I've put together a list of what I think are the best Yvain (Scott Alexander) posts for new readers, drawing from SlateStarCodex, LessWrong, and Scott's LiveJournal.
The list should make the most sense to people who start from the top and read through it in order, though skipping around is encouraged too. Rather than making a chronological list, I’ve tried to order things by a mix of "where do I think most people should start reading?" plus "sorting related posts together."
This is a work in progress; you’re invited to suggest things you’d add, remove, or shuffle around. Since many of the titles are a bit cryptic, I'm adding short descriptions. See my blog for a version without the descriptions.
I. Rationality and Rationalization
- Blue- and Yellow-Tinted Choices ····· An introduction to context-sensitive biases.
- The Apologist and the Revolutionary ····· Do separate brain processes rationalize and question ideas?
- Historical Realism ····· When reality is unrealistic.
- Simultaneously Right and Wrong ····· On self-handicapping and self-deception.
- You May Already Be A Sinner ····· Self-deception in cases where your decisions make no difference.
- Beware the Man of One Study ····· On minimum wage laws and cherry-picked evidence.
- Debunked and Well-Refuted ····· When should we say that a study has been "debunked"?
- How to Not Lose an Argument ····· How to be more persuasive in entrenched arguments.
- The Least Convenient Possible World ····· Why it's useful to strengthen arguments you disagree with.
- Bayes for Schizophrenics: Reasoning in Delusional Disorders ····· Hypotheses about the role of perception, evidence integration, and priors in delusions.
- Generalizing from One Example ····· On the typical mind fallacy: assuming other people are like you.
- Typical Mind and Politics ····· Do political disagreements stem from neurological disagreements?
- Confidence Levels Inside and Outside an Argument ····· Should you believe your own conclusions, when they're extreme?
- Schizophrenia and Geomagnetic Storms ····· When bizarre ideas turn out to be true.
- Talking Snakes: A Cautionary Tale ····· Should we dismiss all absurd claims?
- Arguments from My Opponent Believes Something ····· Ten fully general arguments.
- Statistical Literacy Among Doctors Now Lower Than Chance ····· Common errors in probabilistic reasoning.
- Techniques for Probability Estimates ····· Six methods for quantifying uncertainty.
- On First Looking into Chapman’s “Pop Bayesianism” ····· Reasons Bayesian epistemology may not be trivial.
- Utilitarianism for Engineers ····· Are there good-enough heuristics for comparing people's preferences?
- If It’s Worth Doing, It’s Worth Doing with Made-Up Statistics ····· The practical value of probabilities.
- Marijuana: Much More Than You Wanted to Know ····· Assessing marijuana's costs and benefits.
- Are You a Solar Deity? ····· On confirmation bias in the comparative study of religions.
- The "Spot the Fakes" Test ····· An approach to testing humanities hypotheses.
- Epistemic Learned Helplessness ····· What should we do when bad arguments sound convincing?
III. Science and Doubt
- Google Correlate Does Not Imply Google Causation ····· Peculiar correlations between Google search terms.
- Stop Confounding Yourself! Stop Confounding Yourself! ····· A correlational study on the effects of bullying.
- Effects of Vertical Acceleration on Wrongness ····· On evidence-based medicine.
- 90% Of All Claims About The Problems With Medical Studies Are Wrong ····· Is it the case that "90% of medical research is false"?
- Prisons are Built with Bricks of Law and Brothels with Bricks of Religion, But That Doesn’t Prove a Causal Relationship ····· Do psychiatric interventions increase suicide risk?
- Noisy Poll Results and the Reptilian Muslim Climatologists from Mars ····· Skepticism about poll results.
- Two Dark Side Statistics Papers ····· Statistical tricks for creating effects out of nothing.
- Alcoholics Anonymous: Much More Than You Wanted to Know ····· Is AA effective for treating alcohol abuse?
- The Control Group Is Out Of Control ····· Parapsychology as the "control group" for all of psychology.
- The Cowpox of Doubt ····· Focusing on easy questions inoculates against uncertainty.
- The Skeptic's Trilemma ····· Explaining mysteries, vs. worshiping them, vs. dismissing them.
- If You Can't Make Predictions, You're Still in a Crisis ····· On psychology studies' replication failures.
IV. Medicine, Therapy, and Human Enhancement
- Scientific Freud ····· How does psychoanalysis compare to cognitive behavioral therapy?
- Sleep – Now by Prescription ····· On melatonin.
- In Defense of Psych Treatment for Attempted Suicide ····· Suicide is usually not a rational, informed decision.
- Who By Very Slow Decay ····· On old age and death in the medical system.
- Medicine, As Not Seen on TV ····· What is it actually like to be a doctor?
- Searching for One-Sided Tradeoffs ····· How can we find good ideas that others haven't found first?
- Do Life Hacks Ever Reach Fixation? ····· Why aren't there more good ideas that everyone has adopted?
- Polyamory is Boring ····· Deromanticizing multi-partner romance.
- Can You Condition Yourself? ····· On shaping new habits by rewarding oneself.
- Wirehead Gods on Lotus Thrones ····· Is the future boring? Transcendently blissful? Boringly blissful?
- Don’t Fear the Filter ····· Does the Fermi Paradox mean that our species is doomed?
- Transhumanist Fables ····· Six futurist fairy tales.
V. Introduction to Game Theory
- Backward Reasoning Over Decision Trees ····· Sequential games, and why adding options can hurt you.
- Nash Equilibria and Schelling Points ····· Simultaneous games, mixed strategies, and coordination.
- Introduction to Prisoners' Dilemma ····· Why Nash equilibria are sometimes bad for everyone.
- Real-World Solutions to Prisoners' Dilemmas ····· How society and evolution ensure mutual cooperation.
- Interlude for Behavioral Economics ····· Fairness, superrationality, and self-image in real-world games.
- What is Signaling, Really? ····· Actions that convey information, sometimes at great cost.
- Bargaining and Auctions ····· Idealized models of correct bidding.
- Imperfect Voting Systems ····· Strengths and weaknesses of different voting systems.
- Game Theory as a Dark Art ····· Ways to exploit seemingly "economically rational" behavior.
VI. Promises and Principles
- Beware Trivial Inconveniences ····· Small obstacles can have a huge effect on behavior.
- Time and Effort Discounting ····· On inconsistencies in our revealed preferences.
- Applied Picoeconomics ····· Binding your future self to your present goals.
- Schelling Fences on Slippery Slopes ····· Using arbitrary thresholds to improve coordination.
- Democracy is the Worst Form of Government Except for All the Others Except Possibly Futarchy ····· Like democracy, futarchy (rule by prediction markets) has the advantage of appearing impartial.
- Eight Short Studies on Excuses ····· When should we allow exceptions to our rules?
- Revenge as Charitable Act ····· Revenge can be a personally costly way to disincentivize misdeeds.
- Would Your Real Preferences Please Stand Up? ····· Are we hypocrites, or just weak-willed?
- Are Wireheads Happy? ····· Distinguishing "wanting" something from "liking" it.
- Guilt: Another Gift Nobody Wants ····· An evolutionary, signaling-based explanation of guilt.
VII. Cognition and Association
- Diseased Thinking: Dissolving Questions about Disease ····· On verbal disagreements.
- The Noncentral Fallacy — The Worst Argument in the World? ····· Judging an entire category by an emotional association that only applies to typical category members.
- The Power of Positivist Thinking ····· Focus on statements' empirical content.
- When Truth Isn't Enough ····· It's possible to agree denotationally while disagreeing connotationally.
- Ambijectivity ····· When a question is both subjective and objective.
- The Blue-Minimizing Robot ····· A parable on agency.
- Basics of Animal Reinforcement ····· A primer on classical and operant conditioning.
- Wanting vs. Liking Revisited ····· Distinguishing motivation to act from reinforcement.
- Physical and Mental Behavior ····· Behaviorism meets thinking.
- Trivers on Self-Deception ····· The conscious mind as a self-serving social narrative.
- Ego-Syntonic Thoughts and Values ····· On endorsed vs. non-endorsed mental behavior.
- Approving Reinforces Low-Effort Behaviors ····· Using your self-image to blackmail yourself.
- To What Degree Do We Have Goals? ····· Are our unconscious drives like an agent?
- The Limits of Introspection ····· Are we good at directly perceiving our cognition?
- Secrets of the Eliminati ····· Reducing phenomena to simpler parts, vs. eliminating them.
- Tendencies in Reflective Equilibrium ····· Aspiring to become more consistent.
- Hansonian Optimism ····· If ego-syntonic goals are about signaling, is goodness a lie?
VIII. Doing Good
- Newtonian Ethics ····· Satirizing moral parochialism and sloppy systematizations of ethics.
- Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others... ····· How should we act when our decisions matter most?
- The Economics of Art and the Art of Economics ····· Should Detroit sell its publicly owned artwork?
- A Modest Proposal ····· Using dead babies as a unit of currency.
- The Life Issue ····· What are the consequences of drone warfare?
- What if Drone Warfare Had Come First? ····· A thought experiment.
- Nefarious Nefazodone and Flashy Rare Side-Effects ····· On choosing between drug side-effects.
- The Consequentialism FAQ ····· Argues for assessing actions based on how they help or harm people.
- Doing Your Good Deed for the Day ····· Doing some good can reduce people's willingness to do more good.
- I Myself Am A Scientismist ····· Why apply scientific methods to non-scientific domains?
- Whose Utilitarianism? ····· Questioning the objectivity and uniqueness of utilitarianism.
- Book Review: After Virtue ····· On virtue ethics, a reaction against modern moral philosophy.
- Read History of Philosophy Backwards ····· Historical texts reveal our implicit assumptions.
- Virtue Ethics: Not Practically Useful Either ····· Is virtue ethics useful prescriptively or descriptively?
- Last Thoughts on Virtue Ethics ····· What claims do virtue ethicists make?
- Proving Too Much ····· If an argument sometimes proves falsehoods, it can't be valid.
- The Non-Libertarian FAQ (aka Why I Hate Your Freedom)
- A Blessing in Disguise, Albeit a Very Good Disguise
- Basic Income Guarantees
- Book Review: The Nurture Assumption
- The Death of Wages is Sin
- Thank You For Doing Something Ambiguously Between Smoking And Not Smoking
- Lies, Damned Lies, and Facebook (Part 1 of ∞)
- The Life Cycle of Medical Ideas
- Vote on Values, Outsource Beliefs
- A Something Sort of Like Left-Libertarian-ist Manifesto
- Plutocracy Isn’t About Money
- Against Tulip Subsidies
- SlateStarCodex Gives a Graduation Speech
- Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism
- A Signaling Theory of Class x Politics Interaction
- Reactionary Philosophy in an Enormous, Planet-Sized Nutshell
- A Thrive/Survive Theory of the Political Spectrum
- We Wrestle Not With Flesh And Blood, But Against Powers And Principalities
- Poor Folks Do Smile… For Now
- Apart from Better Sanitation and Medicine and Education and Irrigation and Public Health and Roads and Public Order, What Has Modernity Done for Us?
- The Wisdom of the Ancients
- Can Atheists Appreciate Chesterton?
- Holocaust Good for You, Research Finds, But Frequent Taunting Causes Cancer in Rats
- Public Awareness Campaigns
- Social Psychology is a Flamethrower
- Nature is Not a Slate. It’s a Series of Levers.
- The Anti-Reactionary FAQ
- The Poor You Will Always Have With You
- Proposed Biological Explanations for Historical Trends in Crime
- Society is Fixed, Biology is Mutable
XI. Social Justice
- Practically-a-Book Review: Dying to be Free
- Drug Testing Welfare Users is a Sham, But Not for the Reasons You Think
- The Meditation on Creepiness
- The Meditation on Superweapons
- The Meditation on the War on Applause Lights
- The Meditation on Superweapons and Bingo
- An Analysis of the Formalist Account of Power Relations in Democratic Societies
- Arguments About Male Violence Prove Too Much
- Social Justice for the Highly-Demanding-of-Rigor
- Against Bravery Debates
- All Debates Are Bravery Debates
- A Comment I Posted on “What Would JT Do?”
- We Are All MsScribe
- The Spirit of the First Amendment
- A Response to Apophemi on Triggers
- Lies, Damned Lies, and Social Media: False Rape Accusations
- In Favor of Niceness, Community, and Civilization
- Right is the New Left
- Weak Men are Superweapons
- You Kant Dismiss Universalizability
- I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup
- Five Case Studies on Politicization
- Black People Less Likely
- Nydwracu’s Fnords
- All in All, Another Brick in the Motte
- Ethnic Tension and Meaningless Arguments
- Race and Justice: Much More Than You Wanted to Know
- Framing for Light Instead of Heat
- The Wonderful Thing About Triggers
- Fearful Symmetry
- Archipelago and Atomic Communitarianism
XIII. Competition and Cooperation
- The Demiurge's Older Brother
- Book Review: The Two-Income Trap
- Just for Stealing a Mouthful of Bread
- Meditations on Moloch
- Misperceptions on Moloch
- The Invisible Nation — Reconciling Utilitarianism and Contractualism
- Freedom on the Centralized Web
- Book Review: Singer on Marx
- Does Class Warfare Have a Free Rider Problem?
- Book Review: Red Plenty
If you liked these posts and want more, I suggest browsing the SlateStarCodex archives.
Any chance of a combined ebook version?
I made epub and mobi versions. Download here. They contain links to all original posts, so anyone who wants to look at comments can click on the title of each post to do that.
Do let me know if anything's massively broken.
Thank you! The book is fantastic. Combined with The Sequences ebooks that are already floating around (Eliezer Yudkowsky Blog Posts, 2006-2010: An Unofficial Compendium, Rationality: From AI to Zombies, and The Hanson-Yudkowsky AI-Foom Debate) it is now possible for someone to get most of the insights of the rationalist community distilled into extremely efficient book formats.
A large number of posts have extraneous > characters. The affected posts appear to be either SSC posts in which the > character appears at the start of a blockquote and LiveJournal posts in which the > character appears after and in between paragraphs. Examples of the former include "Meditations on Moloch," "Misperceptions on Moloch," and "Book Review: Red Plenty," while examples of the latter include "The Meditation on Creepiness", "The Meditation on Superweapons," and "The Meditation on the War on Applause Lights."
Also, the title of "We Wrestle Not With Flesh And Blood, But Against Powers And Principalitiebs" should be "We Wrestle Not With Flesh And Blood, But Against Powers And Principalities". I normally wouldn't report a typo, but this one appears to have been introduced by the ebook process; the mistake is not in the original article, nor is it on the list of titles RobbBB provided.
Well that's embarrassing. Thanks for the info! Should be fixed now.
Everything looks fine now. Thanks once again!
I have noticed one more issue. In "Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others…" the symbol "£" is twice corrupted into "ÂŁ". This is not an ebook-wide problem, since "Searching for One-Sided Tradeoffs" and "A Modest Proposal" both use the correct symbol. Apparently this is simply a problem with the source; the copy of the post at the Effective Altruism Forum has this error, but the copy of the post at LessWrong, has the correct symbol.
Thanks! Downloaded; I don't know whether I'll actually read it (it being apparently over 476,000 words), but it's great to have.
Did you use the method RicardoFonseca described?
I actually went through every post and manually copied out the relevant part of the html code. Then I pasted everything into my text editor (fun fact: vim got quite slow handling the >3mb html file, but emacs handled the task really well) and cleaned it up, replacing all
and such. Then I put all the pictures into a folder and changed the references to point to my local files. Then I put it into calibre to create the epub and mobi versions.
In retrospect, I should have just written a script to do all that because it took way too long. The script would have had to handle the different sites differently (especially the livejournal stuff is pretty messy), but it would have been so much faster. Like seriously.
All right. Someone tell me if this is decent enough, please. I only did the first section: "Rationality and Rationalization".
How I did it:
Created an account at Instapaper and used their bookmarklet individually on each article.
Used calibre to download the articles from Instapaper and convert them to an ebook (instructions here).
Edited the title and other metadata in calibre to make the ebook more relevant and presentable and converted it to epub/mobi formats.
Note that I had to use the Instapaper bookmarklet starting from the last article and going backwards because calibre downloads the articles in reverse chronological order.
I don't think this is ideal, though, because the comment sections of some of these articles are good enough to be included in the reading but Instapaper only retrieves the article post, leaving out everything else. If anyone has a better suggestion, do share :)
Thanks, Ricardo! In MIRI's ebooks, we've tried linking to the comments section at the bottom of each article. Then people can click through to a website featuring the comments if they're interested; but the ebook itself isn't bloated by the size of the comments sections.
Woah, awesome! I would love to see something like this for the whole collection.
How does this compare to the other recent compilation of Yvains articles?
Mine is longer: 171 links vs. 111. Mine has more LW and less LJ content.
The lists are mostly independent: I started mine in December 2014. I decided to clean it up and post it now because casebash's version showed there was a lot of demand for something like this, and I wanted a version that was a bit more optimized for new readers to dive in and read straight through.
The two lists overlap quite a bit because so many of Scott's posts are objectively great. I also went through casebash's list and expanded my own list with five items that weren't originally on it: Revenge as Charitable Act, What's in a Name?, Epistemic Learned Helplessness, Approving Reinforces Low-Effort Behaviors, and Schizophrenia and Geomagnetic Storms.
This one is better organised and I either like the ones I see, or discover gems; not true of the last one.
A thread of SSC post recs on Scott Aaronson's blog.
slatestarcodex subreddit posts sorted by score.
slatestarcodex subreddit sorted by score.
I removed the second post (What's in a Name?) from the list because it's been... well, debunked. From a recent SSC link post:
Great stuff! As someone who's come to all this Bayes/LessWrong stuff quite late, I was surprised to discover that Scott Alexander's blog is one of the more popular in the blogosphere, flying the flag for this sort of approach to rationality. I've noticed that he's liked by people on both the Left and the Right, which is a very good thing. He's a great moderating influence and I think he offers a palatable introduction to a more serious, less biased way of looking at the world, for many people.
THANK YOU! Any chance for a brief summary of what each are (kinda like the LW Wiki does)
Scott does tend to make his titles pretty cryptic. I could edit the LW version to include brief descriptions, leaving the version on my blog description-free for people who want a cleaner link list.
How much detail would be ideal? E.g., would 7 words per post be better than 20 words (since it'd be easier to skim such a list and spot quick keywords)?
I would say be flexible as some topics are much more complex than others. I've found that most summaries on this list have a good length.
that's amazing!, Great compilation. So many posts I didn´t know even existed.
Now that the actual sites have been removed, I have found several articles that were on the main site here as well. Thanks for this!
1. The link for "Epistemic Learned Helplessness" goes to another article entirely.
2. "Epistemic Learned Helplessness" (and all other entries) have disappeared off of Scott Alexander's LiveJournal.
3. I found a copy on the Wayback Machine.
4. This is a travesty. Why have all these posts disappeared? Do they exist elsewhere?
5. *incoherent mumbling about the ephemeral nature of the Internet, and what a gigantic problem this is*
In this case, I think deleting the posts from his livejournal and making them only accessible via archive was an intentional choice by Scott, since he doesn't endorse a large number of them anymore, and his old writing was often associated with his new writing in a way that caused him problems. Not confident of this though.
I replaced the broken links with archive links in May 2019, so this shouldn't be an issue for this list anymore.
I don't care. Lots of people have published things that they wish they hadn't. That doesn't give them the right to demand that every book or newspaper or magazine issue that carried those undesirable words be destroyed.
I'm not railing against Scott here; he does have the right to remove things off of his LiveJournal. I'm railing against the nature of the Internet, that makes "de-publishing" not only possible, but easy.
IMO, one should add Prescriptions, Paradoxes, and Perversities to the list. Maybe to the section "Medicine, Therapy, and Human Enhancement".
Is there a list of Scott Alexander's short stories somewhere?
You can find some here: http://raikoth.net/fiction.html
Not that I'm aware, but you might check the "fiction" tag on Slatestarcodex. (I remember finding a similarly useful tag on his Livejournal, but I don't remember what it was called OTTOMH).
The LiveJournal tag is also named “fiction”. There are 10 posts under it.