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So, anybody else in the LessWrong rationality cult?

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cntr

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Apr 3, 2008
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If you aren't familiar with it, Less Wrong is a community blog started by Eliezer Yudkowsky, better known on the internet as the writer of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, based around refining rationality, with knowledge of how human psychological biases work -- humans have many flaws metaphorically engineered into them by evolution, and we work to understand how these biases work and correct for them, getting a better picture of how reality works.

We avoid stupid ideas of how "rationality" works, like the emotionless pseudo-rational Spock, or the magical Sherlock Holmes, and we aren't soulless and joyless calculating minimalists, either -- we promote a rationality that humans can achieve, and use to improve human life, and your own life -- I've felt like my life has gotten much better after applying rationalist and anti-bias principles to it.

Don't expect us to support libertarianism, MRAism, and all that neo-reactionary garbage -- a lot of neo-reactionaries have latched onto LW, but the central community and its leaders disdain them. But don't expect us to blindly accept everything that a certain political position espouses. Our morals are generally on the bleeding liberal-socialist side, perhaps even more to the left. Our economics tends towards the post-scarcity kind, as we're futurists who believe that the future's gonna be a hoot.

We've been compared to a cult on several sites, but it's pretty nice regardless. Be warned that we're usually associated with several other ideas, like nanotech utopianism, singularitarianism, transhumanism, antideath/cryonics, superhuman AI/AGI, and polyamory/gamy (I'm a monogamist myself, mind you). If you're familiar with the Culture, that's basically what weŕe aiming for!

I'm sure I'll get snarky replies, but if you actually disagree, I would prefer you actually argued your points clearly, with a minimal of rhetoric. You won't win points by quoting one of the ludicrous beliefs we have, 'cause while we have many; much of it is "distant in inferential space" -- in other words, you need to understand some less weird sounding things to understand the weird things, like how you need to know arithmetic to do algebra, and algebra to do calculus.

If you're not put off by all this, and want to explore LWian rationality more, I recommend reading the LessWrong sequences. Books like Predictably Irrational are good too. If you want to look broader, check the map of the rationalist community. If you're in Boston or the Bay Area, CFAR is hosting rationality workshops in the upcoming months.
 

Orbis Tabula

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Aug 20, 2010
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I've read a lot of his stuff and think it's really interesting, but I wouldn't really say I'm part of the "cult." It's a good read, though. The guys a little crazy sounding, but it's fun.
 

injurai

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Oct 18, 2011
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Milky Way
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There seem to be far better sources to cultivate rationalism. I'm highly skeptical in my first impressions. Seems to be very esoteric assertions as to how we should and shouldn't look at rationalism.

It seems to me he's just creating a cumbersome scaffolding in which to be explicit in his own language. So maybe I need to look deep to understand some of his nuances. I'm all for metaphilosophy but this to me seems like reduction to absurdity. In more than one places he takes ambiguous english sentences, asserts a singular interpretation then deconstructs why it's wrong. He is hardly formal in his own right.
 

cntr

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Apr 3, 2008
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There seem to be far better sources to cultivate rationalism. I'm highly skeptical in my first impressions. Seems to be very esoteric assertions as to how we should and shouldn't look at rationalism.

It seems to me he's just creating a cumbersome scaffolding in which to be explicit in his own language. So maybe I need to look deep to understand some of his nuances. I'm all for metaphilosophy but this to me seems like reduction to absurdity. In more than one places he takes ambiguous english sentences, asserts a singular interpretation then deconstructs why it's wrong. He is hardly formal in his own right.
Can you cite some specifics you find fault with?
 

Bananakin

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Dec 5, 2008
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Yep.

A couple years ago I read through pretty much all of the LessWrong archives (certainly all of Yudkowsky's stuff). It was an eye-opening experience. It probably had the single biggest impact on me out of anything I've read.

That being said, I'm not that active in the community - more of a lurker. LW itself is sort of slowly dying anyway, a lot of people have moved on to Slate Star Codex.
 

Necromanti

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Sep 27, 2010
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I'm not, no. But then, I tend to not adhere to ideological movements and such in general, as I find them too restricting. (Rather, I tend to shy away from tribalism in general, when possible, although being drawn to that kind of socialization is human nature.) Sometimes, the more we try to chase that which we define as "rationality", the further away we find ourselves from it. Building something up can lead us to enshrine something that might be contrary to the reality of things without us knowing it. I prefer to leave things relatively self-evident or emergent. Philosophizing can lead to one rabbit hole to another where much is said while meaning very little, all for some elevated sense of self-importance.

But I do take into account things like human biases and limitations to our senses and perception that we cannot escape due to evolutionary history and being able to adapt to so many different situations in different ways. I also find the rejection of "emotion" and worshiping logic can lead to irrationality; we are more holistic than that.

Anyway, none of that is necessarily a slight against this aforementioned cult of rationality. I just prefer to leave things more dynamic to allow for learning (which admittedly, they do too, but without any specific identity involved in my case).
 

RedShift

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Aug 23, 2007
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I love HPMOR too much. Haven't really put much thought into LessWrong apart from reading some of the stuff on the site.

How long before this thread becomes a discussion of Roko's Basilisk?
 

Timeaisis

Member
May 27, 2011
20,585
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Austin, TX
There seem to be far better sources to cultivate rationalism. I'm highly skeptical in my first impressions. Seems to be very esoteric assertions as to how we should and shouldn't look at rationalism.

It seems to me he's just creating a cumbersome scaffolding in which to be explicit in his own language. So maybe I need to look deep to understand some of his nuances. I'm all for metaphilosophy but this to me seems like reduction to absurdity. In more than one places he takes ambiguous english sentences, asserts a singular interpretation then deconstructs why it's wrong. He is hardly formal in his own right.
Yeah, sounds like a cult to me.

Also, Roko's basilisk is like a dumb, meme version of the newcomb paradox.
 
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