?

Anyway, no point in further speculations without new data.

I cannot speak to your private examples, but I think you may be reading that into what Politzer said.

Not me. This tip-off story had been talked about in the community for a long time, just never publicly until Politzer decided to carefully and tactfully state what he knew personally and avoid speculating on what might have transpired. The result itself, of course, was ripe for discovery, and indeed was discovered but glossed over by others before him. I mentioned this particular story because it's one of the most famous and most public ones. Of course, it might all be rumors and in reality there was no issue.

Yes. He said that I should be careful about sharing my project because, otherwise, I'll be reading about it in a journal in a few months. His warning may exaggerate the likelihood of a rival researcher and mis-value the expansion of knowledge, but I'm deferring to him as a concession of my ignorance, especially regarding rules of the academy.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats."

This is heavily context-dependent. Many fields are idea-rich and implementation-poor, in which case you do have to ram ideas down people's throats, because there's a glut of other ideas you have to compete against. But in fields that are implementation-rich and idea-poor, ideas should be guarded until you've implemented them. There are no doubt academic fields where the latter case applies.

Both realism¹ and relativism are false. Unfortunately this comment is too short to contain the proof, but there's a passable sequence on it.

¹ As you've defined it here, anyway. Moral realism as normally defined simply means "moral statements have truth values" and does not imply universal compellingness.

Hi there, denizens of Less Wrong! I've actually been lurking around here for a while (browsing furtively since 2010), and only just discovered that I hadn't introduced myself properly.

So! I'm Bluehawk, and I'll tell you my real name if and when it becomes relevant. I'm mid-20's, male, Australian, with an educational history in Music, Cinema Studies and Philosophy, and I'm looking for any jobs and experience that I can get with the craft of writing. My current projects are a pair of feature-length screenplays; one's in the editing/second draft stages, the o... (read more)

Why would a superintelligence be unable to figure that out..why would it not shoot to the top of the Kohlberg Hierarchy ?

Why would Clippy want to hit the top of the Kohlberg Hierarchy? You don't get more paperclips for being there.

Clippy's ideas of importance are based on paperclips. The most important vaues are those which lead to the acquiring of the greatest number of paperclips.

So, I assume that the LDS is managed by the Prophet, similarly to how the Catholic Church is managed by the Pope ?

If memory serves, the President of the (LDS) Church, his advisors, and the members of the church's senior leadership council (called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) all hold the title of prophet -- specifically "prophet, seer, and revelator". That doesn't necessarily carry all the implications that "prophet" might outside of an Mormon context, though. One of the quirks of Mormonism is a certain degree of rank inflati... (read more)

I know that atheists can deal with a lot of prejudice from believers about why they are atheists so I would think that atheists would try and justify their beliefs based on the best beliefs and arguments of a religion and not extreme outliers for both, as otherwise it plays to the prejudice.

Really? It don't think it takes an exceptional degree of rationality to reject religion.

I suspect what you mean is that atheists /ought/ to justify their disbelief on stronger grounds than the silliest interpretation of their opponent's beliefs. Which is true, you sh... (read more)

I was not trying to justify my leaving the Mormon Church in saying I used to believe in the extraordinary interpretations I did. I just wanted to say that my re-education process has been difficult because I used to believe in a lot of crazy things. Also, I'm not trying to make a caricature of my former beliefs, everything I have written here about what I used to believe I will confirm again as an accurate depiction of what was going on in my head.

I think it is a misstatement of yours to say that these beliefs have "absolutely no relation to... anythi... (read more)

4CCC8yIn all fairness, JohnH wrote his post [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h3p/welcome_to_less_wrong_5th_thread_march_2013/8rkg] before you showed him those passages [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h3p/welcome_to_less_wrong_5th_thread_march_2013/8rpo]. So that data was not available to him at the time of writing.
[-][anonymous]8y 6

You are arguing with a strawman.

It's not a utility function over inputs, it's over the accuracy of models.

If I were a shminux-style rationalist, I would not choose to go to the holodeck because that does not actually make my current preferred models of the world more accurate. It makes the situation worse, actually, because in the me-in-holodeck model, I get misled and can't affect the stuff outside the holodeck.

Just because someone frames things differently doesn't mean they have to make the obvious mistakes and start killing babies.

For example, I could d... (read more)

Maybe you should teach your steelmanning skills, or make a post out of it.

I've thought about this, but on consideration the only part of it I understand explicitly enough to "teach" is Miller's Law (the first one), and there's really not much more to say about it than quoting it and then waiting for people to object. Which most people do, because approaching conversations that way seems to defeat the whole purpose of conversation for most people (convincing other people they're wrong). My goal in discussions is instead usually to confirm that ... (read more)

I've only had two of my Mormon peers/friends/relatives reveal to me after knowing them for a substantial amount of time that they are atheists. Based on that, I would guess the percentage of active Latter-day Saints that are closet atheists is pretty low, around 1%-3%?

8CCC8yThat implies that you have more-or-less a hundred close friends/peers/relatives, who you have known for a substantial amount of time and would expect them to tell you if they are closet atheists.
9Eliezer Yudkowsky8yMormons have lots of friends, and lots of relatives.
3atomliner8yOver twenty-three years the numbers add up. I think I could easily find more than a hundred active Latter-day Saints just counting members of my extended family that I routinely encounter every year.

Maybe it's just that EY is very persuasive! I'm reminded of what was said about some other polymath (Arthur Koestler I think) that the critics were agreed that he was right on almost everything - except, of course, for the topic that the critic concerned was expert in, where he was completely wrong!

So my problem is, whether to just read the sequences, or to skim through all the responses as well. The latter takes an awful lot longer, but from what I've seen so far there's often a response from some expert in the field concerned that, at the least, puts the post into a whole different perspective.

6MenosErrado8yAfter looking around a little more, I should clarify what I meant perhaps. The part about agreeing with EY (so far) was about psychology, ethics, morality, epistemology, even the little of politics I saw. The "so far" is doing heavy work there, I've only been around for a week, and focusing first on the topics most immediately relevant to my work and studies. More importantly, I haven't touched the physics yet (which from what I've seen in this page is something I should have mentioned), and I'm not qualified to "take sides" if I had. The paragraph was not prompted (only) by EY, but by my marvel at the quality of discussions here. No caveats there, this community has really impressed me. The way it works, not the conclusions, although they're certainly correlated. I'm used to having to defend rationality in a very relevant portion of the discussions I have, before it's possible to move on to anything productive (of course, those tend not to move on at all). This is a breath of fresh air.

Stripped of connotations, "race realism" to me implies the belief that empirical clusters exist within the space of human diversity and that they map to the traditional racial classifications, but not necessarily that those clusters affect intellectual or ethical dimensions to any significant degree. I'm not sure if there's an non-euphemistic value-neutral term for racism-1 in the ancestor's typology, but that isn't it.

(The first thing that comes to mind is "scientific racism", which I'd happily use for ideas like this in a 19th- or early 20th-century context, but I have qualms about using it in a present-day context.)

[trap closes]

Don't do that. I think the rest of your post is fine, but this is not a debate-for-debate's-sake kind of place (and even if it were, that's not a winning move).

Mostly just that QFT is very difficult and not rigorously formulated. Haag's theorem (and Wightman's extension) tell us that an interacting quantum field theory can't live in a nice Hilbert space, so there is a very real sense that realistic QFTs only exist peturbatively. This makes interpretation something of a nightmare.

Basically, we ignore a bunch of messy complications (and potential inconsistency) just to shut-up-and-calculate, no one wants to dig up all that 'just' to get to the messy business of interpretation.

which omits every single point that goes in favour of e.g. non-realism, because they are too irrational or too stupid.

No, that set of posts goes on at some length about how MWI has not yet provided a good derivation of the Born probabilities.

5EHeller8yBut I think it does not do justice to what a huge deal the Born probabilities are. The Born probabilities are the way we use quantum mechanics to make predictions, so saying "MWI has not yet provided a good derivation of the Born probabilities" is equivalent to "MWI does not yet make accurate predictions," I'm not sure thats clear to people who read the sequences but don't use quantum mechanics regularly. Also, by omitting the wide variety of non-Copenhagen interpretations (consistent histories, transactional, Bohm, stochastic-modifications to Schroedinger,etc) the reader is lead to believe that the alternative to Copenhagen-collapse is many worlds, so they won't use the absence of Born probabilities in many worlds to update towards one of the many non-Copenhagen alternatives.
8Eliezer Yudkowsky8yNote that the Born probabilities really obviously have something to do with the unitarity of QM, while no single-world interpretation is going to have this be anything but a random contingent fact. The unitarity of QM means that integral-squared-modulus quantifies the "amount of causal potency" or "amount of causal fluid" or "amount of conserved real stuff" in a blob of the wavefunction. It would be like discovering that your probability of ending up in a computer corresponded to how large the computer was. You could imagine that God arbitrarily looked over the universe and destroyed all but one computer with probability proportional to its size, but this would be unlikely. It would be much more likely (under circumstances analogous to ours) to guess that the size of the computer had something to do with the amount of person in it. The problems with Copenhagen are fundamentally one-world problems and they go along with any one-world theory. If I honestly believed that the only reason the QM sequence wasn't convincing was that I didn't go through every single one-world theory to refute them separately, I could try to write separate posts for RQM, Bohm, and so on, but I'm not convinced that this is the case. Any single-world theory needs either spooky action at a distance, or really awful amateur epistemology plus spooky action at a distance, and there's just no reason to even hypothesize single-world theories in the first place. (I'm not sure I have time to write the post about Relational Special Relativity in which length and time just aren't the same for all observers and so we don't have to suppose that Minkowskian spacetime is objectively real, and anyway the purpose of a theory is to tell us how long things are so there's no point in a theory which doesn't say that, and those silly Minkowskians can't explain how much subjective time things seem to take except by waving their hands about how the brain contains some sort of hypothetical computer in which computi

The problems with Copenhagen are fundamentally one-world problems and they go along with any one-world theory. If I honestly believed that the only reason the QM sequence wasn't convincing was that I didn't go through every single one-world theory to refute them separately, I could try to write separate posts for RQM, Bohm, and so on, but I'm not convinced that this is the case. Any single-world theory needs either spooky action at a distance, or really awful amateur epistemology plus spooky action at a distance, and there's just no reason to even hypothesize single-world theories in the first place.

It is not worth writing separate posts for each interpretation. However it is becoming increasingly apparent that to the extent that the QM sequence matters at all it may be worth writing a single post which outlines how your arguments apply to the other interpretations. ie.:

  • A brief summary of and a link to your arguments in favor of locality then an explicit mention of how this leads to rejecting "Ensemble, Copenhagen, de Broglie–Bohm theory, von Neumann, Stochastic, Objective collapse and Transactional" interpretations and theories.
  • A brief summary of and a link to you
... (read more)
6EHeller8yNot so. If we insist that our predictions need to be probabilities (take the Born probabilities as fundamental/necessary), then unitarity becomes equivalent to the statement that probabilities have to sum to 1, and we can then try to piece together what our update equation should look like. This is the approach taken by the 'minimalist'/'ensemble' interpretation that Ballentine's textbook champions, he uses probabilities sum to 1 and some group theory (related to the Galilean symmetry group) to motivate the form of the Schroedinger equation. Edit to clarify: In some sense, its the reverse of many worlds- instead of taking the Schroedinger axioms as fundamental and attempting to derive Born, take the operator/probability axioms seriously and try to derive Schroedinger. I believe the same consideration could be said of the consistent histories approach, but I'd have to think about it before I'd fully commit. Edit to add: Also, what about "non-spooky" action at a distance? Something like the transactional interpretation, where we take relativity seriously and use both the forward and backward Green's function of the Dirac/Klein-Gordon equation? This integrates very nicely with Barbour's timeless physics, properly derives the Born rule, has a single world, BUT requires some stochastic modifications to the Schroedinger equation.

That inference isn't made. Eliezer has other information from which to reach that conclusion. In particular, he has several years worth of ranting and sniping from Shminux about his particular pet peeve.

That very well could be, in which case my recommendation about that inference does not apply to Eliezer.

I will note that this comment suggests that Eliezer's model of shminux may be underdeveloped, and that caution in ascribing motives or beliefs to others is often wise.

Hello community.

I've been aware of LW for a while, reading individual posts linked in programmer/engineering hangouts now and then, and I independently came across HPMOR in search of good fanfiction. But the decision to un-lurk myself came after I attended a CFAR workshop (a major positive life change) and realized that I want to keep being engaged with the community.

I'm very interested in anti-aging research (both from the effective altruism point of view, and because I find the topic really exciting and fascinating) and want to learn about it in as much ... (read more)

Hi I'm N. Currently a systems engineer. Lurked for sometime and finally decided to create an account. I am interested in mathematics and computer science and typography. Fonts can give me happiness or drive me crazy.

I am currently in SoCal.

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

I chose more_wrong as a name because I'm in disagreement with a lot of the lesswrong posters about what constitutes a reasonable model of the world. Presumably my opinions are more wrong than opinions that are lesswrong, hence the name :)

My rationalist origin story would have a series of watershed events but as far as I can tell, I never had any core beliefs to discard to become rational, because I never had any core beliefs at all. Do not have a use for them, never picked them up.

As far as identifying myself as an aspiring rationalist, the main events t... (read more)

My name is Morgan. I was brought here by my brother and have been lurking for awhile. I've have read most of the sequences which have cleared up some of my confused thinking. There were things that I didn't think about because I didn't have an answer for them. Free will and morality used to confuse me and so I never thought much about them since I didn't have a guarantee that they were answerable.

Lesswrong has helped me get back into programming. It has helped me learn to think about things with precision. And to understand how an Cognitive algorithm feels from the inside to dissolve questions.

I am going to join this community and improve my skills. Tsuyoku Naritai.


I'm a 34 yo programmer/entrepreneur in Romania, with a long time interest in rationality - long before I called it by that name. I think the earliest name I had for it was "wisdom", and a desire to find a consistent, repeatable way to obtain it. Must admit at that time I didn't imagine it was going to be so complicated.

Spent some of my 20s believing I already know everything, and then I made a decision that in retrospect was the best I ever made: never to look at the price when I buy a book, but only at the likelihood of finishing it. Which... (read more)

[-][anonymous]7y 5

Hello, LW,

One of my names is holist. I am 45. Self-employed family man, 6 kids, 2 dogs, 1 cat. Originally a philosopher (BA+MA from Sussex, UK), but I've been a translator for 19 years now... it is wearing thin. Music and art are also important parts of my life (have sold music, musically directed a small circus, have exhibited pictures), and recently, with dictatorship being established here in Hungary, politics seems increasingly urgent, too. I dabble in psychotherapy and call myself a Discordian. Recently, I started thinking about doing a PhD somewhere.... (read more)

I am a celibate pedophile. That means I feel a sexual and romantic attraction to young girls (3-12) but have never acted on that attraction and never will. In some forums, this revelation causes strong negative reactions and a movement to have me banned. I hope that's not true here.

From a brief search, I see that someone raised the topic of non-celibate pedophilia, and it was accepted for discussion. http://lesswrong.com/lw/67h/the_phobia_or_the_trauma_the_probem_of_the_chcken/ Hopefully celibate pedophilia is less controversial.

I have developed views on ... (read more)

Assume that the reported p-values are true (and not the result of selection bias, etc.). Take a hundred papers which claim results at p=0.05. At the asymptote about 95 of them will turn out to be correct...

That's not how p-values work. p=0.05 doesn't mean that the hypothesis is 95% likely to be correct, even in principle; it means that there's a 5% chance of seeing the same correlation if the null hypothesis is true. Pull a hundred independent data sets and we'd normally expect to find a p=0.05 correlation or better in at least five or so of them, no ... (read more)

Take a hundred papers which claim results at p=0.05. At the asymptote about 95 of them will turn out to be correct and about 5 will turn out to be false.

No, they won't. You're committing base rate neglect. It's entirely possible for people to publish 2000 papers in a field where there's no hope of finding a true result, and get 100 false results with p 0.05).

Depends which frequentist you ask. From Aris Spanos's "A frequentist interpretation of probability for model-based inductive inference":

For those who can't access that through the paywall (I can), his presentation slides for it are here. I would hate to have been in the audience for the presentation, but the upside of that is that they pretty much make sense on their own, being just a compressed version of the paper.

While looking for those, I also found "Frequentists in Exile", which is Deborah Mayo's frequentist statistics blog.

I am... (read more)

I just read the "IQ's of eminent scientists" and realized I really need to get my IQ tested.

I'd be very careful generalizing from that study to the practice of science today. Science in the 1950s was VERY different, the length of time to the phd was shorter, postdocs were very rare, and almost everyone stepped into a research faculty position almost immediately.

In today's world, staying in science is much harder- there are lots of grad students competing for many postdocs competing for few permanent science positions. In today's world, thi... (read more)

I don't understand what this "probability theory can only be used..." claim means. Are they saying that if you try to use probability theory to model anything else, your pencil will catch fire? Are they saying that if you model beliefs probabilistically, Math breaks?

I think they would be most likely to describe it as a category error. If you try to use probability theory outside the constraints within which they consider it applicable, they'd attest that you'd produce no meaningful knowledge and accomplish nothing but confusing yourself.

If you understand the point there's no reason to make a comment like this except as an attempt to show off. Changing "250 IQ" to "+10 sd out from the mean intelligence" only serves to make the original point less accessible to people not steeped in psychometry.

See my interview with Roman here.

I am a maximum-security ex-con who studied and used logic for pro se, civil-rights lawsuits. (The importance of being a maximum-security ex-con is that I was stubborn iconoclast who learned and used logic in all seriousness.) Logic helped me identify the weak links in my opponent's arguments and to avoid weak links in my own arguments, and logic helped my organize my writing and evidence. I also studied and learned to use “The Option Process” for eliminating my negative emotions and to understand other people's negative emotions. The core truth of “The... (read more)

Hey, I'm dirtfruit.

I've lurked here for quite a while now. LessWrong is one of the most interesting internet communities I've observed, and I'd like to begin involving myself more actively. I've been to one meetup, in NYC, a few months ago, which was nice. I've read most of the sequences (I think I've read all of them at least once, but I haven't looked hard enough to be super-confident saying that). HPMOR is cool, I enjoyed reading it and continue to check for updates. I've tried to read most of what Eliezer has written, but gave up early on anything extr... (read more)

Hi, I'm a second year engineering student at a university of California. I like engaging in rational discussions and find importance in knowing about what's going on in the world and gain more insight on controversial issues such as abortion, gay rights, sexuality, immigration, etc. Someone on Facebook directed me to this site but I easily get bored so I may or may not be much of a contribution.

Hi all, my name is Claus. I'm a third year (23 year old) BA philosophy student from the Netherlands. I am unsure how exactly I got here, but I sure do know why I kept coming back. Throughout my study I have become increasingly frustrated with the state of philosophy in general and my own University's approach to philosophy. Being only interested in finding truth (and thus; knowledge) I mainly grew tired of what can be called 'continental philosophy' (specifically 'Hegelianism') because of it's lack of clarity. I found my views on this matter are much the s... (read more)

Hi everyone, I’m The Articulator. (No ‘The’ in my username because I dislike using underscores in place of spaces)

I found LessWrong originally through RationalWiki, and more recently through Iceman’s excellent pony-fic about AI and transhumanism, Friendship is Optimal.

I’ve started reading the Sequences, and made some decent progress, though we’ll see how long I maintain my current rate.

I’ll be attending University this fall for Electrical Engineering, with a desire to focus in electronics.

Prior to LW, I have a year’s worth of Philosophy and Ethics classes... (read more)

3Articulator8yOkay, whoa, hey. I clearly and repeatedly explained my lack of total understanding of LW conventions. I'm not sure what about this provoked a downvote, but I would appreciate a bit more to go on. If this is about my noobishness, well, this is the Welcome Thread. Great job on the welcoming, by the way, anonymous downvoter. At the very least offer constructive criticism. Edit: Troll? Really? Edit,Edit: Thank you whoever deleted the negative karma!

Why the high prior, out of curiosity ?

Hello, smart weird people.

I've been lurking on and off for a while but now it seems to be a good time to try playing in the LW fields. We'll see how it goes.

I'm interested in "correct" ways of thinking, obviously, but I'm also interested in their limits. The edges, as usual, are the most interesting places to watch. And maybe to be, if you can survive it.

No particular hot-burning questions at the moment or any specific goals to achieve. Just exploring.

3DSimon8yHello, Lumifer! Welcome to smart-weird land. We have snacks. So you say you have no burning questions, but here's one for you: as a new commenter, what are your expectations about how you'll be interacting with others on the site? It might be interesting to note those now, so you can compare later.

I don't know what you think a "strong argument" is. Arguments are not weapons, with a certain caliber and stopping power and so forth, such that two sides might go at each other with their respective arguments, and whoever's got the most firepower wins. That's not how it works.

An argument may be more or less persuasive (relative to some audience!), but that depends on many things, such as whether the argument hits certain emotional notes, whether it makes use of certain common fallacies and biases, or certain commonly held misconceptions; or whet... (read more)


I'd like to point to myself as a data point; I'm a theist, specifically a Roman Catholic, and I consider myself a rationalist. I know that there's a strong atheistic atmosphere here, but I just thought I should point out that it's not all-inclusive.

Chaosmosis has a few hundred karma now after dropping at least that deep, being accused of being a troll, and facing a number of suggestions that he leave. It's certainly not un-doable.

That is quite a hefty bullet to bite: one can no longer say that South Africa is better society after the fall of Apartheid, and so on.

That's hardly the best example you could have picked since there are obvious metrics by which South Africa can be quantifiably called a worse society now -- e.g. crime statistics. South Africa has been called the "crime capital of the world" and the "rape capital of the world" only after the fall of the Apartheid.

That makes the lack of moral progress in South Africa a very easy bullet to bite - I'd use something like Nazi Germany vs modern Germany as an example instead.

I generally understand the phrase "objective morality" to refer to a privileged moral reference frame.

It's not an incoherent idea... it might turn out, for example, that all value systems other than M turn out to be incoherent under sufficiently insightful reflection, or destructive to minds that operate under them, or for various other reasons not in-practice implementable by any sufficiently powerful optimizer. In such a world, I would agree that M was a privileged moral reference frame, and would not oppose calling it "objective morality", though I would understand that to be something of a term of art.

That said, I'd be very surprised to discover I live in such a world.

Yes, value drift is the typical state for minds in our experience.

Building a committed Clipper that cannot accidentally update its values when trying to do something else is only possible after the problem of value drift has been solved. A system that experiences value drift isn't a reliable Clipper, isn't a reliable good-thing-doer, isn't reliable at all.


Fascinating, thanks!

A project that's been kicking around in the back of my head for a while is emotional engineering through algorithmic music; it would be great to have a way to generate somewhat novel happy high-energy music during coding that won't sap any attention (I'm sort of reluctant to talk to musicians about it, though, because it feels like telling a chef you'd like a way to replace them with a machine that dispenses a constant stream of sugar :P).

3DaFranker8yI would also love this. I'm in constant deficit of high-energy music for coding or other similar activities, and often it can take more work finding good music for it than all the coding work I want to do while listening to it (or, conversely, it can take much longer to find good music than the music lasts).

I didn't say it was universal among all entities of all degrees of intelligence or rationality. I said there was a non neglible probability that agents of a certain level of rationality converging on an understanding of ethics.

Where does this non-negligible probability come from though? When I've asked you to provide any reason to suspect it, you've just said that as you're not arguing there's a high probability, there's no need for you to answer that.

"SR" stands to super rational. Rational agents find rational arguments rationally compelli

... (read more)

I masquerade as a liberal Mormon on Facebook since I'm still in the closet with my unbelief. In my discussions with friends and family the most common position taken is that the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles cannot teach false doctrine or else they will be forcibly removed by God. I even had a former missionary companion tell me that President Gordon B. Hinckley died in 2008 not from old age (he was 98) but because he had made false statements on Larry King Live concerning the doctrine of exaltation in which worthy Latter-day Saints can become gods.

Fact-checking, via sources similar to Kawoomba's, leads to the milder claim that melanin in the skin merely provides protection against sunburn, and not immunity. Levels of melanin in the skin are very strongly correlated with race; though it is not strictly equivalent (albinism is possible among black people) it is reasonable to say that black people, in general, are more resistant to sunburn than white people.

Student of economics. Not going to write any more than that about myself at this point.

"To post to the Discussion area you must have at least 2 points." - I'd like to post something I've written, but I need two karma to do so.

New to LW... my wife re-ignited my long-dormant interest in AI via Yudkowski's Friendly AI stuff.

Is there a link somewhere to "General Intelligence and Seed AI"? It seems that older content at intelligence.org has gone missing. It actually went missing while my wife was in the middle of reading it online... very frustrating. Friendly AI makes a lot of references to it. Seems important to read it.

I'd prefer a PDF, if somebody knows where to find one.


So uhm. How do the experimental results, y'know, happen?

I think I understand everything else. Your position makes perfect sense. Except for that last non-postulate. Perhaps I'm just being obstinate, but there needs to be something to the pattern / regularity.

If I look at a set of models, a set of predictions, a set of experiments, and the corresponding set of experimental results, all as one big blob:

The models led to predictions - predictions about the experimental results, which are part of the model. The experiments were made according to the model th... (read more)

this model fails a number of tests

You are not using the word "tests" consistently in your examples. For luminiferous aether, test means something like "makes accurate predictions." Substituting that into your answer to wrong yields:

No, this model fails to make accurate predictions.

Which I'm having trouble parsing as an answer to the question. If you don't mean for that substitution to be sensible, then your parallelism does not seem to hold together.

But in deference to your statement here, I am happy to drop this topic if ... (read more)

There is a strong local convention against discussing topics for which certain positions are strongly enough affiliated with tribal identities that the identity-signalling aspects of arguments for/against those positions can easily interfere with the evidence-exploring aspects of those arguments. (Colloquially, "mindkilling" topics. as you say.)

That said, there's also a strong local convention against refraining from discussing topics just because such identity-signalling aspects exist.

So mostly, the tradition is we argue about what the traditio... (read more)

I think shminux's response is something like:

"Given a model that predicts accurately, what would you do differently if the objects described in the model do or don't exist at some ontological level? If there is no difference, what are we worrying about?"

Your ball point is very different. My driving point is that there isn't even a nice, platonic-ideal type definition of particle IN THE MAP, let alone something that connects to the territory. I understand how my above post may lead you to misunderstand what I was trying to get it..

To rephrase my above comment, I might say: some of the features a MAP of a particle needs is that its detectable in some way, and that it can be described in a non-relativistic limit by a Schroedinger equation. The standard QFT definitions for particle lack both these features. Its also not-fully consistent in the case of charged particles.

In QFT there is lots of confusion about how the map works, unlike classical mechanics.

3shminux8yThis reminds me of the recent conjecture that the black hole horizon is a firewall [http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2012/12/21/firewalls/], which seems like one of those confusions about the map.