AI researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky is something of an expert at human rationality, and at teaching it to others. His hundreds of posts at Less Wrong are a treasure trove for those who want to improve their own rationality. As such, I’m reading all of them, chronologically.
I suspect some of my readers want to “level up” their rationality, too. So I’m keeping a diary of my Yudkowsky reading. Feel free to follow along.
Value is Fragile is one of Eliezer’s most central:
Any Future not shaped by a goal system with detailed reliable inheritance from human morals and metamorals, will contain almost nothing of worth.
The next several posts contain Eliezer’s novella that illustrates his meta-ethical views, Three Worlds Collide:
- The Baby-Eating Aliens
- War and/or Peace
- The Super Happy People
- Interlude with the Confessor
- Three Worlds Decide
- Normal Ending: Last Tears
- True Ending: Sacrificial Fire
- Epilogue: Atonement
Next is The Thing That I Protect:
What does bring tears to my eyes? Imagining a future where humanity has its act together. Imagining children who grow up never knowing our world, who don’t even understand it. Imagining the rescue of those now in sorrow, the end of nightmares great and small. Seeing in reality the real sorrows that happen now, so many of which are unnecessary even now. Seeing in reality the signs of progress toward a humanity that’s at least trying to get its act together and become something more – even if the signs are mostly just symbolic: a space shuttle launch, a march that protests a war.
And Say No More of It warns that some subjects can be poisonous to the pursuit of rationality.
Moral Truth in Fiction recounts an interesting debate on whether or not fiction is good for rationalists.
Informers and Persuaders is a very fun post about one of my favorite subjects: how to write.
Cynicism and Ev-Psych (and Econ?) considers the differences in cynicism between two fields: evolutionary psychology and microeconomics. The Evolutionary-Cognitive Boundary advocates “for language that separates out evolutionary causes and clearly labels them.” Next are An Especially Elegant Evpsych Experiment and Rationality Quotes 26.
Next, An African Folktale that illustrates how different some cultures are from our own.
Eliezer is Cynical About Cynicism:
I’m cynical about cynicism. I don’t believe that most cynicism is really about knowing better. When I see someone being cynical, my first thought is that they’re trying to show off their sophistication and assert superiority over the naive.
Unfortunately, Good Idealistic Books are Rare. Against Maturity explains why Eliezer, supposed “sage of rationality,” likes to quote anime fanfiction. Eliezer also warns against Pretending to be Wise by suspending judgment indefinitely or staying neutral. Wise Pretentions v.0 is an earlier essay on that same subject. Next is Rationality Quotes 27.
Fairness vs. Goodness considers an early study on the Prisoner’s Dilemma.
On Not Having an Advance Abyssal Plan recommends having a plan for the worst case scenario instead of saying “We’ll figure out what to do when it happens, if it happens.”
About Less Wrong is the introduction to the purpose and use of Less Wrong, which had just launched. (Eliezer’s previous posts had originally been posted to Overcoming Bias.)