LessWrong

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LessWrong
LessWrong logo.svg
Type of site
Internet forum, blog
Available inEnglish
Created byEliezer Yudkowsky
URLLessWrong.com
RegistrationOptional, but is required for contributing content
LaunchedFebruary 1, 2009; 12 years ago (2009-02-01)
Current statusActive
Written inJavaScript, CSS (powered by React and GraphQL)

LessWrong (also written Less Wrong) is a community blog and forum focused on discussion of cognitive biases, philosophy, psychology, economics, rationality, and artificial intelligence, among other topics.[1][2]

Purpose[edit]

LessWrong promotes lifestyle changes believed by its community to lead to increased rationality and self-improvement. Posts often focus on avoiding biases related to decision-making and the evaluation of evidence. One suggestion is the use of Bayes' theorem as a decision-making tool.[2] There is also a focus on psychological barriers that prevent good decision-making, including fear conditioning and cognitive biases that have been studied by the psychologist Daniel Kahneman.[3]

LessWrong is also concerned with transhumanism, existential threats and the singularity. The New York Observer noted that "Despite describing itself as a forum on 'the art of human rationality,' the New York Less Wrong group ... is fixated on a branch of futurism that would seem more at home in a 3D multiplex than a graduate seminar: the dire existential threat—or, with any luck, utopian promise—known as the technological Singularity ... Branding themselves as 'rationalists,' as the Less Wrong crew has done, makes it a lot harder to dismiss them as a 'doomsday cult'."[4]

History[edit]

LessWrong developed from Overcoming Bias, an earlier group blog focused on human rationality, which began in November 2006, with artificial intelligence theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky and economist Robin Hanson as the principal contributors. In February 2009, Yudkowsky's posts were used as the seed material to create the community blog LessWrong, and Overcoming Bias became Hanson's personal blog.[5] In 2013, a significant portion of the rationalist community shifted focus to Scott Alexander's Slate Star Codex.[6]

LessWrong and its surrounding movement are the subjects of the 2019 book The AI Does Not Hate You, written by former BuzzFeed science correspondent Tom Chivers.[7][8][9]

Roko's basilisk[edit]

In July 2010, LessWrong contributor Roko posted a thought experiment to the site in which an otherwise benevolent future AI system tortures people who heard of the AI before it came into existence and failed to work tirelessly to bring it into existence, in order to incentivise said work. Using Yudkowsky's "timeless decision" theory, the post claimed doing so would be beneficial for the AI even though it cannot causally affect people in the present. This idea came to be known as "Roko's basilisk", based on Roko's idea that merely hearing about the idea would give the hypothetical AI system stronger incentives to employ blackmail. Yudkowsky deleted Roko's posts on the topic, saying that posting it was "stupid" and the idea was "a genuinely dangerous thought", considering it as an information hazard. Discussion of Roko's basilisk was banned on LessWrong for several years because Yudkowsky had stated that it caused some readers to have nervous breakdowns.[10][11][4] The ban was lifted in October 2015.[12]

David Auerbach wrote in Slate "the combination of messianic ambitions, being convinced of your own infallibility, and a lot of cash never works out well, regardless of ideology, and I don't expect Yudkowsky and his cohorts to be an exception. I worry less about Roko's Basilisk than about people who believe themselves to have transcended conventional morality."[11]

Roko's basilisk was referenced in Canadian musician Grimes's music video for her 2015 song "Flesh Without Blood" through a character named "Rococo Basilisk" who was described by Grimes as "doomed to be eternally tortured by an artificial intelligence, but she's also kind of like Marie Antoinette". After thinking of this pun and finding that Grimes had already made it, Elon Musk contacted Grimes, which led to them dating.[13][14] The concept was also referenced in an episode of Silicon Valley.[15]

Neoreaction[edit]

The neoreactionary movement first grew on LessWrong,[16][17] attracted by discussions on the site of eugenics and evolutionary psychology.[18] Yudkowsky has strongly rejected neoreaction.[17][19][20] In a survey among LessWrong users in 2016, 28 out of 3060 respondents, or 0.92%, identified as "neoreactionary".[21]

Effective altruism[edit]

LessWrong played a significant role in the development of the effective altruism (EA) movement,[22] and the two communities are closely intertwined.[23]:227 In a survey of LessWrong users in 2016, 664 out of 3060 respondents, or 21.7%, identified as 'effective altruists'. A separate survey of effective altruists in 2014 revealed that 31% of respondents had first heard of EA through LessWrong,[23] though that number had fallen to 8.2% by 2020.[24] Two early proponents of effective altruism, Toby Ord and William MacAskill, met transhumanist philosopher Nick Bostrom at Oxford University. Bostrom's research influenced many effective altruists to work on existential risk reduction.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Less Wrong FAQ". LessWrong.
  2. ^ a b Miller, James (July 28, 2011). "You Can Learn How To Become More Rational". Business Insider. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  3. ^ Burkeman, Oliver (March 9, 2012). "This column will change your life: asked a tricky question? Answer an easier one". The Guardian. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Tiku, Nitasha (2012-07-25). "Faith, Hope, and Singularity: Entering the Matrix with New York's Futurist Set". Observer. Retrieved 2019-04-12.
  5. ^ "Where did Less Wrong come from? (LessWrong FAQ)". Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  6. ^ Lewis-Kraus, Gideon (9 July 2020). "Slate Star Codex and Silicon Valley's War Against the Media". The New Yorker.
  7. ^ Cowdrey, Katherine. "W&N wins Buzzfeed science reporter's debut after auction". The Bookseller. Retrieved 2017-09-21.
  8. ^ Chivers, Tom (2019). The AI Does Not Hate You. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-1474608770.
  9. ^ Marriott, James. "The AI Does Not Hate You by Tom Chivers review — why the nerds are nervous". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2020-05-03.
  10. ^ Love, Dylan (6 August 2014). "WARNING: Just Reading About This Thought Experiment Could Ruin Your Life". Business Insider. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  11. ^ a b Auerbach, David (17 July 2014). "The Most Terrifying Thought Experiment of All Time". Slate. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  12. ^ RobbBB (5 October 2015). "A few misconceptions surrounding Roko's basilisk". LessWrong. Retrieved 10 April 2016. The Roko's basilisk ban isn't in effect anymore
  13. ^ Paez, Danny. "Elon Musk and Grimes: "Rococo Basilisk" Links the Two on Twitter". Inverse. Retrieved 2020-07-24.
  14. ^ "Explaining Roko's Basilisk, the Thought Experiment That Brought Elon Musk and Grimes Together". www.vice.com. Retrieved 2020-07-24.
  15. ^ "'Silicon Valley' Fact Check: That Thought Experiment Is Real and Horrifying". TheWrap. 2018-04-23. Retrieved 2020-11-12.
  16. ^ Riggio, Adam (23 September 2016). "The Violence of Pure Reason: Neoreaction: A Basilisk". Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective. 5 (9): 34–41. ISSN 2471-9560. The embryo of the movement lived in the community pages of Yudkowsky’s blog LessWrong, a website dedicated to refining human rationality.
  17. ^ a b Siemons, Mark (2017-04-14). "Neoreaktion im Silicon Valley: Wenn Maschinen denken". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). ISSN 0174-4909. Retrieved 2019-03-23.
  18. ^ Keep, Elmo (22 June 2016). "The Strange and Conflicting World Views of Silicon Valley Billionaire Peter Thiel". Fusion. Retrieved 2016-10-05. Thanks to LessWrong’s discussions of eugenics and evolutionary psychology, it has attracted some readers and commenters affiliated with the alt-right and neoreaction, that broad cohort of neofascist, white nationalist and misogynist trolls.
  19. ^ Riggio, Adam (23 September 2016). "The Violence of Pure Reason: Neoreaction: A Basilisk". Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective. 5 (9): 34–41. ISSN 2471-9560. Land and Yarvin are openly allies with the new reactionary movement, while Yudkowsky counts many reactionaries among his fanbase despite finding their racist politics disgusting.
  20. ^ Eliezer Yudkowsky (8 April 2016). "Untitled". Optimize Literally Everything (blog). Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  21. ^ Hermansson, Patrik; Lawrence, David; Mulhall, Joe; Murdoch, Simon (2020). "The Dark Enlightenment: Neoreaction and Silicon Valley". The International Alt-Right. Fascism for the 21st Century?. Abingdon-on-Thames, England, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9781138363861.
  22. ^ de Lazari-Radek, Katarzyna; Singer, Peter (2017-09-27). Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. p. 110.
  23. ^ a b c Chivers, Tom (2019). "Chapter 38: The Effective Altruists". The AI Does Not Hate You. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-1474608770.
  24. ^ Moss, David (2021-05-20). "EA Survey 2020: How People Get Involved in EA". Effective Altruism Forum. Retrieved 2021-07-28.

External links[edit]